Archive for April, 2008
I am the type of person who is always looking for a better way to do things, and is not afraid to shake up a deeply-rooted system if I sense that some form of improvement is possible. Yet as I prepare for the conclusion of my internship here (alas, just a few short months away), and reflect upon my time at McCarter Theatre, I am pleased to report that, given the opportunity, there is very little I would have any desire to change about the ways things work within this institution. Morale, artistic integrity, attention to detail, organization, and communication all proceed in quite an exemplary fashion. For the most part, I have been more than content to simply settle into the well-oiled routine and do my part to contribute to the smooth and rewarding process of making great theater.
There is, however, one area of exception to my overall satisfaction, one small yet pervasive (and, I feel, pernicious) McCarter policy of which I have long resolved: “If I can leave one lasting legacy as the Literary Intern of 2007-2008, it will be to fundamentally alter this particular principle once and for all.” And I write now to report that just last week, I was finally able to achieve my goal! I have been further granted license to post a blog entry recounting my marvelous and triumphant success, and you can bet I will take full advantage of the opportunity. I hope you enjoy this thrilling saga of literary heroism, which contains all the essential elements of epic drama—a noble quest, perilous obstacles, dastardly foes, undaunted courage, and relentless persistence in the face of adversity. So hold onto your desk chair, ’cause here we go.
To set the stage, I will explain that one of my many miscellaneous tasks as McCarter’s literary intern is to participate in the proofing process for all the literary copy that the theater produces. This includes the dramaturgy pages in the programs that get handed out before performances, as well as the online resource guides we compile in conjunction with the Education department. McCarter’s commitment to quality and accuracy extends to the tiniest nuances of spelling and punctuation, and so all material that McCarter creates for public perusal undergoes a stringent proofing process, passing through numerous people from assorted departments, each checking for different potential mistakes—the goal being that by the time anything goes to print or gets published online, it is completely and totally error-free. [Ed. Note: The blog only gets proofed by me, so there are always lots of errors. - AI]
On Friday, literary intern Elizabeth Edwards interviewed Eugene Lee—the set designer of A Seagull in the Hamptons—for a series of YouTube videos about his design and his life. I haven’t gotten through everything yet, but here is the first of the video interviews, in which he gives a guided tour of the model for A Seagull in the Hamptons and discusses his concept for the design. More to come soon!
Posted by Adam Immerwahr, Producing Associate at McCarter Theatre.
A few weeks ago, we featured a “where are they now” article about past McCarter interns who have gone on to fame, acclaim, and very little fortune. Since then, a few more interns have written in to discuss their current careers, and so we thought it might be time for a “Blast from the Past, Part II.”
So here are a few more stories from our former McCarter interns:
I am currently the Production Stage Manager for Keen Company’s Conscientious Objector at Theatre Row. (Click here for a recent review.) The show runs through April 18th. I am also stage managing and production managing for a theater company called The TEAM. I have toured their show Particularly in the Heartland to Toronto, Glasgow, London, Dublin, Minneapolis and Nashville. We are just about to start an extended two-month development period at 3LD in New York for our new piece, Architecting, which will have its world premiere this summer at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and its US premiere at PS 122 next season.
—Dave Polato (Education Stage Management, 04-05)
Before we went into rehearsals for Romeo and Juliet, Emily Mann took me out to lunch. She offered this advice: be mindful that the thing you’re supposed to do may not be the thing you’re here to do—stay open. Emily knew that I put my writing aside to pursue directing, and it wasn’t an accident that my final project at McCarter, a workshop of Frozen: Harvest, was also written by me. After my internship, I moved back to Brooklyn and began working in advertising while pursuing my playwriting. Most recently, I have developed new plays with companies like 24Seven Lab, Electric Pear Productions, Kids With Guns, and Clubbed Thumb. My play The Memory Library was read at Ars Nova and directed by Pam MacKinnon. And I was just offered the Lucille Lortel Fellowship to attend the MFA Playwriting program at Brown University.
—Joe Waechter (Directing/Producing, 01-02)
It’s Jane, the lighting designer for A Seagull in the Hamptons. I’ve lit several shows here at the McCarter, and recently started teaching at Princeton too, so it feels familiar and friendly (usually I am in a new place every three weeks). Still, I’ve never worked with Emily, although I’ve seen a lot of her work, so I’m thrilled to have a chance to design with her, and also a little nervous.I should also mention that I have never written a blog, so bear with me. I should be nervous about that too.
Lighting designers are always a little nervous at this point in the process, if they are honest, because we do our work in public—we don’t get to design the way the lighting looks until everyone else is in the room with us. The actors, the other designers, the staff, the crew, the producers… What if all the lights are in the wrong place? What if the ideas are all wrong for the play? We won’t know until everyone else does. We always make our mistakes in public.
It was our first day in the theatre with lights yesterday. The set is mostly up already. No cast yet (they emerge from the rehearsal room for the first time today)—but just me and the lighting gang and the lights. Paul and Rob (the head electricians here) and their crew had already hung the light plot and made sure it all turns on; and all I had to do is point the lights in the right places and make it all look right. Lucky me.
The big grey wall that surrounds the huge sandbox of a set is up, and looks really wonderful. We focused a lot of lights on it this afternoon. The walls seem to take any color and turn it softer and paler somehow, muting everything. It looks like a big watercolor. That made me happy. We weren’t sure if the box would be able to behave like a sky as well as like a box, but I feel optimistic about that right now! We’ll see.
Today, sixteen tons of sand get poured inside the box and we’ll point some more lights at it. I’ve never lit a huge stretch of sand before. I’m fascinated with the way it takes light and shadow and color. I’ve been thinking about the beach on a summer sunset, and how the low light of the sun just before it slips below the horizon skims across the surface, and the shadows in the sand seem to be filled with a soft purple light.
Usually the first scene of Seagull is set at twilight. But somehow twilight feels even softer than sunset, the way the shadows are so subtle and the light is so even. Getting into the top of this play is tricky and important. It’s funny, this play, and Emily and I think it needs to start a little more aggressively than twilight. So I am hoping to try for a sharp sunset that fades into twilight into the moon rise for the first act of the play. This is the kind of idea that looks really beautiful in the mind and is sometimes hard to translate into reality. We’ll see. It would be a very sped up sunset.
Another big idea that might not work—I wanted to try and create a water effect. There are all kinds of high tech water effects available but I have never liked any of them. Paul and Rob (the staff electricians here) had made all these great craft projects for me to try and make this work. Strange hand made contraptions with mirrors and fans and strips of color and shiny plastic. The effect looked really odd on the walls. Like a strange nineteen sixties party. Not really what I had in mind. We’ll keep trying. Any brilliant suggestions welcome.
I saw a run through of the play on Wednesday. I laughed really hard, but it is also really moving. This is a really astonishing company of actors, and a wonderful adaptation of the play. I feel especially fondly towards Laura Heisler, who plays Milly, who is in love with Alex in the play. Alex isn’t in the least bit interested. In the fall I lit Laura in a production where she played mad King Ludwig of Bavaria, who was in love with Wagner. A couple of years ago I lit her in a play where she played a heart broken teenager. It seems every time I light her in a play she can’t get the guy. I wish she would; it’s breaking my heart.
Posted by Jane Cox, Lighting Designer for McCarter Theatre’s production of A Seagull in the Hamptons.
Meet Baikida Carroll
Posted by Adam Immerwahr on April 24th, 2008
Baikida Carroll—one of McCarter’s favorite musicians—is the composer for A Seagull in the Hamptons. Baikida first arrived at McCarter in Emily Mann’s first season, when he co-authored (with Emily Mann and Ntozake Shange) and scored the R&B musical Betsey Brown. Since then, McCarter has been graced with his music many times, including his score for McCarter’s production of Having Our Say. We’re big fans of Baikida, and we’re absolutely thrilled to have him back for A Seagull in the Hamptons, for which he will be composing lots of fresh new music (working with sound designer Karin Graybash, whose McCarter credits this season include Tartuffe and The Mad 7).
Among Baikida’s many and varied non-theatrical credits are a score of CDs, performances with Patti LaBelle, Ike and Tina Turner, Cecil Taylor, Charlie Haden, Dr. John and Jay McShann, as well as a slew of awards of every sort. For further info, you can check out his website.
If you want to get a video preview of his work, watch the YouTube video below!
Posted by Adam Immerwahr, Producing Associate at McCarter Theatre.
Posted by Elizabeth Edwards on April 23rd, 2008
As Carrie Hughes, my supervisor and McCarter’s Literary Manager, often observes, part of being a successful dramaturg involves “maintaining your stable of experts.” The types of very specific information a dramaturg may be required to produce at a moment’s notice range so far and wide over the course of a single season (much less a career) that it becomes highly useful to befriend people with all sorts of weird hobbies and areas of specialization—from Russian coin-collecting to South American bird calls to eighteenth-century printing techniques. Last week I had the chance to call upon one of the members of my own personal “stable”—namely, my father. Who, it just so happens, is a massive Scrabble buff (case in point: he knows the entire list of Scrabble-dictionary-approved two-letter words by heart—alphabetically).
And what dramaturgical need did I have for an expert Scrabble consultant, you may ask? Well, it just so happens that in A Seagull in the Hamptons, Emily Mann’s updated adaptation of Chekhov’s The Seagull, the Russian card game the family plays in the fourth act of the play has been transformed into a game of Scrabble. And since we have no doubt that a number of our audience members will themselves be avid Scrabble-players, we wanted to make sure that the game portrayed onstage is played with strict adherence to not only the rules of the game, but also its physical and mathematical possibilities.
In the Scrabble game as written by Emily Mann, the first player, Milly (Masha in Chekhov’s original), scores 34 points (with the double-word score that is applied to every starting play). The second play, by the doctor Ben (aka Dorn), scores 12 points. Maria (the modern counterpart for actress Irina Arkadina) gets 26 points from her turn. And then Philip (Trigorin) uses all his tiles, hitting a triple word score and gaining 108 points, plus 50 more for clearing his rack.
I wanted to make sure that this sequence was, in fact, Scrabblogically possible. Provided it was, I also wanted to get a sense for both how the tile layout would look as the sequence was played out (so the actors can lay their tiles in such a way that Philip’s play does, in fact, land on one of the triple word score squares), and also how the scores would be added up, since this is sometimes done out loud and thus needs to be accurately reflected in the script.
My dad responded within a couple of hours, confirming that the sequence as imagined by adaptor/director Emily Mann could in fact be achieved. And in the true spirit of an avid expert (and doting parent), he went above and beyond the call of duty, providing not just a written description of a possible game play sequence, but also setting up his own personal Scrabble board in order to snap the illustrative photo displayed in this post. I compiled this information and passed it along to directing/producing intern Alexis Williams, who in turn passed it on to Emily herself. By the time the next set of script changes came across my desk, I noticed that the numbers Maria speaks aloud to tally Philip’s score had been changed to agree with my father’s proposed scenario. And that, dear readers, is dramaturgy in action!
Unfortunately, the program for A Seagull in the Hamptons went to print earlier this week, and it was thus too late to get my dad listed in the program as “Scrabble Gameplay Consultant.” But he agreed to let us incorporate his advice into our production nonetheless, and I in turn promised I would acknowledge his contribution on the blog. Thanks, Dad—you’re the best!
And now, a challenge for any other Scrabble fans among our blog audience:
The board set-up pictured above may or may not be the only way to achieve the scoring parameters listed in the third paragraph of this post. If you can come up with an alternate solution, you can either post it as a comment here or e-mail it to email@example.com. The first person to send us a description (and/or photograph) of another sequence of four moves that satisfies all of the script’s parameters will win two tickets to any preview performance of A Seagull in the Hamptons (May 2-4 & 6-8), PLUS a poster signed by the members of the play’s cast. Wow! So go on—get Scrabbling!
Posted by Elizabeth Edwards, Literary Intern at McCarter Theatre.
A Rufus Response
Posted by Jonathan Elliott on April 22nd, 2008
| Rufus Wainwright
One of my favorite things about McCarter is our Special Programming series; Bill Lockwood, our Special Programming Director, books an amazing lineup of performances from a variety of genres and specialties. I’m always a little awestruck at the scope of the shows on our two stages, from performers I first saw here when I was a teenager, to new and emerging artists just on the edge of becoming giants in their fields.
And then there are the performances that strike a special chord with me; we had one such performance this past Saturday night, when McCarter hosted Rufus Wainwright in an evening of solo acoustic performance.
I’ve been looking forward to this show ever since we announced him several months back. I think the first time I heard his one-of-a-kind voice was on the Moulin Rouge soundtrack back in 2001, and then when he opened for Tori Amos on tour that summer. There’s just something about him that stops you in your tracks. I harbor a lot of personal affection for his work. Without delving too deep into it all, the subject matter, sound, and feel of his music serves as a soundtrack to the early part of my twenty-something years. When I’m down, when I’m unfocused, when I’m in need of inspiration, there’s a Rufus Wainwright song for every occasion—something that can bring me back to center.
And here’s where the amazement factor kicks in—on Saturday, I stood up from my desk, walked up two flights of stairs, and there’s Rufus Wainwright, playing to a sold-out, diverse crowd on the edge of their seats.
Another YouTube video from “Live at the Library”—Emily Mann discusses why she decided to modernize Chekhov’s “The Seagull” and turn it into “A Seagull in the Hamptons.”
Posted by Adam Immerwahr, Producing Associate at McCarter Theatre.
Last night was McCarter’s “Live at the Library” on A Seagull in the Hamptons at the Princeton Public Library. Here’s the first of several YouTube clips of the event—Emily Mann discussing the design of the production. Enjoy, and post your comments by clicking on the “comments” button at the bottom of the post!
Posted by Adam Immerwahr, Producing Associate at McCarter Theatre.
Hey Princeton. My name is Laura, and I’m playing the role of Milly (Chekhov’s Masha) in A Seagull in the Hamptons. So, a few weeks ago, Adam asked me to participate in this blog, as a kind of imbedded cast member, and I thought, “Sure! Sounds like fun! I like reading blogs.” …..Well…..it’s now twelve days into the rehearsal process, and as you’re aware if you’ve been logging (blogging?) in—so far all I’ve come up with is a big, blank white page of nothing. Which is probably fitting, given that the play deals with so many writers, and would-be writers, sometimes in the throes of their own torturous writer’s block.
Every day I go home and think, “C’mon, Laura. Surely there’s all kinds of things you could be sharing.” But, see, the thing I’ve realized, or perhaps, to be totally honest, reconfirmed for myself, is that I simply CAN’T talk about the rehearsal process while I’m in the middle of it. It’s too personal and sacred a space, what goes on in the room, the discussions we have—and epiphanies, and tears, and arguments, and frustrations, and in-jokes, and quiet discoveries—it’s very private—and I think to try and put words on it, to try and articulate what we’re exploring is at least impossible, and maybe even anathema to the journey itself. I know this sounds pretentious. I’m sure I sound like a total asshole. You probably have a little bit of a throw-up feeling in your mouth right now. But I think it’s true. I become a very bad friend and girlfriend and daughter when I’m in rehearsal—because the answer to “How was your day? How was rehearsal? How’s it going?” is always the same: “Great.” …SILENCE. The only people I can talk about it with are the people who are already a part of building the story, on either side of the table. Once we’re running, once we have an audience, I can talk a blue-streak about it, and definitely, please, email me, and let’s have a drink at Triumph later, and I’ll regale you with all my, no doubt, FASCINATING observations. But I can’t at this stage.
So, well, having said that—there’s still the matter of this blog, right? So, at the suggestion of my fellow colleague, Morena, playing Nina (she’s called Nina in Emily’s play, too), I’m gonna take the focus off of myself, and off of rehearsals (or at least off of my personal window into them), and instead ask my fellow castmates some questions about themselves, for your—we hope—entertainment.
Let’s start with Morena.
Laura: What do you enjoy more, rehearsals or performances?
Morena: Rehearsals, because it’s fun to be able to try new and different things in the room. But I also enjoy the last few performances, especially, because I know there’s a finite amount of time left to run it, at that point, and because I know it’ll be over soon, I tend to become more daring.
Laura: Have you done Chekhov before?
Morena: I understudied Natalie Portman (”Nina”) in the production in the park several years ago. And I played Masha in school. *
Laura: What is something that you always take with you when you’re traveling out of town for a job?
Morena: Definitely good books. Always one fiction book that I’m really into. And a philosophical/mindfulness-kind of book, to ground me when I start to feel totally lost.
Laura: Other than this role, what’s your favorite role you’ve ever played?
Morena: I played “Juliet” in a reading of Romeo and Juliet that Joss Whedon, my friend, and the creator of the TV show I was on (”Firefly”) directed in his living room, and I had the f*&*(** best time ever. I also did Cleopatra for him. He loves getting actors together and doing readings of Shakespeare plays in his living room.
Laura: Have you ever had any crazy accident happen to you while you were onstage?
Morena: Yes, actually involving Jesse Perez (who was just in Argonautika). We were doing Love’s Labour’s Lost at school, and he failed to come out onstage for his cue at one point, and the guy playing the Duke, or whatever, started to just ad-lib Shakespeare lines while we waited for him. I had to turn upstage, I was laughing so hard—like the good supporting cast member I was.
Laura: Did you have any preconceived idea of how this process would be, coming into rehearsals for A Seagull in the Hamptons?
Morena: I was really scared—petrified—that everyone else would be totally off-book and totally prepared from Day One. Instead, I realized that everyone has these characters that they’re building all day, in the room, and I just get totally sucked into that, and sucked into the play through them. Like, I’m reading with Stark today, and I have to just be open to him, and be receiving what he’s doing and giving me. And that’s so much better.
Laura: Emily asked us to share what some of our favorite music is, the music that really moves us. What’s one of yours?
Morena: Sam Cooke’s “Nothing Can Change This Love I Have For You.”
I then put that song on, and we made out all night long.
[*I promptly told her to give me all her ideas about the role, so I could steal them.]
Posted by Laura Heisler, who plays “Milly” in McCarter’s production of Emily Mann’s A Seagull in the Hamptons.