Two Weeks and Counting….

Most places slow down in the summer. Summer Fridays, wearing flip flops, extra long coffee breaks – but Antaeus isn’t most places. Every summer, Antaeus presents ClassicsFest, a summerlong festival celebrating all things classical theater. It’s six weeks filled with workshops, readings, and special events. The best part? The price. Just about every ticket is only ten dollars.

In the past, ClassicsFest has had one big production running all summer, with workshops and readings occurring on off nights. This summer, we’re mixing things up and those workshops and readings are taking center stage. You can see a Work in Process, the most fully-staged of our ClassicsFest productions, performed Wednesday through Friday nights, or a one-time-only First Look reading on a Sunday.  On Saturdays, come spend the whole day at Antaeus with a Flight of Fancy – a performance paired with a pre-show discussion of the work. In addition to this jampacked schedule of some of the best theater in Los Angeles, we’ve also got great opening night parties, some fun food truck visits and a brand new partnership with The Federal, giving our audience members access to the ClassicsFest ClassicsFlight of beers all festival long, plus a $20 prix fixe dinner on Saturday nights.

The greatest thing about ClassicsFest is the sheer magnitude of it all. The amount of talent that will be featured on our stages is overwhelming and I’m hoping to use this blog to narrow the focus a little bit and take you inside the action. All summer, we’ll be checking in with lots of different people working on these shows to get their take on the process of ClassicsFest. Check in with us every Wednesday morning to see what’s happening now and what’s coming next.

 

Summer Intern and Columbia University MFA Candidate Jen Hoguet is keeping you up-to-date on all things ClassicsFest this summer at Antaeus. She can be reached via email at jen@antaeus.org or followed on twitter @JHoToGo …..

 

Advertisements

Adieu, My True Court Friend: Saying Goodbye to the Malcontent

At approximately 5:30 on Sunday, June 19th, JD Cullum spoke the closing words of THE MALCONTENT for the last time.

Abby backstage.

As the Cuckolds cast had the honor of the first opening performance of THE MALCONTENT, it seems only fair that the Wittols had that of the last show. The beginning of that afternoon had a slow and heavy quality about it as the Wittols cast assembled at the theater for the final time; I don’t think I’ve ever seen us less frenetic than that, lounging about, lethargic and depressed, awaiting the final dance call at 45 minutes before curtain. In shows past, nearly all the men would be fully dressed by then, and the women wearing wig-caps, corsets, and petticoats at the very least, and we’d run through our dance-steps at a full sprint; this time it seemed none of us had yet discarded our streetclothes, and I could have sworn we’d all only just rolled out of bed as we ambled onto the stage and nodded hello to one another. Matters were hardly helped by the computer in the sound booth which elected to crash in lieu of playing our music for us. But Deirdre Murphy (Artistic Coordinator for Antaeus, and our third in a line of stalwart stage managers) managed to get the beast cooperating again, and at last, the last of all dance calls began.

It is at this point that I must pause my play-by-play of that afternoon. You see, the moments before the cast clears the stage and the auditorium is opened to the audience are sacred and private, and really oughtn’t to be laid open to the viewing public in a medium so mundane as a mere blog. Exposing these things in cold detail would be a sin comparably egregious to denouncing Santa Claus to a room full of sick orphans. The naked truth is that the moments a cast has onstage together before the audience sees them are a powerful brand of secret magic. These are, to tell bare fact, the moments of camaraderie that separate the actor from the spectator, the moments of raucous laughter that fuel the opening scene, the moments that reinforce our united efforts to breathe life into the words of a playwright long dead but not to be forgotten.

Abby assists Saundra McClain with her wig. Photo: Geoffrey Wade

…These are the moments that at least one of us has incriminating pictures of (Laura), and which, even now, send me into crippling bouts of giggles.

As such, I shall leave these un-illuminated moments to your own imagination and resume at the moments after. I’ll only add that the direct result of this legendary dance call was a complete banishment of our general melancholy; we bolted upstairs with a burst of energy and frantically dressed as the final half hour ticked itself away and the house began to fill. Miraculously, all was in readiness when the call came for ‘Places.’

***

The last performance in any run is a cast’s last chance to give the audience, and each other, a well-told story, and I think we really made it count; as the final show unfolded, it became clear that we had all truly brought our last show with us to the theater. Our responses to each other were raw and unexpected, and the actors spoke their lines with an honesty and reality that belonged to the first time rather than the last. The audience was quick and generous with their laughter, and easily kept up with us as we navigated the complex twists and turns of Marston’s dialogue and plot. My favorite moment of the show was, as it has always been, that fabulous little sigh of appreciation that sometimes escapes the entire audience as they hear the final rhyming couplet of the play, just before the applause rings out; that’s when I truly feel we have been successful. Somehow, it’s more honest than applause all by itself.

Photo: Geoffrey Wade

We took our bows and filed offstage, where we unlaced our corsets and rolled down our tights for the last time. After the show, we filled the library with food, friends, and lots of wine late into the night to give THE MALCONTENT a proper send-off into Antaeus history. Then, one by one, we left the theater as we had arrived: lethargic and depressed.

Photo: Karianne Flaathen

The post-show slump is an inevitable consequence of a career in theater; the next few weeks for many of us will be punctuated by irritability, manic energy, intensely anti-social and ultra-social behavior, and ridiculously large tantrums over ridiculously small things as we struggle to re-adjust to a life without the play. Luckily, many of us have Classicsfest looming on the horizon to keep us from going utterly insane, but that does not completely mask the fact that THE MALCONTENT is over and done. As you can no doubt tell, I’m intensely proud to have been a part of this play. It was no small feat to bring this show to life and could only ever have been so well accomplished by the best and brightest creative minds in town. I count myself extremely lucky to have worked among them. We were blessed with a patient yet firm director, a deliciously lavish and innovative design team, a brilliant and indispensable backstage crew, and a crowd of some of the most intelligent, talented, and all-around fun actors one could ever possibly find. What a pity and a joy that theater is a timeless but temporary art form; though the message of the play itself and the memory of having performed it is untouchable by time, the performing of it must and has come to an end. Though we are not saying ‘goodbye’ to each other, the sad truth is that we must say goodbye to these words and the characters who said them.

Then again, they can say ‘goodbye’ to us, too:

“Farewell. Lean thoughtfulness, a sallow meditation, suck thy veins dry! Distemperance rob thy sleep! The heart’s disquiet is revenge most deep.” — Malevole/Altofront, played by JD Cullum and Bo Foxworth, Act I Scene 3

“Thou shalt see instantly what spirit my temper holds. Farewell; Remember, I forget thee not; farewell.” — Pietro, played by Bill Brochtrup, Mark Doerr, and Geoffrey Wade, Act I Scene 3

“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, played by John Achorn and Paul Willson, Act I Scene 4

“I take my leave, sweet lord.” — Celso, played by Christopher Guilmet and Joe Holt, Act I Scene 4

“So soon? ‘Tis wonder…” — Equato, played by Christopher Parsons and Buck Zachary, Act IV, Scene 2

“Good night, sentinel.” — Emilia, played by Joanna Strapp and Abby Wilde, Act II Scene 4

“‘Night, dear Maquerelle.” — Bianca, played by Blythe Auffarth and Marisol Ramirez, Act II Scene 4

“Good rest, most prosperously-graced ladies. May my posset’s operation send you my wit honesty, and me your youth and beauty; the pleasingest rest.” — Maquerelle, played by Saundra McClain and Lynn Milgrim, Act II Scene 4

“Sleep, sleep, whilst we contrive our mischief’s birth… Farewell, to bed. Ay, kiss thy pillow, dream…” — Mendoza, played by Ramon deOcampo and Adrian LaTourelle, Act II Scene 5

“Faith, my lord, I did but dream. And dreams, you say, prove not always true.” — Prepasso, played by Joe Fuhr and Jason Thomas, Act III, Scene 4

“His love is lifeless that for love fears breath; the worst that’s due to sin, O, would ’twere death!” — Ferneze, played by Alex Knox and Adam Meyer, Act I Scene 6

“O joy, triumph in my just grief; death is the end of woes and tears’ relief…Joy to thy ghost, sweet lord, pardon to me.” — Aurelia, played by Laura Wernette and Jules Willcox, Act IV Scene 5

“Would your grief would as soon leave you as we to quietness.” — Ferrardo, played by John Allee and Jim Kane, Act III, Scene 4

“I’ll mourn no more; come, girt my brows with flowers; revel and dance, soul, now thy wish thou hast!” — Maria, played by Ann Noble and Devon Sorvari, Act V Scene 5

“And as for me, I here assume my right, to the which I hope all’s pleased. To all, good night.” — Malevole/Altofront, played by JD Cullum and Bo Foxworth, Act 5 Scene 5

End of play.

Abby takes her bow. Photo: Geoffrey Wade

A2 Ensemble Member, Abby Wilde, shares her experiences working on our production of The Malcontent. This is the final installment.

Unmasking The Malcontent: v. XIV

“Now, by my troth, beauties, I would ha’ ye once wise…” Maquerelle, The Malcontent, Act IV Scene 1

The Antaeus Company does not limit itself merely to staging works of classical drama ranging from Noel Coward to John Marston to Tennessee Williams to Jeffrey Hatcher (although, we do in fact do all those things. Very, very well). The other side of the Antaeus mission statement discusses its devotion to furthering education in the classics, and in my experience with the company, this has meant the education of the next generation of classical theater actors. But Antaeus is also active in classrooms all over the county, and last week, we were paid a visit by a class from North Hollywood High School.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I loved performing for the students — the main reason being that it was really fairly recently that I would have been in that kind of field trip, so I have a special big-kid sort of glee performing for one. More than that, high school students are fun to perform for because you do not expect them to be judging the acting, direction, and technical aspects of the show against every other production this season; so it’s easy to let go of your paranoia and simply tell the story. After the show, the cast changed out of costume and came down to the edge of the stage for a Q and A with the students. We talked to them about the rehearsal process, the weeks of table-work, how the double-casting worked, how acting in a Marston play differs from a day on a TV set. Then we asked if, for any of them, it was a first time seeing live theater; of the two who raised a hand, one gave us a beautiful summation of her thoughts.

She told us that she understood why more people didn’t want to go to the theatre; she told us that she had been afraid she wouldn’t understand what was going on and was fully prepared to simply pretend that she did (and this was before she knew it was a 400 year old play; “then I really knew ‘ok, I’m so not going to understand what’s going on.'”). But she went on to say that she not only understood everything she saw, but that she was fascinated to see how “people 400 years ago were doing the same stuff that people are doing now: the way men use women, the way that love so easily turns into lust, the way power corrupts…” are still things that she sees people dealing with, and that’s why theater is important; because if people saw that they were in the same mess today as they were 400 years ago, maybe they’d stop doing it.

It just doesn’t get any better than that. We gave her an ovation.

***

Abby Wilde (far r) with the "BECCOS" cast of The Malcontent. Photo: Karianne Flaathen

And now, here we are: the home stretch, the last inning, the sports metaphor that properly expresses how it feels to approach the last performance of The Malcontent. I face the end with sadness and satisfaction; I think we have thus far acquitted ourselves with dignity and style on the stage, and unceasing shenanigans and tomfoolery off it, both of which I will miss dearly. But it’s not an utter goodbye; so many of us are either Company members or Company member-adjacent that we’re nearly all re-uniting one way or another through Classicsfest 2011. For some of us, it’s Aphra Behn’s The Lucky Chance, a reading which will be directed by the one-and-only Liz Swain (although personally, I think she should stop picking such popular, everyday plays and go for something a little more obscure). Others of us are joining the ranks of Macbeth, directed by Jessica Kubzansky. (There are countless others; I only mention these two because I happen to be in both of them and dreadfully excited at that.) But while the cast may continue on in one iteration or another, it will not be The Malcontent. The corsets, bum-rolls, tights, petticoats, and towering wigs have been shipped home where they belong and the words of the play will sink back into the silence of the Antaeus Library.

 

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

Unmasking The Malcontent: v. XIII

“Speak low; pale fears suspect that hedges, walls, and trees have ears.”

Malevole, THE MALCONTENT, Act III Scene 3

The set for The Malcontent was built in imitation of the Blackfriars’ Theater where the play was first produced in 1604; in light of that, our stage is dressed with heavy wood paneling, richly brocaded curtains, and ten seats on stage divided into boxes on either side. I feel confident in saying that never have seats caused more contention in Antaeus history. It seems that people have a general hesitance to enjoy the play from what they perceive as the interrogative glare of the stage lights, seated in the midst of the action 50 other people are watching from the comparative safety and anonymity of the house.

Mark Doerr and his captivated audience. Photo: Geoffrey Wade

This is not to say that all of our audience feels this way; many who show doubts about their seating arrangement at the top of the show have grown to love it by intermission, and returning audience members have often asked to be seated in the “splash zone” their second time around. But though it is a small faction that opts out of the spotlight, it is a powerful one; as a cast, it’s hard not to feel just a little abandoned when the stage manager comes backstage at intermission to let us know that the boxes will be somewhat emptier in Act 2 as a group seated there has asked to be relocated.

I think I get it; the box seats put you on the wrong side of the fourth wall, in grave danger of the sudden assault of Audience Participation (capitalization mine). If you’ve come to the theater for a polite evening of serious classical drama*, you may have absolutely no interest in being led in some sort of audience-wide call-and-response, or being singled out to stand onstage and speak lines yourself, or in any way being made to look ridiculous amongst the other theater-going folk. I can absolutely understand that, and I have good news: we don’t do anything like that to our audience. There is no Audience Participation portion to our show. In that respect, be assured that the seats onstage are completely safe. They are not, however, safe from audience participation in the lowercase sense, anymore than any other seat in the whole house would be.

JD Cullum offers shoe to audience members. Photo: Geoffrey Wade

The style of playwriting that The Malcontent comes out of is that of rhetoric. There is hardly a speech in this play in which the speaker is not actively trying to change someone’s mind or win someone to his side; sometimes it’s just another character onstage, but almost always it is the audience. Why is this? Because the audience is the one character in the play that never exits, and so has a stake in every moment of the action. The audience is the one character in the play who never speaks, and so the speaker can lay bare his most private thoughts without interruption. The audience is the one character who hears all of the villain’s deepest schemes as well as all of the hero’s highest hopes, and so when the play is over, the audience will be the only voice of reputation to leave the theater after and to tell others who was right and who wrong, who lost and who won. Characters in plays of this style speak to the audience with a powerful need for assistance, or understanding, or absolution, or all of the above, because the audience is the best (and sometimes, only) listener the play will afford them. Through the course of the play, the audience is the dearest friend, the coldest judge, and the most impartial ear.

So don’t let the box seats frighten you if that’s where you find yourself this weekend; the characters in this play need to be heard, hated, loved, forgiven, condemned, admired, despised by someone, and they need it at every possible minute — and as such they need the audience close at hand, all around them. When you are seated onstage, it is for no other reason than because the characters need you there to hear them out. That’s why we love to see you there, and why we hate to see you go.

*The Malcontent is most assuredly not a “polite evening of serious classical drama.” Reviews have described it as wildly funny, bawdy, Pythonesque, biting, rollicking, suprisingly contemporary, and a Jacobean poetry slam; but I digress.

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

Unmasking The Malcontent: v. XII

“How fortune dotes on impudence! I am in private the adopted son of yon good prince. I must be duke. Why, if I must, I must.” — Mendoza, THE MALCONTENT, Act II, Scene V.

This week, we say goodbye to the brilliant, handsome, witty, and wonderful Bill Brochtrup (on many occasions he has asked me if he is any of these things; I can assure you with utter certitude that he is all of them and more); he had his final performance with the Cuckold cast this past Sunday. This leaves us with one Duke Pietro (Mark Doerr, also brilliant, handsome, witty and wonderful in his own delightful way) doing the work of two. 


Bill Brochtrup (R), with Marisol Ramirez and Jules Willcox. Photo: Geoffrey Wade

Mark is not the first of us to find himself so suddenly in demand; during Previews week, Ann Noble was called upon to play Maria for each and every performance, as Devon Sorvari was out of town changing her name to Devon Brand (and getting married; that part’s sort of a big deal, too). Furthermore, Lynn Milgrim is currently pulling double shifts as Maquerelle while Saundra McClain is out of town directing “The Fantasticks” at the Ensemble Theater Company of Santa Barbara. (“The Fantasticks” opens this weekend; next week, Saundra returns to her bi-weekly playdate with us.) This sudden plummeting of the Pietro population is very different, however; Devon’s wedding and Saundra’s production were known entities since before day one, so the cast and schedule could be constructed with those in mind. Losing Bill has been a surprise for us all, however, and leaves a scheduling void the remaining Pietro cannot fill. 

 

Geoffrey Wade is our new Pietro!

Enter Geoffrey Wade, a very, very brave man. He will take part in one speed-through this week and two put-in rehearsals next week, and then, next Friday night, he takes the stage after virtually 8 hours of rehearsal. (I say “virtually” as Geoff happened to be present at our dress rehearsal and previews in his alternate capacity as official photographer — you may have noticed that all the pictures he takes are gorgeous — and so has, I’m sure, absorbed a bit of the play through proximity and osmosis). The stakes are indeed high, but I have the utmost faith in him.


For as long as I’ve been hanging around Antaeus, I have known Geoffrey Wade: he was present at my very first Classical Styles class session, has attended virtually every Antaeus project I’ve been involved with since, and has always been an active advocate of the Academy programs and the A2 Company. His general mensch-iness aside, he is also a versatile and fascinating actor; his resume spans from the National Tour of “Crazy For You” to “Six Degrees of Separation” with the Repertory Theater of St. Louis, to Lou Pepe’s 2010 production of “Orpheus Descending” here in Los Angeles, to an eerily picture-perfect portrayal as “Lincoln” at the Lincoln Amphitheater in Indiana. The man is very, very good. More than that, this is not his first time taking the wheel for us halfway through the race. Last season at Antaeus, he took on the role of General Griggs in the midst of “The Autumn Garden,” and he finished it’s run with grace and style. So much confidence do we have in Geoffrey Wade that someone in the cast (I can’t recall who, so I’m just going to pretend it was me) has granted him an intimidating nickname of his very own: “The Closer.” 

Geoffrey “The Closer” Wade makes his debut in THE MALCONTENT June 10th, a Becco performance featuring Bo “Bolevole” Foxworth in the title role and Adrian LaTourelle as Mendoza (and if you needed one more thing to convince you, the evening of June 10th will also feature copious amounts of me). 

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