The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Project SEE Theatre has announced a second season, albeit an abbreviated one after bowing with a four-show schedule in 2011-12, plus a collaboration with Transylvania University. Within the two upcoming shows are several ties to Actors Theatre of Louisville, where two of Project SEE’s directors, Sullivan Canaday White and Ellie Clark, have worked.
The shows are:
Big Love by Charles L. Mee, February 14 to 17, 22 to 24 and March 1 to 3 at the Downtown Arts Center. Project SEE directors White, Clark and Evan Bergman have a history with this show, which premiered at the 2000 Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre. They first collaborated on this show in a 2009 workshop production with the Kentucky Classical Theatre Conservatory, which brought Bergman to Kentucky, and have since wanted to present a fully-realized production. Tickets will be available at a later date through the Downtown Arts Center Ticket Office.
Ellis Island: A Dream of America by Peter Boyer, presented in collaboration with the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra May 10 at the Singletary Center for the Arts. This presentation is part of the season finale for the Philharmonic. Project SEE’s performance will be directed by Transylvania University’s new associate theater professor, Michael Bigelow Dixon, former literary manager at Actors Theatre. Tickets are available through the Philharmonic.
Asked about the shortened season, Clark wrote, “Project SEE Theatre will take the fall of 2012 to focus on long term planning as well as gearing themselves up for the production of Big Love by Charles Mee. Big Love is a production that Project SEE has been eager to produce and they will start rehearsals as early as November.”
Read and see more:
- Feature: When Evan met Ellie
- Notebook: Comparing Streetcars
- Gallery: A Streetcar Named Desire
- Video: Scene from Streetcar
Rain and lightning finally cleared away enough Friday night for SummerFest to open its production of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. Still, steel gray clouds and gusty winds made for an appropriately stormy atmosphere for one of the American stage’s greatest works and one of its greatest drama queens, Blanche DuBois.
The Arboretum stage has not hosted Williams before, though it has presented many great Shakespearean tragedies including King Learand Macbeth. Streetcar certainly deserves to be on the same stage, and all three have been helmed at the Arboretum by Lexington’s master of drama, director Joe Ferrell.
The play is tough stuff, made all the more searing by Williams’ ability to create excruciatingly human characters and put poetic truths in their mouths. See the first scene between Blanche and her little sister Stella. As Blanche tells Stella how she lost their family home, her self-defensiveness is at an aggravating fever pitch, but she describes enduring the deaths in her family with vivid truthfulness.
That is Blanche, a woman who is infuriatingly arrogant but also clearly a victim of the circumstances of her life, raised in the refinement of a Southern plantation but now facing a much less accommodating world. She expresses astonishment that Stella, who is not having similar problems adapting, does not have a maid for the two-room apartment in New Orleans’ French Quarter she shares with her husband, Stanley.
That sets the tone for the world Blanche longs for compared to the one she is in.
Stanley exemplifies that new world as a self-assured, sometimes primal and violent man for whom Blanche is really no match, particularly as her stories begin to unravel.
Stella has the unenviable task of refereeing these two, who are constantly pulling her to their sides. Ellie Clark makes Stella a self-assured woman who still has to bend to the wills of these strong personalities. Bergman plays Stanley as a gregarious fellow who too easily slips into his dark, violent side. But through his charisma, you see why people are attracted to him, from his bowling buddies to his loyal wife.
Bergman and Clark are a real-life couple, and they bring palpable chemistry to their performances. They lead two of this production’s best scenes: when Stanley airs his suspicions about the loss of Blanche and Stella’s family home, and later, when Stanley tells Stella what he has learned about Blanche’s life back home in Laurel, Miss. In both instances, Bergman manages his tone beautifully to highlight key portions of the scenes and come across as reasonable, albeit barely.
We have no doubt he does not like his sister-in-law.
And in Bess Morgan’s performance, Blanche is really hard to like.
Moments after appearing, she is operating at a shrill tenor, and for the most part stays there through Act I. Blanche is histrionic, but this one-note interpretation makes it difficult to muster much sympathy for her, something we really need for the play to have its full impact. Act II brings more nuance from Morgan, and a couple of engaging scenes including the one when she makes advances on a paperboy (Rob Schrader, acting appropriately weirded-out) and her recounting of her husband’s death. But Blanche’s charm never comes through the mumbling drawl Morgan developed for her character.
Tim Hull is perfectly cast as Stanley’s friend and Blanche’s sad sack suitor Mitch, one of numerous victims in this tragic tale.
The design team, including set designer Dathan Powell and costumers Joyce Anderson and Dennis Smail, give the show a solid but unobtrusive look. One great prop is the old-fashioned fan sitting atop the refrigerator, which on Friday frequently turned at full speed powered only by the wind.
In Streetcar, SummerFest has brought a good production of an American classic to the stage, but it would help if it, and particularly its leading lady, operated more like that fan that occasionally slowed down when the winds let up.
Ellie Clark and Evan Bergman were back home in New York after an exhilarating thespians’ holiday in Lexington.
The couple, who had been together for only three weeks, starred in the Kentucky Classical Theatre Conservatory’s production of Charles L. Mee’s Big Love. It had been several weeks of getting to know each other and fellow artists, including director Sullivan Canaday White, through intense rehearsals and performances.
Reflecting on the experience, Bergman said to Clark, “Why aren’t we back there?”
At the time, White, Clark and Bergman were all visiting artists. Now, they are residents of Lexington, starting one of its newest theater companies: Project SEE Theater.
The company launched in December with a production of Steven Dietz’s Lonely Planet, a well-received two-person drama starring Tim Hull and Nick Vannoy.
This week, Project SEE launches its first full season of shows with boom by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, a comedy in which a presumably inconsequential sexual encounter takes on universal implications.
Project See is the result of two artists from Central Kentucky who left to explore elsewhere for several years and then came home.
Clark was born into a theatrical family, the daughter of former Paul Laurence Dunbar High School theater director Trish Clark. She went through her mother’s program and the University of Kentucky theater department. After graduation, she was part of the prestigious apprentice program at Actors Theatre of Louisville before she moved to New York to pursue theater and film work.
White was the director of the apprentice program at Actors Theatre for five years before she moved to New York and eventually headed to educational posts in the Carolinas.
For White, the opportunity to come home was a job offer from Transylvania University, where she had enjoyed a monthlong stint as an artist-in-residence in winter 2010, directing the school’s production of Eugène Ionesco’s Rhinoceros.
Weighing the offer to join the Transylvania faculty and come home, White called Clark, who told her, “I will if you will.”
Project SEE Theatre, which presented a critically acclaimed production of Steven Dietz’s Lonely Planet last fall, has announced a full season of shows. And it is not a long wait until the first production, which opens in just over three weeks. Here’s the lineup:
boom by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, Sept. 1-4, 8-11 at the Downtown Arts Center – A three-person play exploring randomness in life, it was the most-produced play in regional theater last year
Almost, Maine by John Cariani, Oct. 27-30, Nov. 3-5 at Transylvania University – A four-person play of vignettes that look at the impact and aftermath of love; a co-production with Transylvania University Theatre
12 Dates of Christmas by Ginna Hoben, Dec. 8-11, 15-18, location TBA – A one-woman show about a woman who catches her boyfriend cheating right before Christmas and embarks on a lonely search for love in New York City
The Hot L Baltimore by Lanford Wilson, March 1-4, 8-11 at the Downtown Arts Center – First selection in a Springtime tribute to the late Lanford Wilson, considered one of the founders of Off-Off-Broadway Theatre; a play about the residents of the Hotel Baltimore facing eviction when the hotel is condemed
Burn This by Lanford Wilson, May 31-June 3, June 7-10 – A group of friends tries to regroup after a friend’s tragic death
Project SEE is a collaboration between Lexington-based theater artists Ellie Clark and Evan Bergman, who have been active with SummerFest and Kentucky Conservatory Theatre, and Sully White, who is on the theater faculty at Transylvania University.
Jun2Filed under: Downtown Arts Center, SummerFest, Theater; Tagged as: Charlie Sheen, Downtown Arts Center, Ellie Clark, Henry Layton, James Bond, Jesse Hungerford, Ke$ha, Kentucky Classical Theatre Conservatory, Nick Vannoy, Osama bin Laden, Oscar Wilde, Spencer Christensen, The Importance of Being Earnest, YouTube
It started with a fight.
Last summer at the Kentucky Classical Theatre Conservatory, fight director Henry Layton choreographed a fight to a scene from the Oscar Wilde classic The Importance of Being Earnest.
“It was really exciting to everyone involved, and they had some idea how they could mount that show and turn it into something else,” writer and director Spencer Christensen says
It turned into something else entirely. Exhausting action is at the center of The Impersonation of Being Ernest. But it is also a big pop culture commentary combining Wilde’s words with James Bond’s sensibility spiked with lyrics from Ke$ha, videos from YouTube, references to Osama bin Laden and Charlie Sheen, all set in Orange County, Calif. – identified here, of course, as The OC.
“We played on every sort of spoof that we can,” Christensen says. “We’re spoofing a lot. And because The Importance of Being Earnest is sort of a social commentary on Wilde’s time, that’s what we’re doing. So we’ve got YouTube videos here left and right. … It’s very up-to-date. And then we’ve got sword fighting in the show and dancing. I mean you watch these people do this for 83 minutes and wonder, ‘How do they survive it?’”
The show, which plays through Sunday at the Downtown Arts Center, is in part a recruitment tool for the conservatory, now renamed Kentucky Conservatory Theatre.
“Trish wanted to mount a show to really showcase the people who have worked in KCT, who have taught in it, who were in the program and have left it and are still working, and that was the idea,” Christensen said, referring to KCT director Trish Clark.
They include Christensen, who actually helped create an early education arm of the Lexington Shakespeare Festival, the event that preceded KCT’s SummerFest as the July theater festival in The Arboretum. (He will also play Victor Frankenstein in SummerFest’s production of Frankenstein.)
Other distinguished faculty and alumni include Ellie Clark, who starred in last summer’s production of Pride and Prejudice and is alumna of the apprentice program at Actors Theatre of Louisville, and Nick Vannoy, who played Collins in last summer’s production of Rent and will play the creature in this summer’s Frankenstein before heading off to the ATL apprentice program. Ernest also stars Layton, the event’s longtime fight coordinator, and Jesse Hungerford, who played Romeo in SummerFest’s age-appropriate production of Romeo & Juliet in 2007.
“It’s done to showcase whatever their talent is, whatever their strength is,” Christensen says. “As I started to know who was in this show, I started to write for them.”
If the show sets a goal of creating physical comedy, rehearsals demonstrate what a hard bar that is to reacg. Before the final dress rehearsal, Christensen and his actors run and rerun scenes trying to nail the timing on lines and actions for maximum comic effect.
“For a long time, I thought about writing sketch comedy, et cetera,” Christensen says, “so there’s a lot of that in here.
“When you create something like this, there are times that you ask, ‘Am I pushing it too far?’ But you have to trust your gut, and I feel like people will want to come because there’s so much in there.”
A trio of theater artists is launching a new company with a production Dec. 2-11 at Bellini’s Grand Ballroom, 115 West Main Street.
Project SEE Theatre will present Steven Dietz’s 1993 play Lonely Planet, about a man who tries to shut himself off from the world as his friends begin dying of AIDS. It will star Lexington actors Tim Hull and Nick Vannoy. The group was organized by new Transylvania University acting program chair Sullivan Canaday White, Kentucky Classical Theatre Conservatory co-founder Ellie Clark and New York actor Evan Bergman. The conservatory is acting as the fiscal support to the new company. The company is also reaching out to local artists to create a complementary visual arts exhibit to accompany the show.
Tickets are $20 for the general public and $13 for students. To reserve tickets, email email@example.com or call (917) 355-2033. Include in you message your name and phone number, the date and day of the week you would like to attend, the number of tickets you would like to reserve and whether they are student or adult tickets.
With the men in high collars and tailcoats and women in long dresses, this summer night has the air of an aristocratic garden party in the Arboretum.
That’s close to what is happening onstage in SummerFest’s production of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which runs through Sunday night. But backstage, where we are, its much more of a variety show, from card den to track meet to tailor shop to knitting circle, all played out with the hush of a library.
Backstage at the annual outdoor summer theater festival is quite different from a traditional theater, folks involved with the festival say, and not just because of the bugs and the heat.
“It’s much more communal,” says Tim Hull, who plays several roles in Pride and Prejudice. “In most theaters, everyone is off in their dressing rooms backstage and you don’t see a lot of each other. Here, we’re all out in this space, and we sort of have to stay in it.”
When offstage, the actors have to stay in a fairly confined area directly behind the stage. Otherwise, the audience might see Tom Phillips (Mr. Darcy), making funny faces at microphone technician Kim Dixon; or Stephanie Peniston (Lady Catherine) not wearing her gray wig and working a crossword puzzle.
If you were wondering if those jackets and complicated shirts are hot on the men, yes they are. Read the rest of this entry »
Jul14Filed under: slide shows, SummerFest, Theater; Tagged as: Annie Barbera, Avery Wigglesworth, Drew Davidson, Ellie Clark, Erin Cutler, G.B. Dixon, Holly Brady, Jane Austen, Jon Jory, Pride and Prejudice, Sarah Levy, Stephanie Peniston, SummerFest, Tim Hull, Tom Phillips, Trish Clark, Vanessa Becker, Walter Tunis
Rains Tuesday delayed construction on the set for SummerFest’s Pride and Prejudice‘s. But crews – including cast members from other SummerFest shows – worked through the night and Jon Jory’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic is set to open under clear skies tonight.
Read more: SummerFest’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ has a real mother-daughter act
Read more: SummerFest’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ has a real mother-daughter act
Read more: SummerFest’s Pride and Prejudice a real mother-daughter act
Apr16Filed under: Central Kentucky Arts News, Music, Musicals, Rent notebook, SummerFest, Theater; Tagged as: Adam Luckey, Ave Lawyer, Ellie Clark, Jeff Sherr, John Dawson, Kentucky Classical Theatre Conservatory, Lisa Thomas, Nick Vannoy, Pride and Prejudice, Rent, Sullivan Canaday White, SummerFest 2010, The Merchant of Venice, Tom Phillips, Tracey Bonner, Trish Clark
In many pursuits we talk about how something looks on paper — how capable are the forces that have been assembled at accomplishing the task at hand? By that criteria, it looks like a great July in the Arboretum for SummerFest 2010.
Cast lists have been released for all the Summerfest productions, and they all include some of the Lexington area’s top talents as well as intriguing new names, and a few old friends we haven’t seen on stage in a while.
The Merchant of Venice, for instance, includes Lisa Thomas and Jeff Sherr, one-time local stage mainstays who’ve been away lately. Pride and Prejudice has Kentucky Classical Theatre Conservatory director Trish Clark playing mother to her real life daughter, Ellie Clark, as Elizabeth Bennett and also features the return of Tom Phillips to local stages as Mr. Darcy. And the Rent cast mixes fresh faces like local rocker John Dawson as Roger with familiar musical talents like Nick Vannoy as Collins in an intriguing cast. And the cast lists overall are dappled with actors in “I can see that” roles like Adam Luckey as Shylock in Merchant.
So here’s how SummerFest looks on paper. In a few months we’ll see how it looks on stage.
The Merchant of Venice
July 7-11, directed by Ave Lawyer
Shylock - Adam Luckey
Portia - Lisa Thomas
Antonio - Carmen Geraci
Bassanio - Bob Singleton
Gratiano - Evan Bergman
Salarino - Ryan Briggs
Lorenzo - Tanner Gray
Jessica - Joe Elswick
Nerissa - Rosanna Hurt
Launcelot - Patrick Davis
Duke - Jack McIntyre
Aragon - Jeff Sherr
Balthazar - Cameron Perry
The roles of Tubal, Morocco, and Salanio have yet to be cast
Pride And Prejudice
July 14-18, directed by Sullivan Canaday White
Mrs. Bennett - Trish Clark
Elizabeth Bennett - Ellie Clark
Jane Bennett – Holly Brady
Mary Bennett - Annie Barbera
Kitty Bennett - Erin Cutler
Lydia Barrett / Georgiana - Avery Wigglesworth
Mr. Darcy - Tom Phillips
Mr. Bingley/ Colonol Fitzwilliam - G. B. Dixon
Charlotte - Sarah Levy
Sir William Lucas/Mr. Collins/Mr. Gardner - Tim Hull
Miss Bingley/Mrs. Gardiner - Vanessa Becker
Lady Catherine - Stephanie Peniston
George Wickham - Drew Davidson
The role of Mr. Bennet has yet to be cast.
July 21-25, directed by Tracey Bonner
Mimi Márquez - Jessica Lucas
Roger Davis - John Dawson
Mark Cohen - Chip Becker
Maureen Johnson - Caroline Griffeth
Angel Dumott Schunard - Emanuel Williams
Tom Collins - Nick Vannoy
Joanne Jefferson - Sheronda Piersall
Benjamin ‘Benny’ Coffin III - Thomas Gibbs
Seasons Of Love Soloist - Jessica French
The Ensemble Includes: Casey Mather, Justin Norris, Sarah Matthews, Brandon Smith, Andrea Johnson, Beth Kovarik, Wood Van Meter and Katie Berger.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich