Behind the scenes at Orlando Shakespeare Theater




This week, our bellies will be full as will our hearts. We are so thankful to our patrons for all their support and generosity throughout this season.

With the start of the gift giving season officially here, we want to give YOU a little something to make your holiday shopping much easier! Skip the long lines at the mall, order from Orlando Shakes online, and give your loved ones the gift of live theater.

Support Orlando Shakes by remembering to “shop small” and purchase a Shakespeare Sampler!

With a Shakespeare Sampler you’ll receive, one ticket to four Signature Series productions of your choice in Season 27 for only $100! ($193 value)

Shakespeare Sampler Season Ticket Holders receive the best seats available, discounts on additional tickets, and free ticket exchanges within your chosen performances! All performance dates must be chosen up front at the time of purchase. Offer valid only on Saturday, November 28th.

Purchase Your Shakespeare Sampler Now!

Give the gift of live theater with Orlando Shakes’ Stocking Stuffers – only $30 a piece! ($55 value)

Stocking Stuffers may be redeemed for tickets to any remaining production in Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s 27th Season. 

Stocking Stuffers will be mailed out within five (5) business days and can’t be redeemed on the date of purchase.

The value of the certificate will expire on May 1st, 2016. Offer valid only on Monday, November 30th. Not valid for previously purchased tickets. Limit 6 per person.

Purchase Your Stocking Stuffer Now!

We have a day for giving thanks and we have two for getting deals; and now we have a day for giving back – Giving Tuesday!

Giving Tuesday is a global day dedicated to giving generously and this year it is on Dec. 1, 2015. Will you be #unselfie?

Give to Orlando Shakes in one of these two easy ways! 

  1. Donate directly to Orlando Shakespeare Theater on Giving Tuesday.
  2. Sign up for Amazon Smile. Amazon Smile is a program where online retailer Amazon donates 0.5% of eligible purchases to the charity of your choice.
You can support Orlando Shakes by making it your charity of choice and give back through your Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and online holiday purchases through Amazon.

Want to Discover the Next Shakespeare?

Orlando Shakes is proud to present our 13th season of PlayFest! (November 5th through the 8th.)

You may be having these following thoughts: What is a “playfest”? Do you have to dress up? Is it similar to L.A.R.P.I.N.G or a renaissance fair? It’s at the Shakespeare Theater so maybe we’re going back to the Elizabethan age? 

Orlando Shakes is a member of the National New Play Network (NNPN), which is an alliance of nonprofit theaters across the country who promote in the development, production, and continued life of new plays.

At PlayFest, we discover new plays and exhibit them to the public. We have a submission play-tops-playfestpage on our website and as long as the writers follow the guidelines, we allow anyone to submit a play for our consideration. Our Director of New Play Development, Cynthia White and Artistic Director Jim Helsinger, dig through the good and the bad to unearth seven fantastic plays to be presented over the four-day event.

Ginger Lee McDermott in Play Fest's Dancing Lessons.

Ginger Lee McDermott in PlayFest’s Dancing Lessons.

Each of the seven plays is presented as a staged reading at one of our stages. What’s a staged reading? Unlike a full-blown production, no costumes or sets are used during a staged reading. The pieces have directors and actors, and they read from a script. It is an introduction to the work rather than a developed production. Patrons get the chance to sample a wide variety of new works in an intimate, interactive setting.

Over the 13 seasons, we have presented over 125 new plays. Many of the plays shown at PlayFest go on to become full-scale productions. Steven Sachs’s Bakersfield Mist was originally a PlayFest favorite, and went on to be presented on the West End in London and is currently being performed at the Shakes! Then in January, we open another PlayFest gem, Mark St. Germain’s (Relativity, Best of Enemies) Dancing Lessons!

Ellen McLaughlin

Ellen McLaughlin

Award-winning playwright, Ellen McLaughlin, was chosen to translate Shakespeare’s Pericles into modern verse for Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s new project PlayOn, in which they will “translate” Shakespeare’s entire theatrical cannon. McLaughlin’s translation, The Adventures of Pericles, will be part of our season as a full production from February 24th to March 26th, 2016. McLaughlin will be hosting a free keynote speech on Saturday, February 7th at 7:30 p.m.

We will have a free playwright’s panel on Sunday, November 8th at 3:30 p.m., where we will talk about diversity in the theater. Four out of our seven playwrights are females; females are often underrepresented in theater. The chosen plays explore relationships and navigate through tough topics such as drug addiction, loss, death, and moving on.

While you are not parading around in breeches and cassocks, you’ll still have many laughs and great fun!  This is a great opportunity to get the “insider’s scoop” on new plays and playwrights.  You may even find you are inspired to dabble in writing one yourself!  

We hope you discover the next Shakespeare! (Or at least a talented playwright that moves you.) This program is an excellent way to find new playwrights and give voice to their work. These fresh plays could end up being produced at the Shakes, or even on Broadway!  Imagine how different our world would be if Shakespeare had never had a chance to preview his work!

So come and support a new generation of talented playwrights at PlayFest! Tickets are only $8!

This blog post was written by Marketing Intern Cassie Moorhead.

Just Me and My Shadow

The cast of The Frog and Princess with their ASL shadows.

The cast of The Frog and Princess with their ASL shadows, 2015. Photo by Landon St. Gordon.

For every Children’s Series production there is a special performance date labeled “ASL,” but what does that even entail? At Orlando Shakes it means you are attending a performance with sign language interpreters, who shadow the actors on stage, creating a unique theater experience for young people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The result is a fun and educational event for everyone, including hearing audiences!

Mandy Longo is the assistant director of Florida Hands and Voices a nonprofit organization that works with children who are hard of hearing or deaf, their families, and the professionals who serve them. She is also the founder of Signing Shadows, who will join the cast of Magic Tree House: A Ghost Tale for Mr. Dickens on November 7 at 2:00 p.m. for a shadow interpreted performance. Marketing Intern Cassie Moorhead sat down with Mandy to learn more about her mission to provide the magic of theater to an underserved community.

Cassie Moorhead: How has sign language been used in the past in the theater?
Mandy Longo: Traditionally, theaters have used traditional interpreting for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Interpreters stand on each side of the stage and sign the dialogue. Imagine you are in a theater and you could see the actors movements in the middle of the stage, but in order to understand what they are saying you had to look to either side of the stage. You would be constantly looking back and forth trying to keep up. While you may understand the gist of what is going on, you miss a lot of the experience.


The cast of The Frog and The Princess and their ASL shadows sign autographs, 2015. Photo by Landon St. Gordon.

CM: How is shadow interpreting different?
ML: In shadow interpreting the interpreter and actor are one. We stand side by side the actors in all black clothing and become their characters. We learn their blocking, their facial expressions, body language, and everything. The audience members who are deaf or hard of hearing are given the full theatrical experience.

CM: Where did you get the idea for the Signing Shadows?
ML: There is a very famous theater in Los Angeles called the Deaf West, which was founded in 1991. They use shadow signing and are currently working on their first Broadway show, Spring Awakening. I recently saw it and was so inspired by the work they have done. It has given me such inspiration for this show. We have been working with the Shakes since Cinderella, which was four seasons ago. They are the only theater in the area to offer shadow interpreting.

CM: How does the process work of assigning interpreters to actors?
ML: I have a Facebook group for the Signing Shadows and I will post the show, the dates, and see what volunteers are interested and available. I am given the script ahead of time, but the first time I am introduced to the actors is during the “Meet and Greet.” During the read through I listen and observe the actors. I try to match them based on personality and appearance. We only have two male interpreters, so we are not always able to always match by gender.

CM: What is challenging about Magic Tree House: A Ghost Tale for Mr. Dickens?
ML: This show is a musical, which is always more challenging. We have to master the choreography and be in sync. There are around 15 musical numbers in the show. The synchronicity is the most challenging aspect of the show by far. Signing is similar to speaking where one word can have multiple meanings and signs. We rehearse separately and have to agree on which sign to use and make sure we are in sync with one another. This is our biggest show we have done so far, but it will be awesome.

Sophia Gilla in Shakespeare with Heart's Merchant of Venice. Photo by Landon St. Gordon.

Sophia Grilla in Shakespeare with Heart’s Merchant of Venice, 2014. Photo by Landon St. Gordon.

CM: Who are your volunteers?
ML: Most of our volunteers are interpreters for public schools or teachers. Our shadow signer for Tiny Tim, Sophia Grilla, is only 13 years old. She is so amazing and inspiring. Signing on to a show is a big commitment. We learn the entire show, so there are many rehearsals. We do not jump in and rehearse with the actors until later in the game where they know the show back and forth. We love it even though it involves so much time. It gives our hearts pleasure. The actors have to put in extra hours to teach us their blocking and whatnot, but they are always more than willing and never complain. The Shakes has been amazing, we always feel welcome.

CM: What are the next projects the Signing Shadows will be working on?
ML: We will be performing Elephant and Piggie’s “We’re in a Play!” on April 30, 2016 at 2:00 p.m. We wish more people knew about shadow interpreting and came to see the shows. The deaf and hard of hearing children are given a unique opportunity to socialize. They can meet other deaf and hard of hearing children from other schools and hopefully make new friends. We have schools from Osceola, Orange, Lake, and Seminole County attending the field trip performance.

Come and see the Signing Shadows for yourself! Florida Hands and Voices and Signing Shadows will appear in a special performance of Magic Tree House: A Ghost Tale for Mr. Dickens on November 7 at 2:00 p.m. There will be an additional shadow interpreted performance for schools groups on November 9 at 10:15 a.m., but general admission tickets can also be attained by the public. Tickets are available online or at the Box Office at (407) 447-1700 ext. 1.

An Intern’s Insight: Cassie Moorhead

I vividly remember my first show at the Orlando Shakespeare theatre.  My school scheduled a field trip during our Shakespeare lesson in fifth grade, and we saw As You Like It.  I was mesmerized watching the actors and how serious they were.  I was so enthralled I barely remembered to sneak glances at my crush-of-the-day.

The theater was intimate and from my seat I could see every breath and facial movement. The energy and enthusiasm was contagious. The words themselves were a little over my head, but the actors perfectly conveyed the intended messages to my young ears. They could have been speaking Chinese and I think I would have gotten the gist of it. I loved the make up, the set, the costumes, the lights, the excitement, and I wanted it all.

I was inspired, so I chose theater as my elective throughout middle school and high school. I felt at home with my fellow thespians.  Theater people seem to “click” naturally. Whether it is a shared passion or a general thirst for life, theater folks remain my favorite.

After high school I migrated to the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in Psychology. As most graduates will attest, post-grad life is very scary and stressful.  I had no idea what I was doing and had zero job prospects. I immediately enrolled in the University of Florida’s online program to earn a master’s degree in Communications. I needed an internship for one of my class credits, and looked high and low before my dad heard through the grapevine that Orlando Shakes has amazing internships.

By some miracle the timing was perfect and I was asked to joining the staff as their Fall Marketing Intern! The staff and crew at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater are absolutely amazing; everyone is genuinely kind and helpful. The plethora of tasks for the day is accomplished with a smile and a laugh!

As the Fall Marketing Intern, I gain hands on experiences in the field. I am not just getting coffee and bagels. I worked on promotional materials for the new show, Bakersfield Mist, which is opening next week. I filmed the current musical, Monty Python’s SPAMALOTand had to hold my hand over my mouth to stifle my giggles so the camera wouldn’t pick them up.  I was even able to give back to the community by volunteering to feed those in need at the Daily Bread. I am looking forward to learning more in the coming weeks, as the magic of theater continues to mesmerize me.

An Interview with Maude Gutman (AKA Anne Hering)

BakersfieldOST_2_hrOrlando Shakes favorite Anne Hering is back on the stage this Fall after recent appearances in Bad Dog, A Christmas Carol, Les Misérables, and many others. In Bakersfield Mist (playing October 14 – November 15, 2015), Anne plays Maude Gutman.

Fifty-something and in between jobs, Maude shells out her last few bucks on a thrift store painting which she’s convinced is an original Jackson Pollock worth millions. When Maude invites renowned art expert Lionel Percy (played by Steve Brady) to her trailer park home in Bakersfield to authenticate the painting, cultures and class attitudes collide. Stephen Sachs’ colorful new comic drama asks an important question: Who gets to decide what “art” is?

In a quick interview, Anne tells us how she and her character are alike–and very, very different.

OST: Describe Bakersfield Mist in three words.
AH: Art meets bartender.

OST: Name three ways that you and Maude Gutman are alike.
AH: We swear. We say what we feel. We believe in miracles.

OST: Name three ways that you and Maude Gutman are totally different.
AH: I don’t smoke (anymore). I don’t have children. I don’t like clown paintings.

OST: Have you discovered anything new about Maude, the play, or yourself while in the rehearsal process?
AH: I’ve learned that Maude is smarter than I thought. She re-calibrates her arguments quickly, so her wheels are always spinning.

OST: Was there anything you did to prepare for this role?
AH: I watched Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?, the documentary that helped inspire Stephen Sachs to write Bakersfield Mist.

BakersfieldOST_6_hrOST: This play features just two actors–very different from the huge casts of Les Miz and Nicholas Nickleby. What’s that been like in comparison?
AH: A totally different process. Bakersfield Mist has actually been way more work. But the performances will go really quickly.

OST: As Orlando Shakes’ Director of Education you plan our Children’s Series and Youth & Teen Classes. Bakersfield Mist is Rated R. How do you feel about having a job that lets you live in both worlds?
AH: Grateful!

OST: How did you get started in acting? How did you get started in education? And when did you discover mixing the two was your winning combination?
AH: I got into theater doing musicals in high school. My first job out of undergrad was teaching high school English. The first time I mixed the two was when I got this job eleven years ago!

Don’t miss Anne–or should we say “Maude”–in Bakersfield Mist opening this month! Tickets are available online or by calling the Box Office at (407) 447-1700 ext. 1.

Shakespearely yours,

Melissa Landy, Public Relations Coordinator

Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock?


Teri Horton with her “Pollock”

“Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock?” asked Teri Horton when an art teacher suggested her $5 thrift store find might be a priceless masterpiece. That question later became the title for the documentary that followed her quest to prove she’d discovered a long lost Pollock painting.

Stephen Sachs’ colorful new comic drama Bakersfield Mist (playing at Orlando Shakes from Oct. 14 – Nov. 15, 2015) introduces a set of lively fictional characters in an almost identical situation.

But back to Horton’s original question, who is Jackson Pollock? An American artist known for revolutionizing the abstract expressionist movement, Pollock developed a new method known as the “drip technique.” The style involved using household paint (as opposed to artist’s paint) and literally dripping and pouring it onto the canvas. His other tools included hardened brushes, sticks, basting syringes, and even his own hands. This technique marked the “drip period” (from 1947 to 1950) when the majority of his most famous works were created. Pollock prided himself in getting up close and personal with his artwork, and often spoke as if he were “in” his paintings.

“My painting does not come from the easel. I prefer to tack the unstretched canvas to the hard wall or the floor. I need the resistance of a hard surface. On the floor I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting,” said Jackson Pollock, in his publication My Painting.

014-jackson-pollock-the-red-listDespite his artistic fame and success, Pollock’s life was not picture perfect. He struggled with mental illness and modern historians theorize he may have been bipolar. He also suffered from alcoholism throughout his adult life. In 1956, Pollock caused the fatal car accident that killed him and one other passenger, although his mistress who was also in the car survived. Pollock was only 44. His wife, an artist named Lee Krasner, kept his legacy alive by opening their home, the Pollock-Krasner House and Studio, for public tours.

Wondering what happened to Ms. Horton and her painting? To this day she has been unable to prove that it is a true Pollock, yet she refuses to sell her piece for less than $50 million. Inspired in part by Horton’s story, Bakersfield Mist begs the important question: Who gets to define what “art” is?

Tickets to Bakersfield Mist are available online or by calling (407) 447-1700 ext. 1.

Article Contributors: Lexie Hoag and Melissa Landy

Youth & Teen Acting Classes–Where the magic happens!

Beginning on September 26 and running through October 31, 2015, our Fall 2015 Youth & Teen Acting Classes are just around the corner! Wondering whether to enroll your child (Age 4 – Grade 12)? Children’s Series Coordinator Jennifer Bonner discusses how our classes benefit “the whole person”, while having a whole lot of fun too!

Classes2015_3hrOST: How are Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s Youth & Teen Acting Classes different from others offered in the community?
JB: At Orlando Shakes we really focus on the education portion of the program. We have a “Shareformance” at the end of each six week session, where the students share what they’ve learned with their family and friends, but the bulk of material is devoted to educating the students as a whole person. We give them tools they can use in life, such as the concept of the “actor’s toolbox” (voice, body, and imagination), and we really hone in on that. We aren’t striving to produce stars. We just want our students to learn about themselves and others, as well as theater and artistic integrity. It’s a sneaky way to educate while they are having fun at the same time.

OST: How do we cater each class for specific age groups? Is there a core standard they all share?
JB: Our classes focus on skill sets that benefit students on stage as well as in everyday life. They celebrate the process of learning, experimenting, taking risks, and challenging expectations by focusing first on acting, then movement, and, finally, Shakespeare’s words. Alone or as a package, this training is valuable for beginning actors as well as aspiring young professionals.

OST: Seems like this Fall’s classes are based on some of the shows we’re producing during our 2015-16 Season. What characters can students look forward to exploring?
JB: Older students will be exploring Peter Pan from Peter and the Starcatcher; all of the zaney knights from Monty Python’s SPAMALOT; Trinculo, Stephano, Caliban, Prospero, and Ariel from Shakespeare’s The Tempest; and Pericles, Dionyza, Cleon, and Marina from Shakespeare’s epic tale Pericles.

Classes2015_1hrLittle ones will learn with Jack and Annie from the Magic Tree House book series (and our Fall Children’s Series production, A Ghost Tale for Mr. Dickens), as well as best friends Gerald and Piggie from the popular Mo Willems’ book series and our Spring Children’s Series production of Elephant and Piggie’s “We are in a Play!”.

Our hope is that by including the stories from the season in our classes, students will be excited about our productions and will become more invested in the theater. They’ll begin to think of the Theater as theirs. And that’s what it is–we’re here to serve the community.

OST: Do students from our classes and camps ever have the opportunity to be cast in Orlando Shakespeare Theater productions? How can these connections help any aspiring young actors?
JB: Anyone in the community is able to audition for our season each April. Many of our current and previous students have auditioned for past seasons and, when the production calls for it, numerous kids have been cast in child and young adult roles. Many have also had the opportunity to work as understudies. For students that want to pursue acting as a profession, auditioning is always valuable, and we welcome and encourage them to do so with us.       

OST: Why is Theater important for kids–even if they don’t intend on pursuing it as a career choice?
JB: Theater has so many dimensions. It’s a social art. It’s a history lesson of the minds and hearts of people throughout time. It teaches us compassion, acceptance, and tolerance by allowing us to walk around in someone else’s shoes. It helps with expressing feelings and emotions, with public speaking, and with confidence. It teaches us that it’s okay to make a mistake because ultimately, there is no right answer in theater. It’s what you feel. It’s what you see. It teaches us to think outside the box–to be brave. And isn’t that what we all want to be?

Registration is still open for our Fall 2015 Youth & Teen Acting Session! Visit us online for details.
Additional questions? Contact Jennifer at (407) 447-1700 ext. 254.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 16,111 other followers

%d bloggers like this: