An Academy Interlude: Hermione Man

Human Sculpture in Gender Bender Shakes 2013.

Human Sculpture in Gender Bender Shakes 2013.

In high school, like just about everyone else who has an American public school education, I was made to read Romeo and Juliet in English class.  And at some point, we were told that in Shakespeare’s day boys played the women’s roles.  Why?  Because it was illegal for women to perform onstage in Elizabethan England.  I don’t remember if an explanation was given; immorality or prostitution, religion or just plain old chauvinistic prejudice.  I do remember my fifteen year old self thinking, “What about all that kissing and stuff?”

I’m glad to say that the current, and hopefully more evolved, version of me isn’t concerned with kissing at all.  Now, after 20 years of working as an actor, my questions are about what an individual, rather than an actor of any particular sex, can bring to a role.  Did Elizabethan audiences care that they were seeing men portraying Juliet or the Nurse, Hermione or Paulina?  It was the convention of the time, after all. Did it even register that Cleopatra was a boy?  And how would I approach playing a female character if I were given the chance?

Those questions are what drew me to The Cross-Gartered Bard:  Exploring Shakespeare with Gender-Blind Eyes class, led by Rob Nagle, at Antaeus Academy.  Every Tuesday afternoon my classmates and I take on roles we would never get to otherwise perform.  And by working these roles through scenes and monologues, we gain a better understanding of our preconceptions of gender and gender roles.  We talk about how men and women move, sit, gesture; the physical aspects of each sex, but more importantly, how each approaches and works through problems, how each reacts to the world, how each thinks.

Jonathon in Coward's Private Lives

Jonathon in Coward’s Private Lives

So far, I have tried to do justice to the roles of Lady Macbeth, Hermione, Beatrice and, soon, will attempt the Nurse from R&J or Emilia from Othello (still trying to pick between the two). My male classmates have taken on Titania, Imogen and Isabella.  And then there are the women in the class who have played characters like Macbeth, Oberon, Iago and Cassio.  At first it was a struggle, I think, for most of us to get a handle on the shift in gender.  For example, I found that memorizing lines was more difficult than I usually experience, a feeling that many shared.  Each gender approaches the world from a different angle, a different power base, a different way of thinking;  because of this shift in world view, I have also had to shift my awareness as an actor in order to memorize, to try to do justice to my characters, and to think in a new way.

Chekhov's The Seagull

Chekhov’s The Seagull

Something that struck me a few weeks into the class was how we had stopped talking so much about the gender of the characters and how much more our discussions focused on their humanity.  Gender had become secondary to the truth of each moment, feeling, action and reaction, which, after all, is what we do as traditionally-cast performers.  Taking on challenges like switching gender can be intimidating and frightening. Leaping into the challenge and the fear is so much more satisfying and fun than staying in our safety zone.  Rob, and everyone associated with the class, has provided an open, positive, safe environment for our group to explore, make mistakes, and make discoveries.  In fact, I’m looking for the first opportunity to use my Hermione monologue for an audition.

 

LAMER_JonathonJonathon Lamer is currently a student with the Antaeus Academy.  He will also be appearing in our upcoming production of Corneille’s The Liar, “translapted” by David Ives and directed by Casey Stangl.  For info on our Academy classes: www.antaeus.org/theacademy. Auditions for the Fall 2013 Semester begin this weekend.

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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 …..

The Antaeus Academy: Origins & Curriculum

“The Academy is a door into a wonderful community of actors who truly, wholeheartedly love what they do, and I am honored to be a part of it.” -Chris Pine

ABOUT THE ACADEMY: By Jeanie Hackett, Artistic and Academy Director

At Antaeus, we believe mastering the acting challenges of great classics takes a lifetime. And we believe that wanting to take on these challenges is what makes for great acting. Here, we’re constantly putting young artists-in-training together with seasoned professionals — in the classroom, in readings, workshops and in full productions. So that skills, work ethics, inspiration are not just taught but ‘passed down.’

At Antaeus, you learn through study and by osmosis from some of the most talented and acclaimed actors and directors in the country, as you take part in a program that makes the utmost demands on your instrument: voice, body, intellect and talent. Antaeus is a company of artists who share your passion for great acting, great language, great human stories. The exhilaration of this lifelong collaboration—artist to text, artist to process, artist to artist – is what informs our productions and feeds our hunger for exploration and theatrical truth. It’s why an ongoing ensemble company can make theater that can thrill audiences– and maybe even make a difference in the world.

“Taking classes at Antaeus has been an incredibly illuminating and fruitful experience for me. The unique thing about the Academy that I feel is lacking in other courses in this town, or anywhere for that matter, is the inspirational way we are encouraged to look at the text and our characters. Antaeus does not produce “cookie-cutter” actors but inspires us all to think outside the box and really home in our unique selves, which then creates unique characters and a truly spectacular result, which is captivating theatre.” -Rebecca Mozo


ABOUT THE ACADEMY

Academy training programs are for established professionals and upcoming, early-career actors. Our ability to give students the opportunity to explore complex texts in front of an exciting array of esteemed actors, directors, and instructors makes us unique among Los Angeles acting schools. Created in part so that we could get to know the work of younger actors for company projects, actors in Academy workshops become a part of a community of artists who cultivate and nourish a passion for the greatest (scripted!) hits of all time.

Our astonishing roster of ongoing Academy guest moderators includes some of the finest actors, directors and acting teachers in the country: Annette Bening, Alfred Molina, Daniel Sullivan, Stefan Novinski, Kate Burton, Jonathan Lynn, Tom Moore, Jessica Kubzansky, Dakin Mattews, Brendon Fox, Art Manke, Bart DeLorenzo, Gordon Hunt, Austin Pendleton, Nike Doukas, Olympia Dukakis, Susan Sullivan, Michael Hackett, Barnet Kellman, Sheldon Epps, Andy Robinson, Stephen Wadsworth, Mark Rucker, Simon Levy, Jeanie Hackett, Susan Sullivan, Andrew Barnicle, Jeffrey Nordling, Arye Gross, Armin Shimerman, Jean Louis Rodrigue, Rowena Balos, Stephen Collins, Alan Mandell, Stephanie Shroyer, Blythe Danner and Gregory Itzin among many others are regular guests in our scene study and Shakespeare classes.

We believe that working on great material with a variety of experienced teachers is the best way to create dynamic, flexible actors who can excel, inspire, and amaze, whether working on stage, or in film or television. Actors coming to the classics for the first time have the opportunity to become familiar and comfortable with a wide range of dramatic literature and acting styles. Well-trained actors coming to us from graduate programs have the invaluable experience of testing their technique against real-world scenarios: multiple points-of-view, methods — and directors. Thus, the workshops provide both a safe and supportive atmosphere and one that mirrors the realities of the professional world where actors are called upon to adapt to many different styles and ways of working over the course of a career.

Most Academy workshops culminate in invited presentations of scene work for the company; in doing so we hope to foster a community of artists who share a common artistic language as well as a dedication to a company spirit of working together to create vibrant, moving, entertaining theater.

“The space, the people, the instructors made it so that I dared take my acting to higher levels and push myself to the limit. It made me feel like an actor again – not an auditioner, which is how LA sometimes makes you feel.” — Kristin Proctor Campbell

CLASSES OFFERED

CLASSICAL STYLES
A fourteen-week scene study class for actors from 18 to 35 years old. Each four-week segment focuses on a different aspect of classical theater, including modern classics. In the Fall, each month is divided into Shakespeare, the Greeks, and work on Shaw, Wilde and Coward. The Spring session covers Chekhov, Ibsen and Strindberg, American Classics, and Moliere and Restoration Comedy. Jeanie Hackett (actress, teacher, and author of The Actor’s Chekhov and Towards Mastery) is the principal moderator with a variety of guest moderators leading the class every other week.

Class Details & Requirements
Classical Styles meets Tuesday evenings from 7 -11 pm and culminates in a scene presentation open to Antaeus members and invited guests. Students are eligible for casting in Antaeus Company readings, projects, and productions, and the presentation is the primary way Company members get to know students and their work. 24 – 26 students participate in each session, students do at least three new scenes and two reworks over the three month period. Admission by audition only. We look for strong, classically trained actors, as well as younger actors who show genuine potential for meeting the challenges presented by classical texts.

“One of the best parts of Antaeus is that the class leads to a performance. You get the excitement of moving towards something.” –Ryan Spahn

SHAKESPEARE WORKOUT
Experience the challenges and rewards of playing Shakespeare in sessions moderated by a rotating group of L.A.’s top actors, directors and acting teachers. An ongoing, year-round program, SW features a different guest moderator every month.

Class Details & Requirements
Open to actors of all ages and levels of experience, the workout focuses on text analysis, monologue and scene work. Open to actors in of any age with the discipline and potential skills for classical work. This workshop meets Tuesdays from 2 – 5 pm for twelve (12) weeks. Actors new to the workshop commit to an initial 12-week session; returning actors may join the workshop on by the month. We are looking for actors of any age eager to learn or re-discover the skills required for dealing with Shakespeare’s text.

INTENSIVE IMMERSION

These workshops focus on a single playwright, style, or acting technique, are led by a master teacher and culminate in a presentation for Antaeus Company members and guests. In the past, these workshops have included Dakin Matthews’ Intensive Immersion in Shakespeare and John Achorn’s master class in Commedia dell’Arte. Future Intensive Immersions may include a workshop in myth and mask work led by Andy Robinson, a Russian Theater/Chekhov Immersion led by Jeanie Hackett, and a Language in Shakespeare workshop led by Gregory Itzin and/or Alfred Molina.

Class Details & Requirements
These two-weekend long workshops are open to actors with extensive experience in classical theater, and by audition to actors who have completed Classical Styles. Actors recommended by Company members will be accepted without audition. Workshop fees vary according to program and length.

The Antaeus Academy announces auditions!

Welcome to Another Year at the Antaeus Academy,

The prestigious Antaeus Academy announces auditions for the fall sessions of Shakespeare Workout and Classical Styles.   Become a part of a vibrant theater community as you tackle material that demands the utmost of your talent!Michael Hackett instructs on the Greeks


From A2 (Academy Company) member Chris Pine:

“What I enjoyed about the class was the feeling that good work was demanded of you.  It always felt like a ‘no bullshit’ class.  It wasn’t ‘Hollywood’: didn’t matter how you looked or how many credits you had.  You were being taught great literature, it’s analysis and its performance from people whose credits would make you blush.  And I loved that.  There’s a tremendous respect for the actor as an important artist that’s taught in the academy and reflected in the community as a whole.  I think that’s really it: the academy is a door into a wonderful community of actors who truly, wholeheartedly love what they do, and I am honored to be part of it.”

Our classes open for auditions include…

CLASSICAL STYLES!

An intense excursion in classical scenework, this 14 week workshop focuses on Shakespeare, The Greeks, and Shaw, Coward, or Wilde.

Taught by Artistic Director Jeanie Hackett with Company Member Geoffrey Wade and Artistic Associate Cindy Marie Jenkins, and featuring our usual dazzling array of expert guest moderators! Workshop culminates in a presentation for Antaeus Company members and invited guests.

Meets Tuesdays, 7 – 11pm beginning September 15th
Class fee: $550 for 14 week session
Class size: 24 – 26
Open to actors age 18 – 35

Past Moderators included: Rowena Balos, Annette Bening, Kate Burton, Brian Cox, Olympia Dukakis, Sheldon Epps, Sabin Epstein, Jeanie Hackett, Michael Hackett, Gregory Itzin, Jessica Kubzansky, Jonathan Lynn, Art Manke, Dakin Matthews, Alfred Molina, Tom Moore, Jeffrey Nordling, Stefan Novinski, Austin Pendleton, Andy Robinson, Stephanie Shroyer, Daniel Sullivan, Geoffrey Wade and many others

and SHAKESPEARE WORKOUT!

Experience the challenges and rewards of playing Shakespeare in sessions moderated by a rotating group of L.A.’s top actors, directors and acting teachers. Now an ongoing, year-round program, SW features a different guest moderator every month. Actors new to the workshop commit to an initial 12-week session; returning actors may join the workshop on a by-the-month basis. Open to actors of all ages and levels of experience, the workout focuses on text analysis, monologue and scene work.

Meets Tuesdays 2 – 5 pm, beginning September 8th
Class fee, new actors: $550 for initial 12 week session
Class fee, returning actors: $135 per month
Class size: 16 – 20 actors per class
Open to actors of all ages

Please email your picture and resume with audition request to academy@antaeus.org. Or, mail to:

The Antaeus Company
5114 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601
Attn: Cindy Marie Jenkins

Upon review, you will be contacted for an audition appointment.

Please prepare one classical monologue, no longer than two-minutes.

Antaeus Diary: Breakthrough!

Breakthrough!
By Nicol Zanzarella

Antaeus Diaries provide unique perspectives on Classical Theater from the Antaean point of view as veterans and newbies alike detail their experiences in their own voices. In this installment, Antaeus Academy student Nicol Zanzarella shares a fantastic class experience.

Even with all the stress we have in our daily lives: a day-job, family responsibilities, bills to pay, not enough time for our own sanity, (hopefully) rehearsals and/or auditions to be at AND just trying to squeeze in time with your scene partner and do some decent work in class – (a class you take to better yourself, keep fresh and stay focused on your craft and most of the time you feel like you barely have the right amount of time to THINK about it – let alone do the work for it!) a breakthrough can still occur!!

Thanks to one of our fabulous repeat moderators (thank you Geoffrey Wade!) and ALL of the feedback that we get in class each week I had a personal breakthrough in my work in class last week! It was a week that my scene partner and I weren’t even sure we would get through. We both had SO much going on that we weren’t sure we could coordinate to get in a rehearsal so that we could re-work our scene from Uncle Vanya. We actually even tried to give up our spot to more deserving classmates that might have been better about trying to be responsible and make time even at 2 a.m.  if they had to. Alas, we had no takers and were encouraged by Cindy to just get up there anyway and see what would happen even if we didn’t have the proper rehearsal time. Well, thank goodness we did manage somehow to eek out an hour and half the night before class to go over our notes from the first performance and get some ideas of what we each needed to be working on and run it a few times, etc.

Along with many great notes about the scene and character – there was one thing in particular that I knew I needed to focus on as a goal for this class more than anything else – TO STAY OUT OF MY HEAD and so stop “apologizing” in my acting. This is an old, bad habit of mine from way back that had somehow found its evil way back into my work when I started my classes at Antaeus. Geoffrey Wade – a wonderful company member, actor, director, photography, mentor (see last week’s blog) gave me a note about this after we went up with this scene the first time, and it completely unlocked a door for me. To his credit, he was with us for the majority of last session (this is my second at Antaeus) and he directed me in one of our scenes from the last showcase so he is somewhat familiar with my work at this point.

I knew this was happening, but you can only tell yourself so many things you care to listen to in your own head. BUT to hear it from someone else – someone you trust – wow…talk about a moment. SO, that was my main goal over anything else for the re-work that night because I knew if I could find a way to free myself from the jail of my own head, everything else would come flooding through – AND IT DID. Thank God!!

There is much more work now to focus on for the scene to be in its rightful place but I succeeded in reaching my main goal and it was wonderful! I felt like myself again. I felt confident (the kind that is good for you) in a way I haven’t for a while and I can’t wait to get back up there and do it again and keep this ball rolling! Then we can get down to all the directorial nitty gritty but not until my own tool belt is full-up again. It was a really great personal moment for me and EXACTLY why I am in this class – to make breakthroughs, large and small, in my acting work.

I must also send a shout out to my lovely scene partner, Maria, who not only allowed me the space to work on what I needed to but did some of her most beautiful work in our scene that night – kudos girl!

Thanks for reading,
NZG