Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Company Woman

Cindy Boyle
Cindy Boyle is the consummate company player.  Erudite, well-trained, astute and deeply talented, she is in every way a company woman.  Moved by their devotion to the theater in general and to Shakespeare in particular, she and Colette Rice -- along with nine other like-minded artists -- founded the Actors Shakespeare Company in 2000, in Hoboken, NJ.  Twelve years later, despite the never-ending financial woes that come with the territory, Cindy remains the Bard's willing acolyte, committed to the mission she and her founding brothers and sisters created for themselves, determined to see the work nurtured so that the Company may prosper and grow.

Cindy Boyle as Eleanor of Aquitaine
At the start, Cindy was an actor, and her primary focus was her own growth as an actor.  She was very impressed with Producing Artistic Director Colette Rice's fidelity to Patrick Tucker's First Folio approach to the text.  Tucker, who introduced a production of As You Like It at the RSC with the claim that the play was "written and directed by William Shakespeare," developed a method for finding the direction from the playwright in the text itself.  "You might find it in the punctuation," Cindy says smiling with the delight of swishing the words around in her head.  She stands and demonstrates as she goes on,  "Or you might find it in the phrasing or in the juxtaposition of words or even in the spelling or in Shakespeare's choice of words.  For example, if my line has me addressing you as 'thou,' I am directed to move closer, but if I call you 'you,' that's more formal, and I am told to move away. It's a vitally illuminating way to dive into the text!"
Cindy Boyle, as the Duchess of Gloucester,  and
Terrence MacSweeney,
as Edward, in The Lear Project 2011

"The other thing I love most about this company is that we use scrolls.  Scrolls!"  Scrolls, of course, are the scripts of Shakespeare's time, on which actors find only their own "sides," the individual actor's part with no more than a cue from another actor.  At times they even performed from the scrolls without rehearsal, just as they might have in Shakespeare's Rose Theater.  "It's thrilling!"  Boyle enthuses.  "Except for the entrances, exits, dances and fights, nothing is really predetermined.  Anything can happen.  And that can be terrifying . . . but what a rush!"

In the acting resume compiled at the ASC, Cindy has played Twelfth Night's Feste, King John's Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hamlet's Gertrude, Romeo and Juliet's Lady Capulet and others, all roles appropriate, as Boyle points out, to "a woman of a certain age."  But, in the manner of one who is certainly far more youthful than that remark would imply, Boyle has developed a number of other skills and has made herself a vital part of her organization.

In a previous life, Cindy Boyle worked as the Assistant Office Manager and Receptionist at the Rogers and Hammerstein Organization.  "It was a dream job," says Cindy; "Especially for one so deeply steeped in theater." At the Rodgers and Hammerstein office, Boyle was responsible for greeting and situating luminaries from Julie Andrews to John Bon Jovi, for creating and overseeing much of the day-to-day bookkeeping and theatrical contract development, for maintaining the office and for seeing that fire department regulations were met.  "It was great training for working at the ASC.  When they eliminated my position in 2009, I was only too happy to take my skills to the Actors Shakespeare Company."

At ASC, since 2009, Cindy has been the Operations Manager at ASC, responsible to assist Colette Rice in all aspects of running the theater company.  She is also the Secretary of the Board of Directors, and it is her job to schedule meetings, distribute materials, take and distribute minutes from meetings, and do all the event planning.  She is also the Company's Wardrobe Mistress, responsible for the remarkable inventory of costumes the ASC has, thanks to their Costume Designer Eva Lachur Omeljaniuk.  "The woman is incredible," raves Boyle.  "We are so lucky to have her.  And we have the most amazing costume inventory I know of.  Truly a gift!"

In addition, Cindy is the Company Photographer, and her photos are the mainstay of publicity efforts, marketing outreach, etc.
Striking Macbeth
Photo by Cindy Boyle

When the ASC experienced financial difficulties, Cindy took it in her stride and stepped down from her paid position, but she has not flagged in her allegiance to the Work.  "I grew up on a farm in upstate, central New York," says Boyle.  "We raised horses.  I can handle just about anything that comes my way.  I know that there's work to be done, and I'm there to get it done."

A large part of the work that must be done is fundraising.  "It's the only thing I hate about this theater company -- that we have to constantly beg for money.  We have a topnotch product, and we should be at least securely ensconced at NJCU, but we are not.  Is anyone in today's economy?  Certainly the economy's been unkind to all nonprofits, so we're not unique in that way."

As part of the effort to take the Company's message to the public, the ASC will be returning to various venues in New Jersey to present All the World's a Stage, where actors from the ASC present a potpourri of Shakespearean roles and excerpts for audiences in the Hudson County area.  The next presentation will be at Congregation B'Nai Jacob, 176 West Side Avenue, Jersey City, NJ 07305.

Cindy Boyle will be there, reprising roles she's played before -- Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing), Adam (As You Like It) and Mistress Ford (Merry Wives of Windsor) -- and hoping that the audience catches the enthusiasm of the Company.

"I love the Company factor of our company,"  Boyle says with a deep sigh.  "Aside from my addict's need to be onstage, I have a deep and abiding need to be part of a real company.  It's where I got my theatrical start with George Morrison at the State University of New York at Purchase.  And the ASC is a truly safe place to be because of the Company itself.  We are free there.  Free to be ourselves, free to make idiots of ourselves if need be in the pursuit of something truly fantastic.  We get to let go of Self and just be entirely in our moment on stage."

Boyle laughs a bit mischievously.  Then she adds, thoughtfully, "Isn't that the key to creative freedom?"

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