Backstage Blog

Reading Between the Lines…

(How Literature and the Local Library Turned Me into an Actress)

There is an oft-told family story about one of my trips to the pediatrician.   Only 4 years old and unable to read, I sat in the waiting room with my favorite book – a Little Golden entitled, Bugs Bunny…Something’s Fishy I loudly “read” it to the antsy parents and feverish children, whether they cared to listen or not.  Each character had its own unique voice; each page provided a new set of madcap capers, deft drama and screwball comedy.  The Looney Tunes were a wacky bunch and I suppose, in the mind of a toddler, the perfect diversion for the circumstances at hand.  I felt I was donating a much-needed service.  Anyway, I could hardly be held responsible for the “medical drama” I provided or the nhs complaint claims I did.  You see, my mother read to me.

My twin sister and I grew up with the standard fare of Goodnight Moon, Caps for Sale and The Pokey Little Puppy.   My mother animated every page… enlivening each drawing with a distinctive importance.  Each writer had a new, glorious story to tell, and each one was told by a brand new cast…puppies and moons and spoons and cap-sellers.   By the time my twin sister and I were 8 years old, my mother had moved on to over 1500 page novels like Sacajawea (The Lewis and Clark Expedition) by Anna Lee Waldo.  My sister and I would climb into bed and listen to tales about terrifying treks through precarious terrains, a papoose strapped to the Indian woman’s back, lean strips of buffalo jerky – her only source of nourishment for days.  The stories my mother read were as good as any movie.  Better, in fact, because the “visuals” (the teepees and bison and feather headdresses) were mine alone.  The stakes were as high as I made them, the cliffs as steep…

My mother imported her love for reading to her children.  Many hot summertime days were spent in the local library.   With my sister by my side, we’d choose one book a piece – conferring with one another for trade upon our own completion.  Then off to the bay, with books in hand, my mother and sister and I would eat picnic lunches in silence – each of us deep within our own individual saga, epic or comic adventure.  Sometimes we’d ask one another to listen as we read a particularly intriguing section from our library loaner and then, after a bit of conversation about today money loan, we were back to world of our own selection – separately experiencing new dramas, love stories, history lessons – all within each other’s company.

My conversion from reader to performer started early and my love and connection to the written story has never left me.  I owe so much to my mother and to the libraries where I spent so many of my days.  For this reason, it has been a particular honor to head Cygnet’s TUESDAY ON TWIGGS STREET Event.  These quarterly free theatre parties (aimed at supporting local libraries) have been delightful introductions to others who, like me, are in love with stories and great books.  They too understand the excitement, the escape and the unique perspective these penned pieces can provide.  In my life it has only been matched by the magic of live theatre.  Both fill me with same sense of joy, emotion and awe.  Both invite me to participate in the story being told.  Both pay respect to my own uncapped resource…my imagination.

So this is my personal invitation to those of you who remember being read to, appreciate the gift of good storytelling or who simply owe your local library a “thank you” for years of free reading.  I hope you’ll join us at one of our TUESDAY ON TWIGGS STREET Events.  Cygnet provides the food, the drinks, the enter-to-wins, backstage tours and a nice group of like-minded company.  All YOU need to bring is a new or gently used book or a cash donation (of any size) for our specified neighborhood library.   In turn, our libraries will provide you unlimited days of travel, riches, poetry, laughter and drama; a private world of untouchable props, scenery, characters and costumes.  And you will be the producer, right in your very own living room.

Cygnet Announces 9th Season!

(Updated Jan 25th)
We are excited to announce our 2011/2012 line-up. Cygnet’s ninth season will offer productions ranging from Shakespeare to Williams; and for Cygnet’s musical-lovers, two uniquely thrilling productions!

Cygnet’s season begins with LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, a rock musical based on the 1960s camp film, The Little Shop of Horrors, which follows the story of a hapless florist shop worker who raises a plant that feeds on human blood. Cygnet’s production, featuring the amazing Audrey II puppets designed by Monkeyboys Designs, will be a B-movie, campy horror-fest staged in black and white film-noir style! This quirky dark comedy – with music composed by Alan Menken and written by Howard Ashman – received a long off-Broadway run, a subsequent Broadway production and was turned into a 1986 film of the same name. The LITTLE SHOP music features rock-n-roll, doo-wop and early Motown sounds with several well-known tunes including “Skid Row (Downtown)” and “Suddenly Seymour.” Cygnet Resident Artist David McBean (It’s A Wonderful Life, Fully Committed) will feed the horror and the hilarity as the human-hungry plant, Audrey II. LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS will run July 28th through September 11th, 2011.

In early October, Cygnet Theatre will present it’s first Shakespearean main-stage production, RICHARD III. This play, which depicts the rise to power and subsequent short rein of Richard III, is widely considered to be one of Shakespeare’s greatest works. Regarded as an “antihero” of the medieval age, the deformed Richard III was known for being both frighteningly vicious and eerily funny. Shakespeare’s fascinating depiction of his murderous path to the English crown is one of his most beloved and oft performed plays. RICHARD III runs October 13th through November 13th, 2011.

The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, adapted by Joe Landry. Each year, Cygnet audiences delight in this new-found wintertime tradition as Tom Andrew performs his San Diego Critics Circle Award-winning role of George Bailey, whose life alters for good upon meeting Clarence the Angel. Once again the 1940′s radio actors of “WCYG Theatre of the Air” will recreate the classic story in a “live” radio broadcast filled with music, sound effects and the beloved characters from the film. It’s A Wonderful Life returns to the Cygnet stage from November 30th through December 31st, 2011.

The new year offers starts off with a bang with the Southern California Premiere of A BEHANDING IN SPOKANE by Martin McDonagh.  The title is just the starting point to McDonagh’s black comedy, his first American-set play. Take a man searching for his missing hand, two con artists out to make a few hundred bucks, and an overly curious hotel clerk, and the rest is up for grabs. Strong, adult language. A BEHANDING IN SPOKANE will  run January 19th through February 19th, 2012.

In the Spring, Cygnet Theatre will present PARADE, with book by Alfred Uhrey and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. The musical dramatizes the 1913 true story of the trial of Jewish factory superintendent, Leo Frank, accused of the murder of a thirteen-year-old employee, Mary Phagan, in Atlanta Georgia. The play, which won Tony Awards for best book and best score and six Drama Desk Awards, is both hauntingly beautiful and bitingly frank in its depiction of love in the midst of adversity and growing racial tensions. The show was Brown’s first Broadway production and his award-winning melodies drew from a variety of influences including pop-rock, folk, rhythm and blues and gospel. PARADE will run March 8th through April 22nd, 2012.

Cygnet Theatre will close its season with Tennessee William’s A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. The Pulitzer Prize winning drama is considered a landmark play. It has also been at the top of Artistic Director Sean Murray’s lists of dream projects for Cygnet Theatre since his award-winning production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 2005. The story deals with the culture clash of two iconic characters, Blanche DuBois, a fading relic of the Old South, and Stanley Kowalski, a rising member of the industrial working class. The production received multiple runs on Broadway, was adapted into a film, an opera, a ballet and was even produced for television. The steamy drama comes to Cygnet Theatre May 17th through June 24th, 2012.

Current Subscribers can contact the box office starting Wednesday to renew.  New Subscriptions for the 2011-2012 will be available soon.

We think this is going to be an exciting season, and certainly hope you will join us.