Posts Tagged ‘student 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘The Shape of Things’ Twists The Truth About Art

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Edgy show poster

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The student reviews were out after Thursday night’s performance. “The Shape of Things,” a play by Neil LaBute and performed by the Idyllwild Arts Theatre Department, was a hit.

“Fast-paced,” “Edgy with good music” and “Everyone was good,” were some of their comments. Yet, the bloodstained poster with a scapel and a bare backed guy made this Midwesterner nervous.

There were big changes for this play. Could only four actors, with minimal staging and props, command our attention for two hours? And, this was to be held “in the round” at Rush Hall on campus, a departure from our comfy IAF Theatre.

“There’s no bad seat in the house,” exclaimed Elias, who had already seen it twice, including the Understudy’s Show on Saturday afternoon (Starring Omid as Adam, Alexandra as Evelyn, Daniel as Phillip and Samantha as Jenny).

“They took out all of the sex scenes because we’re teenagers,” explained Arthur. “but there’s still some suggestive language.”

“You have to sit in the front row,” suggested Cynthia, a vocal music major. “Then you’re at arm’s reach of the stage. The actor’s like it because then they’re ‘one’ with the audience.”

Walking into Rush Hall for the final performance on Sunday, Jan. 24 was like walking into a New York Dance Club. The curtains were drawn, the walls were all black, and the floor was silver painted “in the round.”  A bright light shone from above center stage, while human “guards,” dressed in black, stood around it. As promised, seating was ample on all sides. I sat in front–just beyond arm’s reach of the stage.

The music was edgy and loud. The darkness, noise, and unfamiliarity were all intentional. No fairytale ending for this show, but I wanted to get out unscathed (which I did), but not emotionally.

For this was a modern tale about power, deceit, lust and tyranny–all for the sake of art. It certainly was a topical subject for an art’s boarding school because nearly everyone in the audience was an artist. Could we all stand a closer look at ourselves?

Yet, this show, according to director Howard Shangraw in the playbill, “presents an intense and shocking look into art and the artlessness of people. ‘The Shape of Things’ provokes us, disturbs us and may even seduce us. It is all subjective.”

The darkness, noise and chaos was intentional

I looked around for the nearest exit.

In a nutshell, ‘The Shape of Things’ was about four students at a small midwestern college, who seduce and sleep with each other. Along the way, there’s jealousy, control and transformations. Yet, it wasn’t just another entertaining drama. There was a deeper level, one about morality with religious undertones.

Throughout this play, Neil LaBute, the Canadian playwright and filmmaker, who attended Brigham Young University, reveals many Adam and Eve metaphors, including the spray-painted statue with fig leaves, Adam’s total transformation, even his “EAT” tattoo.

“I don’t like art that isn’t true,” states Evelyn, a graduate art student (beautifully played by Tierra) as she edges under the guardrail with her spray can. “What are the fig leaves covering? His ‘cluster’?”

This was the first time that we meet Adam and Eve, or Adam and modern-day Evelyn. You know the old story in Genesis, Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of Knowledge after God told them not to. Adam blames Eve, and Eve blames the snake. They are naked before God, so they hide behind the fig leaves.

Strong-willed Evelyn spray paints a penis on God. What does that say about her? In the end, she claims she is someone who puts “art” above all else, including her fellow man, religion, family and community.

Yet, Adam (convincingly played by Dylan) falls in love with Evelyn, and miraculously changes before her. He exercises, lifts weights, eats better and tries new things, such as a haircut and contact lenses.

He doesn’t mind when Evelyn videotapes their sexual encounters.

He can’t believe that someone so beautiful wants to be with him. Typical guy, looking at the surface, or The Shape of Things, and not the psychopath that lies underneath.

Never mind that his best friends, Phillip (played by sophomore Dakota) and Jenny (played by Meghan, a senior), don’t like her. At first, they’re amused that he’s improving physically. Phillip is glad that he finally ditched his old corduroy jacket after three long years. Jenny, Phillip’s fiancé, loves the sparkle in his eyes that his new contacts bring. So much so that she sleeps with him. Yet, when Adam undergoes rhinoplasty (Evelyn’s suggestion), and lies about it, they become alarmed.

At their first group meeting, Phillip gets into a shouting match with Evelyn over the spray-painting episode at the museum. Evelyn defends the artist (herself), but never owns up to the deed. Why not? Especially since she felt so strongly about it. Likely, she didn’t want to get arrested before her “project” was completed.

“I knew what was going to happen,” stated Paul, a fashion major, after the show. “But I just didn’t expect it to be so cruel.”

(On right) Dylan, who plays Adam, is an experienced actor onstage and screen

Paul was among the many sullen faces in the audience during the final scene when Evelyn admits that she used Adam as her art thesis “sculpture.”

“As my grandpa would say, ‘He’s a real piece of work!'” Evelyn said as she unveiled photos of Adam’s transformation from nerd to stud.

Yep, she’s right. Adam looked better, was stronger and more confident. Yet, he was genuinely in love with Evelyn and wanted to marry her. He even put her initials on his hip, “E.A.T.”

“What? Could you not afford the word, ‘Me?’ Evelyn asked him earlier before the rhinoplasty.

“No, it’s your initials,” Adam said, unaware that he was being devoured.

Although there was a lot of dialog throughout the play, the best words came at the end.

“Sorry that you’re so upset,” said Evelyn, as she stood amongst her installation clutter, including the engagement ring and sex videos.

“You messed up my life and put it under glass,” shouted Adam. “F–k you, you heartless B–ch! You don’t see it as wrong?”

Evelyn claimed that she never loved him, and didn’t want a relationship. Yes, she seduced him, for art’s sake, but that was all. She should thank him, actually, because he’s better looking than before.

(At L with Sasha) Tierra showed her good-girl acting talents in "Jayne Eyre," but the darker side in "The Shape of Things"

Trying to force morality on someone who doesn’t have it is nearly impossible. All of Adam’s words were in vain. At the end of the play, he’s left alone, looking at their sex tape.

“That doesn’t surprise me that this play had a double meaning,” said Jesse, a theater major, after being told that the leads were named Adam and Eve. “All of Neil LaBute’s plays have duality.”

(Kat Factor, a poet and head of the Interdisciplinary Arts (IM) Department, mentioned the Adam and Eve connection afterwards. In turn, I told it to many of the students who saw the play, who all said, “Ahhh!”)

LaBute is known for his terse language (like David Mamet) and his cynical themes of love and lust.  In his first film, “In the Company of Men,” (1997) two men seduce and dump a deaf female coworker “for the fun of it.”

LaBute didn’t stray far from his cynicism and cruelty years later in “The Shape of Things.”

After the great performance Sunday, I was angry — at Evelyn, college boys and cynical playwrights —  for their unabashed cruelty. Not all artists are like Evelyn, so self-absorbed and mean-spirited, Neil.

But it also brought back a bad memory from my college days at UNL. One Saturday night, about 50 fraternity boys all went to the local bars. They were having a contest to see who could pick up the ugliest girl. Then they brought them all back to the frat house for a “party.” Left alone in a room for awhile, these ugly girls realized that their cruel “joke.” I wasn’t one of them, but I could have been.

Ah, The Shape of Things!

In this play, Neil LaBute shows us what one man was willing to do for “the sake of love,” or sex, and what one woman was willing to do “for the sake of art.”

That’s it.

It’s not about all fine artists everywhere. It’s just one person’s view. An entertaining and twisted view.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Jan 24, 2012 @ 14:26

More than Just Pretty Costumes

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

(from L) Gracie and Minnie discuss outfit options for the next show

By Marcia E. Gawecki

One of her best-known student productions was “The Learned Ladies,” by Moliere, in which she painted French words in oversized script letters directly to the fishnet on the girl’s ball gowns.

“That turned out pretty well,” said Minnie Christine Walters, who heads up the Costume Shop (part of the Theater Department) at Idyllwild Arts. “Howard Shangraw was pleased.”

Over the past seven years, Minnie has created the costumes for comedies, dramas, period pieces and anything Howard Shangraw, head of the Theater Department, would throw at her.

“We work well together,” she said of Howard. “He doesn’t scare me.”

Most times for the student productions, she has a limited deadline, a small budget, yet she has access to many resources. She has worked in the business for more than three decades, and has earned three advanced degrees. Besides Idyllwild Arts, she teaches at the Art Institute in San Bernardino, and can draw upon many sources to get her costumes.

(from L) Minnie discusses the colors Kent-Harris' character, Phillip, would wear

“Did you see ‘For the Birds?'” Minnie asks. “There were some showgirl costumes that I borrowed from a friend of mine in New York. It’s good sometimes when you don’t have to start from scratch.”

One of her more challenging productions was for Redlands College in which she had to create 4,000 dance costumes.

Oftentimes, she said, the costume designer is brought in late into the planning of the production. For this one, she designed the dresses on paper, but had all of them made in China. It took about a month.

“It would have been impossible to pull off any other way,” she said.

For the next Idyllwild Arts production, “In the Shape of Things,” Minnie and her Costume Shop crew had it relatively easy.

“There’s only four actors in the play, so each of the students gets to focus on one actor,” Minnie explained.

She had her Costume Shop students,Tenaya, Grace, Bess and Kent-Harris, all create “mood boards,” of magazine cut-outs of what each of the actors would wear. They read the script and broke them down scene-by-scene.

Mood boards help students in the Costume Shop stick to the script

“For example, Tenaya’s character, Eve (played by Tara) is a controlling black widow of a woman,” Minnie explained. “So we’re dressing her in red and black tight-fitting outfits with stiletto heels.”

With their mood boards and calculators in hand, the Costume Shop crew and Minnie drove to Hemet on Tuesday, Jan. 10, to hit as many thrift shops and outlet stores as they could find.

They ended up going to four, including two different Goodwill Stores, Marshall’s, and Angel View Thrift Shop. On the list was the 9.99 store, Target and Kohls, but they didn’t need to go there.

Minnie’s budget for five outfits for the four characters, including shoes, jackets and jewelry, was only $300.

“Oh, we’ll make it,” she said, unnerved. “We’re going to thrift stores where you can get purses and shoes for under $10.”

At Marshall’s, the first stop, Gracie showed her outfits to Minnie. She liked that the student kept to the show’s color palette–muted purple, fuschia, gray, black and red. She showed her a little purple “balloon” dress for only $10, but Minnie refused. Too much bare shoulders for her character, Jenny (played by Meghan).

Tenaya came over with glitter stiletto heels for Eve, but was also turned down by Minnie. At $40 a pair, they cost too much.

“I love them so much, I just might buy them for myself,” Tenaya exclaimed. “But my mom would kill me!”

(from L) Tenaya and Bess wait in line with their costume selections at Goodwill

Kent-Harris found a nice blue polo shirt for “Phillip,” played by Dakota. He offered a selection to Minnie, who picked the muted blue over the periwinkle blue.

“I love this color, but it’s too bold for your character,” she explained to Kent-Harris. “And we don’t want him upstaging Eve.”

Throughout the day, Minnie was continually reminding the students about the characters, and the script.

One of their bigger challenges was finding two Rock Star type T-shirts that looked exactly alike. In one scene for the next show, one of the male characters goes to bed wearing the Rock n’ Roll T-shirt, and the girl wears it the next day.

“We need two exact shirts because it’s a quick scene change, and we don’t have time to switch over one shirt,” Minnie explained.

When Tenaya was looking for a purse for Eve at the Goodwill Store, she showed two options to Minnie. One was a fuschia bag with a stylish flower on the side, and the other was a glitter bag with a black strap.

“I like the fuschia bag because it matches her outfits,” Tenaya explained. “But the glitter bag has a velcro clasp, and it would be easy to open and close onstage.”

“Remember, Eve will be taking the spray paint cans out of the bag,” Minnie added.

Kent-Harris would add up all of the prices on his cell phone's calculator

“The fuschia bag also has a snap, so it’ll be easy to open and close too,” Tenaya said. “And then you wouldn’t have that loud velcro sound.”

They decided to get both and let Howard pick the one he wanted.

And so the day went, looking at clothing, matching the character, and sticking to their budget. At each store, they would gather together and show each other what they wanted. Then Kent-Harris would add up the total on his cell phone calculator.

Sometimes, they would have to toss things back because of the price or the faulty material.

At Angel View Thrift Shop, Minnie found a potential dress for Eve. It was black, form-fitting with man criss-crossed lines in the front.

“I like this dress because of the web-like criss-crossing in the front,” she said. “Eve is a black widow spider, and this might be perfect for her.”

While they were waiting for Kent-Harris at Angel View, Tenaya, Gracie and Bess all tried on prom dresses. They had a dance coming up soon and the prices were great. Bess and Tenaya bought theirs for under $20.

After five hours of shopping, they broke for dinner. The only item still at large was a leather jacket for “Phillip,” Kent-Harris’ character.

“I’ll ask Howard if we can go to the Help Center in town,” Minnie said.

She also has outfits left over from other productions that she might be able to draw from.

Students would ask each other for input. Here, Tenaya holds up a sheer blouse for Eve.

Minnie said that they measured the four actors, but didn’t ask for their imput on their costumes.

“I’ve learned over the years that actors’ imput can just put a wrench in things,” Minnie said. “One actor that I knew refused to wear a green shirt because someone told him that he didn’t look good in green. But the green shirt is for the character, not the actor.”

Minnie’s background is strong for theater. She has a Bachelor of Arts in fashion, a Master’s degree in Musical Theater with an emphasis on Acting, and an MFA in Costume Design. She says sometimes people treat her like a “dumb seamstress,” but she sometimes has to mention her advanced degrees and put them in their place.

She admitted that most Theater students at Idyllwild Arts are agreeable with her selections, but they sometimes complain about things being itchy. Some of their selections for “In the Shape of Things” was wool and leather.

“Would it be too hot for the actors onstage?”

“I never worry about that,” Minnie said. “That comes with the territory of being an actor. There’s going to be hot  lights most of the time. If they can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!”

If anything Minnie and her crew have picked is ill-fitting for the actors, they can always sew it and make it right. When a jacket was the right style and the wrong color before, she’s spray-painted them.

“Some of the costumes end up not looking so great up close,” Minnie admitted. “But as long as it looks good to the audience, that’s all we care about.”

All the bags filled the back of the school van, and the students were giddy about their selections. Minnie advised them to arrange all of their outfits so that Howard could approve them the next day. However, as they headed for the Costume Shop (in the basement at Bowman), Howard’s car was parked outside.

(from L) Bess had to shop for a male character, Adam, played by Dylan.

“Guess we’re going to talk about the outfits tonight,” Minnie said.

During the “In the Shape of Things” set for next weekend, Jan. 20-21 and 22 at Rush Hall, Minnie and her crew will be in the basement, helping the actors with their costume changes.

“It’s a pretty sexy play,” Bess explained. “But Howard toned it down a bit because we’re teenagers. In my old school, they would never do that.”

“Yes, but we don’t want to embarrass the other students who are coming to the show,” Tenaya said.

Minnie just smiled. All of the costumes were nearly ready, but there was a lot more work to be done on show day.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Jan 14, 2012 @ 11:22

“The Spitfire Grill” Musical This Weekend

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

With its jazz banners, Cafe Aroma is swankier than "The Spitfire Grill," but a favorite hangout of the three leading ladies

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Many of us know “The Spitfire Grill” as that great little restaurant near the airport in Santa Monica. It was started by a USAF lieutenant in 1954 so his fellow pilots would have a good place to eat. Today, it still promotes the area’s aviation history.

Moviegoers may know “The Spitfire Grill” as the 1996 sleeper about a young woman who moves to a small town after being released from prison. Her chance at a fresh start is nixxed by many of the townsfolk. Both the girl, the grill and the town end up changing in the end. The shows strong female characters are played by Ellen Burstyn, Marcia Gay Harden and Alison Eliott.

But “The Spitfire Grill” that I’m talking about is a high school musical by James Valcq and Fred Ally that starts this Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Idyllwild Arts Academy.

Paulina, who plays “Shelby,” one of the leads, didn’t watch the movie on purpose.

“I didn’t want to mold my character after anything that I saw in the movie,” Paulina said. “I want it to all come from within.”

You may have heard Paulina, Becca and Melissa (shown far right) in last year's musical, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee"

Paulina’s character is a hard luck case herself.  She is shy and is verbally abused by her husband. Although she doesn’t have a shy bone in her body, Paulina said that she has observed others who are.

“But, with the help of her two good friends, Shelby triumphs in the end,” Paulina said.

Bram, who claims to be onstage “for about 30 seconds,” plays one of the male characters in this female-centric story about the spiritual path of turning pain into joy.

Bram admitted to watching the movie and liking it. However, he was skeptical at first of turning “The Spitfire Grill,” a drama with a dark side, into a musical. After the first rehearsal, however, “The Spitfire Grill” musical won him over.

The three leads, played by Melissa, Becca and Paulina, all have incredible voices with wide ranges. You may have heard them in last year’s musical, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

They are all friends at Idyllwild Arts, a close-knit boarding school set in a small town in the San Jacinto Mountains.

Each weekend, the three of them board the van to Idyllwild, where they’d buy groceries and eat at local restaurants. Cafe Aroma is one of their favorites, although it’s a lot swankier than The Spitfire Grill in Gilead.

“The Spitfire Grill” musical opens at 7:30 p.m. this Friday, May 20 at the IAF Theater on the Idyllwild Arts campus. Saturday’s show is also at 7:30 p.m., but Sunday’s show starts at 2 p.m. All shows on campus are free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.idyllwildarts.org or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: May 19, 2011 @ 10:26

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.

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Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

By Marcia E. Gawecki

How do you prepare teenagers for a play about the ravages of war when no one has ever served in one, let alone met anyone in the military?

“Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter,” Idyllwild Arts Academy’s recent play, will be presented this weekend, January 22-24. It’s about a young woman Marine who returns home from the war in Iraq–disfigured, disillusioned and unable to reconnect with her family. Yet, she finds comfort with the misfits of Slab City, and eventually finds her way home.

The small cast, six in all, are teenagers who play older military characters. Howard Shangraw, head of the theater department at Idyllwild Arts, prepared them in the best way he knew how–he took them to Slab City.

Slab City is a makeshift RV campsite built on a former WWII Marine base in Southern California. The name comes from the concrete slabs where the RVs park. But, like the stark name implies, there is no electricity, running water or comforts of home. Most visitors come to Slab City temporarily during the wintertime, while about 150 veterans live there permanently. Those were the ones that Howard’s students went to meet.

Riley Lynch, who plays a handicapped preacher, said that meeting his character in real life was awe-inspiring. “He told me to keep everything real simple,” Riley said. “But that didn’t mean he wasn’t a complex individual.” After their hour-long meeting, Riley said that he was able to mimmick the preacher’s mannerisms, ticks and labored walk.

Amenta Abioto, who plays the lead, a 30ish African American mother with an amputated leg, wasn’t as lucky. She couldn’t meet her real-life character at Slab City because she was deceased. So Amenta had to rely on You Tube videos and documentaries to develop her character.

Howard showed her and the rest of the cast a PBS documentary about a Marine who had returned home from Iraq with the same challenges as Jenny Sutter. Yet, this Marine ended up committing suicide, Howard said somberly.

Since Amenta’s character’s leg was amputated, Howard tried to set up a meeting with a wounded Marine to hear a firsthand account. It didn’t matter if the soldier was male or female, he said.  Yet, after several phone calls and e-mails to a Marine representative, there was still some resistance.

“He (the representative) had read our promotion piece and was concerned that the play criticized the Marines’ lack of support for their soldiers as they re-entered civilian life,” Howard said. He told him about the excellent veteran programs that cover their needs–physically, financially and emotionally.

“No doubt that the Marines take care of their own,” Howard added. “Our play, however, is not a criticism of any branch of the U.S. military. It’s one individual’s story. If there’s any message here, it’s this: ‘War is Hell.'”

Howard had also invited the playwright, Julie Marie Myatt, to the Idyllwild Arts campus to meet the crew before the show, but ran out of time. “We’ll just have to talk to her over the phone,” he said.

Actually, “Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter,” is not a true account of a wounded Marine. It was created from a compilation of stories that the playwright heard growing up from her father, a Vietnam veteran, Howard said.

“Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter,” begs to be told in our country now, as growing numbers of men and women are returning home from Iraq,” the play promotion adds.

The play opens this weekend with 7:30 p.m. showings on Friday and Saturday, and a 2 p.m. showing on Sunday. All shows are free and held at the Bowman Theater on the school campus located at 52500 Temecula Road (at the end of Tollgate Road) in Idyllwild. For more information, call (951) 659-2171, extension 2200, or visit www.idyllwildarts.org.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.