Category Archives: From the Cast

Backstage Book Club

Well, it’s here: the final weekend of Pride and Prejudice. If you’ve seen the play, or even seen it many times, you’ve laughed and cried along with all of us as we’ve brought Jane Austen’s story to life. Those who have been waiting for closing weekend are in for a real treat! We have a very full cast as we’re welcoming Nick back for our final two shows. That means you should get ready to fight for front row seats because no one wants to miss being serenaded by our lovely crooners.

Speaking of a full cast, it’s a wonder we can all fit backstage! Here’s an exclusive peek at the backstage world of Pride and Prejudice:

First, we concentrate on what’s important for the show. We set props, get ready for our scene changes, check our posted schedule, and double-check with our scene-change partners. We listen for prompts and cue from Steven in the the sound and light booth via intercom. There are leisurely costume changes, extremely quick costume changes, and make-up and hair re-touching (the boys keep their hair slicked down with pomade, and claim to be Dapper Dan men). If we have a moment to spare we help zip each other into or out of dresses or make sure suit collars are nice and straight – everyone needs help with their costumes at some point!

Barry, Scott, Terry, and Nick rehearse one of many scene changes.

If we’re not immediately needed on- or off-stage, we take a moment in the theater’s tiny kitchen to sit down, listen (and laugh) at the sound feed, read, study, snack, chat or just breathe. When we’re all packed into that tiny space we sometimes start to get a bit silly, leading to such backstage events as:

San Leandro Glee Club: There’s lots of music in our show, and we all like to sing along. So it’s no surprise that when everyone kept getting Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used to Know” stuck in their heads, we gave in and started singing. Barry (Mr. Bingley) even suggested a mash-up: “I Wanna Dance with Somebody that I Used to Know!” Rachel and Taylor (Kitty and Lydia) have even been coming up with a “Kittya” rap!

Amateur Theatrics: We’ve done/seen the show so many times now that we all know each other’s scenes very well, especially the most memorable ones (Lady Catherine’s scenes are big hits with us). Sometimes we even act out over-the-top versions of our favorite lines, such as everything Lady Catherine says and, for some reason, every time Charlotte mentions lemonade. (Apparently there’s now a entire dance number around my lemonade line. Our glee club is going to have to have it’s own performance.)

Danielle Gray (Caroline Bingley), Sarah Asarnow (Charlottoe Lucas), and Julio Oyola (Mr. Collins).

Backstage Book Club: After Danielle (Caroline Bingley), Julio (Mr. Collins) and I (Charlotte) realized we’d be offstage for much of Act II, the Backstage Bookclub was born! Our book of choice was “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins (perhaps a distant descendant?). Now that we’re done with the first book (and eagerly waiting to start the second) we plan to spend our last two meetings in discussion, just like any good book club!

This cast loves each other! Terry and Alex during one of our many after rehearsal excursions to The Englander.

Finally, we spend as much time as we can enjoying each other’s company. We’ve all become very close in the past few months working on our show, and it’s important to make the most *sniffle* of the last of our time together, backstage, putting on a play that makes us all unbelievably proud. I am so grateful to have been a part of this production, to have spent this time with such an incredible group of people. I know our last two shows are going to be the best we’ve ever done, and I am so excited to help make that happen. As long as I can get through that lemonade line, now that I know what’s going on backstage.

— Sarah Asarnow (Charlotte Lucas)

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Lifting a Car While Cooking Dinner

Ulises studies his script during this week’s brush-up rehearsal.

I have been waiting for this moment. I wanted to speed up time to get to this weekend. This will be the first (and final) weekend that our entire cast performs together.

As the cast likes to say, “When Daddy doesn’t deliver, the Mailman does.”

Due to scheduling conflicts, I’ve been sharing my roles with Nick. He was there the first two weeks, I was there the second two weeks, and now we’ll both be performing this week. I wish I could have been there on opening night to see the whole performance, but now even better, I get to live the show with everyone. We’ve enjoyed great audiences throughout the run of this show, and even though this is our last weekend, I still get a little nervous before going on stage. But, as with many actors, I love to use that “nervousness” and channel it into adrenaline. And all this waiting has me feeling like I could lift a car while I cook myself dinner. I just need to get on stage and share that wonderful stage with my cast mates. The show has evolved over the past month, and it almost feels like a whole new play!

Ulises Toledo stands in for Mary while Nick Kempen plays the Mailman (a role they share).

I hope you enjoy the show, because if the audience enjoys it, I enjoy it 5 times more.

I am READY!

Are you?

Well… you better be! Watch this classic novel live on stage.

P.S. The music is great, especially the singing. (Whoops…I hope I didn’t give away too much information!)

 

— Ulises Toledo (William, Uncle Gardiner, and the Mailman on Saturday, May 12th and Captain Denny and Mr. Reynolds on Sunday, May 13th)

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On Being Relational

Here we found ourselves. Two weeks before opening night. About to plunge into an intense string of daily tech and dress rehearsals – full runs almost every night. If you had been following our blog at all, you could tell that excitement was mounting.

Our cast sits in the house, animated murmurs slowly calming to a lull. Hallie stands center stage, commanding our attention. And, after reviewing a few housekeeping items, she gives one of her effectively rare semi-stern moments of honest direction.

“When you are in a scene, you are engaging in a relationship. Not the relationships in the plot – a relationship with your fellow actors on stage.”

Her words struck a chord in me. I fought the sudden urge to slow clap, and instead let Hallie’s message reverberate for a moment.

Rachel, Scott, and Elena

I once told two of my best friends, after a few drinks while poorly trying to explain my framework for life, that I’m relational. And, knowing full well that the word “relational” may never be published by Webster’s dictionary, gosh dangit, I’m sticking to it. I am relational.

Being relational means many things, but one of my most favorite is the incessant need for a sense of connectedness. With people, places, emotions – relations. It’s about a genuine fascination with the actions, feelings and motives moving around you.

Rachel and Sukanya

I think a lot of people who are passionate about theater are purely relational. (Particularly the improv-folk, who get high off of effective teamwork.)

I feel like I can speak for our whole cast when I say that we are, with rare exception, fantastically relational. And it shows in the way our personal off-stage relationships translate to energetic, supportive chemistry on stage.

In our run so far, there’s only one thing I love more than the relationships we’ve built – watching our audience react to them.

My favorite spot to stand backstage is behind the double doors that lead upstairs in the Longbourn home. Peeking through the small sliver of space between those doors, I see faces; completely engaged, usually laughing, entirely wrapped up in the electric chemistry we’re creating on stage around the beautiful story we’re telling.

Kristin, Rachel, Taylor, and Terry

I’m impressed by how we make three hours move so fast.

All of my love,

Kitty Bennet (aka, Rachel Olmedo)

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More Than Just a Cast

Taylor during the costume parade.

Acting is my passion. This craft feeds my soul and I am truly happy when I’m on stage. I love the dynamic of being able to share that passion with other actors during a show.

Then there’s this cast.

The cast of Pride and Prejudice is so much more than just a cast. We are a family. When one cast member is sad or sick, we pick each other up. When one cast member needs her hair curled or help with a costume, we help. No questions asked. When someone forgets a prop or scene change, we cover for each other.The positive energy backstage is amazing. It fuels me to be my very best in every aspect of the show.

The lovely Bennet sisters.

I’ve always been insecure, and acting has helped a lot, but I never in a million years thought I could pull off the comedic timing and wild personality  of Lydia.  Thanks to the laughs and compliments from my family (a.k.a cast) I humbly have the confidence to explore new choices I never knew I was capable of. So thank you all! You have done so much for me and this has been one of the happiest, most hilarious and talented group of people I ever had the pleasure of working with. Love you all!

— Taylor Melville (Lydia Bennet)

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Making Lemon Drops

After a wonderfully perfect opening weekend of Pride and Prejudice you would think all my worries would be far away. Everything we worked for was a success!…but it wasn’t that way.  I was dreading Monday: the day I would get a wisdom tooth pulled.  “I can heal fast from just ONE right?” I thought it would be quick and easy, but when I got to the oral surgeon’s office, he had other plans for me. He thought it best to take out all four of them at once – which is normal – unless you have to sing the next Saturday. In that case, it becomes your worst nightmare. But what choice did I have? So I just went with it hoping for the best.  I left the office just like any other patient, still completely out of it and slept the entire day with a chipmunk face.

Sarah plays the piano as Nick and Kristin sing.

I was adamant the next day, however, about healing fast, and I’m pretty sure my will to get better helped me that much more.  I stayed home from work, sat in bed all day, practiced moving my jaw (it can get pretty hard to open your mouth afterwards)… anything to get me ready by Saturday. Thursday was my first day back to work since the surgery and everyone was pretty surprised at how fast I recovered.

Bennet sisters (clockwise from top left): Rose as Lizzy, Kristin as Mary, Taylor as Lydia, Elena as Jane, and Rachel as Kitty.

 You can do anything you set your mind to I guess; but for me, it was more than that. When I thought about all that I had sacrificed and put into the show – and not only me, but my fellow actors and director – I wasn’t going to let a few teeth get in the way of everything we had worked for! Every weekend is as important as the next, different crowds, different reactions…we need to be at our very best in every show!  And who cares if I’m still swollen? The way I see it, it gives Mary a little more character! And I will sing to the best of my abilities on Saturday and be proud of all the work all of us have put into this! As actors, we get the joy of escaping with our audience into another world for a few hours, but, unfortunately, we can’t get away from the realities of life forever.  You just have to learn to work with what you’re given. When life gives you lemons…make lemon drops!
— Kristin Tavares (Mary Bennet and Vocalist)

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A Well-Oiled Machine

Alex and Sarah chat during a rehearsal break.

It seems like it was only yesterday when we had our first reading of the script with the assembled cast . . . and now here we are a couple of months later, a well-oiled machine in my opinion. Our opening weekend was a strong indicator of this as smiles and laughter filled the space on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

Even our small audience on the preview night was receptive to our hard work. Everything sort of came together magically the last week of rehearsals and the result is an awesome show put on by a fun group of people. The sound and lighting have been on point, and Michael Guillory’s  set design has enhanced everybody’s work and has made me step up in my role (onstage and off). Even the scene changes (which seemed ridiculous at many points in the final week before opening) now feel like a breeze.

Kitty, Mrs. Bennet, and Mr. Wickham share a laugh.

I know that the show is only going to get better from here and that new discoveries will be made every night we take the stage.

— Alex Skinner (Mr. Wickham)

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Soft Eyes and a Blue Dress

Barry Eitel as Mr. Bingley.

Dear Journal—

I am sorry that I have not written in you in a very long time. Writing does not come easily to me. I am not one with much to say.

But journal, what a night. I am burning through candles thinking about the prettiest girl I have ever laid eyes upon, wondering when we will shall meet again. Cranky Fitzwilliam, no doubt, is tossing and turning in his bed. Typical Darcy. He was quite petulant tonight. Normally I would be embarrassed by his irritable temper, but I was so distracted by soft eyes and a blue dress, I let him sulk all night alone by the punchbowl. Caroline was acting strange as well. The ride home from the Meryton Dance was awkward, just me babbling about the night and the two of them barely glancing at each other.

Either way, they cannot keep my spirits grounded. Miss Jane Bennet is the subject of my love and the cause of my insomnia this night. How lucky that we live just down the road from each other. Not only does a warm sweetness envelop everything she says, she is a fantastic dancer, too! And her brown eyes, her dark brown hair, that dress…Jane’s enthusiasm for life is contagious, and I have a rarely met a girl as tenderhearted.

Elena Mae Spittler as Jane Bennet.

I know it has been but one night, yet I feel strangely like I want to propose marriage to Jane. There are certain, special moments when one is sure of what to do in an instant. I believe the second that I saw Jane was one of those times.

I also sensed an odd connection between Darcy and one of Jane’s sisters. Though he’d never admit it, I think he might be similarly charmed by a Bennet.

The last candle is about to go out, so I will have to retire to a surely sleepless night. I will have my sister call up the Bennet household tomorrow (would not want to appear too forward) and see if Jane would want to take a stroll around the gardens of Netherfield. This will be an interesting summer.

Until next time,

Charles Bingley (aka Barry Eitel)

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First Impressions in the Modern Market

Pride and Prejudice,  “a novel in three volumes by the author of Sense and Sensibility” (itself styled “By A Lady”) was first published in 1813. This past December that Lady turned 236 years old and she remains as popular as ever. Countless editions of this, her best-known book have been printed, plays have been adapted, and movies have been produced.

Jane’s come a long way since 1813, and so has the business of Austen. After all, here we are in 2012, marketing our own, brand new production via blog, tumblr, and facebook. I even own a Jane Austen action figure. So, how do publishers go about selling classic Austen books to the next generation of readers?  The answer, fittingly, is in first impressions.

One of my hobbies is collecting book covers (nerd alert). I am endlessly fascinated by how different artists envision new works and re-imagine classics, all with the aim to catch the eye of the reader. Ruben Toledo’s Pride and Prejudice is a personal favorite, and I’m less fond of ones where all I can see is a “Now a major motion picture” sticker. A while back I was browsing through the young adult section of the bookstore when I came across this:

Coupled with similarly styled copies of Wuthering Heights and Romeo and Juliet, I found Pride and Prejudice done up to look like Twilight. At first I was shocked. Then vaguely insulted. Then I ranted at my friend for twenty minutes about how Bella and Edward should never be compared to Lizzy and Darcy (or to the loves stories in Romeo and Juliet or Wuthering Heights) since they would probably spend their time making fun of Romeo and Juliet and running away screaming from Cathy and Heathcliff. Click here for a visual representation of what I mean.  But now, all I can think is that it’s brilliant.

Twilight contains many a reference to Austen’s works, while the second and third books in the series actually loosely base their plots on Romeo and Juliet and Wuthering Heights. Bella and Edward even discuss the similarity of their lives to those of the characters in the classic books they’re reading. (Makes the old English class assignment about how this book relates to one’s life a bit more pertinent if your life actually is a tragic romance). Wuthering Heights even has a sticker listing it as “Bella and Edward’s favorite book.” I’ll bet that if my younger cousin saw that she wouldn’t stop reading until the vampires showed up.

And since our play updates Pride and Prejudice to a more modern era, I thought I’d share a recent find: a copy of Pride and Prejudice from 1940.

— Sarah Asarnow (Charlotte Lucas)

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Break a leg! (But Not Literally)

By the title, you can probably guess where this entry is going.  Yes, I did the unthinkable: braved a trampoline park three weeks before opening night.  Only “braved” would imply some sort of triumph, and regrettably, my experience was anything but this.  The real kicker is, seconds after reality set in as I lay there clutching my dislocated and broken ankle, Hallie’s admonition only a few days prior to “please not break any legs as this could adversely affect the show” suddenly rang loud and clear.  I turned immediately to my roommate/ castmate/ the birthday girl and whimpered: “Rachel, that’s it.  I can’t be in the show anymore.”

Cast birthday parties at trampoline parks may not be the best idea.

Short of death or any number of other horrific events, this is an actor and director’s nightmare scenario.  Fortunately for the show, my three roles are minor and I will still be able to play Anne De Bourgh, whose sickly disposition is arguably enhanced by my real-life circumstances (no spoiler alert here: come to the show and you’ll see just why…)  And contrary to my initial, trauma-induced assumption, the X-rays showed a much more stable fracture than the doctors expected, so there is actually a good chance I will get into a walking cast soon.  For this reason, Hallie decided against casting an outside actor to fill in for my other two roles.  Instead, she has graciously volunteered herself to play Georgiana Darcy, and Sukanya (Lady Catherine) will add Lady Lucas to her repertoire for the time being.


So despite the circumstances, I consider myself very lucky.  The injury could have played out far worse, and I could be sitting here typing up a far more depressing story.  Even if that were the case, though, I like to think I would have found a way to replace the focus on the negatives with a more optimistic outlook, as I have been striving to do these last couple weeks.  I absolutely can’t overstate the healing effect of wonderful, supportive castmates who blanket your facebook wall with well-wishes, not to mention a traditional “Get Well” card oozing with warm fuzzies.

Poor little Anne de Bourgh

I couldn’t be more in love with this cast (the actors, not my fiberglass leg covering) or more proud to be part of this production.  I’m still attending all the rehearsals and helping out with the sound board. It’s something I’ve never done and I’m enjoying learning what goes on in the booth.  I can’t wait to share the joy we’ve all been keeping to ourselves with our first audience next Saturday–onstage and off!

— Laurie O’Brien (Anne de Bourgh, sound board op, and hopefully, Georgiana and Lady Lucas)

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Working Harmoniously in the Dark

We have less than a week until opening night and rehearsals are in full swing. The amount of development the production has experienced over the past few days is both amazing and enriching. I thought I’d pen down few of my observations…

"When Lady Catherine insists, it's best to go with it."

Set Changes: Last weekend we choreographed the set changes. I have never been part of more extensive and complex set changes in past theater lives. And believe it or not, I started with the rather negative approach of , “Why do I have to this.” However, I ended up thinking, “Wow this seems good fun.” This was especially true when Hallie challenged us to make most set changes to happen in under 25 seconds. I loved it. It was like being in a battle field with the artillery being called upon to attack. But all fun aside – it was an amalgamation of absolute team work that required an understanding of every person on stage working harmoniously in the dark, changing a gazillion objects from one place to another. My special thanks to my pouf partner, Danielle, who taught me how to pick up heavy objects without hurting my back.

The Costumes: So, one night of rehearsal was just “costume call.” Seventeen of us tried all sorts of dresses and clothing specifically marked by character, size, and actors. There were, I am told, a total of eighty costumes to try on (not for me alone, of course). The amazing part was there were no overlaps, no fights, no attitude from any actors. We all did our little parade for the director- and she as the costume judge approved and/or disapproved of each outfit. It was a breeze considering there were so many of us and the costumes were a closet full.

Actor Turning into a Prop: My gorgeous daughter on stage, Laurie O’Brien, had a little mishap. She literally “broke her leg” (well ankle to be more specific)! Urg! what a loss to the characters she was playing (Lady Lucas, Georgiana, and Anne De Borough). On the brighter side, however, the character of Anne De Borough is a rather sick girl – so this mishap added a little texture to the play. Laurie turned into a prop and was assigned to four male actors during a scene change who carry her on stage as very sick Anne. This is hilarious and I think a very creative twist considering the circumstances.

Playing Multiple Roles: When I was originally cast in Pride and Prejudice, it was only as Lady Catherine de Borough. However, during our rehearsal period, the director added me as a mysterious, questionable woman, and then after Laurie’s mishap, I was assigned to play Lady Lucas. This gig came with a lot of surprises I thought. I’ve gone from playing Lady Catherine as a haughty, rich woman, to getting flirty with one of the most debonair and handsome actors (Alex, I wish the scene could have been longer), to embodying an old, haggard Lady Lucas. Though all characters make short appearances, I am loving the challenge of portraying all three of them – each one different from the other.

— Sukanya Sarkar (Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Lady Lucas, and Woman of Questionable Character)

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