Saturday, April 20, 2013

Back in the SADdle

Back in NYC. And I am watching Anne of Green Gables. All of it. I might even bring myself to watch the extended edition.  You know it's bad when I'm reviewing Anne of Green Gables!  Coming back to the city has been rough this go around. I am struck every time by the panic, soul-searching, and unpacking of my life when I return from the last few months of glorious work, but this time around feels different. Maybe I am different?

Whenever I get in a funk I re-visit old stories that I have loved. I look for inspiration, good cheer and often see something new from the vantage point of my current self.  When I was younger I marveled at Anne Shirley's creativity and brave spirit, battling the odds of being an "other" in her community.  She had fire and I liked it! I tried to put some fire in my life in honor of her, a kind of What Would Anne Do homage. As I got older I was more attracted to the romantic aspect of the story--looking for tips about boys, I suppose. Anne taught me to look around a bit before settling on whatever everyone else thought was fine and proper. Now, having a wonderful partner in my life and having had the good fortune and blessing to have a great professional career to-date, I commiserate and identify with Anne's struggles as she joins the women who "have chosen a profession." The implication is one of having to choose a profession over having a family, following what was traditionally expected of a woman in the 1900s, and ending up what is known as a spinster.

Having found a partner in crime for this life I don't fear turning into a spinster socially at any rate, but perhaps a spinster in my craft.  So much of this artistic life is to be malleable, to change, embrace new methods and leave the old behind. But sometimes I just want something stable, Dangit! Or maybe it's a sense of peace and optimism, something the story of Anne of Green Gables, written by L.M. Montgomery, always inspired. Reviewing the story I am present to more of her struggle, having seen a bit more of the world now, and the obstacles both outside and within herself that Anne must overcome to do what she believes is Good.

The character of Anne Shirley says early on in the novel, which is very good as are the other books in the series, that she is in "the depths of despair." Being of a rather melodramatic bent Anne can reflect the times when we've been most down and most willing to be there, swim in it, embrace it.  The beauty for me is in Anne's  romanticization of her own life. Anne asks Marilla if she has ever been in "the depths of despair." Marilla, a stranger at this point having just discovered that Anne was sent to them by mistake from an orphanage instead of a boy as they requested, responds with, "No, I have not. To despair is to turn your back on God." Her curt response moved me. To keep searching, keep questioning but not to despair completely.

In light of recent events nationally and internationally, with the bombings in Boston and the continued violence in Syria and surrounding countries, as well as some personal--my little sister witnessed an accident involving a speeding motorist and pedestrian--it can be difficult to not despair, to hope for better.  And to that I'll respond with a quote Anne says at the end of the film, "I spent my time looking for ideals outside of myself . . . I've discovered it's not what the world holds for you, it's what you bring to it." We as a nation, as a world are NOT these bombings, are NOT these conflicts. What we are cannot be measured and is waiting to express itself in Beauty, Goodness and Light.
© Gisela Chípe

Gisela Chípe photo taken by Damian Thompson

p.s. Some great actors in the Kevin Sullivan directed adaptation of Lucy Maud Montgomery's novels beginning with Anne of Green Gables: excellent acting from Colleen Dewhurst as Marilla, Richard Farnsworth as Matthew, and Megan Follows as Anne, with an appearance from Dame Wendy Hiller!

Friday, April 5, 2013

37th Humana Festival of New American Plays Days 23-43

Caaaahhhhhhrazy that I haven't written for so long but seriously it's been nuts. Ok maybe not nuts maybe I just took a breather because it has been nuts and NOW, now we're almost at the end of our time here. Our time ends but I am hopeful this is just the beginning for these plays.

We went to a lovely party yesterday hosted by the exquisite Blakemores. Their estate is palatial and they were more than willing to have designers, press, actors, staff and the privileged-to-be-invited lay person to jaunt about their property imbibing on fine wine and spirits and enjoying yummy snacks all over the main activities of seeing who's who and making connections with the world's Theatre Makers. So exciting!

This is weekend is the final weekend, affectionately called Big Weekend among the die hard Humana Festivalists.  This weekend we have triple the press, administrative, artist guests at the festival here to catch a last glimpse of the hottest new plays before they burn out, to be kindled anew somewhere new--with luck and hard work.  I am feeling nostalgic already, can you tell?
© Gisela Chípe

Saturday, March 16, 2013

37th Humana Festival of New American Plays Days ?-23

Let me just get right down to the nitty gritty. Sh*t has changed.


When I first started this adventure I asked some of my fellow cast-mates what their best advice was for working on a new play. They said "Girl, do not get attached."

Yeah . . .  so . . .

We've been very fortunate for the last week or so to have had 2 or 3 test audiences to help the team with some logistics as well as tell how the story may or (may not) take shape for future audiences. It's been unnerving to have an audience come in so soon in the rehearsal process. Normally you can guarantee the work won't be seen until invited dresses or previews, which happen after 4-5 weeks. It's weird to look someone in the eye and see their whole person just staring at you and you're like, "Holy moley, what the F am I saying!"

This play is in flux, seeking what it's meant to be. For now. And now. And now. You get the idea. Mallery Avedon (playwright) has an opportunity to see her vision through and test audiences can tell one a great deal about how the play is going--is the main message getting across? Where is there un-curated confusion? What I am asked to do is roll with the punches and I am for the most part, but damn it's a challenge! Working on the gracefully part.

So now we're entering tech week when things will still be changing as we set lighting, sound and other design elements. Paradoxes abound. Headaches creep in. Hearts will break. We hope.

Here goes . . . .!


Friday, March 8, 2013

37th Humana Festival of New American Plays Days 8-?

As you might have seen, if you are following this blog, I am behind in my chronicling! It is now Friday March 8th, 2013 and we are already deep into the rehearsal process for O Guru Guru thought it's only been two weeks since we began! We had our first run-thru (which our director Lila Neugebauer kindly called a Stumble-thru so as to alleviate any pressure on the cast to PERFORM). "The show is in a good place," Lila said, "We are exactly where we should be and have plenty of time." Watching the show in full gave me a greater sense of how the parts of this Triptych come together, give friction to, illuminate one another.

It's an incredible thing to just breathe. (Now you try :)

On the rehearsal schedule emailed to us daily there is a section labeled "Quote of the day" in which appear, as you might imagine notable quotes from the previous day's rehearsal.  Here are some of my favorites:

"What play are we doing?"--Kristin

"I am writing down 'Daphne dancing, where to put it?'"--Lila

"The show is kinda like Fight Club. We don't talk about it."--Leslie

We've had two shows open since my last post. The Delling Shore by Sam Marks and expertly directed by Associate Artistic Director Meredith McDonough, Opened on March 1 in the Bingham Theater--a beautiful in-the-round space, intimate, super malleable. It was a verbal firing squad kind of play which you could not help but stand in front of and enjoy--my opinion, of course.

Appropriate by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, directed by Gary Griffin, had its Opening Night last night in the Pamela Brown Auditorium to a delighted and energetic audience of locals (die hards) and SETC (South Eastern Theatre Conference) visitors. The play was so good. Challenging stereotypes of Southerness (USA) while embracing the haunting aspects of family and social history. Modern intellectual sparing with hints of Southern melodrama.

At the Opening Night Party for Appropriate, Les Waters made a short but appreciative speech to all involved, closing with "Two down!"--sending a thrill up my spine.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

37th Humana Festival of New American Plays Days 5, 6, 7

The thing about Humana Fest. that I am finding so far is that as much happens outside of the rehearsal hall as in.

For instance, Mondays are our Dark Day--meaning the artists' are on their day off. The theatre building itself is open and the administrative staff is working their non-traditional 9-5 jobs as some may have to come to events after regular business hours and on weekends! As I was saying, Monday is our day off, our weekend if you will. Monday evening Actors Theatre graciously planned for an artist outing or The Humana Company Kick-Off Party.  This party occurs once all of the casts are in town and working and is a chance for us all to mingle, meet, and have a drink or two.  This year the party was held at Sports and Social Club (S &SC) at Fourth Street Live! conveniently located in the heart of downtown. Something like 100+ people showed in all and had a great time bowling, drinking lovely bourbons, and eating wings, pizza and the occasional veggie. It was really fun to kick back and meet new people and embrace the weirdness.  We all are put in a crazy but fun position each time we work on a new show which is to grow incredibly intimate with perfect strangers. So naturally there will be some weirdness--we don't all talk the same or care about the same things. What we can agree on is that we love what we are doing here, even if it can be described in tortured terms--we're so dramatic! Just kidding we aren't all anything, individuals all, joining in a common purpose--Humana Fest! The night ended with a lovely convo with playwright Will Eno and a not very high bowling score-doh! Must practice.

Tuesday's rehearsal felt short. For some reason when we get into that theatre, the Victor Jory where we are performing our play--so nice to be in the space from day one!--it's like we travel through a worm hole and we are unceremoniously dropped at the end of our rehearsal time always wanting more TIME! It's a good thing to feel as that is not always the case. Yesterday we worked on some top secret spectacle that we are preparing for y'all--should be beautiful.

Tuesday night, after rehearsal, was the Public Kick-off Party for Humana Fest. The public is invited to join the theatre in welcoming the artists and formally opening the Humana Festival. This is the invitation Stephanie Spalding, Audience Development & Special Events Manager, sent us for the event:

Come one; come all to the public Kickoff of the Humana Festival!
All are invited (and your friends too!) to celebrate the Festival with the local community during this super fun, relaxed evening of food and frivolity. This is a FREEcasual event with cash bar and…

-Tastings from 13 local eateries!
-Photo booth courtesy of Magnolia Photo Booth Company
-Live music from Nachbar darlings Squeezebot courtesy of the KY Center for the Performing Arts

Aww man! There's a really great graphic that came along with the invitation--a great mask broken on the floor with what looks like the remains of a party decor. It's a good image because that party was raging. Some of my peeps came out to play: Uncle Phil and Aunti Lynn Miller and my momma Dr. Laura Chipe--locals represent. The band SQUEEZEBOT was making a lovely racket behind the food vendors detailing their offerings to the party. The music was sort of jazzy with some bluegrass in it, I knew the banjo player Mic Sullivan! (formerly of Fire the Saddle and other local bands) It was awesome! And the food was soooo good. Favorite: the lima beans from the Mayan Cafe. Hands down the best! Everything was delicious though so no one went home hungry--if ya did it was your own fault! Here's a photo of our photos courtesy of the lovely Magnolia Photo Booth Company:

Wednesday, no rehearsal sooooooo I've been handling business, took a yoga class, and worked on lines.  All in all a great day. Ciao until tomorrow!

p.s. I almost forgot! Monday morning was the Humana Festival Press Conference where all the playwrights spoke briefly about their plays. Emceed by Artistic Director Les Waters.  For more info on Upcoming events:

Also, Happy First Preview to the opening show of Humana Fest, THE DELLING SHORE! (Opens Friday March 1) ©Gisela Chípe 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

37th Humana Festival of New American Plays Day 2, 3, 4

In my excitement and perhaps naivete I committed to writing a paragraph (at least) about each days' rehearsal while here, my first Humana Fest, exploring unknown territory of premiering a New Play.  We are, after all is said and done, going to premiere a New Play, a work that may have never been seen or heard before or at the least never fully produced.  It's a delicate thing, I am finding.  Not to discount my experience by limiting myself in what I write
we are planning a surprise.
We are attempting to give each audience a "first time" experience of the play. That said if I write too closely or in detail of the rehearsal process for this New Play, won't I give some of what it's about away?
This is why I say in my naivete . . .
If I wrote a play I would want to give it a chance to be seen keeping as many of the surprises a secret until the public shows up the first Day! So for those of you, if any, who are reading this I want you to know I am not giving up on the assignment. I am renegotiating the contract on which I based my initial foray into this part of the blog.
I am being vague.
Basically, I'll be writing about some of the things we talk about in rehearsal, but not all, and I'll be sharing some of what we've read so far, but not all . . . you'll get the picture, sorta.

For now I'll say this. Time is passing strangely. We have been in rehearsal for a total of 4 days but it feels like we've known and worked with one another for weeks now. The work of a company to put on a play never stops.  That is, we do the work that is consigned to the rehearsal day--read the play aloud all together (so great because up until then we've been playing all the parts, like Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream), block (stage/set the physical motions of) the play, make deeper and deeper cuts into the play or specify moments between characters, work on a vocabulary that will help us understand one another as we pour our varied and divergent energies into this single purpose . . . we do this in rehearsal, and more. But then outside of rehearsal we think about the play, do research on-line or talk with people who may have experiences that match the given circumstances of the play, bond with cast-mates (gym, bar, apartments, eating, exploring our new neighborhoods--we've traveled all over!), we think about the play some more, ask questions of the play (what am I saying, what does it mean, to whom, why, where, when, etc), attend to our bodies, minds, hearts--because we are the instruments we play, we play on ourselves. (like a cellist plays on a cello)

And so now I am going to take a break and appreciate another kind of performance in a different medium--film, which I love.  I am going to watch the Academy Awards.  With my cast-mates.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

37th Humana Festival Day 1


Ok. Ok ok ok ok.


I am committing to writing one paragraph a day describing my Humana Festival experience.

Day 1

I am in a dream. I am walking through this dream and find solid people, sounds, and theaters.

We all gathered together as a company in the Pamela Brown Theater to see the throng of people that make up the 37th Humana Festival of New American Plays. From Playwrights, designers, actors, to apprentices, operations staff and all the departments--marketing, literary, outreach-- everyone stood and was acknowledged with grateful applause and genuine appreciation for the massive effort and astonishing commitment to excellence Actors Theatre and it's staff have to what we are trying to accomplish here--bringing new and exciting plays to light to give them a chance to thrive.  We are actively generating vibrant THEATRE.  This all under the helm of Artistic Director Les Waters, this his inaugural Humana Festival.

 I am very excited--no I have used that word too many times already, I'll find a new one--to be a part of this. I cannot begin to express how much. So I'll try again tomorrow. ©

Friday, February 8, 2013

Closing Weekend of BOEING BOEING at the Delaware Theatre Company: Thanks Bud Martin and . . .!

Well it's that time again! I am packing up and having as much fun as I can before I head off to my next adventure.  It's been an incredible experience working with the talented designers Stephanie Hansen (Set), Kim Sorenson (Costumes), Bill Browning (Lighting), and John Stovicek (Sound)--the work of the actor on-stage could not be appreciated if we weren't lit, costumed, and accompanied on a set that doubles as a playground.  I am so grateful!  Thank you Katie Ringwood for being our champion in the rehearsal hall and back-stage--you really are a gem! And I cannot say enough about our fearless leader through the trenches Margie Price who doubles (3x, 4x . . . ) as Mom and Nurse, and oh she's our Stage Manager extraordinaire!

My dear and impossibly funny castmates Sara Bruner, Heidi-Marie Ferren, Sarah Doherty, Jason O'Connell, & Jeffrey Hawkins I will miss most.  They are tireless, courageous, creative and make me laugh hysterically and so often it's like a balm to my soul--I know it's a bit gushy but it's true! And to Steve Tague who directed with clear focus and amazing sense of humor and farce know-how I thank a million times over for giving me this opportunity and for tirelessly playing with this play!

Here are some pictures for your delight--all that color and cheesy grinning!--as I say Happy Travels to all on this closing weekend.  See ya soon!!

all photos are ©®™Gisela Chípe

Thursday, January 17, 2013

BOEING BOEING at the Delaware Theatre Company

Here we go folks! After a quicky of a rehearsal period we are in tech for the hilarious romp of a farce that is BOEING BOEING at the Delaware Theatre Company! The process has been so great, everything an actor could wish for--great artists backed by a theatre who believes! I have always wanted to work with Director Steve Tague (company member of the REP at the University of Delaware) ever since working with him in graduate school and seeing the deeply moving work of the REP at UD. It's a privilege for me to work with people whose work I love and admire. It's a more frequent thing and I don't mind that at all!

taken from the Delaware Theatre Company's website

Here's a preview of some of the hijinks you'll see in the the show (click the link below):