Backstage Blog



1. It is quintessential Noël Coward. Known for his wit and flamboyance, Hay Fever is everything one expects when they go to see a Noël Coward piece, plus the extra charm only Cygnet can provide.

Noël Coward

Noël Coward









2. It is a master class in acting technique. In his introduction to the book Play Parade, Coward wrote, “…Hay Fever is far and away one of the most difficult plays to perform I have ever encountered. To begin with, it has no plot at all, and remarkably little action. Its general effectiveness therefore depends upon expert technique from each and every member of the cast.” Call us biased, but we think our cast makes a darn good team, and they definitely pulled it off.

The Cast of Hay Fever

The Cast of Hay Fever







3. Clara. Never before have you seen a housemaid quite like Clara. We won’t say much more at the risk of giving anything away, but let’s just say she’s no Jeeves.


Clara, played by Rhona Gold







4. There is never a dull moment. With the constant entrances and exits, the sharp wit, jabbing humor and stealthy insults flying everywhere, there’s plenty to keep your wandering mind engaged.

Hay Fever

Hay Fever







5. The costumes are to die for. In a show where each character is constantly trying to one-up everyone else in the room, the costume designer typically has their work cut out for them. But we’re proud to say our fabulous costume designer, Jacinda Johnston-Fischer, nailed it.

Sorel Bliss, played by Rachael VanWormer

Sorel Bliss, played by Rachael VanWormer








1. It is the play that truly launched Noël Coward into superstardom. This was the play that made his name and firmly established him as both a dramatist and an actor, and he’d been at pains to ensure the play included “a whacking good part” for himself.

Coward in The Vortex (1925)

Coward in The Vortex (1925)







2. Despite being the piece to launch Coward to celebrity status, The Vortex is rarely performed. Due to his reputation and flare for comedies, the rest of his extensive repertoire is seldom produced and you’ll be hard pressed to come by another production of this dark drama anytime soon.


The Vortex








3. The Vortex might be a period piece, but it still has the capacity to shock, due in no small part to Coward’s gift for dramatic construction. It also solidified his reputation as an author daring enough to touch on hitherto taboo subjects such as drugs and an inter-generational love affair involving an older woman and a younger man.

Florence Lancaster and her younger lover, Tom Veryan

Florence Lancaster and her younger lover, Tom Veryan







4. Our production fittingly transplants the action of The Vortex to the sixties, an era with at least as much murkiness lurking beneath its frivolity as the twenties. So in true Cygnet fashion, you’ll get to see a classic piece with a refreshingly unique interpretation.



The Vortex







5. Did we mention the costumes? It may be a different time period, but this show will still have you drooling over the outfits you see on stage.


Pawnie, played by James Saba

Sean Murray on Noël Coward

In the last of our three part interview series, we talked Noël Coward with Artistic Director Sean Murray, who will be directing The Vortex in rep with Hay Fever (directed by Rob Lutfy). Here’s what Sean had to say….

What drew you to Coward and these two very different shows in particular?

Sean Murray

Sean Murray

I’ve been enamored with Noel Coward and his work since I was introduced to his writing while I was in high school. First I was attracted to his wit, glamor and talent. His music was fun and clever. With time I began to discover that there is a deeper level in his work than readily apparent on the surface. He was consistently making revolutionary waves couched in his trademark style and glib barbs. Underneath the wit were biting commentaries on society and culture. He was a young playwright responding to a world that had recently come out of the other end of World War I. The War had shattered all sense of status quo and it was impossible for the young people who fought and survived that war to return to the social system from before the mayhem. For the youth of the 1920s, very little that had come before made any sense. Their disaffected and disillusioned view of life began to manifest itself into a decade of breaking norms and indulging in such scandalous things such as jazz, alcohol, drugs, and new fashions.

For a new nihilistic post-war world, Coward created plays that told these stories in ways that the middle and upper classes could enjoy them for their wit, but also allow themselves to be scandalized by their flagrant lack of morality. His plays dealt with characters who were divorced, inside society but critical of society; they did drugs, they had torrid affairs, terrible manners (in a country that rely on manners to keep things civil.) He was portraying a lost generation in search of meaning. His songs Play Orchestra Play, Poor Little Rich Girl, World Weary, etc, were songs that depicted a disillusioned generation dancing frantically to keep ahead of the haunting notion that nothing matters.

Coward had written several plays when a producer came to him to propose his West End debut and asked him which one should be his introduction to the West End audience. Both The Vortex and Hay Fever were in his list. He chose The Vortex because as he put it, “there was a ripping good role in it for [himself]” So The Vortex opened with Coward playing the central role of Nicky. He became an over night sensation and continued to be so for his entire career.

Coward in The Vortex (1925)

Coward in The Vortex (1925)

Hay Fever opened shortly thereafter, both plays running for a time concurrently on the West End. Both plays deal with a family who are outside of the accepted norms of society, for differing reasons. One is a comedy of manners, light, funny and a little naughty. The other is one of Coward’s only serious dramas. As he’s not particularly known for his serious side, The Vortex is seldom produced. By pairing it up with it’s doppleganger, Hay Fever, we can explore to very different sides of Noel Coward: his popular persona full of wit and clever barbs, and the other his less known but revolutionary and scathingly serious persona.

Hay Fever (1925)

Hay Fever (1925)

Why is he an important playwright and/or how is he a distinctly “Cygnet” choice?

It’s good to present Coward with fresh contemporary eyes. Allow his social critic voice to be heard. We like to do familiar work and bring it a fresh perspective.

Rosina Rep

Rosina Reynolds in The Vortex and Hay Fever

How do you feel these two plays work together? How is presenting in rep exciting? Challenging? 

There are some similar themes between these two plays. they are opposites in terms of their energy and the style of their story telling. The Vortex being a serious drama, a story about an alienated mother and her son facing hard truths about their relationship together, and Hay Fever, a light comedy of manners about an ill mannered and self absorbed family “entertaining” guests in their own indifferent and rude way.

What do you want audiences to experience from seeing both?
To be entertained, and to gain an appreciation for Coward, the playwright.

Catch The Vortex, directed by Sean Murray, in rep with Hay Fever, Sept. 23 – Nov. 8th at Cygnet Theatre.  Buy tickets now. 

Want more? Read Rosina Reynolds on Noel Coward.

Rob Lutfy on Noël Coward

In Part 2 of our three part interview series, we talked Noël Coward with Rob Lutfy, who will be directing Hay Fever in rep with The Vortex (directed by Sean Murray). Here’s what Rob had to say….

What drew you to Coward and these two very different shows in particular?

CYGNET 2014 (43)

Rob Lutfy

Coward was born to a middle class family and began a very successful acting career very young. He found himself at a young age accepted at the very top of society and managed to fit in there, while at the same time getting them to laugh at themselves and how shallow and misdirected they were.

Sean Murray articulates it better than I in our first email correspondence about the plays:

“Coward was dangerous, and safe. The perfect money maker. Remember that The Vortex was very close to being shut down by the censors for its flagrant display of drug use, homosexuality and loose morals. His first show was scandalous. His second show Hay Fever is just as scandalous but within the safe environs of drawing room comedy. He learned that he could make just as shocking a statement but palatable. Disguise the social commentary. His plays are vicious and naughty, not fa fa fa over martinis and cigarettes as the cliché for him goes.”

Why is he an important playwright and/or how is he a distinctly “Cygnet” choice?

Coward wrote over 50 published plays and many albums of original songs, in addition to musical theatre, comic revues, poetry, short stories, a novel and three volumes of autobiography. His stage and film acting and directing career spanned six decades, including an Academy Honorary Award. Oh yes and he was knighted in 1969. So yes I’d say he is an important playwright.

The playwright John Osborne said, “Mr Coward is his own invention and contribution to this century. Anyone who cannot see that should keep well away from the theatre.” The Times said of him, “None of the great figures of the English theatre has been more versatile than he.”

As to why this is a distinctly Cygnet choice, let me draw a generational line. Without Coward there would have been no Pinter, without Pinter there would be no Andrew Bovell (the writer of When the Rain Stops Falling). We produce shows in our Repertory series to contextualize other shows in our season, past and present. We see the shoulders contemporary playwrights stand on; and by doing, see how the torch has been passed.

The company of Hay Fever and The Vortex

The company of Hay Fever and The Vortex

How do you feel these two plays work together? How is presenting repertory works exciting? Challenging? 

When Sean and I first started talking about this rep Sean wanted to honor Coward by showing two very different sides of the same man. Coward wrote Hay Fever at the age of 24 in three days while he was performing in The Vortex. Despite being known for his high comedies, Coward was also an unhappy gay man. Coward lived his life behind a mask–he had a public and a private persona. In some ways these two plays show both of those personas. Hay Fever- the public and The Vortex- the private.

Noël Coward and Elaine Stritch

Noël Coward and Elaine Stritch

In England, homosexuality was considered a criminal act until 1967. According to actress Elaine Stritch, “He was one of the saddest men I have ever known.”

It is very stimulating to have two directors working with the same actors and designers. There are compromises of course because we have two distinctively different shows. The Vortex has more locations and Sean is setting it in the 1960s, after another very significant war.

What do you want audiences to experience from seeing both?

These plays are about the 1 percent and how fame and money affect people. They are post World War, a shell-shocked society where all norms have been blown up in the reality of the trenches. The characters in both plays are trying to hold onto status quo in a world that has been forever altered by that war. They are about amorality vs. weak morality, conventional vs. unconventional and rebellion. It is also about artists making their way into the leisure class for the first time. Sean Fanning has designed a set for these plays that is a glass house- these people love to be on display. The design reflects on the plastic, surfacy, glossy, shallow world of the people in BOTH of these plays.

Hay Fever and The Vortex

Hay Fever and The Vortex

How will you share directing duties, work with casts etc.?

We have to be organized and have a killer stage management team, luckily we do. We also have two incredible assistant directors that will be helping to ensure that nothing falls between the cracks. This will be the first time at Cygnet that two directors are working on the Rep series.

What is your own experience with Coward either in acting or directing?

I have never worked on a Coward play, only read and seen his work. My mentor, Gerald Freedman was famous for directing high comedy. I will be channeling all the comedy technique that he has taught me over the years.

Catch Hay Fever, directed by Rob Lutfy, in rep with The Vortex, Sept. 23 – Nov. 8th at Cygnet Theatre. Buy Tickets Now.

Want More?  Read Rosina Reynolds on Noel Coward. 

Rosina Reynolds on Noël Coward

In Part 1 of our three part interview series, we talked Noël Coward with one of the stars, Rosina Reynolds, who plays Judith Bliss in Hay Fever and Florence Lancaster in The Vortex.  Next up are directors Sean Murray (The Vortex) and Rob Lutfy (Hay Fever).

Here’s what Rosina had to say….


Noël Coward

What draws you to Coward? Coward has always been a particular favorite of mine. What couldn’t you ask for….style, fabulously complex characters, brilliant language, clever repartee, and you get to wear gorgeous costumes.

Why do you think he is an important playwright? Coward is one of the great figures of English theatre, his plays rank in the classical tradition of Congreve, Sheridan, Wilde and Shaw. Harold Pinter had a huge regard for Coward, and considered him a big influence. There are similarities in their construction of language. Pinter wrote that watching Coward taught him that a playwright can have two characters saying one thing while clearly thinking about and meaning something else.

How do you feel these two roles work together? How is presenting a repertory exciting for you as an actor? Challenging? Judith and Florence are women with similar stories but hugely different ways of living their lives…a kind of ying and yang of women. To explore both of them at the same time is a gift…to explore the polar opposites presented by these two women. Will it be challenging…you bet…but isn’t that why we do it?

Rosina Rep

Rosina as Florence in The Vortex and as Judith in Hay Fever

 Have you worked on a Rep before? Quite a while ago. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

How will you prepare for these very different roles in different eras? Rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal. And rehearsal. Costumes and wigs will inform greatly.

What is your own experience/background with Coward either in acting or directing? I have been in Hay Fever twice, both time playing Myra Arundel. I was Amanda in Private Lives (San Diego Critics Circle/Craig Noel award for Best Actress) I have directed Fallen Angels and Blythe Spirit.

How do you feel about being back at Cygnet? It’s like coming home.

Rosina in Noises Off, The Glass Menagerie, Arcadia, Little Foxes, and Copenhagen

Rosina in Noises Off, The Glass Menagerie, Arcadia, Little Foxes, and Copenhagen


From the talented cast and crew to Pasek & Paul’s catchy score, Dogfight gave audiences every reason to enjoy every minute of this extraordinary production. It is almost time for final bows and here is what the cast said about their Dogfight experience.

Patrick Osteen becomes Eddie Birdlace

Patrick Osteen becomes Eddie Birdlace

What has been your favorite part of working on Dogfight? It’s evolved throughout. Each chapter of the process has its own perks. When it comes to working on things after opening, I find it especially enjoyable to continue to explore smaller and more intricate moments that weren’t able to be addressed as deeply in the earlier parts of the rehearsals.

What will you miss the most? least? This has been such a remarkable theatre community to get to work with. I’m going to miss that big time. Rare to find such a supportive and excellent team all around. Least? Maybe putting on my black eye at intermission because I seem to forget to do it constantly. Or shaving everyday!

Do you have a favorite number? moment? Not specifically. Lots of things I look forward to.

Is there a behind the scenes ritual/superstition you’d like to share? I find it very helpful to exercise before the show. I usually jump rope for 20-30 minutes.

If you could keep one costume item, what would it be? My dog tags. One of the cast members got custom tags made for everyone playing Marines. Thought that was very special.

What’s up next for you? I have a workshop of a new musical coming up right after I get back to NYC. I’m very excited about it – it’s a stellar creative team that has been working on this project for years.


Sarah Errington becomes Marcy

Sarah Errington becomes Marcy

What has been your favorite part of working on Dogfight? Honestly, the incredible cast and crew. Dogfight has been an interestingly difficult journey for all of those involved, and everyone has handled the story with such a delicate hand. So much heart. I’m very thankful.

What will you miss the most? least? I will miss Sarah Marion, our dresser…but not the amount of costume changes.

Do you have a favorite number? moment? I have the absolute pleasure of sharing the title number with the powerhouse Caitie Grady. I look forward to a specific moment toward the end of the song where we finally lock eyes and our characters connect. The only full scene where the women take over. I love it!

Is there a behind the scenes ritual/superstition you’d like to share? This is a silly little thing, but Alex and I are silly people and I adore it. Before we head out to the Nite Lite, he always does a goofy offering of his arm.

If you could keep one costume item, what would it be? My teeth. They are so gross and it’s perfect. I foresee some awesome practical jokes.


Scott Nickley becomes Bernstein

What has been your favorite part of working on Dogfight? I’ve loved working with the cast and crew throughout the entire process. Everybody seems to be able to find the perfect balance of work and play to make this show an awesome experience.

What will you miss the most? least? Dogfight is a show that I’m very attached to, and being able to take part in a production of it has meant so much. Getting on stage and telling this story is what I’ll miss the most.

Do you have a favorite number? moment? My favorite number is probably “That Face.” It’s the closest we get to a big group number but it also is sort of the antithesis to a big group number because everyone in the scene has different motivations and understandings of why they are at the party. It’s a really cool paradox.

Is there a behind the scenes ritual/superstition you’d like to share? The consistent pre-show ritual in the guys dressing room has been singing along/coming up with new lyrics to the songs played as the audience finds their seats before the show.

If you could keep one costume item, what would it be? My birth control glasses.

What’s up next for you? After we close, I’m headed to NYC to fulfill a long time dream and to continue to pursue a career in the arts.


Debra Wanger becomes Mama

Debra Wanger becomes Mama

What has been your favorite part of working on Dogfight? Working with new people. Most of this cast is new to Cygnet, a great group of musical theatre actors in San Diego.

What will you miss the most? least? I will miss the people. I’ve made some great friends on this show. I won’t miss the ugly colors I have to wear! I have about four different ugly shades of green to wear.

Do you have a favorite number? moment? I could listen to Sarah and Caitie sing the title song all night. They absolutely kill it every time.

Is there a behind the scenes ritual/superstition you’d like to share? Patrick (Birdlace) and some of us pat our heads right before we go to places in act two. It’s a weird good luck gesture we share. Also, we’ve added some new dance moves to First Date/Last Night backstage.

If you could keep one costume item, what would it be? Suzette’s glasses. She’s been a lot of fun. Oh…and my green hooker dress. It’s my one flattering costume in the show and I wear it for about 7 seconds in act two.

What’s up next for you? La Cage aux Folles and White Christmas at San Diego Musical Theatre. Two shows my kids can see!

Catch Dogfight before it closes on August 23rd.

From Box Office to Backstage – Cygnet’s Newest Costume Designer Talks Shop

On stage…and off…Cygnet knows talent when we see it.  Jacinda Johnston-Fischer started with Cygnet Theatre in the box office, but knew early on that costume design was her passion.  She helps Cygnet kick off Season 13 with the hit musical Dogfight. 

Jacinda Johnston-Fischer

Jacinda Johnston-Fischer

How does it feel to make the transition from box office to the creative team?  It’s exciting to get to explore a new facet of the company. I started working with Cygnet because I am inspired by the work that they do and the stories they tell. So, I can’t help but be thrilled to finally be a part of the process.

What resources/research did you use to develop the look of the costumes? Books, magazine, Dogfight movie, other films?  I’ve studied fashion history in depth, which gives me a great foundation to start the process. I build on that foundation with books, and any other resources I may find helpful. It also helps having discussions with the creative team and director, which may help focus me on a certain color pallet or silhouette.

With Dogfight, how would you describe the “look” you are going for?  This show comes with a lot of predetermined necessities. For example, our Marines’ uniforms are very specific and need to be as accurate as possible, seeing as our audience will know what to look for. It’s also a large plot point in the story that the women these men meet are eccentric and uncoordinated, which informs the decisions I make in costumes. So, I would say the “look” I am going for is “informed” and “real” but with moments of musical theatre glamour.

Dogfight Marines -1963

Dogfight Marines -1963

What are some signature design and wardrobe elements of the era?  The bulk of this show takes place in the early nineteen sixties which is an interesting transition period. During this time we see a mixture of silhouettes, which is great for designing purposes. Also, we see a shift in color and patterns that give defining characteristics between the nineteen fifties and the nineteen sixties. The shift in men’s wear is more subtle but the use of more synthetic fibers during this time opens up a lot more color options and styles.

 Where do you shop/gather the costumes, or do you make them?  It depends on the show. For this show we rented our uniforms, because they needed to be accurate. The rest of the costumes were either bought, pulled from our own stock, or built. The costumes for our guys were mostly purchased because the style has changed so little that I was able to find pieces that were similar to the time. The women, on the other hand, were a bit more challenging. We ended up building a few of the dresses for multiple reasons: 1) they are a very specific style which isn’t easily available or affordable, 2) we didn’t want vintage pieces because they would not be able to withstand the rigorous nature of the show, and 3) they needed to be tailored to each girl to bring out certain qualities. So it’s been a balance of shop/gather/build.

Jacinda measures actor Scott Nickley for costumes

Jacinda measures actor Scott Nickley for costumes

What excites you about this production?  It’s a beautiful story with some unique problems and solutions. I relish that it challenges me to redefine the way I design to suit the needs of the production. I find delight in being able to tell a very specific story through the characters’ visual appearance. This show in particular needs the costumes to say a lot about these characters before they ever get the chance to speak, and I love that. I really enjoy getting to create alongside the performers as we develop the characters together.

Dogfight Cast Members

Dogfight Cast Members

What are some unique challenges, if any?  Normally, when designing costumes for a show you want to represent the character in the best way possible by dressing them to reflect their virtues. Dogfight, however, is a different kind of beast. Instead of flattering the characters, we’re doing the opposite, particularly for the women. These women are awkward and eccentric and in order to communicate that through the things they wear, I have to break out of my comfort zone of wanting everything to be pretty. I have definitely struggled to push past my perfectionist nature to present something true to the story. Some of my fabric choices were actually painful to make because they are just so uncomfortable, but it suits the character and thus the show. It’s even more challenging when all of your actresses are actually beautiful, so it’s my job to downplay that beauty to help communicate the story. The ladies have been such good sports about it and have used their costumes to help inform their character.

sara and mel

Mel Domingo (L) and Sara Errington (R) become “Ruth Two Bears” and “Marcy”

What is your background in costume design?  I started sewing and making costumes for myself back in high school, but I never really considered making a career out of it until I went to college. My introduction to costume design in particular happened while I was attending the Pacific Conservatory for the Performing Arts. It was a part of my general education but within two months I knew it was for me. After completing the conservatory program, I transferred to the University of Arizona where I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Costume Design. During my five years of schooling, I focused on my craft and pursued experiences outside of academia to further my ability as a designer. Since graduating I’ve been fortunate to be able to design at wonderful theatres all around San Diego.

Who are your influences? I would say my influence comes from two exceptional women: my lovely Grandmother, and Edith Head. My grandmother was a seamstress during World War II and continued to sew on and off throughout the rest of her life. Like me, she was very artistically minded and I love having that connection with her. And, well Edith Head. One of the best, if not the greatest costume designers of all time. Her work, values, and creativity inspire me. I respect and cherish the influence these women have on me.

Catch Jacinda’s work in Dogfight, which closes August 23rd.

Next up she’ll be designing for both shows in Cygnet’s Noël Coward Rep – Hay Fever set in 1920′s English Countryside & The Vortex set in 1960′s London.

Hay Fever and Vortex

Hay Fever (R) and The Vortex (L)

“The Whale Social Media Night” Top Tweets

Social Media Night allows audience members to  tweet during the performance. It’s an exciting way to share your thoughts on the show and get backstage information from cast and crew, live as it’s happening.  Check out below to see what Twitter loving audience and cast said about The Whale.  Don’t miss the next one on July 24 during Dogfight…it also happens to be combined with a pre-show Tequila Tasting event!


Getting into character TweetElder Thomas before TweetElder Thomas after TweetPhil Johnson Tweet


Shana Wride TweetThe Whale set TweetAbout Ellie TweetCygnet Elder Thomas TweetPadded suit TweetCharlie TweetThe Whale Stage Tweet


Most happening place TweetGirlBoy Tweet


Meet Charlie, Ellie, Liz, Elder Thomas, and Mary

We can all agree that the actor’s job is to bring a scripted character to life. To fully embody their role, they need to understand what makes that person tick.  We asked the actors of this smart and subversive drama to fill out a profile on their character, as well as for themselves. Let’s get to know them and see how it compares!

The Whale Charlie character profile


Character Name: Charlie
Age: 47
Hometown: Moscow, ID
Occupation: Online English Teacher/ Tutor
Hobbies: Eating, working, eating, reading
Favorite Saying: “I’m Sorry”
Greatest Fear: Having not done a single thing right in his life

Andrew Oswald head-shot

Andrew Oswald

Actor Name: Andrew Oswald
Age: Come on, you never ask an actor their age
Hometown: Palos Verdes, CA
Occupation: Actor/ Director
Hobbies: Painting, drawing, gardening
Favorite Saying: “Seriously?”
Greatest Fear: Drowning



Character Name: Ellie
Age: 17
Hometown: Moscow, ID
Occupation: High School Student
Hobbies: Hate blogging, getting high, playing hooky
Favorite Saying: Sayings are for idiots
Greatest Fear: None of your f**king business

Erin McIntosh

Erin McIntosh

Actor Name: Erin McIntosh
Age: –
Hometown: Moscow, ID
Occupation: Actress
Hobbies: Reading poetry, laughing
Favorite Saying: “Think less, swim more.”
Greatest Fear: …I’m not actually sure




Character Name: Liz
Age: –
Hometown: Moscow, ID
Occupation: Postoperative Nurse at Gritman Medical Center
Hobbies: Playing Lotto Heaven and Angry Birds Epic on my Blackberry
Favorite Saying: “Everyone is bald underneath their hair.”

Judy Bauerlein

Judy Bauerlein

Actor Name: Judy Bauerlein
Age: –
Hometown: Ambler, PA
Occupation: Associate Professor of Theatre at CSUSM/Theatre Maker
Hobbies: All things 6 year old (Pokemon, Minecraft, Nerf, etc.)
Favorite Saying: “You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.” -Pema Chodron

Elder Thomas

Elder Thomas

Character Name: Elder Thomas
Age: 19
Hometown: Waterloo, IA
Occupation: Missionary
Hobbies: Spending time w/family & friends, community service, reading the Good Word!
Favorite Saying: “If you want to give light to others, you have to glow yourself.”
Greatest Fear: Failure

Craig Jorczak

Craig Jorczak

Actor Name: Craig Jorczak
Age: Not 19!
Hometown: Houston, TX
Occupation: Actor right now!
Hobbies: Going to the movies, visiting baseball stadiums (been to 29 out of 30!), general malaise
Favorite Saying: “Congratulations!”
Greatest Fear: Failure (I knew Elder and I had something in common!)



Character Name: Mary
Age: 42
Hometown: Moscow, ID
Occupation: Unemployed, single mother of Satan incarnate
Hobbies: Drinking, smoking
Favorite Saying: “Shut up, Ellie!”
Greatest Fear: Ellie and prohibition

Melissa Fernandes

Melissa Fernandes

Actor Name: Melissa Fernandes
Age: of a certain…..
Hometown: Carson City, NV
Occupation: Actor by night/ Recruiter by day- like Batman but without the gadgets
Hobbies: TV & movie addict, reading, music
Favorite Saying: “Go to bed!”  Oh wait, you said favorite, not the one I say the most. I’ll get back to you on that one.
Greatest Fear: Being alone and spiders. Being alone with spiders.

Catch The Whale now through June 14th!  Click here to buy tickets. 

Diving Beneath the Surface with Playwright Samuel D. Hunter

Samuel D. Hunter

Samuel D. Hunter

Cygnet Theatre literally ends Season 12 in a BIG way with the San Diego premiere of The Whale. Emerging playwright Samuel D. Hunter’s (The Few) big hearted and humorously touching play features a six hundred pound recluse whose issues from his past have brought him to a crisis in the present. This smart and subversive tale features sharp, provocative language and finds heart in challenging situations.  We had a chance to chat with Sam Hunter, one of the nation’s hottest new playwrights, about the play he thought no one would want to produce and his need to write “better.”

Have you had a chance to see any regional theatre productions of this show? What are your impressions?

I actually worked on the first four productions of the play, and it premiered regionally (at the Denver Center) before it came to New York.  So I saw it in Denver, Chicago, and Los Angeles.  It’s been amazing to me that this play has had the life that it’s had, when I first wrote it I remember thinking that no one would produce it at all.  The fact that it’s become my most produced play is astonishing to me.  I think the thing that’s been common to all the productions I’ve seen is probably something that’s true of all of my plays, that any value you get from it is the result of coming to the theater with an open mind and an open heart.  The play is very naked in a certain way. It’s not sexy or full of plot twists or stylistic gestures.  It’s really just about this man and the people surrounding him during the last days of his life in this unremarkable little one-bedroom apartment.

What are you working on these days?

I’m working on these two plays that are loosely interconnected, LEWISTON and CLARKSTON.  They’re set to premiere next season in two different theaters, and my thought is maybe someday a theater would be willing to do them both together, either in a single evening, or in rep.  I’m also working on a first draft of a new play tentatively called THE HARVEST about a group of young missionaries preparing to go on a mission in the Middle East.

You were one of the 2014 MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant Award Winners, recognizing “exceptionally creative individuals with a track record of achievement and the potential for significant contributions in the future” and comes with an unrestricted stipend of $625,000.  How has your life and work been affected by the “genius” thing?

Ha, well, that sort of remains to be seen I guess.  I mean financially it’s just sort of hugely liberating, so much of being an artist up to this point for me was balancing my art with my economy, figuring out how to delicately monetize something without compromising it at all.  But now, at least for the next five years, I don’t have to think like that anymore.  And like many artists I imagine, I’ve dealt with a lot of self-doubt over the years, so something like this makes you think, “well maybe I’m not a total fraud…”

The other part, though, is suddenly you feel this different kind of pressure replacing the financial one.  I feel like I need to live up to something, what I’m not entirely sure. But, I will say that I feel the need to write better.  I need to really push myself to at least try to live up to this impossible expectation.

thewhale_email_cast_r Obviously, the play addresses challenging themes. How do you describe it? Have you heard a tagline you think really captures the show?

I mean when I sit down to write a play I’m never thinking about marketing, so it’s always interesting to discover later on what particular challenges a play presents.  I mean for my own part I don’t really think of the play as particularly challenging–essentially it’s just the simple story of a man trying to reconnect with a daughter.  It’s about a man who has an undying faith in his daughter’s capacity for empathy, and he has to reach her before his time runs out.

What would you want audiences to know about the show?

The only thing I’d say is that this is not a play about obesity.

San Diego audiences may be familiar with your work from the Old Globe production of  The Few. Were you here for that run? If so, what were some of your favorite things about San Diego?

I was!  I spent a good four weeks out there, the entire rehearsal process.  I had a great time.  Going to work every day in Balboa Park was a real gift.  So much good food, and I’m a big craft beer fan so it was great to visit some breweries.  And going to the beach on our days off in Coronado was pretty amazing.

The Whale begins previews on May 14. It opens on May 23 and runs through June 14. Buy your tickets today!

My Fair Lady: The Myth, The Play, The Musical (Part 3)

Part 3 – The Musical

As we learned in last week’s blog, in the mid-1930’s, film producer Gabriel Pascal persuaded George Bernard Shaw for the rights to produce film versions of several of his plays, Pygmalion among them. And though audiences clamored for it, Shaw remained adamant that it not be adapted into a musical (after having had a bad experience with The Chocolate Soldier, a Viennese operetta based on his play Arms and the Man).

After Shaw’s death in 1950, Pascal revisited the idea and solicited lyricist Alan Jay Lerner’s expertise. Lerner agreed, and he and his composer partner Fritz Loewe began work. The team quickly realized that the play violated several key rules for constructing a musical: 1) as Shaw maintained, the main story was not a love story, 2) there was no subplot or secondary love story, and 3) there was no place for an ensemble. After some six months on the project, Lerner and Loewe decided it was impossible (like Rodgers and Hammerstein before them), gave up and parted ways.

The artwork on the original Playbill (and sleeve of the cast recording) is by Al Hirschfeld, who drew the playwright Shaw as a heavenly puppetmaster pulling the strings on the Henry Higgins character, while Higgins in turn attempts to control Eliza Doolittle.

The artwork on the original Playbill is by Al Hirschfeld, who drew the playwright Shaw as a heavenly puppetmaster pulling the strings on the Henry Higgins character, while Higgins in turn attempts to control Eliza Doolittle.

In the years following, Gabriel Pascal died. Whilst trying to musicalize Lil’ Abner, Lerner read Pascal’s obituary and found himself once again preoccupied with the idea of a musical version of Pygmalion. When he and Loewe reunited, everything seemingly fell into place. The insurmountable obstacles that previously stood in their way disappeared and they excitedly began writing the show. They soon learned however that they were not the only ones seeking the musical rights to Pygmalion; MGM studios was also interested in the idea of adapting Shaw’s work and didn’t hesitate to exercise their influence when their lead executives called Lerner to discourage him from challenging the studio. Loewe said, “We will write the show without the rights, and when the time comes for them to decide who is to get them, we will be so far ahead of everyone else that they will be forced to give them to us.” For the next five months, the duo wrote, hired technical designers, and made casting decisions. When the time came to make a decision, Chase Manhattan Bank, who was in charge of Pascal’s estate and owned the rights to Pygmalion, awarded the musical rights to Lerner and Loewe.

The musical premiered on Broadway as My Fair Lady on March 15, 1956 at the Mark Hellinger Theatre in New York City with Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews in the leading roles. Originally announced as My Lady Liza, the name was changed when Harrison objected to a title based on the name of the female lead- Eliza Doolittle. (The new title was taken from the last line of the nursery rhyme, “London Bridge Is Falling Down” and appears nowhere in the musical.) It transferred to the Broadhurst Theatre and then The Broadway Theatre, where it closed on September 29, 1962 after 2,717 performances.

Haven’t seen My Fair Lady at Cygnet Theatre yet?  It must close April 26th and shows are still selling out so hurry!

Click here to buy tickets.