And after many months of auditions live and via skype (the fun of modern casting with international collaborators) we have a show fully cast and ready to rehearse. First step is announcing who will be touring this May.
Announcing (drum roll please)
directed by Alasdair Hunter
Prospero Julia Stemper
Miranda Krista Taylor
Ferdinand/Caliban Jake Jones
Gonzalo Kim Curlee
Alonso/Trinculo Nicole Goeden
Antonio/Stephano Ken Miller
Sebastian Jared Shofstall
Ariel will be played by the ensemble
The prequel is live and as we finalize all the locations will be doing look-ins on the cast finding out who they are and a bit about their process. We'll be playing with costumes, finishing the arrangements of songs and gathering props and set pieces. Coming soon a playlist set to inspire the actors and the audience with thoughts of islands, ships and the magic of books.
Soon fun filled news about the Chicago reading will be posted, but until then visit this site
to find out about the wonders of soup!
Basking and relaxing in Southern Illinois this week in preparation for the Carbondale staged reading of Love's Labour's Lost
and the launch of our 2012-2013 season has been both more and less work than the day-to-day life in Chicago. As we start our 3rd season the company's widespread members and our followers are getting into the groove of Stone Soup fun, but that doesn't make the work any easier.
Before I ooo and ahhh though over our 3rd season (soon to come) and start discussing the work that is to come I want to share some wonderful Southern Illinois thoughts:
- the cashiers at Schnuck's are really nice
- Batman: Dark Knight is actually really really good
- Southern Illinois by the end of summer is just suffocating, but this morning the heat broke and it might actually be coming in on sweater weather and Fall in SoIl is WONDERFUL!
Am getting really excited for this year’s Stone Soup season to start. My to do list is a mile long as I try to finish everything on this year’s to do list. Some days I just want to take a nap…but then I start thinking about new projects and ideas (and there are so many – Shakespeare and other) that I can’t help but think “that’s what coffee is for!”
The season starts overseas with a reading I am so sad to miss. Pictures and cast lists for the Glasgow reading of Love’s Labour’s Lost will emerge as soon as the Edinburgh Fringe calms itself down. Company member Molly Bunder is in The Little Prince at the Fringe and many friends of Stone Soup are taking part in a year that I am kicking myself for not getting to visit. Even as I type I am dreaming of the imposing castle backdrop to the most surreal festival that exists today. Happiness and happy theater and oodles of art-filled wishes to everyone who is there.
Next we head back home to Carbondale, where an exciting cast for a Longbranch staged reading of Love’s Labour’s Lost is fast coming together (Monday, September 24 is the date - so . Some friends from previous shows and a few new faces will be taking the stage and bringing this play to life. Last year’s very successful readings of The Comedy of Errors were an exciting start to a 5-year Comedy Project, and as I work to cut Love’s Labour’s Lost to a perfect time I am dreaming of spending 5 years on it as well (we aren’t, but it is so funny how wrapped up in a play I can get just by formatting the margins).
Around the same time as these readings are rehearsing and going up we will be holding two fun workshops in Carbondale: Auditioning and Viewpoints. While more information is coming soon, the workshops are something I am looking forward to as a way to explore just how much talent is bubbling up in Southern Illinois. Briefly the Auditioning workshop will look at “typing,” work on a monologue with participants and will play with cold readings. The size is limited to make sure that everyone that attends gets attention and can walk away feeling confident about the next time they are called in to audition for a must-have part. While it is designed to help with any audition scenario, we’ll also discuss how Stone Soup Shakespeare’s auditions are held. Viewpoints begins to introduce participants to how the company works. It is a movement and devising workshop that will be run with a focus on creating ensemble. Our company uses many different techniques during rehearsal, but creating an artistic collective is the goal. Viewpoints work is very specific and I personally am excited to teach this as I LOVE working with Viewpoints. It is perfect for the actor looking to take control of the stage as well as the artist or writer looking to play around with a different point of view.
The big question I know on everyone’s mind is: what will Tour 2013 be? I can’t quite let that cat out of the bag, though some very passionate pleas are coming from the strangest of places. I can say that the play that finally wins will have a very strong story-telling feel and when it comes to life next year it will have all the passion that it deserves.
I am currently reading Why Is That So Funny by John Wright. This book is wonderful, I've worked with it many times, but never fully read it. On page 49 all of a sudden I become agog as I read a beautiful description of a soup recipe Mr. Wright discovered in Bali:
"I was sitting on a wall, feeling bored. I'd been in the temple for about an hour, and nothing much was happening. I was just about to leave, when an elderly gentleman sitting next to me said:
'In Bali, we have rubber time.'
'I believe you,' I said, 'When will it start?'
'When everyone is here.'
'When will that be?' I asked.
'Oh, early,' he said, and burst out laughing at my expression of incredulity. It turned out that he was a retired teacher of English.
'Have you looked round the temple?'
'No,' I said, and continuing our conversation, he led me through a narrow gateway, and into a small courtyard dominated by several large stone plinths. I was expecting to see the customary statues of Shiva and Ganesh, as in Hundu temples in India, but there were none.
'Where are the statues of the gods?' I asked. 'I suppose it's too humid for you to keep them out here in the open all the time.'
'We don't need statues in Bali because gods always come when they smell food.'
I searched his face for irony, but there wasn't any.
'So they're a bit like house pets,' I said, chancing my arm - I didn't want to cause any offense, but he smiled patiently as if he were talking to an inquisitive child.
'They only eat special food.'
'What's that?' I said, guardedly.
'They only eat rasa.'
'What's that?' I asked, and he beamed with delight.
'At the beginning of time, the gods broke the top off the tallest mountain they could find - just as if it was the top of an egg - then they hollowed it out to make a huge bowl, then they put every living thing that they could find into the bowl: every bird, animal, reptile, leaf, flower and insect. Then they ripped up giant tree trunks, and used them to pound all these living things together to make soup. They called this soup 'rasa.' Today, when the gamelan plays, and the dancing is beautiful, the gods smell rasa, and they sit there, and when the dancing is very, very good, they eat. The gods are always hungry.'
'And they'll come tonight?'
'Of course - as soon as they smell it and you will smell it too. The memory of that smell will bring you back to the temple again.' And his smile was the same. (Personal Journal, Ubud, 1985)"
Wright explains that in Bali "artistic activity of any kind is seen as making food for the gods." When the art is inspired it creates RASA a "celestial soup." I am constantly trying to verbalize the comparison between stone soup and the art Stone Soup Shakespeare is creating. The magic of the stone feeding a community physically is mirrored by the magic of theater feeding a community artistically, emotionally and intellectually.
Amy Ludwigsen, recent Royal Conservatoire of Scotland graduate, Chicago actress and artist has a great blog. She's starting an artist collective/arts institution in Door County, Wisconsin. Lest we misrepresent her work, check it out for yourself on her Boss Woman blog. We're excited about the projects she's doing, the art she's fostering and her amazing energy. We were lucky enough to have her as part of the Chicago Comedy of Errorsreading last month and are hopeful to collaborate with her more. Check out her artistic thoughts on her blog: http://amyjaneludwigsen.tumblr.com/
This is a short post as there is much work to be done. I just skyped with Jeffrey and I was mostly distracted by my to do list (making the funding video - be aware it's on it's way) but he did share a current bit of inspiration for MSND (which yes, that's how I will refer to A Midsummer Night's Dream from now on). What does it all mean? I can't decipher Jeff's brain...at least not yet, but it is beautiful. More than that, as I'm listening I realize I know the opera - this is the first public performance I ever did (not this specific production mind you): Marjorie Lawrence Opera on Wheels 1986 production of Hansel and Gretel featuring a chorus of gingerbread children including my brother and me. Am still rather tickled that it is coming back...however Jeff intends to have this add to the 2012 tour!
My head is filled with ideas. I am all aflutter with ideas for A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Comedy Project. I am agog with the talent that keeps jumping in my lap agreeing to help take on roles and duties and titles and joining in Stone Soup. I am ready to make 5 and 10 and 20 year plans. All the while the reality of finding funding, applying for our own non-profit status, finding ways of recouping expenses with workshops, streamlining the website, and simply doing laundry keep nagging at my brain.
Muddled is the best word for my current "to do" list. How do we remain artistic and pull ideas from everywhere but still maintain focus to keep a clear vision of the projects we do, and actually pull them off also?!
So, as I sit sipping throat coat tea (when the world overwhelms it really does – not only is my laundry basket full but I have a cold – it is the universe’s way of telling me to stay at home Friday night)(I actually just called an actor and I think I sounded like a serial killer...bull frog voice!) I am going to return to this blog – and take things on the blog one step at a time – just as I should take some of the projects we are adventuring on.
So today, a look at The Comedy Project.
I’ve been posting on facebook a bit about it: “it’s coming,” “stay posted,” “save the date,” but what is it – only a few artists that I’ve shared really know – enough of that – let the world know.
The Comedy Project is a Five Year adventure into creating Stone Soup’s quintessential production of The Comedy of Errors. It started as an idea to do a reading of the play in Carbondale as a fundraiser for the 2012 Tour. A reading however can be simple. Sure it requires a fair bit of production and one hopes all the actors are looking at scripts more than just during the reading itself, but compared to a tour or even a stand along production – much easier. So I thought why not do it in Chicago as well. Chicago is my home base and I want to make sure that Chicago starts to know about Stone Soup too…but then my mind ran away with me and it escalated into this PROJECT.
It escalated because I was thinking of how to enhance a reading to make the Carbondale fundraiser more than just actors in black turtlenecks on stools looking sophisticated. Sure it seems fun, but it bores 5 year olds…some of them anyway. So I began to think about the fact that Shakespeare writes in 5 Acts. We never really capitalize on that. I could write a paper on why it’s in 5 Acts, but – and I haven’t done all the research on this – pretty sure Shakespeare didn’t offer intermissions for the masses in between each act back in the day and we don’t do it now…not on purpose anyway. BUT: WHY NOT? If we have 5 Acts that means there are 4 intermission possibilities, 4 potential pauses in action to do something. I started thinking that in a reading that means we could break up the reading with a bit of vaudevillian excitement, possibly other people telling jokes, possibly a musical interlude, perhaps a snowball dance – who knows – but it was something to play with.
The second escalation came as I was researching how to go about casting the play. Sometimes the double twins are played by the same person (or same two people at least) but sometimes they are not. Sometimes Comedy is masked, very Commedia dell’Arte style, but sometimes it is played straight. Somewhere in my researching and thoughts my mind veered to a production of Chekhov. WHAT? I know – it veered to a production I did not see, but a favorite person of mine saw (Ally Hunter – that’s you if you’re reading this). The production required all the actors to know all the parts and the actors did not know which part they would play until the performance began. I don’t know all the details, and I know that other shows have done this too, but this is where my mind went. I started thinking that could be fun for Comedy. Then I realized that if I were to do that for the reading in Carbondale I would need far more rehearsal than I could afford.
But, I whined, I want to do it!
And THE COMEDY PROJECT was born. The idea is that for 5 years we as a company will explore The Comedy of Errors. The first year we are getting to know the text. Our first date, if you will, is finding out where the natural laughs fall. What is inherently funny about the words and the story. There will be staged readings all over the world that will be filmed and studied. The second year we explode the story, using improvisations to bring the work to life. The third year movement. The fourth a full blown exploration using every tool in our theater practitioner toolbox. The fifth year we take the air out of our research, prepare our actors to know each character inside and out, finalize our cutting and take it on the road. Not only will the actors not know who they are playing before the audience decides, but in between each act the audience gets to re-arrange the casting so that the actors who started with a certain role may end the night playing something totally different.
How will this work? To be quite honest: I don’t know. But that’s the fun of it all. We get to figure it out. And it all starts on December 5 with the first reading.
What is it about lemonade stands in the summer and my inability to resist them? I know the lemonade will be way too sweet and will most likely come from powder. I know that $1.00 (the most recent rate I was charged) for a Dixie cup full is a bigger rip-off than movie theater popcorn. I know the money is going to kids' pockets and not to a charity (which I have a list a mile long that I want to support). Yet I am more inclined to purchase that stupid cup of practically undrinkable liquid sugar than I am to purchase a cookie from a charity bake sale.
I'm 99% sure it's the kid factor. Kids are adorable. But 1% of me is definitely in it for the nostalgia factor. There's a yearning for the childhood my father pretends he had, the childhood my brother (and subsequent siblings) mimicked: non knowing we were copying any cliche - not knowing what the word cliche meant - we were just doing what we thought little kids were supposed to do.
There is something theatrical about it all too: the way kids act as kids are "supposed" to act. I am now - dare I say it - an adult fulfilling my role in the pageantry of summertime. Combined children across the nation and the adult lemonade buyers create a Norman Rockwell of American Summertime. It is our tradition, along with fireworks, "Casey at the Bat" and sprinklers. We catch fireflies to make nightlights. We spit watermelon seeds. And the older we become the more we choose to do these things because we had fun doing them last year, then doing them because we are inspired to do so. We choose to have fun indulging in Americana. In the process we ultimately smile from the "doing" but we also smile from the memory, and it all begins as this ritual, a part we are playing in the great American Summer Epic that is reproduced annually in neighborhoods across the nation!
So I ask: what are all the summer pageants out there? What am I missing in my scrapbook of summer? And what summer nostalgia exists internationally? What are the rituals around the globe that I have been blind to during my travels as I dream of heat waves and air conditioning simultaneously? What are all the things children do in the summer; things that they think they've come up with themselves when really it is this pageant that we are all putting on?
As I bake in my 3rd floor walk-up (no air conditioning folks), procrastinating from doing anything that might exert energy and thus make me hotter, mad at my computer for generating heat, I am compiling a list of all my bits of nostalgia and I would love your help. Send pictures, send ideas, but help me create this scrapbook so that as we move forward in preparing for A Midsummer Night's Dream (which, spoiler alert, is a wee bit about summer) we remember that Shakespeare's story only exists when we take into account the entire summer and the break that this one evening is from all aspects of summer and all the stories summer has to offer.
Also be warned I am planning on starting a virtual lemonade stand to start preparing financially for next year. So, if you are looking for a cute kid on the sidewalk and don't see one, hide your dollar for a rainy day, cause this cute kid will soon be hawking lemonade that won't give you cavities.