Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Webcast at 4:30 ET

"Hamlet's Women" is the subject of this afternoon's webcast. Maria Ricossa (Gertrude) and Adrienne Gould (Ophelia) join webcast host and Festival General Director Antoni Cimolino for a live chat right here.

Unable to watch the live version? You can ask a question now and get the answer when you watch the episode on-demand sometime tomorrow.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Spotlight on Adrienne Gould

From Richard Ouzounian at the Toronto Star:

"Adrienne Gould has become one of the quiet miracles of Stratford.

"You know the type of actor I mean. She didn't enter blazing like a Roman candle, only to fizzle out a season or two later. And she also never seemed to wind up playing parts she was totally wrong for just to help fill out the schedule.

"No, she started out small, then gradually built her range as we watched her talent and depth develop before our eyes.

"Over the past eight years, we enjoyed her exploration of the full range of Shakespearean ingénues from angelic to tragic to ribald.

"It was lovely work. But, after a while, a tiny doubt emerged: was that all she could do?
Then, last summer, all fears were banished on a hot August night when she delivered a searingly intense portrayal of a Palestinian freedom fighter named Yasmin in David Edgar's brilliant Pentecost.

"Anyone who saw that performance heard the tumblers click into place in the lock of the vault that guards great work at Stratford.

"The management must have heard it, too, because she's back this season in two prized roles: Ophelia in Hamlet and Bianca in The Taming of the Shrew.

"'I worry a lot about playing Ophelia,' says Gould, 33 (pictured above), with the earnestness that marks her performances. 'A lot. I know it's one of those parts that everyone has seen many times before and all have their own particular ideas of how it should be played.

"'I want to give people all of the emotional things they think Ophelia is made up of: a young woman full of life, love, and potential who is destroyed or, in fact, destroys herself due to some extraordinary circumstances.

"'But, at the same time, I'd like to do it in a way they've never seen . . . give them something different to remember.'

"In a way, that could be Gould's motto for her whole life. There were three performing Gould children, with Jennifer and Jonathan flanking the somewhat more retiring Adrienne.

"'One of my earliest memories is of being in the back seat on car trips and wanting to sing, but everyone shushing me up because they preferred to hear Jonathan's glorious boy soprano,' Gould says.

"She insists there were no hard feelings among them, 'just a lot of laughter and work and high spirits.'

"Amateur musicals became a way out for all of them and the website of Ottawa's venerable Orpheus Musical Theatre Society still commemorates the 1988 production of Oliver! where Adrienne and Jonathan shared the stage with another young Ottawa musical talent named Alanis Morissette.

"'I always knew I wanted to be in musicals,' admits Gould, but it wasn't until she entered Canterbury High School and was cast as Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream that 'I suddenly realized I wanted to do straight plays as well.'"

Keep reading.

From Page to Stage: Part 1

The Globe and Mail's Michael Posner begins a six-part series this Saturday that will take us through the process of producing Fuente Ovejuna for the 2008 Stratford Shakespeare Festival season.

"Today, we look at how Fuente Ovejuna arrived on the festival playbill; and at director [Laurence] Boswell.

"The three-act tragicomedy stars Sara Topham, Scott Wentworth, Jonathan Goad and James Blendick, and opens June 27 at the Tom Patterson Theatre. The play is based on what is said to be a genuine historical event: the 15th-century rebellion, by a group of Spaniards from a village called Fuente Ovejuna, against the tyranny of a brutal military overlord.

"They resolved to murder him – and did. When court officials sent an investigative team to determine whodunit, the village presented a solid communal front, refusing to identify those responsible and repeatedly saying 'Fuente Ovejuna did it.' No one was subsequently charged with the crime.

"So, the moral questions are central – although the morality comes wrapped in a play with some broad comedy and music; so much, in fact, that the production will have a small orchestra playing strings and horns. In Lope's world, as in ours, dark and light co-exist.

"Affable and gregarious, Boswell, 48, has the distinction of having directed Madonna in David Williamson's Up for Grabs and Jake Gyllenhaal and Matt Damon in Kenneth Lonergan's This Is Our Youth on London stages in the same year. That isn't why he's here, of course. He's here because his real métier is the classics, and he's something of a Lope maven. Not that there's a ton of competition.

"Stratford's general director, Antoni Cimolino, had seen Spanish Golden Age plays at the Royal Shakespeare Company some seasons ago, and later mused publicly that it would be a good idea for Stratford to eventually mount some of them. A friend of Boswell's wrote to Cimolino suggesting Boswell would make an ideal director. In turn, Cimolino sounded out Boswell about his interest in directing at Stratford, specifically Fuente Ovejuna. He immediately said yes.

"Raised in Coventry, the son of a car-factory worker, Boswell started out as an actor, making his first appearance onstage as a ventriloquist's dummy at the age of 10. Happy in the limelight – 'I was a bit of a show-off then' – he was auditioning for London acting schools when a local director suggested he might be better suited to directing. 'You're always analyzing things, he told me. You seem more interested in the play than the parts.'

"Taking that advice, Boswell went off to the University of Manchester, where he was a classmate of novelist and playwright Ben ( We Will Rock You) Elton. In his third week there, for an assignment, Boswell stumbled upon Fuente Ovejuna. He had never heard of the play, and started reading. The next term, he staged Lope's The Dog in the Manger, winning a national student competition.

"Some years later, he made the daring decision to stage two seasons of plays from the Spanish Golden Age – works not only by Lope de Vega, but by Tirso de Molina and Pedro Calderon de la Barca. Seven were British premieres. That was during his tenure at the Gate Theatre, a 100-seat room-above-a-pub fringe venue in Notting Hill. Amazingly (certainly to him), the Gate won an Olivier Award for special achievement. Later, he mounted several more such plays at the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he became an associate director.

"Working with academic colleagues, Boswell produced what he calls new versions of the original works – scrupulously faithful to the storyline and the spirit of the text, but liberal in updating the language. He has now completed almost a dozen of them. His treatment of Fuente Ovejuna, for example – done expressly for Stratford – contains such phrases as 'information overload' and 'Come on, relax.'

"'I feel I have to honour Lope as if he were both a 17th-century and a 21st-century playwright,' Boswell explained a few weeks ago, over a post-rehearsal beer and burger in Stratford. 'I try to be completely loyal to what he's talking about, but sometimes that might need a new form of language. In the case of "information overload," we have computer technology. But he was talking about printing, and felt exactly the same – that people were being overwhelmed with information in books and pamphlets.'

"What appeals to him about these plays? 'In part, their novelty. People don't know them, so it's exciting to invent ways of staging them. There's a real experimental, pioneering, new-territory kind of feel. Plus, if you play Hamlet, you're bound to be compared to everyone from Ian McKellen to [legendary 18th-century actor David] Garrick. You can't win . . .

"And with Lope, there's a sensuality and emotion there. I'm very emotional. My grandfather was Italian, so Lope connects with my taste and my temperament. The plays are very Mediterranean. I identify with that. He's a really sophisticated storyteller who wants to take on big themes, and make them entertaining. He's like John Ford and Howard Hawks were in cinema – consummately commercial, but dealing with serious issues."

"Throughout Lope's career, his great rival was Cervantes, who called him 'the monster of nature,' not only because of his productivity, but because he effectively created genres and verse forms. 'The entire Spanish industry became based on his structures,' says Boswell. 'Always three acts. Always the same character archetypes, derived from Italian commedia. Always a clown. Always a first lady and a second lady. Always an older man who's a baddie or a father. But, unlike Shakespeare, he wasn't involved in producing the plays. He wrote them, got paid a fee, and then walked away.'

"When Cimolino offered him the assignment at Stratford, Boswell recalls, 'I said, How many actors can you give me? He said, Twenty-nine. I said, Okay! Canada's very lucky to have a theatre with enough resources to do it.'

"Boswell promptly started the process of finding the words that would modernize the text. He came over last summer to see some productions; and returned in the fall to cast the show, impressed by the range of talent available. He counted himself blessed to have garnered some of the company's most distinguished names: In addition to Topham, Blendick, Wentworth and Goad, there's Seana McKenna, Geraint Wyn Davies, Stephen Russell, David W. Keeley and Nigel Shawn Williams. 'There's a real spirit of the ensemble here,' says Boswell, 'and a tradition of continuity.'

"As it turns out, Boswell had a personal connection to Stratford. He's been married for 20 years to Sara Thomas, daughter of the late Powys Thomas, a stalwart at the festival for many years and a founder of Canada's National Theatre School. The couple met in a university corridor on their first day at Manchester. Once a successful actress, she's now a registered family therapist.

"One possible logistical hiccup to the Stratford assignment was Boswell's commitment to his 11-year-old son's soccer team, the Dulwich Devils, which he coaches in south London. In the end, Boswell handed off coaching duties to an associate. But the team is in the finals, and so the director is 'flying home Friday, May 9, arriving Saturday morning, training that day, coaching the game on Sunday, and immediately driving to Heathrow to catch the Sunday-night flight back. I just couldn't live with myself if I wasn't there.' His son is named Zinzan (nicknamed Zinny), in honour of New Zealand rugby legend Zinzan Brooke. His daughter, Lottie, is 19.

"In the months since his appointment, Boswell has engaged in extended e-mail conversations with, among many others, his designer, Peter Hartwell, who lives in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.; and his composer, Edward Henderson (younger brother of Chilliwack's Bill), who lives in Vancouver.

"Boswell considers directing a very social activity, one that requires him 'to be the servant of everyone else, finding ways to help them perfect their talents. But I also find I need some solitude, so the writing part gives me that. If I spend a whole year directing, by the end of it, I'm a hollowed form.' In the rehearsal hall, he engages actively, moving around, usually in his socks.
His experience working with American celebrities like Madonna, who demanded a complete rewrite of the Williamson play, as well as Gyllenhall and Damon, was instructive. All the productions were sold out, based on star power alone. But for Boswell, the experience was an object lesson in how the culture assigns value.

"'So there we are in rehearsal,' he recalls, 'and of course they aren't theatre actors. They can't really act. They need my help for everything: what to do with their hands, how to speak, how to stand, how to breathe . . . They are totally dependent on me . . . And then we leave the building, and the paparazzi and the fans are waiting outside and we all go out together, and suddenly I am nothing. I am completely, I mean completely, invisible.'

"So Boswell nurtures no illusion that Stratford audiences will be coming to see de Vega because of his work or reputation. Still, he says he would be very surprised if they don't respond as favourably to the Spanish Golden Age as British theatregoers have. He has now directed 11 of these plays in total; all have been critical and box-office hits.

"Confident, but not cocky.

"'I'll call it a success if I'm invited back next year, and the year after, and have done three,' he says, ordering another beer. 'And then we can take them around and show off the talents of the company. But first things first. This play has to prove itself. And I have to prove myself.'"

Friday, April 25, 2008

Permanent Changes to Festival Theatre?

Production designs revealed in webcasts involve immense alterations to the Festival Theatre stage and sets that are too big to store in the building. But could there be permanent changes on the horizon for the landmark stage?

"Current festival management, which is contemplating these changes, denies that the original stage design is headed for the scrap heap. Rather, it simply suggests that the 1,800-seat Festival Theatre must become more adaptable to the wishes of the artists working there.

"'I love the original Moiseiwitsch design [pictured below] and we will always return to that whenever it is appropriate,' says Des McAnuff, the festival's new artistic director. 'But I'm interested in creating freedom for artists . . . The thing that's important to me is to create as much flexibility for directors and designers as possible.'

"Among Stratford purists, any radical overhaul of the Festival Theatre stage will be seen as a betrayal of the organization's founding principles.

"Guthrie and Moiseiwitsch wanted to bring the original sensibility of Shakespearean performance to Southern Ontario. Their starting point was an Elizabethan platform stage reaching out into the auditorium and surrounded on three sides by spectators. That was the concept dating back to the festival's earliest days in an outdoor tent.

"But that apparently is no longer enough. Stratford officials are cautious in discussing the future of the Festival Theatre - particularly with controversy continuing over the recent resignations of the organization's other two artistic directors, Marti Maraden and Don Shipley. But general director Antoni Cimolino admits that changes are in the air.

"'We are looking at all sorts of possibilities for the Festival Theatre,' Cimolino says. He emphasizes that 'we'll always have the Tanya Moiseiwitsch design available. What we want is to be able to provide flexibility for the directors and designers that are there. But absolutely, we will always have the Tanya stage.'

"But how frequently will the 'Tanya stage' be used under this new order?

"Sources close to Stratford say the Festival Theatre's future had become an issue of ongoing concern to Maraden and Shipley, although it was not the factor triggering their decision to resign their posts.

"Cimolino argues that periodic modifications have been made to the stage from the beginning and implies that the Moiseiwitsch design will remain - at least in storage.

"'The one thing that's decided is that any change that would be made would of course have to keep Tanya's stage there and available for any team that wants to use it. That's critically important.'

"This view may not pacify the school of thought that believes that the Moiseiwitsch stage is the heart and soul of Stratford.

"Under the regime of Robin Phillips, who served as artistic director from 1975 to 1980, the stage's centre balcony became movable, but Phillips was careful to preserve what he termed the stage's architectural philosophy.

"Phillips believed firmly that the glory of the Moiseiwitsch stage was that it challenged directors to rethink what they were doing, not to try and re- adapt its purpose to suit their particular needs.

"Cimolino, however, argues that the festival is acting responsibly. 'Those are things we have to do . . . part of creating exciting and dynamic theatre.'"

Jamie Portman writes for CanWest News Service.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cleopatra Casting Change

Anika Noni Rose will not be in Caesar and Cleopatra (2008), due to a scheduling conflict. Rose will instead be filming The No. 1 Ladie's Detective Agency.

Cleopatra will be taken up by newcomer Nikki M. James, whose original role in the play was Iras. James comes to Stratford straight from La Jolla Playhouse, where she was Dorothy in Des McAnuff's The Wiz.

Romeo and Juliet (2008) goes into previews on May 7; Caesar and Cleopatra on August 7.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

McAnuff at Stratford

Martin Morrow writes a long piece, more on Artistic Director Des McAnuff than the season, for Here's a snapshot:

"What brought him to the festival was the desire to direct Shakespeare and other classic plays on a scale comparable to the musicals that have made his name. 'The classics have definitely always been part of my menu as an artist,' he says, 'but it’s become more difficult to do large-canvas works at many theatres. That was one of my struggles at La Jolla. When we did do a classic, it would tend to be a smaller one, just due to resources. The chief reason that I’m here is to work with a company of actors on the classical repertory.'

"His multi-racial Romeo and Juliet (2008) pairs Canadian classical actor Gareth Potter as Romeo with a Juliet played by one of his musical-theatre protégées — U.S. singer-actress Nikki M. James. McAnuff directed James in a revival of The Wiz a couple of years ago, but he says he’s known her since she was a stage-struck kid.

"'She was actually a Stage Door Janie for a show I did on Broadway,' he recalls fondly, referring to his 1995 production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, starring Matthew Broderick and Megan Mullally. 'Nikki used to show up at the theatre as a fan. Megan took a real shine to her, and Nikki and her friend used to perform show tunes for the cast backstage.'

"McAnuff’s second production this season, opening in August, will be one of Stratford’s rare forays into Shaw country: a staging of George Bernard Shaw’s historical comedy Caesar and Cleopatra (2008), starring Christopher Plummer. McAnuff says the play was Plummer’s idea. 'We wanted to do a project together and [Julius Caesar] was a role he really wanted to play. Chris is really an exceptional actor who has a great sense of himself and what he should be doing. He was brilliant in Inherit the Wind on Broadway last year, as was Brian Dennehy.'

"Dennehy is also part of this year’s unusually starry season. Other notables making their Stratford debuts include Hamlet director Adrian Noble, the former head of Britain’s Royal Shakespeare Company, and British actor-author Simon Callow, who will be premiering a new solo show based on Shakespeare’s sonnets. McAnuff hopes to bring more star power to Stratford in the future.'From the Alec Guinness days, there’s been a history of that here,' he points out. 'I definitely embrace that tradition. And when you talk of stars,' he adds, 'I’m hoping the projects themselves are going to be stars as well. That’s going to be extremely important.'

"Does McAnuff see Stratford as a potential springboard for commercial productions — perhaps the way the Royal Shakespeare Company under Trevor Nunn spawned West End-Broadway hits like Les Misérables and Nicholas Nickleby?

"'I’d love to do something like that at Stratford,' McAnuff replies. 'There are skills and talents here that could be brought to bear on projects like that, which have a classical association. And I would love to see that happen to the festival in terms of [providing] income streams, too. Royalty income is an awfully nice thing to have.'

"McAnuff doesn’t rule out Stratford as a home for more offbeat efforts, too. Like, say, that Flaming Lips musical. 'It certainly would be unusual,' he admits. But it would fit in with his belief that the festival should be doing more new work. 'I feel it’s critically important, when you’re doing the great plays in the history of theatre, that you put living writers and their works side by side with them,' he says. 'The new work informs the old plays, and keeps them from turning into relics.'"

First Preview Today

The 2008 Stratford Shakespeare Festival season begins today with a preview of Hamlet; the unveiling of the new Festival Theatre lobby (including cafe and concert stage), the new Discovery Centre Theatre Store; and a special chorus of "Happy Birthday" for the bard.

Voice coach Patsy Rodenburg will be on hand in the store to sign copies of her book, The Second Circle. Rodenburg and the Festival's Head of Coaching Janine Pearson will be featured in today's webcast (at 4:30 ET). And, of course, you can always ask a question in advance.

Monday, April 21, 2008

No More Badminton in the Tom Patterson

From Tori Sutton at the Stratford Gazette:

"The Stratford Shakespearean Festival has entered into a 20-year lease agreement for the Tom Patterson Theatre.

"At Monday night’s meeting, council passed a resolution to enter into the agreement, which will see Festival occupy the theatre 12 months of the year.

"The first year’s rent will be $52,710, with a five per cent increase each year, eventually climbing to $133,195.57 in 2028.

"This will be the first time the Festival has been granted sole occupancy of the building. In the past, the building has been used not only as a theatre, but a facility for the Stratford Badminton Club and local volleyball teams.

"The badminton and volleyball players have been relocated to the new Agriplex, which is currently under construction.According to background information provided by the community services department, the building generated $40,556 in rent income in 2007.

"The new agreement between the city and the Festival states the city will carry out all capital repairs or replacements, including roof repairs and structural defects. The Festival has been given the green light to renovate the lobby and washrooms at its sole cost and expense.

"The Festival is also to obtain a maintenance contract for the HVAC system and that repairs up to $5,000 be ordered and paid for by the Festival. The city will assume responsibility for any repairs over and above the amount."

Saturday, April 19, 2008

New Season, New Company

Richard Ouzounian's first article of the season. Is anyone else getting excited?

"Next Wednesday is Shakespeare's birthday. It also – appropriately enough – marks the start of the new Stratford Festival season, with a preview of Hamlet.

"This year heralds a new beginning for the festival, with general director Antoni Cimolino and artistic director Des McAnuff presenting their vision to the world.

"And, appropriately enough, it also welcomes a multitude of new faces bringing their energy to the task at hand.

"'Yes, it scares me,' admits Ben Carlson, who is playing the Prince of Denmark in this year's Stratford version, directed by Adrian Noble.

"Although he's a multi-year veteran of the Shaw Festival and played Hamlet before in 2006 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, this will mark his Stratford debut.

"'It's a bit of leap for me,' confesses Carlson, 'coming into this company and playing this part right away, but I'm delighted to be here.'

"Carlson isn't the only newcomer on this year's roster. Leah Oster, playing the leading role of Marian Paroo in The Music Man, is also venturing into this celebrated institution for the first time.

"But instead of fear, she finds the experience inspires confidence.

"'You're surrounded by people who are so superb at what they do,' she says with admiration.

"'The best of the industry have gathered here and they're all devoted to making you look good on stage.'

"Another fresh face belongs to Nikki M. James, who portrays Juliet in McAnuff's signature production of Romeo and Juliet.

"Although she had played Dorothy in McAnuff's recent version of The Wiz, she was astonished when he wanted her to play Juliet.

"'At first, I wasn't sure it was something I could do,' she admits, 'but I knew that Des believed in me and I said, Okay, for you, I'll give it a chance.'

"It's the same kind of courage that's infused veteran lighting designer Kevin Fraser, who's tackling the new and edgy production of Cabaret by Amanda Dehnert with a sense he describes as 'purely intuitive. You see something that she's trying and it encourages you to experiment.'

"Actor Nigel Shawn Williams has been at Stratford before but he finds the work he's been offered this year 'incredibly exciting,' from the seldom performed Fuente Ovejuna by Lope de Vega to the world premiere of Palmer Park by Joanna McClelland Glass.

"'I'm always excited about doing things first,' he says, 'about birthing a play to the world and that's what's happening here this year.'

"Or, as Shakespeare himself said, 'O brave new world!'"

Friday, April 11, 2008

Check Out The YouTube Channel

The most recent webcast, which featured actors Ian Lake and Stacie Steadman, Birmingham Conservatory Director Martha Henry, and fight director John Stead, is now available on the Stratford Shakespeare Festival's YouTube channel.

If you've already seen it, there are a number of other videos to keep you amused this weekend:

Teaching Shakespeare at Stratford (in two parts);

Bruce Dow's video diaries;

A LEGO version of Emilia Galotti to get you excited for the touring production;

Plus all the behind-the-scenes featurettes with directors, designers, and actors from this season and last. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Webcasts On-Demand

Yesterday's live webcast with Birmingham Conservatory graduates and Love's Labours Lost actors Ian Lake (Berowne) and Stacie Steadman (Jacquenetta) is now available on-demand.

Click the link (the video isn't available on the Festival's YouTube channel yet), and enjoy the q-and-a with the actors and pre-recorded segments with fight director John Stead and Birmingham Conservatory director Martha Henry.

While you're there, check out the past webcasts:

#1 General Director Antoni Cimolino, who hosts all webcasts, introduces the 2008 season.

#2 Director Peter Hinton reveals that Queen Elizabeth I will be making a personal appearance in the induction of The Taming of the Shrew (2008).

#3 Peter Donaldson (Friar Lawrence) answers questions about the Romeo and Juliet (2008) you have to see.

#4 Though he's "never been an actor afraid of going out on a limb", Bruce Dow (Emcee) seems a bit concerned that his role in Cabaret (2008) isn't defined in the script.

#5 Gareth Potter (Romeo) and Nikki M. James (Juliet) talk about the play and a bit about themselves. Lucy Peacock (Nurse) appears in a pre-taped interview.

#6 Designer Patrick Clark walks through the costume and scene shops preparing for a very exciting production of The Music Man (2008).

#7 Jonathan Goad (Harold Hill) and Leah Oster (Marian Paroo) misbehave during pre-recorded segments with Music Man director Susan Schulman. And a bit on camera.

Slings & Arrows Travels to Brazil

Rhombus Media producer Niv Fichman has sold adaptive rights for Slings & Arrows to Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles (City of God), writes Gayle MacDonald for the Globe and Mail.

Fichman had been trying to convince Meirelles to collaborate on the adaptation of Jose Saramago's Blindness when he sent him the first season of the cult hit.

Meirelles promptly asked for the next two.

"'When he called, he asked me if I thought [this deal] would be possible? If it would be very expensive [for him to buy the rights]?" says Fichman, laughing, whose Toronto company has produced features films such as The Red Violin and the Emmy-winning Yo-Yo Ma Inspired by Bach. 'I said, Fernando, I can tell you one thing. Money is not going to be the issue here.'

"Fichman's Canadian cast - including big names such as William Hutt, Paul Gross, Martha Burns, Rachel McAdams, Don McKellar, Susan Coyne and Bob Martin - all worked for scale on the production.

"'I'm not going to make any money in Brazil doing this,' concurs Meirelles, an observation that prompts Fichman to quip: 'You can say that none of us are getting rich off this. But it's such a wonderful thing, and such a natural way, for us to continue our collaboration.'

"Blindness is expected to hit theatres in Brazil in mid-September and in North America Oct. 13. The Brazilian version of Slings & Arrows will start shooting in early July, and Meirelles expects TV Globo to air the miniseries in November.

"When Slings & Arrows was conceived, even its creators and writers - actor-playwright Coyne, Kids in the Hall alumnus Mark McKinney and Martin, co-author of the current Broadway hit The Drowsy Chaperone - did not expect it would have a very broad audience. After all, it got off to a rocky start - green-lit by the CBC and then dropped before ever being produced, the drama finally found a home with TMN and Movie Central. Showcase also later found a berth for the fledgling show, which eventually was picked up in the United States on the Sundance Channel, where it earned Entertainment Weekly's vote as the year's best TV import.

"In Canada, it picked up numerous Gemini awards during its three seasons. In the U.S., it was favourably received by television critics at The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and The New York Times, which dubbed it 'absolutely addictive.'"

"Meirelles translated the script into Portuguese. He has had to cut about 10 minutes from each episode 'because our [broadcast] time slots are shorter.' He also tinkered a bit with some characters, taking into account obvious cultural differences.

"He said he hopes Slings & Arrows will 'bring some fresh air to Brazilian television.'"

It certainly did to ours.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Wednesday Webcast #8

This afternoon, Birmingham Conservatory graduates Ian Lake (Berowne) and Stacie Steadman (Jaquenetta) will be with Stratford Shakespeare Festival General Director Antoni Cimolino to discuss Love's Labours Lost (2008).

Follow this link to join in the live webcast, scheduled for 4:30 ET.

Remember, you can always ask a question in advance, and that all previous webcasts are available on-demand and through the Festival's YouTube channel.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Rehearsing The Music Man

If you missed yesterday's live webcast, or want to watch it again, it is now available in the archives and on the Stratford Shakespeare Festival's YouTube channel (the following links are specific to YouTube).

After a brief introduction of our host, General Director Antoni Cimolino, and guests, Leah Oster and Jonathan Goad, part one gives us a pre-taped interview with director Susan Schulman.

Part two begins on the stage of the Avon Theatre, where designer Patrick Clark shows us a surprising number of set pieces. Then it's back to the studio for audience questions. Leah Oster discusses her work history and the audition process; Jonathan Goad bandies with himself about the differences between Shakespeare and musical theatre; and they both gush about their costumes.

The question-and-answer period continues in part three. Oster and Goad talk about their characters falling in love, kissing on stage, preparing for their roles. There's also a sneak preview of Goad's rapping talents.


NEXT WEDNESDAY: Ian Lake and Stacie Steadman on Love's Labours Lost (2008).

Behind the Scenes: Millinery

Judy Gerstel, reporting for the Toronto Star, brings us behind the scenes of the millinery department at the Shaw Festival (I know).

"Margie Berggren is the head milliner, working with assistant Christine Grosskurth in what is charmingly referred to as the 'hats, spats and cravats' area of Shaw's wardrobe department.

"The milliners are responsible for 'any decoration on the head' of Shaw actors, including flowers, tiaras and military caps, explains Berggren. Helmets, however, are considered props and fall within the purview of the props department. 'I don't do metal work,' quips Berggren.

"What she does do is translate the designer's sketches into fabric. 'My job is to create their vision,' she explains. The process begins with selecting swatches and compiling a loose-leaf book for each show ('my bible') with a page for each costume with a hat.

"For musicals, says Berggren, there may be as many as 180 hats to fashion. This year, Wonderful Town, set in 1935, required 77 hats, including a handsome brown felt fedora worn by the character Ruth, the older sister.

"'The women's hats are mostly felts, hand blocked with creases,' she says, 'and we've tried to make them so they're not shading their faces or interfering with the sound, because the girls are all miked.'

"'Seasons can be very different in volume depending how much the characters are indoors or outdoors,' Berggren says.

"During Shaw's era (the Irish playwright lived 1856-1950), anyone who was getting ready to go outside would put on a hat but generally wouldn't wear one indoors, she says. [Hats were also essential to Shakespeare's era, and are often quite prevalent even in displaced productions at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.]

"The theatrical millinery process finishes with the fittings on the actors: 'Is there a wig? Is there a quick change? Any special action the hat has to do?'"

Leah Oster (Marion Paroo), who spent two seasons at the Shaw Festival, addresses the functionality of wardrobe in Wednesday Webcast #7: Rehearsing The Music Man. It will be posted to the archives and the Festival's YouTube channel later today.

In the meantime, you can continue reading about millinery at the Shaw Festival.

New Directors Named to Krapp/Hughie

A press release today from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival announces two replacement directors for the double bill of Krapp's Last Tape (2008) and Hughie (2008).

Toronto-based Jennifer Tarver will direct Brian Dennehy in Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape (2008). General Director Antoni Cimolino is very excited about her debut at the Festival, calling her an "outstanding young talent".

According to the press release, "Tarver, winner of the 2006 Pauline McGibbon Award and the 2002 John Hirsch Directors Award, is a respected director and creator, known for work that resounds with clarity and sophistication. She was named Now Magazine's best director of 2007. Her most recent productions include Thom Pain (based on nothing), a one-man show featuring Tom McCamus, and Sarah Kane's Crave for Nightwood Theatre, for which she received a Dora nomination for best director."

Robert Falls will direct Dennehy and Joe Grifasi in the second half of the double bill: Eugene O'Neill's Hughie (2008). "I'm thrilled that Robert Falls can step in on Hughie so that he can continue his fruitful creative relationship with Brian Dennehy," says Artistic Director Des McAnuff.

"Falls has been the artistic director of Chicago's Goodman Theatre since 1986. Under his leadership, the Goodman was named by Time magazine the number one regional theatre in the U. S. Two of his most highly acclaimed Broadway productions, Death of a Salesman and Long Day's Journey Into Night, both starring Brian Dennehy, were honoured with seven Tony Awards and three Drama Desk Awards. Death of a Salesman went on to a long run in London's West End."

Don Shipley resigned as director of the both productions on March 12.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Wednesday Webcast #7

Stars Jonathan Goad and Leah Oster are set to chat about The Music Man (2008) this afternoon at 4:30 ET. (Follow the link here to watch.)

If you can't make it, you can ask a question in advance, and then watch the archived version tomorrow. Or watch last week's webcast with designer Patrick Clark now.