2017: Our Top Ten Favorite Moments

An improvised “I Do.” An evening of wild, Hamilton-infused energy. We take a quick look back at some of our favorite moments from the 2017 Summer Season with the folks who keep the lights on, the HVSF Administrative Staff…

1. A Top-Secret Proposal

“About a month into the season, my Assistant Company Manager’s boyfriend messaged me on Facebook: I want to propose to Kristin. Can I do this onstage? The conspiracy grew slowly: me, then our Stage Manager (Marci), Production Manager (Chris), Artistic Director (Davis), Managing Director (Kate), my intern (Mary Caitlyn), and finally our actor playing Feste, Michael Broadhurst, who would serve as the MC. On the fateful night, Kristin and her boyfriend’s families were in the audience watching TWELFTH NIGHT. At intermission, Marci and I told the entire cast, and during curtain call Feste selected two “volunteers” to come onstage. With the cast watching onstage and production staff watching offstage, Kristin said yes(!) and the audience gave them a standing ovation.”
Katie Meade, Company Manager

2. “Benedict’s” Supporters

“I loved when Chris Thorn (the actor who played Benedict Arnold in this season’s THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA) and his family stopped in the HVSF office on Main Street in Cold Spring. They were standing around outside and noticed the large poster hanging in our window, which was a picture of Chris. There were a lot of oohs and aahs and excitement from his family. They were very proud of him – as we all were!”
– Linda Patterson, Finance Director

3. Nance’s Belvedere Dash

“After I had seen the audience settle into the Tent for the evening, I would wait for Nance to come up over the hill as Mrs. Bennet in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Her loud hallooing for Mr. Bennet, complete with the silly bonnet and the bell was a brilliant beginning to the play. I would watch, as like clockwork, half-way between the belvedere and the Tent where she would pause, putting one finger up and doubling over for breath. This got a big laugh every night and after that laugh, I knew the audience was connected to the story and on their journey for the evening.”
– Catherine Taylor-Williams, Director of Development

4. Opening Night of THE BOOK OF WILL, Closing Scene

“When those pages began to fall… I was just weeping in the audience at the beauty of the play.”
– Kate Liberman, Managing Director

“I loved the moment, after the curtain call, when there were spontaneous calls of “Author, Author!” I watched Lauren Gunderson’s (playwright, THE BOOK OF WILL) mom watch as her daughter modestly acknowledged the ovation.”
– Davis McCallum, Artistic Director

5. Live-Action Revolution

“Big ups to the Week of Revolution 21+ Trivia Night. It was a surprisingly cold August night, but a hardy and sizeable bunch of trivia buffs hung out after THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA to take part. Our friends at The Middle Company put together a great batch of questions, loosely tied to the American Revolution (“Paul Revere” by the Beastie Boys featured). My team – strangers at the outset – showed great group cohesion as we created a tableau of Washington Crossing the Delaware. And took full points. Amazing.”
– Jena Hershkowitz, Development Associate

6. Ready For Their Closeup

“I have the pleasure of devising photo and video shoots each season to help tell the story of what’s on stage. Sometimes, these shoots are quick and painless, with actors in minimal costumes playing around inside a studio. And sometimes, as was the case with this season’s LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST, these shoots involve over-sized, insulated animal masks worn by exhausted actors as they gallivant about in mid-90-degree Hudson Valley heat. Of course, our Conservatory Company rose to the challenge like the champions they are, and it reminded me how incredibly generous and dedicated our actors have to be to bring their best selves to the Theater Tent. I wish we were able to use all the images we captured that day!”
– Emma, Director of Marketing & Communications 

7. HAMILTUNES on the Hudson

” The Hamilton Community Sing-Along! A night in which the tent was filled with electricity and joy supplied by our community members joining on stage and singing their hearts out – a night I will never forget. I loved watching Nathaniel Ramos (who was one of the local child actors in last year’s OUR TOWN) completely kill it as Elizabeth Schuyler.”
– Kate Liberman, Managing Director

8. Suffrage Stories

“I loved marveling at the courage and talent and honesty of the community playwrights featured in the HVSF Bakeoff, and personally reporting by email to playwright Paula Vogel on the spectacular success of the short plays that had been inspired by 100 years of women’s suffrage in New York.”
– Davis McCallum, Artistic Director 

9. A Playground for Play(s)

“The way to get my 3 year old son, Lucas, to accompany me to work at the Tent was to promise him a chocolate and vanilla Go-Go-Pop from the HVSF Cafe Tent and that he could sit on one of the golf carts. He would run to the Cafe and shout, “PLEASE chocolate and vanilla PLEASE!” After that was over, he would try to sneak past our House Manager, Lindsay, to see if he could break into the Tent to see what the actors were doing.

Once he realized my job was to meet people at the Tent, he decided he’d do the same: “This is my mommy, Catherine. I’m Lucas. What’s your name?”

Being a child in the theater is lots of fun and HVSF is a great place for kids. On any given night you could see impromptu soccer and frisbee games. Artistic Director Davis McCallum’s kids Thomas and Angus were there, Actor/Associate Artistic Director Sean McNall’s son Declan, as was Actor John Tufts’ son Henry. One night, Kurt Rhoads explained to Lucas how baseball worked. It’s a family place, and I’m proud to be part of that.”
– Catherine Taylor-Williams, Director of Development

10. Oozing Collins and the Chair

Who needs words for this PRIDE AND PREJUDICE chair bit?
The whole office is still laugh-crying at it.

 

What were your favorite moments of the 2017 Summer Season? Share them with us on Facebook or Instagram, or by emailing boxoffice@hvshakespeare.org.
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NYT’s Outdoor Stages: A Madcap ‘Pride & Prejudice’ in the Hudson Valley

Originally Published in The New York Times
By Mary Jo Murphy | June 29, 2017

Lizzy Bennet lives with Mr. Darcy in Queens.

This summer, however, the prickliest pair in fiction can be found most nights in their own D.I.Y. Pemberley, a tent in Garrison, N.Y., overlooking the Hudson River — and reminding audiences that the finest china in their beloved Jane Austen is as likely to be a chamber pot as a teacup.

Lizzy is Kate Hamill. Her stage adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice” had its premiere last Saturday at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival there, where it will play in repertory until September before shifting to Primary Stages Off Broadway in November. And yes, Ms. Hamill acts opposite her nonfictional boyfriend, Jason O’Connell. It’s a first for the couple, although he played the future brother-in-law, Edward, to her Marianne Dashwood in Ms. Hamill’s previous Austen adaptation, “Sense & Sensibility,” a rollicking muslins-on-wheels affair (by the appropriately named theater company Bedlam) that had an acclaimed run Off Broadway last year.

Ms. Hamill, 33, says she plans to adapt all six Austen novels for the stage — probably in the order of their writing, the better to chart her own progress against Austen’s. “Northanger Abbey” may be next. (“There’s something I love about teenage vernacular,” she said in an interview last week.) Starting with “Sense & Sensibility” was perhaps wise: She could gauge the appetite for yet another Austen adaptation before adapting the most adapted — and cherished — of them all, “Pride & Prejudice.” “It’s the one everyone knows,” she said. “People have a serious attachment to it.”

“Sense” was such a hit that even a committed Janeite’s attachment might well withstand an irreverent “Pride.”

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Jason O’Connell and Kate Hamill, center, in “Pride & Prejudice” at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. Credit Nicole Fara Silver for The New York Times

And it is irreverent. Think men cast as Mary, the plain and prudish Bennet sister, and as the snobbish Miss Bingley. A lot of “intentional water spillage.” Mr. Bingley as near to being a puppy as a man can be without being on all fours.

“People might feel I have desecrated their idols, but, you know, at least I’ve tried to do something interesting,” she said, noting that she had not put zombies in it, and that “I haven’t set it on Mars.” She has discovered, however, that “Janeites” — and she counts herself as one — “are pretty open-minded people; they’re exceptionally generous. Because sometimes I’m taking liberties.”

Ms. Hamill doesn’t see the purpose in adapting a classic unless there is a clear point of view. She found hers for “Pride & Prejudice” in the exaggerated notion of courtship and marriage as a game with winners, losers, referees and exceptionally bad coaches. She applied her own “historical ambivalence about marriage” just as she was arriving at the age when her friends were pairing off around her. She concluded that matches happen between people “whose weirdnesses fit together.”

She looked to the Shakespeare canon for a model. “It’s a romantic comedy, and I was thinking, what romantic comedies do I not hate?” The answer was “Much Ado About Nothing.”

“I thought the big challenge going into it was, everyone knows who gets together,” she said. “I wanted to make a certain story uncertain. How do you make a ‘Much Ado’ where you’re really not sure if Benedick and Beatrice get together?”

She was not afraid to go broad and go silly. There are games galore in her production. (In researching games of the period, she said, she discovered one in which participants simply slap one another in the face. It’s not in her production.)

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Kate Hamill in her Elizabeth Bennet best for “Pride & Prejudice.” Credit Nicole Fara Silver for The New York Times

Bells ring throughout her play: wedding bells; alarm bells; the kind of bells that signal rounds in a prizefight; a chime that sounds, if only in your head, when you connect with your imperfect perfect match. (“It kind of annoys me when both Lizzy and Darcy are supermodels,” she said.)

The clanging insistence of bells became a critical device to her retelling of this classic story about the game of games: the marriage game.

Ms. Hamill grew up in a farmhouse in rural Lansing, N.Y., the fifth of six siblings. She knows how to milk a cow and collect eggs from hens, but she spent much of her time reading (“My parents didn’t believe in TV”), and she joined the theater program in her very small high school. That’s where she gained some sage advice. She was studying to be an actress, but the drama teacher told the girls that if they wanted work, they had to create it.

When she moved to New York, one of her jobs involved writing copy for catalogs. Hundreds of descriptions of jewelry. “You start to just amuse yourself: What else can I say about this pendant?” Early on, she said, “in my mind a serious writer was someone different from me,” and she remained committed to acting. But she wearied of auditions for “silent suffering girlfriend” and “girl in bikini.” That’s when she recalled her old instructor’s counsel. Three-quarters of all plays are written by men, and an overwhelming majority of parts are for men, she said, reeling off statistics she seemed to have learned the hard way. She began to think about creating “new classics.”

In addition to the two Austen novels, she has adapted Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair,” and is at work on Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” and — why not? — “The Odyssey,” for which she wrote a scene, she said, featuring a Cyclops singing to his sheep.

In the meantime, she is vastly amused to be doing a show with Mr. O’Connell in which they get to “bicker and hate each other for hours” — and nightly he must recite a proposal that was written by her.

 

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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
By Kate Hamill
Adapted from the novel by Jane Austen
Directed by Amanda Dehnert
A co-production with Primary Stages
Running June 10 – September 4, 2017

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. Are you between the ages of 16 and 35? Consider joining our Revelers or Teen Revelers program for exclusive discounts, events, and more.

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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.”

 

 

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.