A message from our Summer Intern

This summer, college freshman Sydney Berk came to work with Antaeus.

She was a tremendous asset to our organization, from managing our Box Office and Assistant Directing some of the ClassicsFest workshops, to just being an all around life-saver.

Here are her words about her summer experience:

Dear Jeanie Hackett,

I hope all is well at Antaeus and with you. The summer was such a great success and I’m happy I got to witness it all unfold. I want to say thank you for the wonderful opportunities you gave me this summer. I feel incredibly lucky and so appreciative for all I learned and the experience I gained. I could not have found a better company to work with. Antaeus is truly one of a kind. Every moment I was there I could see how invested every company member and friend was in the success of the mission. There is always a feeling of support; people help each other, listen to each other and grow with one another. Antaeus showed me what it means to be in a company and gave me a model of the kind of company member I want to be in the future. This summer, I learned boundless amounts about acting, directing and managing a theater. Watching the actors prepare, work and perform was a blessing. Observing the way the different directors interacted with their casts was so beneficial. It was one of my first professional theater experiences and I feel that I could not have been luckier.

I also want to personally thank you because I learned so very much about running a theater from watching you. The way you make decisions, the way you take every opportunity and the way you are always efficient. Thank you for constantly communicating with me, for showing me how to properly run a theater but also for explaining to me why each step you took was important. I really appreciate it.

I miss Antaeus already and am really forward to seeing Autumn Garden later this fall. It was a truly inspiring place to work. The actors, directors and crew all welcomed me so lovingly. The way so many made a point to say hello to me daily meant a lot. It is such a wonderful place to work. I feel so grateful that I got to witness and be a part of the success. I hope I will be back in the future. It is definitely something I would love.

Sincerely,
Sydney

Dakin Matthews Responds

Antaeus’ Founding Artistic Director, Dakin Matthews, wrote a satirical response to Sunday, August 8th’s LA TIMES article, “Dialogue: Critics Charles McNulty and Steven Leigh Morris discuss the state of L.A.’s small theaters.”

Over a tube of Pringles recently, actor-martyr Genisio Santo and director Meiningen Sachs began a dialogue on the state of theatre reviewing in L.A.; and this give-and-take, subsequently pursued over a second tube of Pringles, seemed worthy of a larger forum.

MS: I think it’s a shame the way not just the major critics like Nutty McCharles tend to be marginalized, but even the—shall I call them minor?—critics like Maury Lee Stevens.

GS: For the record, we don’t tend to think of the latter as “minor”—we prefer “waiver journalists.”  But be that as it may, how do you mean “marginalized,” Meiny?

MS: Well, literally.  I mean, they have to write in columns, they have to stay inside the margins. It’s sad, really; they’re treated like three-year-olds forced to stay inside the lines in coloring books.  I’d love to see their stuff spilling all over the page.  Wacky fonts!  Occasional gibberish!  I mean, what about their creativity?

GS: I hadn’t looked at it that way.

MS: I blame the marketplace.  They’re required by their public to write syntactically and coherently—

GS: Well, I’m not sure that’s true. . . .

MS: And to pander to that 99.5% of their readers who actually read, by having to conform to the stifling, old, traditional spelling and punctuation rules.

GS: Yes, what about that other half a percent who can’t read?  They’re the real cutting edge.  They’re the future.

MS: Yes, print reviewers these days can’t really write what they want; they’re so font- and format-whipped by their editors.  I look forward to the day when they can really cut loose, you know, dump those style sheets in the wastebaskets and write something I could honestly call a McCharles review or a Stephens review instead of that conformist boilerplate stuff that passes for reviews these days.

GS: I agree.  I mean, come on, who needs paragraphs?  What’s in a paragraph?  A screed by any other name, , , ,  But now, Meiny, let’s think even further outside the box.  I’m thinking interdisciplinary reviewing.

MS: Hmmm. How would that work, Genisio old chap?

GS: Well, all the big papers have websites—why shouldn’t Nutty or Maury sing their reviews in streaming video?  Or better yet, write them and then have somebody else deconstruct them, you know, pick out a line here, a line there, reassemble them into a collage, and then stage them as puppet shows?

MS: Yes, Travesty Presson might be just the person to do that!

GS: Whoa, wait—here, let me open that second tube of Pringles, Meiny old boy, I’m a trained actor.  What if we throw away the box entirely, and let the reviewer go to one play and review another one entirely?

MS: But don’t they do that already?  I mean, I often get the impression that they tend to review the play they wanted to see or thought they should have seen—or the one they would have produced (if they actually were in the producing business)–instead of the one they actually saw.

GS: Okay, then how about this—they don’t even see plays.  They just write reviews.

MS: Now you’re talking.  I’ve always thought the ideal situation would be for a reviewer to call me when a production was announced and I could explain to him my concept and what I wanted to do, and he could just review that, without have to deal with all those pesky playwrights and actors.  (Beat.)  No offense, Gen.

GS: None taken.   I mean, who do we think we are?

MS: Or, back to the interdisciplinary idea, how’s this for a picture? All the reviewers in spandex tights with lots of artificial fog, posturing their reviews to pretentious music—Critique de Soleil!

GS: Or–wait a minute—how about a mime review–live and in streaming video; and you could print it in the paper as well.

MS: Yes, fabulous!  And then—no, wait a minute—a mime review in the paper?  Then it’d just be a blank column.

GS: Exactly.

ClassicsFest 2010: ‘Faith Healer’

As ClassicsFest 2010 unspools, we’ll be featuring insights from the project initiators about what inspired them to choose their plays and their experience of working on them.

Faith Healer
by Brian Friel

I have been a Brian Friel fan, if that is the correct word for the feelings I have for his work, for a looonnnngg time. I have written a letter of praise and appreciation to this man, and he has written back, so there is a personal feeling as well as a connection to the material. The first play of his I performed in was Lovers: Winners and Losers. We did the Winners portion and I always wondered at the “winners” appellation as the two protagonists are dead. The implication is that they killed themselves. This was a “victory.” They were the “Winners.” I performed this over forty years ago.

My first theatrical success upon arriving in Los Angeles many moons ago was in Philadelphia, Here I Come! and I have performed in Translations in LA, and performed the part of ‘Teddy’ in Faith Healer with my dear friend the late Charles Hallahan performing ‘Frank.’ This was done for Warner Shook at the Intiman Theatre in Seattle. My wife claims to have fallen in love with me again while assaying the ‘Teddy’ character. That is more than a little bit special.

Every time I do a Friel piece something magical happens. They speak to my Irish side. They scream to my Irish side. Ever since performing Faith Healer I have had the notion, dream, plan, what have you, to perform it in the following way: two actors switch off playing Frank and Teddy. I, of course, want to be one of the actors. They would have to be pretty devoted theatre creatures because each of the two roles is back-breakingly difficult in the memorization department—and two so totally different people, a huge challenge and undertaking. The part of ‘Grace’ (“grace”, indeed) is also daunting both in size and scope—a match for Frank, an inspiration for Teddy.

The play appeals to me to this day because of the subject matter and what I perceive as the main focus. It is a “Roshomon” play, where everyone expresses their point of view, and the audience has to decide who is telling the truth—if anyone. Just like in life, their stories vary, and collide, and contradict. But for me the prime dilemma of the play is Frank’s; he is the title character, and the others his….satellites. His central conceit I find so compelling: What do you do when you “don’t have it”? When the muse is absent, when the power of your craft, your gift, is not present? How to conquer the fear? The disappointment? The shame? How to live with the diminution of your power? The question(s) of the pointlessness of existence. The “why go on”-ness of it all. So it speaks strongly to the doubts a performer has—about every facet of his/her life. And while there is a form of salvation in the play, at what cost?

I have had producers say, “oh it’s an ACTORS’ play,” as if it is a pejorative. I say, “Yeah? What is the problem with that?” Perhaps what they really mean is that it is not a commercial piece. I think they worry that you won’t sell tickets with this piece. I know that that is a consideration, but dig in, says I.

And so we are. Let us know what you think. Is a full production something to pursue?

We will give this away and see.

– Gregory Itzin, Actor and Project Initiator

Faith Healer
plays as a “First Look” on July 31 at 3pm
.

ClassicsFest 2010: ‘Les Blancs’

As ClassicsFest 2010 unspools, we’ll be featuring insights from the project initiators about what inspired them to choose their plays and their experience of working on them.

Les Blancs
by Lorraine Hansberry

CLASSIC: The word classic means something that is a perfect example of a particular style, something of lasting worth or with a timeless quality.

Why didn’t I think of it before? Please, forgive me Ms. Hansberry for not seeing what was right in front of me.  We have had many encounters, your play and I.  The first was in school.  Flipping through a theatre history book, fantasizing about a life in the theatre, and there it was staring at me, in the face; A black and white photo of a powerful actor in traditional costume, masks creeping out from the dark of the stage, the caption read Les Blancs by Lorraine Hansberry.  It showed a particular style and I believe it was taken from a production at the Negro Ensemble Company. I may even have read it, but it was your other play, ‘the famous one’, which drew my naive artistic attention.

Our next encounter was some 20 years later.  I pursued my dreams and found myself preparing for a role in your ‘famous play’ at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  I read everything you wrote and everything I could find about you, including more photos of an OSF production of Les Blancs.  I read it again, and wondered, “Why hasn’t this play of lasting worth been done more often? What’s wrong? Are we afraid?” Since your time, our native brothers and sisters have gone through enormous changes: famine, drought, genocide, disease, discovery, reconciliation, industry, and yes, independence.  Apartheid no longer exits. But, as you predicted in the ‘famous play,’ we still find our once revered revolutionaries resorting to greed, anger, and stupidity.  Forgive us for not paying attention sooner to the timeless quality of your artistry.

The third encounter is happening now, the 21st Century. A time contemporary scholars call ‘A Century of Africa.’  We’re a courageous troupe of performers, varied individuals, dedicated to the classics, rediscovering and unlocking treasures of art.  For some, the classic, Les Blancs, will be a new discovery, for me, well; it’s been with me all along, anxiously waiting.  Thank you Ms. Hansberry.

Oneness,
– Mirron Willis, Actor

Les Blancs plays as a “Work in Progress” on August 3rd and 4th at 8pm.

ClassicsFest 2010: ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’

As ClassicsFest 2010 unspools, we’ll be featuring insights from the project initiators about what inspired them to choose their plays and their experience of working on them.

The Merry Wives of Windsor
by William Shakespeare

I have been in Merry Wives of Windsor five times, three times playing ‘Falstaff’ ( New Jersey Shakespeare Festival, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Utah Shakespearean Festival), playing ‘Ford’ once (local theatre), and the ‘Host’ once for the Old Globe. Each Time I saw or acted in the play I grew to really love it. It was always an audience favorite and the most accessible of any Shakespeare I have ever seen. The play has sometimes gotten a bad rap because Shakespeare supposedly wrote it at Queen Elizabeth’s request to “show Falstaff in Love” and dashed it off in ten days. Yes, there are some problems in the play but with some judicious cutting (as I have done here) it remains extremely rich in wonderful Shakespearean characters. It is Shakespeare’s homage to the middle class of which he was a part and generally got short shrift in the canon. The characters are tremendous for a company like Antaeus where we have an abundance of talent. Surprising, many people don’t know the play. I hope you learn to love it like I do.

– Bob Machray, Actor and Project Initiator

The Merry Wives of Windsor plays as a “First Look” on July 24th at 3pm.

ClassicsFest 2010: ‘The Helen Fragments’

As ClassicsFest 2010 unspools, we’ll be featuring insights from the project initiators about what inspired them to choose their plays and their experience of working on them.

The Helen Fragments
by Euripides/Homer/Ovid/Sappho

The idea to perform “fragments” of Euripides’ Helen came in a conversation with Jeanie Hackett. Twice, at her invitation, I have had the pleasure of moderating meetings of the Antaeus Academy where we have focused on Greek drama. These great classical plays are a challenge for any director or actor because they were a complete integration of poetry, language, song, music, dance, and gesture.

To imagine such a performance, we need to arrive at a vocabulary that defines the actor and director in very different terms from much of contemporary theater. For this reason, working on a Greek play is always a new beginning and a challenge to explore fundamental elements.

Like Shakespeare’s late plays, Helen is a romance – underlying its fairy tale structure is a psychologically acute study of love lost and love regained.

–    Michael Hackett, Director

The Helen Fragments plays as a “Workshop” on July 27th and July 28th at 8pm.

ClassicsFest 2010: ‘Juno and the Paycock’

As ClassicsFest 2010 unspools, we’ll be featuring insights from the project initiators about what inspired them to choose their plays and their experience of working on them.

Juno and the Paycock
by Sean O’Casey

Many years ago I saw a wonderful film called Zorba the Greek. The most wonderful sequence in the movie for me was when Zorba, whose new wife has just died, whose whole life is in ruin, suddenly runs outside and begins to dance. He dances till he is exhausted. His young English friend is bewildered and asks him why, when his life has become such a disaster, why he was dancing. Zorba’s reply is, “Sometimes a man feels so much all he can do is dance.” That’s what I feel about O’Casey, only his characters sing in the midst of calamities. And if they’re not singing O’Casey is in his writing. Called “the greatest prose writer in our time,” O’Casey’s writing sings for his characters. With humor and song he blasts the political forces at work in Ireland in 1922 and gives us indelible human beings who meet, who clash, who drink, who love, and who sometimes survive. Juno and the Paycock is one of his greatest plays, and is as pertinent today as it ever was.

– Allan Miller, Director

Juno and the Paycock plays as a “First Look” on July 17 at 3pm.

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