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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A Game Called Life: Aggeler Arts Education Program

by John Prosky, Company Member

Every day we play a game called life.
It’s a battle between Lucifer and Jesus
The messed up thing is we’re the pieces
And during war, there is no recess….

Antaean Kitty Swink coaches Aggeler student

Antaean Kitty Swink coaches Aggeler student

-Brandon, Aggeler Student

In their own words, the young men of Aggeler are from a place of “carrying a weapon to be safe,” yet they’re also from “video games and imagination.”  The same young man in a certain moment of the class will strike you as a boy and in the next moment strike you as a man.  In the span of two minutes one of these young men can go from making a remarkably insightful and intelligent observation about Shakespeare to fighting with another guy over a chair he claimed he was sitting in. They are not in a lockdown prison, yet by law they are considered “incarcerated.” In fact, almost everything about these young men is in a state of constant flux.  The only thing that is consistent about them…truly consistent… is their willingness to tell the truth about themselves (even though they are not always willing to tell the truth about why they are late or what happened to their notebook and I’m sure a bevy of other things).  That willingness to tell the truth about their addiction, their abuse, their crimes, or parental neglect is an act of searching.  Because the example of “character” in their lives is so inconsistent, it seems to me that must be what they are searching for.  By character, I do not mean the actor’s definition of the word, I mean “character” in the Dr. Martin Luther King definition of the word; as in “The content of…..”

Sample NotebookOur work and lesson plan with these young men has two focuses.  One focus is exposure to Shakespeare, and we do that with the best Antaeus has to offer – its actors. The Antaeus team picks a character’s subplot from one of Shakespeare’s plays – one that we think these young men can relate to – and then we come into the facility and two or three Antaeus actors perform that character’s soliloquies and scenes.  We then ask the young men to write in first person about what they just saw.  We do improvs and theater games based on the character’s experiences and struggles, and start a discussion about the moral lesson that Shakespeare was trying to explore with this given character.

Over the past four years of our program, subplots touched on include: the step brothers Edmund and Edgar from King Lear, Macbeth from Macbeth, and the character arc of Prince Hal from three of Shakespeare’s history plays: Henry 4 Part 1, Henry 4 Part 2 and Henry 5. Our Antaeus actors performed Prince Hal’s full character arc from party-boy drunk who hangs out with the wrong guys (the ones who convince Prince Hal to join them in a mugging) to the Hero-King who delivers the St. Crispin’s Day speech.   In the pure pedagogy of studying Shakespeare, these young men get something that all teenagers sitting in an English classes studying Shakespeare don’t get.  They get to study Shakespeare through the component of performance.

I guess if you tell a kid he’s nothing but useless
He’s gonna grow up abused and useless
In art – me and Edmund are alike
I’d be called a bastard if lived then right
I’ll admit I’m a barn accident
But I was born of nature a strong creator
And Shakespeare I feel my Edmund’s pain
The only thing I got from my father was his last name
And my stepbrother gets more love it’s insane.
And to think today you love all your kids the same
So Bill since you’re sitting in the corner
If Edmund don’t get a happy ending you’re a goner

-2009 Response to Edmund in King Lear

Ramón de Ocampo explains Shakespeare

Ramón de Ocampo explains Shakespeare

Our other focus is an exercise we call “event that changed my life.” All of us have those defining moments when something significant happens, or we make a decision that changes our life.  Those events define us.  These young men have a lot of those events, MANY more than other young men their age.  For this exercise, we ask the students to write that life-changing event down in class using two sensory memories from that event. Then we pair them up, and they share the events with the group – the idea is that each guy tells tell his partner’s life-changing event as if it were his own.  In other words, they tell their partner’s story to the group in the first person.  This exercise teaches what an actor does: he embodies someone else’s story. The more fully the actor does that, the better an actor he is.  There is also a therapeutic side to this exercise; in these populations of at-risk young men, it builds a sense of empathy.

20130524174906In the ten years I have led this exercise, I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a young man discover something hugely significant.

Program cover for the final culmination, drawn by an Aggeler student

Program cover for the final culmination, drawn by an Aggeler student

They talk about a sudden recognition of the consequences of their actions, they comfort each other if one of them breaks down, and most importantly they realize that the guy who they previously considered the “other”(different race, rival gang member, just someone they hate, etc.) is someone who has the same problems, issues, dreams, and heartbreak as they have.

If part of the “content of character” for a young man includes the knowledge of self and empathy for others, then Shakespeare and the theater is a good tool for these brave young men to start their search.

Presume not,
that who I was is me,

‘Cause I can be, whatever it is,
I want to be.

-Chorus Hook for Culmination Performance

Prosky_JohnAntaeus Company Member John Prosky heads up our Arts Education programming at William Tell Aggeler Opportunity High School, an ongoing class that uses Shakespeare to reach at-risk youths. 

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

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

Double Double: On Acting in Macbeth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Macbeth Process Work

MACKERS AT THE TABLE

Kitty Swink, Linda Park & Bo Foxworth (photo by John Apicella)

So here is why I always wanted to be an Antaean.  Why I am thrilled I became one.  Process.  Table Work.  Sitting around with the smartest group of actors I know, talking, fighting, parsing, and laughing.  And we do it over every little word in a play.  Especially when that play was written by William Shakespeare.

We’ve had three long sessions so far.  Each session is 3 to 4 hours around a table, we’ve just reached Act III and we’ve barely scratched the surface.  There are old hands –  John Apicella, Jeff Nordling, Armin Shimerman – and folks just new to the Academy, Sam and Danielle and others.  Everyone has something to say.  Something to contribute.

Men are reading women’s roles, women reading men’s roles.  Old is young, young is old.  Who knew Fleance’s few lines would be so fun?

Armin Shimerman (photo by John Apicella)

So far, Liz Swain and John Apicella have led.  Armin begins tomorrow.  But it really isn’t leading.  It is more like herding cats.  Smart ones, but cats nonetheless.

We’ve talked a lot about bird imagery.  The play is rife with it:

A falcon, towering in her pride of place,

Was by a mousing owl hawk’d at, and kill’d.

The swooping hooting sounds that go with every mention of owls intrigue us and owls are everywhere.   We speak of the broken irregular lines that cascade whenever order begins to spin to chaos.   I keep seeing and commenting on Lady M speaking monosyllabically whenever she takes control and pushes her husband on to “catch the nearest way.”

Antaeans around the table for Macbeth tablework (photo by John Apicella)

We talk and we talk and we talk.  We also act.  I’ve been acting with some of these people for decades.  Okay, I am married to Armin and we did our first play together 30 years ago.  But others, too.  Larry Pressman and I did Dangerous Corner together probably 20 years ago.  We were in the Matrix Company and he was doubled with Greg Itzin, another wonderful Antaean.  I’ve been married, onstage, to a bunch of them. I’ve been sister, wife, mother, friend and enemy to others.  Yet they all surprise me, teach me and make me laugh.  It is this kind of work that makes us an ensemble.  This kind of history.

And one other thing.  There are treats.  Always.  Someone, or several someones, bring goodies.  From seaweed crisps to macadamia nut chocolate chip cookies.  It takes a lot of fuel to do these sessions.

Antaeus Member, Kitty Swink, reveals the inner workings of our company. Macbeth will be the 2nd show in our 2012 Season.  Tickets will be on sale soon.

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.

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