The Wood Demon

The Cast of the Original Production of "The Wood Demon" at Rest

“Actors climb up Chekhov like a mountain, roped together, sharing the glory if they ever make it to the summit.” While that quote is directly attributed to Ian McKellen, any Antaeus company member would be likely to agree. Much like Antaeus, there are no stars in Chekhov plays. Everybody sinks or swims together. Therefore, it’s no surprise that, twenty years ago, Antaeus’ first full-length production was a Chekhov play, the rarely-performed The Wood Demon. One of Chekhov’s earlier plays, many people consider it to be the precursor to Uncle Vanya. In honor of our twentieth anniversary, we’re bringing the show back this weekend for our Flight of Fancy. Frank Dwyer is returning to CF11, after his production of Othello, to direct.

As I wrap up my time at Antaeus, I’m constantly impressed by the amount of history this organization has and how it’s managed to stay an important part of the Los Angeles theater scene. The amount of passion these company members have for the work they do here helps me understand the crazy little dude on the logo: keeping one foot in the world of theater truly does help these actors stay relevant.

There are three chances this weekend to see The Wood Demon: Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2:30pm and 7:30pm. Saturday’s performance is preceded by the Flight of Fancy prix fixe dinner at The Federal and a symposium on translating Chekhov for a modern audience with Frank Dwyer and Founding Members Dakin Matthews and Lillian Groag. Come celebrate twenty years of this fantastic company! We look forward to seeing you this weekend!

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 twitter @JHoToGo …..

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Tweeting in the Theater.. Yay or Nay?

Trying to find innovative ways to market classic theater is no mean feat and it’s something we all struggle with Antaeus. As I was checking in with Kendra Chell, who is appearing in next week’s performance of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” our conversation couldn’t help but stray to her day job as Company and Administrative Manager of Antaeus. That means the duty typically falls to her figure out how to attract new audiences to Antaeus shows. If you follow us on twitter, you’ve been following her. In addition to being a talented actress (If you don’t believe me, watch her steal the scenes she has in “Long Day’s…”), Kendra is passionate about Antaeus shows reaching as wide an audience as possible. As the person who sits next to her, I can vouch for how hard she works in pursuit of this goal.

Kendra Chell in 2008's ClassicsFest production of The Rover

One of Kendra’s latest ideas is our Tuesday Night Tweet Night. All Tuesday nights during ClassicsFest are Company Nights, open only to Antaeus Company members. These Company Nights are a great way for everybody to come together and support each other’s work. Plus, it’s always nice to have an audience to laugh and cheer during the final dress rehearsal (I accidentally typed “stress rehearsal,” which I think is Freudian.). We’re taking advantage of these evenings, an amalgamation of an actual performance and a rehearsal, to try out live tweeting. Every Tuesday night, we have a crew of Antaeus tweeters, give or take a few special guests, live tweet the performance. This means they tweet their comments on the show as it’s actually happening. Maybe they quote a line, maybe they note a particularly fantastic performance of a scene, maybe they just want to remind all people in the tweetverse that Harry Groener, who is playing Feste in “Twelfth Night,” recurred on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” They can tweet whatever they want, so long as they tag it with the hashtag “#cf11” which allows all the tweets to be linked up (Check out Tweeting 101 and Twitter Glossary if this is all Greek to you.). In order to keep disruption to a minimum, all the tweeters sit in the back row, so the light won’t bother other audience members or actors on stage, and they keep the phones on silent.

Kendra was inspired by other theaters around the country to bring Tweet Nights to Antaeus and I think it’s a great idea. Already, it’s inspired discussions on twitter about Antaeus and we think these discussions are encouraging new people to check out our theater. Unfortunately, not every actor agrees and there’s been some unexpectedly passionate pushback from the company. “I think people liken it to answering their phone or a phone going off in the theater, which I’m not a fan of either,”  Kendra said, “but there have been some very very strong reactions that do surprise me, bordering on absolute fury, and it’s been interesting.” However, management has taken the stance that we need to forge ahead with this new initiative and we’ve done everything possible to make the actors understand why it is we’re trying this and why we think it’s important. As Kendra put it, “on the whole, people have been supportive once we’ve had our conversations about it though and once I explain that it brings awareness to the company and about ClassicsFest and doesn’t degrade their art.”

Kendra is appearing in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” which will be our third go at the Tuesday Night Tweet Night and I asked if she was nervous to be on the other side of the twitter feed, so to speak. “As the person that’s implemented it, I feel pretty okay with, though if they got to sit in the front row and tweet whenever wherever, as opposed to a controlled environment on a designated evening, I’d have a problem with it. It’s interesting with ‘Long Day’s…’ because it’s a long, heartbreaking play, whereas the other two shows we’ve already done are on the lighter side. I’m curious to see what they choose to comment on.”

What do you think about Tuesday Night Tweet Night? We’d love to hear your thoughts! And if you’re interested in becoming a Tuesday Night Tweeter, please DM our twitter account @AntaeusCompany.

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 …..

ClassicsFest 2011 Opens Tonight!

It’s Opening Night! Not just for “The Doctor’s Dilemma,” but for ClassicsFest 2011! We couldn’t be more excited here in the office as we put together the finishing touches on an exciting summer. From food trucks to tweet nights to ticket deals, be sure to follow us on Twitter to keep up with the special events happening at each performance (@AntaeusTheater).

This week, I spoke to Jessica Olson, the costume designer of ClassicsFest, to hear how things are going with next week’s show, “Twelfth Night.” I also checked back in with Robert Pine to see how he was feeling about “The Doctor’s Dilemma” opening night, especially after the compressed rehearsal period. “Obviously, there are compromises that have to be made as we get closer to doing this for an audience since our time is short,” Robert commented. “But we make discoveries every day.  I am quite pleased with where we are now and think by the time we have an audience we will have a most entertaining show.” He wasn’t feeling any pressure about the opening until I made the mistake of commenting on it. Oops.

Alexandra Goodman and Joe Delafield in last year's ClassicsFest production of "Arcadia," assistant costume designed by Jessica Olson (photo by Ehrin Marlow)

As for “Twelfth Night,” they’re one week away from their opening night and Jessica’s keeping busy, working on this show as well as the other ClassicsFest shows. “On a Classicsfest production, a costume designer is presented with a variety of challenges,” she noted. “For one thing, you have over six shows to costume. This includes working with that many different directors & stage managers all of whom have vastly differing work and artistic styles. Luckily, the design team remains the same, so that work dynamic is a constant. For ‘Twelfth Night’ in particular, I face several challenges.”

Jessica has been working with Claudia Weill, the director of “Twelfth Night,” to help determine the concept for this production, since Shakespeare plays can fit well into so many different time periods – a blessing and a curse. As Jessica describes it, “choosing a concept/era that fits not only the play, but also the cast, theater, & message the director wishes to convey can be tricky. For this play in particular you have the challenge of presenting the class differences between a variety of different character groups that interface with one another. Another obvious and immediate challenge is how to make Viola & Sebastian similar enough in appearance to be mistaken for one another. And of course, there is the famous trick on Malvolio that involves him being ‘cross-gartered’ a plot device that has challenged costumers for centuries. Cross gartering belongs to a very specific time period. If the play is not set in that time period, the costume designer must come up with a solution that works in that era. Finally, Claudia would like Viola & the Captain to appear in wet garments when they begin the show. Wet clothing always presents a challenge as it must be dried so no mold grows, and must not drip so that the floor does not become hazardous. It’s also a health concern for the actors appearing repeatedly in wet garments.”

“It’s wonderful to have an opportunity to work with all these directors,” Jessica told me, “It’s an excellent way to meet and network and it allows all of us to work on classical pieces that are not frequently produced. Additionally, it allows me to work at Antaeus, a theatre of which I am a passionate supporter, and of course, it’s rewarding because I get to spend my time doing something I love.” We’re so excited to kick off an amazing summer filled with fantastic productions and wonderful collaborators, all as passionate and talented as Jessica and Robert.

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 …..

The Process of a Work in Process

Opening ClassicsFest 2011 is The Doctor’s Dilemma, George Bernard Shaw’s take on whether or not medicine should be a profit-driven business. Over one hundred years later, the debate is still raging and we’re thrilled to present Shaw’s perspective.

Featured in this production is Antaeus Company Member, Robert Pine, pictured at left with Nike Doukas in last season’s Cousin Bette (photo by Michele K. Short). Robert’s impressive career encompasses work on stage, in film and in tv, but he is probably best known to audiences as Sgt. Joe Gertraer from CHIPS. In The Doctor’s Dilemma, Robert plays Sir Patrick Cullen, a distinguished doctor, skeptical of his friend and fellow physician, Sir Colenso Ridgeon, and his supposed cure for consumption.

I spoke to Robert about his experience thus far working on a ClassicsFest Work in Process. He noted that, “as opposed to a full out production, the approach is basically the same except for the obligation to memorize the lines which in regards to time is a significant difference.” Learning lines is definitely not one of Robert’s favorite activities, but working on the show script in hand doesn’t keep Robert or the rest of the cast from going in depth with the play. As Robert describes it, “exploring the text is always the first thing in any consideration of a play and Antaeus has always stressed the text which is why I like working with this company so much. Usually when we start we sit around a table and slowly go through the play and stop frequently to ask questions and explore whatever might arise.  That could be a discussion of the period, the particular customs, the language or the ideas which the text stimulates.  Anything is up for grabs.  I have always loved this part of the process.” The great thing about ClassicsFest is the depth of the process for these workshop productions. Antaeus actors don’t do anything halfway and part of the thrill of seeing a Work in Process is the ability to focus on the world class acting, with few distractions.

In short, to use Robert’s own words, “The Doctor’s Dilemma deals with timeless issues such as class differences, the super-inflated egos of self important men and hypocrisy.  All are put on a skewer and roasted by Shaw’s considerable wit and intelligence.  All of this contributes to a very enjoyable journey.” I personally can’t wait to take the journey of The Doctor’s Dilemma – and the journey of ClassicsFest 2011! It’s going to be a great summer.

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 …

The Antaeus Company announces 2011 Line-Up

NEWS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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Hot on the heels of LADCC Award for “Outstanding Season” in 2010, The Antaeus Company announces 2011 line-up.

NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CA – March 16 2011 – The Antaeus Company will offer double-cast productions of The Malcontent by John Marston and Peace in Our Time by Noël Coward in 2011, as well as a new installment of ClassicsFest, Antaeus’ signature, six-week festival of classical work. Presenting classical plays in Los Angeles since 1991, the company known as L.A.’s classical theater ensemble offered an inaugural season in 2010 that garnered the Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Circle’s (LADCC) Polly Warfield Award for Outstanding Season at last Monday’s awards ceremony.

“This year, once again, we chose productions based on ongoing work we’ve been developing over the past year or two,” explains Antaeus artistic director Jeanie Hackett. The Malcontent was the hit of last summer’s ClassicsFest; and we’ve been working on Peace in our Time for over two years. Both plays use a wide range of actors, and are great vehicles for our ensemble company. And this summer’s ClassicsFest is full of gems-in-process.”

The Malcontent is John Marston’s viciously funny, filthy and surprising Jacobean masterpiece. The former Duke of Genoa takes the disguise of the outrageous Malevole (the titular Malcontent) to spy on the corrupt foibles of the new Duke and his unctuous cronies. Disguises, false deaths, seductions, deceptions, and adulteries all drive the plot of this enormously entertaining play. Elizabeth Swain will direct. Performances will take place May 5 through June 19, with previews beginning April 28.

Until now a biennial event, Antaeus’ popular festival of the classics, the vehicle through which the company develops much of its work, is going annual. Classicsfest 2011 marks Antaeus’ sixth, six-week “smorgasbord” of actor-initiated workshops, readings, and special events: a different project will take place almost every night of each week, July 12 through August 19.
Peace in Our Time is Noël Coward’s one and only anti-war propaganda play. Directed by Casey Stangl and choreographed by Harry Groener (recipient of the LADCC award for Performance for the title role in last season’s production of King Lear), Antaeus presents a new adaptation by company member Barry Creyton of this rare Coward work that has never before been produced in the U.S. What might life in England have been like if the Nazis had won the Battle of Britain? Performances are set for October 20 through December 11, with previews beginning October 13.

The Antaeus Company strives to keep classical theater vibrantly alive by presenting professional productions with a top-flight ensemble company of actors. Taking their company name from the Titan who gained strength by touching the Earth, Antaeus members – many of whom are familiar to movie and television audiences – regain creative strength by returning to the wellspring of their craft: live theater performances of great classical plays. All Antaeus productions are fully double cast, with two equally talented actors sharing every role. This means that audiences rarely see an understudy and frequently come back to see each show a second time in order to see the same play in the hands of an equally good but very different set of actors. Members of the company and its board span a wide range of age, ethnicity and experience; they have performed on Broadway, at major regional theaters across the country, in film and television, and on local stages, and are the recipients of multiple accolades including Tony, Los Angeles and New York Drama Critics Circle, Ovation, LA Weekly, and Back Stage Garland nominations and awards.

For more information about The Antaeus Company and the 2011 Season, call 818-506-5436 or visit online at www.antaeus.org.

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