Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

Interview with Jay Karnes by David Fickbohm of Theaterkat

In Marin Shakespeare on August 28, 2009 at 10:45 pm

Jay KarnesDave Fickbohm lives in Marin County and regularly reviews live theater productions in the San Francisco Bay Area. Contact Dave Fickbohm at

Jay Karnes Interview

How did you become interested in the theater?

When I was in high school, a very small college prep school in Nebraska, the last thing I ever thought I would want to do was to get onstage and talk in front of people.  I couldn’t imagine at that time anything more terrifying than that.  But it was a small school, so everyone had to everything.  I didn’t want to play football or run track or do chorus but there were only 22 people in my class so you didn’t have a choice.  My freshman year, they had auditions for the school play, which I never even considered attending, and they cast the play, but then one of the actors didn’t like his roll and dropped out, so the drama teacher — who I adored — asked me if I would do it, and I said yes, and it took.  From that point on, every play the school did, I was in.  And when I got to college I started auditioning there.  I thought I was going to be a lawyer or something like that, but that was really a delusion.  I was actually a terrible student, but just before my eighth year in college, I auditioned for a little Shakespeare festival in Nebraska and got cast as Demetrius in “Midsummer” and small roles in “Hamlet,” and there were two Equity actors there, who made $325 a week, or some ridiculous sum like that; I thought that actors were either movie stars or waiters, and meeting these two guys who traveled around from little theatre to little theatre, putting together in a year maybe $20 grand or something like that, I thought, I could do that.  What a nice gentle life that would be.  It was an epiphany, really, and at that moment I realized that maybe this was a real possibility, not just some sort of pie in the sky thing.  It was a wonderful moment.  And I’ve never looked back. And I never considered doing anything else from that point on.  I was 24 that summer.

What is your favorite Shakespearean play?

Marco Barricelli as Richard, and he was wonderful.  I really didn’t understand the appeal of the play and the part before that.  I didn’t know it, really, before that production.  In fact, I didn’t really know “Julius Caesar” before we started working on this Marin Shakespeare production.  That’s one of the great things about Shakespeare, getting to discover these plays, and try to figure out what they’re about.  And Richard III is one of the great roles in all of drama.  I love Hamlet too.  “Hamlet” is a much better play than “Richard III,” but Richard is such a great role.

What is your favorite play, Shakespearean or other?

That’s tough.  If you take Shakespeare out of the picture, I love Coward’s “Private Lives,” Stoppard’s “Arcadia,” Pinter’s “The Birthday Party.”  There’s a long list of them.  

What is your favorite Shakespearean role?

Richard.  Hamlet.  Brutus, right now.



Is there an actor, theater director or theater teacher provided you with special inspiration? 

Yes, all sorts of people really.  There was a director/dramaturge combination years ago at this little festival called Shakespeare L.A.  I did one show with them, playing Mercutio.  Christopher Tabori directed that and Diana Maddox dramaturged it.  They were revelatory in terms of accessing Shakespeare and his words.  Working with the cast of “The Shield” — Michael Chiklis, Walton Goggins, CCH Pounder, Glenn Close —watching them and working with them has been, again, revelatory.  Something else that sounds a little silly, but I think about all of the actors who came in during seven seasons of “The Shield,” some of whom came in for two scenes or something, and so many of them were so fantastic. And it’s really humbling to think about how many great actors there are and how few of them get the opportunity to really show their skill.  Those actors came in and did the work and went home and you never saw them again, and the work they did was really phenomenal.  That was inspiring as well.

What book or books are on your night stand?

Oh no.  I’ve got one embarrassing one.  Actually, I’m not going to be embarrassed by this, because it really helped me.  “Simply Shakespeare” — a modern, line-by-line translation of “Julius Caesar.”  They put Shakespeare’s lines on the page, and then the modern equivalent on the other page.  Sometimes they miss, and sometimes it isn’t helpful but sometimes it’s very helpful; there was a line that Barry Kraft, our brilliant “Julius Caesar” dramaturge, and I were confused by and we didn’t get, and these people did.  In the orchard scene when the conspirators come in, they ask, “do we trouble you?”  And Brutus says, “I have been up this hour, awake all night.”  What this book showed, is that he’s been up and out of bed for the past hour, but hasn’t slept all night.  It’s not a repetition; it’s two separate thoughts.  The not embarrassing book is “Plutarch’s Lives,” the Dryden translation.  I’m reading more Roman history, past Julius Caesar.

What do you look forward to when you wake up in the morning?

I was talking to a friend from LA and telling him how happy I’ve been and how much I love doing this.  When you ask, what makes you happy? Is it money, is it fame, and is it success?  And those things have value, but what makes you happy really is energy, that thing that gets you out of bed and inspires you.  Well the thing that has been providing me with that energy is being here working on this play.  Right now, what I’m looking forward to when I get up in the morning is going to the theatre and being part of a community and being able to work on terrific material.  That’s been an extraordinarily powerful force for me.  And of course, seeing my children, that’s probably the thing I look forward to most in the morning.

Are there any habits or traditions you follow before going on stage?

I like to go through my whole part, say all the words.  I compulsively check and recheck my props.   When you do TV or film, there is a prop guy who gives you your prop right before the camera starts to roll, and then puts it back when it’s over.  And more than once, the prop guy will come up to me and say, “you come from the theatre, don’t you,” because he sees me checking my props.  But I won’t relax unless I do it myself.

When you were a young child did you think you would become an actor?

No.  God, no.  It would have been the last thing I would have thought I would do


Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Oliver by 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa

In Sixth Street Playhouse on August 23, 2009 at 8:35 pm
Oliver and The Artful Dodger

Oliver and The Artful Dodger



The 6th Street Playhouse recently kicked off their 2009 – 2010 with the musical Oliver, for all its charm and beloved characters and songs, the production elements can be quite difficult. There are so many songs and scene changes that the production can easily become disjointed. The 6th Street Playhouse with some adapt scene creation by scenic designer David R. Wright pulled it off nicely. The plot line is also a bit slow, and the exposition building up to the climax is long This is a fault of the book and score, though, not of the actors themselves. Overall, the 6th Street Playhouse succeeds.

 Lighting Designer Eric Neumeister must be given recognition. The screen behind the buildings coupled with the soft lighting gave the feel of a London street at twilight. The costumes, by Pat Fitzgerald, were appropriate throughout, just as the set requires attention to detail, so do the costumes. The orphans looked raggedy, others at different classes of society looked very dapper and well dressed. Stage Director Holly Vinson did a fine job creating small but beautiful stage pictures and smooth, effective traffic patterns with a large cast. I also appreciated that she used the entire space, including crawl spaces below the elevated portion of the set and even a “rooftop” in one pivotal moment.

Bob Hazelrigg put together quite a wonderful orchestra to accompany the action onstage. The sound was well-balanced, and never intrusive or too loud or soft for the singers.

 Widow Corney and Mr. Bumble, are played by Tika Moon and Dwayne Stincelli, respectively. These two characters are nothing short of ridiculous, and were played very well. I felt as though both actors were holding back a bit, especially in the scene in which Mr. Bumble is making amorous advances towards the Widow Corney, who is half-heartedly objecting. Moon’s performance of “I Shall Scream,” however, was very well done. Her singing voice is beautiful and her facial expressions are reminiscent of Lucille Ball at times.

Sean Hines as the title character and Zachary Walling as the Artful Dodger left me wanting more throughout the production as well. Both young men possess wonderful singing voices, but I didn’t find myself rooting for their characters. Instead, I admit that I tended to forget about them completely when they weren’t onstage. When the action wasn’t completely centered around his character, Hines didn’t draw the eye. His voice was so sweet during “Where is Love,” however, that I felt my heart ache for him in that moment. Walling had all the smooth physicality and polish in his choreography needed to play Dodger. I must admit, ever since I left the theatre Friday night, I have struggled with what to say about the younger cast members. It’s very hard to find a way to review children, since they lack as much training and experience as the older cast members and cannot really be faulted for that. The children overall were very cute as the orphans and the members of Fagin‘s gang. They had lots of energy, gave 100% in their songs, and put a lot of physicality and spunk into the scenes.

 There were three standout performances in this production: Jon Rathjen as Bill Sykes, Jenifer Cote as Nancy, and Gene Abravaya as Fagin. The character of Bill Sykes is about as unlikeable as they come, and Jon Rathjen made quite sure that the entire audience felt that from his very f irst entrance. His gruff voice, dirty clothing, and generally surly attitude made me dislike Bill immediately. His cruel and rough treatment of Nancy and Oliver – or anyone weaker than him – is deplorable and makes him the true villain of the entire piece. He also stayed completely in character at all times. When I would glance his way during another line or song, he was always watching those around him or keeping a close eye on Nancy; always trusting no one. The character of Nancy is not your typical musical theatre ingénue. Nancy has obviously lived on and off the street most of her life. Currently she lives with the abusive Bill Sykes, whom she loves wholly and completely despite his physical and verbal abuse. However, Nancy’s spunk and maternal instincts towards Oliver make her a heroine just like any other. Jenifer Cote nails this role. She’s bawdy and unladylike at times, such as during her rousing number “Oom Pah Pah” at the beginning of the second act, but she is also a vulnerable woman desperately in love, which she shows off in “As Long As He Needs Me,” a song that Cote completely knocks out of the park. She uses a mixture of soft, gentle tones at the beginning and soars to a jaw-dropping belt that rattled the walls in her determination to stay with him no matter what the cost may ultimately be. I applaud Cote for not being afraid to sacrifice some of the “pretty” in her powerhouse number in order to really sell the song. This causes the song to have much more impact than if it were sung with perfect technique. Cote also succeeds in never breaking character.

Fagin, the leader of the band of pickpockets, is a tough one to pull off. He’s got to be a lowlife criminal who entices children to lie, cheat and steal for his personal gain, but also must be likeable at the same time. Gene Abravaya does a fine job of showing the duality of Fagin’s character. He simultaneously acts as a twisted sort of father figure to the group of urchins as well as a self-absorbed “bad’un” who will look out for himself, his worker boys be damned, before anyone else. Abravaya has definitely mastered the humor in Fagin, especially in his second act number “Reviewing the Situation,” in which he hems and haws about potentially leaving a life of crime to become a better man. My only criticism in Abravaya ‘s performance is that he only touched on the “evil” side of Fagin. I would have preferred to see a bit more of Fagin’s bad side in order to really understand the catalyst that causes him to start reconsidering his choice of lifestyle.

Other memorable and well-done performances included Sherri Guinn as the morbidly funny funeral director Mrs. Sowerberry, Kelsey Tarantino as Nancy’s younger but equally sassy sister Bet, and Scott Van Der Horst as the kind and generous Mr. Brownlow.

Overall, 6th Street Playhouselhasput together an aesthetically beautiful production with fine performances that audience members will enjoy. Oliver is a winner. Do not miss it.

 The 6th Street Playhouse will present You Can’t Take it With You by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, directed by Charlie Queary. Running Oct 2 – Oct 25.

INFORMATION WHAT: Lionel Bart’s “Oliver”

 WHO: 6th Street Playhouse

 WHERE: The G. K. Hardt Theatre in the 6th Street Playhouse at 52 West 6th Street, Santa Rosa, CA 95401

WHEN: Aug 14 to Sep 13, 2009 8:00 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays 2:00 p.m. Saturday and Sundays

TICKETS: Order online; by telephone; at the door.

Fri, Sat at 8:00 & Sun at 2:00: General $35 Senior (62+) $28 Youth (13-21) $28 Children (5-12) $15

Discount Thurs at 8:00 & Sat at 2:00: General $25 Senior $20 Youth $20 Children $15

PHONE INFORMATION: 707 523-4185 WEBSITE: RATING: Four stars out of five

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Interview with Lesley Currier Managing Director of Marin Shakespeare

In Marin Shakespeare on August 18, 2009 at 10:20 pm


Managing Director of Marin Shakespeare Company

Managing Director of Marin Shakespeare Company

Interview with Lesley Currier Marin Shakespeare Company’s Managing Director By Dave Fickbohm



Dave Fickbohm lives in Marin County and regularly reviews live theater productions in the San Francisco Bay Area. Contact Dave Fickbohm at

How did you become interested in directing?

 I started as an actor, which is good training for being a director. Then, I became a producer, which involves working with designers, helping to formulate a production’s concept and goals, problem solving, marketing including making a production sound attractive to potential audiences, and many other things like fundraising and board development which don’t have much to do with directly putting on plays. When my children were young, it became harder to find the time to act, and as Marin Shakespeare grew it became more and more rewarding to produce plays and expand our educational programming. My husband, the Artistic Director of Marin Shakespeare, is very aware that I’ve sacrificed my acting career to become a producer, and is very keen to keep me engaged creatively. In 1998 he insisted that I try directing a production of ROMEO AND JULIET. I had done a little bit of directing with smaller projects, which I had enjoyed. With ROMEO AND JULIET, I enjoyed the process, but — because of some casting choices — didn’t think it was one of our more successful productions. In fact, despite some fabulous performances and gorgeous costumes, I didn’t think the production was a success. When the 2001 World Trade Center bombings happened, I developed a strong urge to put the Arabian Nights stories onstage. I was tired of hearing the entire Muslim world vilified seemingly daily, and thought that since we tell classic stories, that story would be a good one to tell at that time — a story of the power of story-telling to heal murderous rage. I looked at various theatrical versions and didn’t think any of them would work well on our outdoor stage. So we decided I would write an adaptation. I had a wonderful friend from college, the brilliant Douglas Rushkoff, interested in directing but as the writing went along, Doug’s book tour schedule filled up, and as I had forged a relationship with local Middle Eastern musician Vince Delgado, and had a strong vision for staging the script, it became clear that I needed to direct the project myself. That turned out to be a huge success, and I followed in 2006 by writing and directing an adaptation of ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Since I’ve spent a lot of time as a producer and Shakespeare educator learning about Shakespeare, when we decided to do THE WINTER’S TALE last year in 2008, Bob and I thought I’ should give a shot at directing Shakespeare again, particularly as I had an idea to expand the role of Time in the play and use music and dance to help enliven the spiritual and magical elements of the play. All of my productions incorporate a lot of movement and music, and what I consider simple theatrical spectacle. My directing aesthetic has absolutely been shaped by working predominantly in an outdoor theatre without fly space, the ability to go to black, etc.

 What do you like about directing?

 The best part about directing is when you go into a rehearsal not knowing exactly what you are going to do and in collaboration with your actors you come up with something brilliant, which tells the story in an entertaining or poignant way. It’s that inspiration of the moment that is so incredibly rewarding. Finding the moments, and bringing them fully to life.

 What do you dislike about directing?

 I have come more and more to hate casting. It was a joy to assemble a great group of actors to work on a play, but there is so much “no” saying involved. Many of the actors we don’t or can’t cast every year are hugely talented and good friends. It’s very hard to have to say we don’t have roles for them, particularly when some of them really need the income and health insurance.

 Do you have a favorite director or someone you would aspire to?

Well, I’m incredibly envious of Julie Taymor‘s talent as a director. She is absolutely amazing. Her latest film, “Across the Universe,” is extraordinary. Julie is someone who has followed her passion consistently, is astonishingly smart and creative, and is a fabulous collaborator. If I was a young director starting out, she’d be my role model. I’m also a Mary Zimmerman fan, although I do like my Arabian Nights adaptation better than hers; mine is more of a love story between Shahryar and Scheherazade, funnier and sweeter. Mary has a less romantic and sharper sensibility than I do. Both women are great theatrical storytellers.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]