“Memory is what shapes us. Memory is what teaches us. We must understand that’s where our redemption is.” – Estelle Laughlin, Holocaust Survivor
This week, around the world, countries and organizations will hold ceremonies of remembrance to honor Yom HaShoa, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Tonight, Intrepid Theatre Company joins the Leichtag Foundation in Encinitas to honor Holocaust Remembrance Day with a special reading of The Substance of Fire by Jon Robin Baitz. (For more information on tonight’s reading, click here.)
“On Yom HaShoa, we call upon theatre and the arts to engage our memory and in so doing we bring life to those who are lost,” says Rabbi Andy Kastner, director of educational leadership and innovation for the Leichtag Foundation. “Theatre and the arts provide a pathway to the soul to express emotion and explore the human condition.”
Yom HaShoa was first established by the Israeli Parliament in 1951 and was formalized in the United States in 1980 with the creation of the Holocaust Memorial Council. In addition to establishing a living memorial, a day of remembrance and an educational foundation, this council was charged with a great responsibility: to make sure that something like this never happens again.
“It’s really a moral challenge to us to do more in our own lives when we confront injustice or hatred or genocide,” says Sara Bloomfield, the director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. (For more information on the museum’s nationally programmed events, please visit their website.)
“The Hebrew phrase for Holocaust Remembrance Day is Yom HaShoa – ‘Shoa,’ meaning ‘whirlwind,'” says Rabbi Kastner. “It reminds us how hatred and war can fuel the devastation of human life and culture. On this day of memorial, we recommit ourselves to the value of human life and our collective role to pursue justice in our community.”
Founded in 1991, The Leichtag Foundation honors the legacy of philanthropists Lee and Toni Leichtag by “igniting and inspiring vibrant Jewish life, advancing self-sufficiency and stimulating social entrepreneurship in coastal North San Diego County and Jerusalem.” In addition to providing financial support for these goals, the Foundation has a farm and ranch presence in Encinitas, which hosts immersive volunteer activities and is dedicated to education and sustainability as inspired by ancient Jewish traditions that connect people to community, food, the land, and social justice.
Connection with community is integral to the Foundation’s mission, and supporting that connection on Yom HaShoa through a theatre event that incorporates local artists is a decision that reflects those values.
“Intrepid is using the language of theatre to explore themes of memory, place and understanding,” says Rabbi Kastner. “We were fortunate to have been introduced to [Producing Artistic Director] Christy Yael-Cox who proposed the idea of the collaboration.”
Written in 1990 by Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Jon Robin Baitz (Other Desert Cities), The Substance of Fire follows the career of a book publisher and Holocaust survivor whose business decisions lead to conflict with his sons and daughters. The play was adapted to film in 1997 with Ron Rifkin and Sarah Jessica Parker.
A Jewish-American playwright, Baitz has admitted in interviews that there was something very specific about the threads of his heritage that still connect him to the events of the Holocaust, a theme he regularly unpacks with his writing.
“Growing up you always felt that you were one of the luckiest of the lucky,” he stated in an interview with The Jewish Chronicle Online. “To be an American Jew carried with it the responsibility to make yourself and the world a lot better.”
Intrepid Artistic Director Sean Yael-Cox will direct tonight’s reading which will take place at the Ranch at the Leichtag Foundation in Encinitas. The cast will feature Brian Mackey, Jack Missett, Jacquelyn Ritz and Rachael VanWormer. While admission is free, please email email@example.com for reservations.
for Holocaust Remembrance Day in partnership with the Leichtag Foundation
Monday, April 13, 2015, 6:30 pm
The Ranch at Leichtag Foundation, 441 Saxony Road, Encinitas, 92024.
Admission: Free. RSVP required: firstname.lastname@example.org
“I’ve got a whole zoo in here, a mad zoo of hungry animals…and the keeper is frightened!…Because one of those animals, the one called Hope, has broken loose and is looking for food. Don’t be fooled by its gentle name. It is as dangerous as Hate and Despair would be if they ever managed to break out.” — Mr. M
While Athol Fugard’s now historic play , My Children! My Africa! was written and set in 1980s apartheid South Africa, the story resonates so far beyond this original setting that it has enjoyed New York revivals as recently as 2012. That this resonance was one of the main reasons Fugard’s work was chosen to be represented in Intrepid’s Staged Reading Series on Monday evening is no coincidence.
“When asked to be on the committee for the readings, I became immediately excited about the opportunity to explore some stories and playwrights I had for a long time wanted to share with San Diego audience,” says Antonio “T.J.” Johnson, longtime actor and director in town and now a member of this year’s Intrepid Staged Reading Series Committee.
My Children! My Africa!, which will be read on Monday March 23 at the Encinitas Library, represents one of these stories and Athol Fugard one of these playwrights.
“I am a longtime Athol Fugard enthusiast,” says T.J. of the Tony Award-winning playwright, noting that he understudied the role of the teacher, Mr. M, at La Jolla Playhouse early in his career, working with Des McAnuff and Brock Peters. T.J. will be reprising that role on Monday, working with longtime collaborator Joe Powers.
“The opportunity to re-enter his world with Joe Powers directing is probably the favorite of my entries into this year’s reading series,” says T.J. “It is a timely, intelligent and relevant piece that speaks to our current social problem.”
My Children! My Africa! is set in 1984 apartheid South Africa and the story unfolds through three characters: Anela Myalata, or “Mr. M,” a speech and debate teacher, Thami, his star student (played by Marshall Anderson) and Isabel, a visiting white student who has come to engage in some verbal academic sparring (played by Chase McCarthy). Set against a backdrop of violence and racism, the classroom alliance forged by the three as they discuss literature, politics and personal beliefs becomes increasingly fragile as the outside world bears down on their newfound trust. What transpires is the stuff of Greek tragedy.
“On the surface, My Children! My Africa! is about a particular time, place and circumstance,” says director Joe Powers. “The bigger picture, of course, is its universality and timelessness . . . our ongoing battle as human beings against the ‘curse’ of racism is never ending and has not slowed one bit from the time this play was written to the present. That is what makes this play powerful in 2015 or anywhere in the world where daily we see examples of it over and over again.”
Written in 1989, the play has enjoyed numerous performances all over the world, as theater companies continually find Fugard’s words relevant and immediately accessible. Also intriguing are the parallels drawn between Mr. M and the more well known South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, Nelson Mandela (also a Mr. M), who passed away in 2013. The campaign for change that defined Mandela’s life is present in Fugard’s words, as is the battle between integrity and survival, and fighting for one’s convictions over accepting the status quo.
“The play deals with the ethical question of ‘right and wrong’ and what do we do when we know in our hearts of hearts what is right, but don’t always act accordingly,” says Joe. “Do we have the individual strength and power to hold to our belief, our convictions, even when consensus and the opinions of our peers say otherwise?“
These are not always easy questions to answer and the reflection of these convictions in the text is what makes Athol Fugard’s writing so appealing to audiences and so timelessly compelling. In every review of the play, the text is consistently the star of the show. In a 1991 review, Silvie Drake wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “His play dazzles with its words. Rarely has a play been so verbal and also so profoundly stirring.” For Joe, this is the crux of the play.
“The play is about the power of words to make a difference,” says Joe. “Words used with forethought and precise planning are truly the ultimate tool and weapon. These words backed up with actions and commitment can be invincible.”
And watching these words unfold on Monday evening through the talents of this stunning cast will be an event not to be missed.
“The audience can expect to be moved almost to tears by Fugard’s riveting story,” says Joe. “They can expect to be on the edge of their seat, anticipating each upcoming scene, hoping, white-knuckled, all will end well for the characters. They can look forward to walking away having felt something deep within their souls.”
My Children! My Africa! by Athol Fugard. Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive. Monday, March 23: 6:30 pm complimentary wine/appetizer reception. 7:00 pm reading. $15. Rsvp to email@example.com and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase tickets online.
The show-stopping Act One number in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is aptly named “Pandemonium,” as it viscerally sets the tone for this Tony Award-winning musical where we learn that life can be chaotic and nonsensical and that part of growing up is dealing with disappointments. While these things are not news to the contestants in Intrepid’s Season Five finale, which runs through March 15 at the Performing Arts Center in San Marcos, these spellers have something that the rest of us do not: a comfort counselor.
“I would say the sole purpose of a comfort counselor is to console those who have lost,” says Benjamin Roy, who plays Mitchell M. Mahoney, the Official Comfort Counselor whose job it is to serenade each wanna-”bee” winner after they misspell, dismissing them from competition. Comforting these adolescent spellers is no simple task. Each responds with different degrees of outrage, denial, confusion and joy.
“There are extremely different personalities meshed together in this one setting of competition,” says Ben, and it soon becomes pretty apparent in the show that a juice box alone won’t solve everyone’s problems. Mitchell M. Mahoney, a former convict doing community service as part of his parole, may or may not be the best candidate for the position.
“Mitch has an interesting job because, I feel, he doesn’t know the meaning of the word comfort,” says Ben. While Mitch’s commentary may seem truthfully abrasive (at one point he suggests beating up the contestants to teach them that there’s more to life than spelling), his outside observations balances the academic intensity that defines the rest of the characters.
This intensity is supported throughout the show by the hip and edgy score of Spelling Bee. As the stories unfold and we begin to understand each speller’s individual struggles, triumphs, insecurities and deepest dreams, we also appreciate the musical lines unique to their characters. Musical Director Dr. Terry O’Donnell says this is what fascinates him about this type of pop-inspired, contemporary musical theater.
“There’s a variety of tunes, so with each character there’s a different kind of energy,” says Terry. “It’s really very energized and every character is quite active throughout the production.”
Longtime collaborator with Spelling Bee Director Kathy Brombacher, Terry says that their mutual appreciation of the musical score and what it can add to a production is the key to a successful show.
“It’s always been a great collaboration with her and it is the same with this show,” says Terry. ”She always bring such excitement to her projects.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the cast is extraordinarily talented, learning their music and honing their understanding of how the score amplifies their individual stories within the first days of rehearsal.
“It’s been a quick study with everyone,” says Terry. “From the beginning, we were ahead of ourselves. Everyone is so competent musically and theatrically. It’s a pleasure to work with people like that.”
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” plays through March 15 at the San Marcos Performing Arts Center, 1615 West San Marcos Blvd. Click here for ticket information and audience advisory. “Spelling Bee” runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 pm and Sundays at 2 pm.
While Nobel laureate playwright Harold Pinter has always been quick to step away from exposing the deeper meanings of his own plays, his consistently compelling stories has never suffered from lack of interpretation. For director Annie Hinton, this innate – and often disgruntled – need to understand and find meaning in Pinter’s work is part of the appeal.
“One of the major tenets of Absurdism is that we cannot communicate,” explains Annie, who will be directing Harold Pinter’s Old Times on Monday evening, February 23, in the next installment of Intrepid’s yearlong Staged Reading Series at the Encinitas Library. “This follows with Pinter’s use of silences – in life, we can’t really say everything we need to say.”
Bringing this three-character story steeped in mystery to life will be a cast of resident Brits: Ron Choularton, Rosina Reynolds and Jillian Frost. According to Annie, capitalizing on the British sensibility already present in the cast is helpful in interpreting Pinter’s style.
“So many of the memories in the play are connected to things that the British know. I’m lucky to have all the Brits in San Diego involved,” Annie jokes.
The seemingly straightforward story revolves around a couple – Deeley and Kate – who receive a visit from a surprise guest, Anna, a woman who claims to have been close friends with Kate over 20 years ago. While the exact nature of the past is in question, it soon becomes clear that there is a competitive edge to the conversation with regards to memory.
“There is minimal dialogue for you to suss out what is going on,” explains Annie. “The scene becomes an interesting triangle of folks using the memories of the past to one up each other. It becomes a battle.”
But what is really going on? Theories are endless. Are Kate and Anna different facets of the same person? Are they past and present versions of each other? Are they all really in some sort of hellish afterlife from which there is no escape?
In true Pinter fashion, the answers do not lie in the words, but rather in the subtext – the underlying current beneath the dialogue and woven into the silences. Watch the characters watch each other and you will understand more than the words will ever communicate.
“The pauses and silences are like music,” says Annie, explaining that the air of mystery about the events of the story actually keeps the audience connected to the action. She likens the situation to seeing two people arguing in the street. You don’t have to know what they are fighting about to be interested.
“The audience gets to be a part of what is going on,” says Annie. “They are actively involved.”
Old Times by Harold Pinter. Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive. Monday, February 23: 6:30 pm complimentary wine/appetizer reception. 7:00 pm reading. $15. Rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase tickets online.
Intrepid Shakespeare Company has taken up temporary residence at the Performing Arts Center in San Marcos, located at 1615 W San Marcos Blvd (on the campus of San Marcos High School) and we are so excited to perform “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” in this brand new, state-of-the-art theater!
Since the area is new for many of our season subscribers and return patrons, here are some San Marcos restaurant suggestions to complete your theater experience!
Old California Restaurant Row is located on W. San Marcos Blvd within minutes of the theater and boasts a collection of over 20 shops and restaurants, including Thai, Indian, Asian and American cuisine. Plenty to choose from and right down the road!
Las Brisas Mexican Cuisine 577 South Rancho Santa Fe Drive: Authentic Mexican cuisine from the Michoacan region. 4 1/2 out of 5 stars on Yelp. A “family favorite” and “hidden gem.” Recommended entrees: cilantro chicken, chile verde, fajitas.
The Bellows 803 South Twin Oaks Valley Road: Upscale gastropub, farm-fresh entrees, cheese, wine, craft beer. 4 1/2 stars on Yelp. Highlights: appetizers, burgers, desserts (Nutella brownie…)
Slater’s 50/50 110 Knoll Road: One of the multi SoCal locations of this bacon/beef burger sensation that won Best Restaurant in San Diego in 2014. Build your own burger and enjoy a gigantic selection of beer on tap. 4 stars on Yelp. Fun and festive environment.
Phil’s Barbecue 579 Grand Ave: A popular San Diego favorite, voted one of San Diego’s top ten restaurants. 4 stars on Yelp. Highlights: pulled pork, macaroni salad, tri-tip sandwich. Featured on the TV show “Man Vs. Food.”
Panda Garden 748 Rancho Santa Fe Road: Small, family-owned Chinese food with friendly service and yummy food catty-corner from the theater. 4 stars on Yelp. Highlights: egg drop soup, spicy honey chicken, appetizer platter.
Baltimore Snowball 1903 W San Marcos Blvd (SW corner of W San Marcos and RSF): A unique ice cream parlor with a long east coast history. Shaved ice, ice cream, whipped cream…a perfect pre-evening show or post-matinee Spelling Bee delight!
This is just the tip of the iceberg. What are your favorite San Marcos eateries? See you at the show!
Wondering where can you find an insatiable bibliophile, an over-scheduled over-achiever and a pubescent political pundit battling it out for glory? Look no further than the female bench of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”
Sarah Errington , Rae K. Henderson and Amy Perkins break from rehearsals to chat about their characters, the cast, and this quirky Spelling Bee-themed musical which opens February 15 at the San Marcos Performing Arts Center.
“This is one of the most smartly written musicals I’ve ever seen,” says Amy, who will be playing Logainne SchwartzandGrubenniere, the youngest contestant at the Bee, who is also contending with two overprotective fathers, as evidenced in her song “Woe Is Me,” an anthem to the intensity of parental pressure.
“The characters in this show are so specific and outrageous and larger than life,” says Sarah, admitting that her character, Olive Ostrovsky, is a bit on the quieter side as the Spelling Bee newcomer whose heart wrenching “The I Love You Song” offers a dramatic depth to the pool of catchy and quirky melodies offered in this musical.
“Olive thinks and feels on the inside while most of the spellers wear their heart on their sleeve,” says Sarah. “It’s fun to play with that dynamic.”
Creating these characters is not a simple process, however, and there is consensus that the supportive environment created by the cast and director Kathy Brombacher helps with the exploration.
“You don’t feel like you have to hold back,” says Amy. “We’re in a safe space.”
While each actress is excited about putting her own unique stamp on these characters, what this cast is most excited about has nothing to do with learning lines and everything to do with the unknown element of audience participation.
Each night, audience members will be selected to participate as contestants in the Bee, which means they will have front row seats to the action, including their own spelling words. This nightly variable can be daunting for actors to deal with, as it guarantees there will be moments where almost anything can happen.
“I love this interactive and ‘different every night’ quality of the show, as well as how clever and and hilarious it is,” says Rae K. Henderson, who will portraying the multi-talented “I Speak Six Languages” Marcy Park. Marcy is known for her exceptional display of her skills during the show and Rae says that she may or may not be in the process of perfecting a baton twirl.
The actresses all agree that aside from the audience participation, the laughter is what holds the show together – both on and off of the stage.
“It’s a silly show and it’s supposed to be fun,” says Sarah. “We’re playing kids. To have that freedom to play these kids who aren’t judging themselves and who are just being…it’s fun. It’s really fun.”
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” opens February 15 at the San Marcos Performing Arts Center, 1615 West San Marcos Blvd. Click here for ticket information and audience advisory. “Spelling Bee” runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 pm and Sundays at 2 pm through March 15.
What candles may be held
to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys,
but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy
glimmers of good-byes.
— Wilfred Owen,
“Anthem for a Doomed Youth” (excerpt)
The Great War was a time in the world’s history unlike any other. For the next few years, as we acknowledge the centenary of these unparalleled battles, we feel the the global resonance of wartime, as well as how it can affect our lives in an extraordinarily personal way. Enter the poetry of Wilfred Owen.
Old Globe Associate Artist James Winker, in a special engagement for Intrepid on Monday evening January 19 at the Encinitas Library, offers a solo performance that illuminates the letters and poetry of the famous British World War One writer. James, who developed this piece for the Mark Taper Forum’s Literary Cabaret program while pursuing his acting career in Los Angeles, says that the writing of this English soldier is nothing short of astounding.
“For someone that young to have this gift of expression and this kind of passion and intelligence, it’s just extraordinary,” he says.
Wilfred Owen, deemed one of the 16 Great War poets at Westminster Cathedral in 1985, is now synonymous with the honest, raw and often shocking depictions of wartime that he wrote from the trenches of his service on the Western Front. While much of his writing is represented in letters home to his mother, it is his poetry that has captured the hearts of both wartime historians and the general public. James was eager to draw from both sources to bring this historical figure to life.
“The fact that he could write these letters home to his mother is incredible,” says James. “Sometimes they get so bitter and horrific. I don’t know if I would have shared them with my family.”
While Wilfred Owen had always considered himself a poet, it wasn’t until he met friend and mentor Siegfried Sassoon in 1917 while undergoing wartime treatment in Edinburgh for shell-shock that his writing really blossomed and developed to the point where it would have lasting significance. According to The Wilfred Owen Association, “Virtually all the poems for which he is now remembered were written in a creative burst between August 1917 and September 1918.”
“That was a turning point for him,” explains James. “Before meeting Siegfried, he never had any acknowledgement or encouragement for his poetry.”
After a year away from the war for medical leave, Wilfred Owen returned to the Western Front. It was there that he was killed in November of 1918 at the age of 25.
While only four of his poems were published in his lifetime, after his death it was discovered that he left a legacy of over 60 verses that speak to the chaos and the travesties of wartime, leaving significant impressions on post-war posterity.
“His writing is still resonant today,” says James. “It has to be. They had never seen a war like this – ever in people’s memory.”
After debuting the piece in Los Angeles to rave reviews, James was soon invited to perform at several local campuses including UCLA (at the Dickson Art Center), Cal Arts, Cal State Long Beach, Pomona College and the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee. The piece was also produced at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco as a part of the Plays in Progress series. He is looking forward to giving Wilfred Owen another life on Monday evening.
“It’s important that his poems are read aloud,” says James. “They are meant to be read aloud.”
Anthem for a Doomed Youth: The Poems and Letters of Wilfred Owen, compiled and performed by James R. Winker. Original production directed by Elizabeth Huddle. Dramaturgy and editing by Diana Maddox. Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive. Monday, January 19: 6:30 pm complimentary wine/appetizer reception. 7:00 pm reading. $15. Rsvp to email@example.com and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase tickets online.
Late last year, with thoughts of inspiration in mind, Intrepid invited four theatrically-inspiring local artists to be members of the 2015 Staged Reading Series Committee. As with the committees who came before them, their task was to choose the lineup for the new year’s monthly series at the Encinitas Library, which kicks off on January 19.
“The Staged Reading Series is a chance for Intrepid to explore new voices, while at the same time circling back to classic plays and groundbreaking writing that should be revisited,” says Intrepid Producing Artistic Director Christy Yael-Cox. “This year’s committee members have chosen a season that will both inspire and challenge our audiences and we are very excited about that.”
Last fall, Intrepid invited four dynamic forces from San Diego’s theatre world to be a part of the committee, some of whom have graced the Intrepid stage: Annie Hinton, Antonio “T.J.” Johnson, Phil Johnson and Brian Rickel. At the first meeting, each member was asked to suggest plays they felt would be important selections for the yearlong series. From there, they began the arduous process of hashing out the season. The result is a list that is both eclectic and dynamic, as well as incredibly diverse.
“The process that Intrepid uses is unique with the involvement of different theatre artists from diverse viewpoints,” says T.J., whose selections include the playwrights Athol Fugard, John Patrick Shanley and Lynn Nottage. “I am excited about having the opportunity and support to be on the producing team of three exciting adventures in storytelling from the stage.”
“Since the committee is from such diverse worlds, we tried to be mindful of the range of the work in our programming of the season,” says Annie, who is most looking forward to a new play by A. Rey Pamatmat that she contributed to the docket. “Hopefully it will appeal to a variety of people and challenge audience members by bringing up issues new and old to make them think.”
“This variety and diversity is a huge component of the existence of the reading series,” says Christy, emphasizing that Intrepid’s current evolution goals include highlighting underrepresented voices.
Another goal includes cultivating the art of storytelling and solo performance. Phil’s lineup includes the one-woman show “Full Gallop” about the life of Diana Vreeland, which will feature Shana Wride, a current Craig Noel nominee for her work in Intrepid’s recent summer production of “Much Ado About Nothing.”
“This is one of the best one person shows I have ever seen,” says Phil, “and certainly the most entertaining. It’s a wonderful trip with an amazing mind of one of the most talented and stylish people of the mid century.”
To date, Intrepid’s Staged Reading Series has employed over 350 actors and directors and welcomed over 2500 audience members. Not only is it now a mainstay in the Encinitas community, the number of series subscriptions increase each year as patrons welcome the opportunity to engage in ongoing dialogue with their local artists.
Each evening begins with a sumptuous wine and appetizer reception that is included with admission, giving patrons a chance to mix and mingle before the reading begins. When the reading concludes, actors and directors also have the opportunity to visit with audience members, engaging in conversations prompted by the plays. These interactions keep subscribers returning to the reading series play after play, year after year.
To Brian, this audience engagement is a crucial part of the reading series.
“Practitioners and audiences love to be a part of the process of creation and this series allows for that,” says Brian, whose reading series choices include the LAByrinth Theatre-originated “Our Lady of 121st Street” by Stephen Adly Guirgis, which was originally directed to an Off-Broadway run in 2003 by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.
“I hope audiences get a sense, from this season, of where Intrepid is headed and how hard they work to affect their community,” he continues. “It’s gonna be a doozy!”
2015 Staged Reading Series
January 19: Luv by Murray Schisgal
February 23: Old Times by Harold Pinter
March 23: My Children, My Africa by Athol Fugard
April 27: Sueno by Jose Rivera
May 18: Savage in Limbo by John Patrick Shanley
June 22: After All the Terrible Things I Do by A. Rey Pamatmat
July 27: Full Gallop by Mark Hampton and Mary Louise Wilson
August 24: Our Lady of 121st Street by Stephen Adly Guirgis
September 28: Hedda Gabbler by Henrik Ibsen
October 26: Mud River Stone by Lynn Nottage
November 23: The Play About the Baby by Edward Albee
For tickets and information, click here. Subscription packages are also available: 3 plays for $36, 6 plays for $72, 9 plays for $108, full series for $144. Readings will be held every third Monday at the Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive. 6:30 pm complimentary wine/appetizer reception. 7:00 pm reading. Please rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase tickets in advance.
“My first concern was, ‘Will people really buy me as an elf?’”
Daren Scott recounts the moment when he was first approached to do The Santaland Diaries, a play adapted from a 1992 essay by satirical writer David Sedaris that illuminates the darker side of Christmas through the eyes of a truth-telling writer turned seasonal Macy’s Christmas elf.
“David Sedaris a small guy and I’m a tall man,” says Daren with a laugh.
While Daren’s statuesque qualities might limit his traditional Christmas elven opportunities, his ability to spin a searingly wry story about high pressure holidays landed him the role of Sedaris’ Crumpet the Elf at New Village Arts in 2009, where he was directed to critical acclaim by Kristianne Kurner for three consecutive seasons.
“I knew David Sedaris, but I wasn’t familiar with this piece,” remembers Daren. “I became more familiar with his style as I started to look further into his writing. I’m not playing him but I’m definitely playing his sarcasm and his way of looking at the world.That element of the character is important.”
San Diego agrees. When Daren first performed The Santaland Diaries at NVA, James Hebert of the U-T called Daren “an ebullient performer with a huge expressive vocabulary.”
“His wide eyes suggest a sense of innocence,” said Herbert, “but there’s an underlying tartness to his voice, a note of sugarcoated sarcasm heightened by his bemused bearing.”
“Daren is one of the funniest people I know,” says Kristianne, Artistic Director of New Village Arts who will be directing Saturday’s reading, “and he also has a rather acerbic wit, which is called for in David Sedaris’ work.” Coincidentally, Kristianne and Daren had first bonded over their experiences working in retail years ago, including a stint Kristianne did as a Macy’s Christmas elf during her grad school days in New York City.
“I could only take it for one season,” she admits, understanding the honesty of Sedaris’ perspective on the holiday rush. It is this unrelenting honesty that makes The Santaland Diaries a fitting piece for the holidays, says Daren, but it is also what makes the piece so refreshing to perform.
“It’s about all of the holiday stuff that we don’t want to talk about,” he explains. “It’s every line that we’ve waited in with too many people and the stores that are jammed and the picture of your kid that doesn’t turn out. But it’s funny because we all go through it. We laugh because we can all relate to the pressure we feel to be smiley and happy for the holidays.”
But aside from the humor, Daren feels the message is also important.
“We are all striving for such perfection, but the truth is that it is okay if the holiday picture doesn’t come out right,” he says. “If we can laugh at ourselves, that’s the key to getting through the expectations of the holidays and just enjoying the time.”
The Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris, performed by Daren Scott, directed by Kristianne Kurner. Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive. Saturday, December 13. 5:30 pm complimentary wine/appetizer reception. 6:00 pm reading. $15. Rsvp to email@example.com and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase a ticket here.
Brian Rickel first discovered David Budbill’s Judevine, will be presented as a solo performance on Monday evening as part of Intrepid’s Staged Reading Series, while acting with the Summer Repertory Theatre in Santa Rosa, CA in 1995.
“It was just one of those things: that particular play with that particular cast,” remembers Brian, who was most recently seen on the Intrepid stage as Frank Lubey in All My Sons and Malcolm in Macbeth. “Everyone fell in love with it. It was this beautiful stirring story – we were all young and in our early 20s and all of a sudden we were deeply and madly in love with each other through that play.”
The story itself is infused with heart and love. Set in a small rural town, the original play contains 24 characters who are facing life and all that it brings forth – financial hardship, love, loss, family relationships and secrets of the past. David Budbill, the original playwright, based his play – which is formatted in a series of monologues – upon a collection of poetry and short stories he had written earlier in his career, which also incarnated into a novel. There is obviously a deep connection to this town and these characters that is expressed through Budbill’s writing.
Fast forward 13 years after his summer rep gig and Brian found himself in grad school at CSU Fullerton seeking a thesis project.
“I had always thought about doing something else with Judevine,” says Brian. “It was just one of those plays that stuck with me. I got this wild idea in my brain to adapt it as a solo piece.”
At that point, Brian reached out to the playwright to ask for permission to bring his wild idea to life and write an adaptation of Judevine – one where a single actor would perform all of the characters in the piece.
Luckily, the playwright recognized Brian’s deep connection to the work.
“David said ‘go for it,’” recalls Brian. “But he specifically said, ‘Don’t forget the women.’”
With the playwright’s blessing, Brian retreated to his father’s cabin in a remote town called Happy Camp in Northern California, and began to shape what would become a solo performance piece that he would carry with him for many years beyond graduate school. He recalls that time in his life as one of healing.
“I sat on a river for most of the summer and just started trimming the script and creating characters,” he says. “I think of that place as my own Judevine.”
When he finished the script, he teamed up with one of his grad school colleagues, Kari Hayter, who directed the piece and helped Brian refine his vision and create a concept.
Brian had whittled the story down to 14 characters and was now charged with the task of bringing them each to life in uniquely physical and emotional ways, each one recognizably different from the next. While the detailed creation of each role is filled with enormous specificity, Brian admits that much of his character work is based upon his own origin story with the play and the nostalgia of the Santa Rosa Summer Rep experience that has never truly left him.
“The director of the original production, Jonathan Kretzu, really had us examine what makes us tick as human beings and makes us fallible as human beings,” says Brian. “His take was that everyone is inherently good in our hearts and souls and it’s the events in our lives that make it tragic. This production is in many ways a tribute to that cast.”
While Brian’s most recent solo performance of Judevine was produced at the San Diego International Fringe Festival in July, it is fitting that it has also found a place in the Intrepid Staged Reading Series.
“Intrepid is one of my theatrical homes in San Diego,” says Brian. “We have a great working relationship around things we are passionate about.” And when it comes to Judevine, the passion is more than palpable.
Judevine: A Solo Performance, adapted and performed by Brian Rickel, story by David Budbill. Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive. Monday, November 24. 6:30 pm complimentary wine/appetizer reception. 7:00 pm reading. $15. Rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase a reading series subscription.