Intrepid Theatre Company opened its first production of Season Six, “The Quality of Life,” on July 5 to a standing ovation and immediate rave reviews by audiences and critics alike. While the production – featuring the unforgettable Maggie Carney, DeAnna Driscoll, Jeffrey Jones and Tom Stephenson – was praised for its “tour-de-force ensemble” (Bill Eadie) who ‘hold nothing back” (Jeff Smith), director Christy Yael-Cox is equally pleased by what is happening on State Street outside the theatre after the show: immediate conversation.
“This play deals with hard-hitting and contemporary issues in such a beautiful and graceful way,” says Christy. “It’s our goal to present all sides and perspectives without engaging one more than the other. We learn from experiencing each others’ reactions to the play as much as we learn from experiencing the characters’ viewpoints.”
In order to encourage this conversation even further, Intrepid is organizing a series of formal post-show talkbacks with experts in the fields touched upon in the play, most prominently the issue of end of life care and options. The first one will take place Thursday, July 9.
The roster of panelists include Certified Geriatric Nurse Case Manager Dori Salois Salerno, R.N., a hospice team from The San Diego County Coalition for Improving End of Life Care, representatives from the San Diego County Medical Society Bioethics Commission, Hospice of North Coast, Father Doran from St. Michael’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church and a Buddhist teacher from the Dharma Bums Temple in downtown San Diego. See below for the complete talkback schedule.
“We are hoping that a diverse range of perspectives on this issue can help us see even further into the mindset of each of the characters in the play and engage their viewpoints on a level that is relevant to us in our everyday lives,” says Christy.
“From a relaxed, picnic-like beginning, The Quality of Life builds to an inexorable shedding of stereotypes…” Jeff Smith wrote this week in the San Diego Reader, and judging from the flock of patrons who lingered on the sidewalk to discuss the show after opening night, he was not the only one taken by the surprises this play has to offer. We hope you will join us for what we hope will be enlightening and educational post-show conversations.
“The Quality of Life” Post-Show Talkback Schedule
Thursday, July 9:
Dori Salois Salerno, R.N. – Certified Geriatric Nurse Case Manager with Innovative Health Care Consultants
Friday, July 10:
San Diego County Coalition for Improving End of Life Care featuring Dr. Margaret Elizondo (Sharp Hospice Physician), Barbara Bailey (Hospice Nurse Educator), Lydia Lombardi (Vitas Hospice social worker manager) and Chaplain Caroline Flanders
Saturday, July 11th:
San Diego County Medical Society Bioethics Commission featuring Paula Goodman-Crews, LCSW, Arnie Gass, M.D., Zoe Blaylock, M.Div. and Loren Lopata, M. Div.
Sunday, July 12:
Hospice of the North Coast, featuring Colleen O’Hara (Attorney / Professional Fiduciary), Rev. Doran Stambaugh, SSC (Clergy), Charles Hergesheimer, MD (Hospice Medical Director), Jim Reiser (Bereavement Coordinator), Sharon Lutz (RN, BSN, CHPN)
Thursday, July 16:
Rev. Doran Stambaugh, SSC, St. Michael’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church
Thursday, July 23:
San Diego County Coalition for Improving End of Life Care featuring Faye Girsh, president of the Hemlock Society of San Diego, Teressa Vaughn, MPT, MHA, Sharp Healthcare and Liz Sumner, RN, BSN, MA, Elizabeth Hospice
Friday, July 24:
Jeff Zlotnik, Co-Founder of The Dharma Bum Temple and Buddhist meditation teacher
“The Quality of Life” by Jane Anderson, through August 2 at the Carlsbad Village Theatre, 2822 State Street. Tickets available here. Talkbacks will begin a few minutes after the performance. All audience members welcome.
Playwright Jane Anderson has lived many lives with her award-winning work, “The Quality of Life,” Intrepid Theatre Company’s Season Six opener which runs July 3 – Aug 2 at the Carlsbad Village Theatre. In addition to directing the play at the American Conservatory Theatre and the Geffen, she also helped mount a production at Arena Stage in Washington, DC, where she continued to “tear the second act apart and put it back together,” as she told Dramaturg Janine Sobeck. Why so much drama with this drama?
Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that Anderson’s writing digs deep into issues that most playwrights wouldn’t touch, while striking the perfect balance between the humanity and humor of it all. This is not an easy task to undertake, especially while navigating the specific tightropes that connect the characters in this play.
“The Quality of Life” was written in 2007 and inspired by Anderson’s friends who were dealing with a potentially terminal illness in their relationship. Also influential in the telling of this story is the 1995 Mount Vision Fire in Northern California that burned over 12,000 acres. Intertwined in this narrative are these themes of loss and grief, but also of the necessity of survival.
The story follows Ohio couple Dinah and Bill who travel to Northern California to visit Dinah’s cousin, Jeannette, and her husband, Neil. Dinah and Bill are still grieving the tragic loss of their daughter and hope to provide comfort to Jeannette and Neil who have recently lost their home to fire. Additionally, Neil has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. No sooner do Dinah and Bill land on the doorstep of the yurt that Neil and Jeannette have constructed on the property of their burnt out home, that they all begin to realize how vastly different their perspectives are on a variety of issues, including religion, the afterlife and medical marijuana.
“In times of darkness, as humans, we tend to gravitate towards hope and towards humor,” says Christy Yael-Cox, Producing Artistic Director of Intrepid and director of this production. “Watching the characters manage those extremes are what makes this play so captivating, as well as completely relatable.”
Bringing these characters to life is a master class cast of actors: Tom Stephenson and Maggie Carney will portray Bill and Dinah and DeAnna Driscoll and Jeffrey Jones will portray Jeannette and Neil.
While the emotional landscape of the writing is captivating enough for audiences, also interesting is that the range of topical issues addressed in the story are still as relevant today as they were when the play was written eight years ago:
End of Life Options. In dealing with his terminal cancer, Neil shares that he plans to end his own life before the cancer becomes too painful. This is understandably uncomfortable for Bill and Dinah to grasp, and audiences might be familiar with the recent events around Brittany Maynard, a brain cancer victim and Californian who moved to Oregon in order to take the same action. Before her death, Brittany worked to bring legal change to our state, so that patients with aggressive cancers may choose to end their lives with dignity. SB 128, the End of Life Option Act, has recently been passed in the California Senate.
Medical Marijuana. With the recent legalization of marijuana in certain states, and the prevalence of medical marijuana facilities in California and San Diego, this topic can be highly charged, especially when addressing issues of cancer treatments. Bill and Neil have very different perspectives on this issue that are discussed during the course of the play.
Grief. There is no textbook to coping with loss. The post-traumatic stress of losing a child or a spouse and grappling with how to continue after such darkness can be both difficult to navigate as well as overcome. Bill and Dinah want to connect as much as they want to stay isolated. Jeannette fears the future without Neil. Is it possible for these characters to see each other through the darkest of moments and into the light?
Intrepid plans to invite speakers on both sides of many of these issues for talkbacks after select performances of “The Quality of Life.” More information will be available on the website.
“The Quality of Life” by Jane Anderson opens July 5 at the Carlsbad Village Theatre, 2822 State Street. Tickets available here.
While visiting her daughter at Marquette University last fall, Annie to her to the Milwaukee Rep to see “after all the terrible things I do,” the world premiere of a new play by A. Rey Pamatmat.
“Knowing nothing about the play or the playwright, I was a wee bit nervous because our time together was short,” says Annie, an Intrepid Staged Reading Series Committee Member and director of Monday evening’s performance. “Neither of us were quite prepared for the emotional punch it delivered.”
A graduate of the Yale School of Drama and the recipient of multiple fellowships and playwriting residencies, Pamatmat’s plays have been described as “riotously funny” but also “tear-jerking,” and, specifically for this play, “masterfully realistic,” “searing,” “incredible, indescribable, infuriating, inflammatory, and intense.”
Annie, who admits that new works “excite her the most” and whose career has often revolved around the direction and development of new work – from growing up in the bowels of Wyoming to her early theatre life in grad school in Seattle – states that Pamatmat is absolutely “a playwright to be watched.”
“I have not been this moved/horrified/weepy in the theatre in a long time,” Annie says. “It was a room full of resounding nose snorting and a sea of white kleenexes for the last 15 minutes.”
“after all the terrible things I do” follows the story of Linda, a bookstore owner (played by Savvy Scopelleti), and David, a new employee (played by Joshua Jones), who come together in what could be considered everyday circumstances. However, as the two begin to open up about their lives and become more honest about their past, the situation becomes anything but ordinary. Or does it?
Pamatmat has spoken extensively on his inspiration for the story. “Part of writing this play was identifying how a heightened behavior like bullying and harassment is actually rooted in everyday actions and circumstances,” he told Molly Fitzmaurice of the Huntington Theatre Company, which closes a full run of the play on June 21. “I was reading all the articles that led up to the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign, and what surprised me was that there was never any real analysis of what in our society actually encourages bullying.”
It becomes clear as Linda and David work through the themes of the play, that they also have difficulty separating the norms of everyday behavior from their personal experiences of bullying and harassment.
“We have prioritized being the best, most competitive and happiest over being the humblest, most generous, and most understanding,” Pamatmat continued. “We’ve done it to the degree that division, acrimony and even violence have become the standard in our politics, our jobs and our schoolyards.”
That the theatre can create a space to talk about what is happening in our society and to cultivate conversation around what is hurting us is a powerful tool. That this issue will hit close to home for many people is a ruthless commentary on where we are as a community and how far we still need to go.
“At least once a week we hear of a tragic suicide over bullying or someone will fess up in the press to bullying a kid while in school,” says Annie. “We all have some kind of demons, things we wouldn’t want anyone to know, things that perhaps we cannot believe we actually did. At its core it is about bullying, but it speaks to me in asking the question….are you forever defined by your past? Can you get past that past, and the inner demons and self loathing to find forgiveness?
“And the greater question,” Annie continues, “should you even ask for forgiveness, because, in the end, will it really make you whole again?”
The answers, as the audience will see on Monday evening, might be shockingly surprising.
after all the terrible things I do by A. Rey Pamatmat, a staged reading. Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive. Monday, June 22: 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.
Antonio “T.J.” Johnson reflects on his choice to include Savage in Limbo, John Patrick Shanley’s homage to the dark nights of the soul that can only be found in the wee hours of a Bronx bar, in this year’s Staged Reading Series lineup. The play will be read on Monday evening at the Encinitas Library.
“I was cast as Murk in a New York reading of this play and I was very impressed by the diversity of the cast and how the story was not affected by that diversity,” says T.J., who will direct the reading with a smart and savvy cast, including Sherri Allen, Bryan Barbarin, Carol Cabrera, Jeffrey Jones and Jennifer Eve Thorn.
This universality is one of the things that drives this playwright’s work. Well known for his recent Pulitzer Prize-winning work, Doubt, even in this early play, Shanley drives home themes and situations that resonate regardless of race, background or geographical location. Everyone can relate to the fight to prove the truth of one’s own instincts against a sea of opposition. Everyone can relate to the realization that one’s life direction might be unclear, or in limbo.
“There are no heroes. There are only human dealings,” says T.J., explaining that while Shanley introduces these themes, he very rarely becomes didactic in his writing. “He leaves the conclusion to the journey of the individual in the audience. I think the debates go on into the night.”
Although Savage in Limbo was written 30 years ago, the play’s urgent message to “break the sameness” is still just as relevant, and watching the story of these 30-somethings unfold as they attempt to solve their life problems over booze and banter is a testament to the theatrical power of the bar setting to elicit truth-telling.
“I am intrigued by plays set in bars,” admits T.J. “A lot of truths are spoken there, such as in O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh. Turning points are reached as the truth serum flows. Lies are exposed and feelings may be hurt, but always with the right intentions. We get to witness it and live in New York for a short time with these characters.”
Part of what makes this invitation to the party so realistic is the powerful accuracy of Shanley’s dialogue. D.C. Theatre Scene reviewer Steven McKnight commented that “few people can write successfully for realistic characters in such a lyrical manner. Shanley can be fiercely funny or brutally honest while still maintaining compassion for the lovable losers that populate many of his works.”
This realism, while effective, can also present a challenge to the actors as they work to capture the various tempos, rhythms and speech patterns of their characters.
“As this is one of his early plays, Shanley has fun with snide New York dialogue delivered in rapid pace,” says T.J. “We have to trust that dialogue and find the rhythms.”
Join us Monday evening, and enjoy a glass of wine as you find your own reserved seat at the bar. The company is guaranteed to entertain.
Savage in Limbo by John Patrick Shanley, a staged reading. Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive. Monday, May 18: 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.
Director Stephen Schmitz gives a nutshell synopsis of José Rivera’s Sueño when asked what audiences can expect from Monday evening’s installment of the Intrepid Staged Reading Series at the Encinitas Library. Rivera’s play, adapted from Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s 1635 play, Life is a Dream, takes the words of Spain’s answer to William Shakespeare and breathes contemporary life into the hundred-year-old narrative.
“Rivera’s ability turn a phrase, moving from the profound to the crass at a moments notice, and to find poetry in the mundane, is just wonderful,” says Stephen. “The first thing I told my cast was I wanted to language to shine above all else in this reading.”
The story follows the journey of the hero, Prince Segismundo, who is imprisoned at a young age when astrologers predict that he will be the ruin of his father’s kingdom. From inside his captivity, he consorts with a colorful cast of characters until his father, unable to find another heir, releases him for one day to determine whether or not his son is fit for the monarchy. Moving from isolation to court and back, Segismundo begins to question what part of life is real and what part is all just a dream. As Segismundo questions, we all begin to wonder the same thing.
“I don’t think there is a more essential question about life and the human condition we can imagine than ‘What is this? What are we experiencing? What are we supposed to do with this life? How much control do we have?’” says Stephen. “Our lives and philosophies have become so complex, perhaps the playwright is reminding audiences to simplify their lives. Return to the basics, if you will: Be just, be kind, and stop trying to control everything.”
José Rivera, a Fulbright scholar, two-time Obie Award winner and Oscar Nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Motorcycle Diaries, manages to combine these themes of Calderón’s original work while keeping the language relevant and accessible. That is what originally drew Intrepid Staged Reading Series Committee Member Brian Rickel to the play.
“I’ve worked on a lot of his plays either in class or as a teacher,” says Brian. “I am really drawn to some of the social arguments he forces people to examine. Sueño is probably the one that I’ve spent the least amount of time with but touched me the most when I saw it performed and I wanted to share that experience.”
Bringing these irreverently philosophical characters to life on Monday night will be Joel Castellaw, James Cota, Jerry Hagar, Shane Monaghan, Charles Peters, Erin Petersen, Derek San Filippo and Kristin Woodburn Wright.
Not up on your Calderón? Not to worry, says Stephen.
“The original allegory should shine through so much, it will give the audience a deeper understanding of their current condition.”
Even if it is “spiced,” as American Theatre says of Sueño, “with science, sarcasm and sweetness.”
Sueño by José Rivera, a staged reading. Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive. Monday, April 27: 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.
“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!