Creating Summer Magic

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Rehearsals for Wooden O summer 2015 began this week as the companies for As You Like It and Henry IV part 1 gathered together for a potluck dinner and to hear design presentations. Below is a transcript of Artist Director George Mount’s welcome to the company.

I don’t care what the calendar says…today’s the first day of summer!

Look outside, it’s so hot!  And Wooden O begins today.  For us now and in about a month’s time, we will unleash ourselves on the unsuspecting parks across the Seattle and Puget Sound region.  Bringing, to my mind, and I think I’m not alone in this conception, the best free Shakespeare theatre anyone can experience in this state, and perhaps west of the Rocky Mountains, and maybe this great United States of ours.  And you guys are what make that happen!

This day for me is a day that fraught with emotion, and it means the world to me.  I was having lunch with a friend earlier today and talking about loyalty…and trust and commitment to people who mean something to you. And when you give that trust over to other human beings and they reciprocate that trust, it’s the foundation for growth and expression. And what is generated by that giving of trust and the accepting of trust…that is what Wooden O is about for me.  It’s been over twenty years of me trusting people like Crystal Munkers, like Heather Hawkins, like Craig Wollam, Kelly Kitchens, and Hana Lass and Brenda Joyner, and Victoria McNaughton. From twenty years past to two to three years past.  Giving and receiving trust is what we do as performing artists. We are a collaborative art form. And if we cannot trust each other and share in that trust and create within that trust, then we got nothing.

And I trust and love each and every one of you for being part of that journey. And I thank you for signing up.  I again think we’ll have a great summer. Past performance is no guarantee of future dividends and they say in the stock market advertisements. But I believe in what we do and I believe in each and every one of you.  And you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t believe in what we’re doing.

When you know how the trick is done and you still believe it…that’s magic. That’s what we do for Wooden O.

And what we’re doing is bringing free performing arts to our community. And what does that entail? And what does that mean? What that means is that there are a lot of people out there who don’t go to theatre. You’re going to share your art form with them this summer.  They just don’t go. They can’t afford it. They live too far away. They think it’s too high brow. So we’re going to go and do that.  We’re going to help them bridge that gap. So while we’re bridging that gap from a dead playwright from 400 years ago, we’re also going to bridge that gap for people in Tacoma, and Shoreline, and SeaTac, and Lynnwood. And they’re going to get to experience. They’re going to bridge that gap. That’s the continuum that we live in. That’s who we are.  It also means, for the people who will be performing those shows that you will have to show up a little extra early, in a van, and unload a set, set up some costumes and tents. And be asked to make your preshow warm the exercise of setting up speakers. And doing your fight call in front of people who are already audience members. It means changing costumes in a tent that everyone can see. They’re not going to see you changing costumes, but they can see that tent where you’re changing.

It also means that if you need to get around to behind the house to do an audience entrance that they’re going to see you doing that. But there’s theatre magic. And it doesn’t have to have a theatre to make theatre magic. And what Wooden O has capitalized on in the 22+ years that we’ve been doing it, is that whatever happens outside of that sacred space that we define, whether it’s already defined in the Luther Burbank Amphitheater monoliths, or your stage management team taping it out with architecture tape and spikes; you define that space and that’s magic space. And the moment you cross that threshold, the audience will buy whatever you’re selling them…because you believe in it. And that’s real theatrical magic. When you know how the trick is done and you still believe it…that’s magic. That’s what we do for Wooden O.

So you’re going to have some scrappy times and you’re going to have some joyful times. And that’s part of the magic.

Casting News: Wooden O 2015

Wooden O Casting News

We’re thrilled to announce our casting for this summer’s free Wooden O productions of Henry IV part 1 and As You Like It which start performances on Thursday, July 9. Lots of favorite artists from past Seattle Shakespeare Company productions will be in the parks this summer.

Artistic Director George Mount will stage Henry IV part 1. This is the first time we’ve presented this play in the parks. The production features David Anthony Lewis as King Henry, Conner Neddersen as his son Prince Hal, and Tim Hyland as Falstaff. Lewis was in our recent production of Measure for Measure and is currently in Othello.  Neddersen played Valentine in The Two Gentlemen of Verona last summer and Feste in our recent production of Twelfth Night. Hyland returns to SSC after directing the Wooden O production of Macbeth (2011) and appearing as Fluellen in Henry V (2010).

Actress and director Annie Lareau directs As You Like It. Lareau recently staged our touring productions of Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet, and appeared in the Wooden O productions of Richard III (2009) and Henry V (2013). As You Like It features Brenda Joyner as Rosalind, Jason Sanford as Orlando, Hana Lass as Celia, Kelly Kitchens as Jacques, and Heather Hawkins as both Duchess sisters. Joyner last appeared on our stage in Much Ado About Nothing and Richard II. Jason Sanford played the King of Navarre in Love’s Labour’s Lost and was part of our spring tour in 2013 in Othello and Romeo and Juliet. Hana Lass recently played Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest, and Kelly Kitchens played Kate in The Taming of the Shrew (2013 and Wooden O 2009). Heather Hawkins appeared in last summer’s all-female Julius Caesar as Calpurnia.

The Henry IV part 1 full cast includes: David Anthony Lewis (King Henry), Conner Neddersen (Prince Hal), Tim Hyland (Falstaff), Michael Patten (Vernon/Northumberland), Joe Ngo (Hotspur), Nikki Visel (Westmoreland), Kate Witt (Mistress Quickly/Worcester), Brandon Felker (Bardolph/Glendower), Matt Gilbert (Mortimer/Poins), Lorenzo Roberts (Blunt), Tom Miller Dewey (Peto/Douglass), Michael Dreger (Prince John), and Jessica Keily (Lady Percy).

The As You Like It full cast includes: Brenda Joyner (Rosalind), Jason Sanford (Orlando), Hana Lass (Celia), Heather Hawkins (Duchess Senior and Duchess Fredricka), Brian Simmons (Touchstone), Kelly Kitchens (Jacques), Maya Sugarman (Phebe), Kate Jaeger (Audrey), Spencer Hamp (Silvius), Amy Fleetwood (Corin), Evan Whitfield (Oliver), Eric Ray Anderson (Adam), Sean Patrick Taylor (Le Beau/Amiens), and Duncan Weinland (William).

Seattle Actor Profile: Darragh Kennan

Darragh KennanFrom the clown Touchstone in As You Like It to Prince Hamlet, Darragh Kennan has become known as an actor with a facility for Shakespeare’s language and a versatility to handle whatever role is tossed at him. Much of that comes from the 10 years he spent at American Players Theatre in Wisconsin where he started honing his craft right after graduating from college. After moving to Seattle in 2000, he and his family settled in the Columbia City neighborhood. When he’s not onstage, he’s often teaching or running New Century Theatre Company where he’s the co-artistic director. Darragh plays Octavius Caesar in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of Antony and Cleopatra, a character who marries his own sister off to Antony in order to futher his political ambitions of ruling the world. “It’s fun to play someone like that, because you have to figure out how they fit in. And what makes them do the things that they do.”

Reading
I’m reading a book called Just Kids, I think. It’s about Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. I recently read Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff to get ready for Antony and Cleopatra. I thought it was an awesome book. And before that I read a book called Lit which is a memoir about Mary Karr’s life. That’s what I’m reading. And I’m reading tons of plays, I’m always reading plays, but that’s work.

Listening
I listen to a lot of Beatles with my son, who is a huge Beatles fan. Beyond that, I just put Pandora station on the computer, usually I put Greg Brown in, and stuff comes up that I like.

Watching
I just finished watching two things: one was Parenthood, which is this series on Netflix that I watch with my wife. We like it because we like the acting, and it’s about families and parents and kids…which is our life. My wife refused to watch this with me, but I just finished watching Sherlock, the second season.

Last play that made you cry
I have to cast my mind back a ways. A friend of mine, the guy who made me want to be an actor, and it’s actually a play that John Langs directed, it was an adaptation of Ian McKellen’s one man show In Acting Shakespeare. My friend adapted it and wrote it. It’s about his life in theatre. That made me cry. There was a moment in The Pitmen Painters at ACT where Joe McCarthy, this actor in town, delivers this monologue about being a coal miner. It was so well done. I was with my daughter, and he basically played the speech right to us in the audience, accidentally. Afterwards he laughed about that, but it was so moving. It was about this guy who was put to work as a kid, wasn’t able to play with his friends, and how he’d been in the coal mine for however many years. Never missed a shift. The way it was delivered by the actor, the writing, and the idea of being put to work in those kinds of conditions at a young age and being deprived of your childhood…and getting nothing from it. Yeah, that made me cry.

The last play that made you laugh
I went to Pullman Porter Blues at Seattle Rep with my daughter and absolutely had a blast. And I totally recommend it for people to go and see a totally different cultural, historical experience…to be entertained. I loved it, and so did my daughter, and that made me love it even more.

Hamlet
Hamlet (2010)

Dream project
Well, I feel like I’ve had dream projects. Doing Hamlet here with John, was a dream project for me and the way it turned out was beyond the best dream I could have had. You know we’ve been talking about doing Waiting for Godot; me, Chuck Leggett and George Mount, and that would be amazing. Doing The Dumb Waiter with Chuck Leggett and John Langs was a dream project for me, and I did it. I played Tom in The Glass Menagerie with colleague Aaron Posner, and that was a dream. I feel so fortunate to have realized these things. I played Edmund in Long Day’s Journey Into Night with John Langs. That was an amazing experience. But for things that I have actually not done yet, I would just always want to be in a room working with people I trust and love with a great piece of writing. I’d love to do The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O’Neill. I don’t think that will ever happen. I’d love to do Richard II. Basically it’s the cocktail of director and other actors and writing all lining up, and it rarely does. It rarely does.  There’s always one thing that’s a little bit off. I’d love to do a film. I love film, and I never get asked to do films. It’s always theatre.

Morning routine
Most mornings we get up at 6 AM. My wife makes the kids’ lunch. I try and get dressed and get some coffee in me and get the kids out the door and get them to school. Then I usually have some time to work, and then go to rehearsal.

Always in the fridge
Yogurt. That’s not even true, it’s not always in the fridge. Is there anything that’s always in my fridge? I don’t think there’s anything that’s always in my fridge. Yogurt’s in the fridge most of the time. There’s usually ketchup in the fridge for the kids. There’s nothing that is always in my fridge. Except maybe the big jar that my wife uses as a starter for kombucha. The mother, that’s what that is called. That scary looking thing in the back…that’s always there.

Inner sanctum
(Laughs) I don’t have one. Sounds like a good idea.

Best role so far
Hamlet. There have been some close seconds like Edmund in Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Tom in The Glass Menagerie. Artuo Ui in The Resistible Rise of Artuo Ui. The Maniac in Accidental Death of Anarchist. But Hamlet’s the best role.

As You Like It
As You Like It (2012)

Most frustrating role
I had to play a soldier in a production of Timon of Athens once. I had a big bazooka gun with a red point on it. We were climbing up and falling off things. It was sort of some young kid’s fantasy, but I’m not a gun person at all. We were in camouflage. It was the small role I was playing at the Shakespeare Theatre that year…and I hated it. I did almost everything I could to be present and a good scene partner and actor, but I really couldn’t stand it.

Hangout
Solo bar is where we all hang out and get a drink. And they’re awesome there.

Favorite place in Seattle
I love Golden Gardens in Ballard. I love going there, and we’ve gone there more this year than ever before. It’s a drive for us and kind of a hike. We swam there twice this year with the kids, and that’s a cool beach. I love that.

Favorite possession
I don’t really have anything great that I possess. I don’t know. Books? I got nothing really. If someone were to break into my house, they could take a computer and that would be about it.

Evening routine
If I’m home, we have dinner and then we go for a walk. Then we put the kids to bed and maybe hang out with my wife for an hour or so. Watch Parenthood! We just read books. Most of the time I’m gone in the evening.

On the bedside table
A collection of short stories that a friend of mine told me to read. Just Kids, the book I told you about. A plant. A lamp. And loose change.

Shakespeare Dinner party
Hmm… Constance from King John. I mean it’s not necessarily going to be a good dinner party, right? Just someone I’d like to talk to? I feel like she is the channel to how he experienced the death of his son. He, being Shakespeare. She just feels completely personal, at least in her grief, one of the closest impressions that we can get of what that guy might have been like. Let me think…well, why not: Hamlet. It’s really a depressing dinner party. (Take a moment) So actually, if I were having a dinner party, I wouldn’t invite Hamlet or Constance. But if I wanted to talk to people then Hamlet and Constance. And then Helena from All’s Well That Ends Well. That’s three, so there you go.

But… if it was a dinner party, like a fun dinner party, I think I would have Benedick, maybe Beatrice as well, and uh, Mercutio. They’d be fun. You’d be partying with them and entertained.

Theatre Around Town – Oct 5, 2012

Wow!  Seattle Shakespeare Company alums are appearing in shows all over town.  Here is a handful of productions that we’re excited about this week.

Superior DonutsSuperior Donuts – now through October 21 at Seattle Public Theater.  Russ Banham (who will direct our upcoming production of A Doll’s House) staged this new play about the unlikely and touching friendship between a disillusioned donut shop owner and a streetwise would-be novelist. The cast features SSC alums Kevin McKeon (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Gordon Carpenter (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Threepenny Opera) and Alexander Samuels (Chamber Cymbeline).

Titus AndronicusTitus Andronicus – now through October 7 at the Lee Center.  It is the final weekend for Upstart Crow’s fine all-female production.  Amy Thone (SSC’s casting director and Cleopatra in our upcoming Antony and Cleopatra) plays the title role joined by a bevy of Seattle Shakespeare/Wooden O veterans including Kate Wisniewski (WO Much Ado About Nothing), Tracy Hyland (WO Macbeth), Kelly Kitchens ( Kate in upcoming The Taming of the Shrew) Brenda Joyner (WO The Winter’s Tale, Hamlet),  Peggy Gannon (As You Like It – 2004), Sarah Harlett (All’s Well That Ends Well), Therese Diekhans (Coriolanus, WO The Winter’s Tale), Zoey Belyea (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Terri Weagant (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Donna Woods (As You Like It). Definitely, a must see!

Pullman Porter Blues – now through October 28 at Seattle Repertory Theatre.  The Rep opened their 50th Anniversary season with this highly enjoyable romp featuring a live blues band on stage.  Emily Chisholm (WO Twelfth Night, The Servant of Two Masters) and Richard Ziman (Hamlet, Henry IV, Pts 1 & 2) are both in the cast.