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Absurdity and Angst: A Glimpse at the Inspiration Behind “Vanya”

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Photo features Benjamin Boucvalt (Spike), Philip Nolen (Vanya), Carol Halstead (Masha), and Anne Hering (Sonia).

Orlando Shakes will be opening Christopher Durang’s newest play, “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” (Vanya) this April. The Tony Award-winning comedy is a humorous adaptation of themes found in Anton Chekhov’s work. While you don’t need to have read Chekhov to enjoy the production, a little familiarity with the legendary Russian playwright will add to the fun.


 

Anton Chekhov was born in Russia in 1860. His young life was anything but pleasant. His physically abusive father was declared bankrupt in 1876, but despite the family living in poverty, Chekhov managed to pay his way through school and gain admittance to the First Moscow State Medical University. Working as a medical doctor paid some of the family’s bills, but not enough, so Chekhov looked to writing as a supplement to his income. Sometimes writing under pseudonyms such as “Man without a Spleen,” Chekhov’s satirical writing style gained both popularity and criticism—the latter of which motivated the writer to pursue more artistically ambitious projects. (more…)


What Happens Here…Becomes Public

slider_periclesOrlando Shakes upcoming production of The Adventures of Pericles is presented in partnership with Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s “Play on! 36 playwrights translate Shakespeare.” “Play on!” is a project that consists of 36 playwrights commissioned to translate 39 plays attributed to Shakespeare into contemporary modern English. This project has caused many raised eyebrows in theater and literary communities across the country, with the common thought being, “Why the #$&% would you need to modernize Shakespeare?”

In light of this controversial undertaking, John P. Keller, New York based actor taking on the lead role of Pericles in Orlando Shakes upcoming modern production, offered to document his involvement in the project in a series of blog posts.


 

John Keller

John P. Keller

I landed in this room a bit by accident. The kind of accidental series of events that lead a pre-med student to drift out of the science library and into the theater department green room at a small liberal arts college. Truthfully, I think if it were not for the green room I never would have found the theater in the first place. Perhaps I should not admit this, but my love of the theater did not begin as a particular desire to be on stage, but rather the magnetic pull towards the people of the theater.

Artists tend to talk a lot. Conversations—perhaps contrary to popular belief—are not restricted to any particular discipline, philosophical mandate, or body politic. The theater (or perhaps more literally, in my initial experience, the green room) was where the sociologists, psychologists and anthropologists, the historians, the literary geniuses, the scientists, the serious scholars, and the drifting goofballs met to discuss Rumi, Descartes, Shakespeare, Locke, Einstein, Mr. Rodgers, Big Bird, and Parker and Stone—all while exchanging recipes and fart jokes. It was this great sense of gathering that always gave me—the communal conversation—the seriousness of purpose without the over seriousness of self.

Recently, a hot topic lit up green rooms and theater gatherings across the country. The announcement by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival that they would commission 36 living playwrights and dramaturges to translate 39 of the bard’s plays into contemporary English. (more…)


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?

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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


Sing-A-Long(side) SPAMALOT Stars!

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 12.43.56 PMLast year, Orlando Shakes surprised the community with a Les Miserables flash mob that’s been viewed by over 1 million fans on YouTube. This year, we want everyone to participate! Join us as we sing-a-long to “The Bright Side of Life” and record a promotional video for our upcoming production of Monty Python’s SPAMALOT.

WHEN: Saturday, August 29 at 12:00 p.m. noon
WHERE: On the lawn in Loch Haven Park between Mills Ave. and Princeton St.

You’ll get the chance to perform alongside professional actors, as we lead you through a brief vocal warm up, learn a beginner’s dance routine, and sing the final chorus of the song.

So now you’re wondering what Orlando Shakes actors will be performing right by your side. Keep an eye out for the familiar faces below!


Davis Gaines, Musical Theatre West

Davis Gaines, Musical Theatre West

Orlando native and Edgewater High School graduate, Davis Gaines (Javert in last season’s Les Misérables), returns as King Arthur. Best known for playing the title role in The Phantom of the Opera more than 2,000 times in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, Gaines remains Los Angeles’ longest-running Phantom.

Raised in South Florida and a graduate of Florida State University, Michael Hunsaker (Jean Valjean in Les Miz) plays opposite Gaines once more in the role of Sir Dennis Galahad. Broadway and National Tour credits include Children of Eden, Chess, Chance and Chemistry, and Ragtime. Hunsaker is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Film Production from Full Sail University.

Dee Roscioli (The Lady of the Lake) is best known for ‘defying gravity’ in the Wicked First National Tour, as well as the Chicago, San Francisco, and Broadway productions. She holds the record for most appearances as Elphaba. Additional credits include Grizabella in the 2002-2003 Cats National Tour and as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd for Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival.

Local favorite T. Robert Pigott (The Big Bang and Into the Woods) will appear as Sir Robin. Other appearances include Caboose in the original cast of Starlight Express for Starlight Vegas Co. and Baby John in West Side Story for Austria’s Scala Musical Company.

Brad DePlanche (Henry V and It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play) joins the cast as Patsy. He has acted in productions across the country including Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival’s Around the World in Eighty Days and The Three Musketeers for People’s Light.

Philip Nolen plays Sir Bedevere, following countless Orlando Shakes appearances including Nicholas Nickleby and The Big Bang. The local actor/singer has also been featured at Mad Cow Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and the New York and Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festivals.

Chris Crawford takes on the roles of Prince Herbert/Historian, following his debut appearance as Fred in 2014’s A Christmas Carol. Other credits include Shakespeare Theatre Co.’s Edward II, Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre’s The Producers, and Boeing Boeing with TheatreSquared.


And now the only star missing is YOU!

Planning to join in on the fun? RSVP to let us know!


What a Shakespeare-ful Summer!

photo-1 (1)We’ve all sat in the Margeson Theater and watched professional actors bring stories to life before us, but what if YOU got the chance to perform on that very stage? In Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s production summer camps, students in Grades 5 through 12 get to do just that! The young actors are cast in a Shakespeare play and perform on the Margeson stage for family, friends, and Shakespeare fans alike. Marina Russell is no stranger to the Theater’s educational summer programming. She took a break from rehearsing to sit down with Marketing and Public Relations Intern Lexie Hoag to give her the inside scoop!


LH: Right now you’re working on The Young Company’s Macbeth. Can you tell us a little about the show?
MR: Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s darker tragedies. The show takes place in a time of war, and it’s about the struggle for power. Macbeth will take any measures to get to the place of power that he wants, but he’s never satisfied.

LH: How do you feel “TYC” has been beneficial to your growth as an actor?
MR: The environment is so important. It’s very safe and the cast always works well together. We learn so much about acting techniques and how to develop ensemble, but the loving environment is what makes all the difference.

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TYC’s Much Ado About Nothing, 2014. Photo by Landon St. Gordon.

LH: What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome throughout TYC?
MR: Taking off the “mask” that we all wear. It’s something that we need in the real world to survive, but in TYC we have to let it go so that we can discover moments that make the show special.

LH: Soon you’ll start rehearsals as Prospera for Shakespeare with Heart’s The Tempest. How would you explain that camp?
MR: Shakespeare with Heart is a two week production camp, and at the end there is a Shakespeare performance. The cast is an even mix of general education kids and students with special needs. We come together in a completely inclusive environment. It’s not at all one-sided–it’s a learning experience for everyone. And it’s just fun!

LH: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your previous Shakespeare with Heart experiences?
MR: To be open. Open-hearted and open-minded. Just take things as they come, and find the beauty in everyone.

LH: Why would you encourage others to become involved in Orlando Shakes’ production camps?
MR: It’s a great way to make friends and gain experience doing serious theatrical productions. It’s good to learn how to work in an ensemble, and to grow through the process.

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

LH: What’s been your favorite role in your acting career thus far?
MR: Every role is so different, I don’t know how to decide! But I really loved playing Nerissa in Shakespeare with Heart’s The Merchant of Venice. I love sassy characters and getting to explore meaningful relationships with other actors on stage. I think Nerissa had the most important relationships I’ve built as an actor. Playing Ross now in TYC’s Macbeth is also fun, because I get to be a part of a major character arc that’s really important to the play.

LH: If you could give advice to a younger actor what would it be?
MR: Enjoy the process. Love what you do, love each step that you take, and love the challenges that you will overcome. Again, be open to everything. You’ll learn. We all do. And most importantly, have fun!

Want to support this new generation of actors? Catch Marina and friends in TYC’s Macbeth (playing July 10, 11, and 12–Click here for tickets) and Shakespeare with Heart’s The Tempest (playing July 24–Suggested $10 donation at the door).


IMG_20150312_172122Lexie Hoag is currently a Marketing and Public Relations Intern at Orlando Shakespeare Theater. After completing her AA at Valencia College, she plans to pursue her Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations. She can often be found rereading books, snuggling her puppy, and haunting local theaters.


A Ribbitting Interview with a Princess

Shirilla_Kristin 2015You might remember the charming Kristin Shirilla from our production of Cinderella in 2012. This summer she’s back on the Goldman Stage once more as a completely different member of the royal court––Princess Calliope in The Frog and the Princess (playing through July 26, 2015).

Like many theater professionals, Kristin’s love of the arts started at a young age. “I would act out stories like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I’d play Goldilocks and my mom would have to play all three bears.” Her parents were very supportive of the arts, and took Kristin and her brother to see shows often. With her family’s encouragement, the Ohio native decided to study theater performance at Ohio University.

Following her college graduation, Kristin was on the hunt for a year-long acting internship. Another Ohio University grad told her about Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s Acting/Education Internship program. “I really liked the focus on education,” said Kristin. “In high school, a local theater company would come and spend a week each year working on Shakespeare with us. Orlando Shakes’ internship offered that same kind of programming for the community.”

Since joining the Orlando Shakes family, Kristin has also appeared as Lydia/Mustard Seed in the repertory productions of Pride and Prejudice and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as well as a dog and a little boy in Alexander Who’s Not Not Not Not Not Not Going to Move. (“Typecast, I guess.”) She also works full-time as a performer in Diagon Alley at Universal’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. “Basically, I’m a professional wizard and that’s pretty awesome.”


I sat down with Kristin to talk about acting, puppets, and smoochin’ frogs.

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Kristin joking around with Cinderella co-stars Brandon Roberts & Alex Mrazek

ML: How is Princess Calliope different from Cinderella?
KS: Cinderella wasn’t a princess. She was a normal girl who had to figure out how to “princess it up”. Princess Calliope was born into royalty. She has to learn to let loose a little. I think falling in love inspires that.

ML: This is your fifth season with Orlando Shakes. What keeps you coming back?
KS: Orlando Shakes was my home for the first year I lived in Orlando. I met great friends and even my boyfriend here. The Theater has always welcomed me back––I’ve worked as a box office associate, an understudy for Snow White, etc. I’m happy to come back and do whatever I can to help.

ML: I’ve heard that you act alongside a few puppets in this show. What’s that been like?
KS: I’m pretty comfortable handling puppets because of my theme park experience. It’s challenging to remember to talk only to the puppet, not the puppeteer. But it’s important. It’s how we endow the puppet with a life of its own.

ML: What’s the best part about performing for young audiences and their families?
KS: Kids are tough. If you’re not 100% honest, they’re not going to be as engaged or give you the feedback that you need as an actor. You can tell the difference when performers talk down to children and when they treat them like adults. Adam Reilly (Prince Gerwyn in the show) is really great at that.

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Kristin with her dog, Hulk

ML: When you’re not busy being a princess, what do you like to do for fun?
KS: I love playing with my two dogs, Hulk and Louise. I just bought a house in an area with alot of parks, so I’m excited to explore those. I also like to check out local farmers’ markets and try new food and beverages.

ML: Do you have a favorite line from the show?
KS: Prince Gerwyn’s line: “Couldn’t she have turned me into something cuter? Like a kitten? Princesses like kittens, I bet.”

ML: And finally, do you really have to kiss a frog?
KS: I guess you’ll just have to see the show to find out… Besides, I don’t kiss and tell.


Kristin and Adam Reilly. Photo by Tony Firriolo.

Don’t miss your chance to see Kristin and the rest of the gang in The Frog and the Princess, playing through July 26. Click here to purchase tickets now or call the Box Office at (407) 447-1700 ext. 1. Hop to it before we close the book on this hilarious fairytale!

Shakespearely yours,
Melissa Landy, Public Relations Coordinator