Brave New World!

Hello, world!  I’m Hanna, the new Antaeus intern and your guide for the next fourteen weeks on a journey of playing Shakespeare!  How fun is that?  I am so excited about this class with the fantastic Elizabeth Swain and an inspiring group of professionals brought together by a love of learning and a love of the Bard.  I’m sure there are many of you out there who are just as passionate about Shakespeare and his works as I am. How did he manage to come up with so many engaging and brilliant plots?  How could he breathe life into characters hundreds of years ago who still fan our emotions to flame today?  How can any actor or director feel that they are really doing justice to works considered foundational to society for ages?  I am looking forward to learning the answers to these questions as much as you are and I thank you in advance for venturing off with me!

To set the stage for this tour on which I will be your eyes and ears here are a few details:  I am a senior undergraduate student at a school with a brand spanking new theatre program.  We are so very new in fact that I will be a part of the first graduating class ever!  While this is all well and good and we have many opportunities to do things other students don’t, this also means we have a very small class roster so far.  Although I have been in love with Shakespeare since I was very small, I have never had an actual class to learn about him and bring his works to life.  When it was suggested that I, as the Antaeus intern, should participate in the Shakespeare class and blog my way through it, I jumped at the opportunity!  I could not believe my good fortune!  And so here we are!

Our task for the first class is simply to memorize a sonnet. I have selected Sonnet 2.  I am memorizing it in the car on my way to and from Hollywood (this is something else you must know…”I am slow of study,” at least as far as memorizing goes) and I’m in love with the images in the piece and the feel of the words on my tongue.  I know that sounds strange, but try it sometime.  Read a sonnet out loud and tell me it isn’t a strange and wonderful feeling letting those rich old words flow over your tongue.  That is your assignment for this week.

As for me, I’m off to my first class session!  Bid me godspeed!

When forty winters shall beseige thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now,
Will be a tatter’d weed, of small worth held:
Then being ask’d where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days;
To say, within thine own deep-sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.
How much more praise deserved thy beauty’s use,
If thou couldst answer ‘This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,’
Proving his beauty by succession thine!
This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.

–Hanna Mitchell

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Academy Spotlight: Marjo-Riikka Makela

Tell us about yourself (where you’re from, maybe where you studied, how long you’ve been in LA, your favorite credits):
I’ve been to Los Angeles for about 3 years now. I’m originally from Finland. In my early twenties, I worked as a professional actress in a big repertory theater company in Finland. I had the wonderful opportunity to perform many lead classical theater roles, and also have fun with completely different, more modern characters, such as Peppi Longstocking. Even though it was a very wonderful experience to work on a repertory company, doing 3 shows simultaneously and having a monthly paycheck from the theater, I felt that I needed to learn more and grow as an actor. Working can at times be very result oriented and there is not always much room for exploration or “taking risks” which is a necessity for any artist in order to grow. With only a little amount of actor training at that point, I was simply doing it all by instinct (and probably pure good luck!) so after working non-stop for a couple of  years, I got worried that I would start repeating myself or developing mannerisms and therefore was hungry for learning new ways and gaining deeper understanding of the actors process and character transformation. I decided to expand my artist journey to study acting and directing in Denmark, Russia and U.S.A. I trained at the Russian Academy of Dramatic Arts (GITIS) and also have an MFA in Acting from CSULB.  Here in USA some of my favorite roles include Medea in direction of David Bridel, Yelena in Uncle Vanya at the Classic Stage Company’s summer series in NYC,  and my work with Sarah Kane and Andrei Malaev-Babel at the Stanislavsky Theatre Studio in Washington DC. My directing credits include Shakespeare, Chekhov, Schiller, and devised work.Tell us why you love acting or what made you choose it as your profession, etc. I feel that acting chose me. First it was a hobby for me, as I already had two other professions (I had prior degrees both as an equestrian trainer and gymnastic on horse, and as a psychiatric nurse) but very quickly theater took over all my time completely and there was no point of returning or doubting since then. I knew I had a whole new life in front of me right at my very first theater rehearsal, and at the opening night of my very first play, I knew I had arrived home. I believe that acting is a profession of calling. I wish to be serving something greater than myself, working together with the ensemble to tell a story of another human soul, and this way striving to expand empathy in the world. As one of my student’s so well put it: “Actors are professional human beings!” I feel so very blessed to be able to practice this art form and to PLAY all day long! What keeps us young is inspiration, and I am allowed to bath in it daily! Antaeus is a wonderful place for any artist to grow and share this love for theater!


What brought you to Antaeus?
I was so very blessed to meet Liz Swain via our mutual Michael Chekhov acting technique teacher friend. We spoke about the art of acting and of course Shakespeare all night, and I immediately knew that I wanted to deepen my understanding of Shakespeare with her! She is truly  a world class teacher! I have been very impressed by Antaeus as a company. The high level of training and talent at Antaeus is undeniable!What do you want to gain from the class?  Do you have a specific “problem” on which you want to focus?

I really wanted to embrace the whole experience with “new-born eyes (and ears!). Even though I have a lot of experience (and technique) as an actor, I’m a complete beginner in my Shakespeare in English. The images are so much more vivid and beautiful and the text works me in a completely different way than it did in any foreign translations I worked earlier in my career.  Liz has opened up a whole new universe to me!

What do you think of the class so far?  Absolutely in love with Liz and the class!

What is your experience with classical theater?  Has class reinforced/changed what you previously thought, or have you learned new things, etc? Yes reinforced many things and opened new doors to language!
 
Tell us a fun fact about you or highlight one of your unusual special skills. I don’t know if I have any special skills, but I speak fluent Finnish and can stand on a horse while it’s galloping! ;o)
 
Anything new and exciting going on in your life? (doesn’t have to be acting related, can be an engagement, upcoming trip, new dog, etc.) My acting studio has a little scene study showcase coming up. We call the evening: Tennessee Williams-Cafe, and I’m very excited for the wonderful actors in it! Also, I just got invited to direct a production in Brazil and I’m exited for the trip!

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 …..

Andrew Barnicle heads May Shakespeare Workout!

“Marrying the Classical to the Contemporary”

With Guest Moderator:  Andrew Barnicle

Through lecture, monologue work, and scene study, the workshop will reconcile Shakespeare’s verse with Stanislavski beatwork. Actors gain an understanding first of why the Elizabethans wrote the way they did, then a series of exercises that break iambic pentameter into workable beats, with the aid of guidelines to help understand and emotionalize verse.


Classes will take place Tuesday afternoons 1:30pm-5:00pm on:

May 10, 17, 24, 31

Limited spaces available.  Email deirdre@antaeus.org to sign up!

ANDREW BARNICLE served as artistic director of The Laguna Play­house from 1991 through 2010.  In that time he produced over 100 Playhouse shows and directed over 40 of them, including many World, U.S., West Coast and Southern California premieres. Recent directing projects include Noel Coward’s Private Lives, Ron Hutchinson’s Moonlight and Magnolias, (which also played the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts as a co-production with McCoy/Rigby Entertainment, and Burbank’s Colony Theatre), Michael Hollinger’s An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf and Red Herring, Yazmina Reza’s Art, the World Premieres of Bernard Farrell’s The Verdi Girls, Richard Dresser’s The Pursuit of Happiness, the U.S. premiere of Bernard Farrell’s Many Happy Returns, Steve Martin’s The Underpants, and Somerset Maugham’s The Constant Wife.  Andy directed a wide range of works over the years, including the award-winning American Buf­falo, three other U.S. premieres by Bernard Farrell, Richard Dresser’s Rounding Third and Wonderful World, and Andy’s world premiere adapta­tion of his wife Sara’s translation of Carlo Goldoni’s The Liar, as well as Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Othello, and Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People.  Andrew previously served as Head of Theatre at United States International University’s School of Performing and Visual Arts in San Diego, and was the Associate Artistic Director of the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach, where he directed seven plays, including the San Diego premiere of Torch Song Trilogy. He has also directed at San Diego’s Theatre at Old Town, Michigan’s LORT Meadow Brook Theatre, Gunmetal Blues, Rounding Third, and Charels Evered’s Celadine at the Colony Theatre, and The Foreigner at the San Jose Repetory Theatre.  As an actor, he has appeared numerous times Off-Broadway and in major roles in eighteen LORT productions across the country, including Meadow Brook Theatre, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, San Diego Rep, the Alaska Rep, and five roles at The Laguna Playhouse, including The Actor in Enter The Guardsman, Sam Galahad in both the production and on the cast album CD of Gunmetal Blues, and most recently as Lawrence in David Rambo’s The Ice-Breaker.

April Shakespeare Workout with Armin Shimerman!

Shakespeare Seen Through the Elizabethan World View

The class will incorporate period thinking, history, religion, language and the classical study of rhetoric and context. You will be given a method of approaching ANY English classical playwright, and an acting technique that will help you explore character and convey meaning to a modern audience. Class will focus on monologue study.

 

Classes will take place Tuesday afternoons,
April 5-26 from 1:30-5:00pm.

For more information:
Deirdre Murphy, Artistic Coordinator, at deirdre@antaeus.org


About Armin Shimerman:

Armin Shimerman

With a degree in English from UCLA, Armin Shimerman apprenticed at the San Diego Old Globe Theater and eventually took over the lead comic roles. He emigrated to New York where within a year he was performing for Joseph Papp in the highly acclaimed production of “3 Penny Opera” at Lincoln Center. Armin went on to work many years on Broadway in “St. Joan” with Lynn Redgrave at the Circle in the Square, “Broadway” with Teri Garr and Glen Close, and finally Richard Rogers’ last musical “I Remember Mama.” Years of work in Regional Theater followed including Stage West, Connecticut Shakespeare Festival, Vermont Champlain Shakespeare Festival, Indiana Repertory, Rutgers’ Mason Gross Theater, Los Angeles Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles Theatre Center, Tyrone Guthrie Theater, Seattle’s ACT, and the San Diego Repertory Theatre production of “King Lear”. He was nominated for lead performance by the prestigious Los Angeles Ovation Awards for his performance in Pinter’s “The Birthday Party” at the Matrix Theatre. Last year, he returned to San Diego Rep. to play the lead in “Seafarer” and for his performance won the San Diego Critics Award.

Armin moved to Los Angeles in the early 80’s, where he started his television and film career. He has guest starred in over 80 different TV shows and had major recurring roles as Pascal in Beauty and the Beast, Cousin Bernie in Brooklyn Bridge, Tommy Walker in the Invisible Man, Judge Hooper on Boston Legal and, of course, Principal Snyder in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. However, he is perhaps best known to the public for his seven years as the incorrigible QUARK on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Mr. Shimerman is also a published author: The “34th Rule” ,“Merchant Prince,” “Outrrageous Fortune,” A Capital Offense” . His writings are a product of years of teaching Elizabethan Rhetoric to classical actors and a lifelong study of Shakespeare. Among others, he has taught at UCLA, The Guthrie Theatre, Theatricum Botanicum, the High School for the Performing Arts, Claremont College, and Antaeus. He has directed several of the Bard’s plays. He is currently a board member and director for the Antaeus Theatre Company, L.A.’s classical company.

 

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.

Peter van Norden on ‘King Lear’

One of the benefits of an ensemble company is the wisdom and insights of those offstage as well as the talents of those appearing in a particular production. Throughout the run of our production of King Lear and ClassicsFest 2010, we’ll be sharing thoughts from Antaeus company members about their experiences of the shows they see.

Peter Van Norden on King Lear
Okay. Lear. I’ve done the play twice and seen it countless times, so it’s the small, interesting choices that I’m drawn to – that fascinate me. So, here’s two moments that I found quite striking…one an image and one a “surprise” that I found quite affecting.

‘Lear’ before the hovel, at the end of the storm, III, iv.
It’s a famous speech, of course, ‘Lear’ praying in the tempest – “Poor naked wretches, wheresoe’er you are…” — but both Dakin and Harry have found a fully realized moment with “O, I have ta’en too little care of this.” It becomes a sudden, surprising revelation to both Kings — and it humanizes ‘Lear’ in a visceral, beautifully moving way. In both performances, this sudden self-realization quite literally took my breath away. I’ve never seen the moment presented as clearly or as movingly.

Another “surprising image” that startlingly brings the depth of the play into a shattering focus is provided by both our ‘Edgars’ and ‘Edmunds’ — at the very end of their fight. When ‘Edgar’ finally has the upper hand in the battle…he suddenly and viciously goes for ‘Edmund’s’ eyes, as if to pluck them out. For me, this horrifying image brought an extra level to their struggle – a level that I found quite affecting and that reflects on all that’s gone before it. Not only is this a political battle (for power), and not only is it ‘Edgar’s’ personal revenge for what’s been done to him…but it’s ‘Edgar’s’ uncontrollable response to what has been so unjustly done to their father (‘Gloucester’). It solidifies the ‘Gloucester/Edgar’ relationship in one startling, almost unbearable moment. Kudos to Bart and Ramon/John/Seamus/Daniel for coming up with this idea. Great moment….
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