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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead


Alef Ayin and John Hilinski, as fellow tragedians, as two smiling accomplices, friends, courtiers - two spies (photo credit: Calvin Jung)


I haven't posted for a while, mostly in the interest of keeping quiet how farcically "365 consecutive days of uninterruptible bliss" has fallen short (because whoever you are, you are not my therapist). The only uninterruptible thing about this year has been my work schedule, editing video and doing archival research for the Rapt Productions theater documentary by day and going straight from there, most days, to rehearsals for the TheatreFIRST production of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, which opened this past weekend and runs through Valentine's Day. Rehearsals were at Berkeley Rep School of Theater, performances are at the black-box theater in the Fox Theater building in Oakland, Rapt is 6 blocks up Telegraph from there, so James and have found our usual whereabouts precisely reversed, with me calling him from across the bay or cutting out under it, and him at home with the doggy.


Andrew Hurteau as The Player pops out of a trunk aboard ship in Act III - behind him, on the ladder, is Harold Pierce as Hamlet (photo: CJ)

The last time I worked with this director and several of the actors, also as a violinist with a small dramatic role, was in the North Bay Shakespeare Company's production of Twelfth Night in 2007. That was staged at the old stone amphitheater at Hamilton Airfield and was about as fun as a Shakespeare comedy with a great director and a brilliant and amiable cast in a public park sounds. Downtown Oakland isn't quite as much fun, and neither is doing a play while holding down a job. But working with this group - especially now that that rehearsal schedule is receding into memory - has bounced me out of the deep and narrow space where uninterruptible bliss was meant to be. To anyone in the market for a good antidepressant, may I recommend a small part in a good play - even one about death.


Kalli Jonsson as Rosencrantz (photo: CJ)

Stoppard is my favorite living playwright based primarily on my experience of one production of one play - The Real Thing, which I saw twice in London and once in New York several years ago. I'd only seen a videotape of R&G before doing this one and was very glad to get the opportunity to know the play from the inside out. The production is great, but don't take it from me - here's yesterday's Oakland Tribune review. (My pull-quote from the review: "funny...equipped.")


Kalli and Harold with TheatreFIRST artistic director
Michael Storm, as Guildenstern (photo: CJ)

R&G runs through Valentine's Day - Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30, Sunday at 2PM. It's a block from 19th St. BART and they're not checking IDs on the "under 30" pricing. More about the show and tickets here.


Graham Patzner and Paul Festa as tragedians as Player Queen and Player King (photo: CJ)


Left to right: G. Randall Wright (tragedian), Siobhan Doherty (Ophelia), George Killingsworth (Polonius), Graham, Chiron Alston (Claudius), Kalli and Michael (photo: CJ)

My own pix from rehearsals:







Natasha Noel (Gertrude)











Michael and Aleph


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Paul Festa’s first film, Apparition of the Eternal Church (2006, 51 min), captures the responses of 31 artists to the apocalyptic music of Olivier Messiaen (with Justin Bond, John Cameron Mitchell, Harold Bloom; screenings: Grace Cathedral, Barbican Centre, Library of Congress; “Remarkable”The New Yorker; “Stunning”Chicago Sun-Times; “Sublime”Globe & Mail; numerous awards). Festa performs the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, opposite members of the San Francisco Ballet and The Cockettes, in his award-winning second film, The Glitter Emergency (2010, 20 min), a silent-film drag ballet comedy (“Enormous visual and musical inventiveness…full of pleasure and joy...Festa gives a bravura performance."—Film Threat). He produced, wrote and edited, with director Austin Forbord, and was chief archivist, for the Emmy-nominated documentary Stage Left: A Story of Theater in San Francisco (2010, 80 min: with Robin Williams, Bill Irwin, Peter Coyote; screenings: Geary Theater, KQED; “Intriguing...entertaining...a valuable record”—Variety). Performances as violinist and actor: ODC Theater, Center for Performance Research, Kunst-Stoff, TheatreFIRST, North Bay Shakespeare, Albert Fuller's Helicon Ensemble (Merkin Hall, Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall). US, Boston, NYC, SF, LA and DC (Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress on the “Betts” Stradivarius) premieres of Messiaen’s Fantaisie for violin and piano. He is the author of OH MY GOD: Messiaen in the Ear of the Unbeliever, based on Apparition of the Eternal Church, and several anthologized essays, and has written for The Daily Beast, Salon, Nerve, and The New York Times Book Review. Current projects include a novel and Tie It Into My Hand (2014, ca. 80 min), a documentary feature that has screened as a work in progress at the Cannes film market and at ODC Theater in San Francisco (with Alan Cumming, Gary Graffman, Peter Coyote, Mink Stole, Robert Pinsky; "A fascinating exploration of the artistic life, as rollickingly entertaining as it is insightful and stirring."San Francisco Bay Guardian). Education: Yale (B.A.; prizes, honors, distinction), Juilliard (Cert., Adv. Cert., scholarships). Residencies: Yaddo, MacDowell, ODC Theater, Centre des R├ęcollets.

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