An Academy Interlude: The Strangeness of Williams

Stefanie Ogden with Chris Clowers: Final Class - Photo by G. Wade

Stefanie Ogden with Chris Clowers: Final Class – Photo by G. Wade

Something strange starts to happen at 7pm on Tuesday nights in North Hollywood. That’s when Antaeus Academy’s “Rebels and Yankees” class takes the stage. For fourteen weeks we’ll be exploring Lillian Hellman, Edward Albee, Stephen Adly Guirgis, but for now Tennessee Williams has taken over. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire  – some of the best-known works of American theatre – but also plays we don’t know well, or perhaps at all – that famed Williams newlywed comedy, A Period of Adjustment, anyone? Anyone? No?

Emily Bergl & Daniel Bess in Antaeus 2011 reading - Photo G. Wade

Emily Bergl & Daniel Bess in Antaeus 2011 reading – Photo G. Wade

But still, it’s Williams. And we know Williams. We know what he’s about at an essential level; we know how his characters will try and fail and try again, only to finally crumble beautifully and devastatingly. And here’s where it gets strange. Because from 7 to 11pm on Tuesday nights we know none of that. When these scenes go up and our actors start to explore, we are drawn in completely, and though we know better, we can’t help but think maybe, just maybe, this time Maggie will reach Brick. Maybe this time

J. Sloan & R. Mozo in Antaeus' 2011 Williams Birthday Party

John Sloan & Rebecca Mozo in Antaeus’ 2011 Williams Birthday Party

Laura’s gentleman caller will stay, and Blanche will find a lifeline to hold on to. And that’s the incredible thing about working in a class at Antaeus – old becomes new; familiar material morphs into uncharted territory. When our actors step on stage to do a scene that’s been analyzed down the letter, that’s been done hundreds of times before, or one that’s been immortalized on film by Hollywood legends– when they step on stage all that falls away and it becomes a first. You see a scene that you’ve never seen before – and that you’ll never see again – as you watch these actors feel there way through these haunting scenes and characters. Everything feels fresh and new because you are watching true discovery take place on stage.

The "serious" students of Classics: Chekhov/Ibsen 2012 - Photo by G. Wade

The “serious” students of Classics: Chekhov/Ibsen 2012 – Photo by G. Wade

Which leads to another singular quality in an Antaeus class: a wonderful and particularly unique openness and sense of shared experience. Every member of the class is fully engaged for every minute of it. The fact that we will all sit riveted for four hours on a Tuesday night says it all.  Whether on stage or watching from the audience, everyone is involved and invested in the process – always engaged, contributing, and learning from each other. That mutual investment creates an incredible trust that becomes a vital foundation for daring work: we know that we can be daring, that we can be bold, because everyone in that room has our backs. It certainly doesn’t hurt that our beloved moderator, Rob Nagle, is always there with a firm but gentle push to go further, go deeper into these iconic scenes that are suddenly brand new and make them our own. And so we try, and we fail, and we try again – and we don’t crumble. We grow. And it’s that lifeline of support and strength from Rob and from each other that draws us through into moments of brilliance.

And that’s just Williams…

Ogden_Stefanie 2013Academy member Stefanie Ogden shares her thoughts on our Classics: Rebs/Yanks class, which meets Tuesday evenings this Spring.  Lead Moderator: Rob Nagle.  For more information on the Antaeus Academy, please visit our website: www.antaeus.org/theacademy.html

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