Costuming a Shakespearean Spoof

The A2 Ensemble’s production of Shakespeare’s “King Phycus” by Tom Willmorth averages at least 10 characters per actor.  That’s approximately 60 characters in all that need to be clothed… for a ridiculously tiny budget.  Costume designer Alexandra Goodman stepped up to the challenge and surpassed all expectations with her ingenuity and talent.  Oh, and she did it pro bono.  For a more in depth look into the insanity that was her last few weeks, see her responses to our questions below. Fun fact.  All of the photos featured in this blog were taken by… wait for it… Alexandra Goodman!

AC: This is your first time costume designing a show. What attracted you to it?

AG: 6 actors, 30 characters, 100 dollars.  Sounds like a reality show challenge, doesn’t it?

AC: All the actors have to play several roles, how did you go about distinguishing different persona?

AG: This was a huge hurdle.  There are six actors to play 30 roles and finding a ‘base character” for each actor was a real stumper.  To begin with, I made a bunch of spread sheets, lists, quick-change plots, and character breakdowns to see what angle was best to start from, but I scrapped all that and just looked at two classifications: Roman & English.  John Apicella wanted some classic Roman-ish elements due to text references, but he also said anachronisms may fly freely.  And also to come under budget and accommodate the quickest quick changes I think have ever been written, the idea of creating reversible costumes was formed!  I’m very proud of these, by the way!

AC: Are there similarities in acting and designing? What are they? What are the most interesting differences?

AG: There are no similarities whatsoever.  Acting is a feeling-oriented endeavor, designing is a thinking-oriented one.  Even though they are both crafts that you can learn, I have discovered that costuming
requires a hell of a lot of thought and now I have much more respect for designers– I think what they do is waaaaaayyyy harder than acting!

AC: What was your experience like working on this?

AG: I loved it because I got to troll thrift stores using someone else’s money (an activity I do all too often with my own meager funds) and have the satisfaction of completing a project on time and within a budget.  I was super conscious of what the actors felt about their costumes and what I could do to make them happy, even if that meant I had to figure out a way to make an re-usable adult diaper.  Also, this was an opportunity to step up and show a little love for A2 in a different capacity, and create a memorable experience for all us
ensemble members, on and off the stage.

AC: Can you apply what you have learned to your acting?

AG: Well, what I’ve learned actually applies to the fantastic cast– no matter what ridiculous thing your costumer makes you wear, milk it for all the mileage you can!  That’s what my Phycus peeps do and it’s truly a side-splitting sight to behold!

AC: Is there a costume piece that you are the most proud of?

AG: My favorite piece is a little over the top– ok, really over the top. I’ll leave you with just this, if you’ve seen it you know what I’m talking about: boob scarf. [Editor’s note:  why leave it to the imagination when we have pictures?!]

What are the rest of the cast and production team saying about the costumes?  Here are the highlights:

“Never did I think I would wear a catsuit and sock boobs in one show.  Thank you, Alexandra!”  ~Belen Green, Player Three

“Never did costumes that cost a nickel look so good and smell so…” ~Adam Meyer, Producer

“Alex’s costumes make my acting look huge.” ~Jason Thomas, Player Six

“Compared to Alex Goodman, Project Runway is about as boring as listening to Death Cab for Cutie on repeat.”  ~Deirdre Murphy, Producer & Sound Designer

A2 Member, Alexandra Goodman, momentarily puts down the needle to chat with us about Shakespeare’s “King Phycus” by Tom Willmorth, directed by John Apicella.  Make your reservation at http://www.antaeus.org.  Suggested Donation $10

Advertisements

A2 does Shakespeare’s “King Phycus”

We asked cast member Buck Zachary to talk to us a little about Shakespeare’s “King Phycus” by Tom Willmorth, opening tomorrow night as the next installment of A2 Last Call for Theater.  We asked the questions, he crafted the answers, we checked for typos and grammatical errors, he expressed his dismay at our lack of faith in his syntax skills… and now we leave it to you to make of the play what you will.

**Please note:  the original Shakespeare’s “King Phycus” is a full length entertainment with an intermission… which we amorally (and potentially lethally) hacked to pieces for our own evil purposes… with the reluctant yet game permission of the playwright.  Read the original.  It has all the good bits.**

AC: Tell us about the play, and your part(s) in it?

Buck Zachary NOT in costume (no, he is). Photo by Holly Abel

BZ: I’ve been describing Shakespeare’s “King Phycus” to people as “Shakespeare via Mel Brooks” (which I hope Mr. Willmorth would take as the highest compliment).  It throws several of The Bard’s most recognizable characters into a blender with a healthy scoop of wackiness and dumps it all out on the stage.  It manages both reverence and irreverence in the most delightful way.  We have six actors playing upwards of thirty roles.  There’s kings, ghosts, lovers, clowns, epic battles, live music, a play within a play, mistaken identities, plenty of mayhem.  I have the distinct pleasure of switching back and forth between Brutus, Richard of Gloucester, Goldenberg (think Guildenstern), and the Earl of… ahem…  Athol.

AC: What makes this show great for the A2 Ensemble?

BZ: SKP is the type of show that really gives every actor the chance to “chew the scenery,” as it were, but also relies very heavily on the chemistry of the ensemble.  And because of the abbreviated rehearsal period, we really had to click from day one.  Fortunately, because of Antaeus and A2, we’ve all had opportunities to work together in the past and we had no trouble at all hitting our stride.

Buck with Belen Greene as “Macbetty.” Photo by Kendra Chell

SKP is also a wonderful foil to Antaeus’s current production of Macbeth.  As well as sharing a set and an actor, SKP borrows some major plot points directly from “The Scottish Play.”  While you need not have seen one to thoroughly enjoy the other, I think an audience member who has seen “Mackers” will find some fun surprises in SKP that other audience members might not get.

Ultimately, SKP is a rapid fire comedy that’s really going to keep the audience on their toes.  No one should have trouble staying alert for an hour for our late night shows, and for our prime time Tuesdays and Wednesdays, they’ll start their evening with a great show and still have plenty of time to hit up the local Tiki bar!

AC: If you could use one word and a sound effect to describe SKP, what would they be?
BZ: “Zounds!”  And the low, descending, two-tone blast of a ocean barge.

The famous baguette-pineapple scene with Buck & Patrick Wenk-Wolff. Photo by Holly Abel


AC: What gag makes you groan the most in the show?
BZ:  Ha!  I hope this question doesn’t give people the wrong impression of the play!  Most of the humor is actually very smart.  There are those moments though.  I’m actually a big fan of the “groaners.”  I don’t want to spoil anything in the play, but I’ll share one of my favorite exchanges that has actually been cut (strictly for time).  I include it here in all it’s groan-inducing glory.  Juliet asks her cockney Nurse about Susan, the Nurse’s daughter, who sadly died in birth, entangled in the Nurse’s cord (a great setup, I know…).

Abby Wilde (NOT as Juliet – which she also plays – but as a wizened old Roman hag). Photo by Kendra Chell

JULIET:  Didst thou just say I played with Susan, Nurse?

NURSE:  Lordie lord, you did!  Thou wert inseparable.
JULIET:  You said she died in neonatal noose.
NURSE:  But thou did love her so, my heart did break
To from your arms my little angel take.
You’d romp for hours, playing seek and hide.

Gross?  Sure.  Funny?  I sure think so!  There’s nothing quite that dark left in the show, but the there’s plenty left to gleefully cringe at!


AC: Have there been any offstage comments, bloopers or happenings that rival the play in hilarity?
BZ: No… all the comments, bloopers and hilarity have happened onstage, and I hope they continue to do so!  If we make the audience laugh half as much as we make each other laugh in rehearsal, we’ll have a great show on our hands!  It’s almost become a game of who can make who break first.  There are a couple of moments built in where we get to briefly improvise, or milk a particular bit, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s “go time.” I think a large part of SKP’s charm is going to be watching us try to keep it together while it brazenly charges forward.

AC: What has been unique about working on this show? The challenges?
BZ: SKP certainly offers its fair share of challenges, not the least of which has been the language.  As laugh-a-minute and slapstick as SKP is, it’s also beautifully and tightly versed in iambic pentameter, adding to its authenticity.  While keeping it light and quick apace, we’re also forced to be very meticulous with the words.  It plays a wonderful trick on the audience that way, often mixing the low brow with a brilliant attention to detail.

The cast of SKP (most of them – the others are changing). Photo by Kendra Chell.

Of course there’s the obvious challenge of playing multiple characters, each with a different costume, physical persona and dialect, and often not having much time at all to switch between them.  Add to that the six physical entrances and exits to the stage that we often have to sprint between and the dozens of props we have to keep track of, and it’s going to be a pretty chaotic hour for us.  I’m sure something will go awry every night, but if we do our job, no one will notice.  🙂

All that being said, a special “kudos” also needs to go out to our dedicated production team, especially Alexandra Goodman, our costumer.  With each actor playing several distinct characters, often with mere seconds to change from one to the other, she certainly has her work cut out for her.

AC: You came from Chicago not that long ago.  Do you remember the first production of SKP?  Did you have a chance to see it?  Have you seen anything else that Strange Tree has done?
BZ: I moved to LA just a few months before their original production of SKP opened and Strange Tree really started to make a name for themselves.  So… no, no, and sadly… no.  I know a couple of the insanely talented people associated with the company though, and I hope to get back and see something of theirs soon!

AC: What makes Chicago theater different from Los Angeles theater and vice versa?
BZ: There are pros and consto both, but I think what it boils down to is Chicago is a town primarily for theater actors, and LA is primarily a town for film and television actors.  And rightfully so.  There are a lot of great projects being filmed in Chicago, and a lot of great theatre happening in LA, but basically, in my experience, that’s the way it is.  The Chicago theatre community isn’t as influenced by the cut-throat (for lack of a better term) element of “the biz” as what I see in Los Angeles.  I consider myself pretty fortunate to have

He’s right about that “tightly knit” feeling. Photo by Alexandra Goodman.

fallen in with Antaeus so soon after moving from Chicago.  It really has a tightly knit feeling of an artists’ community that a lot of Los Angeles seems to be lacking.  And it’s inspiring, as someone who wants to make a career out of acting, to be surrounded by theatre artists who have been able to make a living as film and television actors and still find time to tread the boards every now and then.  What LA may lack in community though, it makes up for in opportunity.  If you have an idea for a show or a film, and you’re passionate and willing to work, there is SOMEONE who will help you make it happen here.


AC: If you could say anything to Tom Willmorth right now, what would it be?
BZ: I’d grasp his forearm manfully and whisper a sweet “Hey Nonny” in his ear… the one that works.

AC: What would your mother say about this production?
BZ: She’d love it!  But she’d like my parts best.  :0)


A2 Member
, Buck Zachary, patiently answers our questions on Shakespeare’s “King Phycus” by Tom Willmorth, directed by John Apicella.  Make your reservation at http://www.antaeus.org.  Suggested Donation $10

U.S. premiere of “Peace in Our Time”

NEWS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Contact: Lucy Pollak
lucy@lucypr.com (818) 887-1499 (for media only)

U.S. premiere of
Peace in Our Time
by Noël Coward


Complacency or freedom: Which would you choose?
October 20 – December 11

Artwork: Mila Sterling

NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CA – September 15, 2011 – What would life be like if the Nazis had successfully invaded and occupied Britain? Antaeus, L.A.’s multiple award-winning classical theater company, presents the U.S. premiere of Noël Coward’s rarely produced anti-war drama, Peace In Our Time. Casey Stangl directs the fully double-cast production of a new adaptation, with music, by Barry Creyton. Four gala openings, two with each cast, take place on October 20, 21, 22 and 23, with performances continuing through December 11 at The Antaeus Company‘s interim North Hollywood home at Deaf West Theatre.

Set in a London pub during the 1940s, Peace In Our Time imagines English life under Nazi occupation. Complacency or freedom – which would you choose? Coward conceived the idea while in Paris shortly after the Liberation. He wrote, “I began to suspect that the physical effect of four years of intermittent bombing is far less damaging to the intrinsic character of a nation than the spiritual effect of four years of enemy occupation.”

“This play has a very different feel from the urbane amusements that come to mind when we think of Noël Coward,” suggests Stangl. “Like his other work, it’s provocative and has wonderfully funny moments, but it also reveals his deep sense of patriotism and unabashed love of country. The story of a great nation brought to its knees and finding its way back from that is very potent right now. All these years later we’re still talking about ‘peace in our time,’ but today it seems more elusive than ever.”

Creyton’s adaptation, which Stangl calls a “work of art,” adds emotional resonance to the original by adding nine of Coward’s lesser-known songs. Coward’s distinctive Music Hall style ditties with their incisive and wickedly ironic lyrics give the piece an authentic sensibility, at the same time offering audiences a deeper connection with the characters and their tribulations.

“When [former artistic director] Jeanie Hackett approached me about adapting Peace in Our Time to include music, a moment’s consideration was all I needed to agree,” says Creyton, who collaborated closely with both The Noël Coward Foundation and Antaeus. “Given that most London pubs of my youth contained a sturdy upright piano, there is a logic to weaving songs into the scenes to provide musical subtext for the action and relationships.”

Written in 1946, Peace in Our Time opened 63 years ago at the Theatre Royal, Brighton (July 15, 1947), moved to the Lyric Theatre, London on July 22, and finally to the Aldwych Theatre on September 29, where it ran for 167 performances. It has never before been performed in the United States – perhaps due to the fact that the cast includes 22 speaking roles. But it’s the large cast, together with the complexity of relationships among the characters, that makes Peace In Our Time an ideal choice for Antaeus with its 100-plus classically trained members and A2 Ensemble of young professionals.
“Part of the Antaeus mission is to train the next generation of classical actors,” notes co-artistic director John Sloan. “All Antaeus productions are fully double cast. This production in particular features a lot of our younger, A2 actors sharing roles with company members who have mentored them, so it will offer an unusually exciting opportunity to see how different the same play can be when performed by two equally excellent but extremely different sets of actors.”

The double-cast ensemble includes 46 actors sharing 22 speaking roles: Josh Clark and Steve Hofvendahl as Fred Shattock; Eve Gordon and Lily Knight as Nora Shattock; Danielle K. Jones and Abby Wilde as Doris Shattock; Jason Dechert and Brian Tichnell as Stevie Shattock; Bill Brochtrup and JD Cullum as Chorley Bannister; Karianne Flaathen and Zoe Perry as Lilly Blake; Drew Doyle and Buck Zachary as Alfie Blake; Emily Chase and Rebekah Tripp as Janet Braid; Anna Mathias and Amelia White as Mrs. Grainger; John Wallace Combs and Philip Proctor as Mr. Grainger; Graham Hamilton, John Francis O’Brien, and Adam Meyer sharing the role of Billy Grainger; Raleigh Holmes and Rebecca Mozo as Lyia Vivian; Daniel Bess and Christopher Guilmet as George Bourne; Jason Henning and Rob Nagle as Albrecht Richter; Mark Doerr and Peter Larney as Dr. Venning; Kendra Chell and Ann Noble as Alma Boughton; Joseph Fuhr and Patrick Wenk-Wolff as Kurt Foster; Etta Devine and Rosalyn Mitchell as Phyllis Mere; Belen Greene and Joanna Strapp as Gladys Mott; Jesse Sharp and Paul Culos as Bobby Paxton; Melinda Peterson and Susan Boyd Joyce as Mrs. Massiter; John Allee and Richard Levinson as Archie; and Chris Clowers as a soldier.

Musical direction for Peace In Our Time is by Richard Levinson; set design is by Tom Buderwitz; lighting design is by Jeremy Pivnick; costume design is by Jessica Olson; sound design is by John Zalewski; properties design is by Heather Ho; and the production stage manager is Cate Cundiff.

In addition to a multitude of stage, film and television credits as an actor (including the role of Hector Hulot in last season’s award-winning Antaeus production of Cousin Bette), Peace In Our Time adaptor Barry Creyton is an author, TV writer, director and playwright, a former BBC World Service broadcaster and recipient of the Kessell Memorial Award for contributions to Australian Theater as Actor, Playwright and Director. His devotion to the work of Noël Coward has lasted as long as his own extensive career in the theater; he has appeared in several of Coward’s plays and performed many of his songs in cabaret. Barry’s London doctor and good friend was Patrick Woodcock, Noël’s doctor, and Gladys Calthrop, Noël’s celebrated designer, was a friend and theater-going companion of his, so it seemed inevitable that he met the Master socially in 1970, just prior to his knighthood. “It was like meeting God,” he says solemnly, “except, I think, that Noël Coward had a better sense of construction.”

Casey Stangl has directed for theaters across the country including South Coast Repertory, The Guthrie Theater, Denver Center Theatre Company, Actors’ Theater of Louisville’s Humana Festival, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Portland Stage, HERE in New York, The Jungle Theater in Minneapolis and Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Casey was the founding artistic director of Eye of the Storm Theatre in Minneapolis, a company devoted to new work and for which she was named Minnesota Artist of the Year. She is now based in Los Angeles where her credits include numerous productions at the Falcon Theater, Chalk Repertory’s Flash Festival and the world premiere of Susan Johnston’s How Cissy Grew at the El Portal Theatre, named Best New Play at the 2009 LA Weekly Theater Awards.

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. 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.
Performances take place October 20 through December 11, on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays @ 8 pm and on Sundays @ 2:30 pm except Sunday, October 23 which will be at 4 pm. There will be no performance, on Thursday, Nov. 24 (Thanksgiving). Tickets are $30 on Thursdays and Fridays and $34 on Saturdays and Sundays, except opening weekend performances, which are $40 (Oct. 20 & 21) and $75 (Oct. 22 & 23) and include pre- and post-show receptions. Preview performances take place Oct. 13-19 on the same schedule; tickets to previews are $15.

The Antaeus Company is located at 5112 Lankershim Blvd (inside Deaf West Theatre) in North Hollywood, CA 91601. Free parking is available in the uncovered Citibank lot on Lankershim Blvd. just south of Otsego St. The theater is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. For reservations and information, call (818) 506-1983 or go to www.antaeus.org.

Details for Calendar Listings
Peace In Our Time

WHAT:
Peace In Our Time – The U.S. premiere of Noël Coward’s drama poses a most intriguing and terrifying question: What if the Nazis had successfully invaded and occupied Britain? Set in a London Pub during the 1940s, this new adaptation by Antaeus company member Barry Creyton incorporates 9 of Coward’s lesser-known songs.

WHO:
Written by Noël Coward
Adapted by Barry Creyton
Directed by Casey Stangl
Musical Direction by Richard Levinson

WHEN:
Previews: Oct. 13 -19
Performances: Oct. 20 – Dec. 11:
Tuesday @ 8 pm: Oct. 18 only (preview)
Wednesday @ 8 pm: Oct. 19 only (preview)
Thursdays @ 8 pm: Oct. 13 (preview), 20 (Press Opening), 27; Nov. 3, 10, 17; Dec. 1, 8 (dark Nov. 24)
Fridays
@ 8 pm: Oct. 14 (preview), 21 (Press Opening), 28; Nov. 4, 11, 18, 25; Dec. 2, 9
Saturdays
@ 8 pm: Oct. 15 (preview), 22 (Gala Opening), 29; Nov. 5, 12, 19, 26; Dec. 3, 10
Sundays
@ 2:30 pm: Oct. 16 (preview). 30; Nov. 6, 13, 20, 27; Dec. 4, 11 (no. 2:30 perf. on Oct. 23)
Sunday @ 4 pm: Oct. 23 only (Gala Opening)

WHERE:
THE ANTAEUS COMPANY@ Deaf West Theatre
5112 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood CA 91601
(one block south of Magnolia; free parking available in Citibank lot on Lankershim Blvd. South of Otsego St.)

HOW:
(818) 506-1983 or www.Antaeus.org

TICKETS:
Thursdays and Fridays: $30
Saturdays and Sundays: $34
Press Openings (All press openings include a post-show reception with the actors):
Friends and Family Openings (October 20 & 21): $40
Gala Openings (October 22 & 23): $75
Previews: $15

###

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 …..

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