Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Style Weekly

Do you have your tickets yet?
Issue Date: April 22, 2009, Posted On: 4/21/2009

STYLE Weekly review of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' The cast of Richmond Shakespeareare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," at rest. Clockwise from top, it's Brandon Crowder, Stacie Rearden Hall, Adam Mincks, Kerry McGee and Sandra Clayton.

There was a moment during Richmond Shakespeareare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" when I literally could not stop laughing. Near the play's end, the sheer lunatic brilliance of director Andrew Hamm's off-kilter rendering of the Shakespeare classic reached such a fever pitch that I found myself lost in the sea of silliness. I would have been more embarrassed about my guffaws if there weren't several others in the audience doing the same thing.

Possibly the Bard's most endearingly romantic comedy, Midsummer's plot involves fairies, love potions, a man semitransformed into an ass, and quite a bit of mayhem. As if that were not enough, Hamm's inspired cast pushes every envelope available. Sensual interludes between lovers stray into serious PG-13 territory. Characters who are supposed to be bad actors are hilariously horrendous. Some of the physical comedy looks downright painful, thanks to fight choreography help by David White.

Ensemble members throw themselves into multiple roles with abandon. Brandon Crowder leads this rowdy band, effecting breakneck changes between the regal Duke of Athens to the almost aggressively swishy Flute and eliciting laughs with as little as a well-placed glance along the way. Adam Mincks chews the scenery ravenously as donkey-eared Bottom, who attracts the affection of Fairy Queen Titania (Stacie Rearden Hall) thanks to the juice of a magical flower administered by Puck (Kerry McGee). Hall's lusty looks are bracing while McGee is alternately fervent as the love-struck Hermia and delightfully impish as Puck. Sandra Clayton rounds out the crew ably with several small but vital bit parts.

It seems peckish to note that some of Shakespeare's lyrical language gets lost in modernisms such as "Sweet!" and "Awesome!" But Hamm makes up for it by inserting charming musical interludes into the action with a cast (particularly Hall) in spectacular voice. For a show not billed as a musical, this "Dream" sings. David Timberline

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" plays at the Second Presbyterian Church, 5 N. Fifth St., through May 10. Tickets are $13-$26. Call 1-866-BARD-TIX or visit www.richmondshakespeare.com.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Zany Cast Makes 'Dream' a delight

Richmond Shakespeare’s season finale a fun one

JULINDA LEWIS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Published: April 19, 2009

“A Midsummer Night's Dream," Richmond Shakespeare Theatre's final production of its indoor season under the direction of Andrew Hamm, roars delightfully into its raucous conclusion, which includes a play within a play and a wedding celebration.

There is something old (the play by William Shakespeare), something new (the cast and the indoor location at Second Presbyterian Church), something borrowed (costumes and props from previous "Dream" productions), and something . . . (well, there's got to be something blue in there somewhere).

With costumes and set kept to a bare minimum, the cast of five takes on 21 roles, resulting in effects and situations that might have surprised the Bard himself.

This "Dream" features a tight-knit and lovable ensemble. Some of the casting contrasts are startling and ingenious. Sandra Clayton is the elitist Egeus as well as the simple carpenter; Peter Quince, leader of the local community of actors, also known as the Mechanicals; Brandon Crowder is both the noble Theseus, Duke of Athens, and Francis Flute, the bellows mender who plays the role of Thisbe in the play-within-a-play.

And while it is not unusual for men to play women's roles in Elizabethan theater, Crowder's over-the-top Thisbe, dressed in a contemporary beauty queen evening gown and some killer black stilettos, leaves an indelible impression.

Kerry McGee gives Robin Starveling, the tailor member of the acting troupe, a round-shouldered, slumped posture, slow movements and delayed reactions that suggest poor Starveling may have either mental or chemically induced challenges.

The cast is rounded out by Stacie Rearden Hall, who plays Demetrius's lover Helena as well as three other roles, and Adam Mincks, who plays Demetrius, as well as Nick Bottom, who, as the unfortunate object of Puck's prankishness, ends up with a donkey's head and the magically induced love of the fair queen, Titania.

Shakespeare's words, juxtaposed against modern-day clothing and props, and in the hands -- and mouths -- of this enthusiastic and zany cast made 2½ hours in uncomfortable chairs in an overheated chapel fly.

First Review Snippet, "Midsummer"

"I took in Richmond Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which basically had me laughing until I was crying. I have a new person to envy and that’s the husband of Stacie Reardon Hall. This is a production where everything is set to 11, including the sensuality part and, if Mrs. Hall brings even half of the lusty energy she shows on the stage home with her, well, Oh My, Mr. Hall must be a happy man." - David Timberline, RichmondVATheater.blogspot.com

Have you read or seen any blog postings about 'Midsummer!?' Send them to us! info@richmondshakespeare.com

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Midsummer Night's Dream opens next week!

A Midsummer Night's Dream opens next week, with performances Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2:30. (Check out the discounted preview on Thursday, 8pm.)

The actors are (clockwise from Sandra Clayton at top left, Brandon Crowder, Stacie Rearden Hall, Adam Mincks and Kerry McGee. Directed by Andrew Hamm , with costumes by Rebecca Cairns.

April 16 - May 10
Tickets: http://www.richmondshakespeare.com/

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bard Bite


More than four hundred years after his birth, William Shakespeare remains the most influential writer the English language has yet produced. In celebration of the playwright’s 445th birthday this month, actor and Artistic Director Grant Mudge brings this first in a series of “Bard Bites.” First installment:

Returning from Richmond, Abraham Lincoln Recounts Macbeth.

Airing on 4/9 at 8:49am—Thursday morning! 88.9fm in Richmond or http://www.ideastations.org/ worldwide. Please pass it on!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Make that 158 Days


A recent low-res photo (just a little cell-phone shot).

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Richmond CenterStage countdown clock - 165 days until Grand Opening!

NEWS RELEASE

Richmond CenterStage Announces Grand Opening Performances, Unveils Countdown Clock

Artists announced for September 12-13 Grand Opening; Clock on Broad Street starts ticking away time until doors open

RICHMOND – One-hundred and sixty-five days: The countdown is on to the Grand Opening of Richmond CenterStage, with a brand new clock on Broad Street that will tick away the moments until the September 12th grand opening of the world-class performing arts complex.

“The opening of Richmond CenterStage has been a long time coming, and the cultural impact this facility will bring to the city is within sight,” said Jim Ukrop, Chairman of the CenterStage Foundation, the fundraising arm of the performing arts center. “When CenterStage opens this year, it will become the cornerstone of this up-and-coming arts district in Virginia’s capital city.”

The Countdown Clock and signage measure 8 feet high by 16 feet long, and contain 1,280 digital LED lights. The 120-pound clock, designed by Chester-based Holiday Signs, will stand on the CenterStage construction site until the Grand Opening, 165 days from today. The clock was unveiled by school-age local performers.

Located on Grace Street between Sixth and Seventh Streets, Richmond CenterStage includes the fully-renovated, 91-year-old Carpenter Theatre with nearly 1,800 seats, along with four other venues: the multi-use space Rhythm Hall, the Genworth BrightLights Education Center, the intimate Gottwald Playhouse and the Showcase Gallery, for exhibition of the visual arts.

“When you consider where Broad Street was just five years ago, it is amazing to imagine that we have come so far and to think about where we are going. But none of this could have been done without support of individuals who looked at this area and saw what it could be, once again,” said Carthan F. Currin III, Richmond’s Economic Development Director. “It is also important to remember that, though ‘Richmond’ is in the name of this project, Richmond CenterStage is a place for everyone from our neighboring counties and elsewhere to visit and enjoy. There is something for everyone here.”

In addition to the clock unveiling, CenterStage officials announced the Grand Opening lineup. The theme of the Grand Opening weekend is “Opening the Doors to Serious Fun,” and will include performances by each of the producing resident companies that will call the venue home:

§ African American Repertory Theatre: Poetry and readings celebrating the inspirational works of noted African American writer Langston Hughes;

§ Elegba Folklore Society: Mandiani, featuring performances of songs, music and dances celebrating the South African culture and traditions;

§ Richmond Ballet: Stoner Winslett’s Windows IV, with 38 dancers and an original score by Virginia composer Jonathan Romeo;

§ Richmond Jazz Society: “Generations of Jazz,” popular masterworks performed live by a quintet of notable Virginia jazz musicians;

§ Richmond Shakespeare: Songs and sonnets by William Shakespeare on the 400th anniversary year of their first publication, with the Richmond Symphony Orchestra;

§ Richmond Symphony: Bernstein’s overture from Candide and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, and live accompaniment from four groups: Richmond Ballet, Virginia Opera, Richmond Shakespeare and SPARC;

§ School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community, or SPARC: Excerpts from Les Misérables with SPARC students and alumni performing for the first time with the Richmond Symphony Orchestra;

§ Theatre IV – Barksdale: Fuente Ovejuna, with the Latin Ballet of Virginia, a 15th century work from the Golden Age of Spanish Theatre; and,

§ Virginia Opera: The cast of La Bohème performing excerpts from the most popular works in the operatic repertory.

The acts include more than 200 performers from the nine producing resident companies, with nearly 50 additional crew members. The groups are ethnically diverse, with performers who range in age from younger than 10 to nearly 90 years old.

“While CenterStage is going to draw some high-profile national acts, it is foremost the home of our local arts groups to express their diverse and creative performances,” said Managing Director of Richmond Ballet Keith Martin, who is directing the CenterStage Grand Opening performances. “This unprecedented collaboration is going to showcase the best that each art form has to offer. I cannot imagine a more appropriate way to celebrate such an incredible venue, a facility that will offer unlimited possibilities for Richmond’s future.”

The opening weekend will include to two identical productions. The first will be Saturday evening at 8:00 p.m. followed by a Sunday matinee at 2:00 p.m. Ticket prices range from $35 to $100, and will go on sale on July 1st through Ticketmaster.

For more information about CenterStage, please visit RichmondCenterStage.com.

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