Wrapping Up a Momentous Year

We’ve been taking time to reflect on the year gone by and to start setting our sights on the horizon. It’s been a busy and exciting time for the company, and we are enormously proud of the achievements of the past year. When we compared our personal lists of highlights, they differed slightly, so we decided to share them both with you.

George: Richard II was definitely a highlight. Rosa Joshi’s simple yet beguiling production really resonated with audiences. It was heartening to learn that our audience would respond to this challenging and infrequently produced work.

John: Our subscriptions have grown for the 8th year in a row, reaching another all-time high. A 75% increase in season ticket purchases over the past 10 years is something to celebrate.

George: Victor Pappas crafted a sparkling, side-splittingly funny The Importance of Being Earnest that once again showed Oscar Wilde as one of the wittiest writers in the English language. It was great to see houses packed night after night.

John: Every year it just gets better and better. Our Bill’s Bash auction is surely the most fun that anyone will have at a fundraiser, and last spring it hit a high mark. Big thanks to everyone who rolls up their sleeves to make it happen.

George: From March through May a 6-actor troupe serve as our ambassadors across the state. Last spring’s touring productions of Romeo and Juliet and Othello played to more than 15,000 people from Spokane to Orcas Island. They really are our unsung heroes doing the work of inspiring a new generation of Shakespeare lovers.

George: Having director Shelia Daniels back is always a high point. Her King Learwas achingly sad with Dan Kremer’s Lear and Michael Winter’s Gloucester together for a devastating and pitiful Act IV encounter. I was moved every time I saw it.

John: How could anyone not enjoy our rollicking and rocking Wooden O production ofThe Two Gentlemen of Verona? It was also thrilling to see so many powerful and accomplished actresses bring an all-female Julius Caesar to life in the parks. Wooden O is truly my greatest summer treat, and it’s wonderful to know that nearly 10,000 people in 11 different cities also enjoyed free Shakespeare.  And, we returned to Walla Walla after a two year absence to perform Julius Caesar at the Gesa Powerhouse Theatre. A great cap to the summer.

John: I was tremendously proud of George’s staging of Waiting for Godot at ACT Theatre. He captured both the dark tones and the extraordinary humor of the play. George was also the driver behind the Seattle Beckett Festival, a unique, city-wide celebration of Samuel Beckett, with 20 different organizations involved. A wonderful and wide-ranging representation of this great artist’s work.

George: Bringing director Jon Kretzu back for Twelfth Night was a delight. His moody yet merry production surpassed sales expectations and had several folks returning to see it more than once.

John: Our Education Luncheon this fall, chaired by Laurie Stusser-McNeil, drew a full-house of supporters to help fund our state-wide education efforts. And our Power2Give campaign to help underwrite free Shakespeare workshops in schools hit its goal.

John: It was an honor to be invited to participate in ArtsFest with the Spokane Public Schools for the first time this past November. Our education staff provided the theatre component and taught acting skills, stage combat, Elizabethan dance, and scenes from Romeo and Juliet to 10 students from each of the five high schools that participated.

Clearly we (and that means you, too) have a lot to celebrate in these accomplishments. So what’s ahead? Well, for now it’s Measure for Measure with award-winning director Desdemona Chiang at the helm. Then it’s a very full spring filled with Tartuffe andOthello, a tour that already has 60 different schools set in its schedule, a full slate of school residencies, our blow-out auction Bill’s Bash, and much more.

Thank you for being a part of our community and our success.

Have a Happy New Year Year!

Best regards,


George Mount
Artistic Director


John Bradshaw
Managing Director

 

2013-2014: An Outstanding Season

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The cast of “Much Ado About Nothing” (2013)

After closing out the financial records for Seattle Shakespeare Company’s 2013-2014 season, Managing Director John Bradshaw announced that the company ended the year in the black with revenues of $1.6 million, a record high for the company.  This is the 13th straight year that the company has ended the year with a positive fund balance.

“In a year when we thought we would be pulling back due to a loss of one production at the Cornish Playhouse, it actually turned into a banner year,” said Managing Director John Bradshaw.

Performances of its indoor productions – Much Ado About Nothing, Richard II, The Importance of Being Earnest, and King Lear – at two different venues – played to 76% of capacity, a 5% increase in attendance from the previous season which also had a larger capacity. The Importance of Being Earnest played to 99% of capacity and was sold-out for the majority of the run.

Seattle Shakespeare Company renewed its partnership with Shakespeare Walla Walla and transferred its productions of Richard II and The Importance of Being Earnest to the Gesa Powerhouse Theatre in Walla Walla for eight performances. The company also partnered with the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra for a presentation of Duke Ellington’s Shakespeare-inspired Such Sweet Thunder Suite in February.

The theatre’s state-wide touring productions of Romeo and Juliet and Othello had 60 performances and played to more than 15,000 people across Washington State, from Spokane to Orcas Island, during its three month tour from March through May.

Attendance at its free Wooden O summer productions of The Tempest and Henry V increased by 14% from the year prior, playing to nearly 12,000 people in park venues as far north as Lynnwood, as far south as Des Moines, and as far east as Sammamish. Roughly half of the total attendance was at Luther Burbank Park on Mercer Island.

Seattle Shakespeare Company’s Education programs reached more than 2800 students in their classrooms with more than two-thirds of those students experiencing multi-day residencies. The company’s student matinee performances served 3,350 students from than 94 different schools and homeschools throughout the region.

At Bill’s Bash, Seattle Shakespeare Company’s annual gala, funds totaling $220K were raised to support the organization’s programs, a record for the event.

Seattle Shakespeare Company employed 95 actors (28% AEA, 100% local) and 111 directors, designers, stage managers, artisans and technicians for its productions during the season.

“What all this says to me is that classical theatre is an important part of contemporary theatre,” said Seattle Shakespeare Company’s Artistic Director George Mount. “There is not only a need, but a hunger for the great stories of the past in today’s world. We’re so pleased to be fulfilling that need for people throughout the Seattle area and across the state.”

Seattle Shakespeare Company to Transfer Productions to Walla Walla

Richard II
David Foubert, Reginald Andre Jackson, and Peter A. Jacobs in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s 2014 production of “Richard II” Photo by John Ulman.

Starting with our production of “Richard II” and continuing on with our Spring production of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” Seattle Shakespeare Company and Shakespeare Walla Walla are embarking on a partnership to bring professional classical theatre productions to Eastern Washington. 

 

“I’m thrilled that we’ll be returning to Walla Walla with our indoor productions,” says SSC’s Artistic Director George Mount. In the summer of 2008, Seattle Shakespeare Company transferred its outdoor production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to Walla Walla to play at the Fort Walla Walla Amphitheatre and out of that initial effort Shakespeare Walla Walla was created. Since then the city has gone on to build a new indoor performing arts venue, the Gesa Power House Theatre. “We were the inaugural production at the Gesa Power House Theatre with our production of “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” but we’ve not been back to bring another one of our mainstage shows since that time. With the transfer of our productions of “Richard II” and “The Importance of Being Earnest” as well as a presentation of our collaboration on “Such Sweet Thunder Suite” with Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, it’s wonderful to bring our work to Eastern Washington.

 

“This renewed partnership with Seattle Shakespeare Company helps us expand our programming and outreach,” says Shakespeare Walla Walla Executive Director Ron Williams. “We bring high-quality entertainment to the community, offer more shows in a variety of genres and have more time to focus on our education efforts. With some shows, we’ll be adding a Friday morning performance just for our local schools.”

 

Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of “Richard II” will play at the Gesa Power House Theatre February 6-9 and “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde will perform April 16-20. “Such Sweet Thunder Suite,” Duke Ellington’s 12-part suite inspired by Shakespeare’s works, will be performed in Spring 2014.

 

Tickets to the Walla Walla performances are available online or by calling (509) 529-6500. Visitor information about Walla Walla is available at www.wallawalla.org.

On Playing Shakespeare with George Mount

Shakespeare has been a companion for George Mount for most of his adult life. Whether as an actor, a director, or a producer, George has spent a lot of time thinking about Shakespeare’s plays and how to best approach them. He’s had the fortune to play many of the roles he always wanted to play, and the gift of discovering himself in parts he never ever considered. I mean, what guy actually thinks he’ll get to play both Kate in “The Taming of the Shrew” and Prince Hamlet. Turn on the sound and find out what George has to say about performing Shakespeare.

 On Playing Shakespeare with George Mount

“I find with Shakespeare, more than any other playwright’s work, is the demand on the artist. The material itself is such a pinnacle of greatness that it demands of the artists, who are essentially collaborating with Shakespeare on the play, to be firing on all cylinders and be at the top of their game in order to even approach being able to be in that realm. It demands of the actor all of the resources that we have at our disposal to be working at the peak of prowess.

The mind needs to be incredibly active to unravel the thoughts and the complexities of the characters and the subtleties of the words and the meaning. The articulators need be working at the top of their game in order to get those words out. Physically, you’ve got to be as healthy as you can for the rigors of that thought breath communication, for the marathon of work of going from Act 1 Scene 1 to Act 5…it demands of an actor with the sword fighting, with the physical comedy, with the complex stage pictures. So everything that an actor has in his tool kit, in his resources, is used to its peak in doing a Shakespeare play and creating those characters.

Also, creatively, the imagination has to be at its height in order to create a unique character that can inhabit the world of Shakespeare. I think of it, sometimes, like a…I’m a fan of Bob Dylan’s work, and while I think that no one interprets Bob Dylan better than Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan is a frequently covered musician because his song writing is some of best lyrics there are. And for someone, I would imagine, that doing Shakespeare is, for an actor, what covering a Bob Dylan song is for a musician. You’ve got to be at your peak and at your best at all times to just even be in the same realm with that kind of genius and brilliance. And it will demand of you all of what you have and you’ll discover that you can always go further and you’ll get surprised at far you even went doing a Shakespeare play.”

No Damsel in Distress: An Interview with Brenda Joyner

Brenda Joyner

Although she’s played enough of them on our stage, Brenda Joyner is no damsel in distress. She’s a huge Seattle Sounders fan and admits to eating popcorn almost every day. Growing up in Anchorage, Alaska, she had designs on being a ventriloquist and asked for a Howdy Doody doll for Christmas. “I was immediately terrified of it. I tried to learn with the little booklet that came with it to teach you how to talk without moving your mouth, but the doll just totally creeped me out.” Even though she played Lady Macbeth at age 16, never in a million years did she think she’d be doing so much Shakespeare. She only took one class on him in college at Western Washington University.

Brenda is playing the role of the Queen in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of “Richard II.”  This will be her second time working with director Rosa Joshi as she played Lavinia in the all-female upstart crow production of “Titus Andronicus” in 2012. We spoke with her during the run of “Much Ado About Nothing” while she was playing Hero and before rehearsals started up for “Richard II.”

 

Earliest Memory of Wanting to Be an Actor

When I was in third grade, the Missoula Children’s Theatre came to Alaska and we did “Alice in Wonderland” in a week. At the end, I remember we were all sitting in the front row of the theatre and the two instructors with Missoula Children’s Theatre were saying goodbye and talking about their next project. I said some inappropriate comment for a third grader… a very inappropriate comment about hanky panky behind the curtains or something like that. I don’t know where it came from, but then everyone laughed, and I was filled with the most glorious feeling in the world.  I remember thinking, “I want to make people laugh. I want to feel this way for the rest of my life. I want to make people laugh and feel things for the rest of my life.” There is no better feeling in the world than that.  And I fail at it mostly, but I just remember I was sitting there and I couldn’t believe that everyone was laughing at something that I said. And I just wanted to feel that way for the rest of my life. To make someone laugh…to make someone feel something. It’s the greatest.

 

On Playing Ingénues

What I love about playing ingénues…so often you people talk about them being thankless roles. Especially Hero, having done Hero again, it really dawned on me how little she says and how much people speak for her. They always say “Hero said…” and she’s standing right there on stage! It just presents such an interesting challenge. Just because you’re not talking doesn’t mean you’re not feeling things or experiencing things. You still have opinions about what’s happening on stage, so it just opens up this whole other world of portraying that. And I think they can be funny. I think they can be charming and endearing…especially with Hero. Claudio and Hero meet, you can give them a back story if you want, but they meet and suddenly he’s in love with her. And so I try to think, okay, what’s this thing that he falls in love with, and for me that’s her humor. That’s what’s endearing and charming to me. So I try, as much as I can, in the limited stage time you have as a Shakespeare ingénue, to be charming and funny and heartfelt, and real. You just can’t write them off

 

On Playing a Queen

Playing a Queen?! Good God! I honestly didn’t think there was any part for me in Richard, and then I was talking to Amy [Seattle Shakespeare Company’s Casting Director]. She said, “Well, there’s the Queen…”  The Queen? Oh I’m not…God!  That’ll be challenging! I don’t know what silly face I can make when playing a Queen. Ugh. I’ll have to work in some fart jokes somehow. She has like three scenes, right, and really only one, so you better make it count.

So in my deep Wikipedia research so far, I found out she does have a name, but Shakespeare didn’t give her one. It is Queen Isabella. So when I clicked on a link to Queen Isabella to read more about her, it said she was the Duchess of Bourbon….which is my favorite alcohol! I got so excited that I was going to be playing the Duchess of Bourbon. Of course I’m Queen Isabella the Duchess of Bourbon. That makes perfect sense. I am perfectly cast…. but, that’s a different Queen Isabella, so I don’t know what I’m going to do. All of my character work is out the window. She might still be the Duchess of Bourbon for my sake.  It was such a letdown.

 

On Working with Rosa Joshi

She’s phenomenal. She’s so smart and exciting and daring and crazy. I’m so thrilled that she’s working at Seattle Shakespeare Company. I’m really happy for her, and I can’t wait to work with her again. She’s just…she’s like Sheila Daniels, such a strong female director. She’s just a brilliant director, but then as a woman she has this great female voice. I can’t wait to work with her on the Queen. I could use her help a lot. She has fantastic ideas and she’s game for anything. It’s going to honest and real, because that’s just what Rosa does. The way that she approaches shows is so different. It’s hard to explain, but…yeah she’s awesome.

 

Dream Role

I would love another crack at Lady Macbeth.  Not that my performance at age 16 was shabby. I would love to play that one.  And I think, especially since it’s so fresh in my brain, I would to play Beatrice.  I love her humor, I love how…there’s just so much that I identify with in Beatrice. In her use of humor and wit as a way of life and a defense mechanism, and a thing to hide behind.  So I would love a crack at that. And I’ve had the pleasure of watching two phenomenal Beatrices. So, I could just steal everything they’ve done.

When people ask about what parts I want to play. I don’t think of it that way. I think of it as, “Oh, I’m auditioning for this? I would love to play that part. Yes, I think I would like to play that part.” There are really few roles I’m dying to play. I just don’t think of it that way, and I’m sometimes embarrassed about that. But I just kind of take what’s in front of me. What am I available to play right now?  ‘Cause I’ll do anything! Gladly!

I’d love to play a clown! I don’t know which one, but I would love it and it would be a terrifying thing.  I’ve watched so many great comedic actors work on Dogberry and Feste. I would love a crack at that. I might fail miserably, but I would love to try that, I guess.

I would love to do a comedy and be funny. Rather than trying to shoehorn my comedy into these dainty little ingénues.

 

Must Haves for Her Dressing Room

Bourbon. Bourbon and a pair of slippers. Those are my only go-to things. I don’t need pictures …if people give me cards throughout the run, I’ll keep them all there, but those are the only two things that I need, a pair of slippers and bourbon. And mascara!  Three things. I can do anything without makeup, but I have to have mascara!  Mascara, bourbon, and my shark slippers. They are shark slippers. They’re my show slippers. They’re simple little slippers, but the front is like a big toothy mouth. People think it’s a whale… it’s not a whale, it is a villainous shark, and it has little flippers. I found them at Target. I love sharks…well, no I don’t. I love them because I’m terrified of them. I have this love hate relationship with them.  “Jaws” is my favorite movie and I just think sharks are terrifying things. I respect them and I stay out of their water.  I also have shark footie pajamas at home.