The Fox: An Enigmatic Experience

Rebekah Tripp in Peace in Our Time (left). Photo by S. Brand

Quite some time ago I picked up a copy of The Fox as suggested to me by the incomparable Deirdre Murphy (this is a moniker by which she should always be referred).  I enjoyed it immensely upon first read.  I thought, ‘yea, let’s dig into this play.’  A reading, followed by a few meetings to delve into process work began.  The playwright, Allan Miller, began co-spearheading this process with me.  I gathered from the start that this play was more than I had realized upon first reading.  I was initially intrigued by a world where two women lived off on their own; choosing to separate from society.  I was thrilled by the intimate and dangerous connection that began to develop between Henry and Nellie. Then, The Fox was chosen as a ClassicsFest piece with Allan as director and Belen Greene, Jason Thomas, Ian Littleworth and myself as the players.  This, my dear friends, is when the work, the mystery, the delving…really began.

The process this last month has come in the form of gathering around a dining room table or living room table and diving into the play.  We concentrate on characters, relationships, circumstance.  We examine our own hang ups as actors and attempt to push through them to provide an honest look at the people in this play.  The process is very much about leaning into the discomfort; that place that as an individual we tend to hold back from our work because it’s unfamiliar or because it scares us (Allan, much to his credit, will accept none of that).

Jason Thomas in The Nina Variations. Photo by G. Wade

For this blog, my director has asked me to examine why I wanted to do this play.  What does a 32 year old woman from the suburbs of Chicago want from this material, from these people, from this story?  What does a seemingly confident individual, terrified of being found out as imperfect and fragile, not fully embracing the power of her own vulnerability find that speaks to her in this role?  Everything.  I am petrified by this torrent of natural forces that Nellie experiences in this play because once you get swept up in those forces, how do you make them stop, do you want them to stop, what if you get carried away.  I am thrilled, excited and nervous about the relationship that develops between Nellie and Henry.  Do you remember what it was like the first time you saw someone that made your stomach knot so tightly that you felt like throwing up?  I do, and it is the scariest most alive feeling that exists.  I crave it and I shy away from it. I want to be consumed in it and I want to run from it.  These are the very real extremes with which Nellie is confronted.  That doesn’t even touch the relationship with a woman who is neither her lover nor her caretaker but her equal, her friend, her sister, her other half, her soul mate. There is a pushing and pulling force that weighs on Nellie that makes my skin crawl while at the same time makes my heart beat out of my chest and my pulse race.

Belen Greene in Shakespeare’s King Phycus (right). Photo by A. Goodman

Another thing I’ve had to tackle during this process is how to approach this world and this character without guile.  To confront the things in the story that come from an innocent and honest place.  Living in the world I’ve become accustomed too, innocence is not afforded to many in great supply.  I think I lost most of mine somewhere around age 3.  It’s rather like panning for gold.  When you touch on those moments of guilelessness and unblemished grace it is a rejoicing; a celebration.  Learning how to stretch those moments and bring them to this world has been difficult but by no means impossible.  I’ve discovered that innocence, while it may be a small spark, can be reignited and grow into a warm, brilliant light that can lead you if you’re willing to be led.

Nellie would never use this many words.  I have attempted to be honest in my writing, as she would be in her life.  So, that’s what I’ve found with this process.  It’s been rich, it’s been frustrating, it’s made me laugh, it’s made me cry, and it’s made me look inside a bit and rummage around.  It’s been an incredibly meaningful experience and I have fallen in love with my director, my fellow actors and the stage even more deeply.

A2 member Rebekah Tripp muses on her experiences initiating The Fox, this weekend’s ClassicsFest 2012 reading.  Make your reservations at http://www.antaeus.org.  Suggested donation $10.

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Shaw’s Version of Hell

The Cast of St. Joan

Okay, I admit it…I’m a Shaw geek. Have been ever since one of my very first Broadway shows – ST. JOAN with the late, truly great, Lynn Redgrave at Circle-in-the-Square in NYC (in a cast, by the way, that also included our fellow Antaean and my very good friend, Armin Shimerman!)

Since then, I’ve had the privilege to play roles such as ‘John Tarleton’ in MISALLIANCE at Center Stage, Baltimore and ‘Andrew Undershaft’ in MAJOR BARBARA at San Jose Rep.

And believe me when I tell you…this stuff is challenging and oh-so rewarding to work on. The demands of language, facility of language, rapidity of thought, clarity of ideas — and, of course, discovering the beautifully human Shavian characters within those demands…it’s an actor’s dream job.

Peter Van Norden in St. Joan

And DON JUAN IN HELL is no exception. For those unfamiliar with the piece, DON JUAN… makes up the bulk of Act 3 of his enormous play, MAN AND SUPERMAN. Seldom performed in the context of the whole play, it is most often performed as we are doing it here in ClassicsFest — in a concert version (the most famous of which had Charles Laughton, Charles Boyer, Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Agnes Moorehead as its four cast members and toured the world back in the late 1950’s, early 1960’s).

It’s a piece separate from the rest of the play…a dream, really, containing characters that are faintly reminiscent of the characters in the rest of the play. But it stands firmly on it’s own two feet —  a brilliant piece all on its own.

So, in Shaw’s mind…what is Hell? Indeed, what is Heaven? How does Shaw’s ever-popular theory of the “Life Force” work in these locales? Or does it? How about the relationship between Man and Woman, Father and Daughter…God and the Devil?

The characters as statues.

Don Juan, Dona Ana, The Statue (Dona Ana’s father) and Lucifer, himself — these are the characters you’ll meet in, yes, Shaw’s version of Hell.

The concepts and the comedy are flying, fast and furious, in this 90-minute discussion/debate/argument/play — and you’re likely to take away some ideas that will tickle you, puzzle you, and maybe even amaze you. Come and join us. Sunday, November 11 and Monday, November 12 at 7:00 pm.

It’s Shaw. What could be better?

Peter Van Norden
November, 2012

Antaeus member Peter Van Norden on our next offering in ClassicsFest 2012: Part Two – Don Juan in Hell.  Peter plays The Devil.  Of course.  Make your reservations at http://www.antaeus.org.  Suggested donation $10.

Drumroll Please… It’s The Kirbys & The Sycamores!

Allow us to introduce all of you to our 2 casts for our Fall production of You Can’t Take It With You: The Sycamores & The Kirbys, headed up by patriarchs Lawrence Pressman* & Joseph Ruskin.

As you may already know, Antaeus “partner casts” all of its mainstage productions.  Originally conceived as a practical solution to allow working actors to commit to an Equity Waiver production but still take paying jobs, partner casting has evolved over the years into a fascinating creative process.  Actors collaborate with the director during the rehearsal process to breathe first life into a character, and performances stay fresh with a new cast permutation practically every night.

The Sycamore and Kirby casts will play Saturdays and Sundays, alternating days and times each week.  On Thursday and Fridays we’ll have our mash-up casts, known as the Vanderhofs, when actors from both casts will have the chance to perform together, sometimes for the first time in weeks!

New York will never be the same once these 2 families move in:

KIRBYS

SYCAMORES

Julia Fletcher

PENNY SYCAMORE

Eve Gordon
Linda Park

ESSIE CARMICHAEL

Kellie Matteson
Karen Malina White

RHEBA

Veralyn Jones
Marcelo Tubert

PAUL SYCAMORE

Paul Eiding
Tony Abatemarco

MR. DE PINNA

Jeremy Guskin
Michael Hyland

ED CARMICHAEL

Ryan Vincent Anderson
Larry Bates

DONALD

John Wesley
Joseph Ruskin

MARTIN “GRANDPA” VANDERHOF

Lawrence Pressman/ Ned Schmitdke
Lizzie Zerebko

ALICE SYCAMORE

Kate Maher
Patrick Wenk-Wolff

HENDERSON/MAC

Jeremy Shouldis
Jeremy Glazer

TONY KIRBY

Nicholas D’Agosto
Jeff Doba

BORIS KOLENKHOV

Jacob Sidney
Janellen Steininger

GAY WELLINGTON

Rhonda Aldrich
Josh Clark

MR. KIRBY

John Apicella
Shannon Holt

MRS. MIRIAM KIRBY/ GRAND DUCHESS OLGA KATRINA

Amelia White
David Glasser

JIM

Caleb Chomer

Please visit www.antaeus.org for the casts’ performance dates and to purchase tickets.

*Ned Schmitke will take over for Lawrence Pressman as Martin “Grandpa” Vanderhof as of November 19th.

Announcing ClassicsFest 2012: Part Three!

Our third and final installment of ClassicsFest – our play reading festival featuring first looks at projects initiated by company members – begins the week after our mainstage production of You Can’t Take It With You opens in October.  Keep reading for more information on the plays featured in this round!

Oct 28 & 29, 7pm

Saundra McClain

MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM by August WILSON
Initiated and Directed by Saundra MCCLAIN

The time is 1927, the place a Chicago recording studio – but the story is much more than music.  Wilson made a name for himself with this exultant blues-inspired exploration of the state of the American soul and what Arthur Miller refers to as “the salesman’s dream.”

Nov 4 & 5, 7pm
UNDER MILK WOOD by Dylan THOMAS
Initiated by Amelia WHITE, Directed by Frank DWYER

Originally written for the BBC in 1954, this dream-like radio play chronicles one day in the life of the imaginary Welsh village of LLareggub.  Thomas’ evocative words introduce his listeners to the colorful townspeople & their delightful stories.

 

Peter Van Norden

Nov 11 & 12, 7pm
DON JUAN IN HELL by George Bernard SHAW
Initiated by Peter Van NORDEN, Directed by Robert MACHRAY

Another brilliant debate from Shaw… this time from Hell itself.  Originally Act III, scene 2 of his play, Man And Superman, this stand-alone piece is most often performed in this four-actor concert version.

 

 

Nov 18 & 19, 7pm
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE by Tennessee WILLIAMS
Initiated and Directed by Apollo DUKAKIS

Generation after generation revisits this Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, drawn to its power and moving character study.  This timeless American masterpiece by Tennessee Williams is arguably unrivaled in its depths of humanity, compassion and lyric beauty.

 

Rebekah Tripp

Nov 25 & 26, 7pm
THE FOX , a play by Allan Miller based on the novella by D.H. LAWRENCE
Initiated by Rebekah TRIPP, Directed by Allan MILLER

Is it ever possible for men and women to be equals as well as lovers? In his novella The Fox, D.H. Lawrence wrestled with this very question. With this most primordial of his works, Lawrence digs deep into a searing triangle of two women and a man.

AND A SPECIAL TREAT, FEATURING THE VOCAL STYLINGS OF YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU DIRECTOR, GIGI BERMINGHAM…

December 2 – 17, Suns & Mons @ 7pm
CABARET NOEL , created by Gigi Bermingham & Matthew Goldsby
Directed by Barry Creyton

A musical evening of holiday warmth and hilarity – with an essence of je ne sais quoi.  Come celebrate the holidays in song – in French and English – with both scintillating original tunes by Matthew Goldsby and fresh arrangements of holiday classics.

http://www.antaeus.org for more information
Suggested donation: $10

Mrs. Warren Speaks on the World’s Oldest Profession

The cast of Mrs. Warren’s Profession. Photo by Holly Abel.

When I was asked to write a blog about what drew me to initiate a reading of Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession for the 2012 Summer ClassicsFest, my mind immediately went back to February of this year, when I had the challenge of playing Mu Sochua, Cambodian human rights activist in a documentary play called Seven at USC.  Sochua, who has labored tirelessly on behalf of Cambodian women and children forced into prostitution by human traffickers, has frequently spoken out about the tragic plight of these innocents, who are often kidnapped into slavery, or else lured by traffickers who promise them jobs to help their poverty-stricken families.

Of course, the horror, abuse, and deadening of the soul that Sochua details when she speaks of these victims are almost too horrible to imagine.  Bur Shaw, when he wrote Mrs. Warren’s Profession over a century ago, seemed determined to try to make Victorian society imagine the similar circumstances of young women of that time.  Shaw’s play was scandalous when it first appeared on the scene.  It was originally banned by the Lord Chamberlain in Britain, and a few years later, an American performance in New York was halted by the police, who arrested the cast and crew.  Moralists were outraged that Shaw would even attempt to take a sympathetic stand toward prostitutes, and the desperation that forced many into employment by the brothels.  But Shaw argued back that “the world’s oldest profession” was, for many desolate young women, the only means available by which they could try to raise themselves above their destitute childhoods.

Director Cameron Watson leads the discussion. Photo by Holly Abel.

Mrs. Warren’s Profession is not only an argument for societal compassion, it is also a study of societal forces vs. personal character and individual choice. Kitty Warren insists she is justified in her choice of livelihood because for her, there is no other viable means by which she could have escaped her poverty.  We see that Kitty has not only escaped, however, but flourished handsomely.  Due to her “success,” she has raised her daughter Vivie in more than comfortable means—yet she has been an absent mother, painfully and inexplicably distant from Vivie’s life, instead throwing her time and energy into her secret profession for her own pleasure at best, and from her own desperate ambition at worst.  And so the question arises:  At what point does Kitty cross over from the motive of rescuing herself and her daughter from poverty and providing a better life for them both, to the moral corruption in maintaining a “success” that ultimately rests on the continued exploitation of others?

Jeanne Sakata w/ Laura Wernette in Merry Wives, CF 2010. Photo by E. Marlow.

Such complex questions—as well as the gut-wrenching struggles of a mother and daughter who, though they wish to love each other, may be separated by a chasm too wide to breach— are the fascinating qualities that drew me to initiate this reading of Mrs. Warren’s Profession in our Summer ClassicsFest.  We hope you will enjoy the challenge of wrestling with this brave and brilliant play, alongside all of us at Antaeus.

Antaeus member Jeanne Sakata on initiating and starring in G.B. Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession, the next offering in ClassicsFest 2012: Part Two. Make your reservations at http://www.antaeus.org.  Suggested donation $10.

Double Double: On Acting in Macbeth

At the end of our final dress rehearsal, before first preview, we were addressed by our fearless and brilliant leader, Jessica Kubzansky. In more or less words told us, “gorgeous work everybody, now we’ve got to go faster!”  Or rather, close up our cues.  This moment made me laugh to myself.  I thought, how strange, up until this very moment, I hadn’t been thinking of this show as a show.  We haven’t had enough time to think of silly little trifles, such as, ‘will the audience get it?’, ‘how do I look?’ and other concerns that do nothing but stifle the life of the work.

Brian Tichnell as Malcolm. With Ian Littleworth & Peter Van Norden. Photo by Daniel Blinkoff.

The conditions of performing a play at Antaeus, allow us to focus only on what truly matters, because time to judge ourselves is a luxury we cannot afford.  And I think that is nothing but a good thing.  Risky? Sure.  But at the very least, and honest attempt to make something real, for no other purpose than that in itself.  Because nothing else matters.

Double casting? Double toil and trouble.  40 actors, all with incredible talent, technical proficiency, and, most important, heartfelt passion for art. We come together with no time, into a box, not big enough for all of us at once, and let loose chaotic ecstasy.  Or strive for it.

We are never allowed to get comfortable, or even arrive at the same page.  Like a Pollock painting, we just smatter all of our ideas and experience into a smorgasbord of action and emotion.  It creates a diversity of takes on how to approach the text and interpret the action.  There is a variety of people in our Macbeth world, with different tempos and cadences and energies.  Just like real life.

What has made this process so rewarding, and at the same time frightening, is that we are at no point as a cast, able to see the play as a final product.  The play is not the thing.  The work is the thing.  We have nothing to hold on too, but our own devices.   We can only continue honest and diligent investigation.  Sure we can watch our double counterparts perform the play, but I always think of this, not as a way to learn what the play looks like, but a conversation between actors, through choices.  Often times, watching your double, creates more questions than it does answer them.

Double casting also takes away, or lessens the ego.  No role belongs to anyone.  No propriety, no entitlement.  Nothing but the work.

Brian Tichnell leads Birnam Wood to Dunsinane. Photo by Daniel Blinkoff.

Theater is not a product.  In the general, we are asked, as artists, to funnel our talents, to funnel our calling, into a capitalist paradigm.  A play is not commodity.  Too often, plays are actors getting together, to show their “take” on it, a dislplay of clever ideas…of “concepts.” (or even worse, the play is an actor’s showcase in order to get industry work)

Directors try to parallel it to something contemporary.  To make it “relevant”  To show how “clever” you can make a Shakespeare play.  People are so obsessed with relevancy, especially with regards to the particular political or cultural climate.  Let’s show how Julius Caesar is like Obama.  Soooo relevant.   Oh my god, Romeo and Juliet are texting each other! These are shallow choices, intended to mask a lack of understanding of the value of theatre.  These plays are bigger and deeper than our own 2012 culture and societal problems.  They are bigger and deeper than Elizabethan culture!  These plays speak to a universal theme, deeper than specific time and place.  (make no mistake, I love contemporary design in plays, and even moments that can serve to mirror our current situation, but when that’s the only thing the play has got going?, a modern twist?, then the play is hollowed out, impotent)

In my humble opinion, what we do in the theatre is not necessarily a creation or a presentation as it is an invocation.  It is the goat song.  It is spiritual in nature. It is a deed without a name.  You can’t make the play happen.  There is no nailing it. You can only search for it.  Hope that you are blessed enough to have its depth and complexity reveal itself to you.  You can’t do Macbeth, but you can let Macbeth do you.   That’s right, I said it.

So that’s what we are truly inviting people to see.  A process.  An attempt to generate fire and rage and heartache, as only the human spirit can generate.  We are inviting people to witness and become enveloped in the story, and the sorcery.  We might fail. If we should fail? Then we fail, but screw our courage to sticking place and we’ll not fail.

Christian Barillas as Malcolm. With Armin Shimerman & Daniel Blinkoff. Photo by Daniel Lamm

The work of the entire cast is so inspiring, and no one lets up, never letting their ass rest on their laurels.  Continuous investigation.  From our brilliant Macbeths, to Young Siwards, to the inspiring and tender work of my double, Christian Barillas: all have put their heart into the work.

Sure we still have time to sew together all the careful heartfelt choices and chances that each of our 40 person cast is making, and try to make it not too long, for the sake of those who like to go to plays to complain about how long it is.   But the work, it will continue to grow and discover and breathe and when people come to see it, I hope they do not observe it and evaluate it in terms of goods and bads, but are rather swept up by it, forgetting that the play is even a play at all, that actors are even actors, that stories are stories, and are carried away by the gentle, relentless iambic beat of each beautiful word, seeking to unearth the complexity and beauty of everything.  Every thing.

No big deal.  A little preachy, maybe? A bit all over the place, absolutely.  But it’s what I believe.  I’m probably completely and absolutely wrong.  But so are you.

A2 Member, Brian Tichnell, on acting in the Antaeus production of Macbeth, directed by Jessica Kubzansky.  Brian shares the role of Malcolm with guest artist Christian Barillas.  Tickets are now on sale.

Announcing the Thanes & the Kinsmen!

We’re as tickled as the carbuncle on a witch’s nose to share with you the 2 casts of our 2012 Summer Production of Macbeth.  As you may know, Antaeus “partner casts” all of its mainstage productions.  Originally conceived as a practical solution to allow working actors to commit to an Equity Waiver production while still taking paying jobs, over the years partner casting has turned into a viable creative process for us.  Actors collaborate during the rehearsal process to breathe first life into a character, and performances stay fresh with a new cast permutation practically every night.

The Thanes and Kinsmen casts will play Saturdays and Sundays, alternating days and times each week.  On Thursday and Fridays we’ll have our mash-up casts, known as the HurlyBurlys, when actors from both casts will have the chance to perform together.

So, without further ado, allow me to introduce you to the Thanes and Kinsmen!

THANES KINSMEN
MACBETH Rob NAGLE Bo FOXWORTH
LADY MACBETH Tessa AUBERJONOIS Ann NOBLE
HECATE/LADY MACDUFF Kimiko GELMAN Kitty SWINK
WITCH ONE Lorna RAVER Fran BENNETT
WITCH TWO Jane CARR Susan BOYD JOYCE
WITCH THREE Saundra MCCLAIN Elizabeth SWAIN
DUNCAN/SEYTON Ned SCHMIDTKE Peter VAN NORDEN
MALCOLM Christian BARILLAS Brian TICHNELL
DONALBAIN Paul CULOS Ian LITTLEWORTH
BANQUO Ramon DE OCAMPO Joe HOLT
FLEANCE/ SON MACDUFF Jack LANCASTER Dylan LA ROCQUE
MACDUFF Daniel BLINKOFF James SUTORIUS
ROSS Armin SHIMERMAN John SLOAN
LENNOX Jeff Thomas GARDNER Joe DELAFIELD
ANGUS Alex KNOX Jesse SHARP
MENTEITH Gerard MARZILLI Jason THOMAS
CAITHNESS/2ND MURDERER Daniel DORR Sam BREEN
DOCTOR/SIWARD Todd WARING Steve HOFVENDAHL
GENTLEWOMAN Joanna STRAPP Rebekah TRIPP
MURDERER ONE Brian ABRAHAM Adam MEYER

 

THANES IMPORTANT DATES KINSMEN IMPORTANT DATES
Thurs 7/5, 8pm: Preview #1 Fri 7/6, 8pm:  Preview #2
Sat 7/7, 8p: Preview #3 Sun 7/9, 2pm: Preview #4
Wed 7/11, 8pm: Preview #6 Tues 7/10, 8pm: Preview #5
Fri 7/13, 8pm: Opening Night #2 Thurs 7/12, 8pm: Opening Night #1
Sun 7/15, 2pm: Opening Weekend Perf Sat 7/14, 8pm: Opening Weekend Perf

 

See you in Scotland!

 

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