Posts Tagged ‘Idyllwild Arts Theater’

It’s About Time and Well, The Conways

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

The set was spectacular with built-in bookcases and tall windows

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Since Time, with a capital “T” got top billing in the Idyllwild Arts Theatre Department’s last show, “Time and The Conways,” (written by J.B. Priestly) you knew Time was going to be a big part of the show.

In fact, Time already mettled with the normal story sequence .

The time warp was outlined in the program featuring a sand timer on the cover: Act One began in 1919 at Kay Conway’s 21st  birthday party where you get to meet all of the Conways and their lovers. Act Two takes place 18 years later (after the Depression) when things went emotionally and financially haywire for the Conways. Act Three jumped back to later that same night of Kay’s 21st birthday, which helped to explain things.

Act One opens with a family game of charades, with Mrs. Conway, the matriarch (Jessie), and her daughters, Kay (Gemini), Hazel (Sasha), Madge (Emily) and Carol (Celeste), and her sons, Alan (Zen) and Robin (Daniel). Everyone is happy, and looking forward to the future, but without their industrialist father, who had recently died.

Alan, the eldest, seems to be apart from the rest of the family. To me, he appeared to be “slow.”

“He was the father’s favorite son,” explained Kent-Harris, who played Gerald, the Conways’ attorney. “We talked about this. Alan fought in the trenches during WWI, and must’ve had some trauma from it. And he was also devestated by his father’s death. He wasn’t ‘slow,’ his priorities had changed.”

As it turns out, Alan who comforts Kay when she awakes from a moment’s rest and is now aware of the family’s not-so-great future.

“Alan also received slights from his mother, who had definite ideas on the hierarchy of the Conway family,” said Kent-Harris.

Kent-Harris greets well wishers after the final performance Sunday

For his part, Kent-Harris said that it wasn’t hard to play the future and jump back in Time.

“Well, we had different clothes on, for one thing, and we practiced it at least six times before the dress rehearsal on Thursday night,” he said.

Rosanna, who played Joan Heiford, Robin’s wife, said that her character changed a lot, so it was easy to go back in Time.

“At first, I played Robin’s girlfriend, and was naive and idealistic,” Rosanna said. “But then, after years with an absent and alcoholic husband, you could say that I became a bitter woman.”

Time was not Rosanna’s friend.

An outsider, Joan was tolerated by the Conways, but Ernest Beevers (Lewis) was never fully accepted by them. He was poor and lacked social graces, but turned out to be the biggest surprise. Kent-Harris thought that Hazel, a great beauty, didn’t marry Ernest for money.

“He didn’t have any money in the beginning,” Kent-Harris said. “He only had one share of an old run-down paper mill. I think Hazel married him because of his persistence.”

(from L) Chase, Jessie and Sasha get tearful about their last stage performance

It appears that money was the motivating factor for Hazel, however. At the beginning of Kay’s birthday party, Hazel calls Ernest “a disgusting little man” and was rude to his face. However, only when Ernest manages to get a private moment alone with Hazel, telling her about his financial ambitions, does she start flirting with him.

But for Ernest, Hazel was not a person, but a prize to be won. She was the great beauty of Newlingham, and to obtain her, would increase his social status and lead him to financial success.

And when Ernest turns out to be abusive, Hazel doesn’t leave him. Why not? Because of the money of course! Since day one, Hazel was expected to marry a rich man and travel the world. Yet, in reality, it’s not always that easy to grab the Gadsby’s of this world.  And maybe she “could hear her biological clock ticking,” so she settled on Ernest, but will not leave–until the money runs out.

“I wish the play had another weekend run,” said Kent-Harris.

He said it just got better and better each time they performed it. After awhile, the actors weren’t just reciting lines or waiting on cues, but felt like actual family and friends talking to each other.

“What I would say next came naturally because that’s what I would say if I was Gerald,” Kent-Harris said.

(from right) Jesse greets a well wisher

He thought the British accent wasn’t difficult because he heard it firsthand during summer school last year in London. He also learned a lot from British actors. And his uncle is a British solicitor, but he didn’t base his character on him.

The day after the show, Kent-Harris was going with his parents to a Democratic fundraiser hosted by Nancy Pelosi. He said he didn’t have any immediate plans to get into politics.

“My parents support my decision to become an actor,” Kent-Harris said. “However, if I can’t make it as an actor, I can always become a politician. They’re pretty much the same thing, right?”

It would be wrong to sign off without mentioning the stellar set designed and built by Bonnie and Todd Carpenter. The set consisted of one large drawing room. It was opulant, with floor-to-ceiling windows, built-in bookcases and furniture that matched the maroon and green color scheme. In fact, it wasn’t wallpaper on the walls, but stenciling.

“At one point, it looked like blood had splattered on the walls,” Kent-Harris said with glee. “So that changed things. Carol didn’t die of TB, but was murdered!  Alan was the only one who could have done it! Which explains, in a sick way, why he kept flowers on her grave all of those years.”

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Spitfire Grill’ Strikes Local Chord

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

'The Spitfire Grill' is set in a small town in the mountains, much like Idyllwild

By Marcia E. Gawecki

After the Saturday night, May 21st performance of “The Spitfire Grill,” the audience was on its feet whooping it up. One might expect that from an audience made up of family, friends and faculty, but this one was made up largely of Idyllwild residents.

“I was told to bring tissues,” admitted Beth, one Idyllwild resident who is also an actor.

Others were drawn to the theater for the first time. What was the attraction to this performance about a small town in Gilead, Wisconsin, that struck a cord?

Perhaps it could have been a tale about Idyllwild.

“Didn’t it remind you a lot of Idyllwild?” Beth asked at intermission.

Yep, there were lots of similarities, good and bad. Small town gossips, rigid folks unwilling to accept newcomers, those harboring deep secrets, homeless folks living in the woods and  those who couldn’t wait to leave. But “The Spitfire Grill” also touched on topics that would interest locals like lost logging, natural beauty and escapism.

The story is interesting enough. It’s about Percy (played by Melissa), a young woman who leaves prison to start a new life in Gilead. She had seen a newspaper clipping of the changing fall leaves along Copper Creek. It seemed as likely place as any, yet most of the townsfolk don’t share in Percy’s plan.

Even her new boss/landlord  Hannah (played by Becca), a grouchy, bitter woman (who harbors a big secret) is strict with Percy and holds her at arm’s length. In spite of it all, Percy doesn’t buckle. As a newcomer, she appreciates windows without bars and  the beauty of her natural surroundings, even from inside a greasy grill.

(from L) Leads Becca and Melissa at another event. Photo courtesy Idyllwild Arts.

Speaking of grills, The Red Kettle in Idyllwild got a callout in the program. It reads: “Special thanks to Martha and the gals at The Red Kettle.”

In fact, the three leads in the show, Melissa, Becca and Paulina, all went to The Red Kettle a couple of weeks ago for more than just lunch.

“We just ate and talked,” said Paulina and Becca sheepishly.

Likely they were talking to Martha and her waitresses about what it’s like to own and work in a local grill, day in and day out. Martha would give it to them straight.

Well, their research paid off. The show had a homespun feel to it. (Just like looking in the mirror, Idyllwild). There were likeable characters, like Shelby (played by Paulina), a shy housewife who is bullied by her husband. And Hannah, who took in an ex-convict without waitress or culinary skills. And Joe, the town sheriff, (played by Milan) who initially resents being Shelby’s parole officer, but later opens his to the natural beauty before him.

The annoying cast members included Effy, the nosy postwoman (played by Savannah), whose gossipy ways made everyone cringe, and Caleb, Shelby’s verbally abusive husband (played by Jake), who resents living in his cousin’s shadow.

(from L) Jake played Caleb, the controlling husband, while Savannah played Effy, the gossipy postwoman.

“Jake cut his hair short for the sake of the show,” said Will, Jake’s friend.

Jake’s preppy locks were cut military-style to fit his angry, rigid personality.

“I just hated your character,” one woman admitted after the show.

“That’s a sign of a good actor,” said Will, proudly.

Like others, 16 songs in a two-hour show sounded a bit too much. The storyline was serious enough. Did it needed to be punctuated with song after song?

Yet, they made the whole story about The Spitfire Grill in Idyllwild, er Gilead, even richer. Anyone can recite dialog, but it takes talent to sing your way though a play, and make the locals laugh, cry and stand up and cheer.

You’re going to love all the lyrics by James Valcq and Fred Alley. You’d swear they’ve visited Idyllwild before.

Like “The Colors of Paradise,” sung by Percy and Shelby, as they wrote an ad about visiting Gilead and The Spitfire Grill. “Ever want to lose yourself/Come to a place where you can grow/where there’s people that you know/Own a piece of heaven where hummingbirds sing/and roots so deep into the earth, they’ll never pull away.”

Paulina singing at another event. Photo courtesy Idyllwild Arts.

Or “Digging Stone,” the song sung by Caleb, that could also reflect local frustrations about work and the economy.

“They kick you hard and make you crawl/A man is more than just blood and stone.”

But “These Wide Woods,” sung by Joe and Percy sums it all up beautifully:

“If these woods were mine/Dreams would come to me.”

Of course, none of the songs in “The Spitfire Grill” musical would be possible without the music. Instead of canned music on disk, this Idyllwild Arts musical had a live band. Five staff members and classical music majors played each sound effect, intermission music, set scene music and accompanying numbers for two hours. The band included: Nelms McKelvain on piano, Keth McCabe on guitar and mandolin, Patrick Doran-Sheenan on accordian, and music students Manje and Miley on violin and cello. When you see their tired arms after the show, tell them to take a bow.

You have one more chance to see “The Spitfire Grill” on Sunday, May 22 at 2 p.m. at the IAF Theatre on campus. All shows are free and open to the public, but come early to get a seat.

For more information, visit www.idyllwildarts.org or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me.  All rights reserved.

Published on: May 22, 2011 @ 0:07

Custom Search

Shakespeare-Adapted Shorts Ends Sunday

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

C.D. plays the lead in the Shakespeare-adapted short, "Pericles," which ends Sunday

Billed as “An Evening with Compact Shakespeare,” the latest performance by the Idyllwild Arts Theater Department, features the well-told tale of star-crossed lovers,”Romeo & Juliet,” and “Pericles,” about the spellbinding nautical adventures of the Prince of Tyre.

The third and final show will be held on Sunday, April 25, at 2 p.m. at the IAF Theater.

In the playbill, director Abbie Bosworth sums it up: “The versions you are about to see retain almost all of the original language of the full-length plays, but are presented in a style that will appeal to a younger audience.”

It worked for senior Dance students, Adrianna and Christy, who had seen the Shakespeare show Saturday night.

“You’ve got to see it!” exclaimed Adrianna. “There are some parts that are really funny.”

Peter, a Visual Arts student, was looking forward to seeing the show Sunday. Initially, he was concerned about understanding the language of Shakespeare.

“They say it’s got a modern twist, and it’s easy to understand,” Peter said.

However, not all of the students were expecting to like the modern take on Shakespeare.

Will, a senior Dance student (and former Theater major) shook his head.

“I’m a purist when it comes to Shakespeare,” Will said. “And you shouldn’t mess with it by putting it into a modern setting. Especially with ‘Pericles.’ It just won’t work.”

Nevertheless, Will plans to attend Sunday’s show, and try and keep an open mind.

Director Abbie Bosworth expects to win over all the skeptics.

“We often use direct address storytelling, and reference a fairy tale to portray our various villians, heroes and loveable rogues,” Abbie wrote in the playbill. “We have included music, and as many swashbuckling high jinks as possible, not to mention just a little bit of kissing.”

The cast for “Romeo & Juliet,” and “Pericles” are the same, but interchangeable. For example, Tuli, who plays the female lead in “Romeo & Juliet,” is a (male) pirate in “Pericles.” Perhaps the gender role change is fitting for Shakespeare. In his day, male actors also played female roles.

Dylan (right) is used to playing romantic leads. He plays Romeo in Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet"

The rest of the Shakespeare cast includes: C.D., Dylan, Chase, Jessie, Ryutaro, Dakota, Zen, Gabrielle, Michell, Lewis, Samantha, Tierra, Cynthia and Gemini.

Cynthia, who sings in the chorus, also gets to play the flute.

“I played classical flute for six years before coming here,” Cynthia said.

The director admitted to drawing inspiration from the cast.

“I had a huge amount of fun working with this cast, who has brilliant ideas for the silly bits, and plenty of good ideas for the serious ones too,” she wrote.

The third and final show of”Romeo & Juliet” and “Pericles” will be presented this Sunday, April 25, at 2 p.m. at the IAF Theater (in the Bowman Building) on the Idyllwild Arts campus. All shows are free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.idyllwildarts.org.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Apr 23, 2011 @ 23:42

Joe Spano Stars in Idyllwild Arts Show on Sunday, Too

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“Hill Street Blues” and “NCIS” star Joe Spano will also star in the final performance of “Eurydice,” by the Idyllwild Arts Theater Department, on Sunday, Jan. 23 at 2 p.m. It’s a correction to the earlier report (on Idyllwild Me blog post dated Jan. 20) that the understudies would take over that performance. Theirs was held on Saturday, Jan 22 at 2 p.m.

Today, at 2 p.m., will be the final performance of “Eurydice,” Idyllwild Arts production of the Greek tragedy about Eurydice and Orpheus in the Underworld. Spano starred as Eurydice’s father to packed houses on Friday and Saturday nights.

Milan, a senior Theater major, credits Spano for adding professionalism to the show. It is the first time this crew has worked alongside a well-known actor.

“His choices onstage has given everyone involved with the show a huge acting lesson,” Milan said. “And him being in the show has absolutely effected the quality and professionalism of the show.”

He said that Spano had also taught him to slow down and take his time with each scene.

Brooke, another senior who plays the lead, Eurydice, admitted to being timid around Spano at first.

“I had never worked with a professional actor before, let alone one as famous as Joe Spano,” Brooke said. “But he treated me like an equal.”

Both Brooke and Milan had not seen Spano during his “Hill Street Blues” hey days, but their aunts and uncles gave them an earfull.

“My aunt just loves Joe Spano, and thought he was terrific in ‘Hill Street Blues,” Brooke said.

Milan also researched the shows online.

Juwan plays Orpheus in today's final performance of "Eurydice"

Although the father role may have been missing in other versions of “Eurydice,” Sarah Ruhl’s take is different. She focuses more on the circle of life.

“The father is the second, if not first most important role in the play,” said Milan, who has watched Spano rehearse for weeks. “Without the father, it would not be the same story. He goes through many obstacles, such as memory loss, but had the courage to let his daughter go.”

The set of the play is also top notch with a rain shower encased in an elevator. It’s the work of guest set designer Steve Hudson-Mairet, head of the Theater Department at Marquette University, and Todd Carpenter, the technical director at Idyllwild Arts (see “Help with Eurydice Set,” Idyllwild Me post, dated Jan. 14).

The final performance of “Eurydice,” starring Joe Spano as the father, Brooke as Eurydice, Juwan as Orpheus, Jake as the lord of the Underworld, and Liana (Joe Spano’s daughter), as a stone, will be held today, Sunday, Jan. 23 at 2 p.m.

The show is free and open to the public. The IAF Theater is located inside the Bowman Building on the Idyllwild Arts Campus, located at the end of Tollgate. For more information, call (951) 659-2171 or visit www.idyllwildarts.org.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Custom Search

Joe Spano to Star in High School Play

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Joe Spano will appear in a high school play this weekend.

This Emmy-nominated actor, best known for his role as Lt. Henry Goldblume in the popular TV series, “Hill Street Blues,” is not playing a detective, an agent, or even an astronaut this time, but something closer to home.

He’s playing a father.

“Having daughters of his own must’ve effected the way that he created his character,” said Milan, an Idyllwild Arts theater student, who plays Spano’s understudy in “Eurydice.”

Sarah Ruhl has taken the classic Greek myth about Eurydice and Orpheus of the Underworld, and changed it to emphasize the circle of life. Ruhl’s take is both entertaining and provocative.

Wait a minute! Eurydice had a father?

According to Milan, the father is the second, if not the most important role in the play.

“Without him, it would not be the same story,” Milan explained. “He goes through many obstacles, such as memory lapses and seperation from his daughter. And has the courage to let her go knowing that it’s the right thing to do.”

With Joe Spano playing the father, you get a better image of a ‘father’ than if a student were playing the role, Milan adds. However, Milan will have a chance to perform, along with the other understudies, at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 22.

For the past several weeks, Milan has watched Joe Spano rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

“He has a great, positive attitude and a strong presence onstage,” Milan said. “Him being here has absolutely effected the quality and professionalism of the show.”

Brooke, as Eurydice, admitted to being pretty timid at first.

“I had never worked with a professional actor before, let alone a famous one like Joe Spano,” Brooke said. “But he has treated me like an equal.”

One thing that Milan learned from Spano is patience.

“He has taught me to take my time!” Milan exclaimed. “Lots of actors think they need to rush scenes or moments of the show. Joe has taught me the importance of taking my time and not rush anything.”

Another actor who has likely learned a lot from Spano is his daughter, Liana, who plays one of the three talking stones.

“Joe and Liana have a great relationship,” Milan said. “It’s very clear to see.”

However, onstage the two are all business.

“During rehearsal, you rarely ever see them talk,” Milan said. “Both are focused and ready to work.”

So why is Joe Spano acting in a high school play this weekend? Because his daughter asked him to? Or because Howard Shangraw, his old reperatory acting buddy, who heads up the IA Theater Department, begged? No one really knows for sure, but its likely, after a successful TV and movie career, Joe Spano is doing what he wants.

But for Milan, Brooke and the other teenage actors, the experience has been priceless.

“Eurydice” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 21 & 22, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 23. The understudy performance will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan.22. All shows are free and open to the public. They’re held at the IAF Theater (inside the Bowman building) on the Idyllwild Arts Campus (at the end of Tollgate Road) in Idyllwild. For more information, call (951) 659-2171, or visit www.idyllwildarts.org.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Custom Search

Next Up: Shakers

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Howard Shangraw had a dilemma. He had to cast his next Idyllwild Arts student production, but it had to have a large number of female roles. He thought about “The Heidi Chronicles,” an award-winning Wendy Wasserman play about feminism, but the dialog was a little too “racy” for high school students.

“I can get away with a lot, but not that much,” Howard said with a smile.

The theater students had their own opinions. (After each play, Howard waits until the last minute to announce the next one, building up interest and anticipation.)

“The next musical is going to be ‘The Odd Couple’ with an all-female cast. I’m sure of it,” several students said.

The next play is about, well, Shakers.

“’As it is in Heaven’ is about religious persecution and a psychological cross section of humanity that is shrouded in simple purity,” Howard said.

According to various web sites, Shakers were a religious group that came from England in 1747. They believed that people could find God within themselves and not through rituals or clergy. They worshipped in plain meetinghouses where they marched, danced, sang, twitched and shouted. Many who didn’t understand their practices, considered them “heretics.”

“As it is in Heaven,” written by Arlene Hutton in 2006, explores generational conflict through the eyes of nine women in a Shaker village in Kentucky. Set in 1838, the play celebrates the music and dance traditions of Shakers, the “Society of Believers.” When three newcomers start to see visions, several of the older women, who haven’t seen any, begin to question their own devotions.

“You don’t know much about Shakers because they believed in strict celibacy. Since they didn’t procreate, they all died out,” Howard said.

Most people don’t know the difference between Quakers, Shakers, and Mennonites, Howard added. The play will showcase Shaker differences. For example, the men and women lived separately. “They ate and slept in different houses, and the only time they mingled was during service when they’d ‘shake’ away their lust,” he said.

He added that many of the songs in the play will be sung ‘acapella,” or without much music accompaniment. “They will be sung ‘like they were meant to be,’” he said.

For the music accompaniment, Howard asked several of the Idyllwild Arts music students to play in a small makeshift orchestra. Una Cheng, who plays percussion, was one of about 15 who played for the school’s musical last year.

“Howard gave us the music about a month before the musical began,” Una explained. As a percussionist, she didn’t have many solos, but had to pay attention to the play’s conductor. “It was fun, and Howard gave us pizza,” Una added.

Howard added that getting costumes for the musical would not be a problem because they plan to make most of them. “You’ve heard of the ‘Shaker’ bonnet, right?” he asked. Well, Shaker furniture, with its simple lines, has also come back into fashion with home decorators.

For more information about “As it is in Heaven,” the next Idyllwild Arts musical about Shakers, contact Howard at (951) 659-2171, ext. 2200, or visit www.idyllwildarts.org.

Custom Search