Kate Hamill’s Top 7 ‘Musts’ for an Ideal Mr. Darcy

When considering Jane Austen’s aloof, hard-headed Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, which devilishly handsome leading man comes to mind? If you’re like anyone with access to BBC or A&E in the mid-’90s, Colin Firth may be your go-to embodiment of this unlikely romantic hero, having appeared in 1995’s made-for-television Pride & Prejudice directed by Simon Langton.

“Women being attracted to [Mr. Darcy] took me by surprise,” Firth recently told The Daily Mail. “When I took on the role it seemed to me that he was imperious and stiff and forbidding, and I didn’t know what there was to play apart from him scowling all the time. I thought it would be quite fun and liberating to play someone who was completely and utterly dislikeable, unsympathetic, judgmental and snobbish.”

Darcy may find a foe in Firth, but a friend in playwright Kate Hamill. Hamill’s playful adaptation of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE makes its debut under the HVSF Theater Tent this summer, and not without the weirdo women (and men) who’ve become signature players in a Hamill adaptation.

“I’m so disinterested in beautiful, perfect people,” beamed Hamill. “Lizzy Bennet’s a total weirdo and should be treated as such. She and Darcy are both odd ducks… odd ducks that swim together.”

So how will Hamill’s Odd Duck Darcy shape up this summer? Here are her top seven must-haves in an ideal leading man:

  1. Righteous: “He tries to do the right thing all the time”
  2. Smart: “He’s capable of being quite nerdy.”
  3. Stubborn: “That’s a big one!”
  4. Principled: “He has to be someone with a lot of integrity.”
  5. Funny: “Intentionally and unintentionally, for sure.”
  6. Magnetic: “Someone you feel a deep connection with.”
  7. But, above all: “HUMAN! There’s just no other way to put it.”

 

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is in previews June 10 – June 23, 2017 and runs June 24 – September 4, 2017. Season tickets go on sale to the public on March 15, 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.

Love is a Devil: Director Ian Belknap on LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST

“Masculine desire… what is it? What is love when you’re young?”

If LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST Director Ian Belknap had answers to his questions, he probably wouldn’t be exploring them onstage with us this summer.

This classic tale of eight unwitting young lovers follows a familiar trajectory: Boys make a pact. Attractive girls arrive. Love blossoms, and the pact is no more. It’s an age-old story told and retold in Tennyson’s The Princess, Gilbert & Sullivan’s Princess Ida, and even – to some extent – in Dennis Dugan’s block-buster film Saving Silverman.


“I would forget her; but a fever she
Reigns in my blood and will remember’d be.”

Dumain, LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST


O, the weight of young love!

Still, layers of self-discovery, emotional curiosity, and forbidden romance within LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST continue to resonate onstage. Belknap finds that first piece – self-discovery – particularly worthy of reexamination this year, as LOVE’S cast, the HVSF Conservatory Company, embark on a unique journey of their own. Following the Conservatory Company’s appearance under the theater tent this summer, these eight young actors will bring the show on tour to schools with The Acting Company (for which Belknap serves as Artistic Director) leading finally to their acceptance into Actors’ Equity, a key milestone in the life of a professional actor.

“These are eight actors depicting eight lovers, and so much more,” noted Belknap. “Our cut is fast-paced with players moving fluidly between roles and there’s something powerful about these emerging actors playing similarly-aged students and their educated instructors. Student becomes teacher, just as the princess becomes the queen in the final notes of Act 5.”


“Masculine desire… what is it? What is love when you’re young?”

– Ian Belknap


One might say this play, in particular, is itself a labor of love: “LOVE’S offers some of Shakespeare’s most beautiful, but densely written, language. It’s tough for any actor, but once you’ve done it… you’ve done it.”

“And only a writer of Shakespeare’s caliber would have the courage to craft that final scene,” admitted Belknap. “‘The news I bring is heavy in my tongue. The king, your father’ is dead. Seriously?! It’s devastating because Shakespeare waits until the absolute last second to bring the news of the King’s death. It’s shocking because there has been little to no foreshadowing and then, at the 23rd hour, BOOM. Childhood ends. These characters – these actors – take up the mantle of adulthood.”

But let’s get back to that youthful romance…

“As is the case with ROMEO & JULIET, my hope is that students can easily see themselves in LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST because they’ve been here before,” admitted Belknap. “They’ve known young love, forbidden love. They’ve made the same jokes about the teachers and adults in their lives. They know what trying to maintain one’s honor means. To them, it means an awful lot.”

 

LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST runs August 14 – August 29, 2017 under the tent (including free family matinees on August 15, 22, and 29), and tours with The Acting Company this fall. 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.

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)

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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.

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. 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.

Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival Names Three New Members to the Board of Directors

Robin Arditi, President of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival’s Board of Directors has announced the appointment of three new members, following the organization’s September 14th Board Meeting. Joining the board are Steven Holley, Jim Kilman, and Lauri Sawyer.

Steven Holley is a member of the Litigation Group at Sullivan & Cromwell. His practice focuses on antitrust counseling and litigation, and also includes bankruptcy, securities and tax litigation, as well as complex commercial disputes. Holley has been recognized by: Euromoney’s Benchmark Litigation – Litigation Star (2008-2016) and Top 100 Trial Lawyers in the United States (2016); Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business – recognized as a leader for Antitrust Litigation (2007-2016); The Best Lawyers in America – recognized for Antitrust Litigation (2013-2016); New York Super Lawyers – recognized for Antitrust Litigation (2013-2015); and The International Who’s Who of Competition Lawyers – recognized for Antitrust Litigation (2007-2015). A graduate of Indiana University, Holley received his J.D. from New York University School of Law. Mr. Holley lives in Brooklyn and Garrison, NY.

Jim Kilman is Chief Executive Officer of KielStrand Capital, a family office merchant bank based in Scarborough, New York that makes and manages investments, provides advice and engages in philanthropic activities. Prior to forming KielStrand Capital in 2016, he retired as Vice Chairman of Investment Banking at Morgan Stanley. Kilman currently serves on the Boards of Modular Space Corporation, a privately-held provider of modular buildings in Berwyn, PA and Lebenthal Holdings, a privately-held broker-dealer and asset manager in New York, NY. His community involvement includes serving on the Finance and Investments Committee of the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, NY and as Treasurer of his Yale College Class. He holds an M.A. and a B.A. in Economics from Yale University. Mr. Kilman lives in Scarborough, NY.

Lauri Sawyer is a partner at Jones Day where she has a broad-based federal and state commercial litigation and arbitration practice. Sawyer is strongly committed to pro bono service, especially for clients with domestic relations and immigration issues. She is involved in several pro bono organizations and was recognized for her service in 2001 with the inMotion Commitment to Justice Award. In addition, she serves on several advisory and nonprofit boards. She received a B.A. in International Studies cum laude from the University of Denver, and M.A. in Russian Studies from the University of Washington, and she received her J.D. magna cum laude from Mercer University. Ms. Sawyer lives in Garrison, NY.

 

2016: Your Top Ten Favorite Moments

Kurt Rhoads in drag. Contemporary context for a ‘problem play.’ Costume snafus. Unruly weather and a little magic. We take a quick look back at some of your favorite moments from the 2016 Summer Season…

1. Ewan, New Audience Member: Curiosity & Cadences
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LeRoy McClain as Claudio, Annie Purcell as Isabella in MEASURE FOR MEASURE

“We attended and were swept away by Measure for Measure. Sure, we had to listen carefully to the language, but that kept me on the edge of my seat. The phenomenon of the language, with its cadences, inflections, stresses, and nuances, drew me right in – and although I didn’t understand everything because of my unfamiliarity with the mother tongue – I was drawn toward an understanding of what was happening before me. What a curious feeling.”

2. Laura, HVSF’s Company Manager: AS YOU LIKE IT’s First Preview
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Mark Bedard as Touchstone, Nance Williamson as Audrey in AS YOU LIKE IT

“The truly magical first preview of As You Like It (and first preview of the whole summer!), when somehow – and very unexpectedly – Nance-as-Audrey’s red velvet glove went flying and Mark-as-Touchstone’s hand shot out and caught it mid-air. The shock and laughter of the audience and especially the actors was so genuine and true. It was so special – like magic was just breathed into the tent on that first night.”

3. Stephen, Audience Member: A Hyper-Local Work of Art
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Jim Cairl, Joseph Merriam, Timothy Harbolic in OUR TOWN

“I can’t remember a work of art that has stayed with me, and moved me, in a thoroughly modern sense, to wake up to the precious life that is all around me every day. It sounds like a cliché, but in the hands of that dramatist, and that production, the call to wake up and live in the moment could not have been more beautifully conveyed.”

4. Anne, Audience Member & HVSF Supporter: Literally Everything.
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The Sun Sets before OUR TOWN, Photo by Anne

“Sunset before Our Town! Rosalind in As You Like It! Everything in So Please You! Lucio in Measure For Measure! Boscobel every time! The conservatory company! But the very very best: the Our Town Bake-Off playwriting workshop and HVSF2 reading!”

5. Elena, Audience Member: “The Seven Stages of Man”
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Maria-Christina Oliveras as Jacques in AS YOU LIKE IT

“I saw As You Like It with a friend and our sons. It was delightful — a very special evening. As we often find, the actors interactions with the audience are such an enhancement to the experience. We always buy front row so we feel right in the action, and this evening exceeded our hopes. The nuance, energy, expressiveness, creativity…it was a most memorable night. Our ‘schoolboys’, who were given a nod during the famous soliloquy, are sure to never forget it. The play came to life and was completely accessible.”

6. Nora, HVSF’s Associate Director of Education: A Hilarious Snafu
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Conservatory Company Members Plead for “The Play” in SO PLEASE YOU

“During the So Please You dress rehearsal, the moment came when the book was supposed to fall from the sky but the rig wasn’t working and it wouldn’t fall. In the spirit of the production, the actors accepted the challenge and spiraled into a couple minutes of complete hilarity while crying, begging, pleading and praying that the book would fall. And once it did…the show went on!”

7. Emma, HVSF’s Director of Marketing & Communications: The Traveling Box Office
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An OUR TOWN Traveling Box Office Ticket Voucher

“I loved being on the road with the Our Town Traveling Box Office at the end of August. It was such a pleasure meeting new audience members on their home turf and learning about what this hyper-local production meant to them. Plus, any day spent bouncing around the Hudson Valley is a good day in my book!”

8. Kate, HVSF’s Managing Director: Conjuring Gale-Force Winds
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“Enter Macduff” During Our All-Female MACBETH

“My favorite moment was the first preview of Macbeth, which was a wildly windy and eerie night with just the craziest gusts and cold temps. And the wind continued to blow at just the right moment. When the three women said in unison “enter Macduff” The gale made the whole tent shudder and it felt like our three witches were truly conjuring something magical.”

9. Kim, Audience Member: Independence Day on the River
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Independence Day Fireworks Over AS YOU LIKE IT

“Seeing the July 4th fireworks at West Point during As You Like It‘s intermission!”

10. Regina, HVSF’s Business Manager: Painting Cold Spring Red
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Zachary Fine as MEASURE FOR MEASURE’s Lucio

“My favorite moment of the season was when Kurt Rhoads, Zack Fine and Sean McNall came bursting into the office in full costume for Measure for Measure on their way to a video shoot. It is unforgettable! Kurt’s dramatic sashay in leggings and high heels was particularly hilarious! They all caused a stir on Main Street here in Cold Spring that day.”

 

 

Fall Comes to HVSF: Hamlet Retold and The Classics

As our 30th Anniversary Summer Season comes to a close, all of us at Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival would like to offer a hearty THANK YOU to our audience, actors, crew, community, spouses, kids, friends, and other folks who shared in the magic of The Tent this year. It was one for the books – a no-problem play, an all-new clown show, gender-bending antics, all-new music, a forty-person 1930’s classic, a three-woman MACBETH, new faces, and more – and we’re sad to see it go!

So, what happens when The Tent isn’t The Tent anymore? Do we all head home to hibernate until an exciting 2017 summer season drops itself in our lap? No way!

Join us this fall for one of two productions in and around the tri-state:

October 17 – December 2, 2016
Fall Classics Tour: THE TEMPEST and THE SWORD IN THE STONE

Bring HVSF to your own community! Each year we take two small-cast productions on the road to stages, community centers, and schools beyond The Tent: one in the fall and one in the spring. This season’s tour melds two classic stories, THE TEMPEST and THE SWORD IN THE STONE, in an exciting introduction to theater, storytelling and Shakespeare aimed at young audiences (grades K-5). Booking is easy!

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October 26 – 31, 2016
GRAVEDIGGER’S TALE in the Boscobel Mansion

Produced by Folger Theatre at Folger Shakespeare Library
Conceived and Directed by Robert Richmond with Louis Butelli
GRAVEDIGGER’S TALE comes to us this fall from Folger Theatre in Washington, D.C. Our Gravedigger, appearing briefly in Act V of Hamlet, arrives onstage at the Boscobel Mansion with a trunk and a book, using Shakespeare’s moving words, traditional music, and help from the audience to bring this enduring story to life. Catch one of seven Halloween Weekend performances for under $40!

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Beauty On the Other Side of Fear: Antoinette Robinson on OUR TOWN

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

If– by Rudyard Kipling

The process of creating Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival’s 30th Anniversary Season production of OUR TOWN – from the workshops to the auditions to the rehearsals – was a first for me. I was used to coming into a rehearsal room and being ‘skilled’ enough, if you will, to either be open or, at the very least, fake it ’til I make it. From the very first workshop: being asked to connect with strangers from all walks of life, to trust, to give in… it was something I thought I knew how to do.

There is no ‘faking’ when you are asked to look into someone’s eyes for an undisclosed amount of time. Or when you are asked to delicately cup someone’s face. Your presence, your full self, is required–on both ends. These acts insist on bravery/courage/patience/love and a pure belief in yourself and those around you to be willing to share in them. And every day, when you think you can’t… and every day that you want to hide, and your own insecurity takes over… Any moment I thought I wasn’t brave enough, the acceptance in my cast-mates’ eyes with who I am – what I brought to that moment – filled me with a kind of peace: where I was that day was enough.

This is the essence of community. I wish every process were like this, started like this. Before scripts are involved and the breaking down of a scene or figuring out what the story is… I wish there was a moment in the room to just see one another. To experience one another.


“Let’s really look at one another!” -Emily Webb


How many times have you been to work or class or rehearsal and there are people you’ve worked CLOSELY with, and yet, you never go pass the all-too-familiar “how are you?”/”good”  construct?

Go beyond your comfort zone. Step out. Risk something. There’s beauty on the other side of that fear.

Are we all meant to be soul mates? No. That’s not reality. But can I take the time to truly engage and care for my fellow brother/sister, artist/collaborator, milkman/postman? YES.

I can honestly say there isn’t a person in the cast of OUR TOWN that I don’t feel some connection with – beyond being in the same show. It’s palpable. What we’ve created here is magical.

And it is an honor to get to share that with each and every one of you. To You!

Antoinette Robinson, a member of HVSF’s 2016 Acting Company, joins the cast of OUR TOWN as Emily Webb this weekend.

OUR TOWN, Directed by John Christian Plummer, runs through September 5, 2016.

HVSF Welcomes Drama Desk and Drama League Award Nominee Julia Coffey!

ActingCo_2016_CoffeyCoffey will take over the roles of Rosalind in AS YOU LIKE IT and Mariana/Mistress Overdone in MEASURE FOR MEASURE.

Artistic Director Davis McCallum has announced that Drama League and Drama Desk Award nominee Julia Coffey will join the company this week, first appearing in AS YOU LIKE IT on Sunday, July 31.

Coffey was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for her performance as Mrs. Janus in Mint Theater Company’s production of London Wall, directed by McCallum. She received a Drama League nomination for her performance of Mrs. Holroyd in The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd, also at the Mint.

Though this will be Coffey’s debut at HVSF, she is no stranger to the character of Rosalind! This will be her third production of AS YOU LIKE IT following those at Santa Cruz Shakespeare, and Baltimore’s Center Stage. Of her performance in Santa Cruz, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, “Julia Coffey is an ever-more delightful Rosalind, infectiously confused, then irresistibly slipping more deeply in love. Her banter with Celia sets the play’s tone, and her cross-dressed wooing of Orlando leavens affecting romance with sharp comic second thoughts.” Among her other New York credits are The Trip To Bountiful at Signature Theater and Perfect Arrangements at Primary Stages. Most recently, Coffey appeared as Hedda in Studio Theatre’s production of Hedda Gabler. Other reginal credits include: Arcadia (Lady Croom) at A.C.T., Tales from Hollywood (Helen) at the Guthrie Theater, The Merchant of Venice (Portia) at Shakespeare Theatre, Importance of Being Earnest (Gwendolyn) at PlayMakers Rep, Romeo and Juliet (Juliet) at Chicago Shakespeare, and Macbeth (Lady Macbeth) at A Noise Within.

Jessica Love, currently playing Rosalind in AS YOU LIKE IT and Mariana and Mistress Overdone in MEASURE FOR MEASURE, will depart from HVSF’s acting company on August 1 to take up a role in the world premiere of Aubergine by Julio Cho at Playwrights Horizons.

Of the transition, McCallum says, “Julia is one of the most gifted actors I know, and I loved working with her on London Wall, so her name immediately came to mind when this vacancy became known. We look forward to welcoming Julia to the HVSF family, and can’t wait to share her work with our audiences at the Tent. It was a pleasure having Jessica Love with us this season, and we wish her well at Playwrights Horizons.”

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AS YOU LIKE IT and MEASURE FOR MEASURE run in repertory with MACBETH through August 28, 2016.

Giddy and Exhausted and Grateful and Shocked: An Interview with Understudy Kimberly Chatterjee

ActingCo_201615It’s not unusual for an HVSF understudy to make their ascent to the mainstage at some point during a given season… but to embody one-third of a production in a few day’s time? Conservatory Company member Kimberly Chatterjee did just that when she learned she’d be stepping in for Stacey Yen in last weekend’s preview of our three-player MACBETH.

When did you hear the news about needing to step in for Yen? What were you up to?

I found out with the rest of the company on a Wednesday that she’d be leaving, and I knew her AS YOU LIKE IT understudy would be performing a few days later. But it was unclear for a while when Stacey would return. In the meantime, I still had rehearsals for AS YOU LIKE IT and MEASURE FOR MEASURE previews, so I started preparing just in case. I officially found out I’d be stepping in for the June 12 MACBETH on June 10–it was a bit of a whirlwind!

How did you prepare for your appearance?

My fellow understudies and I had seen the dress rehearsal for MACBETH, and earlier in the week we attended the first preview, furiously writing down what blocking we could as we watched [in contemporary theater, the director usually determines blocking during rehearsal, telling actors where they should move for the proper dramatic effect, ensure sight lines for the audience, and work with the lighting design of the scene].

There are a lot of specific formations and stage pictures in the show that delineate scenes and character transformations, and I tried to mark Stacey’s track as specifically as possible by drawing little recreations of the stage in my script and charting her every move. The next day I had a brief rehearsal with Stage Management and Nance Williamson to write down and walk through the staging for the second half of the show, which I had yet to mark in my script. Then I was given a fresh script, redrew my charts more clearly, and reviewed the show in my head as best I could each night.

When I got official word on Friday, I truthfully had a little moment of panic, but then the next morning went straight into rehearsals with Lee Sunday Evans (the show’s director), Nance, and Maria-Christina Oliveras. We had two full days of stepping through the show, making cuts, changing some staging and adding a song, and then it was time to perform!

At the end of the day I had to trust all the reading and memorizing I had done prior to that week, and hope that the work I had put in up to that point would be enough to carry me through the show.

What was it like working alongside longtime company member Nance Williamson and the new-to-HVSF Maria-Christina Oliveras? What sorts of energy did Nance and Maria-Christina bring to the stage? 

It was such a comfort knowing I was working with two consummate professionals who not only knew this show extremely well, but were more than willing to review whatever scenes or blocking I needed extra work on. My biggest worry was getting in their way by making mistakes, but they were so supportive and assured me that if I messed up the blocking or jumped a line that they would survive (which proved true, as I definitely did both at some point!).

They both brought such vibrant, commanding, and grounded energies, that as we walked towards the tent I felt empowered alongside them. I’ve never been on stage for such a sustained amount of time without any exits or breaks, and there was a point about halfway through the show that I doubted whether or not I could maintain my focus and keep myself from panicking. But Nance and Maria-Christina forged ahead and made sure to bring me along with them somehow!

Will your experience with MacB influence your performances in HVSF’s other mainstage shows in any way?

Absolutely! I learned a lot about the amount of vocal volume, resonance and enunciation it takes to be heard in the back row of the audience, and how to engage with all three sides of the tent so everyone feels included in the performance. Playing so many characters in MACBETH allowed me to play with physical and vocal variety to differentiate characters, which will inform how I play Amiens in AS YOU LIKE IT versus Juliet in MEASURE FOR MEASURE.

On a personal level, the support that this artistic community provided for me, and more so for Stacey–who was out-of-state attending to personal matters–was incredibly moving, and all those love songs we sing in AS YOU LIKE IT and MEASURE FOR MEASURE hold a little more meaning for me now.

How did the weather affect your approach?

We knew from rehearsing that day that the night was going to be cold and windy, so the wonderful Robert Serrel [Voice and Speech Coach] helped me warm up my voice and gave me tips to cut through the gusts. I still struggled with volume as the wind blew and buffeted, especially in the more intimate scenes, and the wind was so present that at times I forgot it was there and let my volume drop. But working through the wind also made me commit more fully to my lines and my actions in order to be heard. Just technically speaking, I had to clutch my script tightly to make sure I didn’t lose my page, and therefore my lines and blocking!

I think this show is lucky in that sometimes the wind can be its friend by adding to the magic and spookiness of the story. One moment that was particularly thrilling for me was Lady Macbeth’s speech after reading Macbeth’s letter: “come you spirits/that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here.” I felt the wind pick up behind me as I started speaking and it felt a bit like true witchcraft!

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MACBETH, Directed by Lee Sunday Evans, runs June 8 – August 26, 2016.