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A Necessary Change

August 16th, 2012 by

Back in 1959, a young television writer named Carl Reiner developed, produced and starred in a pilot episode for a new TV series that was to be called Head of the Family.  It was, for Reiner who had worked as a writer on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows, a semi autobiographical show about a TV writer, his loving wife and their young son.  The pilot wasn’t terrible but something about it just didn’t click with audiences and the show wasn’t picked up by the network.  Reiner thought it over long and hard and finally came to the realization that what most needed changing was the actor playing the male lead.  Basically, he had fired himself from playing himself.  It wasn’t because he was a bad actor, but he knew that the show needed someone with the right energy and it wasn’t him.  After a brief search, a charming young actor named Dick Van Dyke was cast to play the male lead Rob Petrie.  Van Dyke was then paired with Mary Tyler Moore who would play Rob’s wife and the rest, as they say, is TV history.  The Dick Van Dyke show has gone on to become a beloved part of our collective pop culture.

Why am I bringing up a show from the early 60′s in this blog about ATG?  Because something very similar has just taken place at our little theatre group.  Earlier this month we finally announced auditions for our next show “Bob Juan Casanova”, which will perform this October at the Midvale Main Street Theatre.  The play is a humorous look at my own romantic struggles and originally I had intended to play the title role myself.  But then I thought things over and realized that another actor would be needed if this show was to live up to it’s highest potential.  It wasn’t because I’m not a good actor, I just knew I was too close to the material to really do it proper justice.  I discussed this at length with JC Carter (the show’s director) and we agreed not only that another actor was needed to play Bob but that there was only one actor out there we wanted for the role: one Mr. JayC Stoddard.

If that name is familiar to all you ATG fans, that’s because it should be.  Stoddard has appeared in 3 full length ATG productions since making his debut with the company in 2008′s Picasso at the Lapin Agile, playing the title character.  He followed that role up just months later playing Tom in The Glass Menagerie and then he returned to ATG three years later playing Ariel in our 2011 production of The Tempest.  Stoddard brings with him years of acting experience and a fresh perspective on the material that JC Carter and I believe will help make this show an artistic success.

And a reminder to all the talented actresses out there who would like to join JayC and JC in making Bob Juan happen, auditions will be held on August 25 from 9am to 12pm at the Midvale Main Street Theatre, located at 7711 South Main Street (700 West), Midvale, Utah.  Those auditioning should bring a recent head-shot and resume (though not required) and must be prepared to cold read from the script.  The play will perform the first two weekends in October (Oct 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13) at the Midvale Main Street Theater. Rehearsals will be weeknights in West Valley beginning August 28.

Auditions for Our Next Show!

August 7th, 2012 by

Around the Globe Theatre Company is holding auditions for a new, original play: “Bob Juan Casanova” by Robert Easton, on August 25 from 9am to 12pm at the Midvale Main Street Theatre–7711 South and Main Street (700 West). The play will be directed by JC Carter

We are seeking 4 actresses to portray the women of Bob’s life. Two actresses will portray multiple roles. The age range can be between 20 and 40. Auditioners must be at least 18 years of age. The parts break down as follows:

ACTRESS #1: Portrays Red Haired Girl, Tracy, and Sierra

ACTRESS #2: Cute Girl in the audience.

ACTRESS #3: Portrays Bianca.

ACTRESS #4: Portrays Rowena, Young Blonde Girl, Valerie, and Kelmarie.

Auditioners should bring a current resume & headshot and be prepared to cold-read from the script.

More Information:

“Bob Juan Casanova” is a semi-autobiographical play about the romantic struggles of an ordinary guy. The story is told from his point of view with him at-first controlling both the action and the scene. But when he is challenged by an audience member who chastises him for his behavior and abuse of his poetic license, the play settles into a conversation between the two about his life and lost loves.

The main role of Bob will be portrayed by the playwright.

ACTRESS #1 should be able to do both an English accent (not Cockney) and a slight Southern accent (from Atlanta, Georgia).

ACTRESS #4 needs to be capable of portraying 4 very different women in personality, age and appearance, as well as able to do a Puerto Rican (or Spanish) accent.

The play features both sexual and romantic themes, and although the play will not be explicit in its portrayal of sexuality, actresses should be comfortable with openly portraying these themes and demonstrating their sensuality.

The play will perform the first two weekends in October (Oct 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13) at the Midvale Main Street Theater. Rehearsals will be weeknights in West Valley beginning August 28.

Our Revels shall Resume

September 13th, 2011 by

Hello again, ATG fans and true theatre lovers!

Bob here, with the first ATG blog since we finished our artistically brilliant run of the Tempest back in July. A lot has happened since closing night and I’d like to give you the 411 on the major stuff. So as some of you may know, after Tempest closed I was ready and willing to close the doors and end ATG forever. Although the show had been a success to us all on stage with beautiful performances and staging (damn Tony Porter made me cry twice closing night with his masterful command of Shakespeare’s language in his final two soliloquies) but we failed to garner enough revenue at the box office, leaving us without adequate funding for our planned October production. It was obvious we’d have to cancel Ten Times Two: the Eternal Courtship (the previously mentioned October show) but I was burnt out and discouraged and wanted to go even further, and decided to end the Around the Globe Theatre altogether after seven years of wonderful theatre. But only hours after making the heart rending decision to close up shop, I had a change of mind.

Luckily JC Carter was more than willing to stick around and help me keep ATG alive, and together we have made plans for 2012. We realized our plans for a 3 show season, with two of the shows requiring we pay for performance rights, was not something we could afford, especially when both royalty shows were (although brilliant works) almost completely unknown to Utah audiences. So we scrapped the lineup of White Buffalo, Anton in Show Business and Twelfth Night and will instead be presenting a two show season featuring one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies and an original script by yours truly.

Our new Shakespeare offering (replacing the previously planned Twelfth Night) will be Othello, the Moor of Venice. JC Carter will direct and he has a great concept for the show which I’m sure he’ll be sharing with you in this blog when the time is right. Othello was chosen over Twelfth Night because after the mostly lighthearted fantasy that was Tempest, we were in the mood for something darker. Plus, a poll given on ATG’s Facebook page showed far more public interest in Othello than in Twelfth Night. Deciding we should maybe just do one Shakespeare show instead of two next year, we felt greatly compelled to pick Othello. Though I love Twelfth Night and perhaps we shall see it on the ATG stage in seasons to come.

Right now, it is our intention to remain at the Midvale Main Street Theatre and we are working to make that happen. Othello will likely perform in March so we’ll need to find adequate rehearsal space, since January and February are bad months for rehearsing in the backyard. Any suggestions for affordable rehearsal space are always welcome and appreciated.

We have decided to not do a show in the Summer but may hold an acting workshop during that time instead. We shall see.

Our fall show (right now I’m thinking September) will be the original script by me that I mentioned earlier. It is a comedy, inspired in part by my real life experiences entitled Bob Juan Casanova. It of course isn’t well known but after a staged reading at the U-ART festival in 2010 it received great audience response. If we can do a good job marketing, I in all humility think we could have a show our audience will enjoy.

Before I wrap this blog up, I’d like o thank Erin Walton for her help guiding JC and I toward our goal of turning ATG into a non-profit organization, which will better enable us to raise funds for our shows and other projects. And also, I’d like to thank all the other people who continue to believe in ATG and have encouraged me to keep the whole thing going. I love you all more than you shall ever know.

Until my next blog, stay safe, be creative, and as always I hope to see you at the show!

Robert A. Easton
Founder and Artistic Director
The Around the Globe Theatre Company

Oh and don’t be afraid to leave a comment below. We like hearing from you. =)

Our Revels Now Are Ended…

August 2nd, 2011 by

After treating his daughter and future son-in-law to a spectacle of the sprites dancing, Prospero suddenly ends the performance and speaks the following verse to his audience:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

I would sit up and listen each night as Tony would speak these lines; each night getting chills and sometimes even feeling a tear well up as I contemplated those words. We were such stuff as dreams were made on, but as our insubstantial pageant faded, we left not a rack behind. The show is over. There will be no NetFlix streaming, no dvds, not even an encore. Our revels have indeed ended, and the great Globe itself is dissolved (until our next show).

If you saw it, supporting us and our efforts, we thank you. Thank you for providing us with an audience, truly our purpose to perform. If you missed it, it is truly a tragedy, because you missed some amazing performances.

 As Prospero’s daughter, Miranda—an innocent teenager whose only knowledge of the world is the island—J.J. Peeler delivers a simply lovely performance. There’s wonderful gentleness to her romantic moments with the newly shipwrecked Ferdinand (Jonathan Sherman Tate) that brings added charm to a girl who’s never seen a handsome young man before. Even when other cast members are a bit less assured in their work, Peeler and the rich direction by Bruner bring real life to this Tempest.

-City Weekly

Mr. Porter delivered a well played and believable arc as a man who begins on a quest for revenge and ends up finding redemption. He held the audience’s attention well through some lengthy soliloquies, and had a beautiful command of the language. Andrew Maizner delivered an honest performance as the eternally optimistic Gonzalo, and Mike Brown effectively portrayed the duality of Antonio. However, the cast member that shined the most in this rather lack luster production was Megan Valerie Tholen as one of Prospero’s spirits. Though she lacked any lines, her lithe movements, strong singing voice, and intense gaze were captivating. She was engaged and present in every moment she appeared, even if she was simply moving a set piece, and every eye was upon her every time she graced the stage. Ms. Tholen’s performance was nothing short of show stealing.

-Backstage Utah

Tony Porter, while a newcomer to Shakespeare’s stage, does fine work in the role of Prospero. I can tell he understands his motivations underneath the text and he does well in conveying those thoughts and feelings with the audience. I cheered a bit for him as I saw the joy in his eyes during Prospero’s  “We are such stuff as dreams are made on” monologue. I always appreciate  a love for performance in an actor’s eyes, and that was one moment I was glad that I attended. His daughter, Miranda, is played by JJ Peeler. I first saw Peeler in a reading at Plan B not too long ago. This is an actress I think we need to watch over the next couple years. She again brought a love for the text to her role, and that is truly wonderful to see. JayC Stoddard’s interpretation of Ariel is a calm and steady force, not at all what I expected, but it suited the night’s performance. Bijan Hosseini plays a truly miserable (in a good way) Caliban, servant and slave to Prospero.

-Utah Theatre Bloggers

Of course none of this would have been possible had it not been for our director, Beth Bruner, whose clear vision steered all of use through the normal tempest of chaos that is present with every production, and indeed throughout the course of the run each actor and technician had the opportunity to not only shine, but have moments of perfection. Such stuff as dreams are made on, indeed.

I couldn’t be prouder of the hard work everyone put in and the product that was created from it. Was it perfect? Of course not, theatre rarely is, but this small community group achieved magic. We put the audience in our hands, and in the end, as Shakespeare wrote, asked the audience to release us from their spell.

We now return to our sleep (or is it the waking world?) and look forward to our coming projects… our annual participation in the Page-to-Stage festival (look for that in December) and another full-length production of the Bard’s work sometime in 2012, featuring perhaps his greatest villain and his most tragic hero. The revels shall start anew.

Buy a ticket and we’ll see you soon.

Review: A Talented Performer Lifts Shakespeare’s Tale

July 19th, 2011 by

The Tempest

A Talented Performer Lifts Shakespeare’s Tale

By Scott Renshaw

The Tempest

Jonathan Tate and JJ Peeler in Around the Globe Theatre's "The Tempest"

POSTED // JULY 19,2011 -

If you’re a small theater company putting on a Shakespearean play, you’re facing a touchy balance of upside and downside: the advantage of beginning with a terrific text, versus the potential awkwardness of less-experienced actors wrestling with Elizabethan prose.

Around the Globe Theatre Company’s production of The Tempest hits a few of the expected bumps, but it’s also a more accomplished interpretation than you might have reason to expect. Veteran director Beth Bruner begins her version of the story—about the exiled Duke of Milan, Prospero (Tony Porter), whose magic raises a storm that brings those who wronged him to his island home—with a series of arresting silent tableaux. And that’s only the first compelling choice in a show that folds broad slapstick, nimble choreography and bold costumes into a terrific-looking piece of theater.

It’s also an opportunity for one of the great pleasures of catching a smaller production: Discovering a tremendously talented young actor. As Prospero’s daughter, Miranda—an innocent teenager whose only knowledge of the world is the island—J.J. Peeler delivers a simply lovely performance. There’s wonderful gentleness to her romantic moments with the newly shipwrecked Ferdinand (Jonathan Sherman Tate) that brings added charm to a girl who’s never seen a handsome young man before. Even when other cast members are a bit less assured in their work, Peeler and the rich direction by Bruner bring real life to this Tempest.

THE TEMPEST

Around the Globe Theatre Company

7711 S. Main, Midvale

$12-$15

MidvaleTheatre.com

Through July 30

 

via Salt Lake City Arts & Entertainment – Theater: The Tempest.

Let Your Indulgence Set Me Free

July 14th, 2011 by

The TempestIn case you didn’t know, The Tempest will finally open this Friday, July 15th. Hopefully you’ll chose us over Harry Potter, or make time for both. Before you attend the show, I just wanted to take the time to tell you what the Tempest by William Shakespeare means to me.

First off, I am Prospero. No, I‘m not the talented Tony Porter whom you‘ll see playing the character on stage, nor am I claiming to actually be the rightful Duke of Milan. To understand what I mean when I say I am Prospero, we have to go back to the late summer of 2008. After just surviving ATG‘s amazing production of the Glass Menagerie (which turned out to be our best show up to that point despite several individuals who tried to destroy the production) I found myself—along with JC Carter—meeting with the top brass at the Rose Wagner Center, being told in no uncertain terms that we (ATG) were no longer needed or wanted at their establishment. We had planned to be at the Rose for years to come, but now—as we faced the reality of being without a place to perform—all our plans for a 2009 season vanished in the blink of an eye. Our detractors had failed to stop Menagerie from performing, but were no doubt rejoicing in ATG‘s apparent demise.

During 2009 and the first half of 2010 my hope for ATG‘s return continued to erode.  I became greatly depressed and withdrawn.

I dreaded people asking me about ATG‘s future because all I could do was shrug. I had given up. All I could do was brood and resent those I blamed for ATG‘s failure. One night in the late spring of 2010 I stayed up and re-read The Tempest for the first time in years. I found myself connecting to the play—and especially Prospero—in a way I hadn’t expected.

Prospero and Ariel

Prospero was once a powerful leader until his enemies conspired against him; stripping him of his former life and marooning him on a savage isle. I was marooned on a metaphorical island of my own. Prospero spent years plotting his revenge and holding onto resentment. His magical tempest brings his enemies to his island where they are vulnerable to his powers. His chance at revenge is within his grasp, but instead of destroying those who hurt him, Prospero chooses to forgive them… wow.

Miranda

As I read Prospero‘s final speech, I had tears in my eyes. I realized that I couldn’t stay on my depression created island of resentment any longer. It was time to let go of the past and embrace a hopeful future. I told JC my plan and he readily agreed. I asked Beth Bruner to direct and she jumped at the chance.

Antonio and Alonso

Now here we are in 2011 at the Midvale Main Street Theatre with a first class cast and crew, ready to bring one of Shakespeare‘s greatest masterpieces to life for your enjoyment. Listen closely to Prospero‘s final speech and think of all those things that may have been needlessly holding you back. Perhaps you‘ll find you are now finally beyond their reach, and are free to once again follow your dreams wherever they may lead you.

Ferdinand and Miranda

“As you from crimes would pardoned be, let your indulgence set me free.”
–Prospero

Robert A. Easton
Founder and Artistic Director

Shakespeare Newbie

July 13th, 2011 by

This is a guest post from Tony Porter whom you can currently see in ATG’s upcoming production of ‘The Tempest‘, July 15-30.

Tony Porter

Tony Porter as Prospero in ATG's The Tempest

First, let’s get all our cards out on the table. This is my first Shakespeare production. Not only that, but I have never done Shakespeare in any acting class. I’ve never done a scene. The closest I have ever come was learning a soliloquy of Friar Laurence for 9th grade English class. And it stunk! Second, this is about the 6th play I’ve ever done. Now, I’ve done musicals, reviews, opera, concerts, etc., I’ve been acting since I was 16 years old and that was … a long time ago. But I have done very few plays. The other contributors to this blog have much more experience than I can claim when it comes to Shakespeare. They’re better trained actors than I am, as well. I’m honored to be sharing the stage with them and sit in awe of their abilities and talents. Acting, in my experience, is a huge game of trust. You have to trust that the director has chosen well when they cast the show. (This one did!) You have to trust that your director has a vision of the work that you can also accept and work with (Done!) You have to trust that your fellow actors have the abilities and talents to portray their characters honestly and to interact with your character. (Done and done!) And last, you have to trust yourself. You have to believe that what you are doing is right for the production, for you fellow actors, for the director and, hopefully, for the audience.

Prospero

Prospero (Tony Porter) Commands The Tempest

So why am I, a musician, and Shakespeare newbie, playing Prospero? I’m glad you asked. This story starts back with 9th grade English class. My teacher was not a great teacher. Her approach to Shakespeare was to get together with the other teachers and rent out a theater and show us the Zeffirelli version (with the understanding that there were, for 1979 and ninth graders, some racy scenes. I mean Olivia Hussey was a full bosomed Juliet. Much bigger breasts than any 14 year old we knew). Have you watched that version lately? A little silly. And we knew it then, too. Then in 10th grade it was Julius Caesar. Better, but still not great. 11th grade brought on Macbeth. This was great: witches, murder, deceit, war. Fantastic! And so I was looking forward to Hamlet my senior year. Unfortunately, because of a missed gym credit, my schedule was juggled and I ended up in the class of an ancient English teacher whose main teaching ideal was to please her students. So we did Macbeth again, being a class of underachievers, and this time it was awful.

I wasn’t exposed to the Bard again until college, when I was in the classroom of another ancient, who seemed to think introductory Shakespeare was the histories. His lectures were more his own reminiscences of past productions he had seen when in New York. Picture sitting with an aged aunt or uncle while they tell you of some past occurrence in grave detail after you have asked them how they’re feeling. It was a pointless class. The one good thing that came out of it, though, was that a troupe from the Royal Shakespeare Company in London was touring through Salt Lake at that time, doing Richard II. 7 actors, dressed in black, with minimal sets and props and minor costume changes playing all the characters of Richard II. I! Was! Fascinated! That production brought me back to Shakespeare.

Prospero and Ariel

Prospero (Tony Porter) directs Ariel (JayC Stoddard) to action

Now fast forward to late 2010. I’ve done several shows with Beth Bruner by now, and have come to really trust her as a director. She tells me she will be directing The Tempest for ATG. I clear my schedule for that show, thinking since it’s my first Shakespeare I’ll get some smaller part and can ease my way into it. However, Beth and the production team had other plans for me.

Acting Shakespeare has been a real journey. I’ve had to overcome some initial preconceptions that were totally wrong. Shakespearean dialogue seems flowery to most people. It certainly did to me. And by saying that, I don’t mean frivolous or hard to understand. But Shakespeare used metaphor and simile and great word play to convey his stories. This can be somewhat difficult to wade through when reading Shakespeare. But, the more I’m exposed to it, the more it makes sense. I approached it by trying to make the language flow as naturally as possible. Sometimes I was successful with this, and other times not so much.

I’m new to all this. I’m an experienced performer who always considered myself a singer who acts. Over the years, starting with my previous show with ATG, Sylvia, I have been changing that label to acting singer. Music is still where I feel most comfortable. But my acting abilities are feeling more and more familiar. There are many better actors that I share the stage with in this production, and I am grateful for the things they are teaching me. But thankfully, they and the production team are trusting me with this role. And though memorizing this part has been a struggle, acting it with this company has been a joy. You should really come be a part of the whole thing and get your tickets now!! Because the greatest thing that this whole experience has taught me is that this is great fun!

Miranda and Prospero

Miranda (JJ Peeler) confronts Prospero (Tony Porter)

ATG’s The Tempest opens July 15 (this FRIDAY) and runs July 16, 21, 22, 23, 28, 29 and 30. Tickets are available NOW!

Passion Sucks

July 12th, 2011 by

This is a guest post by Bijan J. Hosseini, whom you can currently see in ATG’s upcoming production of ‘The Tempest‘, July 15-30.

Caliban

Bijan J. Hosseini as Caliban in "The Tempest"

Why on earth would you turn down a job that offered great starting pay, excellent bonuses, has health, dental and vision, a ROTH IRA/401K retirement match up to 3.5%, subsidized meals, an onsite gym with free personal trainers, and more bonuses just for getting/staying fit?

Because you’re an idiot
–or you’re an actor.
I’m not sure I can tell the difference anymore.

Passion sucks.

So does scheduling. As of right now, I don’t know whether or not I’ll be able to be part of “Iphigenia In Tauris” in the fall, which I’m meant to be. The reason – scheduling. Well, that and because there are only so many hours in the day, apparently, and the whole money thing. God, I hate the money thing.

I’m trying to juggle too much. Priorities. That’s the word I keep hearing. What’s more important? I opted to devote x number of hours a week for how many weeks now so that I could be a part of “The Tempest” for no pay whatsoever.

Why? It’s Shakespeare.
That’s it.
It’s that simple.

(Why can’t everything else be?)

Prospero and Caliban

Anthony Porter as Prospero and Bijan J. Hosseini as Caliban in "The Tempest"

I’m in the middle of a naval gazing crisis of epic proportions. Priorities… I have options I’m trying to weigh, fall is all too fast approaching, and decisions need to be made. The “right and noble” Claudio said, “Friendship is constant in all other things Save in the office and affairs of love.”

(A friend once called me a music-whore, and those of you who know me can attest to this. But “whore” implies a level of control in the exchange. Music-junkie is far more accurate. I need it. NEED it. It is far beyond my control.)

My passion, our passions, are no different. These are our “affairs of love”. So, here I find myself struggling – ready to throw my general well being out the window so that I might chase and ride my passion dragon once again, if only for a little while – and at what cost? For what reward?

Why make a cake, or a pie (April Fossen – and, yes, this is my official request) if you’re not going to share it with others? What’s the point?

- I’m still in the forest so to speak and can’t see/don’t know where things currently are or will stand with “The Tempest” come Friday *let alone what the hell I’m going to do with Iphigenia, work, school, karate, the EPK for “The Mysterious, Happy Life of Brown Bag”, and twenty other things across the next 6 months.

But what I do know is without all of you, it’s worth so much less. Passion MUST BE shared (not just, but especially) in all the arts.

And I do, I hope it’s heartache and magic every moment. Oh, how I love, admire and appreciate you all – you little beasts – come ride the dragon with me.

Blue is not an actor’s choice. It’s a color.

July 5th, 2011 by

This is a guest post from ATG company member JayC Stoddard whom you can see in the role of Ariel in our upcoming production of ‘The Tempest‘, July 15-30

JayC Stoddard

Mr. Stoddard in ATG productions: 'Picasso at the Lapin Agile', 'The Glass Menagerie,' and his current production: 'The Tempest'

I once worked with an actress who said in the rehearsal process that her character was the color blue. I wanted to slap her. I didn’t, because I’m adamantly opposed to every type of violence. My conflict was in that I’m also adamantly opposed to pretentious stupidity. So instead I stepped into my imagination and imagined her actually playing the color blue. Outside of painting herself and wearing a completely blue costume I can’t conceive how this would be done. Perhaps she thought the character would be better played by a smurf. I don’t know. You can’t play blue. Blue is not an actor’s choice. It’s a color.

High schools and universities have ruined acting. Teaching this nonsense to students about defining your characters with colors and animals and inanimate objects. I abhor to no end this modern school of acting that dictates we must find the character in all other places outside the script. If you can’t perform it on stage in a way that communicates a specific thought, idea, or action to the audience…it’s completely useless. The end. Everything you need to know about acting in one simple sentence.

Ariel and Prospero

JayC Stoddard as Ariel is sent into action by Prospero (played by Anthony Porter) in ATG's upcoming production of 'The Tempest', July 15-30

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying an actor shouldn’t do his homework. There is no end of importance to understanding the script. Know the subtext. Communicate honestly onstage with the other actors. Homework must be done. But the work is in the text. It always will be. If it isn’t presented on stage at some point, then really, it isn’t important. An actor does not need to invent a background for his character. He doesn’t need to find the characters totem animal. He most certainly doesn’t need to be a color. He needs, more than anything, to understand his motivation, and how to honestly communicate his need to his fellow actors, and the audience.

With Ariel, there is one overriding motivation, to everything that he does. Freedom. He has been a captive or a slave for years, and has finally been promised freedom at the conclusion of the immediate events. It is mentioned in the play that he was imprisoned in a tree for 12 years. It’s important to know this, so we can grasp how important his pending freedom is to him. It is not in any way important to know how he passed his time while imprisoned in the tree. It’s not important to know that while in the tree, he imagined himself as blue. It’s not important to know that he imagined himself some sort of animal that relates to his current emotion. It’s only important to know that for over a decade he’s been a prisoner, and now within the space of just a few hours, he will once again be free. This simple fact drives everything he does over the course of the play, and no amount of creating back-story is playable on stage, or will communicate a greater intention to the audience.

JayC Stoddard as Ariel watches over Jonathan Tate's Ferdinand in ATG's upcoming production of "The Tempest", July 15-30

For me the process goes as follows. READ THE SCRIPT. Read first everything I say. Paying close attention to what I say and who I say it to. Asking myself with each line…what do I mean? Justify my decisions with how other characters respond, and what the final outcome of the story is. Next, READ THE SCRIPT. Read every thing that every character says to or about my character. This will provide the depth and background necessary to flesh out the character. It is not nor will it ever be important to know the names of Ariel’s parents, siblings or childhood pets. These are things that I could make up, and if I were to believe half of my acting instructors…SHOULD make up, in order to give my character dimension. What is important, is what Prospero says ABOUT my character. That he is too delicate…in fact, too good…to do the things that the evil witch Sycorax ordered him to do, thus the reason for his floral imprisonment.

The things said about a character are the trademark of who that character is. The things he says and does himself are the revelation. The work an actor has to do begins in the script. The work continues throughout the rehearsal and discovery process. The work culminates in performance. The moment when the actor honestly communicates the words of the playwright to the audience in a meaningful and heartfelt reality is the greatest reward.

I am not in any way advocating laziness for or on behalf of an actor. The actor should work, hard and often to realize the full vision of the director and fellow actors. I’m only saying that it’s important to know the real work versus the fake work that pretentious instructors, and pseudo artists would have us believe is important. All that crap they would have you do will never EVER be realized on stage. The honest work the actor does with the script, the director, and fellow actors are the only truth that can be achieved on stage.

Send in the Clowns!

June 30th, 2011 by
Send in the Clowns

Trinculo (Christopher Kucera) and Stephano (Spencer Belnap) share a drink with Caliban (Bijan J. Hosseini)

Some people think Shakespeare plays are stuffy and boring, filled with language we can’t understand and jokes that are no longer funny.  I disagree.   In almost every play he wrote, William Shakespeare included moments of great comedy and some memorable–timeless–comic characters.
The Tempest has two characters in particular–among others–whom we could consider comedy relief.   This week I decided to profile our comic relief characters (Trinculo and Stephano) by interviewing the talented young actors playing them (Christopher Kucera and Spencer Belnap).  I sent them an email with 8 questions. Below are my questions and their answers:

1. Can you tell us who your character is and give us a brief description of them?

Christopher: My character is Trinculo, jester and fool of the royal court of Naples. Being a fool, he is sharp witted with a flair for performance, be it story telling, cracking jokes, or singing. He is also a consummate coward.

Spencer: Stephano; butler to King Alonso; likes to cope with his demanding job by drinking, and drinking heavily.

2. Is this your first Shakespeare role? (If not, what was? If so, how do you like it?)

Christopher: This is not my first Shakespearean role. My first was the Earl of Ross in Macbeth which I performed in high school nearly a decade ago.

Spencer: First full Shakespearean production role; only scene work in college and high school before.

3. What makes performing Shakespearean comedy different than contemporary comedy?

Christopher: Surprisingly enough, there is no difference at all. You still need to keep the dialogue quick and snappy, make sure that you have impeccable timing, and, whenever possible, attempt to use circles, threes, and several other elements that make audiences roll.

Spencer: Comedy is all in the timing and communication, regardless of period. You just really need to know what you’re saying and why you’re saying it with Willy Shakes. And no verbal improv, which can be frustrating at times.

Trinculo discovers Caliban

Trinculo (Christopher Kucera) discovers Caliban's (Bijan J. Hosseini) cave

4. How do you two like working with each other? Do you have a natural chemistry? Do you share comedic timing?

Christopher: Spencer is great. He has such wonderful timing that Bijan [playing Caliban] and I often have to try and stifle our own laughter. I feel, and generally hope, that with the three of us onstage, the audience will be in stitches.

Spencer: Really enjoy working with Chris, he makes a fine jester and is a great guy. We’ve had to work on our chemistry since this is our first time working together, but chemistry and timing only improves with each rehearsal.

5. What is your character’s relationship to the other’s? How does Caliban fit in? How do you like working together?

Christopher: Stephano and Trinculo are the best of friends having served together in the Neapolitan court for quite some time. When Caliban comes along and somehow infatuates Stephano, Trinculo becomes leery of this newcomer and a bit jealous.

Spencer: Stephano and Trinculo are great friends who both work for the king and enjoy drinking and laughing together when not on duty. We meet Caliban on the island and show him the “godly” ways of liquor. Murder plots and hilarity ensue. I think all 3 of us work great together and will bring much laughter and energy.

The Godly Ways of Liquor

Caliban (Bijan J. Hosseini) learns the "godly" ways of liquor from Stephano (Spencer Belnap) and Trinculo (Christopher Kucera)

6. What have you learned from being in the Tempest?

Christopher: Acting is always a challenge because it is you who are onstage, not a character. This role has made that more apparent to me than any other I have played in the past. There is no accent, no age difference, just me. Trinculo is me.

Spencer: Like all plays, I’ve learned more patience. And particular to this one, a different approach to comedy, and sense of camaraderie amongst colleagues.

7. Do you have a dream Shakespeare role? (If so, which one and why?)

Christopher: I’ve never really thought about it. I enjoy Shakespeare but have not really ever had a dream role. I simply jump at the chance to be in a Shakespeare play.

Spencer: Hmm perhaps Iago in Othello as far as villains go and Bottom in Midsummer’s for comedic. Because I’ve seen performances of both that have stuck with me forever.

8. Tell people why they should come see you in the Tempest.

Christopher: I would say that they shouldn’t come to see me in this show. They should come to wash away that bad memory of Shakespeare being stuffy, old, and impossible to understand. The trick with Shakespeare is to make sure that you have a phenomenal cast who has an ability to understand what was written and convey that to an audience. And we have done just that.

Spencer: ATG’s The Tempest is guaranteed to draw you out of the summer heat and into a magical world of romance, laughter, and fun. And if you haven’t seen me act like a drunken idiot in real life, now’s your chance to see me portray it on stage!