Unmasking The Malcontent: v. VII

“Now ‘gins close plots to work; the scene grows full And craves his eyes who hath a solid skull.”

— Malevole, The Malcontent, Act II Scene 5

Tech week is OVER. And while yes, it’s certainly a relief to have all THAT out of the way (“Can you stand here?” “Why? I always stand there.” “I know, but can you stand here? This is where the light is.” “Well, can’t the light be over there?” “No, it really can’t.” “Fine. I’ll act over there. In the dark.”) it was honestly a much smoother tech week than it had the mad potential of being. For the sake of sanity, we remained a fully integrated cast to work through the tech cues (there was just no appropriate way to strictly divvy the many hours up between Wittols and Cuckolds only), which has allowed us to get through the process very quickly. However, I’d be lying if I said we haven’t run into a few…bumps. You see, the nature of double casting means that one actor has to watch while the second actor learns, and that first actor may not get a moment to learn it for themselves before they’re expected to reproduce the second actor’s work. Coupled with the pressure of previews and opening looming before us, some of us aren’t handling it as well as others (and really, I totally see why they’re terrified), but we are ultimately working through it quite well. Seriously.

Abby Wilde and Blythe Auffarth in performance. Photo: Geoffrey Wade

The two casts were separated at last for dress rehearsals. These costumes are beautiful, intricate, and HEAVY; layers upon layers of clothes for each and every one of us. Jeffrey Schoenberg has done us proud, and I think he’s very proud of us. He told me on the first day of dress rehearsal that he was so pleased to see how well we all are “inhabiting the clothes;” I know exactly what he means, but he deserves full credit for making it so easy for us! His attention to detail has given each of us a wardrobe which REQUIRES you to move appropriately. You can’t slouch in a corset and you can’t shuffle in a long skirt. One MUST glide in a perfectly vertical and graceful manner, or else you will find yourself tripping over your three skirts or falling out of the top of your exciting underwear. I wish we’d had the full costumes earlier; not because I’m having any trouble, but because I’m having WAY to much fun — both in learning how my character relates to her clothes, and watching the men negotiate with their tights and bum rolls (a sort of cylindrical pillows tied around one’s waist and resting over the back of their hips to hold out their voluminous skirts or puffy Prince Charming pants. It gives your waist an illusion of slimness and straightness, but you do also appear to be wearing a pillow on your bum. To the Jacobeans, this was apparently totally worth it.).

Abby performs. Photo: Geoffrey Wade

I write this to you from the Antaeus library, mere hours before the Wittols cast opens previews. I’ll let you in on a little secret: this is my first time working on a show that has officially designated previews. I’m not sure what to make of them; they are a strange animal. It’s more official than a dress rehearsal, all the light and sound cues are there, and we even charge admission. On the other hand, we charge half price for the tickets, the edges (missing buttons, unstyled wigs, skipped sound cues) can still be a little rough, and we do not invite the press. Alex Knox (Ferneze in the Wittols cast) compares it to middle school: “You’re going through puberty. It’s a transitional phase; there are growth spurts, there’s awkwardness, your voice may crack. It’s not fully-fledged, but it’s magical because there’s unexpected growth, discovery and…filling out of things.”

Well, yes. But it’s puberty with a paying audience. I’m not certain I like the sound of that.

You know what, though? I’m not worried. In fact, I don’t care if my wig comes off during curtain call; I get to be onstage tonight.

Like I said, previews are open to the public, and tickets are available through the Antaeus website. I hope you’ll be there! We’d love to have you, and you don’t want to miss it.

Especially if my wig flies off in curtain call.

A2 Ensemble Member, Abby Wilde, continues to share her experiences working on our production of The Malcontent . This is the seventh installment. For tickets, visit www.antaeus.org


Unmasking The Malcontent: v.VI

JD Cullum and Bo Foxworth selecting cast names. Photo: Geoffrey Wade

Ladies and gentlemen, Tech Week has commenced.

The night began with Ms Hackett herself handing out the much deliberated, long labored o’er, and hitherto utterly secret Cast Lists. That’s right. We have now become a cast divided.

(Only not really, considering the Thursday/Friday mystery casts and so forth, but still. Highly dramatic, nonetheless).

These lists were complete in every respect excepting that each cast was as of yet unnamed; it is customary for Antaeus to name the separate casts after families or lines from the play, such as the Madmen and Fools casts for King Lear. In our case, we have the dubious honor of being either Wittols or Cuckolds. It was already determined that the Cuckold cast would open on Thursday and Saturday, whilst the Wittols would do so on Friday and Sunday…but which cast was which? Here began an unassailably objective (and dare I say rather complex) selection procedure, beginning with a coin toss.

Bo flipped. JD called. Bo won. Bo reached into the hat and withdrew… CUCKOLDS.

And thus, the casts were named. And there was much rejoicing.

JD Cullum MALEVOLE Bo Foxworth
Adrian LaTourelle MENDOZA Ramon De Ocampo
Mark Doerr PIETRO Bill Brochtrup
Paul Willson BILIOSO John Achorn
Christopher Guilmet CELSO Joe Holt
Alex Knox FERNEZE Adam Meyer
Christopher Parsons EQUATO/CAPTAIN Buck Zachary
Joseph Fuhr PREPASSO Jason Thomas
Laura Wernette AURELIA Jules Willcox
Saundra McClain MAQUERELLE Lynn Milgrim
Abby Wilde EMILIA Joanna Strapp
Blythe Auffarth BIANCA Marisol Ramirez
Devon Sorvari MARIA Ann Noble

Ann Noble and cast in Tech Rehearsal Photo: Geoffrey Wade

Oh my God! Did I even mention the set, yet? Tom Buderwitz has built us a BEAUTIFUL stage to play upon. Not only beautiful, but HUGE. The playing space has been extended a couple of feet out into the house and the walls seem to extend forever upwards into the heavens. It’s truly amazing what Tom can do with that space — it looks like something out of a museum and a palace all at the same time. There’s no other word to describe it except grand. The set is grand.

As for the costumes, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a little longer for my commentary on those; I haven’t seen any of them yet. Jeffrey Schoenberg and Jessica Olson lurk around the theater, plucking actors from the proceedings and spiriting them upstairs to be fitted; moments later they all seem to come down glowing with glee about whatever it is they’re going to be wearing and telling us all to “wait until we see it.” I’m told, however, that I won’t have my fitting until the end of tomorrow, and it’s KILLING me.

Jules Willcox, Adam Meyer and Saundra McClain rehearse. Photo: Geoffrey Wade

Ah well. At least I have the magical lights and music cues to keep me happy. They are delightfully beautiful, and add an entirely new level of momentum to the play that left all of us rolling with laughter as we worked through them. Who doesn’t want entrance music whenever they appear or red lights of fire whenever they’re enraged? All of these elements, the set, the costumes, and the lights and music, turned us into over-caffeinated kids on Christmas morning; we have but one more week of this before previews, and the real fun, begin.

A2 Ensemble Member, Abby Wilde, continues to share her experiences working on our production of The Malcontent . This is the sixth installment. For tickets, visit www.antaeus.org

Andrew Barnicle heads May Shakespeare Workout!

“Marrying the Classical to the Contemporary”

With Guest Moderator:  Andrew Barnicle

Through lecture, monologue work, and scene study, the workshop will reconcile Shakespeare’s verse with Stanislavski beatwork. Actors gain an understanding first of why the Elizabethans wrote the way they did, then a series of exercises that break iambic pentameter into workable beats, with the aid of guidelines to help understand and emotionalize verse.

Classes will take place Tuesday afternoons 1:30pm-5:00pm on:

May 10, 17, 24, 31

Limited spaces available.  Email deirdre@antaeus.org to sign up!

ANDREW BARNICLE served as artistic director of The Laguna Play­house from 1991 through 2010.  In that time he produced over 100 Playhouse shows and directed over 40 of them, including many World, U.S., West Coast and Southern California premieres. Recent directing projects include Noel Coward’s Private Lives, Ron Hutchinson’s Moonlight and Magnolias, (which also played the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts as a co-production with McCoy/Rigby Entertainment, and Burbank’s Colony Theatre), Michael Hollinger’s An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf and Red Herring, Yazmina Reza’s Art, the World Premieres of Bernard Farrell’s The Verdi Girls, Richard Dresser’s The Pursuit of Happiness, the U.S. premiere of Bernard Farrell’s Many Happy Returns, Steve Martin’s The Underpants, and Somerset Maugham’s The Constant Wife.  Andy directed a wide range of works over the years, including the award-winning American Buf­falo, three other U.S. premieres by Bernard Farrell, Richard Dresser’s Rounding Third and Wonderful World, and Andy’s world premiere adapta­tion of his wife Sara’s translation of Carlo Goldoni’s The Liar, as well as Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Othello, and Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People.  Andrew previously served as Head of Theatre at United States International University’s School of Performing and Visual Arts in San Diego, and was the Associate Artistic Director of the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach, where he directed seven plays, including the San Diego premiere of Torch Song Trilogy. He has also directed at San Diego’s Theatre at Old Town, Michigan’s LORT Meadow Brook Theatre, Gunmetal Blues, Rounding Third, and Charels Evered’s Celadine at the Colony Theatre, and The Foreigner at the San Jose Repetory Theatre.  As an actor, he has appeared numerous times Off-Broadway and in major roles in eighteen LORT productions across the country, including Meadow Brook Theatre, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, San Diego Rep, the Alaska Rep, and five roles at The Laguna Playhouse, including The Actor in Enter The Guardsman, Sam Galahad in both the production and on the cast album CD of Gunmetal Blues, and most recently as Lawrence in David Rambo’s The Ice-Breaker.

Unmasking The Malcontent: v. V

We performed our first full run-throughs of the play this weekend for the benefit of the Artistic Director and Designers of the show. I don’t think I’ll be the only one of us to say putting all the bits and pieces into sequence again was just a touch frightening. Actually, “abject terror” would be the proper term.

Elizabeth Swain directs a scene

Since the first week of blocking rehearsals with the Circle Game, we’ve been taking the show to pieces and working it scene by scene; working in such tight focus, you sort of lose sight of the big picture. Putting it all back together again to see if it worked was a leap of faith, but I’m happy to say that (not without much rifling of scripts and close examination of the posted scene order) it works indeed. Better than that, we got to step back and take a look at the grand scheme of the play, and it’s not nearly so terrifying now as it was at the first reading. These next couple of days, we’re opening it back up and fine-tuning, and then next week we begin tech rehearsals, and the week after, we open.

When you put it that way, it doesn’t sound like much time at all.

Mark Doerr helps Laura Wernette with her rehearsal corset.

And on that subject, we’ve had some news about our performance schedule from our Artistic Director, Jeanie Hackett. In standard practice, Antaeus casts two actors in each role, both of whom attend rehearsals and work with different combinations of actors throughout the process. During tech week, the actors are sorted out into two teams which remain fairly immutable throughout the run of the play (exceptions being when your counterpart is not able to make a performance with their cast, etc). That’s the arrangement we’ll be sticking to for the Saturday and Sunday performances, but the new and exciting element is that Thursday and Friday shows will now be performed by a mixture of both casts, a random assortment of actors that will be different each night.

I hope you think that’s awesome: I do. I’m just not looking forward to saying goodbye to half of the cast for the next month and a half; they’re too much fun. Secondly (and perhaps not entirely honorably), I’m just a wee bit competitive. Therefore, the idea of another group of actors interpreting the material in ways I’ll never get to play with does not please. Thirdly, there’s going to be an element of danger in these shows; as if performing weren’t enough of an adrenaline rush already, you don’t know quite what the other team has been up to, and you’re going to surprise each other when you get out on that stage. You have to stay active and open to keep up with each other. It will be intense.

A2 Ensemble Member, Abby Wilde, continues to share her experiences working on our production of The Malcontent . This is the fifth installment. For tickets, visit www.antaeus.org

Unmasking The Malcontent: v. IV

“O, do not rant, do not turn player. There’s more of them than can well live already.”

Malevole, The Malcontent , Act IV Scene 4

It seems our illustrious Mr. Marston (the playwright of The Malcontent ) wasn’t above playful (or perhaps malicious) acts of parody when the opportunity presented itself. Take, for example, the scheming and scandalous villain of the piece, Mendoza (played rather deliciously by Adrian LaTourelle and Ramon de Ocampo). He begins his journey in this play by telling the audience exactly how empowering it truly is to not only be in favor with the duke, but to be sleeping with the duchess behind his back; in fact, he goes on at great length in praise of beautiful women in general (nobility or lack thereof aside):

You preservers of mankind, life-blood of society, who would live, nay who can live without you? O paradise, how majestical is your austerer presence! How imperiously chaste is your more modest face! But O how full of ravishing attraction is your pretty, petulant, languishing, lasciviously-composed countenance, these amorous smiles, those soul warming sparkling glances! In body, how delicate, in soul how witty, in discourse how pregnant, in life how wary, in favours how judicious, in day how sociable, in night how — O, pleasure unutterable!

Mendoza, The Malcontent , Act I Scene 3

Sound familiar? I’ll give you a hint:

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how
infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and
admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet,
to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me—
nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.

Hamlet, Hamlet , Act II Scene 2

Hamlet or The Malcontent?

When this came up a couple of weeks ago at tablework, I didn’t know too much about The Malcontent on an academic level. So I turned to that most trusted of all scholarly resources (Google), and came up with an article, conveniently entitled “The Dates of Hamlet and Marston’s The Malcontent by H.R. Walley (1933)*  that shed a heavenly beam of light on the subject. According to him, HAMLET was definitely first performed before its registry date in 1602 (and it turns out that more recent reasoning puts the date between 1599 and 1601), but there is absolutely no reason to date The Malcontent earlier than 1604. I read several more essays on the subject until it felt more like a chicken-and-egg debate than I thought possible, but personally, I find it easier to believe Malevole as a scion of Hamlet than the other way around. The Malcontent text is rife with moments of direct parody like that one above and this one below, that if actually correspondent to Hamlet, must have come after and not before:

HAMLET: Never make known what you have seen tonight.
HORATIO and MARCELLUS: My lord, we will not.
HAMLET: Nay, but swear’t.
HOR: In faith, my lord, not I.
MAR: Nor I, my lord, in faith.
HAMLET: Upon my sword.
MAR: We have sworn, my lord, already.
HAMLET: Indeed, upon my sword, indeed…Never to speak of this that you have seen, swear by my sword.
GHOST: Swear.
HAMLET: Swear by my sword never to speak of this that you have heard.
GHOST: Swear by his sword.
HAMLET: Here, as before, never, so help you mercy,
How strange or odd some’er I bear myself…
…That you, at such times seeing me, never shall…to note
That you know aught of me — this do swear, so grace and mercy at your most need help you.
GHOST: Swear.

Hamlet, Marcellus, Horatio, and Ghost, Hamlet , Act I Scene 5

MAQUERELLE: Visit her chamber, but conditionally you shall not offend her bed; by this diamond!
FERNEZE: By this diamond.
MAQ: Nor tarry longer than you please; by this ruby!
FERN: By this ruby.
MAQ: And that the door shall not creak.
FERN: And that the door shall not creak.
MAQ: Nay, but swear!
FERN: By this purse.
MAQ: Go to, I’ll keep your oaths for you. Remember, visit.

Maquerelle and Ferneze, The Malcontent , Act I Scene 6

But Malevole and The Malcontent are not just exercises in Hamlet mockery; the periodic parody is a symptom of the similarities between the title characters. First, take Hamlet: a melancholy and cynical usurped ruler, slightly squeamish about spilling blood, carrying himself in the guise of a lunatic to evade detection while he plots his revenge. Then, you have Malevole who…well:

…The heart’s disquiet is revenge most deep. He that gets blood the life of flesh but spills,
But he that breaks heart’s peace the dear soul kills.
Well, this disguise doth yet afford me that
Which kings do seldom hear or great men use —
Free speech; and though my state’s usurped,
Yet this affected strain gives me a tongue
As fetterless as is an emperor’s.
I may speak foolishly, ay, knavishly,
Always carelessly, yet no one thinks it fashion
To poise my breath; for he that laughs and strikes
Is lightly felt, or seldom struck again.
Duke, I’ll torment thee; now my just revenge
From thee than crown a richer gem shall part.
Beneath God naught’s so dear as a calm heart.

Malevole, The Malcontent , Act I Scene 3

Can’t you just picture how this went down? Perhaps John Marston attended the first performance of Hamlet (which, we’ve established, was probably sometime between 1599 and 1601). I also imagine that he was properly awed and shattered by the humanity and despair of it, and so enamored that he returned night after night. Alas, as is likely to occur when you watch a play every night, its mechanics grew more and more transparent and less and less credible to him until at last he threw down whatever he happened to be holding at the time (for the sake of comedy, let’s say a haunch of mutton) in complete frustration and shouted at the stage, “WHY DON’T YOU DO SOMETHING, ALREADY?!”
All right, fine. It’s pretty unlikely that it happened quite that way. In fact, I can’t really claim that Malevole, in his infancy, had anything to do with Hamlet at all. Perhaps the bits of satire above were put in very late in the writing process after some critic saw the Jacobean equivalent of an invited dress rehearsal and snidely suggested that Marston was taking hints from Shakespeare’s playbook.

The truth is that while their similarities in circumstance are striking, and very intriguing to a conspiratorially inclined mind like mine, their differences in action too arresting to define The Malcontent merely as a Hamlet commentary. Of course, this is in part due to differences of story (Malevole’s parents do not figure in this play; nor do ghosts, convenient bands of travelling players, indistinguishable and ultimately dispensable pairs of school chums, or mad damsels drowned under willow trees), but it’s also a question of basic personality; Marston’s leading man is a Hamlet with resolve. He advances his aims at every step, he moves the world around him, he does not waste his time on soliloquy; anything brilliant he has to say, he saves until such time as others are around to appreciate it. He is thrown quite as many curveballs as Hamlet, but he reinvents his revenge for them just as many times as it takes. (In fact, I’ve decided that from now on I shall secretly refer to The Malcontent as “HAMLET: Man of Action.”)

Let’s face it; there’s only so far I can go comparing and contrasting key plot points of Hamlet and The Malcontent before you will know the ins and outs of the entire play, so perhaps I should make my point and close for the week. My point is this: whichever came first and however the inspiration came about, in writing The Malcontent , Marston managed to rewrite Hamlet as a revenge-comedy, something he himself seems to have been aware of and amused by at the time of the play’s publication. I think Marston took umbrage to Prince Hamlet as a heroic figure; in Hamlet, the pursuit of revenge is a futile quest that puts you through hell and leads you to destruction. In The Malcontent , revenge is difficult, messy, and potentially dangerous…and absolutely worth every moment of it.

I hope you’re excited to see it; you have every reason to be. After all, we are:

The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral scene individable, or poem unlimited.

Polonius, Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2

Come back next week for more Unmasking the Malcontent! In the meantime…:

I shall now leave you with my always-best wishes; only let’s hold betwixt us a firm correspondence, a mutual-friendly-reciprocal kind of steady-unanimous-heartily-leagued…

Bilioso, The Malcontent , Act I, Scene 4

A2 Ensemble Member, Abby Wilde, will be sharing her experiences working on our production of The Malcontent . This is the fourth installment. For tickets, visit www.antaeus.org

*The Dates of Hamlet and Marston’s The Malcontent
Harold R. Walley
The Review of English Studies
Vol. 9, No. 36 (Oct., 1933), pp. 397-409
Published by: Oxford University Press
Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/508802