Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"Ameryka" Helps Artist Discover History

Keystone and Ameryka

Nancy Keystone rarely gives her Polish heritage much consideration.

"[My great-grandparents] came to the U.S. from Poland at the turn of the last century,” she relates, “But there are no family members there now, that I know of.”

But being in Poland helped her feel connected to her roots. “I got a vibe while I was there. There was a sense of familiarity.” Through the development of Ameryka, she is finding an appreciation for her own heritage.

Keystone wears many hats: director/playwright/choreographer/designer/filmmaker. She conceives productions as a whole, often designing her own sets. She founded Critical Mass Performance Group, the ensemble of actors and designers, with which she collaborates to create productions. She also has been a director or designer at numerous companies across the nation, including Portland Center Stage, Mark Taper Forum, Actor's Express, Theatre @ Boston Court, Georgia Shakespeare Festival and San Francisco Shakespeare Festival. She serves as resident director for The Continuum in Los Angeles.

Keystone earned an MFA in directing from Carnegie Mellon, and a BA in theatre arts from UCLA. In developing Ameryka, she is finding an appreciation for her own Polish heritage.

Nancy Keystone had a life-changing moment. It came during a trip to Poland nearly four years ago and led to a theatrical, soul-searching journey through history.

Keystone, an award-wining multi-disciplinary artist, is the founder and artistic director of Critical Mass Performance Group. In December, the group presents Keystone’s work-in-progress, Ameryka as part of the Studio SCR season.

The concept of Ameryka began in 2009 with an unintentional trip Keystone took to the Grotowski Festival in Poland.

“It was a total fluke that I went out there,” she says. Joanna Klass, founder of Arden2, an Orange County arts organization, was director of the festival and conference in Poland and brought approximately 70 Americans. “I fell in love with Poland,” she relates. “The theatre was amazing, eye-opening and revelatory.”

The festival took place during the 20th anniversary of the Solidarity election and what caught her eye was a Solidarity election poster that featured Gary Cooper in the 1952 western film High Noon. The poster read, “Solidarity. At High Noon, June 4, 1989.”

At High Noon
June 4, 1989
The poster—featuring the iconic American cowboy image—sparked Keystone’s curiosity and led her down a research path that revealed numerous connections between America and Poland over the course of history; links that Keystone found were at times surprising and at times unsettling.

In developing Ameryka, Keystone says she and the ensemble uncovered what she calls “unknown truths.”

“The stories we are taught in school are so mythical, and it’s a struggle to really learn what’s going on,” she says. “Ameryka is a critique of what America says it’s doing and what it actually is doing."

One such American story not included in school lesson plans concerns President Thomas Jefferson's relationship with Polish General Thaddeus Kosciuszko and Kosciuszko's challenge to Jefferson regarding American slavery.

"Jefferson was an amazing and brilliant human being—but just think of how much more he could have been. In what ways could our country be different if he'd had the courage of his convictions and succeeded in abolishing slavery at the beginning?”

On the other hand, Poland saw the United States as a sort of role model.

“For a long time after World War II, during the Cold War, Eastern Europe looked at the U.S. as a model for democracy. Not really a utopia, but something to strive for."

Keystone’s Ameryka includes a focus on the 1980s, particularly the United States' substantial support toward the formation of the Polish Solidarity trade union.

“The Solidarity movement helped create an independent trade union but when that was crushed, the movement went underground for eight years, and the U.S. was key in helping keep it alive. President Ronald Reagan is a real hero to the Polish people.”

“The history in Ameryka is really interesting,” she says. “The centuries-old connections we're discovering with different people and events in the U.S. and Poland are very surprising.”

The smaller stories that unfold in Ameryka are meant to explore a deeper personal connection. “Critical Mass Performance Group is trying to get underneath the stories and find the intimate human story that is involved. That’s the key. That’s what we’re working toward, to make it human. Explore the surprises.”

Ameryka kicks off the 2012-2013 Studio SCR season on Dec. 6-9. Get your tickets now!

Critical Mass performing Ameryka.
About Critical Mass Performance Group

Critical Mass Performance Group (CMPG) is committed to long-term collaborative development of new works, reinterpretations and adaptations of classic texts, and the use of alternative performance spaces. CMPG melds the physical, intuitive and intellectual angles into works that are politically charged, historically aware and theatrically inventive. Its most recent production, Apollo, won a Garland Award for Best Play and a Drammy Award for scenic design. The production was part of the U.S. exhibition at the 2011 Prague Quadrennial. CMPG’s The Akhmatova Project was named one of the Ten Best Productions in 2000 by Los Angeles Times, and received four L.A. Weekly nominations.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Richard Doyle: From Merry Ghost to Gritty Cowboy

Onstage, SCR Founding Artist Richard Doyle merrily dons Victorian garb to portray The Spirit of Christmas Past in the 33rd annual production of SCR’s A Christmas Carol. On the screen, a bearded Doyle rides hell-bent for leather through the Old West with guns blazing.  And he practically steals the movie.

Heathens and Thieves is his new indie release, a noir western crime drama that has a little bit of everything—post-Gold Rush mania, fallout from the Civil War and the impact of Chinese immigration and some big chunks of moral indecision.  But there’s no shilly-shallying for Bill, Doyle’s single-minded drifter, a crafty fellow with a lust for riches.

In the end, dead bodies are strewn across the plains.  Is Bill’s among them?  Find out at the upcoming local screening at Chapman University, Dodge College’s Folino Theater, Sunday, Dec. 16, at 4 pm.  It’s free!

Currently, the movie can be streamed On-Demand just about everywhere and will be available to buy at Walmart and Redbox in December.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Politicians, Poets, Playwrights, Pundits: Other Voices at Christmas

Hal Landon Jr. and Richard Doyle in A Christmas Carol.
“Avarice and happiness never saw each other, how then should they become acquainted?”
~ Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1734

“Dickens is a terrible writer. In the original, Scrooge was mean and stingy, but you never know why. We’re giving him a mother and father, an unhappy childhood, a whole background which will motivate him.”
~ John H. Mitchell, President, Screen Gems, 1968

Daniel Blinkoff, Jennifer Parsons, Phillip Swanson and Timothy Landfield
“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: They that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”
~ Isaiah, 9:2

“Remorse is memory awake.”
~ Emily Dickenson, Poems, Pt. I, No. 69

“I dreamt the past was never past redeeming;
But whether this was false or honest dreaming
I beg death’s pardon now. And mourn the dead.”
~ Richard Wilbur, The Pardon

“Create in me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me.”
~ Psalms 51:10

“At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled mirth;
But like each thing that in season grows.”
~ Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost

“Why should I sorrow for what was pain? A cherished grief is an iron chain.”
~ Stephen Vincent Benet, King David

“I believe in Michelangelo, Velasquez, and Rembrandt: in the might of design, the mystery of color, the redemption of all things by beauty everlasting and the message of Art that has made these hands blessed.”
~ George Bernard Shaw

Gregg Daniel and Hal Landon Jr.
“Dickens was a mythologist rather than a novelist; he was the last of the mythologists, and perhaps the greatest. He did not always manage to make his characters men, but he always managed, at the least, to make them gods.”
~ G.K. Chesterson 1906

Then there’s the story of a man who chaired the charity committee of his local hospital. He reviewed all the fund-raising records, and he discovered that the richest person in town had never made a donation. So he went to visit him. He said, “Our records show that you’re the richest person in town, but you’ve never contributed to the hospital.” And the rich man said, “Do your records also show that my widowed mother was left absolutely destitute? Do they show that my brother is totally disabled? Do they show that my sister was abandoned with four young children?” By now the chairperson felt really ashamed. He said, “Well no, our records don’t show that.” And the rich man said, “Well, I don’t do anything for them, so why should I do anything for you?”
~ Adapted from Malcolm Kushner, Humor Consultant

We’re looking forward to seeing you at one of the upcoming performances of OC’s own holiday tradition: SCR’s A Christmas Carol.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Scrooge Inspires Many Adaptations

Charles Dickens in his Study, 1859 by William Powell Frith, Victoria and Albert Museum
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was a bestseller when it was published in 1843, and it created an insatiable demand in the public for more Christmas stories. As a result, Dickens wrote one Christmas novella a year for four years:
  • The Chimes 
  • The Cricket on the Hearth
  • The Battle of Life
  • The Haunted Man

But, it’s the original Christmas Carol that people keep coming back; it’s a warm, fuzzy part of how many of us celebrate the holidays. But not just Dickens’ story in book form; there are film and cartoon adaptations inspired by this story that families love. Of course, we’re partial to SCR’s adaptation, done by Jerry Patch!

Here are some of the filmed versions of A Christmas Carol—how many have you seen?
  • Scrooge (1935), starring Sir Seymour Hicks
  • A Christmas Carol (1938), starring Reginald Owen
  • Scrooge (1951), starring Alastair Sim
  • A Christmas Carol (1954), a TV movie, starring Fredric March
  • Scrooge (1970), a musical film adaptation, starring Albert Finney and Alec Guinness
  • A Christmas Carol (1971), an Oscar-winning animated film, with the voice of Alastair Sim
  • A Christmas Carol (1984), a TV movie, starring George C. Scott
  • A Christmas Carol (1999), a TV movie, starring Patrick Stewart

Alastair Sim
George C. Scott
Patrick Stewart

Need more Ebenezer Scrooge in your life?  There are even more adaptations.
  • Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962)
  • Rich Little’s Christmas Carol (1978)
  • The Stingiest Man in Town (1979), animated, with the voices of Walter Matthau and Tom Bosley
  • An American Christmas Carol (1979), starring Henry Winkler
  • Bugs Bunny’s Christmas Carol (1979)
  • Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983), starring Scrooge McDuck
  • Scrooged (1988), starring Bill Murray
  • Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (1988)
  • The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), starring Michael Caine
  • Ebbie (1995), the first version to imagine Scrooge as a woman, starring Susan Lucci
  • Ebenezer (1997), a Canadian, western-themed adaptation, starring Jack Palance
  • A Diva’s Christmas Carol (2000), starring Vanessa Williams
  • A Sesame Street Christmas Carol (2006), featuring Oscar the Grouch, of course, as Scrooge

Bugs Bunny
Mickey Mouse
The Muppets

Want to find out more? The web is filled with A Christmas Carol information. Google the story title and you’ll find nearly 54-million links. We recommend a good starting point at the Online Literary Library.

We’re looking forward to seeing you at one of the upcoming performances of OC’s own holiday tradition: SCR’s A Christmas Carol.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Experience the Ride of Your Life

South Coast Repertory teams up with some of SoCal’s amazing theatre groups to bring you contemporary and multi-layered works. The Nicholas Studio lets you settle in, but you won’t sit back for long. Lean forward and expect the unexpected from:

Critical Mass Performance Group
Rogue Artists Ensemble
Theatre Movement Bazaar
Lost Moon Radio
Matthew McCray Productions
South Coast Repertory, Center Theatre Group and La Jolla Playhouse

The informal theme of this year’s Studio SCR is merging different mediums.  The featured companies use dance, video projections, singing, puppetry, stylized movement, historical characters, live music, radio and written text for stories that highlight key historical events or provide commentary on today’s society.

In addition, there’s a collaborative first: South Coast Repertory, Center Theatre Group and La Jolla Playhouse will co-produce the West Coast premiere of a new English translation of Guillermo Caledrón’s Neva.

The line-up also includes the popular SCRamble, a late-night cabaret featuring short pieces by eight to nine local acts.

Ticket prices vary by production, and range from $15 to $35. You can buy tickets and read more about the artists at Meanwhile, here’s a closer look at the line-up:


Critical Mass Performance Group
December 6-9, 2012

Ameryka is a kaleidoscopic epic, detonating an astonishing universe of associations between the United States and Poland going back to the American Revolution. Thomas Jefferson, his runaway slave, Polish General Tadeusz Kościuszko, movie star Gary Cooper, jazz great John Coltrane, CIA agents, Solidarity leaders, rebels, criminals, presidents and lovers are among the famous, infamous and unsung people whose dreams and actions intersect in a breathtaking quest for freedom across continents and centuries. Movement, text, image and music come together to tell stories that turn history inside out, in this latest work-in-progress from Los Angeles' award-winning Critical Mass Performance Group.

Contains adult language.


by Katie Polebaum

Rogue Artists Ensemble
February 14-17, 2013

Rogue Artists Ensemble combines multimedia projections with puppetry, movement, sophisticated live audio-sampling and giant Greek masks in its production of Songs of Bilitis. The work explores how a flamboyant heterosexual avant-garde Parisian novelist—Pierre Louÿs—successfully impersonated a lesbian Greek poet in the most elaborate erotic literary hoax the world has ever known.  At the turn of the 20th-century, Louÿs captured the imagination and libido of the literary world when he penned an extensive collection of exquisite and sensuous poetry by a fabricated Greek courtesan named "Bilitis." The collection held a false place in the canon of classical Greek erotic literature for nearly 10 years, making Songs of Bilitis the world’s greatest work of counterfeit Greek erotica.

Contains nudity, adult themes and language.


Theatre Movement Bazaar

February 21-24, 2013

Theatre Movement Bazaar, creators of last year's Anton's Uncles, investigates Chekhov's famous play, Three Sisters. In this new work, Track 3, the characters are stranded, waiting and wanting something outside of themselves to give them happiness. They are on the modern hero's journey, not to Moscow, as they hoped, but a journey within. Movement, dance, song and humor derail the play from its Victorian origins and set the itinerary for a 21st-century existential extravaganza.


Lost Moon Radio 

May 2-5, 2013

DJ Jupiter Jack has hosted KTSH's Fourth of July broadcast for 28 years. Until now. Pushed out by two shock jocks and the increasing corporatization of his station, Jack finds himself examining the state of America and his career while he's on the air. As Jack spins tracks about the U.S. of A., we see each one as a sketch or song performed live onstage by actors and a band. The resulting collage is part comedy show, part rock concert, and part intimate journey through the mind of a man who is grappling with a changing America.

Contains adult language.


Matthew McCray 

June 6-9, 2013

Framed by the spiritual philosophies of the mystic Martin Buber, Eternal Thou is a high-tech science fiction drama about the future of the Internet and man's search for spiritual enlightenment. In Eternal Thou, the cast dives in and out of the unwieldy signals of the Internet to reprogram its central code and protect it from forces that threaten its survival. The Internet, presented as the central character of the play, is on a search for enlightenment that parallels our own. This critically acclaimed production was a 2012 Critic's Pick in Backstage and received rave reviews throughout Los Angeles. Learn more at

Contains adult language.


by Guillermo Calderón

South Coast Repertory, Center Theatre Group and
   La Jolla Playhouse

June 19-23, 2013

Neva tells the story of Anton Chekhov's widow, the actress Olga Knipper, who arrives in a dimly lit rehearsal room in St. Petersburg in the winter of 1905. As Olga and two other actors await the rest of the cast, they huddle together, act out scenes from their lives and muse on their art form and love. Outside, unseen striking workers are being gunned down in the streets by the Tsarist regime. Guillermo Calderón savagely examines the relationship between theatre and historical context in this tightly crafted piece that allows a palpable terror to creep through the theatre walls.


Various artists 

February 16, and May 4, 2013
Grab a drink and settle in for a bold new blend of alternative theatre, comedy, dance, music and interdisciplinary collaborations as some of SoCal's most interesting artists serve up unforgettable theatrical delights in 10-minute increments.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

32 Years of "A Christmas Carol" and They Keep Coming Back

As A Christmas Carol approaches its 33rd season, Orange County’s favorite (and longest-running) holiday show has delighted audiences just over 1,000 times. That comes to approximately 455,500 seats filled with holiday theatre-goers, many of them new to the experience, but others so familiar with the show that they can recite the dialogue.

Why do they return year after year, bringing their growing families again and again—through generations?

Director John-David Keller believes he knows the answer: Because it stays the same. And because it changes. Let J.D. explain.

“It’s comforting,” he says, “to settle into your seat as the curtain rises on A Christmas Carol, knowing that in just a few moments Hal Landon, Jr. will stride across the stage as Ebenezer Scrooge, and that in the end he’ll turn a somersault, come up with top hat in place, and be as loveable as he was once curmudgeonly. That will not change.”

Nor will the director—J.D. takes the helm this season for the 33rd time, with enthusiasm that never wanes. Familiar actors inhabit the lead roles, and most of the designers have been with A Christmas Carol season after season. According to J.D., “They are the thread that keeps the tradition going.”

Then there are 16 little changes—the children. “Each season, we like to give new young actors from our Theatre Conservatory a chance to audition for the eight roles in which they alternate (divided into Red Team and Green Team). The children bring an added joy to the set, with their enthusiasm and sense of wonder. That’s invigorating for us old characters.”

There also are four adult roles that change each season, cast from among graduates of SCR’s Theatre Conservatory Professional Intensive Program who are not yet members of Actors Equity Association (the union of professional actors and stage mangers). For many of these grads, A Christmas Carol is their first professional show.

Finally, there are the subtle changes in A Christmas Carol. Artistic Director Marc Masterson, Playwright Jerry Patch and J.D. met earlier this season to go through each scene in the script, making small revisions to the dialogue and action—changes that might not be noticed by the audience, but that give extra dimension to the characters.

This year, J.D. has one more change. “I’m keeping it a secret,” he says slyly, “but here’s a hint: it has something to do with Marley (Scrooge’s long-dead partner).” More than that, J.D. won’t reveal.

But we’re happy to reveal fun facts for fans of A Christmas Carol:

1996 was the last time all the founding members appeared in A Christmas Carol together.  They are, from left to right, Don Took, Ron Boussom, Art Koustik, Richard Doyle, Hal Landon Jr., John-David Keller, John Ellington and Martha McFarland.
  • SCR Founding Artists have appeared for a total of 142 seasons: Hal Landon Jr. – 32, Art Koustik – 31, Richard Doyle – 28, Don Took – 22, Martha McFarland – 21, Ron Boussom – 8. Hal, Richard and Art will all be back this season.
  • The original set was designed by Cliff Faulkner with costumes by Richard Odle. The set has evolved over time, with the current design by Tom Buderwitz. Donna and Tom Ruzika have designed the lighting every season.
  • Hal has missed only three shows. In 1997 he was cast in a pivotal role in Sidney Bechet Killed a Man, which didn’t close until Sunday, November 30. Hal stepped back into the role of Scrooge on December 2, missing one matinee and two evening previews. J.D. went on for him, and those who were there say he did a bang-up job. (No one demanded a refund!).
Hal Landon Jr as Scrooge and Richard Doyle as The Spirit of Christmas Past.
  • Speaking of missing things, Hal missed one “hat trick.” He stopped the show long enough to try again—and succeed.
  • Hal’s battle scars include two broken toes—the little toe on his left foot seven years ago when, in stocking feet, he ran into furniture backstage, the little toe on his right foot the next year, also in stocking feet, when he ran into the foot of his own (Scrooge’s) bed. A more cheerful Hal fact: his youngest daughter, Caroline, joined the cast in 1996-97 as Young Girl About Town.
  • Richard Doyle has played The Spirit of Christmas Past too many times to count. He guesses 20. At one time or another, he also has played Solicitor, Joe, Mr. Fezziwig and Scrooge’s nephew Fred.
  • Richard never portrayed Bob Cratchit. But he married one of Bob’s wives (the actress Jennifer Parsons, who has played Mrs. Cratchit since 2004).  By the way, Richard’s daughter, Sarah, joined her father onstage in 1996 as Martha Cratchit.
  • Don Took had a near-striptease exit once during his 22 years as the Ghost of Jacob Marley. When the stage crew was wheeling him out the window (for his ghostly disappearance) his rotting shroud caught on the window latch, and it was a standoff to see which would give way first: Odle’s set or Faulkner’s costume. The crew rightly chose to save the set, leaving Don gyrating and screaming on the platform while his costume peeled away from his arm and down his torso until they managed to rip the material loose and close the window—the longest exit in history, which Don still wishes he had seen.
Daniel Blinkoff and Bob Cratchit and Angeliki Katya Harris as Tiny Tim in the 2009 production.
  • Art Koustik missed only one season due to a motorcycle accident that left him incapacitated for the entire run and longer, but he bounced back and hasn’t missed a performance since. The young actors made the party scenes a real joy for Art during his years playing Fezziwig, and he continues to have a great time during the “scavenger” scene in which he and the other oldtimers adlib and then watch new cast members try to adjust. The scene is not Shakespeare, Art reminds them, but something near the other end of the acting spectrum!
  • Howard Shangraw appeared the first season as Young Ebenezer and as he grew older he appeared as Scrooge’s nephew Fred, a role he played through 2006. Other adult roles that have necessitated cast changes as the actors grew up are Fred’s wife, Sally, and Young Eb’s sweetheart, Belle. Hisa Takakuwa and Richard Soto played Sally and Young Eb for nearly a decade, and although they never got together on the stage, they’re married in real life.
  • Those Cratchits (Bob and “Mrs.”) are characters whom actors can play from their 20s into their 40s. Three actors have had very successful and long-running stints as Bob Cratchit—John Ellington from the first season until 1998, when he left the acting profession to become a minister; David Whalen took over for four years; and since then Bob has been played by SCR stalwart Daniel Blinkoff.
  • Among the children’s roles are the young Cratchits—Belinda, Peter, Martha and Tiny Tim, as well as Boy on the Street, known affectionately as “Turkey Boy” because he’s singled out by Scrooge to deliver the Christmas turkey—and the Christmas joy.
  • The children’s parents often spread cheer by supplying the cast with baked goods, a generous gesture that can add an extra ten pounds during the run!
  • From their “half hour” call until their parents take them home after the show, the kids are never alone backstage. SCR supplies a fun-loving staff member with the western-sounding title of “Wrangler” to serve as baby-sitter, friend, mentor and sounding board.  SCR Theatre Conservatory grad Nicole Gross, who once appeared as Martha Cratchit, is this year’s wrangler.
  • And, oh, yes, lest we forget—former SCR Dramaturg Jerry Patch, who adapted the Charles Dickens story for the stage, is now at New York’s Manhattan Theatre Club, but he’ll be back to have a look at 33.
RED TEAM (back row, left to right):  Graysen Airth, Sydney Lester, Taylor Serafin and Hartejas Dhindsa. Bottom row, left to right: Zacharias Harris, Ella Webb, Sebastian Naranjo and Louis Tonkovich
GREEN TEAM (back row, left to right): Blake Laszlo, Kiera Callahan, Bahaar Tadjbakhsh and Saul Richardson. Bottom row left to right: Lauren Dong, Hadley Belle Miller, Abby Matzke and Gage Larkin
As we update these facts throughout the run, we want to add stories about your own family’s experiences at A Christmas Carol. Just email us at

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

SCR's Gala Ball: Wrapping Up and Moving On

It’s a wrap!  On November 1, 2012, the Gala Ball Committee thanked “Setting the Stage” Chair Beth Phelps with a luncheon hosted by The Center Club that included special gifts from Fresh.

Joining in were SCR Artistic Director Marc Masterson and Managing Director Paula Tomei.  The co-CEOs praised the committee, with Masterson saying that it seemed like the Gala just happened, adding, “But I know all the hard work that went into making the evening so much fun for all of us.”

Beth opened her gifts—a photo album of the Gala and a Bacarrat crystal orchid—as everyone enjoyed a delectable three-course luncheon underwritten by the Center Club.  It was a perfect ending to a perfect Gala, prompting Beth to add her thanks for the Committee’s hard work and to announce that it’s not too soon to start planning for 2013 Gala, set for Saturday, September 21, 2013 at a location yet to be named.

Th event continued with an exclusive shopping opportunity for the members of the Committee at the South Coast Plaza boutique of Fresh, hosted by store manager Yvonne White. 

If you’ve loved all the season-opening parties up until now, get set for the next one on September 21, 2013—SCR’s 50th Season Gala!  Details to come.

Having trouble viewing the slideshow? Try watching it here.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Quick Takes With Four Clowns’ Jeremy Aluma

Robin Hood Director Talks Sets, Costumes and His First Encounter with Robin

Kevin Klein and Alexis Jones in Robin Hood.
SCR: Think back and tell me how you first got introduced to the legend of Robin Hood.

Jeremy Aluma: Fittingly, my earliest memory of Robin Hood is Mel Brooks (Men in Tights, 1993)! I remember having a sleepover birthday party in middle school and watching it with my friends. Of course, I loved the gags, puns, large characters the actors played and of course the farce of all previous Robin Hoods, which I only slightly understood.

SCR: Describe the set and costumes for me. Do they have a “wow” factor?!

JA: We settled on the concept of a forest playground early in the discussion process and truly that is what has been created. Set designer Fred Kinney has created a set complete with climbable trees, large angled fallen logs and holes to pop in and out of.

Costume designer Leah Piehl had a challenge: six actors featured in roughly 25 different roles and jumping in and out of costumes sometimes in about 20 seconds. The overall feel is that of a traveling minstrel troupe of actors, which really helped shape the concepts, colors and appearance. We wanted to keep the colors bright and vibrant and make the costumes functional and easy to put on and take off. There're a lot of wonderful elements to play with, too: fat suits, five-inch platform-sole shoes for height, weapons, hats, crowns and cloaks.

Julia Davis, Raymond Lee
and Amir Levi in Robin Hood.
SCR: What are some fun moments in Greg Banks’ Robin Hood?

JA: The moments that I imagine are going to be the most fun are the interactive parts with the audience. The call and response, Much asking an audience member to help him. Also, I think dressing Robin as a lady so he can thwart the Sheriff's plan is just hilarious.

SCR: Not to get too deep, but what are some lessons that come out of Banks’ Robin Hood?

JA: There are a number of them. Helping humanity always should come before our personal need to amass wealth. Never cheer the death of any man, even your enemy. Learn from your failures, grow from them, change from them and proceed, never give up, every great success story came with a lot of failure. Take care of nature. Love, honor and respect your friends. Help those less fortunate than you.

SCR: What do you hope audiences—young and old—will come away with from seeing Four Clowns in this production?

JA: My first goal with Four Clowns always is to entertain an audience. So it's very important that they have a good time and laugh. It's also rewarding to work with a script that has so many opportunities to interact with the audience and, of course, we've added a few more! I'd like audiences to see the nature of theater as a living, vibrant art form, unique in its ability to respond to each audience member differently. Humanity also is an important theme for me in most productions that I direct and this play has some valuable lessons; it would be wonderful for those to impact audience members, too.

SCR: In your best Robin Hood-era language, how would you issue an invitation to folks to come the show?

JA: Forsooth, me lads and ladies of yesteryore and yoreyyore! "If you desire the spleen and will laugh yourselves into stitches, follow us."

Friday, November 2, 2012

Cheers (and a Few Tears) for "How to Write a New Book for the Bible"

The audience stood up when the curtain came down on First Night of How to Write a New Book for the Bible, Friday, October 26, fervently cheering the cast of the evocative memory play—before joining all the artists for the Cast Party.

Co-sponsored by the Center Club at its newly renovated site just across the street, the party was a time for everyone to reflect on the play (and maybe wipe away a few tears) as they discussed the experience of watching a family going through the same moments—both sad and happy—that most encounter as an elderly family member reaches the end of life.

During the evening, partygoers enjoyed the company of Director Kent Nicholson, playwright Bill Cain, actors Linda Gehringer, Jeff Biehl, Aaron Blakely and Tyler Pierce.  And everyone enjoyed the grand surroundings—an updated Center Club with crystal chandeliers lining the hallways and the Symphony Ballroom, which was accented in deep purples—and the scrumptious dining fare.

Having trouble viewing the slideshow? Try watching it here.