Tag Archives: Julio

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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Smiling from Ear to Ear

Nick is all smiles.

We’re gearing up for opening night now. Rehearsals have been getting longer, more frequent, and more intense. Tempers should be flaring, egos should be showing. Are they? Not at all. I’m proud to say this has been one of the most pleasant rehearsal processes I’ve ever had.

This cast is so wonderfully talented. Every single actor shines brilliantly in their role (roles for some people). I’ve been the rehearsal prompt when I am not onstage, so I’ve had the pleasure of watching all of the scenes multiple times. Every single time I’m grinning like a kid (sure I can still be considered a kid, but shhh, that doesn’t matter). Last night’s rehearsal was the first time I’ve seen Sukanya in one of the scenes, and I swear the laughs that escaped my throat were inhuman, really.

Most of the people coming to this show expecting a haughty, grand, pretentious love story will be pleasantly surprised. At the heart of this story is a charming tale about family and expectations, and although many of those expectations are left unmet, the characters triumph (spoiler!). It’s uplifting.

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If you’re following this blog, there’s a good chance that you’re going to come see the show, so I probably don’t need to advertise much. However, I must say, in (more or less) the words of Lizzy: Whoever leaves this show not smiling from ear to ear should have their eyes examined. I adore every single person involved in this production, and what they bring to the show is a warm, genuine feeling that makes this show what it is. You do not want to miss this one.

— Nick Kempen (Vocalist, Captain Denny, William, Mr. Reynolds, Uncle Gardiner, and the mailman)

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Each Fleeting Moment

(This post was inspired by motivational talks from my roommate, cast-mate, and forever-Hall-&-Oates-dance-partner, Laurikins O’Brien).

As opening night rapidly approaches, I feel a cauldron of nervous energy brewing in the pit of my stomach. I genuinely forgot how much hard work a production takes. Sweet baby Jesus, it’s a lot of concerted time and energy.

When the Bennet sisters stand in line according to age, the cast calls it "Von Trapping".

And, as so proves my experience with most other things in life, the more time and energy you put into a project, the more emotionally invested you become. And, the more emotionally invested you become, the higher your hopes and expectations for the anticipated outcome. Anticipation for the unknown causes anxiety…and there’s a helluva lot of unknown tangled up in my expectations for the next few weeks.

My anxiety stems, I think, mostly from anticipation of my ability to deliver for the two groups whose opinions I care about the most: our audience and our cast.

A flurry of questions around those two subjects has been floating around in my head lately. While sitting on BART commuting into work, I find myself imagining our future audience: Will we have an engaged and supportive crowd? Will they laugh at the right moments and appreciate our creative interpretation of Jane Austen’s epic story? What message will they take away from it all?

While throwing my laundry into the dryer at home, a different set of questions about our cast wanders into my mind: Will our long nights spent at rehearsal pay off in the fluidity of our scenes? Will I forget a scene change and screw up someone’s blocking? Will I drop a line and dampen the integrity of Hallie’s script?

An epic battle ensues between Kitty and Lydia.

And the answers? …nobody knows.

Great. More anxiety.

Yet, among the wild unknown occupying space and igniting fear inside my brain, there is one small but significant piece that I can control: how I react to it.

Arguably, I have two choices when deciding how to respond to my fear. I can:

  1. choose to resist; forcing nervous thoughts to the corners of my mind, creating a distant but condensed, and often overwhelming, form of my anxiety… or
  2. use it. Accept my nervous energy as a sign that this is something I care about deeply. Bottle that energy and transform it into a force propelling me to do the best that I can, and to appreciate each moment as it passes—the successes as much as the failures. With a big smile and a light heart, I can choose to embrace and even appreciate my own sense of fear. I can let go of self-inflicted pressure in favor of enjoying the experience.

So, with a resounding sense of confidence, I choose option #2.

I make this choice partly because I care about our audience, and feel that my energy-infused performance will help make the most of their experience, and partly because I care about our cast, and feel that my positive attitude will help make the most of their experience.

Kristin as Mary, Rachel as Kitty, Taylor as Lydia, and Terry as Mrs. Bennet.

…but mostly because, once this is all over, I know it will have passed by too fast. And I know that making a conscious choice to appreciate the distinct flavors of each fleeting moment as it passes is the only way I can possibly make the most of my experience.

And that is what it’s all about, anyway.

All of my love,

Kitty Bennet (aka Rachel Olmedo)

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Pride and Playfulness

This post discusses major plot points in the story. Divert your eyes if you want to be surprised!

I am Austen-obsessed. I’ve seen every movie-adaptation of Pride and Prejudice that I could get my hands on, read sequels and re-imaginings from Darcy’s Daughters to Mr. Darcy, Vampyre and researched enough for a lifetime of scholarly discussions. Everything about the work enchants me, from her characters to the portrait Austen draws of the times; even mentions of the price of a new dress or what they’ll cook for dinner that night inspire me to find out the approximate currency exchange to today, or how exactly one would cook that particular game fowl.

So why do I (and many others) care so much about stories written two centuries ago, set in a world so far removed from our modern lives? What is it about Jane Austen that has inspired so many, all the way up to this whole new take on Pride and Prejudice?

The reasons are many and won’t fit into one blog post. But I think one of the most important is humor.

A group of high school students being ‘forced’ to read Pride and Prejudice won’t agree with me here (not YET), but Austen is hilarious. And part of what makes her stories so funny is how real it all seems. Who among us hasn’t been mortified by our relatives, or made fools of ourselves in new company? It’s part of the human experience, as is telling the tale to a friend later and rolling on the floor laughing at ourselves, even if at the time we could only think a Kitty-esque “My life is OVER!”

Charlotte Lucas shares surprising news with Lizzy.

Elizabeth Bennett loves to laugh at people, as does Charlotte Lucas. These are the characters we identify with, as they observe the absurdity in their surroundings and find ways to have fun at their expense. But what truly makes these characters so likable is a willingness not to take themselves seriously, to laugh at themselves as much as at their neighbors, so strongly juxtaposed with the self-righteousness of Mr. Collins, Mary’s too-serious take on life, and Lady Catherine’s incredible sense of importance. Darcy’s pride is what first gets between him and Lizzy, and even when all is settled between them “to be the happiest couple in the world,” Lizzy knows that “he had yet to learn to be laughed at, and it was rather too early to begin.”

This is one of the many things I love so much about our production. Real life is full of the slapstick, and consequently, so is our production of Pride and Prejudice. This week we’ve been working more intensely on individual scenes, going deeper into our character’s motivations, and finding so many new jokes we can hardly say our lines for laughter. Doors are slamming, nervous boys are tripping over their feet on the way to talk to pretty girls, and heads are popping around doors in a cartoon stack to spy on what must be one of the worst proposals OF ALL TIME. (It’s vying for the title with one just a few scenes later, which it is my pleasure to interrupt (of course!) at quite an awkward moment).

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So the moral of this particular story is that we love Austen for her humor, because that is what makes her stories (and us) so very human. The ability to laugh at oneself, not money, manners or even sweetness of temper, is Pride and Prejudice’s greatest virtue.

— Sarah Asarnow (Charlotte Lucas)

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Austen Meets Improv

Taylor and Alex improving a scene.

I moved to the Bay Area recently from Chicago. If you’ve been to that toddlin’ town, or if you know anything about Second City, you know that Chicago theatre has a strong foundation in improvisation. A lot of people think that improv is solely comedy and coming up with ridiculous situations and ideas in a matter of seconds. That’s definitely a large part of it, but improv is essentially unscripted story telling in its most raw and honest format. It can be between one, two, three, seven, twenty-eight, or any number of people about any subject.

We’ve been using improv during some “Pride and Prejudice” rehearsals for several reasons. First of all, Austen is like Shakespeare in that the language is specific, lyrical, and follows a certain pattern. Even though Hallie is updating the script to fit a more modern setting, some of the language and situations are antiquated. Improv allows the actors to make the scenes and words real for themselves. Second, improv puts everyone on the same page. Whether you are an actor with years of experience or a young person just starting out, on book or off book, improv brings everyone to a similar starting point.

Jane and Lizzy gossip about Mr. Collins.

 

In our production, there are a few wordless moments that are happening in the background simultaneous to dialogue in the foreground. We’ve been asking the actors to improv these moments by adding their own dialogue – which hopefully assists them in finding the emotional reality of the situation as well as their character’s subtext. It’s been very interesting watching the actors tackle and explore this format for rehearsals. This cast is unique in their willingness to explore and play and take chances.

Barry and Barnaby love to improv.

I hope the audience will have as much fun as they are!

— Eileen Tull, Assistant Director

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It’s Raining Men

Everyone knows that Pride and Prejudice is one of the greatest love stories of all time. Although our production is chock-full of gorgeous girls galore, this post will be dedicated to the men of Pemberley, Netherfield, Longbourn, and Hunsford who make our hearts go pitter-pat.

Who hasn’t swooned over the highly intellectual, dark and broody, devastatingly handsome, hard-to-get-because-he-has-such-high-standards Mr. Darcy?

Barnaby Williams as Mr. Darcy.

Or the ever-optimistic, heart-on-his-sleeve, finds-love-and-runs-after-it Mr. Bingley?

Barry Eitel as Mr. Bingley.

Or the roguish swagger of the I-know-you’re-bad-but-I-want-you-anyway Mr. Wickham?

Alex Skinner as Mr. Wickham.

That’s where the romance ends for most readers of Miss Austen’s popular novel. Luckily for our audience members, we’re turning up the heat in the English country-side!

We’ve got handsome husbands clinging to your every word:

Scott Van de Mark as Mr. Bennet.

And hot mailmen delivering more than just the mail:

Ulises Toledo as the mailman.

And Sinatra-singing officers wearing make-you-melt uniforms:

Nick Kempen as Captain Denny.

And for you less sinful types, let me recommend England’s most meticulously groomed, upwardly-mobile, sure-to-shower-you-with-compliments pastor:

Julio Rafael as Mr. Collins.

There’s truly someone for everyone in this fantastic story. No wonder we still love it 200 years later.

— Hallie

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Filed under From the Crew, Hallie Lewis Hunt