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Julian Wiles, Founder and Producing Artistic Director
Marybeth Clark, Associate Artistic Director

February 26, 2010

Playing the roles of Viola/Cesario, by Lindsey Lamb

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 4:41 pm

Playing the roles of Viola/Cesario has been a wonderful experience for me.  When I was first cast in the role of Viola I was very excited to get to sink my teeth into such a meaty role.  Little did I know how much fun I was really going to have.

Before rehearsals even started, our director JulianWiles and I discussed what changes I would need to make to portray a man, Cesario.  In rehearsals we started with some vocal changes.  I worked on making my voice deeper as well as adding a bit of a dialect. We also played around with my physicality as Cesario.  One thing we worked hard at was that my portrayal of Cesario didn’t come across as a caricature.  Once I kind of found a groove for Cesario I started to play around with Viola some.  It really helped to establish some strong choices for her.  One challenge for me during rehearsals was trying to remember which character I was in certain scenes.   The flipping back and forth between Viola and Cesario got a little confusing at times. Thankfully now we have found a good flow : )

It has been a lot of fun to play “one of the guys” in this show.  I definitely get to do some things physically that women don’t normally do.  And I have to say getting ready before the show has never been quicker!   I do enjoy getting to wear some “womens weeds” at the end of the show. 

I hope you get a chance to experience the Roaring 20’s with us because we are having a blast!


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From left to right: Former Charleston Stage Resident Actor's Lindsey Lamb as Cesario and Amber Mann as Olivia.

 

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From left to right: Former Charleston Stage Resident Actor's Lindsey Lamb as Cesario and Kyle W. Barnette as Malvolio.

February 24, 2010

Stage Managing Twelfth Night, by Maggie Meyer

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 5:32 pm

Five years ago, I worked with Charleston Stage as a Theatre Wings Apprentice.  I worked on a number of great shows and gained some incredible professional experience that prepared me for opportunities in college that only juniors and seniors scored.  It has been three long years since my last time behind the scenes and finally, it feels like I have returned home.  As Stage Manager of Twelfth Night, I find myself captivated by the magic of theater and Shakespeare all over again.   

I recall an adage our director, Julian Wiles, uses throughout rehearsals – “Remember, Shakespeare never meant for his work to be the bane of every high school English class; it was always meant to be performed.”  Whether I am recording the blocking (movements of actors on stage) of characters like Sir Toby Belch, aptly named for his drunken escapades, or even setting up the props (items actors use in scenes) for each act, I am so grateful for the opportunity to see Shakespeare’s words and wit come to life.  Some may think that seeing the performance night after night would dull the experience, but never is that the case with Twelfth Night.  With every performance, I catch on to a new double entendre – how many meanings can the words ‘rose’ and ‘pearl’ really have? – or capture the slight smirk of the loveable barmaid Maria.  Together, with a fantastic crew and amazing set of actors, I have realized just how much of Shakespeare’s devilish side is in the details.

 

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The Cast of Twelfth Night.

 

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From left to right: Nicholas Piccola as Valentine, Kyle W. Barnette as Malvolio, Amber Mann as Olivia, and Jan Gilbert as Maria.

 

February 22, 2010

Toby, or Not Toby?, by Nat Jones

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 9:48 am

It is a question often asked of me: “How does one go about playing a drunkard and a roué?”

Since acting is all about finding The Truth of one’s character, I could reply that I down copious amounts of alcohol prior to every rehearsal and performance. (Hey, it worked for Barrymore.) However, taking method acting to such a degree would likely land me in hot water with my director, not to mention my wife. And it wouldn’t be The Truth. Suffice to say, the process of submersing myself in Toby’s character and plumbing his depths was conducted in an altogether less literal sense.

Despite having lapped in age my more youthful fellow cast members and having begun my shift into “lean and slipper’d pantaloon, with spectacles on nose and pouch on side,” I am no stranger to the heady glow (and the painful aftereffects) of making merry, though my enthusiasm for such pursuits has been tamed by time. Beyond personal experience, I can point to any number of well-lubricated inebriates among my own kith and kin. While I will not mention them by name, and in no way seek to glorify such behavior, there are some who carry it off with aplomb, and armed with infectious laugh and ribald tale, anoint themselves Ambassadors of Good Feeling. My Toby is a distillation of situations and personalities drawn from a rich tapestry of celebratory overindulgence – moments frozen in time and made ever more legendary with the passage of it.

Truth be known, Shakespeare, whom I consider the ultimate sit-com writer of his time (if not of all time), carefully limned his comic characters and held them up as a mirror to those loud and boisterously appreciative patrons who stood shoulder to shoulder in the pit, hanging on every saucy turn of phrase, every earthy double entendre. By dint of this connection with Everyman, Toby is, on many levels, more genuinely human and intrinsically real than the heroes and villains who form the larger sinews of the plot, in no small part because his foibles and missteps are our own.

If spirits free us from our inhibitions, Toby indeed is the freest of spirits. A boorish freeloader who displays not even a soupcon of political correctness, he nonetheless embraces his inner child: acting on impulse and worrying little or not at all about the consequences. Like a child, it’s attention, favorable or unfavorable, that he craves – and like any practical joker, he often is disparaged publicly for his pranks, but privately applauded for making life a little more lively.

Oh, and one more thing I discovered about Toby: He cannot dance worth a lick.

 

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From left to right: Nat Jones as Sir Toby Belch, Charleston Stage Resident Actor James Lombardino as Feste, and Eric Brown as Sir Andrew Aguecheek.

 

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From left to right: Charleston Stage Resident Actor James Lombardino as Feste, Eric Brown as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Nat Jones as Sir Toby Belch, and Kyle W. Barnette as Malvolio.

 

February 17, 2010

Writing/Composing Original Music For Twelfth Night, by Amanda Wansa

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 12:34 pm

As was the case with this year’s Christmas Carol, my preparation process for this show has been a creatively exciting combination of choosing and editing pre-recorded clips, writing/composing original music (set to Shakespeare’s text), and arranging live piano underscore.  We are setting the show in the Roarin’ 20s, and Julian and I agreed that I would play live piano onstage.  This would allow us to have live musical numbers, sung by Feste (James Lombardino) and Maria (Jan Gilbert) to entertain the “bar patrons” and, hopefully, the audience.  There are song texts written into this show by Shakespeare, so I sat down with those lyrics and composed a few pieces for piano and voice. 

Julian requested that I write a “closing number” and, after some brainstorming and research, I settled on taking a Sonnet (you’ll have to come to the show to hear which one!) and putting it to music.  I then discovered that some of our actors have musical talents, so that led me to composing the piece for various instruments AND voices!  I think our audience is in for a treat!

In order to be historically accurate, my research process for this show was the heaviest yet.  We had to be sure to not select pre-recorded material from the 30s or 40s, which are the actual arrangements that the public is familiar when we think of the “Jazz Age”.  Similarly, “ragtime” was most popular in the decades preceding the 20s.  Another issue was finding tracks that aren’t muddied or muffled due to recording quality.  The research for this show was very fun, not only because I love jazz (personally) and perform it, but I had a wonderful assistant doing an independent study with me—Liz Nelson—who helped me sift through hundreds of recordings to find just the right pieces to underscore this two hours of jazzy Shakespeare fun!

I’ve really enjoyed this process and am excited to join all my actor friends onstage as Flora, the pianist at “Olivia’s”!

February 11, 2010

Assistant Directing Twelfth Night, by Charleston Stage Resident Actor Justin Tyler Lewis

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 1:36 pm

My position as the Assistant Director of Twelfth Night came along as kind of a last-minute surprise.  Marybeth Clark (my boss, the Associate Artistic Director of Charleston Stage, and the director of Winnie-the-Pooh) and I had discussed the possibility of me working as the Asst. Director for Winnie at the end of the season and Julian Wiles (the director of Twelfth Night and Producing Artistic Director) thought that I might be interested in asst. directing Twelfth Night with him.  A novice in the field of directing, I was apprehensive about taking on this huge duty for one of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies and a show in which I was also performing, but Julian’s confidence in me and my familiarity with and love for Twelfth Night urged me to accept.

Now in my third week of rehearsal for Twelfth Night, I have already learned a slew of new things about directing, acting, and theatre as a medium.  My first and perhaps biggest lesson has been in the stamina and focus it takes to direct a full-length play.  The director must attend lengthy, nightly rehearsals with a mind ready to present ideas, adjust timing, communicate with 1-20 actors, and think critically and on the spot.  As an actor, I’ve had the luxury to focus in exclusive detail on my single part in the whole, but the director must always take steps forward and back to keep the parts in tune with the whole.

The second lesson I’ve learned from asst. directing Twelfth Night has been the necessity of delegation and prioritization.  A successful show – especially a multi-layered and celebrated show such as Twelfth Night – requires that a nearly incomprehensible number of elements must converge and diverge at precise moments.  So, to manage the scripts, lights, sets, costumes, props, actors, and budgets simultaneously is no small feat – and doing all of this while remaining artistically sharp is nothing short of amazing!  In the end, while my final contribution to Twelfth Night may be small, the knowledge I have gained from asst. directing is great and it has established in me an even greater admiration for fine directors and directing.

February 1, 2010

Rehearsing Twelfth Night, by director Julian Wiles

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 1:36 pm

And we’re off!  The first week of rehearsals have been great fun mixing classic Shakespeare with mobland Chicago.  The cast are practicing their “gangsta” accents while striving to remain true to Shakespeare’s classic words.  We’ve all had great fun translating this classic comedy to the world of  The Untouchables, Chicago and the Roaring 20’s.  A countess’s court has been turned into a speakeasy, a court jester into a nightclub crooner, duels into boxing matches, and swords into tommy guns.  Twelfth Night is one of  Shakespeare’s funniest comedies — a comedy with a character named Sir Toby Belch has to be fun.  This original take on Shakespeare’s classic also includes original music and songs, composed especially for this show by resident music director, Amanda Wansa.  The songs keep Shakespeare’s original words with the music fashioned after ragtime and classic roaring 20’s blues.

We have a terrific cast which includes three members of this year’s Resident Professional Acting Company, four members of past Charleston Stage Resident Professional Acting Companies returning as guest artists, a great company of seasoned Charleston based performers, as well as a group of talented  new actors—newcomers to Charleston Stage.  Together it’s a terrific company of players. (I think Shakespeare would be pleased).  Already almost the entire show has been blocked. (Blocking refers to actors learning where they move, sit, stand, etc.)  Of course there’s much work still to be done, songs to be learned, characters to develop but we’re off to a great start.

Julian Wiles, Director of Twelfth Night.

 

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(From left to right: Brian J. Porter as Curio, former Charleston Stage Resident Actor Amber Mann as Olivia, Charleston Stage Resident Actor Christopher M. Diaz as Orsino, and Nicholas Piccola as Valentine.)

 


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