The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Longtime Lexington actor Kevin Hardesty will return to local stages in the title role of Balagula Theatre‘s production Eric-Emmanuel Schmidt’s Don Juan on Trial.
Hardesty has played many theater icons in Lexington, including the title role in two productions of Hamlet for the Lexington Shakespeare Festival in 1991 and 1999. Hardesty left the Lexington Theatre scene after he resigned from his post as artistic director of Actors Guild of Lexington in 2003 for personal reasons. He returned a few times, most notably in SummerFest’s 2007 production of The Crucible, as John Proctor.
After five years away, he quietly returned early this fall for a reading of a new screenplay by Lexington filmmaker Jeremy Horton of 100 Proof fame at the Centeral Library’s Farish Theater.
In Don Juan, he will lead a cast of Lexington stage notables including Ryan Case as Chevalier De Chiffreville and Rachel Lee Rogers, who made her own return this fall in Balagula’s Bug, as Angelique. The show runs Dec. 9 to 19 at Natasha’s Bistro and Bar.
It occurred to me Tuesday watching the final dress rehearsal of SummerFest’s production of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire that this is the first time in 14 years covering theater in Lexington I have seen the same show presented two times by the same director.
Joe Ferrell directed Actors Guild of Lexington’s production of Streetcar in 2003 at the Downtown Arts Center’s black box theater, and he is directing the production that is trying mightily to get going in the Arboretum – the first two attempts at an opening night, Wednesday and Thursday, have been scuttled due to rain and lightning.
Rehearsals are not performances and this is not a review, but looking at this production, it was striking how similar yet different this show was from 2003.
There certainly was that signature Joe Ferrell style — a reverence for the playwright’s words and eye on crisp storytelling. You always know with a Ferrell show that everyone onstage will know what they are saying and why, and interesting interpretations will come out of that.
Contrasting the productions speaks to the impact casting and venue have on a play.
Ferrell noted in an interview earlier this summer that as big a title as Streetcar is, it is something of a small, intimate show for the vast Arboretum stage. The essential drama plays out between four people — Blanche, Stella, Stanley and Mitch — and there are just a few other ancillary characters. The setting of a modest New Orleans apartment is also fairly low-key for SummerFest.
But Tuesday, lead actors Evan Bergman as Stanley and Bess Morgan as Blanche (photo, above) were crafting big performances that filled the space and maximized the drama. Nine years ago, Kevin Hardesty and Lisa Thomas were giving decidedly different interpretations of the same characters. Hardesty’s Stanley was more arrogant than primal, making Blanche’s characterizations of him seem to be part of her fantasy. Thomas’ portrayal was less demonstrative and she and Hardesty seemed to be engaged in more of a psychological struggle.
And that really worked for the black box, a a venue that seats a couple hundred at most and fewer, I believe, for the Streetcar production. That take may have been lost in the Arboretum, but that is where venue comes into play. And good actors know where they are playing and make adjustments accordingly — both Thomas and Hardesty have brilliantly led productions in the Arboretum, as have Bergman and Morgan in the Downtown Arts Center.
It really speaks to the elasticity of a script. It sets out the words and essentially the story and emotions, but it is when the director, actors and designers come together that the play really comes to life, and it is different every time, even when some of the same people are involved.
Aug8Filed under: Actors Guild of Lexington, Arts administration, Central Kentucky Arts News, LexArts, Theater; Tagged as: Actors Guild of Lexington, Barksdale Theatre, Brian Hampton, Charles Edward Pogue, Checking In, Christopher Newport University, Hamlet, Jennifer Miller, Kevin Hardesty, LexArts, Long Time Traveling, Richard St. Peter, Silas House, Tartuffe, TheatreVirginia, Virginia Commonwealth University
Actors Guild of Lexington Artistic Director Richard St. Peter has told the theater’s board that he will be leaving by the end of the 2009-10 season to pursue a doctorate degree in theater.
St. Peter declined to say where he will be going to graduate school, as he has not finalized those plans with the school. He did say that his departure is not a reaction to Actors Guild’s recent financial troubles which came to a head in June when LexArts declined to grant the theater an allocation for general operating funds.
“I want to stress as much as I can that this is not a bad thing, not death or disaster,” St. Peter said Saturday night. “It’s just the next thing.”
St. Peter said he is not leaving immediately and expects to negotiate a departure time with the theater’s board, when a succession plan is in place.
Actors Guild board president Jennifer Miller said that St. Peter’s decision was of his own volition. She said she had been aware he was contemplating pursuing a doctorate, but was still surprised when he informed her of his plans this weekend.
She said the theater’s board has not had a chance to meet and discuss searching for a successor, but she expected it would be a little while before that effort starts.
“We don’t want to make rapid decisions, we want to make the right decisions,” Miller said.
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