Friday, May 2, 2008

GOTTA SEE R & G by Rivka Levin, Development Director

I am writing to encourage you ALL to do yourselves the extreme favor of NOT MISSING this month’s production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. This is an incredible, funny, poignant production; and trust me, you’ll thank me later for this encouragement.

But wait! I hear you cry. Um… doesn’t the show open NEXT week? How can you know how good a show is before it’s even opened?

Because, dear reader, I have the wonderful and occasionally annoying honor of sharing an office space with the main rehearsal hall. (Welcome to the wild and woolly world of Non-Profit Theater.) So, whilst trying to write our grants and secure sponsorships, I am occasionally compelled to turn around in my chair to watch a particularly wacky or heart-wrenching moment of a rehearsal.

I have been a silent witness to this production (except for when I laughed out loud – oops!) since the first read-through, and I therefore feel uniquely qualified to tell you that with a whole week of rehearsals left to go, this is already a superb production. Jeff McKerley brings all the off-the-wall humor and incredible tenderness to the director’s chair that Tavern aficionados have come to expect from his own live performances. But more than that, he has accomplished what many directors say is 90% of what makes a good show: the right casting.

Paul Hester and Guildenstern (or is it Rosencrantz?) and Nick Faircloth as Rosencrantz (or, erm… wait…) are beautifully cast as the two hapless friends of Hamlet’s whose innocence of political intrigue lands them in hot water. They are in turns immensely clever (as only Tom Stoppard can be) and endearingly na├»ve; overwhelmed with concern for their fate and in the next breath carefree as school children… and watching them in rehearsal has been an absolute joy. Likewise, Drew Reeves as the Player and his band of tragedians shine with impeccable timing and physical ability. Drew in particular as the histrionic, never-quite-know-where-you-stand-with-him thespian brings an energy and rage to the role that makes him fascinating to watch.

The bottom line: my recommendation is to order your tickets NOW, before the word of mouth which will surely follow Opening Night sells this production out.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Apprentice's Perspective Vol. 3 - Graduation

Hey guys! Wow, it has been a long time since I've been on here.

Well, that's sort of a misnomer. I've been on here, I just haven't been writing. Once again, a lot has happened since I last wrote. Let's try to cover it all. I've got some time between memorizing lines and waiting to go see Iron Man. Wait, did I say memorizing lines? Hmmm...looks like you might just have to wait for that tidbit.

- January was my Tavern stage debut with Twelfth Night. Turns out the time crunch wasn't a huge deal, as I think we put on a really solid show. Matt Nitchie as Malvolio was incredible in a part that is rarely quite so infused with humanity. Though, to call any particular person out is a disservice to everyone else who was fantastic. Though, of course, I have to mention my partner, Tiffany Porter, who was such a great Fabian. She got a great look at all of my acting, as she was on stage for, you know, every single moment of the play from my perspective.

- It was a challenge to take on so many different characters in such a short amount of time and try to make each one distinct. I think Valentine was a particular success. He is, after all, the Warlock Supreme.

- February brought my first understudy project, as I was involved in Romeo and Juliet at the Tavern. So was, for that matter, every single apprentice that WASN'T John Stephen King. I went on as the Prince and had a heck of a time. It was a great experience to work with some people that I hadn't worked with in any real capacity (Jane Bass and Dikran Tulaine, for instance).

- Sadly, I had to miss two of my comrades performances (Derek Randall and Mark Schroeder) in the opening night of R&J, since I had a previous appointment to go to UPTA. I mean, I love Atlanta so far, but that doesn't mean that I'm not going to get out there and test the waters. I went with KG Morton and had a great time. I saw a ton of friends from Lost Colony and even a friend from my old alma mater. It was good to get an idea of where I am outside of Atlanta. Very refreshing.

- By the time that wrapped up, we got our scenes for the final scene night. My text scene was to be a scene from Cymbeline, with Stephen playing Posthumus and myself playing Iachimo. The big thrill, though, was to do a scene from Henry IV Part 1 with Derek playing Prince Hal and myself playing Hotspur.

- The scene night was fantastic with such a great audience. The buildup was great, too. Mike Niedzwiecki was an even handed choreographer. He was very patient and made it clear that we were the guys who controlled the flow and intent of the fight. Toward the end, the idea of having the "best" fight started to fade away and was replaced with a simple urge to tell the story as succinctly as possible, with, hopefully, no little amount of squirming in seats from audience members.

- It was also a pleasure to work with such a cross section of senior company at the Tavern, from Maurice Ralston, Tony Brown, Troy Willis, Laura, Drew, and Jeff Watkins, they all made themselves available to us in the final weeks. I learned so much in the rush to the end, it was hard to keep it all in mind.

- Between these times, I went to my very first Atlanta Unified! What an experience. I'm so much more used to the SETC/UPTA/MWTA format where, after auditioning, you had a day full of call backs to go through. The idea of Unifieds is interesting, where it's essentially one job interview that works for the entire year. That being said, I'm not lightening up my quest to stay employed. Anyone need a headshot?! Let me know.

- The final scene night was a pleasure. From an audience packed with family members and Tavern people to the execution and culmination of these last eight months, it was a night fraught with joy and pain. Yes, just like the song by Rob Base. Sing it now, God's children. Iachimo was slimy and Hotspur was...frankly, to me, it was everything I had wanted. I found myself wanting to keep talking in my dying moments as Hotspur. After all...when he dies...I'm done playing him. What an experience. After a two day sprint, between dress rehearsals, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern rehearsals, day job, and good ol' emotional toil, I was exhausted. So, you know, I've crashed a bit. I'm sick now, but I'll be over it soon.

- Wait, did I say Rosencrantz and Guildenstern rehearsals? Why, yes I did. I'll be appearing as a Tragedian coming up soon. Please come out and see me! Tell me I was exceptional. Or, you know, a solid part of the ensemble, at least. And what an ensemble it is! I couldn't be more pleased to be with my fellow Tragedians (Mike N., Daniel P., Joe B., Doug G. and Drew as our inimitable "Player".) and it's been a great experience working with them and director Jeff McKerley.

- But, you aren't getting rid of me as easy as that. You'll see me next month, as well, in Much Ado About Nothing as the young lord Claudio. I'm super excited and can't wait to get up there with Maurice and see what kind of trouble I can get into.

***

- For a bit of self promotion, if you want to check up on me, feel free to swing by my website, Jacob DASH York.com or my "professional" blog, which I seem to be updating about as often as I updated this one.

- If anyone is on the fence about whether or not to do the apprenticeship, you really ought to do it. Really.

- Such thanks to everyone, from all those who were mentioned before to Matthew, Holly, Kirstan, Kirk, Redd, Jeanette, Cindy, Debbie, everyone who was kind and appreciated our work, everyone who tried to teach us a bit, every actor, every professor, every volunteer and every single person who saw the shows. If I forget anyone, I'm sorry. Mention it to me, and I'll thank you too. I just met a lot of people in the last eight months.

There are times when it's hard to be an actor. It can be a rough, thankless life ("It's SOOO hard to be an actor," right, Daniel Parvis?), wondering where the next check is coming from or if it's even coming at all. All of you people made it a wonderful environment over the span of the apprenticeship and I cannot possibly thank you all enough.

But I'll try, I guess.

Thank you. So, so, so much.
"We outta here, baby."