Our American Identity: Director Penny Metropulos on THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA

“What’s going on outside is enormous,” offered Director Penny Metropulos, delving into the cultural context of this season’s THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA by Richard Nelson. “Protests, battles, meetings of congress, the war raging on – still, the interactions between characters are so personal, so intimate.”

THE GENERAL, first performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1996, follows the treasonous plot of Benedict Arnold as he plans his defection and flight from a fledgling United States. Long reviled by most Americans and world historians as a traitor, Arnold’s 1779 struggle with our newborn nation is revisited in this powerful text, exposing “the puritanical hypocrisy and corruption that marched beside the heralded courage of our national beginnings.” (The Village Voice)

thegeneral_rsc_by

Royal Shakespeare Company’s premiere production of THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA. Photo by Zuleika Henry.

“What I love about this play is its humanism,” Metropulos revealed. “Nelson gives us an intimate, crystalline, personal look at these characters who, for so long, have been larger than life in our minds.” Revolutionary War-era staples such as George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the malefactor himself, Benedict Arnold, move fluidly between scenes, currying favor of leadership, chiding one another, bemoaning personal circumstance, exposing their own fragility.

Unique to this summer’s production is something HVSF doesn’t usually get to explore with Shakespeare’s works: site specificity. Arnold’s own command at West Point, now known as the United States Military Academy, can be seen from the Theater Tent on the opposite bank of the Hudson. Many of Arnold’s key stops along his escape path lie on HVSF’s side of the river, with historical markers noticeable along local paths and roadways.


“This play is part and parcel of our identity as Americans.”

– Penny Metropulos


“I’m always interested in anything that makes me study harder and it seems like a good time to brush up on American history,” admitted Metropulos.

“This play is part and parcel of our identity as Americans and all the contradictions and complexities therein: our ideas about loyalty to country versus loyalty to our neighbors, feelings of personal dishonor, the fear that our stories and opinions may not be heard, the disillusionment we sometimes feel about our country, and our never ending search for the true meaning of freedom… it’s all here.”


“Good plays and good actors tell stories.”

– Penny Metropulos


Still, Metropulos is quick to assert that she’s not aiming to make a personal statement on stage, but to put on a great show: “I don’t think it’s my place to make assumptions for or about our audience or their politics. Good plays and good actors tell stories. Seeing historical figures in this new light, we very well may question our assumptions about our shared American history.

THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA is in previews August 4 – 7, 2017 and runs August 8 – September 3, 2017. Season tickets go on sale to the public March 15, but members of our Saints & Poets Society (March 8) and Festival Circles (March 1) have early access. Are you between the ages of 16 and 35? Consider joining our Revelers or Teen Revelers program for exclusive discounts, events, and more.

Advertisements

Returning HVSF Actors Bring ROMEO & JULIET to 16,000 Students

Our 2017 Spring Education Tour, a vibrant ROMEO & JULIET directed by Tom Ridgely, is slated to visit over 30 schools throughout the tri-state area from March to May. Supported by a National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) Shakespeare in American Communities grant, HVSF will reimagine this classic tale for modern audiences in grades 6 and above – many from underserved communities – with a diverse cast of seven.

Returning to HVSF are 2016 Conservatory Company member Jessica-Brittany Smith (Juliet), 2016 A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM tour’s Amanda Thickpenny (Lady Capulet), and 2015 MACBETH tour’s Jon Cook (Friar & Benvolio). Wolf CR (Mercutio), James Hesse (Romeo), Monica Jones (Nurse), and Virginia Shakespeare Festival standout Rod Singleton (Capulet & Tybalt) have also signed on.

Ridgely, Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s 2014 Phil Killian Directing Fellow and founder of the New York-based theater ensemble Waterwell, will reimagine the Montagues and Capulets within a New England prep school environment. Sean McNall, HVSF’s Associate Artistic Director and Director of Education, estimates that roughly 16,000 students will experience a performance, take part in post-show talkbacks, and heighten their understanding of the production with an accompanying ROMEO & JULIET study guide. Half of this group will also benefit from an in-school, five-day residency with HVSF Teaching Artists.

“Our Education Tours take the same approach to Shakespeare as HVSF’s mainstage productions,” McNall noted. “Performances are fast-paced, athletic, energetic, and playful – an ideal equation for younger audiences – and rigorously maintain the depth and integrity of Shakespeare’s texts. We are very grateful to the NEA for their ongoing support of HVSF’s Education Programs, which encompass performance experiences, professional training, and theater education for the next generation.”

ROMEO & JULIET will run March 20 – May 5, 2017 with a possible extension May 8 – 12 and additional sum-mer dates currently in discussion. Approximate running time is 1 hour 30 minutes, including a talkback with the actors. To learn more about this touring production and HVSF’s Education programs, or to book a performance, please visit hvshakespeare.org/education or contact HVSF’s Associate Director of Education, Nora Rosoff, at (845) 809-5750 ext. 13 or nora@hvshakespeare.org.

logo_nea_shakespeareinamericancommunities

Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival’s production of ROMEO & JULIET is part of Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest

Read the full release here.

His Fantastical Allegory: Director Moritz von Stuelpnagel talks TWELFTH NIGHT

A young woman in disguise. A lost twin brother. A powerful nobleman. A beautiful, grief-stricken noble lady. An enlightened, musical fool. Beguiling letters, boisterous drunks, and reveling pranksters. TWELFTH NIGHT, often considered one of Shakespeare’s finest comedies, is – unsurprisingly – one of our resident playwright’s most profound.

“What I really love about this play,” noted TWELFTH NIGHT Director Moritz von Stuelpnagel, “is in a world where people find themselves upended by their own circumstance – shipwrecked, saddled with unrequited feelings or the death of a loved one – they’re still able to find the love and redemption they seek. These are real people finding language for human situations.”


“These are real people finding language for human situations.”

– Moritz von Stuelpnagel


Von Stuelpnagel, the Tony-nominated talent behind Broadway’s Hand to God and upcoming Present Laughter starring Kevin Kline, seeks a sort of redemption of his own from stage to stage: “We all curate a kind of facade, a public face,” he recently told Playbill, “but when the laughs and the parties end, I think we’re left with something darker and deeply human: ourselves, private, true.”

And what’s more deeply human than the figure of the clown (in TWELFTH NIGHT’s case, a fellow named Feste) embodying wisdom far beyond his peers? As clowning extraordinaire/SO PLEASE YOU Director Zachary Fine recently explained, the clown represents many human qualities – those we acknowledge, and those we often keep hidden: rambunctious hope, baffling chaos, ridiculousness, sublimity, brilliance, courage, curiosity, trepidation…


“Comedy gives us enough perspective to laugh at our own absurdity.”

– Moritz von Stuelpnagel


“My sense of humor comes from the need to laugh at suffering,” allowed Von Stuelpnagel. “Comedy gives us enough perspective to laugh at our own absurdity. I believe laughter is a healing force, allowing us to unite and reminding us how similar our experiences are.”

And unite we will this summer, as TWELFTH NIGHT’s vibrant musical universe expands along the Hudson, populated with a colorful slate of characters. But Von Stuelpnagel isn’t giving anything away. “I hope our production will exemplify a new kind of light, raucous spirit. Shakespeare, in my mind, reads like fantastical allegories… grotesque fairy tales. All I’ll say is that we’re telling a magical tale in a magical space. Expect a rollicking midsummer romp.”

We like the sound of that.

TWELFTH NIGHT is in previews June 8 – June 15, 2017 and runs June 16 – August 27, 2017. Are you between the ages of 16 and 35? Consider joining our Revelers or Teen Revelers program for exclusive discounts, events, and more.

160410_Button_BuyTickets

Cold Reading: Tech to the Future

The following is part of our ongoing series
Cold Reading: Winter insights on the upcoming season from Artistic Director Davis McCallum


Hi, Friends.

We’re about to start tech rehearsal for Lauren Gunderson’s THE BOOK OF WILL here at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts on Friday. This is the part of the production process when the show’s team of Designers (Scenic, Lighting, Sound, Costume, and Props) appears together in the rehearsal room. Of course, the Denver Center’s brilliant Stage Managers have been keeping them looped in on the many day-to-day decisions we’ve been making, but once we’re able to have our creative team in the room in person, all sorts of new ideas surface and new possibilities emerge.


tech rehearsal, noun /tek/rəˈhərsəl/

A rehearsal that focuses more on the technological aspects of the performance, such as lighting and sound cues, than on acting.


We’ve been working on a production that includes some cheeky moments of anachronism, with elements of our theater culture today sprinkled in with what we imagine it might have been like for Shakespeare’s company in the early 17th century. We can all imagine what it might feel like for a group of actors to go out to the bar after a performance – in fact, you may have even spotted HVSF’s own company members patronizing the watering holes on Cold Spring’s Main Street during the summer months – but how would the actors in Shakespeare’s company take their drinks? In pewter steins? Bottles? Ceramic jugs? Would their post-show haunt include a tap? Might there even be a dart board in the corner?

Would a Stage Manager in Shakespeare’s time use a clipboard? Of course not. But in the world that we’re creating onstage, perhaps he could. How about a stopwatch? Is it possible there’s a ghost light on the empty stage at the Globe in this play, even though electricity won’t truly be harnessed for several centuries?


ghost light, noun /ɡōst/līt/

An electric light that is left energized on the stage of a theater when the theater is unoccupied (‘dark’), for improved safety – and superstition.


This, of course, relates to the vocabulary of the music and the clothes and the set. Our goal with THE BOOK OF WILL is to create a world that’s not at all concerned with historical authenticity, but somehow still feels realer than real, and captures the playful spirit of Lauren’s writing. The play has been exhaustively researched and has woven into it a significant amount of detail from what we know about the printing of the First Folio, but the show’s spirit is irreverent. I keep thinking that the creation of ‘the book’ in the Jaggard Print House in THE BOOK OF WILL should be about as authentic as Doc. Brown’s DeLorean time machine in Back to the Future. In other words, we’re making the play with more emphasis on engaging the audience’s imagination, than on conforming to what we think we know about the past.

I look forward to heading into tech with Lauren and this remarkable team and figuring out how all of these pieces fit together. See you on the other side!

election_davissig

THE BOOK OF WILL is in previews June 9 – June 21, 2017 and runs June 22 – July 28, 2017. Season tickets go on sale to the public in March, but members of our Saints & Poets Society and Festival Circles have early access. Are you between the ages of 16 and 35? Consider joining our Revelers or Teen Revelers program for exclusive discounts, events, and more.