Backstage Blog

Actor Q&A: Rachel Esther Tate

We asked the cast of Stupid F**king Bird to answer the same four questions about themselves and their characters. Here is what actor Rachel Esther Tate said about herself, and her character, Nina.

Rachel Esther Tate

Rachel Esther Tate

About Rachel:
Occupation: Actor/Gypsy
Hobbies: Playing in the sunshine, swimming in the ocean, being surrounded by friends and taking photos
Favorite Saying: I love you
Things I love: Sunshine, wildflowers, laughing, snuggling and mashed potatoes

Nina

Nina

About Nina:
Occupation: Aspiring actress like Emma
Hobbies: Swimming in the lake, rehearsing plays, dancing, snuggling with cats, daydreaming
Favorite Saying: Holy Cowsiedotes!
Things I love: Love, fame, rose petals, cool rain, Trigorins stories, seagulls and applause

Stay tuned for the rest of the cast and see Stupid F**king Bird before it closes on June 19th.

Rachel Esther Tate (Nina) and Ro Boddie (Con)

Rachel Esther Tate (Nina) and Ro Boddie (Con)

Actor Q&A: Brian Rickel

We asked the cast of Stupid F**king Bird to answer the same four questions about themselves and their characters.  Here is what actor Brian Rickel said about himself, and his character, Dev.

Brian Rickel

Brian Rickel

About Brian:
Occupation: Professor, Actor, Property Manager
Hobbies: Local breweries, photography, smoking meat, traveling
Favorite Saying: “We’re all just seeking beauty in this messy-ass world.”
Things I love: Mandi, local craft beer, BBQ (the southern meaning….not grilling outdoors in nice weather), the theatre, teaching, performing, the sun going down in my backyard, cooking for friends, my niece’s and nephew’s laughter, did I mention local beer?

Dev

Dev

About Dev:
Occupation: Tutor
Hobbies: Walking by the lake, reading, bird watching, relationship counseling, making beer
Favorite Saying: “Just get to know her. You’ll get it.”
Things I love: Mash, beer, teaching, the moon reflecting off of our lake, reading, Con, hearing my kids play, pie.

Stay tuned for the rest of the cast and see Stupid F**king Bird before it closes on June 19th.

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Brian Rickel (Dev) and Ro Boddie (Con)

Actor Q&A: Karole Foreman

We asked the cast of Stupid F**king Bird to answer the same questions about themselves and their characters.  Here’s what Karole said about herself, and her character, Emma.

Karole Forman

Karole Forman

About Karole:
Occupation: Actor, Singer, Writer
Hobbies: Gardening, Knitting, Sewing, DIY Home projects
Favorite Saying: “You can hide inside a character, but acting is about exposing who you are. And I’m never sure if I’ve done a good job.”–Don Cheadle, actor
Things I love: My amazing husband, guinea pigs and other small animals, traveling, good food, dancing, my family, my close friends, my profession

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Emma

About Emma:
Occupation: Famous Actress
Hobbies: Shopping, shoe collecting, badminton, pilates
Favorite Saying: “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”—Winston Churchill and
“Don’t give away your art for free.”— Herself
Things I love: ART & ARTISTS, Doyle Trigorin, my profession, a good massage, my personal trainer, my hairdresser, Sterling Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Cannes

Karole Foreman (Emma) and Fran Gercke (Trig)

Karole Foreman (Emma) and Fran Gercke (Trig)

Stay tuned for profiles on the rest of the cast and see Stupid F**king Bird before it closes on June 19th!  Get tickets HERE.

 

Stupid F**king Bird Vs. The Seagull

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“The original work is just a jumping off place or an inciting incident for my own personal explorations.” Aaron Posner

If you think you need to know anything about Chekhov’s The Seagull before seeing our production, we’re happy to say that’s bulls#!t. If you have, fantastic. You’ll pick up on connections with the original work.

We asked director Rob Lutfy to share some thoughts on how to understand Aaron Posner’s Stupid F**king Bird through the lens of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull.

Chekhov was radical, revolutionary and exciting…100 years ago: Imagine sitting in the audience at the Moscow Art Theatre at the turn of

Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov

the 20th century and seeing The Seagull for the first time. You would have seen actors actually feel the emotions they are expressing and seen a production with an actual rehearsal process. Today this seems like a standard, but Chekhov created a paradigm shift in drama (theatre and film/TV) that it still pertinent today.

Read between the lines: His characters often think what they do not say, their unspoken thoughts have come to be called “subtext.” His relationships are unvarnished, his characters (as in real life) say less and mean more. What covers our embarrassment? Our Fear? Our excitement? He is representing people as they really are–examining eternal questions about love, death and of life in the space of a raindrop.

Our pain is f**king hilarious: Chekhov considered The Seagull to be a comedy because he had an amused view of human weakness. When the play opened it felt like a trick to most audiences. People didn’t know what was meant to be taken seriously and what was funny; Chekhov redefined those terms. In doing so, his plays often provoke “laughter through tears.”

Chekhov reads The Seagull with the Moscow Art Theatre company

Chekhov reads The Seagull with the Moscow Art Theatre company

Chekhov puts offstage the obvious moments of crises: He writes about the epic moments in our domestic lives. How important our day to day is to the inertia of our life. It is the build up to the big moments that define us. The famous director Stanislavsky, who worked with Chekhov, calls this “inner action.”

Chekhov fan or not, we think you’re going to enjoy Stupid F**king bird!  The show runs May 19 – June 19, 2016.  Buy tickets HERE. 

 

 

5 helpful hints before the rain stops falling…

When the Rain Stops Falling follows four generations of family over the span of 80 years and on two continents. The interconnected stories of these fathers, sons, mothers and lovers circle back over each other. You, as an audience member, will begin to make connections as the stories unfold. To make sure you get the most out of your theatre experience, Director Rob Lutfy put together these five helpful hints.

  1. WHAT’S IN A NAME? Make sure you look at the genealogy chart below (and in your program) before the show starts. It will help you understand the older/younger versions of characters, and those with the same name, of which there are three!
  1. SAME ACTOR, DIFFERENT CHARACTERS. Two actors play different characters. Gabriel York/Henry Law are played by Adrian Alita and Gabriel Law/Andrew Price are played by Josh Odsess-Rubin.

    Josh Odsess-Rubin & Adrian Alita

    Josh Odsess-Rubin & Adrian Alita

  1. SAME CHARACTER, DIFFERENT ACTORS. Elizabeth Law and Gabrielle Law (pronounced Gabriel) are played by two sets of actors.

    Younger/Older Gabrielle & Younger/Older Elizabeth

    Younger/Older Gabrielle & Younger/Older Elizabeth

  1. WATCH THE BACKDROP BETWEEN SCENES. It may be raining, but we won’t leave you high and dry. Watch for the projections on the backdrop for titles of where the scene takes place and in what year.
  1. GO WITH THE FLOW. The critics say it best…

“It’s hard to figure out who’s who and how they intersect, but all becomes clear by the end of the play, which runs an intermission-less yet gripping 110 minutes.” -Pam Kragen, San Diego Union-Tribune

“It’s best to just sit back and let the saga wash over you.” –Pat Launer, Center Stage

“[It’s] a lot to swallow, but worthy of the effort to chew because Cygnet has a tremendous four-course meal in store for you. –Milo Shapiro, Stage and Cinema

Genealogy

Photo Credit : ShowerHacks.com

CREATING A TIMELESS AND EXPANSIVE DESIGN

Theatre is by its nature, a very collaborative art form. Writers, designers, actors, choreographers, costume, sounds and lighting designers all work together to create a single, final product. For the production of When the Rain Stops Falling, Cygnet Associate Artistic Director Rob Lutfy is especially excited be collaborating with set designer, Jungah Han. A former Cygnet Theatre Lipinsky Foundation design fellow at SDSU, she is now based in New York. The recent Yale School of Drama graduate studied extensively with Ming Cho Lee, the noted theatre artist who designed over 30 productions for Joseph Papp at The Public Theater, including the original Off-Broadway production of Hair. She brings a sparse sensibility to the set design. Robby took some time away from the show to share some of his thoughts with us.

Jungah Han & Rob Lutfy

Jungah Han & Rob Lutfy

Set of When the Rain Stops Falling

Set of When the Rain Stops Falling

This play takes place over the course of 80 years and includes ever changing settings; from the intimacy of a domestic room to the grandeur of a vast natural environment. Jungah and I both wanted a vast space for the actors to play in. We wanted a space that felt like an art installation, using lots of natural elements and was flexible enough to go from intimacy of a dining room to the vastness of a the night sky. And of course, it had to have a big rock!

We exist in relation to one another, not as individuals each caught up in our own narrative, but as a part of a great interconnected web of human experience. Bovell shows this in his layering and nonlinear narrative. Bovell writes, “But only on the stage can the past, the present and the future be revealed in the same moment. It is a wonderful medium in which to play with time and the shed light on the human condition.”

Pina Baush, Vollmond

Pina Baush, Vollmond

We needed to create set that would allow our actors to play with these variations in time and place. Jungah and I both were drawn to Pina Bausch’s Vollmond, a production we saw in NYC. Bausch was a German performer of modern dance, choreographer, dance teacher and ballet director known for her unique style, a blend of movement, sound, and stark, prominent stage sets. She created what we now know as Dance Theater (Tanztheater). She became a leading influence in the field of modern dance, cinema and art influencing everyone from David Bowie to the creators of American Horror Story.Follow the Printmylogo.co.uk blog if you want to learn more.

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I didn’t want literal or “designed” space but something poetic to match the complexity of the narrative. Jungah and I are a perfect match in that way. I wanted “epic theatre” in a way.

I wanted the actors to be ghosts for one another, always present, always layered on top of the current scene. Things move fast in the play and we have a set that allows for that to happen. It is anchored by the fragile water and the solid rock.

Set of When the Rain Stops Falling

Set of When the Rain Stops Falling

It is also a beautiful moment for me to be working with Jungah. Her mentor, Ming Cho Lee and my mentor, Gerald Freedman, met early on in their careers and collaborated for over a decade. Gerald calls Ming, “the greatest collaborator of his life.” Ming designed almost every play Gerald directed. According to The New York Times, “It is hard to overstate the impact Ming Cho Lee has had on the world of theater design.”

I feel proud to continue the tradition of creative collaboration.

Catch When the Rain Stops Falling through Feb. 14, 2016.

Michael Mizerany – Choreographing a Drama

Michael Mizerany, a noted dancer and choreographer, is thrilled to be returning to Cygnet Theatre! Audiences might remember Michael’s powerful choreography from our 2013 production of Spring Awakening.

Spring Awakening - Craig Noel Award Nominee

Spring Awakening – Craig Noel Award Nominee Photo by Darren Scott

We’re thrilled to have him back as a choreographer for our upcoming production of When the Rain Stops Falling. Michael has been working closely with director Rob Lutfy, and we chatted with him about his role with this show and how movement can reflect intention, character and time.

What is your role in this show as there is no dance?

This is a beautifully written play with many surprises and “Aha!” moments. It spans four generations over two continents and manipulates time in a very interesting way. That being said, I will try to give you a glimpse inside the process without divulging any secrets.

There is no traditional dance in the show per se, but if we think of dance in the broader sense of movement and not codified technique, I would say that dance/movement is an integral part of the telling this story.

When the Rain Stops Falling Rehearsal

When the Rain Stops Falling Rehearsal

One pivotal scene is ROOMS. There is no dialogue, so the challenge is to convey character through gesture/movement. In this scene particularly, where, when and how the actors move is very important.

The play also manipulates time. It jumps back and forth from 1968 to 2039. This is reflected in the choreography for ROOMS as well. As this scene begins, the actors initiate movement in a counter-clockwise fashion. As the movement shifts to a table center stage, the actors sit at the table; sequentially arriving in a clockwise direction.

This gives the scene a kaleidoscope effect that mirrors the many emotions and situations the audience will experience viewing the play.

Do you enjoy working in theatre? What are some recent highlights?

Though I am a contemporary choreographer, I really enjoy working in theatre. I majored in acting when I was in college (until I took a dance class), so I really love actors. Recent highlights include Spring Awakening at Cygnet; Thrill Me, Bare: A Pop Opera and A New Brain at Diversionary; Ass, Or A Midsummer Night’s Fever and Chicago: A Speakeasy Cabaret at Ion theatre; and Scrooge in Rouge at Desert Rose Playhouse in Palm Springs.

Michael in Malashock Dance: Chagall & Tribe (2010)  Photo by Manuel Rotenberg

Michael in Malashock Dance: Chagall & Tribe (2010)
Photo by Manuel Rotenberg

Can you give some examples of how you are working directly with the cast?

In ROOMS, there is a sequence where each character enters the stage space, looks out a window, looks in a mirror and then pauses in thought. I discussed with each actor: “Who are you looking for?”, “Why are you staring in the mirror?”, “What are you thinking about when you pause in thought?” Based on their answers, I built movements/gestures that reflected that intention.

These gestures will be repeated as the drama progresses, so we have specific, character movement/gesture threads that will be woven together throughout the course of the play.

This is an unusual show to stage. What is Rob looking for from you to help the audience/actors?

One of the wonderful things about When the Rain Stops Falling is that it gives the audience tidbits of information that, at the time, seem to have no relevance. But as the play progresses – those tidbits have great significance.

I think one of the aspects Rob was curious about was how the movement could have a similar impact. For example, in ROOMS, the characters have gestures at a window but the audience has yet to know their meaning. As the play unfolds, and the gestures are combined with those tidbits of information, the importance becomes very apparent.

For more information on Michael Mizerany and his work visit www.mizerdance.wix.com/michaelmizerany

Catch When the Rain Stops Falling, directed by Rob Lutfy, Jan. 14 – Feb. 14 at Cygnet Theatre.

 

Actors Share Their Favorite Holiday Traditions

We asked a few of our actors from A Christmas Carol about their favorite holiday memories and traditions from “Christmas past and present.” Here is what they said!

TOM STEPHENSON

Tiny Tim and Scrooge

Tiny Tim and Scrooge

Do you have a favorite holiday tradition or memory?

Smoked oysters, Chocolate covered cherries, Peppermint ice cream (if I can find it).

What’s your favorite part of the season?

Buying gifts, Evenings, Candlelight, Tree decorations, Song.

How early is too early to listen to Christmas music?

Can we at least get through Thanksgiving?

MELISSA FERNANDES

ChristmasCar-10

Melissa Fernandes

Do you have a favorite holiday tradition or memory?

I think my favorite traditions are the new ones I have created with my husband Manny and my kids like taking out the old camping hammock and go outdoors and have fun. We do a couple of things during the Holidays. We joined in the Elf on the Shelf craze, because really, I need all the help I can get keeping the kids on their best behavior. I post the results on Facebook so the grandparents can see but now I find myself finding ways to keep my friends entertained by it and still keep it clean! Tis not easy.
We also always have stuffed French toast for breakfast every Christmas morning. We open our presents and while the kids and I clean up, Manny gets to work in the kitchen.

What’s your favorite part of the season?

I think my favorite part of the season is the Christmas lights. I just love seeing all the color everywhere and it is so festive.

How early is too early to listen to Christmas music?

OK, I am a firm believer that it should be one holiday at a time, so no Christmas music (or Christmas ANYTHING) until AFTER Thanksgiving. One radio station in town started playing nothing but Christmas music in early November. That is way too early! You get burned out on the music before the holiday even arrives. So no music, egg nog or lights until after Turkey day! It keeps it special that way.

DAVID MCBEAN

David McBean

David McBean

Do you have a favorite holiday tradition or memory? 

My family has what we call Kringles. My mother is the oldest of what used to be 10 siblings. Most of them had children and now most of the children have children! As you can imagine, family gatherings are epic in size. We have simplified our gift giving, and provided a way for us to get to know one another as the brood expands, by entering all the names of the family members into a computer and having it assign one person to whom we give a present – our Kringle.

What is your favorite part of the season?

My favorite part of the season is the trees and the lights. I still get wistful and touched when I see them. I also enjoy driving around and looking at the dedicated neighborhoods that get together and create fabulous spectator events for the season.

How early is too early to listen to Christmas music?

I started singing carols when I was in choir at a local performing arts high school. We performed them at malls and events throughout San Diego. Then I joined a caroling group for extra money and sang with them, and got a job as a music director at a church when I was 19, so carols were an important part of my job every year. I hate to say it, but I never listen to them. I’ve had to sing them for so many years in so many venues that I just can’t do it! And they get stuck in my head immediately whenever I hear them, mainly the bass line!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Interview with the Master Puppeteer

From The Lion King to Avenue Q to Hand to God, puppets have long been a part of the theatre scene. At Cygnet Theatre, this year’s holiday favorite A Christmas Carol features updated puppets designed by master San Diego Puppeteer Lynne Jennings. Jennings, a local institution, is Board President of the San Diego Guild of Puppetry, which has been creating lasting memories for nearly 60 years here in beautiful San Diego. They teach, perform, build and share the magic of puppet theatre with the community. 

We reached Lynne in her home studio to ask a few questions about her creative process.

How did you get started designing puppets for the theatre?

Lynne Jennings

Lynne Jennings

I got my start designing puppets and scripts for my own shows, and for the shows of other puppeteers. The advent of Julie Taymor’s “Lion King” and other similar productions brought the form more visibility, and with that, more opportunities to collaborate with the “regular” theatre world. Several examples of Guild collaborations with SD theatres include San Diego Symphony’s “Carnival of the Animals”, USD’s “Anonymous”, Point Loma Nazarene’s “Magic Flute”, and La Jolla Playhouse’s Pop Tour production of “Recipe for Disaster”.

Is this your first time working with Cygnet? First holiday show?

Yes, although Sean (director) mentioned wanting to eventually do an all puppet version of “A Christmas Carol” close to 20 years ago. Needless to say, I was delighted to finally be asked to work with this company.

It is not my first holiday show. We did a number for what was initially called “Christmas on the Prado” in Balboa Park, back in the days when we were in the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater. Most notably, “Joanie and the Toy Thief”, our initial production for the event and the familiar classic, “The Shoemaker and the Elves”. Adult theatre holiday collaborations have included Diversionary Theatre’s “Long Christmas Ride Home” and most recently, Stephen Metcalf’s “The Gift Teller” for Scripps Ranch Theatre in 2013, directed by Lisa Berger.

What was your assignment for A Christmas Carol? What were you looking to achieve?

I was asked to build a new, larger (3 feet high), lighter, more lifelike “Tiny Tim” that was easier to manipulate. This led to Sean’s feeling they needed a new Young Scrooge who was similar in design to “Tim”, re-rigging last year’s “Turkey Boy”, to be closer to the style of Tim and Young Scrooge, and lastly, the two puppets of “Want” and “Ignorance”.

Foam block and patterns

Foam block and patterns

Are these a particular style?

Tim and Young Scrooge are full body, Americanized “Bunraku” style puppets, also referred to as “Tabletop”, although in this production they are not operated on a table. Turkey Boy is a soft body marionette, and Want and Ignorance are hand puppets. They were originally flat figures I made several years ago for another theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol that attached to the inside of the Ghost of Christmas Present’s cloak. When Sean decided that the figures he had been using didn’t work as he had wanted, I reworked these so they became 3D hand puppets that could appear and play from underneath the hem of the Ghost.

Young Scrooge in Process

Young Scrooge in Process

Give us some facts and figures for the show.

I ended up making two from scratch and revamping three existing puppets. There are seven total “traditional” puppets in the show. Tim, Young Scrooge, Urchin, Past, Ignorance, Want, and Future.  However from a puppeteer’s perspective, I’d say there are over a dozen in the show including Marley’s ghost chains (they are manipulated by actors from behind); the coal scuttle; the small flying versions of Christmas Present and Scrooge and more.

Ignorance and Want

Ignorance and Want

What was your biggest challenge?

Squeezing in the time to create the additional puppets. It would have been great to have had double or triple the time, but I thoroughly enjoyed every minute.

Do you work with the actors to help them “perform” with their puppet partners? 

Normally, yes! In the majority of our collaborative work with theatres we work hand in hand with the productions’ director, teaching the actors how to bring their puppets to life. In this show, my input was minimal as Sean is highly capable and has a great eye for puppetry.

Tiny Tim and Scrooge

Tiny Tim and Scrooge

What is one thing you think audiences would be surprised to find out about these puppets?

Perhaps that they are created of upholstery foam; their general shapes cut on a band saw, and the fine detail work carved with razor blades, and curve bladed manicure scissors.

Catch this classic holiday musical (and its puppets!) directed by Sean Murray, Nov. 27 – Dec. 27 at Cygnet Theatre.

Top 10 REASONS TO SEE THE NOEL COWARD REP

HAY FEVER

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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE VORTEX

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.

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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.

 

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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.

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Pawnie, played by James Saba