Backstage Blog

Season 14 Announced!

From classic musicals to shocking contemporary works, Season 2016-17 promises to be a true “Cygnet” Season

Every season must reflect the mission of the company and for the past 13 years, Artistic Director Sean Murray has crafted uniquely Cygnet seasons that reflect the commitment to “startle the soul, embrace diversity and ignite debate.” This year is no exception. The seven productions in Season 14 range from the traditional to the avant- garde and include two musical theatre classics, a two-show repertory by a Pulitzer prize-winning playwright, the return of a holiday favorite and two contemporary works sure to shock and amaze.

“I’m really proud of the diversity and quality of this season,” says Murray. “Leave it to us to go from a stripper, to an ex-con, to one naughty little boy in just one season. That’s exciting. That’s Cygnet!”

SEASON XIV: 2016-2017
List of Plays

GYPSY
July 14th – Sept 4th
Music by Jule Styne and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Arthur Laurents
Directed by Sean Murray
Choreography by David Brannen
Music Direction by Terry O’Donnell

Indomitable stage mother Rose chases vicarious success and stardom as she pushes her daughters through the vaudeville circuit. When Dainty June flees the act to elope, Rose vows to make introverted Louise into a star. Boasting one show-stopping song after another—like “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and “Let Me Entertain You”—this classic musical was inspired by the memoirs of the legendary burlesque dancer Gypsy Rose Lee. Featuring Linda Libby as Mama Rose, Allison Spratt Pearce as Louise, Katie Whalley-Banville as Dainty June, and Manny Fernandes as Herbie.

“The quintessential American musical” – Hollywood Reporter

Gypsy cast members: Manny Fernandes, Allison Spratt-Pearce, Linda Libby, Katie Whalley-Banville

Gypsy cast members: Manny Fernandes, Allison Spratt-Pearce, Linda Libby, Katie Whalley-Banville

Repertory
SEVEN GUITARS
Sept 28th – Nov 6th
By August Wilson
San Diego Premiere

In the backyard of a Pittsburgh tenement in 1948, friends gather to mourn for a blues guitarist and singer who died just as his career was on the verge of taking off. The action that follows is a flashback to the busy week leading up to Floyd’s sudden and unnatural death. Seven Guitars is part bawdy comedy, part dark elegy and part mystery. This lyrical play is the sixth in August Wilson’s ten-play cycle which charts the African-American experience through each decade of the 20th century and is performed in rep with King Hedley II.

“Rich, music-drenched drama” – New York Times

Repertory
KING HEDLEY II
Sep. 29th
– Nov. 6th
By August Wilson
San Diego Premiere

King Hedley II shares the story of King –a man recently released from prison, attempting to rebuild his 
life amid changing times and a backdrop of the crime and drug struggles in the community he exists in. King dreams of a life 
of stability and self-reliance beyond incarceration, gangs and broken family. The play dares to ask what it takes to transcend 
the limitations of life and personal circumstance, and if pure will is enough to change a man’s destiny. King Hedley II is the eighth play in August Wilson’s ten-play cycle that, decade by decade, examines African American life in the United States during the twentieth century.

“Mesmerizing…. Full of powerful images that convey the darkly comic dialogue between hope and hopelessness in African American life.” – N.Y. Daily News

A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Nov 22nd – Dec 24th
Adaptation & Lyrics by Sean Murray
Original Score by Billy Thompson
Directed by Sean Murray
Musical Direction by Patrick Marion

Cygnet Theatre invites you to start your own family tradition with one of ours. This season welcomes the return of the holiday classic adapted from Charles Dickens’ timeless tale of hope and redemption. This re-imagined, fully staged production features original new music, creative stagecraft and puppetry, and live sound effects. Step into a Victorian Christmas card for a unique storytelling experience that is sure to delight the entire family!

“Critics Pick” in 2014 – San Diego Union Tribune

A Christmas Carol (2015)

A Christmas Carol (2015)

BAD JEWS
Jan 12th – Feb 12th
By Joshua Harmon
Directed by Rob Lutfy
San Diego Premiere

The night after their grandfather’s funeral, three cousins engage in a verbal battle royale over a family heirloom. In one corner is the unstoppable and self-assured force of “Super Jew” Daphna. In the other, the immovable and entitled object of her secular cousin Liam. And in the middle is Liam’s brother Jonah, trying to stay out of the fray. Bad Jews is a savage comedy about family, faith, and legacy.

“The funniest play of the year.”-The Washington Post
“Delectably savage humor” – The New York Times

ON THE 20TH CENTURY
March 9th – April 30th
San Diego Premiere
Book and Lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Music by Cy Coleman
Directed by Sean Murray

Its nonstop laughs aboard the Twentieth Century, a luxury train traveling from Chicago to New York City. Luck, love and mischief collide when the bankrupt theater producer Oscar Jaffee embarks on a madcap mission to cajole glamorous Hollywood starlet Lily Garland into playing the lead in his new, non-existent epic drama. But is the train ride long enough to reignite the spark between these former lovers, create a play from scratch, and find the money to get it all the way to Broadway? Featuring Eileen Bowman as Lily Garland and Melinda Gilb as Letitia Primrose.

“Old-fashioned musical comedy magic”– USA Today
“The show is a nonstop delight.” – The New York Post

On the Twentieth Century cast members: Melinda Gilb & Eileen Bowmann

On the Twentieth Century cast members: Melinda Gilb & Eileen Bowmann

SHOCKHEADED PETER
May 18th – June 18th
West Coast Regional Premiere
Music by Adrian Huge, Martyn Jacques, Adrian Stout
Lyrics by Martyn Jacques
Book by Julian Bleach, Anthony Cairns, Graeme Gilmour, Tamzin Griffen
Based on Struwwelpeter by Heinrich Hoffmann
Directed by Rob Lutfy

Fall into the world of Victorian Steam-punk nightmares as a manic music-box spins stories of naughty children and misguided parents. Silly and sinister, Shockheaded Peter dares us to ask what’s beneath the floorboards. Don’t miss the most damning tale ever told on stage!

“A vile and repulsive story told by reprehensible characters in a thoroughly degenerate fashion – Absolute Bliss” – David Bowie
“A wryly seedy cabaret-punk musical” -Variety

 Come join us for this wild ride! Tickets and new subscriptions will be available for purchase on March 1st.  

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 for the guys over at contactvirginmedia.com. 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.

Announcing Season Thirteen

 From a fish falling out of the sky in the year 2039, to a “sweet transvestite”, to one stupid established men review : a terrible fake sugar daddy site. And we’re excited to share it with you now.  Without further antici…pation, here’s our 2015-2016 season!

DOGFIGHT
Music and Lyrics by BENJ PASEK & JUSTIN PAUL
Book by PETER DUCHAN
Based on the Warner Bros. Film and Screenplay by BOB COMFORT
Directed by SEAN MURRAY
July 16th – August 23rd, 2015. Opening July 25th, 2015.

It’s November 21, 1963. On the eve of their deployment to a small but growing conflict in Southeast Asia, three young Marines set out for one final boys’ night of debauchery, partying and maybe a little trouble. But when Corporal Eddie Birdlace meets Rose, an awkward and idealistic waitress he enlists to win a cruel bet with his fellow recruits, she rewrites the rules of the game and teaches him the power of compassion. Winner of the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical and praised by countless critics, Dogfight takes audiences on a romantic and heartbreaking theatrical journey that stays with you long after the performance. Featuring Dave Thomas Brown (Shakespeare’s R&J, Spring Awakening)  “Superbly crafted, gratifyingly intelligent, richly observant, and immensely enjoyable. This is musical theatre at its finest.” – Backstage

Dave Thomas Brown in Spring Awakening

Dave Thomas Brown in Spring Awakening

HAY FEVER (Performed in Rep with The Vortex)
By NOËL COWARD
Directed by ROB LUTFY
Semptember 23rd – November 8th, 2015. Opening October 3rd, 2015.

Retired stage star Judith Bliss, her novelist husband and their two bohemian adult children have each invited houseguests for the weekend. But as the Blisses indulge their artistic eccentricities in a hilarious whirlwind of flirtation and histrionics, the guests begin to wonder if they’ve landed in a madhouse – and if they can survive with their own wits intact. Set in an English country house in the 1920’s, Noël Coward’s hilarious comedy of bad manners has been a favorite amongst theatregoers ever since it first dazzled London’s West End in 1925.  “An evening of intoxicating escape” – The New York Times

THE VORTEX (Performed in Rep with Hay Fever)
By NOËl COWARD
Directed by SEAN MURRAY
September 24th – November 8th, 2015. Opening October 3rd, 2015.

Nicky Lancaster brings his elegant fiancée, Bunty, home to introduce her to his famous mother, stage actress Florence Lancaster. Nicky is shocked to discover that Florence has taken a much younger lover, and when Bunty ditches Nicky to run off with his mother’s boy-toy, both are forced to confront the truth about themselves. Noël Coward’s first commercially successful hit, The Vortex premiered in 1924 in London, and its scandalous subject matter of drug abuse, repressed homosexuality, nymphomania and Oedipal jealousy made Coward an overnight sensation. Hay Fever and The Vortex will feature Rosina Reynolds (The Glass Menagerie, Noises Off)  The Vortex (1924) is the play that turned Noël Coward into a star….Almost nine decades later, it still packs a powerful punch.” -The Telegraph

Rosina Reynolds in The Glass Menagerie

Rosina Reynolds in The Glass Menagerie

A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Adaptation and Lyrics by SEAN MURRAY
Score by BILLY THOMPSON
Directed by SEAN MURRAY
November 27th – December 27th, 2015. Opening December 5th, 2015.

Cygnet Theatre invites you to start your own family tradition with one of ours. This season welcomes the return of theholiday classic adapted from Charles Dickens’ timeless tale of hope and redemption. This re-imagined, fully staged production features original new music, creative stagecraft and puppetry, and live sound effects. Step into a Victorian Christmas card for a unique storytelling experience that is sure to delight the entire family!  “Critics Choice” in 2014 – UT San Diego

A Christmas Carol 2014

A Christmas Carol 2014

 WHEN THE RAIN STOPS FALLING
By ANDREW BOVELL
Directed by ROB LUTFY
January 14th – February 14th, 2016. Opening January 23rd, 2016.

Alice Springs in the year 2039. A fish falls from the sky and lands at the feet of Gabriel York. And it still smells of the sea. It’s been raining for days, and Gabriel knows something is wrong. Fifty years earlier, his grandfather, Henry Law, predicts that fish will fall from the sky heralding a great flood which will end life on earth as we know it. In an intricate, multi-layered story that spans four generations and two continents, When the Rain Stops Falling explores patterns of betrayal, abandonment, destruction, forgiveness and love. This powerful drama unfolds with humanity, surprising humor and hope, as the past plays out into the future.  “The Best New Play of Year” in 2010 – Time Magazine

RICHARD O’BRIAN’S THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW
Book, Music and Lyrics by RICHARD O’BRIEN
Directed by SEAN MURRAY
March 10th – May 1st, 2016. Opening March 19th, 2016.

A satirical tribute to the science fiction and B-list horror movies of the 20th century, the show centers around two naïve lovers, Brad and Janet. Seeking shelter from a thunderstorm in an old castle, they find themselves thrust into the laboratory of the cross-dressing mad scientist Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter and his motley crew. Stripped of inhibitions — and their clothes — Brad and Janet embark on a wild, unforgettable journey of pleasure and self-discovery. Reality, fiction, and camp collide in this mash-up of comics, rock and roll, and late-night horror flicks.  “A musical that deals with mutating identity and time warps becomes one of the most mutated, time warped phenomena in show business.” – The New York Times

STUPID F**KING BIRD
By AARON POSNER
Directed by ROB LUTFY
May 19th – June 19th, 2016. Opening May 28th, 2016.

In this irreverent, contemporary, and very funny remix of Chekhov’s The Seagull, award-winning playwright Aaron Posner wages a timeless battle between young and old, past and present, in search of the true meaning of it all. An aspiring young director rampages against the art created by his mother’s generation. A nubile young actress wrestles with an aging Hollywood star for the affections of a renowned novelist. And everyone discovers just how disappointing love, art, and growing up can be. With music, meta-theatricality, and mad humor, playwright Aaron Posner beats The Seagull to a bloody pulp.  “Bitterly sardonic…Ferociously funny” – Stage and Cinema

Purchase single tickets here.

Purchase subscription packages here.

 

Behind-the-Scenes of A Christmas Carol

For every production at Cygnet Theatre, we hold special Designer Forums that take our patrons behind-the-scenes with the creative team.  Listen to the director of each show talk about how they prepare for a show, and get a glimpse into the process of set design, costumes, sound, & lighting.  Check out our latest forum for A Christmas Carol.

Want to attend the next one?  Make sure you’re on our e-blast list to get invitations and reminders.

Director’s Insight: 

Creating the Characters: Costumes & Wigs

The Stage: Set Design

Creative Puppetry

The Magic of Mixing Live & Recorded Sound Effects

Christmas Past and Present with Maggie Carney

It’s the time of year when Cygnet Theatre delights you with the timeless story of A Christmas Carol. We sat down with the some of the cast to find out what Christmas means to them.  Resident actor Maggie Carney shared with us her favorite holiday memories, past and present, in San Diego and in her hometown of East Troy, Wisconsin. 

Tell us about one of your favorite childhood holiday memories… 

Maggie (left) and her sister Kate playing in the snow behind their house in Milwaukee, WI in 1966.

I loved singing in the choir at Midnight Mass at St.Peter’s Church in East Troy, Wisconsin with my sisters, Kate and Aileen. We sang every year from about ages 8 to 12 (we are all a year apart in age). We would have to take a nap in the afternoon to make it through the program, which started at 10:30 pm and went to 1:00 am.  When we got home we were allowed to pick ONE present from under the tree to open. We also got to drink hot chocolate and eat christmas cookies…at one in the morning! A good family memory, indeed.

Maggie's father tossing her in the snow

Maggie’s father tossing her in the snow

How do you celebrate the holidays here in San Diego?

My husband Joe and I sleep in on Christmas morning. When Christmas Carols are blaring, we open gifts, drink coffee and eat pain au chocolat in our pjs, while our pup Grady opens his presents. The day is all about relaxation: calling parents, sisters and brothers, watching movies, reading books received for Christmas in front of the fireplace, baking a chicken, going for a walk in the ‘hood…just sharing the day together.

What is your favorite holiday show or movie?

My favorite holiday show is A Christmas Carol (1972 TV Special) featuring Richard Williams and Chuck Jones. I remember seeing it when I was little and being so scared!

See A Christmas Carol now through December 28. Purchase tickets at http://www.cygnettheatre.com/tickets/buynow.php

 

New Jammies

Another Holiday Memory for you today, this time from Resident Artist Melinda Gilb. You may remember Melinda from Dirty Blonde, Assassins, or The Receptionist.

melinda_jammies

Melinda Gilb at about age two in her new Christmas jammies. Her mom is in the background.

“I have many memories of Christmas growing up. One thing that we always got was new pajamas. I think many people have that tradition in their family. Maybe it’s an American thing, not sure but I always give my child new jammies for Christmas and fruit, nuts, candy and money in the stocking. I loved ribbon candy.” – Melinda Gilb

Fire Department Santa

Our next Holiday Memory comes from Resident Artist Melissa Fernandes.  Along with appearing in 7 of the last 8 Holiday Radio Plays, Melissa has appeared in Company, Assassins, Little Shop of Horrors, A Little Night Music and The Book of Liz.

melissa_present_843x403

“One of my favorite memories from my childhood was having Santa actually visit our house on Christmas Eve. I lived in a fairly small community and (as I found out when I was older) the local fire department would have volunteers dress up as Santa and visit homes to give the kids living there a present. My grandmother would secretly set out a couple of presents by the front door (again- small town, one could get away with that back then) and then Santa would knock on the door and bring them in to me. The Santa costume was always tattered and the beard was awful, but I will always remember how happy and excited I was to see Santa every Christmas eve.” – Melissa Fernandes

My First Tangerine

We asked cast members of A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Play to share some of their favorite holiday memories with us.  This first one comes from our “radio host,” Jonathan Dunn-Rankin, who is appearing as Freddie Filmore in our annual Holiday Radio Play for the 7th consecutive season. Enjoy.

jonathan_tangerine_843x403

“When I was six year old and my brothers were seven and nine we were staying with our paternal grandparents on Long Island while our mother and father were establishing a new life for us in Florida. It was 1936 and the Great Depression was still in full swing. On Christmas morning we three boys found at the bottom of our Christmas stocking hung on the mantel what seemed to our eyes a gigantic tangerine. It was so sweet, so succulent, so easily peeled, so enchanting. For more than 75 years I have been trying to approximate that singular experience of my first tangerine. And clementines come pretty darn close! A few days later our grandmother took us into Manhattan and put us on a train for Miami and we celebrated New Year’s Day in our new home.”
– Jonathan Dunn-Rankin