Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The CSC Blog is Moving!

We are pleased to announce the launch of our new website!

The new classicstage.org includes a multimedia page featuring productions photos and videos from current and past productions and a new blog. We hope you will take some time to explore the site in full.

We will no longer be posting on this blog.  To access our new blog, go to classicstage.org/blog

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Cosmic Blast: An Interview with GALILEO Set Designer, Adrianne Lobel

This interview appears in the recent edition of CSC's CLASSIC newsletter. Pick up a copy in our lobby, or download a pdf here.

Is this your first design for a Brecht play?
I designed a much lesser-known play called THE VISIONS OF SIMONE MACHARD. It was the gala opening of the La Jolla Playhouse in 1985. Peter Sellars directed and we threw it together very quickly. I remember that it was very revolutionary. The opening night was packed with celebs and a wealthy San Diego crowd. Peter had stagehands throwing Styrofoam cups down from the overhead grid onto the audience while the actors shrieked, "Birds of a feather flock together! Birds of a feather flock together!" It is a play about World War I seen through the eyes of Joan of Arc. They loved it!

You've designed new operas like NIXON IN CHINA, plays like the recent Broadway production of THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, and musicals like Sondheim and Lapine's PASSION. Does your approach vary from project to project and how would you compare that to designing a piece by Brecht?
A complex question that requires a book-long answer. In brief: the approach is always different - but my philosophy about theater design is always the same. Like Brecht, I believe in telling the story simply and with economical means—that is good design as well as good storytelling.  It is wonderful to design a Brecht piece because his philosophy about theater folds so nicely into my own:  show the seams, show the artifice, make the audience use their imaginations and they will be more compelled by the action—and more completely transformed by a different "reality."

Have Brecht's theories on theatre had an impact on your thinking about this design? Or do you feel it is important to approach this work with none of the theoretical baggage that has made up so many past productions?

It is dangerous to approach a play by Brecht in an academically Brechtian way. That will lead to stereotypical solutions that will not be moving or compelling - you need to find fresh imagery for a modern audience that has seen it all. But Brechtian rules still apply: have the actors and the scenery work together in making a brand new world—that is an expansive theory that gives everyone a lot of room to be creative in the same way that Shakespeare's rules still apply.

You've worked on Broadway, The Metropolitan Opera, lavish dance theaters in Europe and intimate spaces like CSC. Do you have a preferred scale that you like to work in and what are the benefits and challenges of a small space like CSC?
I do think big! (though very simply) and there is no difference between working at the Met and working at CSC (except the pay scale!).  I have always wanted to design this play—I even used it as a student project when I taught at NYU. I love the idea that it is what Galileo sees that changes the view of the universe, that what we see everyday can be reinterpreted by one person, be that an artist or scientist, looking at it in a new light—the sun shining on the ever-changing orb of the moon for example... Brecht is really flexing his muscles—not content with remaking the world, here his ambition is to remake the universe. So I had to design the universe.

How do you design the entire universe Off-Broadway?
Brian Kulick and I lovingly remembered the solar system mobiles that we both had made in fourth grade. I looked at a multitude of pictures online of children’s' solar systems and bingo - we had our idea - remake the CSC auditorium into a break-the-fourth-wall Brechtian planetarium! What fun!  I also incorporated the more formal and elegant Renaissance models of the solar system.  Lighting will be crucial in the control and focus of what we see and what we don't see in our CSC sky. And projections will help to animate this universe. These elements will be incorporated during tech rehearsals and that should be a cosmic blast!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Meet the CSC Staff!

Get to know CSC's Director of Development, Audrey Carmeli!

How long have you been at CSC?  
This is my fourth season.

Tell us about what you do on a daily basis:  
Many people do not realize that CSC is a not-for-profit organization, which means that ticket sales cover only a portion of the actual costs of putting such wonderful works on our stage. The rest comes from contributions. That’s where I come in—I handle the fundraising for CSC. That includes writing grant proposals, meeting with individual donors, keeping up with reporting requirements, and ensuring that all of our contributors receive their proper benefits. You may have seen me in the lobby greeting people just before a performance, or at one of our Patron Night or Opening Night events. Stop by and say hello!

What did you do prior to joining CSC? 
I worked in government and foundation relations as the Manager of Development Initiatives at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. Before that, I did some stage management and production work for TimeLine Theatre in Chicago, and before that, I completed a PhD in Theatre History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

What has been your favorite CSC production to work on?  
This is a toughie. But I think I’ll have to go with THE SCHOOL FOR LIES, because that was the only one for which I’d been able to see the full progression from page to stage. I was familiar with the source material (Molière’s THE MISANTHROPE); I was able to attend the “table read,” where the actors met and read through the play for the very first time together and the designers talked through their concepts; and then of course I saw the actual production. Not once, but twice. And I laughed like crazy both times.

What is your favorite classical work? 
HAMLET. Oh, such wonderful soliloquies! 

What do you like to do in your free time?  
I read a lot, and I try to catch as much good theatre as I can.

What is your favorite color? 
Red. Maybe because I look really good in red. 

What is your favorite book? 
John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany.

Favorite neighborhood spot? 
 The Strand. 18 Miles of Books! If I were a ghost, I would gladly haunt that place for eternity.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Subterfuge or Camouflage" - An Interview with THE CHERRY ORCHARD Translator John Christopher Jones

This interview appears in the recent edition of CSC's CLASSIC newsletter. Pick up a copy in our lobby, or download a pdf here.

You've acted in several Chekhov plays over the course of your career. Could you talk about the experience of playing Chekhov?

John Christopher Jones in THE SEAGULL
at CSC, 2008. Photo: Joan Marcus
I did Kulygin twice over a twenty-year period, I did PLATONOV at the ART and Sorin in THE SEAGULL at CSC. Playing Sorin was one of my all-time favorite experiences in the theatre because the Russian director Vyacheslav (Slava) Dolgachev who I thought was the most brilliant theatre animal I’d ever come across, sort of lived and breathed theatre. He was so passionate, and it’s interesting because as an actor, I’ve prided myself on being a text man, of centering myself on what the character was speaking and getting behind it one hundred percent, and Slava said that in Chekhov the text is not what’s going on. It’s like the tip of the iceberg. If anything, it’s subterfuge or camouflage. So that was a particular revelation.

I remember when I played Kulygin at the McCarter Theater in Lanford Wilson’s translation, that there were five places where I didn’t know how to get from sentence A to sentence B. So, I looked it up in the Russian original—I had taken Russian as a language in college, but I hadn’t really remembered too much of it so I used a dictionary—and every place where I had marked my script with an X, Lanford Wilson had either added or deleted a line of Chekhov. So, it was kind of interesting. I translated the whole part of Kulygin at McCarter. I used Lanford Wilson’s translation, I didn’t use any of my own stuff, but I did it to try to figure out, to at least give myself some ammunition to play the part. Here’s an example.  I don’t know if this will translate for a newsletter but it’s kind of interesting.  In the fire scene, Kulygin’s asleep and Masha enters the room and he wakes up and his line is “Milia Moya Masha. [More Russian]” which is usually translated, “My good Masha, my kind Masha, my dear Masha, my sweet Masha.” And the repetition of the “m” sound gives a clue. Interesting that it’s “nym nym nym” so I imagine him waking up at 3 or 4 in the morning, seeing his wife, and going, “nym nym nym.” It’s kind of baby talk, and I think I translated it as, “Mmmmmm my Masha. Precious, mmmyyy Masha.” So I was able to use the sound of the Russian to get a hint, a clue, as to how to play the moment, and when the show was over, I decided to translate the entire play. It took me a year. I did three drafts and I used a dictionary and the Russian text.

So would you say that your experience of playing Kulygin in that production, and your challenges of the areas that you had marked as being problematic in terms of the translation, sort of led you to start wanting to translate Chekhov yourself?

The answer is a resounding yes. The deal about translating the entire play, part of me just wanted to see if I could.  I’m sort of a puzzle person, I like Scrabble and crosswords and cryptic puzzles, so translation sort of feeds the same appetite in terms of trying to come up with alternative fillers for a space. And, I just found the work very, very interesting and rewarding. When CSC was about to do THREE SISTERS, I submitted my translation for consideration, but they had already committed to doing the Paul Schmidt version, but they said, “It’s really good, your THREE SISTERS translation. How about this, what if we commission you to do THE CHERRY ORCHARD?”

You worked closely with Andrei, John and Dianne on this translation. Can you talk a little bit about that collaborative process?

Adam Driver and John Christopher Jones in THE FOREST
at CSC, 2012. Photo: Joan Marcus
One of the reasons I was plugging for my version as opposed to other translations was that I’d be around and I’d be able to change things during rehearsal, if that was the case. In translating the part of Ranevskaya, I was thinking of Dianne specifically and the first hurdle was to get her seal of approval. I think because we’re friends and colleagues she was perhaps a little embarrassed having to tell me that although she thought the major speeches were beautifully written, a lot of the dialogue didn’t sit well in her mouth when she spoke it. It was a little too contemporary. So I had two or three sessions with Dianne changing things. They were very good sessions, I think. Basically, I was trying to make it so that she was comfortable, because the problem with translations is there usually comes a point where the actor rolls their eyes in disgust at the words they have to say. I know the particular word that I always hated as an actor in plays in translation was the word “scoundrel.” I just didn’t know how to say it. For Dianne, a lot of the changes were very minor: exchanging “darling” and “sweetheart,” changing “gonna” to “going to”… they were very minor but they made a big difference. Every time an actor has to say something they don’t believe in or have difficulty saying, it takes them out of the play. So, one of my jobs as an on-the-spot translator is to make it comfortable for the actors so that they can live through the words they have to speak as opposed to stumble over them. I had two or three sessions with John. First of all, he’s a lot of fun to be around. And like Dianne, his intuition is unimpeachable. I know Andrei's particularly unhappy with the nickname for Yepikhodov, which is usually translated as “twenty-two misfortunes” or “two-and-twenty troubles” or something pretty stupid like that. I have them call him “Major Catastrophe.” Andrei hates it. So, the short answer is: we’re in process.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Yes, there is. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease eight years ago, and thank God I’ve been able to continue my work as an actor. I’m very grateful to CSC and Brian and Dianne for the privilege and the joy of continuing to work on such great material, but particularly Dianne, for her appreciation of what I can still do. I’m still working as an actor. Another company in town that’s been very faithful to me is Theatre for a New Audience. I think I’ve done seven plays for them in the last eight years.  The parts get smaller and smaller but they were still good parts: the Gravedigger in HAMLET and the Porter in MACBETH. The porter in MACBETH is the smallest part I’ve ever played, all of two pages. But everybody remembers the porter because he says, “Remember the porter.” He tells the audience, “Remember the porter!” before he leaves. So, as my acting work sort of rides off into the sunset, it’s nice to be able to connect as a translator. And in translating THE CHERRY ORCHARD, I have tried to find each character’s voice, and as a result, in a sense, I get to play all the parts. 


THE CHERRY ORCHARD runs at Classic Stage Company through December 30, 2011.  Click here for tickets or call 212-352-3101 / 866-811-4111.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Meet the CSC Staff

Get to know the staff here at Classic Stage Company! Next up, meet CSC's Company Manager, John C. Hume.

How long have you worked at CSC? 
I have worked in the CSC box office for three seasons but starting just this month I have been promoted to Company Manager.
Tell us about what you do on a daily basis. 
A Company Manger works directly with the artists that create the shows we all love so much. I work with the directors, actors and designers to help make their experience at CSC a positive one. A Company Manager is also a bit of a jack-of-all-trades I'm learning. I have to arrange a flight for an artist, plan a birthday celebration for a cast member. For THE CHERRY ORCHARD I have had to call professional theatrical dog trainers to try to find/cast a dog for the show! It's all a lot of fun.
What did you do prior to joining CSC? 
For four years I worked at The Barrow Street Theatre in a variety of capacities and before that I worked at MIT in the Rotch Architecture and Urban Planning Library (back when theater was just a hobby and not my job!).
What has been your favorite CSC production to work on? 
How can you pick just one? VENUS IN FUR was, of course, a huge favorite of mine and THE SCHOOL FOR LIES (I almost fell out of my chair when Alison Fraser's character went all batty!), but my all time favorite was my first show here: THE SEAGULL. Such a beautiful and elegant production.
What is your favorite classical work?
I trained as an actor in college and went to conservatory in London and there they really instilled a love for all of the classics in me. However I have a particular soft spot for AS YOU LIKE IT, as I had the honor of playing Orlando in a fantastic production many years ago.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I do still perform now and then. I joke that I am the "darling of downtown cabaret" because the shows I have done at The Duplex have turned out to be quite popular with my friends and co-workers. I can sing a pretty mean show tune!

What’s your favorite CSC neighborhood hang out spot and why?
I was never a coffee connoisseur before working at CSC but Everyman Espresso is now part of my every day routine. And for dinner? You have to hit up John's of 12th Street. Have you had their pizza? And the name of the place is pretty cool too :) 

What is your favorite color?
What is your favorite book?
Howard's End--a classic...just like me!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Meet the CSC Staff

Get to know the staff here at Classic Stage Company! First up, meet our new Audience Services Manager, Gina Cimmelli.

How long have you worked at CSC? 
I started as a freelance House Manager in 2009 and became a full time employee in September.
Tell us about what you do on a daily basis. 
I am here for the customers. A friendly face to help sell tickets, book memberships, reserve group sales, and arrange accessible seating. I’m in the box office Monday through Saturday to answer any and all questions. 
Also if you’re looking to usher for a performance, feel free to contact me at housemanager@classicstage.org
What did you do prior to joining CSC? 
I worked for the Tribeca Performing Arts Center as the Senior House Manager, where I worked on numerous dramas, musicals, & dance performances. My favorite project with TPAC was the Tribeca Film Festival.
What has been your favorite CSC production to work on? 
I really enjoyed working on Venus in Fur. It has such an amazing script and the audiences were never disappointed by a performance. I also enjoyed Three Sisters last season.  The cast was so dedicated and strong.
What is your favorite classical work?
I’m a fan of anything Shakespeare or Molière.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I am a musician. I perform with my band “Gina’s Picture Show” up and down the east coast. Stop by and visit us at ginaspictureshow.com

What’s your favorite CSC neighborhood hang out spot and why?
I love going to the farmers market in Union Square on the weekends. The local treats are delicious. Though to be honest, I come in for Everyman Espresso even on my days off! Their drinks are amazing and the double chocolate chip cookies are the best medicine for a busy day!
What is your favorite color?
Blueberry! Looks just like the food, but sadly doesn’t smell as nice.
What is your favorite book?
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, although I am very partial to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Meet the Cast of UNNATURAL ACTS

Jerry Marsini talks about his character in UNNATURAL ACTS and his experience as co-author.

Who do you play in UNNATURAL ACTS? Can you describe your character's role in the play?

I play Donald Clark who was a third year PhD candidate in 1920 and had no evident connection to Ernest Roberts or his friends. He was drawn into the inquiry as it was winding down because a student, whose identity we don’t know, mentioned in his interrogation that he had once been “approached” by Clark.

In our play, Clark is a man who has learned to survive well inside the system, presenting himself as expected in public, while in private living a life of longing, expressing his sensual self through poetry. Clark is also a character who finds his dignity through the trial, realizing in the end that despite the difficulty, it is better to live his life in truth. 

How do you relate or connect with him?

There are so many parallels between Donald Clark and myself. I am a bit older than my cast mates. I lived a life in the closet throughout my formative and college years in the eighties, during the height of ignorance about AIDS, pre-internet, pre-Glee—pre-Will & Grace for that matter. I was very adept at being the person everyone expected, hiding unwanted feelings that were rising in me, but secretly finding an occasional “clue.” Perhaps the most notable connection for me is that I majored in French literature and studied in Paris which afforded the opportunity to travel all over Europe, and I was relieved to learn that as I was exposed to so much diversity, people all over the world were essentially the same.

Please tell us about your role as one of the co-authors of the play. What
has the process been like for you as both a writer and an actor?

It has been a tremendous learning experience because I had never before been part of a collaboration of equal scale. But above all, my experience of creating this play has been overwhelmingly positive, which is due to Tony Speciale’s talent as a director and ability to assemble so many creative people, and then to focus all those strong points of view into a singular vision. And it is always a pleasure to contribute your best to such a group. You know that what you bring to the process will be met with even better contributions, and that alone is inspiring. However, watching it all come together, seeing how everyone makes the project more important than any individual, you realize it is infinitely better because of everyone’s combined talents. That’s a rare gift.

Why do you think this play is important?

It is based on true events from our not-so-distant past, and because similar events are still taking place today, in new forms. Young gay men and women still face ridicule and persecution, and in turn, self-hate as they feel the impulses they are having signify that they are being betrayed by their own bodies. So I hope our play helps audiences analyze any personal prejudices they may have, as well as question the roles each gender is expected to play, which are so deeply rooted in our society. I hope that will help to herald a day when no one bats an eye as little girls and boys show interest in whatever hobbies they choose, make friends with girls or boys and aren't made to feel that either is "right" or "wrong" and come into their own as young adults and begin to pair off in whatever relationship makes them better, happy people.

If you wanted the audience to take away one thing from UNNATURAL ACTS, what would that be?

There is so much information that couldn’t be included in the play for practical reasons. There are so many similar stories that will never be told. I hope the audience leaves the theater with an appetite whet to know more, discover more, with a desire to be more open, more tolerant, with the passion to love more, to care more, and with the courage to live more, to be themselves, openly.