Friday, April 29, 2016

Mystery, Memory and Music in Peter Shaffer’s "Amadeus"

by Andy Knight
Asher Grodman, Marco Barricelli and Liesel Allen Yeager in Amadeus.
“Well, the genesis of Amadeus was, I suppose, a long-felt desire to celebrate Mozart in me, but the play actually is not about Mozart, fundamentally. It is about Salieri. It is about the nature of a man’s sense of injustice, and to me the crucial things in the play of Amadeus occur after Mozart’s death, to some extent, when Salieri…finally says to the audience, ‘I was wondering all this time when I would be punished,’ and comes to the conclusion that his punishment lay—because he survived Mozart by 30 years and was a huge success in Vienna, gigantic success, much more successful on the level of acclaim than Mozart—when he spent thirty years being called distinguished by people incapable of distinguishing.”
—Playwright Peter Shaffer
In 1823, the year that Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus begins, Antonio Salieri, at one time Vienna’s most celebrated composer, is past his prime. Now 73 years old, Salieri has lived long enough to see his music fall out of fashion and his influence in the Viennese court dwindle, as his role as the royal music director fades from a position of power to a mere title of respect. What’s more, the buzz around Vienna—“the city of Slander”—is that Salieri has gone mad: after all, the reclusive Italian won’t stop raving that he killed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the revered Austrian composer who died thirty years earlier. “I don’t believe it,” the gossips say. “All the same… Is it just possible? Did he do it after all?”

Only Salieri knows the truth, and as he waits for death, he begs the ghosts of the distant future—his audience—to hear his story, to know his truth once and for all. For their benefit, he revisits the past. “The year—to begin with—seventeen eighty-one,” says Salieri as he sets the scene. “The age still that of the Enlightenment: that clear time before the guillotine fell in France and cut all of our lives in half.”

At 31, Salieri holds the illustrious position of chamber composer in the Viennese court of Joseph II and is the model of success: his operas are loved in both Vienna and across Europe, his musical taste is exquisite and his skill at court politics is undeniable. But the pious Salieri knows that success doesn’t come for free; he believes that God bestows His gifts on only the most righteous, the most deserving. The composer, therefore, commits himself to serving God through music and to leading a virtuous life as a show of gratitude.

But then Salieri meets Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, wunderkind composer and enfant terrible. Mozart is gaudy, bawdy and petulant—but a remarkable talent. It’s not long before Salieri recognizes his own music is, at best, adequate next to Mozart’s—amusing trifles in the shadows of great works of art—and he’s consumed by jealousy. How could a just God give so much to someone so small? And how could the Almighty withhold the same kind of talent from Salieri, his greatest attendant? As Salieri’s envy grows, he wages a war against God, and Mozart is the battleground. “What use, after all, is Man,” Salieri points out, “if not to teach God His lessons?”

Portrait of Salieri by Joseph Willibrord (circa 1814).
Portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart by an unknown artist (circa 1788–90).
In Amadeus, Peter Shaffer, author of Equus and Lettice and Lovage, brings his story of jealousy and revenge to life using a technique in which the present and past (in Amadeus’ case 1823 and 1781-91, respectively) exist at the same time. On what he believes is his last night alive, Salieri conjures up the past and both participates within it and comments upon it (from the vantage point of the present). Time and location change frequently, but there is no interruption, no breaks between scenes; instead, the audience is ushered from event to event by Salieri, with a fluidity that allows the sweeping story to pick up momentum as its suspense grows.

But Shaffer also complements Amadeus’ storytelling with musical elements—not just with the play's use of music in the literal sense, but also with its nods to operatic forms. For example, Amadeus begins when “savage whispers fill the theatre” chanting “Salieri.” This chorus is quickly replaced by the Venticelli, two “little winds,” or gossips, who tell the audience about Salieri’s confession of murder. The sequence functions much like an introductory movement—or overture—to the play. Beyond that, one might describe Salieri’s monologues as the play’s arias; or discover that the word games between Mozart and his wife Constanze contain the rhyming patterns of song lyrics; or even find motifs from Mozart’s operas, like blackmail (The Abduction from the Seraglio) or destructive fathers (Don Giovanni), dropped into Amadeus.

“While it’s not a musical, it functions like one,” says director Kent Nicholson, who returns to SCR after directing the 2014 production of The Light in the Piazza. But it’s not only the musicality and epic scope that draw him to the piece: “I think people will be surprised how funny Amadeus is…I think that to make people have a profound experience, they have to laugh first.”

To bring Amadeus to life, Nicholson has assembled a creative team of SCR favorites. The design team includes set designer John Iacovelli, whose many SCR credits include this season’s production of Abundance; costume designer Alex Jaeger, who recently designed costumes for the world premiere of Office Hour at SCR; lighting designer Lap Chi Chu, who designed this season’s world premiere of Future Thinking; and sound designer Darron L West, who designed last season’s world premiere of Of Good Stock.

The cast of Amadeus includes SCR veterans, as well as newcomers. Marco Barricelli, whose successful career includes roles on Broadway and at the top regional theatres across the country, returns to SCR after last appearing in the theatre’s 1996 production of The Taming of the Shrew. Asher Grodman makes his SCR debut as Mozart. The cast is rounded out by Christian Barillas, Mark Capri, Peter Frechette, John-David Keller, Louis Lotorto, Louis Pardo, A.J. Sclafani, Camille Thornton Alson and Geoffrey Wade, all of whom have appeared in previous SCR productions, as well as Bo Foxworth, Cynthia Marty and Liesel Allen Yeager, who are making their SCR debut.

Learn more and buy tickets.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Meet the Author: George MacDonald

George MacDonald with son Ronald (right) and daughter Mary (left) in 1864. Photograph by Lewis Carroll.
MacDonald in the 1860s
The stage play The Light Princess is adapted from a fairy tale that Scottish author, George MacDonald, originally published in 1864.

George MacDonald was born in 1824 in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. As a boy, he loved boxing and reading. He eventually learned to read in Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Latin and Spanish. After graduating from university, MacDonald moved to London, where he studied theology. When his career as a preacher proved unsuccessful, he tried his hand at writing. His extensive knowledge of language and culture played an important role in his ability to paint vivid, memorable pictures in his books. Some years later, poet W.H. Auden wrote: “In his power to project his inner life into images, beings, landscapes which are valid for all, he is one of the most remarkable writers of the nineteenth century.”

MacDonald published more than 50 books over the course of four decades. While he wrote fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, he is best remembered for his fantasy and fairy tales. “I write, not for children,” he wrote, “but for the child-like, whether they be of five, or fifty, or seventy-five.” The story “The Light Princess” was originally published as part of a longer novel, Adela Cathcart, in 1864. Some of his other best known works include Phantases (1858), At the Back of the North Wind (1871), The Princess and the Goblin (1872) and The Princess and Curdie (1883).

MacDonald served as a mentor to Lewis Carroll, and encouraged him to publish Alice in Wonderland. His writings also had a substantial influence on several major 20th century fantasy authors, including C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia), J.R.R. Tolkien (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings), and Madeleine L’Engle (A Wrinkle in Time). MacDonald spend the last two decades of his life living in Italy with his wife. He died in 1905, at the age of 80.

Adapted from George MacDonald: Life, Works, Legacy by Matthew Bracey

Learn more and buy tickets.

Summer Players to Present A Tale as Old as Time

Director Hisa Takakuwa and Musical Director Erin McNally prepare for Beauty and the Beast auditions.
Auditions are now underway for SCR’s next Summer Players show (August 6-14), and it’s a doozy. After much consideration, Director Hisa Takakuwa and Musical Director Erin McNally have chosen the two-time Broadway hit based on an ancient fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast.

According to Hisa, “We’re doing this show because Erin loves it!”

And that’s certainly true. “I always have identified with this show because the female protagonist is strong and smart,” Erin said, “and because it reminds us that being unique or ‘different’ isn’t a bad thing.”

Hisa is a big fan, too. “Beauty and the Beast has great characters and music to explore,” she said, “which makes it perfect for our Players. Because of the fantasy realm, we have a lot of flexibility with casting choices in terms of age and gender.”

Both agree that it’s a show that’s fun for the Players to perform and for the audience to watch. “ It’s very important that the story resonates with our young cast members and can be told from their point of view,” Hisa added. “One thing that helped convince me was that Beauty and the Beast deals with the power everyone has to change and grow and learn from every situation, good or—at least on first view—bad.”

The New York Times said of the Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast (which is the one Hisa and Erin have chosen) that it “belongs right up there with the Empire State Building.”

“And we agree!” the directors declared.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

"A Midsummer Night’s Dream" Next Up for Teen Players

The Bard’s Most Popular Comedy is a First for the Ensemble
L to R- Amanda Fassett, Mikey Costa, Alex Theologides Rodriguez, Saul Richardson, Joshua Myran and Kat Lewis in SCR's Teen Players production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Within SCR’s Theatre Conservatory are three groups of young actors chosen by audition—the Junior, Teen and Summer Players. Every year these ensembles of talented young actors astound audiences with their performances in shows that challenge them to take what they have learned in class and apply it to their roles.

They’ve performed in classics (Teen Players, Charles Dickens’ Hard Times), Broadway musicals (Summer Players, Sondheim’s Into the Woods) and be loved children’s stories (Junior Players, The Velveteen Rabbit).

But never Shakespeare.

Until now. William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Nicholas Studio, May 14-15 and 20-22) will be the Teen Players first-ever production of a work by the Bard.

“There’s no real reason for that,” says Theatre Conservatory Director Hisa Takakuwa. “Clearly, I’ve chosen challenging plays for them in the past, and it’s not like I’ve avoided Shakespeare…”

And why would she? Takakuwa is a classically trained actor and longtime member of the classic theatre company A Noise Within, where she appeared in numerous Shakespearian roles such as Maria in Twelfth Night. Her other roles include Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet at Indiana Repertory Theatre and Hero in Much Ado About Nothing at Grove Shakespeare Festival.

“I think, looking back, with each new season and each new group of ensemble Players, there has been a play that suits them well,” she says. This year, it’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream."

“Because our Players are vibrant young people, we’ll see the play from their point of view,” she explains, “which is naturally fresh and youthful. This will be an honest, straight-forward production.”

But it is Shakespeare, after all, and that calls for extensive preparation. “These Players are very committed to their work—or they wouldn’t be here,” Takakuwa says, noting that the cast is made up of the most enthusiastic and talented Conservatory students, but they don’t audition for the Players ensembles unless they are prepared to devote themselves to long hours of rehearsal—and that’s in addition to twice-weekly classes during the school year.

Takakuwa started rehearsals for A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the actors seated at a long table, reading the script—for three weeks. She says, “I wanted them to understand the poetry within the text before setting foot onstage. At the end of the table read, they needed to be comfortable with their characters.”

She concentrated on the three major themes in the comedy: love, transformation and dream/reality. “It’s all about how people change,” she relates. “The Teen Players are going through their own changes. They’re all in high school now, and two of them are off to college in the fall. In a sense, they’re on the way into their own forests.”

But first, they have a stop in the forest of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where four young lovers flee into the woods on a summer evening—and where strange and wonderful things are about to happen.

Learn more and buy tickets.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Casting Call: Taking on Salieri and Mozart

Actors Talk About Taking on Iconic Roles in Amadeus

Marco Barricelli as Salieri and Asher Grodman as Mozart in Amadeus.

Marco Barricelli
Asher Grodman
Asher Grodman starts the conversation with a secret: for years, he has wanted to work with actor Marco Barricelli. Both are cast in Sir Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus (Segerstrom Stage, May 6-June 5, 2016)—Barricelli as Antonio Salieri and Grodman as Mozart.

“This is a dream come true for me,” says Grodman. “Marco is amazing because of both the ease and power that he works with.”

As for a revelation from Barricelli, read on to find out about that and more as the actors talk about taking on the iconic roles in Sir Peter Shaffer’s award-winning play.

On what drew them to the play

Barricelli: I had never considered playing Salieri until SCR offered it to me. But I had seen the original Broadway production a dozen or so times, with Sir Ian McKellen as Salieri, Tim Curry at Mozart and Jane Seymour as Constanze. It is a great play—and we all want to do “great” plays, right? The role of Salieri also is one of those unscalable mountains: one can never satisfactorily scale it; it is the attempt that is all important. I also enjoy hearing all of the glorious music.

Grodman: The play is brilliant and the role of Mozart is like a playground for any actor. He's like a rubber ball being thrown against a jagged wall: You don't know where it's going, but you know it's going there fast! He's filled with contradictions—he's genius, child-like nature, rebellion and desperate need for approval.

On what’s challenging and fun about their characters

Barricelli: The truth is that I am not a person who likes sweets, but Salieri does and he uses sweets as his substitute for sex, at least to begin with. I think the most challenging thing for me has been the stamina it takes to get through the whole performance; it’s a long play and Salieri never leaves the stage.

I used to think that acting was being unrecognizable on stage; now I know it to be revealing who and what you are. If you can honestly reveal yourself, then it has some truth, and truth allows you and the audience to believe. That’s our job: we make belief—we “make believe.”

Grodman: The play, the cast and the director ar the best things about coming to work each day. In terms of my own work, the most challenging and the most fun have been working with the breadth of the story and and navigating the twists and turns. So much happens: Mozart goes through numerous life-altering moments and responds to them in big ways, but they go by quickly (in the blink of an eye). In addition, the dynamics of the relationships are constantly shifting throughout the play, often because Mozart is so impulsive.It's a bit of an obstacle course for an actor, that that's a lot of fun! I also love the moments when Mozart gets the approval he so desperately needs and when he watches his own work come to life. For me, that's a wonderful feeling.

Characters inspired by actual people

Barricelli: Frankly, as Shakespeare says, “the play’s the thing.” I’m not on stage to perform historical research; I’m performing Mr. Shaffer’s play. It may be interesting to learn some things about the real Salieri, but at the end of the day, we are doing the playwright’s image of Salieri.

Grodman: The play isn't the history, but because there are so many resources out there—like Mozart's music and his letters—I feel that there's a lot of fuel to broaden my own imaginative landscape. I've found that those resources have helped me fall in love with the man.

My favorite line in the play—”My tongue is stupid. My heart isn't.”—is him in a nutshell. He doesn’t know how to communicate, but he knows when he has something that is worthy to say through music; it is pure and it comes from his heart.

If you could share a meal with Mozart or Shaffer

Barricelli: Oh, I’d be too intimidated to have any sort of intelligent conversation!

Grodman: I don't think I'd be invited, but I wonder if Mozart—at least Mozart as he appears in Amadeus—would tease Shaffer for needing five drafts for his play!

Learn more. Buy tickets.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Story: "The Light Princess"

Cover of the 1890 edition.
Cover of the 1962 edition.
Cover of the 2016 edition.
The Theatre for Young Audiences series concludes with the delightful musical, The Light Princess (Julianne Argyros Stage, May 20-June 5, 2016), adapted from an original fairytale by George MacDonald. Read on to learn more about the story itself.

Two Wisemen begin to tell a story set a very long time ago—but they argue and cannot decide how to begin their tale. The King and Queen in the story enter and get the Wisemen back on track.

Our story begins once upon a time. A young King and Queen are happy and in love, until they discover that they cannot have children. They seek the help of the Queen’s sister, a Witch who also is in love with the King. She agrees to help, for a price. The King and Queen rejoice over the arrival of a baby daughter, until they discover that she has no gravity, either physical or emotional. The Princess not only floats, she can’t feel serious emotions like fear, sadness, or love—and if she can’t find her gravity by her 16th birthday, the Witch will take over the kingdom.

As the Princess grows up, what she loves more than anything is to swim in the lake, for that is the one place she has weight. But the Wisemen, her guardians and tutors, don’t have time to swim with her. The Princess’ 16th birthday is fast approaching, and the Wisemen are busy coming up with ideas to help her find her gravity. Alas, the Princess’ attempts to cry all end in laughter… because, as the Queen points out, love, not tears, is what allows us to feel weighty emotions. However, the Princess has never fallen in love. Over the Queen’s objections, the King and Wisemen decide to hold a Suitor Competition to find the Princess a husband.

Meanwhile, a young Prince (in disguise as a musician) wanders through the forest, trying in vain to write a love song. He convinces the Witch to let him stay with her. While playing his guitar on the shore of the lake, he hears the Princess splashing and jumps in to save her. She, of course, did not need to be saved, and demands that he put her back in the lake. He jumps in with her—the first time in her life that she has experienced falling. It’s amazing. She teaches him to play Marco Polo, and he flies her back to her balcony for the night. He has fallen in love.

The King and the Witch are both alarmed to hear of the meeting. The King, determined to find a suitable husband for the Princess, brings in a series of suitors with alarming proposals to keep her weighted down. The Queen is so upset by the King’s single-minded pursuit of a son-in-law that they quarrel, and she returns the key to his heart. Meanwhile, the Witch, determined to keep the Princess from falling in love, bewitches the Prince and sets him to work digging a hole at the bottom of the Princess’ lake, causing all the water to drain out.

The Princess is furious when she finds out who is causing the lake to drain away. To make amends, the Prince offers to plug the hole with his own body, knowing that he will drown as soon as the water closes over his head. He asks the Princess to wait with him as the water rises. She does not want to speak to him, but is eventually persuaded to give the Prince a kiss before he dies. He sings his first love song as the waters rise above his head. The Princess saves the drowning Prince from the lake and revives him. For the first time in her life, she cries and her tears refill the lake. The curse is broken and the Princess falls to the ground with her gravity restored.

The Witch returns to find that her power is gone. The King wishes to punish the Witch, but the Princess intervenes—the Witch, too, she says, just needs to be taught how to love. In the end, the King and Queen reconcile, the Wisemen retire and the Princess, with her musician Prince at her side, becomes her father’s chief advisor. A happy ending for all!

Learn more and buy tickets.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Performance Ensemble: Summer Fun for Busy Kids

Donald Amerson with his students.
Kristian Leach with her students.
Summer Performance Ensemble is a three-week class for returning students who rehearse—and then perform—a show for friends and families. Students who sign up for Performance Ensemble have three things in common—they’re enthusiastic, talented and busy.

As much as they love acting, they don’t necessarily have time in their schedules for the SCR Players (students chosen by audition who attend year-round classes twice a week, plus extra hours during rehearsal and the run of their shows).

So a three-week summer program is the perfect solution—especially when classes are held mornings only (from 9am to 12pm) on week days, with the performance on Saturday of the final week.

This summer, students in grades 4-6 will go on a journey from Connecticut to Camelot—with instructor Donald Amerson, who is looking forward to the trip.

“What’s more fun than rehearsing a light-hearted comedy like A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court?” Donald asks. “The play is based on the story by Mark Twain, and we’ll approach the material by using the text (which is filled with humor) to help our young actors understand how to develop characters and follow direction. And while the production will be ambitious, the process will be just as important as the performance. I think they’ll have a great time during the three-week rehearsal period and develop a real love for the craft of acting.”

Instructor Kristina Leach offers her students in grades 7-12 a unique experience rehearsing and performing an ensemble piece that they write themselves, with her guidance.

“It’s so much fun putting together something of our own that we rehearse as we go along,” Kristina says. “I don’t even choose a theme until the first day of class when I meet and get to know the students. In the past we’ve tackled subjects like ‘global warming’ and ‘what scares you?’ Last summer, we wrote original monologues that included a teenaged super hero, a love-starved dragon and a witch with a YouTube channel. This class is for actors who like to write, writers who like to act—and students who don’t even realize they can do it all!”

Learn more about SCR's Theatre Conservatory.

Monday, April 18, 2016

"Office Hour" Opens to Cheers at South Coast Repertory

If a curtain had fallen on the final scene of Julia Cho’s new play on the Julianne Argyros Stage, the first line of Party Play would be, “World Premiere sets curtain call record at South Coast Repertory.”

But, since there is not a physical curtain on the Argyros Stage, here’s what happened on the April 15, First Night of Office Hour: the lights went down as the play ended and, after a moment to catch collective breaths, First Nighters rose to their feet spontaneously and applause turned to cheers as the cast took bow after bow…after bow.

During the Cast Party on Ela’s Terrace, thoughtful words from Honorary Producers Tim and Marianne Kay said it all. “Office Hour grabbed us and didn’t let go. Julia Cho’s script and Neel Keller’s direction made the play ‘pop’ in a way you can only understand by seeing it. The topic is something that wrenches many hearts. Julia’s play gives us the ability to consider different possibilities. Sandra Oh and Raymond Lee captured the audience.”

Having trouble viewing the slideshow? Try watching it here.

Read the Los Angeles Times Sunday Conversation with Sandra Oh
Read the LA Times’ review of Office Hour

Actors of the Pacific Playwrights Festival: Being Part of Something Amazing

Pacific Playwrights Festival participants meet-n-greet in 2015.
Hundreds of actors have helped new works come to life at the Pacific Playwrights Festival (PPF) for the past 19 years. Each loves getting a phone call from Joanne DeNaut, SCR’s casting director, because the festival is where s/he can “work on exciting text, with an incredible artistic team, in one of the very best theatres in the country.” We caught up with four PPF veteran actors and talked about their love for the festival.

Matthew Arkin
2016 PPF: A Perfect Circle by Noah Haidle (reading)
Past PPF: Our Mother's Brief Affair by Richard Greenberg (production); The Prince of Atlantis by Steven Druckman (reading and production); Hope and Gravity by Michael Hollinger (reading); The Whistleblower by Itamar Moses (reading)

Best experience: Working on a new play at an initial reading is one of my favorite parts of being an actor. There is little that is as rewarding as being in on the development of a new piece, working cheek-by-jowl with the playwright and a director as you test and probe the plot, the characters, and their motivations. It really becomes about the text, mining what works, finding out what doesn't, and watching a new work go through its birth pangs as it transforms, ultimately, one hopes, into something that really speaks to an audience.

Favorite festival memory: Working with my brother Adam on the PPF reading of The Prince of Atlantis. Getting to play brother to my brother was so easy and natural, and we know each other so well that I felt it brought a depth to the relationship and the humor that's pretty rare to experience.

Best part of PPF: There's nothing better than grown-up actor camp, getting to spend a week working, socializing and catching up with so many incredible talents from our industry and getting the chance to see their work and learn from them all.

Emily Bergl
2016 PPF: Wink by Jen Silverman (reading)
Past PPF: The Hiding Place by Jeff Whitty (workshop); Ridiculous Fraud by Beth Henley (reading); Emilie: La Marquise Du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight by Lauren Gunderson (reading); Kin by Bathsheba Doran (reading)

Favorite memory: My favorite memory of PPF is from when I was doing a reading of Jeff Whitty's The Hiding Place and was in the middle of a very plaintive, quiet monologue. During a pause an old lady in the audience exclaimed, "She has a great nose!" I couldn't really be offended.

The festival’s special quality: I know this word is overused, but PPF is a wonderful reminder that we are part of a community. It's easy to get bogged down with the day-to-day trials and tribulations in the business, but when you walk across that plaza at PPF and bump into so many people that you respect and actually know, you can't help but feel grateful.

Corey Brill
2016 PPF: Office Hour by Julia Cho (production)
Past PPF: Smokefall by Noah Haidle (production); Five Mile Lake by Rachel Bonds (production); Of Good Stock by Melissa Ross (production)

Inaugurating a role: I've been so lucky to be a part of—so far!—four consecutive PPFs! The festival has allowed me to play a reluctant fetus, a doctoral student in crises, a reluctant fiancé and now a concerned adjunct professor. One of the coolest opportunities for an actor is to work on an original script with the playwright's input, to be a part of the development of a play from the start is kind of an actor's dream. (Plus, nobody can say that they've seen the role portrayed better!)

Favorite festival memory: During the run of Smokefall by Noah Haidle, an important scene transition had a problem: a staircase that was supposed to retract refused to budge and there was no way to continue with the scene. After an apologetic announcement from the stage manager's booth, the great Orson Bean (who played The Colonel in the play) said "I've got this!" and came onstage from the wings. He entertained everyone with about 10 minutes of his classic vaudeville jokes until the problem had been solved! It was so cool to see a master in his element like that!

Importance of the festival: Every play on Broadway or the West End or at the local community theatre was shared with an audience for the first time once. I always think of the audience as the final character and the very first performance as the moment that a "script" becomes a "play." PPF has given me opportunities to be a part of that really special metamorphosis. Each play is unique, but at SCR I've found these things to be constant: you work on exciting text with an incredible artistic team in one of the very best theatres in the country. I'll always be proud to have been involved.

Linda Gehringer
2016 PPF: A Perfect Circle by Noah Haidle
Past PPF: The Mechanics by Chris Van Groningen (reading); The Butterfly Collection by Theresa Rebeck (reading); Getting Frankie Married—and Afterwards by Horton Foote (production); Lobster Face by Magdalena Gomez (reading); The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow by Rolin Jones (production); A Naked Girl on the Appian Way by Richard Greenberg (production); The Piano Teacher by Julia Cho (reading); Emilie: La Marquise Du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight by Lauren Gunderson (reading); The Language Archive by Julia Cho (production); Kin by Bathsheba Doran (reading); The Few by Samuel D. Hunter (reading); The Parisian Woman by Beau Willimon (production); Future Thinking by Eliza Clark (reading)

The festival community: Working on new plays is always exciting but doing it in an atmosphere where there are artists from all over the country who are doing the same thing and then performing the play for the first time in front of an audience of artists and patrons who feel so deeply about new play development is simply thrilling.

Favorite festival moment: One of my favorite PPF stories is when I read Julia Cho's The Piano Teacher. So much of the dialogue was mine it was the first time I realized the fate of this play could be in my hands and I was terrified! I was shaking and couldn't even think straight before I walked on stage, but the warm, wise and welcoming audience just rode the wave of Julia’s beautiful play and they all stood and applauded at the end of that reading on a very early Sunday morning. I just started crying because my sense of relief was so profound. It also was the beginning of an addiction to feeling that passionate about new work.

Best memory: The very first Pacific Playwrights Festival took place in the beginning stages of my relationship with SCR and I was invited to read a play called The Mechanics that Andrew Robinson directed. I remember there were all these tables set up and we were having drinks after some reading or function…..and there were people I knew from around the country and people I was meeting for the first time and, honestly, I felt like I was with the cool kids……and I still do! I keep my fingers crossed every year that Joanne DeNaut, our casting director, will call.

Rob Nagle
2016 PPF: A Perfect Circle by Noah Haidle
Past PPF: Rest by Samuel D. Hunter; Of Good Stock by Melissa Ross; The Whistleblower by Itamar Moses

Importance of working on a new play: There is nothing like being in the rehearsal room with a writer as the story is being made, or perhaps "found" is a better word. The sense of exploration, discovery, play and collaboration is tremendously exciting—and it doesn't matter if we're crossing out lines or being handed new pages; it always feels like I'm part of something vital and bigger than me.

Favorite roles: Well, in the last two PPFs, I was fortunate enough to be performing in the shows running on the Segerstrom Stage. In 2014, it was Samuel D. Hunter's Rest and in 2015, it was Melissa Ross' Of Good Stock. So last year, it was a real treat when I got to be part of the reading of Itamar Moses' The Whistleblower.

Taking part in PPF means: That I'm on the frontlines of some of the most exciting theatre being created in this country. To have this treasure in our Southern California backyard is profound, and I am so very grateful for it.

Learn more about the 2016 Pacific Playwrights Festival and purchase tickets.

Pacific Playwrights Festival 2016: New Play Starter Kit

South Coast Repertory’s annual Pacific Playwrights Festival (PPF) is a major national showcase for new plays and it's this weekend—April 22-24. The three-day festival attracts theatre professionals and new play lovers from across the nation, who are drawn by the chance to be the first to see some of the best new plays in the country. Here is our PPF New Play Starter Kit—your guide to getting the most out of your PPF weekend.

Get PPF Updates and Join the Conversation

Follow SCR on Twitter at @SouthCoastRep for updates throughout the weekend.

Connect with us and other PPF attendees, tweet with us using #PPF2016.

Go Behind-The-Scenes of PPF

Follow us on Instagram at @SouthCoastRep for behind-the-scenes photos of the festival.

Follow our PPF story on Snapchat at @SouthCoastRep. Get a look at the PPF weekend through the eyes of SCR Communications Associate Nicholas Pilapil.

New Play Development at SCR

SCR has presented 500 plays over its more than five-decade history. And the number continues to climb as we watch plays developed here go on to other productions across the country. But what kind of process does a new play go through to reach that stage? Check out the banners in the lobby that show a new play’s journey.

The South Coast Repertory Podcast

Why New Plays Matter

Interview with Office Hour Playwright Julia Cho

PPF Playwrights Panel: The Wright Stuff
Sunday, April 24, at 9 a.m., South Coast Repertory presents The Wright Stuff, a colloquy which personalizes the playwriting process, with the writers of the 2016 Pacific Playwrights Festival, including Rachel Bonds, Julia Cho, Eliza Clark, Noah Haidle, Meg Miroshnik, Kemp Powers and Jen Silverman. Admission is free or you can live stream the panel via HowlRound.

Liz Engelman will moderate the conversation. Liz is a freelance dramaturg, faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin and director of Tofte Lake Center at Norm’s Fish Camp, a multidisciplinary artists retreat in northern Minnesota.

Topics may include:
  • Germinating ideas for the plays featured in the festival
  • Writing routines and regimens
  • Approaches to rewriting
  • Choosing and working with collaborators

Experience a PPF Play!
There's no better way to experience PPF than by seeing a new play.

A Perfect Circle
by ​Noah Haidle
directed by ​Evan Cabnet
dramaturg​, Kimberly Colburn
Friday, April 22, at 1 p.m., on the Segerstrom Stage
Jackie is trying desperately to deliver on a long-deferred promise of building a garden for his wife. She’s dying, their son is coming home after a lengthy absence, the weeds in the backyard won’t stop growing, and that haunted train whistle keeps getting closer. Heartbreak with a twist of Haidle.

Little Black Shadows
by ​Kemp Powers
directed by ​​May Adrales
dramaturg​, Andy Knight
Friday, April ​22, at 3:30 p.m., on the Segerstrom Stage
Toy and Colis are children; so are the masters they silently serve on a Georgia cotton plantation. Only at night do the young slaves come alive, to tell stories and dream by the light of fireflies. But their world is about to change forever. Do they dare to come out of the shadows?

Curve of Departure
by ​Rachel Bonds
directed by​ ​Mike Donahue
dramaturg​, John Glore
Saturday, April 2​3, at 10:30 a.m., on the Segerstrom Stage
On a balmy New Mexico night in a too-small motel room, a “ragtag little group of humans” gathers in anticipation of the funeral that has brought them together. But the dearly departed is the least of their concerns as they all grapple with the curves life has thrown them.

Lady Tattoo
by ​Meg Miroshnik
directed by ​Marti Lyons
dramatug​, Joy Meads
Sunday, April 24, at 10:30 a.m., on the Segerstrom Stage
At the beginning of the 20th century, tattooed lady Picky is commissioned by Lady Elizabeth Arterton to do some custom inking. It quickly becomes more than a transaction as desperation, regret and art collide in a world where a woman’s options are corseted.

by ​Jen Silverman
directed by ​​Bart DeLorenzo
dramaturg​, Jerry Patch
Friday, April 2​2, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, April 2​3, at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sunday, April 24, at 2:30 p.m., ​in the Nicholas Studio
Sofie is distraught over the disappearance of her beloved cat Wink. Her husband Gregor knows what happened, but he’s not talking​—except to Dr. Frans, the oddball shrink he shares with Sofie. But some things won’t stay buried, and when Wink turns up unexpectedly with plans for revenge, things get really wild. Repression is a bitch.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

"Amadeus:" A Refresher on the Story

It’s 1781, and Antonio Salieri holds the illustrious position of chamber composer in the Viennese court of Emperor Joseph II. Salieri is the model of success: his operas are loved in both Vienna and across Europe, his musical taste is exquisite and his skill at court politics is undeniable.

But the pious Salieri knows that success doesn’t come for free; he believes that God bestows His gifts on only the most righteous, the most deserving. That is until Salieri meets Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, wunderkind composer and enfant terrible. Mozart is gaudy, bawdy, petulant—and a remarkable talent.

It’s not long before Salieri recognizes his own music is, at best, adequate next Mozart’s—amusing trifles in the shadows of great works of art—and he’s consumed by jealousy. How could a just God give so much to someone so…small? How could the Almighty turn his back on Salieri, his greatest attendant?

As Salieri’s envy grows, he wages a war against God—with Mozart is the battleground.
Amadeus by Peter Shaffer runs May 6-June 5, 2016, on the Segerstrom Stage.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Sally at the Helm

SCR Trustee Sally Anderson has been named Executive Chair of SCR’s 2016 Gala, “Stagestruck,” (scheduled for Saturday, September 10 at The Westin South Coast Plaza). And she’s off to a sensational start, assuming the mantle with aplomb and adding Underwriting Chair to her title.

At their kick-off luncheon meeting on March 31, Gala Committee members agreed that Sally is ideally suited to the double-whammy title and all that it entails. A retired business executive, she was managing partner of Ernst & Young’s Orange County practice, and she’ll draw on that successful career in the business world to lead the Gala’s fundraising efforts.

According to Sally, being an SCR Trustee was the perfect segue to leading the Gala. “I enjoy working with all the people associated with SCR because they’re so much fun!”

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Monday, April 11, 2016

Casting Director Joanne DeNaut

Joanne DeNaut with actor Daniel Blinkoff at the Pacific Playwrights Festival.
On Casting Director Joanne DeNaut’s desk sits a crystal obelisk—the Casting Society of America’s Artios Award for Excellence in Casting—one of many honors she has received through the years. Outside her office door hangs an equally meaningful piece: a framed photograph from South Coast Repertory’s 1978 production of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, a reminder of the moment that she was introduced to theatre in Costa Mesa.

Brooklyn-born DeNaut was an urban planning major at the University of California, Irvine, when she took a class on Women in Literature and went to see the Ibsen production at a small theatre company—SCR—on Newport Boulevard. David Emmes directed and the production values “totally surprised me. I thought ‘This is a good as New York!’” She became an SCR convert.

But life got in the way: she continued her studies at UCI, worked at a waterfront restaurant, had a 7-year-old and had no time to attend theatre. But SCR stayed on her mind. With a social ecology degree in hand and a job lined up, she realized that maybe she didn’t want to work in the city government. She wanted to do something more creative.

A newspaper ad for an SCR job caught her eye and she jumped at the chance to be an executive assistant to Founding Artistic Directors David Emmes and Martin Benson. Like many others at theatre, she grew her skills by wearing many different hats, what she describes as being “like getting my theatre master’s degree.” She worked closely with Lee Shallat, then a stage director, Conservatory director and casting director, who became somewhat of a mentor.

“She told me that casting is not something you learn, but rather a more innate ability to assess talent,” DeNaut says. "That was my entrance into the start of my career in casting." Being a casting director didn’t just “happen” for her. “It took me many years to develop my skills in the art of collaboration when working with artists and I’m still learning.”

Jenny O'Hara, Arye Gross and Marin Hinkle in Richard Greenberg's Our Mother's Brief Affair in 2008.

Mark Harelik and Paul David Story in the 2016 production of Red by John Logan.

Gregory Sims and Nancy Bell in the 2012 revival of Sight Unseen by Donald Margulies.

The cast of Cyrano de Bergerac in 2004.

DeNaut and Mark Rucker.
What does a casting director do?
There’s a misconception that a casting director chooses the actors for a play, TV or film. That doesn’t happen; I don’t choose who’s on that stage; in my role, I choose the pool of actors from which the director, playwright and artistic director will cast actors through auditions. It’s a collaboration, but ultimately the final choice is in the director’s hands.

I read the play to get a sense of the roles and then have the director tell me how he/she sees the characters. If it’s a new play, the playwright is involved in that process as well. Once I receive his/her notes, I make lists and send them off.

We do many readings each season at SCR, which is a different casting process because we do not have auditions and often there is not a director. After discussion with either the writer or director, I will I send ideas. The writer and director often are not familiar with the pool of actors in the Los Angeles area, so they rely heavily on the information I provide to them. Casting for readings is important since the playwright relies on these actors to tell their story.

What happens in an audition?
We use the description of the characters, called the ‘breakdown’, to choose the actors who come in to audition. Actors will have the script and the scenes ahead of time for what they will be reading. The director and casting team will be in the room and, if it’s a new play, the playwright will be there as well. We provide a reader for the audition, someone who will read all the other parts. Readers are important because they provide assistance to the actors in their scene, while being careful not to steal focus. Depending upon the number of roles left to cast, we will have a 4-6 hour session and then have a day of callbacks after narrowing the choices.

What are the challenges and delights in your job?
Currently, I’m focused on the Pacific Playwrights Festival and this always is an interesting time. This year, there are 25 roles and several of those are particularly challenging. Watching these plays come alive in the readings with those actors is really one of the most thrilling parts of being a casting director.

What are some personal moments that stand out for you?
Working on all the new plays has been the most rewarding, particularly getting to work with major American playwrights such as Richard Greenberg, Howard Korder, Amy Freed and Donald Margulies. There are countless others as well and many have now gone on to be successful writers in film and television.

This season, working on John Logan’s Red, Mark Harelik already was signed for the role of Mark Rothko. Mark is amazing and a favorite of mine. I had seen Paul David Story in productions at several other theatres and really admired his work. We brought him here to audition several times and he always was a contender, but not cast. It was so rewarding to have him earn the role of Ken and be so wonderful in it. The relationship between Rothko and Ken was factor in the success of that show.

The late Mark Rucker was a favorite director for me to work with—well, he was everybody’s favorite: backstage crew, designers, actors...everyone. He smart, a true visionary, a great collaborator and the kindest soul. His production of Cyrano de Bergerac was one of the highlights for me. It was a huge undertaking, with a giant cast, and he rose to the challenge by making everyone want to contribute to its success. It was wonderful.

Experience the result of DeNaut’s work in both staged readings and full productions during the 2016 Pacific Playwrights Festival. Learn more.

Literary Low Down: Pacific Playwrights Festival

Playwrights (L to R) Jen Silverman, Kemp Powers, Meg Miroshnik, Noah Haidle and Rachel Bonds
South Coast Repertory's Pacific Playwrights Festival (PPF) has been a launching pad for many plays and playwrights, including David Lindsay-Abaire's Pulitzer Prize winning Rabbit Hole, Jordan Harrison's Marjorie Prime, Lynn Nottage's Intimate Apparel, and last year's Vietgone by Qui Nguyen.

This year's festival will bring the total number of plays presented in PPF to 12​3, including many that have become mainstays of contemporary American theatre. This year's group of playwrights range from SCR newcomers Jen Silverman and Kemp Powers to returning playwrights Meg Miroshnik (The Droll), Noah Haidle (Smokefall) and Rachel Bonds (Five Mile Lake). The five playwrights in this case, took sometime to share parts of their literary lives and a glimpse into their writing spaces.

Jen Silverman
Why is this your writing space?
I like walls and corners. And alligators.

What’s the story you read in secret?
My parents love books, and our house was always full of them. Nothing felt that secret. I remember finding and reading Nabokov’s Lolita when I was 10 or 11. I told this to someone once and they were so freaked out that my parents hadn’t stopped me. But the thing my parents always got is that kids ignore the stuff they don’t have the tools to understand….which was clear to me when I reread the book years later. I was like, “Oh, this is about pedophilia? I thought this was about a road-trip!”

When did you know you wanted to be a playwright?
I stumbled into playwriting as a freshman at Brown University. Emily O’Dell was getting her MFA at the time and was responsible for teaching/corrupting the freshman. She was behind so much amazing madness, including a bizarre night of plays from which the only image I retain is a glorious bohemian creature whispering “syphilis” into a cordless mic. Needless to say, hooked for life.

What play changed your life?
Sarah Kane’s Blasted, Caryl Churchill’s Faraway, Basil Kreimendahl’s Orange Julius. At different moments and in different ways, but indelibly.

Why is this your writing space?
I primarily write at my dining room table. Largely because the dining room is easily flooded with natural light, which is my preferred lighting method. I'm much more of a daytime than nighttime writer.

What’s the story you read in secret?
Judy Blume's Blubber.

When did you know you wanted to be a playwright?
There wasn't a single "aha" moment. I've always been a storyteller, in one form or another. I guess after spending more than 15 years as a journalist and realizing the stories I now longed to tell were not meant for that medium, I knew it was time to make a change. I'd always been a tremendous theater enthusiast, but I viewed it as the art form that "other people got to do." I started off doing storytelling, and that morphed into a one-man show, which helped me realize I had zero desire to be a performer. Then I started writing for short play and 24 hour play festivals until eventually, someone asked if I had any play ideas of my own that I wanted to write.

What plays changed your life?
A Soldier's Play. Cabaret. The Tempest. My first trip overseas in my early 20s was a spur-of-the-moment flight to London to catch a production of The Tempest at the Barbican. I still have the framed poster from that production. It's a gigantic photo of Prospero.

Meg Miroshnik
Lady Tattoo
Why is this your writing space?
I finally got unpacked from a recent move!

What’s the story you read in secret?
Besides sneaking in a little V.C. Andrews here and there, I think the most important secretive storytelling experience I've ever had was surreptitiously renting a VHS copy of Thelma and Louise. It's a great fricking movie, but I think having snuck in my first viewing has caused me to remember it even more fondly.

When did you know you wanted to be a playwright?
I did a lot of acting as a kid in Minneapolis and, when I was 17, I booked my dream job: the role of Meg in a production of Little Women. It felt like destiny! After all, I'd been named after the character. There was just one moment that I found difficult. I had to laugh at the actor playing Amy and I always found myself getting nervous before that moment, anxious that I might not be able to do it. I was so worried about staying present enough to laugh that I couldn't possibly relax and laugh. It got so bad that matinee school groups would start laughing at me trying to laugh at Amy. After that experience, I knew. I was not an actor. But I was still in love with theater and still wanted a way in. I could write and imagine a moment of pure, uninhibited laughing, but I would need to let others actually live it.

What play changed your life?
Mud by Maria Irene Fornes. I've never actually seen a production of it, but I remember pulling a copy off the library shelf and having that moment where the top of my head kind of lifted off. That play just opened up my sense of what makes a play a play. And it was the first play I remember reading in which a character told a story within a story. I am a sucker for the story within a story. I'm already three-quarters of the way toward liking something if a  character says "once upon a time."  

Noah Haidle
A Perfect Circle
Why is this your writing space?
It’s close to the refrigerator.

What’s the story you read in secret?
If I said it wouldn’t be a secret. If nothing else I hope I’m a man of some discretion.

What play changed your life and coincidentally was the moment that made you want to be a playwright?
My brother was in some murder mystery in the high school cafeteria. I can ask my Mom as to its exact title, but safe to say something along the lines of Gadzooks the Cook is Dead. Here’s a truly dime store psychological profile of my life: my brother is 4 years older than me, was a really really smart kid (PhD Organic Chemistry, Harvard). This was in a small Midwestern public school—he was special—I had every teacher he had, and they all looked at me askance, “So you’re Andrew Haidle’s little brother, huh?”  He played soccer, I played soccer, he played tennis, I played tennis, he was captain of the quizbowl team (group jeopardy for nerds), I was captain of the quizbowl team.  But when I auditioned for Gadzooks the Cook is Dead, or its equivalent, I failed so epically I’ve never tried acting again but became a playwright instead.

Rachel Bonds
Curve of Departure
Why is this your writing space?
I used to write in our apartment in Greenpoint, but that got to be too distracting. Last year I started renting a desk at Brooklyn Writers’ Space in Cobble Hill, which was life-changing. There was something about having to do the 20-minute commute every day, and the absolute quiet there, and just the empty desk with a single lamp that helped my productivity and focus enormously. Plus no one is allowed to talk to you. It’s wonderful.

What’s the story you read in secret?
I would always hide Sweet Valley High books in the pile that my mom would check out for me from the library, which was typically full of actual literature written by esteemed writers. She did not approve of Sweet Valley High. Which, now that I think about it, and look at Google images of the book covers featuring tiny, tan, blue-eyed blond girls, makes a lot of sense.

When did you know you wanted to be a playwright?
I don’t know that there was one moment when I realized the whole thought. I think I learned bit by bit, in almost imperceptible ways, over the two years after I graduated college. I was trying to be an actor, but also writing both prose and plays. At some point I noticed that the people whose successes I would feel jealous of were always writers. There was also one night, very early on in our relationship, when my husband, said to me “I think that acting is ultimately going to make you shrink, and writing is going to make you expand.” He was right. I knew he was right. After that, I slowly let my acting pursuits fall away. I didn’t miss them. And I shifted all of my focus to writing, which felt hard and terrifying, and also discouraging at times, but also right.

What play changed your life?
When I was in college, I saw this play by Forced Entertainment, I think at PS 122, that consisted of Tim Etchells sitting at a table and reading stories and showing videos people had sent to him.  It was called Instructions for Forgetting. I still think about it all the time. I would add Nature Theatre of Oklahoma’s No Dice to this list.  And more recently, An Octoroon.

Learn more and buy tickets to the Pacific Playwrights Festival

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Director’s Notes: Kent Nicholson Talks About "Amadeus"

Mozart by Johann Nepomuk della Croce (1736–1819)
Amadeus Synopsis

Vienna, 1781. The city is abuzz with the arrival of young Mozart who can write an opera a week, but can’t control his exuberant giggling and notorious libido. Antonio Salieri—until now the royal court’s most lauded musician—recognizes Mozart’s genius and does everything to thwart the success of this enfant terrible. Will that include murder?
Kent Nicholson takes a moment to think about the nearly four-decade popularity of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus: “While the play is epic in scope, it’s also a very personal story,” he says. “And I also think passion, lust and lust for power resonate with audiences!” he adds, laughing. He will direct Shaffer’s play, which concludes South Coast Repertory’s 2015-16 season (May 5-June 6, 2016).

Since its 1979 London debut (with a first SCR production in 1983), Amadeus has drawn in audiences through Shaffer’s simple, yet powerful storytelling. (See the synopsis, right).

We asked Nicholson to talk more about Amadeus.

Why does the play remain popular?
One of the themes in Amadeus is transition. The late 18th century was a huge period of political transition and transformation: the American Revolution had just happened, the Austrian Empire was starting to collapse and other revolutions—including the French Revolution—were sweeping Europe. I think our world today reflects some of that transition and transformation, so I don’t think it’s an accident that this play keeps coming back.

Mozart himself stood at a time of transition in the arts, when people’s thinking began to change about art, life and what has value. He actually ushered in the Romantic era, but we don’t think of him in that way; we think of Beethoven as the first Romantic, but he was Mozart’s student.

There’s also something universal about how Antonio Salieri experiences the world in the play and his potential for mediocrity. The play talks about two choices that everyone has: to recognize the future and embrace it or recognize the future and destroy it. I think Salieri recognized the future—the transition that was coming—didn’t know what to do with it and so he tried to destroy it.

Was Mozart a rock star in his time?
He was a rock star as a child prodigy when he toured Europe, but that may have been more about the novelty of watching an eight-year-old play the keyboard. Mozart often was rejected during his lifetime and died relatively poor, at the age of 35. After his death, his wife began selling his works and when people began to rediscover his music, he became wildly popular.

Mozart is more like Vincent van Gogh or Jeff Buckley, both of whom became more famous after their deaths.

What’s the difference between the film and the play?
They tell the same story, but they don’t use the same script. Film director Milos Forman didn’t use the play script, he adapted it and used all the tools of cinema to create some spectacular visuals—like Mozart’s opera, Don Giovanni.

In the stage version, we’re much more inside Salieri’s head and that lets us use all the tools of theatre for visual storytelling with an emphasis on the words. Costume and set changes help us move through time, from Salieri as an old man to his younger self, a contemporary of Mozart. The cast is smaller—just over a dozen actors—and we have some actors playing multiple roles. Music, of course, is important and it is woven throughout the play.

What can you tell us about the creative designs for SCR’s production?
I direct a lot of musicals and what I enjoy is the pure emotional experience those bring [Editor’s note: Nicholson’s last SCR production was The Light in the Piazza]. To me, Mozart’s music is some of the most beautiful ever, so we’re being given the opportunity to shape the full experience of the play by weaving the music through it. While it’s not a musical, it functions like one, which is another reason that I wanted to direct Amadeus.

The set will have realistic elements and also things that hint back to theatre design of that era. There are about 80 costumes and they will be accurate, historical representations of the time period. They will help tell the story visually by indicating where the story is in time, taking us from the 1820s when Salieri is an old man back to the 1780s. In that 40-year-span, fashions and culture changed dramatically.

Can you tell us about the play’s humor?
I think people will be surprised by how funny, Amadeus is! This is not a farce, with comic bits and set-up pieces; the humor comes from human folly, like members of the royal court whose own sense of self-importance becomes completely ridiculous. Mozart’s childishness also is appealing, but that is part of what destroys him. I think that to make people have a profound experience, they have to laugh first.

What do you want audiences to take away?
I want people to feel that they’ve experienced something extraordinary. Amadeus is at the same time a spectacular but very human play. We don’t see those two things working together very often in theatre. That’s what theatre does very well: turns the personal into something more.

Give us three words that describe Amadeus.
Love, jealousy and murder (laughing).

Learn more and buy tickets.

Monday, April 4, 2016

"Future Thinking" Separates Fantasy from Reality

Or does it?

On First Night of Future Thinking, after an enthusiastic standing ovation, Peter and Chiara headed to the dressing room to step out of Comic Con costumes and into Cast Party clothes—as actors Arye Gross and Virginia Vale. Along with fellow cast members Heidi Dippold, Enver Gjokaj and Jud Williford, they joined the party, hosted by Silver Trumpet Restaurant and Bar at the Avenue of the Arts Hotel.

There, touches of fantasy abounded—in the gold linens sparkling in candlelight, inspired by Chiara’s “Odyssey” costume, in the “Red Priestess” signature cocktail and even in the “dragon wings” (fantasy-inspired chicken wings) which were among the scrumptious delicacies offered in elaborate displays by the restaurant in its third consecutive season as Cast Party sponsors.

As for the accolades, they were very real.  Among them, these offered by members of Playwrights Circle, Honorary Producers of Future Thinking

Tod and Linda White: "We loved Future Thinking!  It confronts the "happiness versus success" dilemma with an effective balance of humor and pathos. An important question is addressed with great writing and great acting.  Everyone involved with Future Thinking should be very proud."

Talya Nevo-Hacohen: “So moving to watch the characters move fluidly between reality and fantasy, from desperation to hope.” Bill Schenker: "A wonderful play using comedy to actually tell a much deeper story: people just want to be accepted for who they are.

Alan Slutzky: "The hotel room scenes with Arye Gross and Virginia Vale were brilliantly funny, sad and poignant. The ending left much to the imagination about what happened next, but I enjoy Eliza’s writing so much I would prefer she write a sequel."

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