Happy Birthday Bill!

Today is William Shakespeare’s Birthday!
(And for those of you with a darker side, also the anniversary of his death).

A few ways to celebrate:

***Keep an eye out for information about Antaeus’s 2010 production of King Lear
***Click here to check out how they’re making merry in Stratford-Upon-Avon
***Watch this 2008 b-day party for Shakespeare at the Folger Library in D.C.

***Watch a li’l Hamlet from that master of the Bard, the Swedish Chef

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Antaeus Diary: Director Michael Murray on THE ICEMAN COMETH

Antaeus Diaries provide unique perspectives on Classical Theater from the Antaean point of view as veterans and newbies alike detail their experiences in their own voices. In this installment, director Michael Murray shares his passion for THE ICEMAN COMETH. Murray is the project initiator for the ICEMAN potluck reading at Antaeus on April 27th.

This is written after the second day of a 3-day rehearsal for a reading of THE ICEMAN COMETH at Antaeus: It is a “staged” reading, and we now actually have most of the first three acts (out of four) on its feet on stage, a tribute to hard, quick work—and courage—from the Antaeus actors and guest artists who have thrown caution to the winds to tackle this American classic. We have all had second thoughts about getting it done so fast , given the monumental nature of the work, but O’Neill’s plays come to life only on stage rather than in reading, and the theatricality of the play pulls us along.

My own opinion is that ICEMAN is the greatest play by America’s greatest playwright. This is partly because the play has been in my life for a very long time, going back to my beginning days in the theater when I was a directing student at Boston Universtity. Jose Quintero, then a young director and a founder of the Circle in the Square in New York, came to the school to direct a play. I was assigned to be his stage manager, a great opportunity because at that time Jose and his theater were putting “Off-Broadway” on the map. They had already presented several productions that attracted attention uptown, including the first revival of Williams’ SUMMER AND SMOKE featuring an unknown Geraldine Page. A year later, when I myself arrived in New York, Jose asked me to stage manage his next Circle in the Square show–which turned out to be the landmark production of THE ICEMAN COMETH that changed theater history.

ICEMAN was written in the late 30’s and had its premiere on Broadway in the late 40’s. The reception was respectful but not enthusiastic. Many critics felt that O’Neill’s day was done, and that his reputation was seriously over-inflated in the first place. The revival of ICEMAN at the Circle in the Square, however, featuring another unknown actor named Jason Robards, changed all that. It was an immense success, running for nearly three years, and the play was recognized for the masterpiece it is. New biographies of O’Neill began coming out, Life magazine photographed the show, Off-Broadway itself took on a new luster. As a result, the Circle was given the rights to do the first production of LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT, on Broadway, that same year. With that, Robards and Quintero were soon swept into celebrated careers, and the reputation–and the legend–of Eugene O’Neill were firmly established.

I stayed with THE ICEMAN COMETH for the first year of its run, an extraordinary year for me. As Jose was off doing LONG DAY’S JOURNEY, it was my job to keep ICEMAN going, casting and rehearsing numerous replacements in the show –not bad work for a kid in his first professional job, being able to work creatively within a framework set by a brilliant mentor, and in the midst of the hoopla of a big New York hit. I’ve directed a few O’Neill plays myself in the decades since then, and they’ve all been influenced—everything I’ve done has been influenced—by that intense year at the Circle.

I’ve had casual conversations about O’Neill and ICEMAN with Antaeus actors for a year or more. The play is rarely seen, and there are numerous great roles, so actors were interested. For myself, I wanted to revisit a play that had so much resonance for me. Last November a group of us gathered around a table in the library to read the whole play, just for ourselves. After that, we wanted to move the project forward, to stage a reading for an audience—and here we are. A typical Antaeus process.

–Michael Murray

The Big Think: Theater Education For All

I stumbled across this post on The Big Think from Benji Goldsmith, a student and composer at Hunter College High School. It’s part of a collection of videos The Big Think has put together called “Tomorrow’s Great Minds: Big Think Presents 10 Under 25.” In his video, which is a response to the question, “How would you advise President Obama to strengthen the arts?”, Goldsmith talks about the importance of giving everyone a theater education when they are young, making theater accessible to all, and the role of regional theater in America.

Benji’s video struck a chord with me, as Antaeus is involved with a number of projects aimed at bringing theater to students. We just finished up our work on King Lear with the William Tell Aggeler Opportunity School, are currently working with students at the Cleveland School, and are getting ready to embark on THE YOUNG IDEA: Coward for the Next Generation.

THE YOUNG IDEA, funded by a grant from the Noel Coward Foundation, will consist of 4 down-and-dirty readings of 4 Coward plays with 4 Coward Masters and 4 young directors, featuring A2, The Academy Company. Currently, Jonathan Lynn and Barry Creyton are confirmed as project mentors, with two more TBA. Our goal is to introduce Noel Coward to 100 young audience members through these readings. Stay tuned for more on The Young Idea in June!

All I can say is to Benji is that I hope your message makes it to President Obama’s office! Here’s what he has to say:

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Shakespeare Thursdays: Sonnets

Thursday nights at Antaeus mean Shakespeare, and Francia DiMase is currently leading a session for Company and Academy members, as well as a few special guests, exploring the sonnets. There’s a lot packed into just 14 lines, and the history behind them is fascinating. Marriage, death, a handsome young man, masturbation, beauty…just because the sonnets aren’t  play doesn’t mean there’s no drama!

Here’s a glimpse into the evening’s passionate discussion…

Tony Amendola

Tony Amendola

Anne Gee Byrd listens as Geoffrey Nordling makes a point

Anne Gee Byrd listens as Geoffrey Nordling makes a point

Francia DiMase leads us through the history & intrigue

Francia DiMase leads us through the history & intrigue

Academy students get in on the action

Academy students Abby Wilde & Raleigh Holmes

Kudos for ‘Golden Boy’ & ‘Bus Riley’ at Pepperdine

We got some great feedback from Scott Alan Smith, Adjunct Professor of Theatre at Pepperdine University and Road Theatre Company Artistic Associate , about work that Antaeus did in his text analysis & interpretation class.

I teach a course in text analysis and interpretation at Pepperdine University for mostly freshman and sophomores. Last Monday as part of our work on Odet’s Golden Boy we had two members from Antaeus come and perform a couple of scenes for us. Ramon De O’Campo and Angela Goethals did a cutting of the “Lorna/Joe” scenes as well as a scene from Bus Riley’s Back in Town. We had just finished working on this play and it was with great interest that my young actors watched a scene from a play they had just worked on being played by professionals. We had rehearsed with book in hand as if we were doing a staged reading and so Ramon and Angela worked the same way. I wanted the class to see the parallels to their own work and to also see how holding script is of little hindrance to playing a scene fully. My class was simply blown away by the work and we followed the first scene (Bus Riley) with a lively discussion between Angela, Ramon and the students . The class wanted to know about process and sources of inspiration and also asked practical questions about how they made staging decisions and what launched them into their work. Then Ramon and Angela did the cutting from Golden Boy and again we followed it with questions. The students asked about training and if there was any advice they would give young actors starting out (besides the required: don’t do it!). Ramon emphasized the need for training and Angela talked about grabbing the opportunities as they come. It was a great afternoon and my class learned so much from watching professionals. Thank you to Antaeus and especially to Cindy Jenkins, Ramon and Angela for making it happen. Looking forward to working with everyone again in the fall.