The Life Force of THE CRUCIBLE

Last year's CFest reading of The Crucible

Last year’s CFest reading of The Crucible.  Photo by K. Flaathen

by Lily Knight
Company Member

I have seen three productions of The Crucible through the years, and although none blew the top of my head off, each time I found myself absorbed by the play, and interestingly troubled by it. Unfortunately, I missed the ClassicsFest presentation last year. And I was out of town for the first read-through of the play, so I came to the second rehearsal in a curious state of ignorance.

What caught my attention during the table work was that already there was a palpable culture or life force of the play in the room. I had a cold, and to avoid sneezing on my fellows, I moved to a seat in the audience and when the other actors came back from their break and left off their banter, a distinctly different sensibility took over their faces and demeanor. I’m not used to seeing it so soon. A fully formed world seemed to be not created, but allowed, through them, to take hold.

There didn’t seem to be anything in the way. Usually, the process of finding the world of a play involves a certain period of manipulating and bargaining with the parts of yourself that aren’t useful. You tell them to sit down, shut up and let the necessary parts come forward, and sometimes, the ego doesn’t give way easily. Sometimes, actors are searching and some of their top forty choices come out; good, but not right. In this case, without exception, everyone’s faces were focused on the problems confronted by the character, not the actor. Nothing, but nothing, was in the way. I thought, this is going to be fun.

A. Shimerman and The Crucible cast.  Photo by A. Goodman

A. Shimerman and The Crucible cast. Photo by A. Goodman

At the next meeting, our first blocking rehearsal, our intrepid directors, Geoffrey Wade and Armin Shimmerman, outlined the presentation style they conceived during ClassicsFest, which they were engaged to develop in this production. It involves speaking almost every line out to the audience (and not seeing the face or behavior of the character to whom you are speaking). I thought, this is not going to be fun.

But it turns out this somewhat difficult technical requirement — (and I say difficult because it flies in the face of most of our training and almost a hundred years of camera-inspired hyperrealism in acting craft) — can actually further focus us and has the effect that other senses, hearing and kinesthetic, become more acute to fill the void of the visual. I notice the actors seem to be listening much more intently than usual — (which makes everyone very fascinating and good).

And it may be an amazing and brilliant way for us to experience a bit of the repressiveness of the Puritan worldview! (Am I just making lemonade?) Many of the actors who did the ClassicsFest reading are already sold on the idea and provide inspiration and side coaching for those of us who feel stark naked in the face of this bold choice. They tell us, it’s like a mirror, and our doubles spring up to be the living mirror for those onstage. Someone makes a joke about what an ensemble we are, but I think, yes, we are all engaged in a way that feels very alive. Good things will come from this.

Photo by A. Goodman

The “presentational” style. Photo by A. Goodman

It makes me think that asking actors to do something difficult right away, that takes a large percentage of their attention to do, is a GREAT way to move a rehearsal process along. Actors then don’t have any attention for vanity, for their authority issues, for their doubts. I must think about this more.

There are moments when I think this style may be tedious to watch (by the way, it doesn’t last throughout the play) or I won’t be able to communicate shifting allegiances if I can’t exchange glances or other shared non-verbal behaviors. I think about my body in the space and its relation to other bodies and the story that gets told without text. And I wonder if nuances of the story will be sacrificed. Meanwhile, the arguments of the play come across loud and clear, and there are other awarenesses, like the isolation you feel within this society, which seem just right for the material. And really, it is way too soon to know whether it works.

Shannon Clair studies her script.  Photo by A. Goodman.

Shannon Clair studies her script. Photo by A. Goodman.

Geoffrey said, in further clarifying this presentational style, that you are speaking to the other character through the audience, like a prism. And it struck me as being a beautiful idea, because, after all, the fourth wall is a pretense (or a dispensable convention), and to acknowledge the audience’s intrinsic function seems more holistic somehow, and could open the space to a larger, um, conversation? And if we’re speaking of invisible things, we need to open the floor metaphysically, don’t we? After all, the play asks real questions about our human predilection for invading private space. Where does private space end and public space begin?

Because the theatre space is itself a crucible, purifying and decoding the ideas of a culture, and on any night, it is the alchemical blending of those consciousnesses who sit together in the dark and those who play before them in the relative light, that creates any truth which emerges. I am curious to see where this takes us.

Lily_Knight_0018Antaeus member Lily Knight discusses the “fully formed world” of The Crucible, our next mainstage production opening May 16 & 17. Tickets now on sale at www.antaeus.org

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Academy Spotlight: Tro Shaw

Tell us about yourself (where you’re from, maybe where you studied, how long you’ve been in LA, your favorite credits).
I am a native Berkeley girl, raised by a couple of social hippies in the amazing bay area.  I had a burning passion to study acting from a very young age, and I ended up at Carnegie Mellon University, where I earned my BFA in Acting.  I moved out to New York in June, 2008 and had the great good fortune to be cast as Anybodys in the Broadway revival of “West Side Story” about 3 months into my living in New York.  Being a part of that show changed my life, and it was absolutely thrilling and challenging and very fulfilling.   I had a bit of difficulty adapting to the hussle and rush of the New York lifestyle, and not too long after the end of my contract I came home to Berkeley and gave myself a break.  I drove down to LA to visit a few friends in October, 2010 and I sorta forgot to leave.  Here I am a year later, and I absolutely love it here!  I’ve had an opportunity to direct, produce, act, sing, dance, and even take classes again.  Its been a wonderfully freeing experience.

Tro Shaw

Tell us why you love acting or what made you choose it as your profession, etc.

When I was 4 yrs old, my aunt was stage managing with Berkeley Shakes (now Cal Shakes).  They were rehearsing a production of “Romeo & Juliet” and the director wanted street urchins to be a part of the opening fight scene.  I actually got to stand down center, as a sword fight broke out over my head, and scream out, “Mama, mama!!!”.  My acting was so convincing that my own mother, who was reading in the back of the house, jumped up and ran to me, distressed.  I apparently said, “Mom, I was just acting!” She says that was the beginning of my love for theater, but all I know is that its a passion I’ve had for as long as I can remember.
I decided to make it my career when I saw a production of “Chicago” around my 13th birthday, and was moved by the passion and skill of the two main women.  It made me want to work at my own craft in order to have the flexibility to do any kind of role; singing, dancing, shakespeare, anything.What brought you to Antaeus?}
When I first arrived in LA, I couch-surfed a bit, and ended up more than once on the Joanna Strapp’s couch.  She and I had been friends at Carnegie Mellon, and she has always been an extremely generous person.  She told me about the Anteaus, and how much she enjoyed being surrounded by so many passionate artists.  I also spoke with my aunt, who has always been like a mentor to me in the arts, and she spoke very highly of Anteaus’ work and their overall reputation.  So I decided to audition, and I’m so glad I did.

 
What do you want to gain from the class?  Do you have a specific “problem” on which you want to focus?

My main goal with taking this class is to free myself from self-imposed limitations.  When you’re working in a college conservatory program, its easy to feel that you are limited by your weaknesses, and by your classmates’ strengths.  For example, I always felt like I wasn’t the most emotionally free actress, while a couple other girls in my class were extremely emotionally free.  I also didn’t feel very brave in school, so I am finding myself overcoming some of that in this class.

What do you think of the class so far?
Geoffrey Wade is an amazingly supportive and nurturing teacher.  He finds a way to balance the two components of teaching a class like this (acting coaching and scene directing) with such a delicate and refined skill.  Its lovely to watch him work with others, and thrilling to get up yourself and work with him.  I also feel so lucky to be in a class with people from so many different backgrounds and experiences.  Each actor has a unique strength and struggle, and it makes for a lot of exciting work every time we meet.

Tro in class with Guest Moderator, Andy Robinson

What is your experience with classical theater?  Has class reinforced/changed what you previously thought, or have you learned new things, etc?

I was surrounded by shakespeare from a very young age, and even in elementary school I felt as though the text made sense to me in a way that was somewhat innate.  During my training at Carnegie Mellon I was able to work in great detail on many classical scenes from Greeks to Shakespeare to Checkov to Ibsen to Miller to Williams.  I had the opportunity to play Natasha in a CMU production of “The Three Sisters” with guest director, Vladimir Mirodan, from The Drama Centre in London.  This class has definitely reinforced a lot of my conservatory training, and its been a great reminder to me of some key things, like the importance of giving all you have to your scene partner in order to make something happen between the two of you.  The most successful scenes so far have been when both actors were totally invested in each other and truly responding to what the other actor was giving them.Tell us a fun fact about you or highlight one of your unusual special skills.

I was a gymnast from age 4-12, and I can still do a mean back flip.  Also an aerial (no-handed cartwheel).

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.)

I just celebrated my one year anniversary with LA and also with my boyfriend, who I met two weeks after I got here.  I couldn’t be happier!Tro Shaw is currently in the Greeks/Shakespeare Classics Class. Auditions for our Spring Semester of Classes take place on January 13th and 14th. Email academy@antaeus.org for more info.

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

Unmasking The Malcontent: v. XII

“How fortune dotes on impudence! I am in private the adopted son of yon good prince. I must be duke. Why, if I must, I must.” — Mendoza, THE MALCONTENT, Act II, Scene V.

This week, we say goodbye to the brilliant, handsome, witty, and wonderful Bill Brochtrup (on many occasions he has asked me if he is any of these things; I can assure you with utter certitude that he is all of them and more); he had his final performance with the Cuckold cast this past Sunday. This leaves us with one Duke Pietro (Mark Doerr, also brilliant, handsome, witty and wonderful in his own delightful way) doing the work of two. 


Bill Brochtrup (R), with Marisol Ramirez and Jules Willcox. Photo: Geoffrey Wade

Mark is not the first of us to find himself so suddenly in demand; during Previews week, Ann Noble was called upon to play Maria for each and every performance, as Devon Sorvari was out of town changing her name to Devon Brand (and getting married; that part’s sort of a big deal, too). Furthermore, Lynn Milgrim is currently pulling double shifts as Maquerelle while Saundra McClain is out of town directing “The Fantasticks” at the Ensemble Theater Company of Santa Barbara. (“The Fantasticks” opens this weekend; next week, Saundra returns to her bi-weekly playdate with us.) This sudden plummeting of the Pietro population is very different, however; Devon’s wedding and Saundra’s production were known entities since before day one, so the cast and schedule could be constructed with those in mind. Losing Bill has been a surprise for us all, however, and leaves a scheduling void the remaining Pietro cannot fill. 

 

Geoffrey Wade is our new Pietro!

Enter Geoffrey Wade, a very, very brave man. He will take part in one speed-through this week and two put-in rehearsals next week, and then, next Friday night, he takes the stage after virtually 8 hours of rehearsal. (I say “virtually” as Geoff happened to be present at our dress rehearsal and previews in his alternate capacity as official photographer — you may have noticed that all the pictures he takes are gorgeous — and so has, I’m sure, absorbed a bit of the play through proximity and osmosis). The stakes are indeed high, but I have the utmost faith in him.


For as long as I’ve been hanging around Antaeus, I have known Geoffrey Wade: he was present at my very first Classical Styles class session, has attended virtually every Antaeus project I’ve been involved with since, and has always been an active advocate of the Academy programs and the A2 Company. His general mensch-iness aside, he is also a versatile and fascinating actor; his resume spans from the National Tour of “Crazy For You” to “Six Degrees of Separation” with the Repertory Theater of St. Louis, to Lou Pepe’s 2010 production of “Orpheus Descending” here in Los Angeles, to an eerily picture-perfect portrayal as “Lincoln” at the Lincoln Amphitheater in Indiana. The man is very, very good. More than that, this is not his first time taking the wheel for us halfway through the race. Last season at Antaeus, he took on the role of General Griggs in the midst of “The Autumn Garden,” and he finished it’s run with grace and style. So much confidence do we have in Geoffrey Wade that someone in the cast (I can’t recall who, so I’m just going to pretend it was me) has granted him an intimidating nickname of his very own: “The Closer.” 

Geoffrey “The Closer” Wade makes his debut in THE MALCONTENT June 10th, a Becco performance featuring Bo “Bolevole” Foxworth in the title role and Adrian LaTourelle as Mendoza (and if you needed one more thing to convince you, the evening of June 10th will also feature copious amounts of me). 

A2 Ensemble Member, Abby Wilde, continues to share her experiences working on our production of The Malcontent . This is the twelfth installment. For tickets, visit www.antaeus.org

Unmasking The Malcontent: v. X

“But for our souls, they are as free as emperors; there goes but a pair of shears betwixt an emperor and the son of a bagpiper; only the dyeing, dressing, pressing, glossing makes the difference. ” — Malevole, THE MALCONTENT, Act IV, Scene 5

Lynn Milgrim and Marisol Ramirez. Photo: Geoffrey Wade

At the pick-up rehearsal before the first Becco performance last week, Ann Noble (who plays Maria in the Cuckolds cast) told me she was irrationally nervous all morning: “But then I got here, and realized ‘Oh! It’s all my friends from tech. Cool.'” It’s true; we’re not all that intimidating once you get to know us.

It’s also true that, in spite of completing the entire rehearsal process as one unit, the two casts of THE MALCONTENT have been as two ships passing in the night ever since tech week; even watching the other cast at previews every night, the fourth wall stood firm between us (though, if you’ve seen the show, you know I use the term ‘fourth wall’ broadly.) It’s hard not to get competitive about it, either; we’ve already discovered that one cast is already faster, one cast has a darker interpretation of the play, and that it’s very difficult not to feel a twinge of betrayal when you learn a friend has chosen to attend the other cast’s performance and not yet yours. In spite of the competition, though, there’s simply no way not to miss your friends from tech; artfully assorted though the two casts are, we’ve all had to give up certain character relationships and bits of schtick in the separation. Thank god for Becco casting.

Ann Noble and Adrian LaTourelle. Photo: Geoffrey Wade

Every Thursday and Friday, the Becco cast for that evening is called for a pick-up rehearsal; this has always been the practice in all Antaeus productions to compensate for the week-long hiatus, but it’s even more pressing for us in that we need the extra time to negotiate the Wittol-Cuckold disparities. We speed through our blocking and dialogue, interrupting ourselves occasionally to confer (“Oh, you go there now…” “Yes, but I can stay over here.” “No, actually, I love that. Keep it. Where were we?”), and in such a start-and-top fashion cobble together the choicest bits from either group. For the most part, the blocking isn’t what’s terribly different, but the timing and intention. As, for example, Saundra McClain and Lynn Milgrim both play the role of Maquerelle, and though for the most part their traffic pattern remains the same, they’re so different as actors, that their rhythms and speech patterns give completely different flavors to their performances. Saundra and I are both Wittols, and as such I am most accustomed to her delivery; hearing the way Lynn says the same speech is like hearing a new scene altogether.

The wonderful thing about Beccos performances is that they perpetuate the atrocious acts of theater theft we thought we’d left behind in rehearsal; the stuff we bring back from the Beccos to our own casts (coupled with the fact that even on a Wittol or Cuckold night, someone has jumped the fence for the night for one reason or another; it’s nearly impossible to see a pure incarnation of the Wittol or Cuckold cast) make every night new, unpredictable, and slightly dangerous. But altogether, my favorite feature of the Beccos cast is resurrecting all those stage-relationships left behind, and finding them even more fun than we remembered them.

A2 Ensemble Member, Abby Wilde, continues to share her experiences working on our production of The Malcontent . This is the tenth installment. For tickets, visit www.antaeus.org