Tag Archives: BFA acting

Shakespeare meets Middle Ages

Mike Roush and Ali Rose Dachis in Southwest Shakespeare Company's Romeo & Juliet

If you’re accustomed to thinking of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” as a bittersweet story of young romance gone awry, you’ll find plenty that’s new in the Southwest Shakespeare Company production of “Romeo and Juliet” being performed through Jan. 21 at the Mesa Arts Center.

The work is directed by Richard Corley of Chicago, who set “Romeo and Juliet” during the Middle Ages — before the time it was written by Shakespeare. It’s an intriguing twist for those familiar with productions morphed into modern day settings.

Before a single actor takes the stage, you’re gripped by the jarring nature of the set — the work of scenic artist Laura Johnson. Juliet’s bedroom balcony is askew. Tombs appear cast asunder. And the single stained glass window dotted with dark red circles signals you’re peering into a desecrated church.

“Churches have so many associations with things that happen in life,” says Corley. Marriage. Death. “I wanted the set to be evocative.” Corley shared his vision for the production during a post-show talkback with cast and creative team members on opening night — noting his fascination with the play’s too often overlooked apothecary scene.

It sparked Corley’s exploration of “the sense of disease and starvation” that’s an undercurrent in the play — something he punctuates with Friar John’s (Spencer Dooley) explanation that travel routes blocked off for fear of the plague prevented him from delivering the note that could have saved Romeo’s life. 

It’s tempting to assume that there’s little thrill in seeing a work already mounted many times over. But this “Romeo and Juliet” will heighten your appreciation for parts of the story you might have overlooked. Many in the audience remarked that the production gave them a greater understanding and appreciation for the language of this play. 

Mike Roush, Andres Alcala and Ali Rose Dachis in Southwest Shakespeare Company's Romeo and Juliet

The journeys of Romeo and Juliet from childlike wonder to grown-up woe are well portrayed in this production, but I was most intrigued by their enablers — Nurse to Juliet (Janae Thomas) and Friar Laurence. Andrés Alcalá (Friar Laurence during evening performances) delivers an especially compelling performance.

The cast and creative team include both fresh faces and Valley favorites. Both Mike Roush (Romeo) and Ali Rose Dachis (Juliet) are graduates of the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater B.F.A. Actor Training Program.

Alcalá was recently seen in Childsplay’s “The Sun Serpent” and is directing their upcoming production of “With Two Wings.” David Barker, the Valley’s best known fight choreographer, returns for his 25th Southwest Shakespeare Company production.

Southwest Shakespeare Company will present two additional works to round out their 2011/12 season — a Yasmina Reza play titled “Art” (March 1-17) and Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” (April 19-May 5). Jared Saken serves as artistic director, and Utah Shakespearean scholar Michael Flachmann will lead a “Much Ado About Nothing” seminar on April 21.

Folks eager to support the Southwest Shakespeare Company’s education programs can attend a Feb. 25 fundraiser dubbed “Speakeasy Night” at the Wrigley Mansion — which features Dennis Rowland and his Jazz Trio, emcee Bob Sorenson and plenty of live/silent auction items.

Those needing a summer Shakespeare fix can head to Cedar City for the Utah Shakespeare Festival. And those of you eager to return to the Middle Ages can simply throw out your televisions, laptops and cell phones.

– Lynn

Note: Click here for show and ticket information (no one under the age of six will be permitted for this production). For a taste of scholarly discourse about Shakespeare and the Middle Ages, click here to read a review article written by Dermot Cavanagh for the August 2011 issue of the “Journal of the Northern Renaissance.”

Coming up: Writing tips and resources, More Shakespeare on Valley stages

NYC in Scottsdale?

My husband James stumbled on a great pizza joint last Friday night while making a pet store run. Lovebirds can’t do pizza, so Trixy got bird food and we got slices from Joe’s New York Pizza in Scottsdale. Cheese for Lizabeth and Hawaiian for me.

March for gay rights in NYC, 1976 (Photo: Warren K. Leffler)

He walked in the door with dinner just after I’d watched a CNN broadcast of a short speech by New York governor Andrew Cuomo. The occasion for Cuomo’s remarks was the passage of a marriage equality act in the New York legislature.

I already had New York on the brain because I was readying for this week’s trip to NYC for Lizabeth’s college orientation. Lizabeth starts a B.F.A. in acting program this fall.

As Lizabeth weighed possible colleges earlier in the year, I was mindful of the political landscape in the various states where she might go to school — though I never mentioned things like my Cuomo versus Christie musings.

Cuomo spoke last Friday night of New York as a “social justice” state. “I’m always proud to be a New Yorker,” said Cuomo. “But tonight I’m especially proud to be a New Yorker.” Cuomo was among those leading the fight for marriage equality in New York.

In his remarks, Cuomo spoke of New York’s leadership in several fights for equal rights — the movement for women’s rights, the push for worker’s rights after the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the most recent battle — equal marriage rights for gay and straight couples.

“Social justice,” said Cuomo, “is an evolutionary process.” He recognized others who’d championed this cause for New York citizens, and praised “the advocacy community from across the nation.” I’m sure some in Scottsdale embraced the vote with a “we’re all New Yorkers tonight” mindset.

I’m thrilled to be enjoying NYC with Lizabeth this week, but there are folks in Scottsdale that I’ll be missing while we’re away. Trixy, Pinky, Rugby — plus James and our other two children, also college students. But also Lizabeth’s teachers from the Scottsdale Conservatory Theatre, where she studied theater last summer.

Before we marched for marriage equality, we marched for women's rights and workers' rights

The conservatory presents its 2011 performance at the Scottsdale Community College Performing Arts Center Wed, June 29 and Thurs, June 30. They’re presenting “Strange Bedfellows,” which is set in my daughter Jennifer’s favorite city — San Francisco. They have a thing for civil rights too.

“Strange Bedfellows” is the tale of Senator Cromwell, “a politician who keeps his women under stern rule.” His son, Matthew Cromwell, is a young congressman who “dutifully follows in his father’s political footsteps — except when he marries a beautiful and determined suffragette.”

It examines “the coming of age of a woman’s right to vote” — and features “the escapades that ensue as the suffragette converts the women in the Cromwell family to her way of thinking.” Who doesn’t love a good conversion story?

I’m told that “shades of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata and San Francisco’s brothel district come into play as each side tries to out-maneuver and out-smart the other.” Aristophanes, by the way, was a comedic playwright of ancient Greece.

I know the actors, theater professionals and teachers of Scottsdale Conservatory Theatre played a part in helping Lizabeth achieve her dream of studying and making theater in NYC — and I’m grateful.

Thanks to James and Joe’s New York Pizza, we can always enjoy a bit of NYC in Scottsdale. But this week, we’re carrying thoughts of Scottsdale with us in New York.

– Lynn

Note: Check out the “Stay Fancy Free” blog for more nifty black-and-white photos of suffragettes — plus lovely fiber arts fare. Click here to check out the site where I found the photo shot while the Democratic National Convention was in NYC during 1976.

Coming up: Shakespeare NYC-style, A stroll through the theater district, NYC: museum highlights

Transformation tales

Art meets architecture at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix (Photo by Lynn Trimble)

The Herberger Theater Center, already a jewel among Valley theater venues, underwent a beautiful transformation last year — with changes that included the installation of this shimmering sculpture of light that hangs through a circle in the center of the lobby.

But I’ll be enjoying a circle of a different sort at the Herberger Theater Center this weekend. It’s the Arizona premiere of Annie Baker’s play titled “Circle Mirror Transformation” — which follows the misadventures of students in a small acting class at a community center.

I’m especially eager to see the performance of one actor in particular — Maren Maclean in the role of acting student Theresa. In real life, Maren is a mom and acting teacher extraordinaire.

Maren Maclean, now performing in Circle Mirror Transformation, with my daughter Lizabeth

I know this because my daughter Lizabeth studied acting with Maclean for many years — at Arizona School for the Arts, Scottsdale Community College and in private coaching sessions.

Lizabeth is beginning a transformation of her own — from high school theater student to college student in an acting B.F.A. program back East. I’ll share word of her college decision in a future post if she gives me the green light.

For now, I am delighted to have the opportunity to watch Maclean and the other Valley actors featured in Actors Theatre’s “Circle Mirror Transformation.” I know the power they’ve had in transforming the lives of students and audiences for years.

Maren Maclean in a scene from Circle Mirror Transformation (Image from photo by John Groseclose)

We think too often that NYC has somehow cornered the market on all that is good and true in theater. But tonight, as I’m feeling a bit teary-eyed with thoughts of sending Lizabeth off to the big city, I know her real transformation started right here in the Valley.

She’s been nurtured, inspired and challenged for years — as a person and an artist — by many in the Arizona theater community. Childsplay. Greasepaint Youtheatre. Phoenix Theatre. And others whose work has touched her along the way.

“Circle Mirror Transformation,” though full of humorous moments, offers profound insights as well. Into human nature. Into our own personal foibles and follies. Into what people can accomplish together. Into what we must undertake alone.

The cast of Circle Mirror Transformation with Actors Theatre of Phoenix (Photo by John Groseclose)

This weekend, as I experience the Actors Theatre production of “Circle Mirror Transformation,” I’ll be thinking of the little girl whose time at the Herberger Theater Center has been such an important part of her transformation to young adult and blossoming artist.

I know the cast of “Circle Mirror Transformation” will deliver a powerful performance, and suspect those who experience their work will leave the theater feeling their own taste of transformation.

– Lynn

Note: Those who attend the Sun, May 1 performance of “Circle Mirror Transformation” are invited to stay after the show for a free talkback with cast and creative team members — who can share their own insights about transforming Baker’s script into their own performance of the piece.

Coming up: Remembering the Holocaust, May art picks, Town hall meets arts and culture, International Museum Day