Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer Tour 2014 - Alexandra Russell: "the difference between 2014 and 1614 is not as large as you’d expect."

By Summer Tour cast member Alexandra Russell:

I’m the person most people hate. I’ve been studying Shakespeare for 20+ years. I’ve been trained by some of the most amazing and talented people both in the US and UK.  I can casually work a Shakespeare quote into conversation while watching the World Cup.  I have multiple copies of his plays and different folios sitting on my bookshelf.  And as long as Shakespeare is around, I’m happy.  Yes, I’m that person.

But none of that matters.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a scholar of Shakespeare or never seen a play of his in your life.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a full time student or hold a full time job.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an actor or just someone who wants to give it a go.

The Grassroots Shakespeare Company is for E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E.

What sets this company apart from so many is the use of Original Practices.  We strive to do our very best to get as close as possible to the way it is believed that Shakespeare’s actors would have worked and performed.  We have shortened rehearsal time, we design and acquire all that is needed for our costumes, and rather than having one director we have multiple!  Every actor puts their input into the show and helps create a show that they can be proud of.

Now for many, this seems like an out of the box experience.  And it is!  But that’s what makes performing and watching a Grassroots show so exciting.  It stretches the imagination of EVERYONE involved.  It may sound like we are taking on an insurmountable task (and some days it certainly feels like that too) but we tackle everything as a team.  We are not at the mercy of one higher power.  We can connect with the text and the characters in ways that bring things down to a personal level.  That is not to say there are not some brilliant productions with one person’s vision ranging from period pieces to contemporary war torn apocalyptic ones.  But for us we can take all of our ideas and mold them together into a product that we feel showcases the text to the best of our abilities.

Having been written 400 or so years ago, it would seem likely that Shakespeare’s words are a thing of the past.  But I’m here to tell you that it’s just not true!  We are trying to make language accessible and contemporary and relatable because IT IS!  But don’t worry because we’ve done all the hard work for you.  We’ve studied and digested and worked hard to learn the language and have found a way (we hope) to open it up to people and show we are still the same.  The emotions are the same.  Human nature is still the same.  Much like Rosalind, we fall in love.  Much like Duke Senior, there are times when we have indeed seen better days.  And even much like Henry, we go to war to fight for a cause we believe in. When we see the characters off the page and on the stage, we realize that the difference between 2014 and 1614 is not as large as you’d expect.

It’s understandable when people say they just don’t understand Shakespeare. There is a tendency to leave Shakespeare behind when one leaves school.  But I can promise you that seeing a play is much MUCH different than reading it.  And what’s even better is when the actor’s know the text then they can lead the audience through the maze that is Shakespeare’s works.  For his words do indeed create a giant maze of sorts.  At first it can be scary and daunting and it seems there is no way to get through it.  But as the actors, we have worked and pondered and spent night and day with the texts and the characters (in some cases they have entered even into our dreams) and it is our job, nay our pleasure to take the audience with us from start to finish so that the maze can indeed be completed. And what’s more we hope that the journey was not only manageable but enjoyable and fun as well.

Like Caius Martius says in Coriolanus:  Would you have me false to my nature? Rather say I play the man I am.  We play the parts to the best of our abilities in the hopes that the audience can enjoy the shows as much as the cast has enjoyed putting it together.  We don’t assume that Shakespeare will suddenly become your favorite playwright but we do hope that we can give you a new outlook on his works.  And what we can promise you is an enjoyable evening of entertainment, which is something you will always have with the Grassroots Shakespeare Company.

About Alexandra Russell:

Alexandra is delighted to be making her debut with the Grassroots Shakespeare Company.  Favorite credits include Clara from Hay Fever and Nickel in the world premiere of War Daddy with San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre.  She has a degree in Theatre Arts from Santa Clara University and has also trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, UK.

***Video featuring Alexandra Russell coming soon. Check our facebook page later this week for the video, then come and see our shows! Details at www.grassrootsshakespeare.com and our Facebook Event. *** 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Summer Tour 2014 - Daniel Fenton Anderson: "Why I Love Shakespeare: a Love Letter to the Bard"

Written by Summer Tour cast member Daniel Fenton Anderson:

Why I Love Shakespeare: a Love Letter to the Bard

William Shakespeare, AKA
Willm Shakp,
William Shaksper,
Wm Shakspe,
William Shakspere,
Willm Shakspere,
William Shakspeare, or however you choose to spell your name, or if you even exist (another post for another day),

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways... 

Don't worry, I won't wax poetic on you, as much as I love speaking your poetry, I'm not one for writing it. I'll leave that to you, which actually is one of the reasons I've fallen for your words. 

Despite having created these plays ages ago, for another world that went about their day to day in a completely different frame of mind than we do today, you've managed to create lives I completely understand and see around me. It's not just kings and politics, but the common man, the jealous spouse, the peacekeeper, the young romantic. And you infuse them all with so much humanity that all an actor needs to do is speak these words the stage is alive with ships, dungeons, forests, and mountains. 

I also love you for you comedy. Thank you for making me laugh in every play you write. I've seen productions of your shows where everyone is in gray, and speaks so "importantly" to capture your "pathos", and it makes me want to go insane. Your shows are saturated with passion and energy. With comedy and rage. Thank you for giving us all of those emotions in spades!

Thank you for playing such a huge hand in the addition of the English language. An example: I learned once that you are the one responsible for the word eyeball. Eyeball? I have used that word countless times, as have countless others. Faulkner and E. E. Cummings were wonderful, but they don't hold a candle to your perfection of the fluid use of English to convey understanding to the listener. 

I wish I could better express how I feel about you and the love that I have fostered for you since I first saw that 'Wishbone' episode of Romeo and Juliet, but I find that words simply don't do justice, which I guess is what this rambling letter is all about. You give me words. All the chaotic thoughts that crash and bang around in my mind are perfectly brought into order when I get to use your poetry. As the theatre world goes through it's trends of what's important and what's relevant, I will always know that my love for you is unchanging. And that this love is in others as well, I can see it in the eyes of audiences when I speak your words. I see it in the fact that I can be performing at a crowded park filled with helicopter rides, treats, games, and sudden windstorms, and we still have strangers staying to watch our show even though all the actors are literally holding up the stage so it doesn't blow away. Your words are ageless, your words are more powerful than the elements, and your words are a daily part of my life, a fact I will forever wear proudly for all to see.

Your humble servant

Daniel Fenton Anderson,
Richard III,
Don Pedro, 
And Snug the Joiner.

About Daniel Fenton Anderson:

Daniel is thrilled to return to the GSC Summer Tour and is exited to be in his third production of As You Like It! This Lindon resident is currently a student at UVU and is a founding member of The Grasroots Shakespeare Company. Some of his favorite roles include: 'Prospero' in The Tempest, 'Falstaff' in both The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV part 2 , 'Giles Corey' in The Crucible, 'Senator Fipp' in Urinetown and 'Pap' in Big River. When not in school or on stage, Daniel loves composing (KCACTF National Finalist for Sound Design), cooking, accordion and violin. 
Find Daniel online at www.danielfentonanderson.com.

***Video featuring Daniel Anderson coming soon. Check our facebook page later this week for the video, then come and see our shows! Details at www.grassrootsshakespeare.com and our Facebook Event. *** 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Summer Tour 2014 - Dominic Zappala: "give theatre back to the people."

Written by Summer Tour cast member Dominic Zappala:

William Shakespeare is one of the most influential writers of the modern age of english. Having created many complex characters, infamous plots, and twisted hamartia, Shakespeare revolutionized storytelling in a way that has captivated audiences for centuries.

A well run urban myth goes that since the original opening of Hamlet, not a s single day has gone by where it has not played somewhere in the world. The legacy and universality of ‘The Bard’s’ work is forever ingrained and quite literally indoctrinated into each and every culture. And it is well said that the key to Shakespeare's long-living work lies within the language itself. Each page of text presents new metaphor, and each line of verse breaths a living humanity into the souls of those who listen.

The goal of the Grassroots Shakespeare Company is not only to live up to the glorious text itself, but to make the lyrical language of Shakespeare accessible to all. No longer being the language of the elite, but the tongue of the people, as it was meant to be. The Grassroots Shakespeare Company shifts from the high-brow aspect of Shakespearean theatre and brings new light to the subject bringing back the root of the story and the foundation in every word. Long gone is the ruse of bright lights and microphones and here to stay is truthfulness and honesty in acting and word.

While some may see the Grassroots Shakespeare Company as a childish game or a cheap show. I view Grassroots as an honor to the name of the Founder himself. By bringing back the lost arts of theatre we reinvent what it means to portray the characters so long loved over the past centuries. And therein, give the theatre back to the people.

About Dominic Zappala:

It’s been a full year since Zappala’s last Grassroots show, having premiered the grassroots stage on the previous Summer Tour, and now he is more than ready to perform as Oliver, Amiens & William in As You Like It and Duke of Orleans, Burgundy & Archbishop of Ely in Henry V. It’s a great relief for him to be exiting the high school drama scene -- his most prominent role being Lt. Cable in South Pacific -- and entering the professional arena. Previous Grassroots roles include Poins in Henry IV and Antonio in Much Ado About Nothing.

***Check out this video featuring Dominic Zappala then come and see our shows! Details at www.grassrootsshakespeare.com and our Facebook Event. *** 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

GSC News: UVU's Summer University Performance

Photo Credit: Phil Varney

By McKelle George

Orem, UT May 20, 2014:
UVU’s Summer University, a three day event, is a chance for faculty and staff to bring their families to explore campus, have fun, and enjoy Utah Valley’s diverse facilities. A lot of Grassroots Shakespeare Company members are UVU graduates or students and Grassroots has formed some great relationships with the theater department there. Christopher Clark, the keynote speaker and professor of drama, has been a great mentor and teacher to many of us. His direction of Hale Center Theatre-Orem's production of As You Like It was a big inspiration to Grassroots founders Mark Oram and Alex Ungerman. Clark’s interactive address highlighted his passion and ours: Shakespeare.

Photo Credit: Phil Varney

Photo Credit: Phil Varney
The night before, families were given the option to watch Ender’s Game or Frozen on a big screen. That, in today’s world, equals entertainment. Tough competition for some dead playwright in the 17th century, right? Clark asked members of Grassroots to perform scenes and monologues from a few of Shakespeare’s plays to demonstrate how Shakespeare can still be relevant and engaging—even to a young and modern audience. Grassroots Shakespeare Company specializes in performing via “original practice,” which means the play is experienced in a manner consistent with its creator's original intent. When all a young troupe can afford is Shakespeare’s original text, sometimes that’s when the most riveting performances emerge. In an original practice performance, live sound effects are created by the acting company, and the accompanying music is performed live. The actors talk directly to you, the audience, in much the same way Shakespeare and his acting company would have directly addressed Elizabethan audience members.

Photo Credit: Phil Varney
Whatever else Shakespeare did or did not do, he was—and is—the people’s playwright. He wrote the whole of the human experience for all humanity. And that means an audience of a few hundred in 2014—comprised of all ages—can connect with his words even without all the bells and whistles of an elaborate stage production. Amber Dodge performed a Paulina monologue from The Winter's Tale, the queen’s greatest defender and agent in a fairy tale about virtue and forgiveness.  Jason Sullivan and Davey Dillard performed Kate and Petruchio's first scene together from The Taming of the Shrew –an oft considered misogynist comedy that was hilariously offset and performed by two men, crossdressing just as Shakespeare’s original company would have, except to more comedic effect in our day. Dan Anderson performed a Prospero monologue from The Tempest, Shakespeare’s final play and his greatest argument that the arts are the world’s greatest magic.

Photo Credit: Phil Varney

Overall, the evening was a success. The audience enjoyed the small performances and got a taste for how engaging and fun Shakepseare can be, even (or perhaps especially) in a loose and informal way. To experience Shakespeare in “original practice” in its full glory, check out our current Summer Tour featuring 'As You Like It' and 'Henry V', touring around the state of Utah. Details at www.grassrootsshakespeare.com

Photo Credit: Phil Varney