Archive for the ‘Marin Shakespeare’ Category

Review of Marin Shakespeare Company’s Julius Ceasar by Dave Fickbohm

In Marin Shakespeare on September 4, 2009 at 6:11 pm

Brutus Stabs Caesar

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

Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is a play that compels the audience to concentrate and take notice. This is not a play where you daydream. No, this is a play where Shakespeare’s language is clear, precise, and very deadly, telling its audience to beware of all men who have power and will not relinquish it. Especially be aware of those who seek to take power through violence, above all be aware of those who do so in the name of freedom and liberty; without telling you it’s a freedom and liberty born out of jealousy, envy, and class.

If that basic premise of Shakespeare’s beautifully written play can be achieved clearly and precisely, in this perilous first decade of the 21st century, then the job is half done. If it can also be done with style, and a terrifying sense of truth born out of superb acting, then you have a memorable and historical piece of theatre on your hands and Robert Currier’s production at the Dominican’s Forest Meadows Amphitheatre is exactly that.

When Jack Powell’s Cassius, and Jay Karnes’s Marcus Brutus, take to the stage, they firmly take control of Shakespeare’s words, and clear intentions, you just know this will be a show to remember, for the simple reason that you are completely taken over by the characters these two gifted actors quietly create.  Unfortunately this quietude slowly, bloodily, and with terrifying emotion, crumbles away to nothing. 

Barry Kraft’s Julius Caesar appears and we see a man who is unsure of himself and a man who has to be reminded of his achievements. What we don’t see is the usual bumbling fool that has often been betrayed in the past, and a bumbling fool that no one cares about or is going to miss. Kraft gives us a Julius Caesar who has had to fight for his position. Who has had to be vicious to hold onto it, yet is still swayed by those who consider themselves better informed, and of a higher social background, than he. Kraft’s Caesar is doomed; you can see it in his eyes and on his face, and in the jokey asides and hand gestures. This Julius Caesar is a masterpiece.

Mark Antony is the glamour in Julius Caesar, the survivor. He is also a great politician and orator although he denies it.  Antony is a man who knows himself well. This Mark Antony knows how power can be achieved without getting your hands dirty. William Elsman’s Mark Antony knows how to be above it all. Elsman understands all of that, and knows how to show us that he knows it. His Mark Antony is a brilliant, carefully constructed piece of art and craft that works at every level. Mark Antony’s ‘honorable man’ speech was well paced, well balanced and meaningful. It was a delight to get some clear understanding of Mark Anthony’s intention here, whereas before most other actors seemed to be happy to leave the irony out. Here Elsman pours it on.

There is not a single sour note in this show, with brilliant performances by everyone, not least Cat Thompson’s Portia, Alexandra Matthew’s Calphurnia, Stephen Klum’s Casca, Lucas McClure’s Cinna and Young Josh Zwick’s Lucius. This young man has a wonderful presence on stage.

Mention must also go to lighting designer, Ellen Brooks, and sound desginer Billie Cox  their storms were wonderful.  This production, like the others this season, has once again shown that Marin Shakespeare Company can get things right, very right. Go see it.

SINGLE TICKETS at the door $30 General, $25 Senior, $15 Youth

 SINGLE TICKETS in advance online, by phone or mail $27.50 General, $22.50 Senior, $15 Youth

 SEASON TICKETS $60 General $50 Senior $30 Youth See all three plays for the price of two. Admission to any performance of each play. (Your best deal: $20 General, $16.67 Senior, $10 Youth) BARD PASS Eight tickets for $176 Eight tickets good for any performance, any show, all summer long. (Maximum flexibility; great low price of just $22 per ticket.)

Julius Ceasar in Rotational Repertory with Twelfth Night August 21 – September 27

Directed by Robert Currier

For information:

  • Management (415) 499-4485 Education (415) 499-4487 Box Office (415) 499-4488 Fax (415) 499-1492
  • Mail Address: Marin Shakespeare Company P.O. Box 4053 San Rafael, CA 94913
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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


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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.

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Review of Marin Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night

In Marin Shakespeare on July 28, 2009 at 5:04 pm

“If music be the food of love, play on.” By the time this famous first line is spoken in the Marin Shakespeare’s hilarious rendition of Twelfth Night, now at Dominican University’s Forest Meadows, the strained relationship between Olivia (Cat Thompson), mourning for her dead brother, and Duke Orsino (William Elsman), who is set to woo her, has already been firmly established.

Music is the main theme of this production.   Lesley Currier has put together references to songs, television shows, and characters from the late 50s, 60s, and 70s.   Twelfth Night is not one of my favorite Shakespearean plays, but I laughed out loud, sang songs to myself and my wife and had a wonderful time. 

The play kicks into high gear with the arrival of the shipwrecked Viola (Alexandra Matthew) who mistakenly believes that brother Sebastian (Alex Curtis) has drowned. To make her way in the world, she disguises herself as a boy named Cesario, and under the Duke’s employ attempts to win Olivia’s affections for Orsino but instead becomes the object of Olivia’s lustful attentions. Add in another would-be suitor, Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Camilla Ford), a plot against Olivia’s steward Malvolio (Jack Powell), and Sebastian’s inevitable arrival and you have the ingredients for a hilarious romp.  The acting is enhanced by Mark Robinson’s scenic design.  The addition of a few 70’s symbols to the set transforms the stage into a rock concert hall complete with a suggestion of a light show during intermission.

Matthew as Viola makes for a very cute and passably convincing boy, and costume designer Abra Berman has done a good job in emphasizing her resemblance to Curtis as an earnest and appealing Sebastian. The actress fares best in her more comic scenes, particularly with love struck Olivia.

Ford’s Andrew Aguecheek is pure comic genius particularly when he faints dead away when challenged to a fight. Powell endows Malvolio with an appropriate smugness, and the wonderful cast also includes a sprightly Shanon Veon Kase as Olivia’s maid, Maria; a larger than life Robert Currier as Sir Toby Belch; and a marvelous Lucas McClure as the clown, Feste.

Various members of the cast sing the show’s many songs.  The finale is wonderful, some in the audience were singing along with the cast. Here, music really is the food of love, and this production should leave audiences fully sated.


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The Importance of Being Earnest by Marin Shakespeare Company’s

In Marin Shakespeare on July 13, 2009 at 4:18 pm

IMG_0230Deep in the second act of the Marin Shakespeare Company’s entertaining production of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” I realized how much the sitcom “Frasier” owes to Oscar Wilde. Jack Worthing, this play’s proper, endearingly puffed-up gentleman, is echoed in Frasier; Jack’s more foppish, droll brother, Algernon Moncrieff, is Niles. And their swift, sardonic repartee in Wilde’s masterpiece ripples through the ages, surfacing with conscious influence or not in the most surprising places.

There is not a trace of anachronism in Marin’s Shakespeare Company’s production to prod such comparisons. Robert Currier has a deep understanding of the text, revealing how contemporary Wilde can seem in this endlessly funny comedy about courtship, hidden identities and social posturing among deliciously superficial people.

The production is rich with actors who do justice to the play’s wit, but none more than Darren Bridgett as Algernon. Thoroughly cynical until he falls in love, Algernon is the character closest to Wilde himself, and Mr. Bridgett delivers some of the playwright’s most quoted lines (“Truth is rarely pure and never simple”) with the blitheness that makes them seem fresh.

William Elsman displays wonderful ease and comic timing as Jack, who is in love with Algernon’s cousin, Gwendolen.  She is the least colorful of the major characters, but Cat Thompson gives her an edge that suggests how much she is an incipient version of her rigid, imperious mother, Lady Bracknell. George Maguire is a different Lady Bracknell, all pompous and proper.  One wonders why Maguire, he made Lady Bracknell very funny.  I am sure this is not the first time a male has played this part.  But one wonders.      

Alexandra Matthew makes Cecily, Jack’s ward and the woman Algernon loves, sweetly innocent without seeming stupid. And Joan Mankin enlivens the role of Miss Prism, the sometimes mystified governess who, so significantly for the play, once left a baby in a handbag at Victoria Station.  Miss Prism’s relationship with Reverend Chasuble, played very effectively by Jack Powell, extracted every laugh possible.

The production, directed by Robert Currier, is a delight.   The set, by Mark Robinson, changes from a London Townhouse to an English Country manor to a garden at the country manor.  The costumes, by Patricia Polen, are rich and period appropriate. Ellen Brooks lights the stage very effectively.   

The delight in this play is hearing Wilde delivered so well, with such evident joy in the depth of his silliness,  

Marin Shakespeare Company’s opening production for the season is a fantastic romp, one in which you as well as the actors, are going to have a wonderful time.


What: The Importance of Being Earnest

When:  runs through August 16

Where: at the Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, 1475 Grand Ave., Dominican University of California, San Rafael 

Cost: Tickets: $15-$30;

Information:  call the box office at 415/499-4488. Info: