Saturday, April 30, 2005

Pregnant pause for swell role

By Peggy Woodcock, Chester Chronicle

PLAYING a pregnant character on stage is not fun for anyone - especially if you are a man! But that's what Simon Scardifield has to do in A Winter's Tale which moves to the Liverpool Playhouse next week. PEGGY WOODCOCK talked to him.

ACTORS do like to prepare for a role. But few will have gone to the lengths that Simon Scardifield did prior to his appearance in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale at The Lowry, Salford Quays, this week and the Liverpool Playhouse next week.

For he is playing a woman. A pregnant woman. And that's what led to him rolling cosily on the floor with several mums-to-be at a National Childbirth Trust meeting.

He said: 'I've never been pregnant - obviously! - and I needed to get an idea of what it felt like. So I had a bump, not just a cushion but something more realistic filled with birdseed and strapped to my shoulders.

'At the NCT meeting I found talking to the pregnant women a great help. I'm not a method actor but I was very aware that the audiences would be full of experts so I needed to make it as realistic as possible.'

Scardifield is one of an all-male cast for this production by the company Propeller which for the past seven years have been captivating audiences with their energetic versions of Shakespeare's greatest plays - with never a woman in sight.

He said: 'Women weren't allowed on stage in his time so Shakespeare was actually writing these women's roles for men, or youths, and often for a particular one. I had that in mind when I tackled the role.

'It has taught me a lot about being an actor. I have always thought I had to use a large amount of myself in any role but this is different. As to childbirth, it's amazing the pain women expose themselves to, and the huge responsibility afterwards.'

Scardifield has worked extensively in the theatre, notably with the Royal Shakespeare Company, English Touring Theatre, Shared Experience, and in Stephen Daldry's An Inspector Calls in the West End, and he has television and film credits ranging from Casualty to High Heels and Low Lifes.

In this, his third production with director Edward Hall, son of Sir Peter Hall and founder Propeller, he plays Hermione, queen to Leontes. It's a haunting mix of tragedy, mystery and comedy which follows events as a man wracked with inexplicable jealousy destroys family, kingdom and himself. But the chain reaction leads to a miraculous ending full of hope.

Said Scardifield: 'It's a fantastic play but not an easy one. The first half runs as a dark, fast-paced thriller while the second half is completely different, packed with knockabout comedy, but then returning to the first heavy mood.

'One of the successes of this production is to marry the two halves so the audience can see how they go together. The cast do all the music and sound effects, even lighting, so the audience can see the whole process and they seem to love it.'

He will be wearing his eight month baby bump for the production, that is, until he gives birth.

He said: 'Happily this takes place off stage! I should stress, though, that I won't be wearing a wig or shaving off my chest hair. None of us taking female roles try look or sound like women. We let the words speak for themselves, as they did in Shakespeare's day.'

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Canberra theatre captions Shakespearean show

A Shakespearean production in Canberra is to be captioned for people with hearing impairments, in what is thought to be a first for Australian theatre.

The Canberra theatre will use two screens on either side of the stage to caption this Saturday's matinee performance of the Bell Shakespeare Company's The Wars of the Roses.

The theatre plans to caption one session of each of this season's performances.

Markia Hetenyi from Better Hearing Australia says captioning can benefit people with even slight hearing difficulties.

"A lot of people who have an acquired hearing loss don't realise for many, many years after the hearing has started to deteriorate, so there will be people in the audience on Saturday who don't realise that they've missed a lot of what has been said until they look at the screen and they say, 'oh i didn't realise that there was that line first'," she said.

Podcasting News: New Podcast Reveals Mysteries of Shakespeare

A new podcast promises to reveal the mysteries of Shakespeare. The podcast feature excerpts from author Mark Anderson's new book "Shakespeare" by Another Name, which examines the puzzles that have long haunted the identity of history’s greatest author.

Sir Derek Jacobi, a world-renowned Shakespearean actor, recommends the book as "full of enlightened and reasoned research in the quest to provide material for a rational and honest debate in the Shakespeare authorship question."

Author Anderson thinks podcasting is a great opportunity for authors. "Despite the fact that not many authors are doing it today, it seems to me that providing free audio excerpts of one's book is a great way to get potential readers interested in the story. I'm no marketing person, but podcasting seems tailor-made for the book business.

Want to know what Podcasting is? Look here.

Chung Ching School in Brunei Remembers Shakespeare

By James Sim

Bandar Seri Begawan - Students and teachers of Chung Ching Middle School last Saturday celebrated the birthday of one of world's greatest writers, William Shakespeare, at the school premises. As a tribute to the king of dramas and poems, Chung Ching Little Theatre played out a murder scene from Shakespeare's "Othello" to a spellbound audience, with help from their teachers Shanthi Thomas, Kavitha Vijayakumar and Jane Thomas. The celebration also saw a presentation of two soliloquies from Shakespeare's masterpiece "Hamlet" - a Form I student re-enacting mad Ophelia and a Form 3 student playing out Hamlet's dilemma. -- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


Summer Professional Training Program provides valuable experience for aspiring actors, arts administrators, designers, directors and technicians

Madison, NJ – The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is now accepting applications for acting apprenticeships and internships in all areas, designed for young adults ages 18 and older. Both are part of the Theatre’s Summer Professional Training Program, now in its fifteenth year, which gives aspiring actors, young theatre artists and technicians, and future arts administrators valuable opportunities to develop their skills under the auspices of a major professional theatre. The 2005 training program, with the theme “Take the Summer On!” runs from May 29 through August 15. The application deadline is May 13.

Acting Apprenticeships

The rigorous 11-week Apprentice Program provides students at the college level and above with classroom training, valuable performance experience, mentorship by skilled actors and directors, and essential exposure to all aspects of professional theatre. Acting apprentices study Shakespeare’s text, experiment with various approaches to performance, participate in scene study classes, and receive professional movement, stage combat and vocal training. This year’s faculty members are working professionals who teach at SUNY Purchase, Wagner College and the University of South Carolina. Each week includes three full days of classes that create a crucial framework for the actor’s experiences at The Shakespeare Theatre and beyond.

Supplementing the regularly scheduled class days, apprentices also take part in Sunday Morning Seminars and Master Classes, a series of workshops and classes that are conducted by guest and resident theatre professionals. A variety of specialized topics are explored, including career management, audition techniques and headshot and résumé tips, to name only a few.

In addition, apprentices gain valuable technical and administrative experience by assisting in the scene shop, costume shop and in the various offices of The Shakespeare Theatre. In the evenings, participants may function on “running crews” for the Theatre’s Main Stage productions. Some apprentices may perform on the Main Stage in smaller roles or focus on their own performance work.

As a troupe, the apprentices present three Performance Scene Nights, one Fight Night and a Final Project to an audience comprised of the entire summer company and invited guests. There is also an opportunity for some apprentices to participate in Late-Night Projects, directed by resident directing interns, and the annual Late-Night Cabaret, a unique variety show performed for an audience of company members and Shakespeare Theatre subscribers.

“This program is certainly not for everyone,” comments Brian B. Crowe, resident artist and director of education. “It’s rigorous and intense and there is not a lot of ‘down-time,’ but in the end, each participant will know if this is a career that he or she has the passion to pursue full time. Every autumn, I get calls from apprentices, who, upon returning to school, are amazed at the impact this program has had on them. They see a vast improvement not only in their skills, but also in their confidence and self-awareness.”

Behind the scenes, the Intern Company is comprised of experienced early-career individuals in non-performance fields. From carpentry to design, costumes to box office, and fund-raising to education, The Shakespeare Theatre’s internship program puts aspiring artists and technicians side-by-side with working theatre professionals, where they gain valuable hands-on experience and important professional contacts. Internships are offered in 21 areas of concentration, and select internships are available prior to and following the regular Summer Professional Training Program dates.

Nurturing young artists and aspiring theatre professionals

Over the years, participants have come from around the globe to The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s Summer Professional Training Program. Alumni hail from Japan, England, China, Australia, Turkey and from throughout the United States.

Many members of the program return year after year, working their way “up the ladder” at The Shakespeare Theatre. In fact, nearly 20% of The Shakespeare Theatre’s current full-time, year-round staff members are alumni of the Summer Professional Training Program. Among them are associate artistic director Joe Discher; director of education Brian B. Crowe; assistant production manager Denise Cardarelli, information systems manager Roderick Lapid; and assistant to the artistic director Paige Blansfield.

Individuals enrolled in the program are mentored by seasoned professionals, gradually being presented with larger roles or greater duties as they prove themselves. Says Crowe, “The Theatre has a strong commitment to developing long-term, ongoing relationships with young artists — something that is rarely seen in summer training programs today.”

He continued, “These days there are so few opportunities for this type of ‘through-the-ranks’ training. That is unfortunate, since this mentoring approach is such an important part of the theatrical tradition. University and conservatory programs, for all of the valuable training they offer young people, cannot provide the intense, hands-on experience that this kind of professional theatre program supplies.”

Enrollment information

Tuition for the Apprentice Program is only $1,475 for the 11-week-long program. There is no tuition fee for the Internship Program. The majority of internships are unpaid, but a limited number of stipends are available in certain areas. Housing, if required, is $840 for the 11-week program (waived for commuting students) for both apprentices and interns. Equity Membership Candidate points and college credit are available.

For more information or a Summer Professional Training Program application, call Jake Berger, associate director of education, at 973-408-3806 or e-mail

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A Midsummer Night's Dream, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

By Alastair Macaulay

The Royal Shakespeare Company's new production of A Midsummer Night's Dream is an audience hit, comic and unusually picturesque. It also gleams from an intelligent combing of the text: so that the designer Stephen Brimson Lewis makes us more aware of the characters' talk of stars and planets (we see a whole galaxy swell and fill the night sky), and the characters have jokes that are newly rooted in the lines - so that when Flute/Thisbe lets out an embarrassingly long fart, the pay-off comes when Bottom now says: 'Let Thisbe have clean linen.' The lines are spoken according to best RSC principles, with impeccable attention to line-endings and slow monosyllables. The production is memorable above all for its Bunraku-style use of puppets: to Bottom, the fairies all hold out small baby or cherub dolls - when the head of one of them detaches itself, it's as strange a vision as the witches bring to Macbeth. Fairy silhouettes and human shadows abound, so that Puck's final line 'If we shadows' strikes home.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

For the Love of Shakespeare Sonnets--A Marathon

William Sutton will be performing his second sonnet marathon at the Rose Theatre Excavation site in honour of Shakespeare's birthday April 23rd, 2005. It starts at 12 noon and there will be short breaks after sonnets 51 and 103. Audience is free to listen and leave quietly during the performance. Admission is FREE.

This link will tell you how to get there:

Sunday, April 10, 2005

When Brits do Shakespeare, there's quite a lot to 'Like' : "

MEANING NO DISRESPECT to our fine American actors, there's just something so incredibly satisfying about hearing British actors intone Shakespeare.

The lilt, the cadence, the seemingly effortless ease with the Bard's circumlocutions, they all seem so alive in the mouths of the Brits.
Nowhere is this more evident than in 'As You Like It,' a production of the Theatre Royal Bath and the Peter Hall Company hosted by Best of Broadway at San Francisco's Curran Theatre.

Already a hit in England and elsewhere around the United States, this 'As You Like It,' which opened Wednesday, is easy to like thanks, in large part, to the crisp execution of the dialogue. "

Sunday, April 03, 2005

They Come to Praise Brutus

DURING his working vacation away from Hollywood, Denzel Washington may be willing to go without the luxury trailer, but the bodyguard stays: a very large bearded man leads the way to the small room in the Belasco Theater where Mr. Washington, in a long-sleeved T-shirt and jeans, is relaxing before afternoon rehearsal for 'Julius Caesar.' The show is still in previews, but in the corner, there's already a bin full of letters from fans who have seen the show; the theater had to hire extra security to handle the mob that waits for him each night after the curtain falls."
Denzel Washington in Julius Caesar: A Review from Newsday

NEW YORK -- "Brutus is an honorable man," says Mark Antony during one of the more famous speeches that pepper William Shakespeare's blood-soaked "Julius Caesar," now being revived on Broadway. Yet watching Denzel Washington's curiously detached performance as Brutus (one of the co-conspirators who kill the fabled Roman emperor), enigma is more the word that comes to mind.

Washington, the reason this revival was mounted in the first place, has a magnetic, forceful screen persona suggesting strength and warmth at the same time. Yet on stage, at least in this aggressive, modern-dress production directed by Daniel Sullivan, the actor comes across as subdued. His voice, while strong, lacks variety, producing a monotone at odds with the other, more vocally acrobatic actors on stage. Brutus is a man in the middle _ torn between his loyalty to Caesar and his devotion to Rome. The man's searing internal conflict should find its way to the surface. Here it produces a slightly furrowed brow and a tentative portrait.

Sullivan's tough-minded production is agreeably straightforward, despite his placing the play within an odd time frame. A decaying ancient Rome is atmospherically realized in designer Ralph Funicello's crumbling set, but it's also a world of cell phones, metal detectors, briefcases and machine guns. These conspirators are white-collar terrorists, all dressed in business attire. Washington, a sparkling stud in his left ear, makes a stylish entrance in a gray suit offset by a crisp blue shirt.

Best of the lot is Colm Feore, a fiercely manipulative Cassius who woos Brutus with the ardor of a true believer. Among the others, Jack Willis, as a burly, almost comic Casca, and Patrick Page as a particularly unctuous Decius Brutus, stand out. As the title character, William Sadler is suitably hearty and personable, yet drawn with enough shading to make the man's egocentricity show through.

The dramatic high point of any "Julius Caesar" should be Mark Antony's famous eulogy for Caesar, "Friends, Romans, Countrymen," a not-so-subtle call-to-arms that will make the rabble rise up against the men who killed Caesar. Sullivan stages it dramatically, with the actors spilling into the theater's aisles and standing in the boxes above the stage. Eamonn Walker's Antony is a striking, brooding presence who can command an audience.

Women in "Julius Caesar" are generally forgotten creatures and that's the case here, although Jessica Hecht as Brutus' helpmate and Tamara Tunie as Caesar's wife do some high-velocity emoting.

"Julius Caesar" is not the most subtle of Shakespeare's plays, particularly as it drives toward a violent conclusion in a series of battle scenes. At the Belasco Theatre, they consist of actors wearing camouflage fatigues and running back and forth across the stage while constant explosions and gunfire pierce the air. This could be one of the noisiest productions of "Julius Caesar" on record. Washington handles these final moments well. He has an athletic grace and precision when it comes to the character's determination to fight the good fight to the end. And there is a nobility in the death of Brutus. Yet it's the actor's interpretation of the man's life that is the puzzlement. In the end, Washington's Brutus remains opaque, more of a question mark than a real person.