The King’s Pen: Revisiting a Royal Narrative

Called To Be King WidgetEytan Grinnell sits in the house of the Lyceum Space Theatre, watching a rehearsal of his new play, Called to Be King. Todd Salovey, his dramaturg, sits nearby, pencil in hand. They watch as a cast of 11 deliver the lines that have been floating around in Eytan’s imagination for almost 15 years.

“After the first rehearsal, the terror went away,” says Eytan. “Now, it’s just awe.”

Called to Be King will be read on Tuesday evening at 7 pm, a special event produced by Intrepid and hosted by the Lyceum. The cast features Jacquelyn Ritz, Jason Maddy, Eric Poppick, Manny Fernandes, Patrick Duffy, Tiffany Tang, Tom Hall, Savvy Scopelleti, Erin Petersen, Marco Rios and Durwood Murray.

CTBK rehearsal“Bringing a new play to life is a fascinating process,” says Intrepid producing artistic director, Christy Yael-Cox, who will be directing the reading. “We’ve brought a talented cast together who have the ability to handle Eytan’s heightened language and bring this story to life.”

The plotline revolves around the retelling of the classic narratives that provide the origins of our storytelling history, specifically the biblical story of Noah and the Oedipus tragedy. Eytan’s reimagining involves invoking a stronger female presence in these stories, which, in turn, affects the outcome by introducing a more redemptive chain of events.

“These stories are the core of western civilization,” says Eytan. “We are pressing the button of these origin narratives.”

However innate these stories might be, the challenge in the retelling lies in accessing the audience’s present familiarity with the original narratives, something that Eytan has had to tackle in the writing. These stories may not be on the tip of everyone’s tongue they way they were when first presented. 

ctbk rehearsal 2“For a Greek audience 2500 years ago, this was known,” explains Eytan. “The myth was alive. But our characters also have the benefit and perspective of everything that has happened since then.”

But the fact that this set of characters have this knowledge makes them – and their decisions – that much more accessible.

“This play contains deliberate, consciousness-raising actions,” says Todd, clarifying the moments in the story that diverge from the traditional tales. It is these moments, he and Eytan agree, that change everything.

“This play is a movement of consciousness,” says Eytan. “We are not just going to stay in the unconscious and let the circumstances unfold.”

While the pivots of that consciousness revolve mainly around the strengthened female influence, the relatable questions that the Oedipus tale traditionally invokes are also still quite alive.

“The experience is universal because it ultimately rests on a question we all ask,” says Eytan. “Who am I? Where do I belong?” The audience is invited for a post-show talkback to shed some light on these timeless questions.

Called to Be King, by Eytan Grinnell. Dramaturgy by Todd Salovey. Directed by Christy Yael-Cox. Lyceum Space Theatre. 7 pm. $15. Purchase tickets online here. 


“Baby” Talk: A Conversation With the Cast of “The Play About the Baby”

The play about the baby page“Edward Albee is so funny, so biting and says the most amazing things about human nature,” says Phil Johnson, director of Monday night’s staged reading of The Play About the Baby. “But, he does it in a way that is so poetic and has so much artistry to it. And in the end, the point he leaves you with is so enormous, so enlightening.”

Phil Johnson

Phil Johnson

Such strong statements can rarely be said about just any playwright, which is why Albee is considered one of the greatest living American playwrights of our time. From his early work in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (which will have a future mainstage production at Intrepid) to this, one of his later offerings, over and over, and for better or worse, Albee’s plays expose and illuminate the truth in our very human nature.

As in Virginia Woolf, The Play About the Baby centers around two couples, one younger and more naive, and one offering the depth and darkness of experience. The younger couple, Boy and Girl, give birth within the confines of their idealistic worldview and are soon visited by Man and Woman, who have come to take the baby away. What ensues is a dark exploration of human nature, the reality of loss and the necessity of forging on with existence.

Ruff Yeager

Ruff Yeager

While the nature of the play sounds bleak, leave it to the genius of Albee’s words to lead us through the darkness while holding hands with the absurd. Shana Wride and Ruff Yeager, formidable talents with the charisma to tackle this unique brand of humor, will take charge of that journey, portraying the Woman and Man in Monday’s reading.

“The absurd form is one of my favorite genres of dramatic literature,” enthuses Ruff. “The games that these characters play! Role-reversal, gender-reversal, devaluation of language, logic, and plot! If the audience loves a good mystery, the brilliance of Edward Albee, and the witty and wily manipulation of language, this play is certainly not to be missed.”

Laura Bohlin_0744_Headshot

Laura Bohlin

Bringing the naivete of Girl and Boy to life will be Laura Bohlin and Connor Sullivan, their characters both charged with the daunting task of the play’s awakening.

“One of the most chilling takeaways for me was how much our reality can be morphed according to what, or perhaps WHO, influences us,” says Laura, pinpointing the stark universal truths couched in the absurdist structure of this piece.

“If someone tells you that something is the truth enough times, you may start to internalize that even if your own perceptions have told you otherwise. This really resonated with me because of how often we are told, persuaded, or even coerced to believe certain untruths,” she says.

Shana Wride

Shana Wride

Finding these universal truths where both the challenges and opportunities of this play lie. Assembling a cast that could unpack the particular language of this search was not an easy task. “I read this play on a fluke,” confesses Phil, “and it was so very funny, and then the point it made was so devastating. I knew I had the right people,  and we could do it well.”

In the 2001 Off-Broadway review for The New York Times, Ben Brantley stated that “tragic theater, from Oedipus onward, has always centered on that moment when time is up. Mr. Albee…accepts this harsh given of existence unconditionally. But he refuses to sob and whine about it. Cursing the darkness is easy; lighting candles of defiant, fiery wit, like those that illuminate The Play About the Baby, is heroic.”

Connor Sullivan

Connor Sullivan

It is no wonder that we have entrusted the interpretation of some of our bigger, more human experiences to adept playwrights such as Edward Albee. We invite you to join us on Monday for this heroic journey.

“A big ‘thank you’ to Intrepid Theatre Co.,” says Ruff, “for providing the opportunity to explore the edgy, the experimental and the exciting.”


The Play About the Baby by Edward Albee. A staged reading. Monday, November 23, 2015. 6:30 pm appetizer reception. 7 pm reading. $15. Encinitas Library. 540 Cornish Drive. RSVP to and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase tickets online.
Encinitas Library 

Glitz, Glamour and all things Judy Garland

gggarland_460x300On Tuesday, November 17, Intrepid Theatre Company will host a very special evening of music and magic at the Lyceum Theatre in Horton Plaza.

A companion piece to the critically-acclaimed mainstage production of End of the Rainbow by Peter Quilter, currently playing through November 29, this concert of Judy-inspired music will be a chance to explore and illuminate even more of the Garland songbook through the interpretive performances of renowned San Diego performers Leigh Scarritt, Kurt Norby, Morgan Carberry and the elite Chamber Chorale of the San Diego Gay Men’s chorus. And, of course, Eileen Bowman will treat the audience to a peek inside End of the Rainbow in all of her Judy Garland glory.

Eileen Bowman as Judy Garland Photo credit: Daren Scott

Eileen Bowman
Photo credit: Daren Scott

“I’m going to get lost in this, I can tell you that right now,” Eileen said at the beginning of the rehearsal process for End of the Rainbow, as she began to slip into the skin and slinky dresses of Judy Garland. Now, critics unanimously agree that her performance is an unparalleled experience to behold, describing her as “riveting” and “impeccable” and a “tour de force.” On November 17, Glitz, Glamour and Garland audiences will catch a glimpse of the performance that everyone is raving about.

Director Morgan Carberry in Striking Gold

Director Morgan Carberry

But Eileen’s guest appearance is only part of the program that journeys through nostalgia and romance, dreams of stardom and bitter devastations. Thematically as well as musically, Judy’s life will be illuminated and celebrated.

“Judy’s music and performing was so genius from a very young age – all that heart and emotion right out there to see on screen,” says Steven Withers, associate artistic director for the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus, who will take the stage for four numbers during the evening. “Her seeming strength of character in performing was very much in contrast with her private fragility.”

Kurt Norby in Everybody's Talkin'

Kurt Norby in Everybody’s Talkin’

Because of this raw vulnerability, the music of Judy Garland continually transcends the written arrangements and moves into a deeply rooted place of emotional connection – a connection that has survived through her life story, long after her performances ended.

“Her decent into addiction trouble and unhappy early death mirrored so many gay men of my generation, the ones living through the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and ’90s, who had lived secret lives to protect their identity, many who had addiction trouble because of that, and were dying so young from HIV,” explains Steven.

“There’s something raw yet exquisite about Garland,” says Morgan Carberry, who is also directing the evening and playing piano for the soloists. “She had a voice that’s smooth like velvet, and yet resonated deeply with the rough edges of the human experience.”

Leigh Scarritt 2014 Intrepid Gala

Leigh Scarritt
2014 Intrepid Gala

It is this human connection that End of the Rainbow audiences have been responding to as well, heightening the fascination with not only Judy Garland as a star, but also Judy Garland as a person.

“She helped inspire me to live through and conquer my demons, get healthy from addiction and HIV, and survive to be able to keep giving the world the music I make,” says Steven. “I always will carry a torch for Judy.”

Please help us celebrate this very special night with a champagne toast and a concert event commemorating this iconic star. All proceeds will be matched by the Parker Foundation and enable Intrepid to keep bringing audiences the stories that create conversation and illuminate how closely we are all connected.

Glitz, Glamour and Garland: A Benefit Concert for Intrepid Theatre Company. Tuesday, November 17, 2015. 7:30 pm. The Lyceum Space Theatre. Pre-show champagne toast in the Lyceum Space Theatre lobby. Free parking in Horton Plaza with Lyceum Theatre validation. $40. Tickets available here.

San Diego Gay Men's Chorus Chamber Chorale

San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus Chamber Chorale



Reigniting the Rainbow: A Dramaturgical Peek into Peter Quilter’s Play

Eileen Bowman as Judy Garland.  Photo credit: Daren Scott

Eileen Bowman as Judy Garland.
Photo credit: Daren Scott

“Immortality would be very nice.”

Eileen Bowman, as Judy Garland, muses about the possibility of living eternally through her music. Even as the words are spoken onstage, it is difficult to imagine a time when the world did not embrace Judy’s captivating stage presence or her significant contributions to the musical landscape of the Golden Age of Hollywood. It is difficult to imagine that there was ever a time when Judy Garland wasn’t immortal.

But this is the space of exploration in Peter Quilter’s raw and ruthless bio-inspired play, End of the Rainbow, which opens on November 6 for Intrepid Theatre Company at the Lyceum Theatre in Horton Plaza. A cross-section of Judy’s life when everything wasn’t quite rainbows and bluebirds, when she was struggling against all odds to define herself and her place in the world and turning in all of the wrong directions to do so.

Judy Garland c1940 - public domain

Judy Garland c 1940

Judy Garland was born into vaudeville. Her mother raised her and her sisters to be performers, brokered deals for stage time and created vehicles for their daughters to be stars. She signed with MGM at 13 and was soon catapulted to the heights of studio stardom after her turn as Dorothy.

Judy Garland c 1934

Judy Garland c 1934

The rigor of the studio system was unrelenting and, with her mother’s approval, Judy was given heavy doses of pills to keep her on schedule and to help her sleep. From a very early age, her physical features were analyzed and compared with her contemporaries – her weight was an issue, as was the shape of her nose. There was never a moment when someone close to her wasn’t trying to change something about her so that she would fit in, do well and be more successful.

But no one could lay a finger on her uncanny musical talent, which most described as innate genius. Save one singing lesson she took when she was 13, Judy Garland was entirely self-taught in her musicality and her colleagues could not praise her talent enough. Mort Lindsey, one of her most devoted music directors (and on whom the character of her pianist, Anthony, in “End of the Rainbow” could be loosely based) described their 1951 evening at Carnegie Hall in Vanity Fair and The New Jersey Record:

Judy Garland c 1957

Judy Garland c 1957

“I see her standing in the wings…she’s not doing anything, just looking across the stage. She’s looking at me and I’m looking at her. I look in the audience, and there’s Ethel Merman and Rock Hudson and Benny Goodman, all these big shots sitting down in the first row, waiting and waiting. Is she going to come out? Is she going to do it? But she knows what she’s doing. Finally she gives me a nod, and I start the overture…

“All you have to do is talk to people who went to that concert, and they will tell you it was the greatest night in show business. It was like a revival meeting. She really lived on the stage. I think that’s where she was happiest. I was never able to do a concert with her that I didn’t get goose bumps, and I did 150 of them with her.”

magazineWhile Judy’s early introduction to pills led her down a tumultuous road of addiction and depression and suicide attempts, it was some time before the darkness of her life would bleed into her stage time. But eventually, she could not keep her demons at bay. In 1950, she was released from her MGM contract because she had become unreliable and a roller coaster of downward spirals pinpointed by career highlights ensued.

In End of the Rainbow, Anthony (Cris O’Bryon) and Judy reference the Melbourne concert in 1964 as the “bloodbath” where she was an hour late, incoherent and unable to perform, and where she stormed off stage after taking an early intermission, never to return. Prior to that, her numerous comebacks came in the form of  concert tours, her television variety show and the hit movie A Star Is Born. As many times as she fell from grace, Judy was constantly able to reignite her stardom.

Mickey Deans and Judy Garland c 1969

Mickey Deans and Judy Garland c 1969

But here we are, opening this weekend in the world of Peter Quilter’s Judy Garland, the End of the Rainbow setting where Judy has just fallen in love with Mickey Deans (Jeffrey Jones), the handsome nightclub owner from New York who believes in her with a frighteningly fierce devotion. She has booked concerts at London’s Talk of the Town music hall for six weeks and even though she is on the emotional and financial fringes of survival, in this moment, Judy Garland also knows she has a chance at this – a chance to rise again to greatness. Even though we know the fire and ash is inevitable, we can’t help but willingly take the journey alongside of her.

We invite you to enjoy your time with our Judy as much as we have.

— Tiffany Tang, Dramaturg

End of the Rainbow by Peter Quilter. Directed by Christy Yael-Cox. Starring Eileen Bowman as Judy Garland, Jeffrey Jones as Mickey Deans, Music Director Cris O’Bryon as Anthony and Marco Rios in multiple roles. Opens Friday November 6, 2015 at the Lyceum Space Theatre, located at 79 Horton Plaza, San Diego 92101. Free parking at Horton Plaza with Lyceum Theatre validation. Tickets available here

EndoftheRainbow Banner

Traversing “Mud River Stone”: A Conversation with T.J. Johnson and Rhys Green

Mud River Stone Widget“I feel the stage is one of the last places we can push the boundaries…”

Antonio “T.J.” Johnson explains the draw he feels towards the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage, and why he chose to include her work in this year’s Staged Reading Series at the Encinitas Library. Mud River Stone will be read on Monday evening, October 26.

The play talks about how we perceive people we don’t know as well as our expectations of people we encounter in other places away from our homes,” says T.J.  “Nottage is a contemporary artist who offers difficult issues to the audience as she entertains them.”

Antonio "T.J." Johnson

Antonio “T.J.” Johnson

The story cuts to the heart of these issues in a very visceral way. Set in a wilderness hotel  in Africa, a mysterious British businessman, a young African-American tourist couple, a female African welfare worker, and a crazed, half-naked Belgian gone native are taken hostage by the bellhop Joaquim, an ex-soldier conjuring a connection to his war torn past. Joaquim’s threats are immediate and full of just as much danger as manipulation.

But there is more at stake than survival. Within the confines of this explosive situation, the nuances of prejudice seep into conversation, both across races and within races.

“I feel we have the presumption that we all are connected just because of the color of our skin,” explains T.J., commenting that while the characters may be aware of these preconceptions, “they are not always the people they would have others think they are.”

Originally produced by New York’s Playwrights Horizons in 1997, Mud River Stone is one of many explorations that Nottage has offered the theatre world on the subject of race and perception. The audience is granted the opportunity to see these issues from extremely nuanced points of view through the specific diversity of the individual stories on stage.

Rhys Green

Rhys Green

“The audience will fall in love with some of the characters and have a love/hate relationship with others,” says Rhys Green, artistic director of the San Diego Black Ensemble Theatre, who will direct the reading. “I feel the play will challenge the audiences commitment to their own culture and social needs and in the end be shocked by the plays outcome.”

Bringing this diverse cast to life will be Joe Powers, Sherri Allen, Orrick Smith, Tracy Wilson, Khalifa Price, Anthony Hamm and Craig Noel Award-winner Yolanda Franklin. 

Rhys and T.J. look forward to sharing this piece with Intrepid audiences.

“It’s about the colors of the languages and the diversity of the characters,” says T.J., “and the eternal, contemporary theme of who are we really and what do we do about it when we find out.”

Mud River Stone, by Lynn Nottage, a staged reading. Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive. Monday, October 26: 6:30 pm complimentary wine/appetizer reception. 7:00 pm reading. $15. Rsvp to and pay with cash/check at the door or buy tickets online.

‘End of the Rainbow’ is Richly Colored


Eileen Bowman stars as Judy Garland in "End of the Rainbow"

Eileen Bowman stars as Judy Garland in “End of the Rainbow”

End of the Rainbow is a magical sneak peak into the last few months of Judy Garland’s life.”

Christy Yael-Cox, producing artistic director of Intrepid Theatre Company and director of the latest Season Six offering, tries to capture her fascination with Peter Quilter’s tragically beautiful play.

“We get to really understand what happened to this child, iconic Hollywood star who was both raised and tormented by this industry,” she says.

Originally considered to be included in the monthly Staged Reading Series Intrepid produces at the Encinitas Library, Christy admits that because the story continued to haunt her long after she finished reading the play, she began to consider a full scale production.

“The play is a fascinating portrait of this woman who was so beloved and so misunderstood,” says Christy. “These behind-the-scenes, private moments of Judy Garland’s struggles unfold in a very, very intimate way. You can’t help but be invested in her story.”

Jeffrey Jones as Mickey Deans

Jeffrey Jones as Mickey Deans

The play chronicles Garland’s engagement at the Talk of the Town nightclub in London’s West End, where celebrities and pop stars would headline the evening’s musical entertainment lineup. The six-week run she was booked to perform was plagued with drama due to her constant drug and alcohol abuse and her stormy new romance with Mickey Deans.

While the real life events have been captured in the media, Peter Quilter’s story takes audiences beyond the stories that filled the papers and into the heart of who Judy Garland might have been in the eye of this hurricane.

Cris OBryon as musical director Anthony Chapman

Cris OBryon

Casting the show was both a challenge and a delight. Christy could think of no better actress to embody Garland than local musical theatre legend and Craig Noel-winner Eileen Bowman.

“Eileen has an uncanny ability to capture the humor, beauty and reckless nature of this infamous silver screen icon,” says Christy.

Marco Rios

Marco Rios

Craig Noel-winner Jeffrey Jones, last seen in Intrepid’s The Quality of Life, will be joining her as Garland’s fiance, Mickey Deans. Musical theatre maven Cris O’Bryon will portray Garland’s accompanist and kindred spirit, Anthony Chapman. Marco Rios, last seen in Intrepid’s The Winter’s Tale, rounds out the cast, playing key featured roles in the production.

“It’s a beautiful, fascinating glimpse into her life with some really stunning music and we are thrilled to be producing this show,” says Christy.

End of the Rainbow by Peter Quilter plays November 1-29 at the Lyceum Space Theatre, located at 79 Horton Plaza, San Diego 92101. Free parking at Horton Plaza with Lyceum Theatre validation. Tickets available here

eileen in rainbow

“Happy” Hour: A Conversation with Co-Director Tom Andrew

Happy Widget“I don’t trust happy people. I think they’re phony. I think they’re hiding something. I think they’re devious.” – Eva, Happy

Tom Andrew, a lead actor and co-director of Monday evening’s reading of Happy, a new play by Robert Caisley, tries to sum up the roller coaster of the emotional journey that takes place over the 80 minutes of the play’s run time, even though the story involves only four actors and a single setting. (Due to scheduling conflicts, the originally slated Hedda Gabler will be read at a later date.)

tom andrew

Co-Director Tom Andrew as Alfred

“Right from the beginning, the audience is trying to figure out the characters,” says Tom, not wanting to give too much away. “What’s really going on here? It doesn’t necessarily end up where you think it will.”

Playwright Robert Caisley, Associate Professor of Theatre & Film and Head of the Dramatic Writing Program at the University of Idaho, is making waves with this latest work about a seemingly innocuous dinner party planned to introduce a new romance to an old friend. Eduardo is an artist. He is mad about his new flame, Eva. He has invited his good friend, Alfred, and Alfred’s wife, Melinda, to meet her.

Virginia Gregg as Eva

Virginia Gregg as Eva

No matter how seemingly straightforward the setup, from the first moment of the play, it is clear that the dinner party is tinged with a darker edge, thanks to Eva’s insatiable inquest into Alfred and Melinda’s life and projected happiness. By the end of the story, the play becomes a dark and unhinging exploration of all that one would deem stable and secure. Happy was a finalist for both the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center’s New Play Conference and the Woodward/Newman Award for Drama at Bloomington Playwrights Project.

“This play has a definite bite to it,” says Tom. “I haven’t seen much out there like this.”

PatPhotoEdited (2)

Co-Director Patrick McBride as Eduardo

Bringing this play to life will be a brilliant cast, including Virginia Gregg as the unhinging Eva and April McBride as Melinda. Tom Andrew will portray Alfred, and Patrick McBride, last seen at Intrepid as Borachio in Much Ado About Nothing, will also co-direct and play Eduardo.

While the play has darker themes, Tom assures the audience that the humor is tangible.

“I think we laugh at what is familiar,” he says. “There is a lot of humor in these circumstances.”

April McBride as Melinda

April McBride as Melinda

While questioning one’s own happiness can carry familiarity, it can also be a scary and uncomfortable place to be. For the characters in Happy, delving into these questions becomes a journey none of them expects to take. Tom thinks that the audience will come along for this ride.

“This story makes people talk and ask themselves, Are we ever really happy?,” says Tom. “I think people will hear it and ask themselves whom they relate to in the show. Will they question their own happiness? What does it take for someone to question that?”

Intrepid is excited for the opportunity to present this newer work as part of its Staged Reading Series, honoring the roots of its creation to introduce new stories to Intepid’s audience.

Happy by Robert Caisley, a staged reading. Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive. Monday, September 28: 6:30 pm complimentary wine/appetizer reception. 7:00 pm reading. $15. Rsvp to and pay with cash/check at the door or buy tickets online.Encinitas Library




Meeting the Marc: Intrepid Announces New Managing Director

marc 7

Marc Stubblefield, Intrepid’s new Managing Director

Starting today, the artistic leadership of Intrepid Theatre Company expands by one: veteran industry producer Marc Stubblefield has accepted the role of Managing Director, effective immediately.

“As Intrepid enters the next phase of growth, we knew it was necessary to expand our management staff with persons well-versed in navigating the success of a dynamic theatre company,” said Christy Yael-Cox, Intrepid’s Co-Founder and Producing Artistic Director. “Marc’s record proves that he is capable of both supporting our progress as well as contributing to our creative output.”

Cutting his theatre management teeth in Chicago, Marc was the Director of Production and Operations at the Court Theatre for 11 years, overseeing epic projects such as The Illiad and the commission of a new adaptation of Richard Wright’s Native Son. He recently spent two years as Associate Production Manager at La Jolla Playhouse, helming the beloved Without Walls festival which received a Craig Noel Award for Outstanding Special Event.

“I’m thrilled to come to Intrepid at this transition point in the theater’s evolution,” says Marc. “Clearly, Christy and Sean’s artistic leadership and vision have built a strong foundation for the theatre since its inception. As Intrepid takes its next steps forward, there’s such an opportunity to support the artistic vision by finding a permanent home for the theater and building the infrastructure that will allow it to flourish in the years to come.”

As Intrepid continues its work with the City of Encinitas to establish a permanent theatre home, Marc’s input and experience will be important building blocks in helping Intrepid’s expansion unfold smartly and seamlessly. He is also eager to support the theatre’s roots as well – both in Shakespeare and in San Diego.

marc 5

The Stubblefield Family: Shannon, Emily and Marc

“Working with Intrepid will continue my long relationship with writers like Shakespeare, Shaw, and Moliere, as well as modern classics like Albee, Kushner and Wilson,” says Marc. “My tenure at The La Jolla Playhouse provided a wonderful introduction to the vibrant San Diego theater community, and I’m excited to continue that dialog as we move Intrepid into its next phase.”

Intrepid Theatre Company welcomes Marc Stubblefield and looks forward to introducing him to our family of supporters, artists and friends.

Breaking Down “Crumble”: A Conversation with Staged Reading Director Brian Rickel

crumble page“I was drawn to the kind of poignant insanity of the fantasies we create through tragedy.”

On Monday evening, Staged Reading Series Committee Member Brian Rickel brings a fresh new look at holiday dysfunction with a reading of Sheila Callaghan’s Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake), a play that Backstage has called a “post-Ionesco narrative [carrying] a wacky charm that masks roiling pain.” Performed by a cast of San Diego superstars, the reading will be held at the Encinitas Library at 6:30 pm.

Brian Rickel, Staged Reading Series Committee

Brian Rickel, Staged Reading Series Committee

Brian, who will also direct, first met this play in Chicago, as the managing director of the Dog & Pony Theatre Company, who produced that city’s premiere of the play and ultimately invited playwright Sheila Callaghan to become an artistic associate.

“It is really just a fantasy about coming to terms with death and I was very intrigued by how Sheila wrote it,” says Brian. “Once I met her, and shared a rehearsal space with her for a while, I basically fell in love with everything she’s written since.”


Linda Libby as Mother

The story follows a mother and daughter who are still muddling through the aftermath of the father’s death a year earlier. Each are coping (or not coping) in deeply personal and often quirky ways. Lending additional voice to the insanity that anyone would be navigating in this type of a situation are Justin Timberlake, Harrison Ford and the actual Apartment where they reside, all of whom make appearances in the play.

“I very much enjoy the poetic structure of some of Sheila’s writing,” says Brian. “She seems to be able to whimsically delve into some very deep and dark parts of humanity.”

Carrie Heath as Barbara

Carrie Heath as Barbara

Bringing this whimsy to life will be Linda Libby as Mother, Adi Mullen as the daughter, Janice, Carrie Heath as Mother’s sister, Barbara, Bryan Barbarin as The Apartment and Marco Rios as Justin Timberlake and Harrison Ford.

Casting the show was a “no-brainer,” admits Brian.

Bryan Barbarin as The Apartment

Bryan Barbarin as The Apartment

“Linda Libby is one of the finest actors working in this city and Bryan has this amazing ability to float back and forth between comedy and the reality of tragic things,” he says. “Carrie has this incredible impersonation of her Mom, who is from the Chicago area, and when I hear her do this, it very much reminds me of Barbara. Marco is not afraid to make choices in the room and he brings a lot of academic prowess to his work.”

Adi Mullen as Janice

Adi Mullen as Janice

The one challenge lay in casting Janice, who is written as an 11-year-old, yet – much like Juliet – requires the emotional maturity of someone much older. Brian considered briefly casting a young adult and then remembered 15-year-old Adi Mullen from Cygnet’s production of Spring Awakening.

Marco Rios as Father/Justin Timberlake/Harrison Ford

Marco Rios as Father/Justin Timberlake/Harrison Ford

“Adi’s immensely talented and I’m excited to see what she does with the role,” says Brian.

Overall, this play brings a dark and quirky humor to the journey of these characters as they try to find their way back to their lives and each other. Sheila Callaghan’s play reminds us that that the extremities to which we “crumble” may be just as important as how we again rebuild ourselves, our relationships and our broken hearts.

Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake), a staged reading. By Sheila Callaghan. Featuring Linda Libby, Adi Mullen, Carrie Heath, Bryan Barbarin and Marco Rios. Directed by Brian Rickel. Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive. Monday, August 24: 6:30 pm complimentary wine/appetizer reception. 7:00 pm reading. $15. Rsvp to and pay with cash/check at the door.

Encinitas Library

‘Full Gallop’ Runs ‘Vree’

Diana Vreeland 1979 Photo: Horst P. Horst

Diana Vreeland 1979
Photo: Horst P. Horst

“There’s only one thing in life, and that’s the continual renewal of inspiration.” – Diana Vreeland

Fashion and theatre just might have a lot in common. They both tell stories. They both reflect culture. And they are both just as influential and impactful as they are fleeting and transient. Yet, even as these two worlds continually evolve and reinvent, the creative artists who drive them endure with longevity. Fashion editor Diana Vreeland is no exception.

Full Gallop, the one-woman play based on her life, will receive a staged reading on Monday evening at the Encinitas Library, and will feature the indomitable Amanda Naughton, most recently seen in Bethany and A Doll’s House at The Old Globe,  as the iconic fashion doyenne. And, according to Intrepid Staged Reading Series Committee Member Phil Johnson, exploring Vreeland’s legacy is all about re-creation.

“The most challenging part of doing this play is that Diana is so singular and individual that capturing her spirit is difficult,” explains Phil, who will also be directing the reading. “But that’s also the inspiration. She is such an entertainer, as well as such an icon, leader and groundbreaker in both the worlds of fashion and of women in business.”

Amanda Naughton helms the one-woman show Photo: Daniel Reichert

Amanda Naughton helms the one-woman show
Photo: Daniel Reichert

Diana Vreeland began her editorial career at Harper’s Bazaar, where she started as a columnist and then became fashion editor only six months into her tenure with the magazine. She is known for giving fashion advice to Jackie Kennedy, discovering Lauren Bacall, hosting social soirees for royalty in Europe and penning regular advice in her Harper’s column “Why Don’t You?” She would stay with Harper’s for almost 30 years before accepting a position as fashion editor at Vogue, a career which would end only a decade later with her termination.

Full Gallop explores this moment in Vreeland’s life when Vogue has left her, and does so in a capacity few were ever able to experience during her lifetime, according to an interview with playwright Mary Louise Wilson for Known for her intimidating manner and sharp sensibility, the play exposes a more vulnerable moment in the life of this incredibly strong and influential woman.

“Everyone was so terrified, thinking of her as some sort of gorgon,” said Wilson in this interview. “What pained her more than anything was the loss of beauty.”

Co-written with friend Mark Hampton, the two writers had always been fascinated with Vreeland and decided to take up her story soon after her death in 1989. Wilson portrayed Vreeland in the Off-Broadway incarnation in 1996. The play will receive a full production at The Old Globe this fall.

Phil attributes the longevity of this play to the ability of the writers to fully capture Vreeland in all of her eccentric glory without making her a caricature.

“I think it’s one of the best written one person plays I know of,” says Phil. “Diana Vreeland, is a fascinating artist at a real turning point in her life, and because of her strength of character she refuses to be defeated.”

Full Gallop, a staged reading. By Mary Louise Wilson and Mark Hampton. Featuring Amanda Naughton. Directed by Phil Johnson. Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive. Monday, July 27: 6:30 pm complimentary wine/appetizer reception. 7:00 pm reading. $15. Rsvp to and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase tickets online.

Encinitas Library