Tag Archives: 2015 Staged Reading Series

Confessions of a Holiday Elf: Daren Scott on “Santaland Diaries”

2015 Santaland Banner

“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.

The play will be performed by Daren on Sunday evening as the finale to Intrepid’s 2015 Staged Reading Series, complete with an appetizer reception and holiday cocktails. Doors open at 5:30 pm (note earlier start time).

Daren Scott as Crumpet the Elf

Daren Scott as Crumpet the Elf

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, NVA’s executive artistic director, 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 San Diego Union-Tribune 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.”

But it is the unrelenting honesty of the writing that makes The Santaland Diaries a fitting piece for the holidays, according to Daren, and 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. Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Drive. Sunday, December 13. 5:30 pm complimentary wine/appetizer reception. 6:00 pm reading. $15. Rsvp to boxoffice@intrepidtheatre.org and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase a ticket here.

Encinitas Library

“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 boxoffice@intrepidtheatre.org and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase tickets online.
Encinitas Library 

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 boxoffice@intrepidtheatre.org and pay with cash/check at the door or buy tickets online.

“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 boxoffice@intrepidtheatre.org and pay with cash/check at the door or buy tickets online.Encinitas Library

 

 

 

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.”

LindaLibby

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 boxoffice@intrepidtheatre.org 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 Playbill.com. 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 boxoffice@intrepidtheatre.org and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase tickets online.

Encinitas Library

Talking “Terrible Things”: A Conversation with Annie Hinton

after all the terrible things I doAnnie Hinton likes to take chances. At least, when it comes to theatre.

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 Hinton directs "after all the terrible things I do" for the Staged Reading Series

Annie Hinton directs “after all the terrible things I do” for the Staged Reading Series

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?

A. Rey Pamatmat

A. Rey Pamatmat   (photo by Ben Arons)

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 boxoffice@intrepidtheatre.org and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase tickets online.

Encinitas Library

Last Call: A Conversation with “Savage in Limbo” Director T.J. Johnson

Savage in Limbo Widget2“One of my goals is to seek out plays that have that universality of the human condition.”

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.

Antonio "T.J." Johnson

Antonio “T.J.” Johnson

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 boxoffice@intrepidtheatre.org and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase tickets online.

Encinitas Library

Life is a Sueño: A Conversation with Staged Reading Director Stephen Schmitz

Sueno Widget“Poetry, language and a little irreverence…”

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.”

Stephen Schmitz, Sueño director

Stephen Schmitz, Sueño director

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.

Brian Rickel, Staged Reading Series Committee

Brian Rickel, Staged Reading Series Committee

“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 boxoffice@intrepidtheatre.org and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase tickets online.

Encinitas Library

Powers and Politics: T.J. Johnson and Director Joe Powers Discuss “My Children! My Africa!”

My Children My Africa Widget“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.

Staged Reading Series Committee Member T.J. Johnson to play Mr. M

Staged Reading Series Committee Member T.J. Johnson to play Mr. M

“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.

Joe Powers directs the reading of My Children! My Africa!

Joe Powers to direct My Children! My Africa!

“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.”

marshall

Marshall Anderson to play Thami

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?“

Chase McCarthy to play Isabel

Chase McCarthy to play Isabel

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 boxoffice@intrepidshakespeare.com and pay with cash/check at the door or purchase tickets online.

Encinitas Library