Thursday, July 24, 2014

Utah Shakespeare Festival Guest Blog – Jason Michael Spelbring and Bardway Baby



If you were lucky enough to be at the Festival in August over the last four years, you might have attended Bardway Baby, a pops style concert that raises money for the Artistic Initiative Fund. This year, there will be two performances: August 1 at 11:30pm and August 8 at 11:30pm. Tickets are $25, available online and at the ticket office. All proceeds go to the Artistic Initiative Fund.

We caught up with one of its founders and this year’s organizer, Jason Michael Spelbring, to get some history and an update on what we can expect this year.

Tell us a bit about the origins of Bardway Baby.

2011 Bardway Baby
Aaron Galligan-Stierle and I were co-chairs for the REACH Cabaret in 2010. That was the summer that Brian and David became co-artistic directors and announced the Artistic Initiative Fund. This fund has three objectives:
  1. Establish and identify a core group of actors, directors, and designers who regularly appear on and off our stages.
  2. Utilize resources from the fund to support, enhance, and increase the size and scope of our production design aesthetic.
  3. Increase the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s national and international exposure and profile; this includes attending national conferences, utilizing new technology to support our marketing strategies, and exploring outreach and touring opportunities.
When Aaron and I heard that, we thought “What can we do? What if we do a sexy version of Cabaret? Like a Pops Concert format for one night only following a performance in the Auditorium Theatre.”  We added water and it happened. That first year I came out the stage door to see a line of people around the fountain down to the lawn. I was completely blown away. We had 700+ patrons attend.

Tell us about the program for this year.

This year it’s Bardway Baby: An Evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein. You’ll hear songs across the canon of their amazing work. Performers include Aaron as host, with special guests Brian Vaughn and David Ivers. There will be ten performers: Larry Bull, Brian Vaughn, James Sanders, Kyle Eberlein, Peter Saide, Melinda Pfundstein, Misty Cotton, Bree Murphy, Bri Sudia, and Tina Scariano. There will be a group opening number, each singer performs a solo and then a fantastic closing number – a choral arrangement of two classics, created by our musical director, Sam Clein.


Tickets are $25 and you get an assigned seat so you don’t have to wait in line.

What about the coordination with the Education Department?

In late July, there is an advanced Tech Camp, where attendees learn about stage management and lighting. For their hands-on experience, the students will light the August 1st show. Those cues will be saved and reused on August 8th. We’re excited that we’re also able to support the education component of the Festival.

How can our patrons support the Artistic Initiative Fund if they can’t attend?

If you go to the Donation page, there is a drop-down menu, with the Artistic Initiative Fund as one of the options. https://boxoffice.bard.org/TheatreManager/95/tmlogin.html?DC_SEQ=0

You can purchase tickets for this year’s Bardway Baby (August 1 & 8) online at www.bard.org or by visiting or calling the ticket office at 800-PLAYTIX. Tickets are $25.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Utah Shakespeare Festival Guest Blog- Bree Murphy


Bree Murphy worked for the Festival's Education Tour back in 2008 and is ecstatic to be in 3 shows this season. She is playing Jack's Mother in Into the Woods, Mistress Quickly in Henry IV Part 1 and Mistress Overdone in Measure for Measure. Below is more information about the talented Bree Murphy. 


Have you ever worked at the Festival before? If so, for how many years and in what roles/capacity?

I was a part of the Romeo and  Juliet Educational Tour in 2008 as The Nurse.

What brought you to Utah Shakespeare Festival?
I first came to the festival for the Kennedy Center/ACTF competition in 1997. It was a competition for college students and 10 selected high school students. I was 16 years old. The Adams was covered in snow and I told my dad who was my chaperone for the weekend, that I would perform on that stage one day; here I am 14 years later.

What brought you to your field and what keeps you doing your craft?
Audiences, stories to share, the sense of the magnetism a live performance gives all who are present. This is not the only thing I can do, it is the greatest use of my empathetic nature. I take others on a journey of a life fully realized complete with all the unsavoriness, joy, pain, and humanity that I can embody within each character I am fortunate enough to explore.


Where’s your home base?
Such a beautifully complicated question. Until August, my awesome husband and cats live in Irvine, California; after that it is our desire to make ourselves a home in Los Angeles. I was born and raised in Riverside, California and spent a good portion of my professional working experience on the Central Coast of California, my second home.
Bree Murphy as Jack’s Mother and James Sanders as Jack in Into the Woods.

What’s your education/training background?
That SCETA competition in 1997 brought me to the attention of Paul Barnes and PCPA (The Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts). I spent 2 years and summers in that certificate program. After, I transferred to Stephen College for women in Columbia, MO to complete my BFA. I then went out and started my professional life with the great fortune of 10 years continual work that took me to many incredible cities in the western United States. 3 years ago, it was time for a deeper reflection of my work and process as an actor so, I applied for and subsequently had the honor to be accepted into the MFA program at UC Irvine. This summer, I turned in my thesis on a Monday and was here to start rehearsals on Wednesday.

What are you looking forward to the most this summer?

Meeting this incredible community. I've reveled in getting to know the acting, technical, and administrative community of the company but my greatest joy lies in meeting the people who traverse distances to be a part of the story in the form of the most important character in any play, the audience.

Who/What inspired you to pursue your dream of acting/designing?

My mother and father. And the greatest actress I've even known, Leslie Brott.

How will you spend your time off while here?
Hiking, camping, more hiking! I'm excited for Groovefest and the Neil Simon Festival as well!

What is your favorite musical/play/Shakespeare play?
Musical: Sweeny Todd
Shakespeare
Hiking in Oregon with my husband
(Chuck McLane USF season 2011)
Comedy: Twelfth Night
Tragedy: King Lear
History: Richard III

What is your dream role?
The one that has yet to be written. I aspire to create a story new and untold.

If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?
Self confidence in any and all circumstances or Omni-Linguism.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Utah Shakespeare Festival Blog - Shakespeare On the Road



Scholars and lovers of Shakespeare will be traveling this summer from England to America to study why Shakespeare is so popular here, and the Utah Shakespeare Festival is on their list of places to visit.

A team from the University of Warwick and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, which is based in Shakespeare’s home town of Stratford-upon-Avon, will visit the Festival as part of a 60-day road trip visiting 14 Shakespeare-related theatre festivals across America. The team will fly to Kansas City on July 4 and hit the road from there, building up a picture of how Shakespeare is being performed and celebrated across the United States during the 450th birthday of Shakespeare in 2014.

Each festival will be given a commemorative plaque to mark the visit, and the project team will give  presentations about their work and the work of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the charity that cares for the five Shakespeare family homes in Stratford-upon-Avon and promotes the appreciation of Shakespeare worldwide. The festivals will be invited to deposit material in the trust’s archives to create a permanent record of their activities. Regular updates on the visit will be blogged during the 60-day road trip. Rev. Dr. Paul Edmondson, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s head of research and knowledge, and Dr. Paul Prescott, associate professor at the University of Warwick, will also compile a book about their experiences.

Edmondson said, ”For centuries America has topped the list of nations flocking to visit Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon. Americans were the first to sign our oldest surviving visitors’ book at Shakespeare’s Birthplace back in 1812, and now we welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors from the USA every year. Shakespeare on the Road is a reverse pilgrimage, to record and salute the troupes and groups who keep Shakespeare’s genius burning brightly across America.”

Prescott added, “The amount of Shakespearean theatre-making in America dwarfs that of any other country, the UK included. Every summer, from sea to shining sea – and at all points in between – from spit-and-sawdust performances in local parks to slick professional productions in reconstructed Elizabethan playhouses, the Bard busts out all over the USA. This trip will take the pulse of Shakespeare in America over the course of one remarkable summer in 2014 and is a perfect way of celebrating his enduring popularity and the 450th anniversary of his birth.”

"The Utah Shakespeare Festival is excited to be a part of this amazing study being undertaken by the University of Warwick and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust,” said Festival Executive
Director R. Scott Phillips. “We are anxious for them to meet our guests and artists to discover what makes the Festival so unique. We have such a loyal and discerning audience base which recognizes that language and story telling is at the heart of everything we do. Chronicling the love affair that America has with master William Shakespeare is astounding and to have it being done by our friends from the UK is even more astonishing."

Tickets are on sale for the Festival’s 53rd season, which will run from June 23 to October 18, 2014. The eight-play season includes Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, The Comedy of Errors, Henry IV Part One, and Twelfth Night.  The season will also include the world premiere adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility written by Joseph Hanreddy and J. R. Sullivan, Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, Steven Dietz’s adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, and Boeing Boeing by Marc Camoletti. For more information and tickets visit www.bard.org or call 1-800-PLAYTIX.

You can follow their journey on their website at shakespeareontheroad.com

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Utah Shakespeare Festival Guest Blog – Quinn Mattfeld and Kyle Eberlein with the 2014 REACH Cabaret



This summer is the tenth anniversary of the REACH Cabaret. Cabaret is every Thursday from 7/10 – 8/28 at the Grind (on Main Street across from City Hall). It starts no later than 11:10pm and will run for 45 minutes. Admission is $10 at the door.

Quinn Mattfeld (appearing in Sense and Sensibility and Twelfth Night) and Kyle Eberlein (appearing in Into the Woods, Henry IV, Part I and Measure for Measure) are the organizers and hosts this year.  We met with them to learn what they are planning.

Tell us about REACH and the Cabaret.

Kyle:      REACH was founded several years ago to help the Festival company have auditions during the season. Because we’re here for so long, we can’t travel to auditions. So REACH brings casting directors, agents and artistic directors here to Cedar City. The Cabaret is our primary fundraiser. We use the funds to pay for travel and lodging for our visitors. While they are here, they see all six plays, the three Greenshows and audition all interested REACH members.

What do you have planned for this year’s Cabaret?

Clein, Mattfeld, Eberlein
Quinn:  I wanted us to reimagine it, repackage it.  How are people used to watching shows late at night? They’re used to watching Jay Leno, David Letterman – that formula of a late night talk show. We can make this a fun variety show that has a lot of absurdity to it. For example: you have transitions where they’re changing mikes. Let’s fill it with something that’s totally silly. For example, for the first one, we think we’ll have Zack Powell juggle, tap dance and play the kazoo at the same time.

Kyle:      Sam Clein’s going to be our music director. We want to reward our guests who come each week. If you return, you’ll see sketches and characters from prior weeks, so there’s some continuity.

Scariano & Olson 2012
Quinn – we really want to focus on our relationship with USF and have fun with that. We’re trying to get some company members to be regulars and play versions of themselves: Larry Bull, Deanna Ott and Natasha Harris…the way Carson would have people who show up and play versions of themselves.

Quinn – we want to put lots of variety in it. It won’t be nine people singing musical theatre. There will be people playing instruments, there’s going to be clown acts, all kinds of different stuff and we’re going to make it 45 minutes.

Do you have auditions lined up?

Kyle:      Yes! So far we have sixteen auditions. We work to create a balance between Chicago, LA and New York. Visitors include Jay Binder, a prominent NY Casting Director (his first time here!), several Shakespeare Theatres, Milwaukee Rep, Hartford Stage (origin of the Tony winning Gentlemen’s Guide) and Claire Simon Casting from Chicago.

What are some success stories?

Quinn:  I got my job at PCPA through a REACH audition.
Kyle:      Tina Scariano, Cody Craven and I all got jobs on the Disney Cruise ships via REACH auditions.
And even if you don’t get a role, it’s an important way to get your name and talent out there.

How do we know who’s performing each week?

Kyle:      We have a Facebook page which we’ll update each Weds. with the program. https://www.facebook.com/ReachPresentsTheCabaret If you “like” our page, you can see the postings. And be sure to get to the Grind early as it’s always standing room only.

So mark your calendars for each Thursday from 7/10 – 8/28, 11pm for Cabaret at the Grind. Your $10 will help our company further their careers and you’ll have a great time!

#USF2014

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Utah Shakespeare Festival Guest Blog – The Greenshow with James Sanders and Molly Wetzel


Greenshow rehearsal

This year, the Festival is presenting three new Greenshows, created and co-directed by Fred C. Adams, founder, and Josh Stavros, associate education director, with choreography by Christine Kellogg. These shows are a mixture of past favorites and new elements.





We recently met with two of the performers. Molly Wetzel is in her second year with the Festival. Last year she was in the Greenshow and Anything Goes. James Sanders is new to the Festival. Both are also appearing in Into the Woods and Sense and Sensibility.

Tell us about the Greenshows:

Molly:   There are three different shows: English (performed before Henry IV), Scottish (before Measure for Measure) and Irish (before The Comedy of Errors).

Sanders practicing
sword dance

James:  We’re learning new songs and dances. There’s actually a lot more dancing than last year, including a sword dance, and the Egg Dance.

Are the shows totally new?

Molly:   There’s a nod to tradition, with elements such as the Maypole and Punch and Judy.  The Irish show is similar to the Celtic night from last year. The Gael Byrds are back!

James:  We’ve got lots of audience participation. Also, we start in the Auditorium inviting patrons at the orientations and sing people out to the Adams courtyard.

Molly:   In addition to the eight full time cast members, this year we’ve added four SUU Fellows (Juniors and Seniors in the SUU College of Performing and Visual Arts) as well as two Playmaker members: Kailey Gilbert and Georgianna Arnell (both appeared in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2011).

Talk about the transition from the Greenshow to your shows in the Randall:

Wetzel in
rehearsal

Molly:   We have less than twenty minutes to get ready for the Randall shows. We race across the street. The dressers are so efficient – they know we’re coming and get us costumed and wigged in an amazing amount of time.

What’s it like for young actors here?

James:  It’s like a master class every day – there’s so much support.

Molly:   Not every theatre treats the non-equity actors well. We are treated so well – it’s like family. I love it here!

The Greenshow is just one of the many free activities that can be part of your Festival experience. You can see the free Greenshows six nights a week from June 23 through August 30 in the Adams Courtyard. The show begins at 7:10 and runs for thirty minutes. Many local families enjoy this free performance as a family event. And it’s a great way to get into the mood before the performance as well.
You can purchase tickets for the plays online at www.bard.org or by calling 800-PLAYTIX.
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