Saturday, December 31, 2011

REady, Set, Participate. . .

Below we've placed a kind of primer, an enticing little intro to Shakespeare's delightful romantic comedy Much Ado About Nothing, the play we hope will attract a maximum of audience participation.  Please take a look at the video, which shows the simplicity of the rollicking romp, and then join us on January 26, at 7:30 PM,  for an evening of Rough Magic - No Holds Bard: Much Ado About Nothing.  Refreshments and talk-back for all participants to follow.   Check out the full overview of the program on the website, under the The Season tab.

Much Ado About Nothing ~ Hip-Hop Animation by Flocabulary ~ Presented by...

A Christmas Carol Shares Speaks for Occupy London

Lest you doubt how timely A Christmas Carol really is, check out this clip from a production being sponsored by the Occupy London forces at St. Paul's Cathedral, whose administration has been overwhelmingly supportive of the movement.

Occupy London presents Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" in the porch...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Passion and Purpose Speeds the Plough Forward

                              ....then there
                              was a star danced, and under that was I born.

     Directing a classical theater company is no simple task.  Such a company is a complex organization, and leading it requires building a complicated network of resources.  This is not a job for the faint of heart . . . or for the faint of skills.  Directing a classical theater company requires an elaborate – and rare – composite of background, a nexus of experience, talent , intelligence, common sense, and tenacity.  The director needs be as complex as the organization, a person who can manage finances, entertain the community, attract and curry donors, counsel personnel, engage in politics, and foretell the future; and if that person wants to remain sane, h/she must also be able to retain an inner smile over the course of an unparalleled roller-coaster ride that can ascend to the heights of euphoria and descend to the depths of despair in a single breath.  It’s a tall order, and anyone who takes it on has to be equal parts starry-eyed optimist and grounded pragmatist at all times.  In other words, one needs to be the likes of Colette Rice, Producing Artistic Director and Playmaster of the Actors Shakespeare Company at New Jersey City University. 
            Colette didn’t set out to helm a theater company in Jersey City.  In fact, she divided her early professional training between music and the theater.  Rice left her home in Sacramento, CA, to study acting at the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Santa Maria, and then to attend Northwestern University,  where she earned both a Bachelor of Music and a Master of Music degrees, with an emphasis in Voice and Opera Performance.  “My roots,” she says, “were always in the theater.  I loved the theater, and I was, even as a youngster, in love with Shakespeare’s language, with the drama of his plays.”  But it was music that brought her east.

In New York, Colette continued to pursue her opera career, auditioning, competing and performing in metropolitan area and regional venues.  Winning the prestigious Liederkranz Foundation Award in New York City afforded her the opportunity to perform at Alice Tully Hall.  Opera was the focus of her life.  At the Sarasota Opera, Rice met John Basil, Artistic Director of the American Globe Theatre in New York, who was directing the production of Simon Boccanegra in which she was featured. After talking extensively about the art of William Shakespeare with the director and taking his classes, she felt, she says, "like I'd been let out of a cage."  She knew then that she had to return to acting, especially to Shakespeare.
“I rediscovered Shakespeare through Opera,” says Colette.  “And through that, I was understanding that opera was not necessarily where I belonged.  My inclination was to turn down roles that were musically appropriate for my voice in favor of roles that had more meat to their characters.  And an opera singer who chooses roles based on character rather than on music probably should reconsider her professional choices.
“So there I was in an interesting predicament.  I was totally enthralled with Shakespeare, was passionate about the work.  But I didn’t have a track record.  I wanted to be doing Shakespeare, but my tangible experience had been elsewhere.  How was I to make that transition?”
Colette got lucky at that point.  She met a group of like-minded actors, who joined together and founded a theater company to produce Shakespeare's plays; that group disbanded eventually, but a sub-group decided to establish another organization, this one dedicated, at least at first, to producing the Shakespeare canon; they founded what eventually came to be known as the Actors Shakespeare Company.
“At that point, I was the one with the most extensive background,” laughs Rice.  “I had coached singers and actors,
had studied a LOT, and I had acted in more Shakespeare than many of the original actors. Also, I had worked both in business and in the world of grant making; I was the only person everyone felt would be capable of leading the new organization, and that’s how I became the Director.”
Colette Rice had done what most artists do – she had taken day jobs to sustain her pursuit of her artistic career.  And on the way, she had accrued skills and knowledge that had preened her for the job she now cherishes at the ASCNJ.  She  worked for Morgan Stanley and for Credit Suisse and was instrumental in establishing the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.  “I remember thinking ‘why me? Why am I here at Doris Duke – which I loved, by the way – when I really feel like I'm supposed to be an artist? '  But I know now that it was all kind of meant to be – I was gaining skills for running the organization I now run.”
Despite the extensive preparation, the part of her job Colette finds most challenging is the fundraising.  Fine Arts fundraising in any economy is difficult at best, and in these troubled times, it is a constant trial, a never-ending juggling act.  Operating under the aegis of a university, as the ASC does – the New Jersey City University  – helps but is not a panacea.  The company director must decide daily what she can cut and still keep going, what to do to be prudent with a smaller and smaller pool of money.  “You apply for grants, you seek sources in the world of finance, and you just soldier on.  It’s the most difficult thing to do day after day without getting discouraged.”
Which is why Rice dwells most on the positive aspects of her position. “You know, when I first got into this, I thought I was doing it to be an actor.  I thought I would love the acting the most.  But I discovered that I love directing, LOVE it.  As a director, I get to act out all the parts, to explore all the motivations not just of character but of plot and staging as well.  That’s a gift, a true gift!”
Rice says she is committed to creating a judgment-free environment in which her actors can experiment freely, can examine, scrutinize, personalize their roles.  “We have great trust for one another, the actors and I.  We also have great trust in our literature.  I know that the actors know how to deliver performances that are true to the text and the story, and they know that I can both lead them and listen to them as we find the way together.  It’s a remarkable freedom to have such a relationship!”
On March 16, Colette Rice’s production of Macbeth premiers at the Westside Theater, a production Rice is particularly proud to be mounting.  “We have seven actors playing all the roles, telling the story through a ritual circle-storytelling style.”  There will be a flow of the characters and a dedication to the crux of the story, which, according to Rice , is the coexistence of good and evil in everyone.  “The thrust of the main story,” she says, “is encapsulated in the witches’ line, ‘Fair is foul and foul is fair.’  Nothing is what it seems, no one ever says exactly what they’re talking about because there is always an underlying motive, an underlying fear, a ‘something else’ that belies the words.  This play’s a great warning.  We must all stop using euphemisms and see things for what they are.  We must all acknowledge that we are capable of great evil and must recognize what it is in each of us to do our best -and our worst! - and shed a light on our own motivates for choosing righteousness or ill.”
Rice really appreciates the discovery.  She revels in the process of uncovering the meaning of a play, of finding that portent in the marrow of the individual parts of the play, and she exults in sharing that process with an audience.  “I really believe that the audience is capable of so much, “ she says as she launches into her explanation of No Holds Bard, a program she’ll host and facilitate on the 26th of January. 
Through a fully staged though impromptu reading of Much Ado About Nothing, members of the audience will be invited onto the stage to see why “the play ’s the thing. . . “  Members of the company will execute the key roles , but instead of passively watching, anyone in the audience who WANTS to climb onto the stage and participate will be welcome to read, wander through the play and exhilarate in the revelation along with the actors.  Afterward, actors – including those from the audience – will meet with the audience in an informal discussion/refreshment session to discuss the experience from both sides of the stage.
In a way, No Holds Bard, the innovative and exciting project Rice designed, represents a coming full circle for the multi-faceted Producing Artistic Director and Playmaster.  “I played Beatrice in one of our early productions.  I love this play, and I am prepared to do a little directing, a little coaching and a lot of casual playing as we go along. Also, as ASC was developed from an unrehearsed company, it feels like a not to our beginnings to experiment with that form again.  The difference is that this time, we are inviting everyone to jump off that cliff with us."
Colette Rice has found the essence of being the very model of a modern major general at the Actors Shakespeare Company.   She has found the music in the words and the rhythm in the practice.  She effuses energy and thereby infuses both her company and her lucky audience with a theater experience that is alive and ever-evolving.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Colin Ryan's a Fortunate Man

Colin Ryan will have two Christmases this year . . . four times a week from December 8-18.  Starring in two one-man Christmas-themed plays performed as Christmas with Dickens & Dylan, at the Actors Shakespeare Company of New Jersey,  Ryan will have an opportunity to display his finely-tuned acting skills and to exercise his educational expertise by introducing audiences to the multiple nuances of language and story that reverberate through every culture.

Ryan, playing Dylan Thomas in A Child’s Christmas in Wales and Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol, is as excited about his double roles in the two-tiered show as he is about his double roles as a member of the ASC since 2003. 

“Of course, I was very familiar with A Christmas Carol –  who isn’t? – since there are so many adaptations out there.  But I was far less familiar with A Child’s Christmas in Wales, and what a splendid find that is.”  Each of the plays, condensed to run a total of 90 minutes plus an intermission, offers a singular insight into the meaning and culture of Christmas; and, says Ryan, “Both were intended for a listening audience such as ours.”

First on the bill is A Child’s Christmas in Wales, Thomas’ lyrical, touching, mostly autobiographical “memory play.”  Thomas wrote the play for the radio and was featured as the reader in several productions.  “It’s a rich, almost mythological and poetic look at childhood,” Colin Ryan effuses.  What I love about it is that it’s not fantasized in any big way. It’s not all rose-colored and idealized but rather only slightly rosy and enriched by the great enjoyment the author gets out of the scary, sad, and mischievous moments he remembers from his childhood.  It’s not at all saccharine.  It’s genuine even when it’s sweet . . . very real.”

What Ryan hopes is that through the Dylan piece, school children and adults alike will find a mode for experiencing their own memories and for giving them life and meaning.  And for the Dickens piece, he hopes his audiences will find the resonance for our troubled times. 

“You know,” says Colin, in his educator mode.  “Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol to read it aloud to live audiences.”  In fact, since 1853, when Dickens read portions of his novella in the St. Martin-in-the-Fields church hall to benefit a public hospital, the work has been a staple of the season, a cherished literary work that embodies the spirit of the season.

“So the conceit is that I – as Charles Dickens himself – have been paid to read my work for this group assembled.  But I’ve lost my book in my journey to get here, and so I have to recite the story from memory.  So mine is the primary voice, which is, of course,  the voice of The Christmas Carol narrator.”

Colin says he is continually struck by how very current the work is, how it mirrors so vividly the challenges we all face today.  “I was running lines with my wife (ASC member, Former Education Director Elizabeth Belzoni), and I got to the speech where Scrooge says that it would be fine with him if the poor would die, that they should go ahead and do so ‘to decrease the surplus population.’  She stopped me and pointed out how heart-stoppingly current that speech is.   That’s frightening.  But so true!”

For Ryan, who has seen dozens of adaptations of A Christmas Carol, the thing that stands out about this one is that it doesn’t suggest that Scrooge’s is an easy redemption.  He suffers for his revelations, and it is a difficult journey he takes to get to enlightenment.  “(Director) Peter (Galman) and I have been careful to track that.”  Dickens’, Ryan reminds me, was not interested in teaching his readers to have fun.  The original version is horrifying in the pictures it conjures, and it’s not about Scrooge finally seeing the way he missed out on the true meaning of the fun everyone was having at Fezziwig’s party.  It’s about taking responsibility for the condition of mankind, for carving a meaningful space in one’s own world.

“There’s so much substance here,” Colin sighs.  So many layers of language in each piece, so much meaning.”

Together, the two pieces offer a feast of holiday gifts for all.

Christmas With Dickens & Dylan, directed by Peter Galman and starring Colin Ryan, opens December 8th, at the Westside Theater.  Performances on Thursday 12/8 and 12/15, on Friday 12/9  and 12/16, at 7:30 PM; as well as on Saturday 12/10, 12/17 and on Sunday 12/11, 12/18 at 3:00 PM.   For information and directions, call 201-200-2390 or email

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Filming Shakespeare ?. . .

Last week, I had the great good fortune to see the Stratford Shakespeare Festival's Tempest, starring Christopher Plummer, in a version taped on high definiton (the hyper-filmic 24P), projected at Symphony Space on Broadway, in New York City.

After the screening, Plummer, who was also the Executive Producer of the film project,  and his director Des McAnuff and their producer Barry Avrich miced up and answered first canned questions to be added to the EPK material for the DVD's distribution and then some audience comments and questions as well.

Throughout the talk-back, Avrich kept insisting on calling the production a FILM, and he called McAnuff a film director.  To me, the label denigrated the richness of the hybrid that the production actually seemed to be -- not a film because we are always kept at bay by the fourth wall, absent in the world of film, but not theater despite the fact that we are always aware of and wishing to be closer to the magic of the live stage.  The effects, except for some cinematography and editing, are purely theatrical conceits and conventions; though Shakespeare's script may be, as Avrich avowed, cinematic, my experience of this production was not exactly that at all.

Those of you who attended the screening of Richard III a couple weeks ago know exactly what I'm getting at.  Olivier enlisted the camera to be his collaborator in telling the story, and he set his production in a purely filmic world.  He followed a tradition of film adaptation that has been popularizing Shakespeare since film emerged as a medium.

This Tempest is not that at all.  It will, or could, actually popularize the experience of theater going.  But if an audience expects to see a film, s/he should rent Julie Taymor's version or Paul Mazursky's or Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books.

DVD versions of live productions abound these days, especially in the world of Opera.  The Met regularly releases taped versions of their best work for viewing around the country, around the world; many of the world's best opera companies are doing the same.  Some of these productions remain faithful to the purely staged performances, and others allow themselves more leeway, knowing they are on film.  A great production of Don Giovanni, for example,  took the DVD viewer into the Vienna woods and enlisted a variety of locations to enhance the story and music.  Even that production, however, was not precisely a "film;"  it, too, was a hybrid.

What should we call these?  Do we have to have a label?

The Tempest movie trailer

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dylan Thomas — A Child's Christmas in Wales

A Child's Christmas. . . .

My father Alfred Swett , perhaps the last of the great Victorian iconoclasts, followed his mother’s dream for him and went to Medical School, But along the way, he pursued his own passion: English Literature.

As an English Major at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he not only read omnivorously, but he also committed whole passages of his favorites to memory. He never became a writer or a teacher, but his enthusiasm for the written word was the source of great joy to his eight children.

Where other fathers might read stories to their youngsters at bedtime, Alfred recited the Canturbury Tales and Shakespearean Sonnets. While other fathers might teach his children nursery rhymes, Alfred shared lyric passages from plays and epic poetry.

At holiday season every year, he would quote largely from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but his favorite holiday gift was to play his recording of Dylan Thomas reading A Child’s Christmas in Wales. The Thomas memory resonated with him and provided him a vehicle on which to transport us to his own personal small-town holiday world, his own emotional history, which was otherwise difficult for him to embrace.

Thomas’ sonorous Welsh tones were in my head long before I understood the language, and by the time I was old enough to attend productions, I, too, had committed whole portions to memory. Which only heightened the pleasure.

There’s no such thing as too much of this profoundly personal, entirely universal work. Listen to the excerpt above, from a recording of Dylan Thomas reading, and then hie thee to the West Side Theater for Christmas With Dickens and Dylan, December 8-18, presented by the Actors Shakespeare Company at NJCU in Jersey City.

And may it bring you great joy. . . .

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Christmas Carol-ing, by Carla Stockton

My Jewish grandchildren will be visiting me over the holidays. We’ll be looking for things to do together, and there might be a few Chanuka activities sponsored by the likes of Chabad Lubavitch, but most of the fun stuff for kids in New York at the holiday season have to do with Christmas, and we’ll be partaking of those things while they’re in the City.

Christmas, as we have learned, is no longer simply a religious holiday. It’s a national holiday, celebrated by Christians and non-Christians alike. Attending tree lightings and Nutcracker performances and the Radio City Christmas Extravaganza have become as traditional as hearing Handel’s Messiah. Or attending a production of A Christmas Carol.

Every season when I was a child, I marched right alongside all my schoolmates into the auditorium on the last day of school before the holiday break, and I watched, rapt with pleasure, as Alistair Sim, as Ebeneezer Scrooge, found his way through his Christmas lesson about charity and the spirit of Christmas. The message was universal, and it had no time constraints: be kind to one another, and find love and happiness or be a scrooge, and die a miserable outcast.

When I reached preteen-hood, I began producing small cuttings of the Dickens classic for my family during our holiday celebrations. My brothers and sisters played various roles, but I always played Scrooge. It felt like our story as much as anyone else’s, especially as we were not wealthy, were a large family and were somewhat out of sync with our very gentile little town in upstate New York.

That’s the thing about A Christmas Carol. It’s all inclusive. Even the most resolutely avowed atheist has to recognize a pertinent message therein, Tiny Tim’s exhortation “God Bless us Everyone,” notwithstanding. It’s as seasonally traditional as gingerbread houses and sugar plum fairies and fun for all children of all ages.

The number of times the tale has been remade and reworked attests to its enormous popularity. It seems that almost every year or so there is a new film, and there is no end to new adaptations for the stage, including the one that will be presented at the West Side Theater as half of A Dickens/Dylan Christmas, directed by Peter Galman, December 8-18.

It’s an uplifting, cathartic experience to see and hear A Christmas Carol. Come one come all.

F.y.i. Here’s a partial list of the film and video productions:

Description: Versions

A Christmas Carol
(1938) starring Reginald Owen, Gene Lockhart, Kathleen Lockhart, June Lockhart, Leo G. Carroll, and Terry Kilburn. 69 min.

A Christmas Carol
(1951) starring Alastair Sim, Meryvn Johns, Michael Hordern and Glyn Dearman 86 min.

Scrooge (1970) starring Albert Finney, Sir Alec Guinness, Edith Evans and Kenneth More. 115 min.

A Christmas Carol (1984) starring George C. Scott, David Warner, Susannah York, Frank Finlay, Edward Woodward and Nigel Davenport. 100 min.

Scrooged (1988) starring Bill Murray, John Forsythe, Karen Allen, Carol Kane, and Bobcat Goldthwait. 111 min.

A Christmas Carol (1999) starring Patrick Stewart, Nick Adams, Desmond Barrit, Charlotte Brittain, Tom Brown, Kenny Doughty, Laura Fraser, Richard E. Grant, Joel Grey, Roger Hammond, Celia Imrie, Ian McNeice, John Mills, and Saskia Reeves. 93 min.

Cartoon Versions

An All Dogs Christmas Carol (1998) 73 min.
Christmas Carol: The Movie. (2001) 77 min.
A Flintstones Christmas Carol (1994) 90 min.
The Jetsons Christmas Carol (1985) 30 min.
Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983) 25 min.
Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (1962) 52 min.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) 89 min.

Jim Carrey’s A Christmas Carol (2009)

Scrooge - The Morning After The Ghosts - famous scene from the classic m...

Monday, October 10, 2011

King John Fights from Actors Shakespeare Company at NJCU

Denise Hurd is a Cool Aunt!

Denise Hurd’s got some ‘splainin’ to do. . . .

“In fact, I may never be forgiven, ” she says, faux remorse wrinkling her brow. She leans across the table and looks deeply into my eye. “I did the unthinkable. I lost a swordfight.”

She sits back, dumps a sweetener into her coffee and look at me again, this time gleaming with mischievous delight.

Two years ago, her nephew, now 7, attended an Actors Shakespeare Company of New Jersey performance of Henry V, where Denise was playing the vanquished French commander. She laughs. “He has not yet forgiven me for losing that fight. To this day, he still comes up to me and says ‘Denise, Denise . . . no whining, no begging not this. You should have hit him with your sword!’”

“He understood enough about the play – which was especially amazing since I was speaking French and not English – that I had lost my fight. And he understood enough about my work as a fight director to know I gave up that fight. He knows that I am technically a better fighter than my opponent was. And he understood that at five. He got it.”

It’s an accomplishment Denise is particularly proud of. It's what makes her a truly "cool aunt" to her nephews, aged 7 and 4. As far as Denise is concerned, making the story and the action of a play transcend even the language should be of paramount importance to any actor or director. And it’s aspect of her work at the Actors Shakespeare Company of New Jersey that she cherishes most.

“I love that we focus on clarity. We are all about finding clarity of language, yes, but also about clarity of ideas, clarity of story.” She pauses to consider. “Clarity of thought,” she adds.

For Denise, the job of the company is to bring the audience into the world of the play by making the story, the concept, and the emotion present. “I hate concept theater,” she says. “Or rather, I get annoyed when a concept has no connection to the story being told. I wanna know why is that Mercutio a Scot bezerker? Why is no one else acting like that? What is that piece of business that has nothing to do with moving the story forward? Does that costume have anything to do with what is supposed to be happening on stage? I hate theater that is not impelled by oral design, which is not motivated by anything in the oral life of the play. I love that at the ASC we concentrate on being clear!"

It was her sense of clarity in the theater that produced Denise’s first moment of resonance with the world of the stage.

The year Denise was three, her father Hugh Hurd was a member of the company in residence at the Guthrie Theater. Hugh, played Mercutio in their production of Romeo and Juliet, and Denise attended a dress rehearsal. When the action reached Act 3, Scene I, and Mercutio got to his “A plague on both your houses,” speech, Denise suddenly could no longer tolerate the action; she was very upset but not “for the obvious reasons.”

“I didn’t understand that he was dying,” she says. “I was three, and that was just too permanent. But I could see that his friends didn’t like him anymore, and he was being left alone.”

Just as Mercutio was about to draw his last breath, Denise rushed onstage. “It’s all right, Daddy,” she cooed. “I still love you.” She laughs as she remembers. “To say the least, it was a disrupted rehearsal.”

From then on, she was always hyper-sensitive to the stories on stage, hyper-aware of the way in which an audience is moved by the action, and she was destined for her own life in the theater.

Denise says she always assumed she’d work in the theater. “Growing up I thought every grown-up was involved in the theater. I recognized that everyone didn’t act, of course, but I really thought all adults worked in the theater. . ‘cause that is what all the grownups around me did.” I never thought I wouldn’t work in the theater.

Denise grew up around theater folk. In addition to her father Hugh, who died in 1995, her mother Merlyn Purdy Hurd, currently a successful neurotherapist, was also an actor. More than just a legacy, the theater was a natural progression . . . “For all of us.”

Denise’s sister Adrienne Hurd is a dancer and choreographer, currently a teacher at the Alvin Ailey Dance School, and her other sister is Michelle Hurd, veteran television actor and star of The Glades. It’s the family business.

Like her sisters, Denise, began her studies at St. Anne’s High School in Brooklyn Heights, which, she says, had and still has a really good theater program. Her drama teacher there was Maurice Blanc, now deceased, whom she recognized even then as a “really great theatrical innovator. He was really great at getting great performances out of kids.” Blanc eschewed the more standard high school fare and challenged his students with Three Penny Opera, Williams, Odets, and Shakespeare.

From there Denise went on to Yale University to complete her undergraduate studies and was a theater and history major, participating as an actor at the Yale Dramat. After a year at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts Drama program, she left academia behind.

Her interest in fighting began in her senior year of high school, when she was briefly on the fencing team at St Anne’s. “In those days, for some obscurely anti-feminist reason, they only allowed women to do the foil.” But she found it invigorating nonetheless. “There’s something really empowering about brandishing a sword,” she demurs.

At Yale, she briefly joined the fencing team but soon realized “Oh, I could have a life” and left the team. “But because I was on team ever so briefly, I found my way into choreography.”

“I was doing Cyrano at Yale, and the director said, ‘Oh, you were on the fencing team. Could you choreograph the fight scenes?’ And I was too na├»ve to know what I didn’t know, so I said yes.”

It turned out to be a life-changing experience. “The guy playing Cyrano was left-handed, which I’m not; and the guy playing Le Vicomte de Valvert – I called him Velveeta because he’s so cheesy – was very tall, right-handed and couldn’t fence. So I had to learn to fence left-handed and teach someone who had minimal body skills and who was way taller than I how to fence. What was good was that I was forced to learn to solve the kind of problems I’d need to solve as a choreographer. I had to keep the actors safe, or at least to make the situation onstage less than dangerous. It was a great education.”

Most of all, Denise hastens to add, she had to learn how to change her mindset from “fighting to the touch” to conveying a story. “I didn’t call myself a choreographer yet. I was an actor, but I wanted to do more with stage combat. So I went on to get training in Stage Combat to be better stage fighter . . . and to preserve myself. I had gotten kicked in the head in a children’s show and I needed to learn how to protect myself."

Along the way, Denise became a certified actor combatant in unarmed confrontations, in broadsword, dagger and rapier fights. She teaches Acting and Introduction to the Theater at City College, and she still loves her weapons work at ASCNJ. “It’s fun to run around with the sword,” she laughs.

But she won’t be choreographing Macbeth, the next mainstage production that will feature her work at the ASC. From March 16-April 1, 2012, she’ll be playing Lady Macbeth, and the production will feature a small cast of actors playing multiple roles.

Denise believes that she will confine herself to the role of actor in this one and will let someone else choreograph the fights. “I don’t think that I could do both. I think I would go crazy!”

She’s not sure she’ll invite her nephews to see Macbeth, however. To see someone they love being so very evil might just be too painful for the sensitive youngsters, and Denise is absolutely certain that the story will be so clearly told that it will be entirely real.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A winter's Tale, by Dylan Thomas

To whet your appetite for a Thomas wintertime, listen to Richard Burton reading the poem "A Winter's Tale" below. . .

Richard Burton reads 'A Winter's Tale' by Dylan Thomas

Thursday, October 6, 2011

More Jacobean theater

Check this link out. . .

Food for Thought?

Here's a look at Jacobean Theatre, reconstructed by video artist Terry Flaxton, at the University of Bristol, UK. What do you think? What are the benefits of a university commissioning such video experiences to put up on the web, send out in the form of dvd's, etc., to educate and inform potential audiences of the FUN and amazement that can come of classical productions?

What're your thoughts? Write us a comment . . . your discussion creates buzz, and buzz brings readers to the blog. . . . So WRITE ON!

Reconstructed Jacobean Theatre

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Some Scroogey faves. . .

Next in our series. . . a look at favorite Christmas Carol productions. Cindy wrote that Mr. Magoo's her favorite Scrooge, so here's a clip, thanks to the brilliant archiving of YouTube.

We're Despicable (Plunderer's March)

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Christmas Carol Quiz

How well versed are you in Christmas Carol trivia? Test your acumen for the classic tale right here with our little pop quiz.

1. Where is the climactic scene in A Christmas Carol set, at whose home in what part of what town? Be specific -- Dickens names the neighborhood.

2. Who is the character pictured here?

3. Who is Scrooge's partner, and where is he?

4. What role does the partner actually play in the play?

5. Name Scrooge's nephew and the nephew's mother, Scrooge's sister.

6. What is Bob Cratchit's wife's name?

7. How many Cratchit children are there?.

8. What caused Scrooge's descent into melancholy over Christmastime?

9. What is the name of the benevolent boss in Scrooge's past?

10. Name three actors who have famously played Scrooge.

Check your answers below. If you answered fewer than all ten, you NEED to see A Christmas Carol playing as part of our Christmas with Dickets and Dylan celebration December 8-18. If you got all right, you WANT to come see us bring these classic characters to vibrant new life yet again! Hope to see you there. . . .

[1. Cratchits' home, Camden Town, London; 2.)The third visitor, the Ghost of Christmas Present; 3.)(Old) Jacob Marley is underground, dead as a door-nail; 4)He tells Scrooge to mend his ways or fact the spirits who will visit him this night; 5.)Nephew is Fred; Fan is S's sister; 6.)Mrs. Cratchit; 7.) Six: Peter, Belinda, Martha, an unnamed daughter, an unnamed son and, of course, Tiny Tim ; 8.)Belle; 9.)Old Mr. Fezziwig; 10.) Lionel Barrymore in a radio adaptation in 1930's and '40's (subbed by brother John when Lionel was ill), Alistair Sim (1950 film), Michael Caine (w/Muppets, 1988); Bill Murray (Scrooged, 1988), George C. Scott (1984), Cyral Ritchard (1964), Albert Finney (1970), Frederic March, 1954, Tim Curry (1997), Jim Carrey (animated version 2009), Patrick Stewart (1999), and many many more. . . .]