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Williamstown Theatre Festival


Follow the Within The Festival blog for the latest goings-on at WTF '11.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Our Town Opening Night Party!

The entire company had an wonderful time last night celebrating the opening Thornton Wilder's Our Town at the Williams Inn.  Check out our photos from the evening!

[photos] Sam Hough for WTF ’10
(1) Brie Larson, Will Rogers
(2) Campbell Scott, Will Rogers, Ethan Heard, Nicholas Martin, Nancy Carroll
(3) Ginny Granger, Becky Anne Baker
(4) Nancy Carroll, Ethan Heard
(5) John Rubinstein, Jon Patrick Walker, Bryce Pinkham
(6) Grace McLean, Jo Lambert, Chloe Webb, Lauren Fitzgerald
(7) Joe Finnegan, Sam Crane
(8) Zackary Grady, Jeff Cutler, Kevin Cahoon, Elliot Villar
(9) Graham Rowat, Bryce Pinkham
(10) Susan Gold, Sam Crane, Sean Finnegan, Jessica Hecht
(11) Jon Bass, Meredith Holtzman, Dominic Spillane,
(12) Joey A. Frenette, Brynn Almli
(13) Kathryn Pamula, Erica Larocque
(14) Ashley Grombol, Jake Dupree
(15) Chet Miller, Lizzie Luch, Jeremy Bloom

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Video | Changeover from Six Degrees of Separation to Our Town

Watch the crew changeover from Six Degrees of Separation to Our Town.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Special Feature | From the Wilder Estate

Please enjoy these biographical materials on Thornton Wilder from his estate, which still manages all the rights for productions of his plays and publications of his plays and books. --Sarah Slight, Dramaturg
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Video | Costume Department Tour

Tour the Costume Department!

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Dramaturgy | Thornton Wilder on Our Town

compiled by Sarah Slight, Dramaturg

Thornton Wilder wrote many letters to Gertrude Stein (and her, to him) and he credits her for inspiration and ideas in Our Town. Reading their letters, in combination with his journals, sheds light on his writing, process, and the ideas behind the play. They even convey a bit of the rocky relationship he had with Our Town's first producer, Jed Harris, and a few of his misgivings or doubts before the play's success. Here are a few excerpts that I think you'll enjoy.

Writing Our Town
 “I can no longer conceal from you that I’m writing the most beautiful little play you can imagine. Every morning bring[s] an hour’s increment to it and that’s all, but I’ve finished two acts already. It’s a little play with all the big subjects in it; and it’s a big play with all the little things of life lovingly impressed into it. And when I finish it next Friday, there’s another coming around the corner. Lope de Vega wrote three plays a week in his thirties and four plays a week in his forties and so I let these come as they like. This play is an immersion, immersion into a New Hampshire town. It’s called “Our Town” and its third act is based on your ideas, as on great pillars, and whether you know it or not, until further notice, you’re in a deep-knit collaboration already” (Letters, 175).
 “Last night no sleep, but an influx of ideas that make my little play the most beautiful one you can imagine” (Letters, 179).
Becky Ann Baker and John Rubinstein
 “My play No #1 is as far as the stage has gone toward “mere” description. A New Hampshire town: its daily life; its living; its dead; its weather; its geology; its sociology; its mores as seen by an archeologist a thousand years from now, its birth and death statistics; and how Mrs. Gibbs ironed Dr. Gibbs’ shirts—all in one great curve: quod erat demonstrandum” (Letters, 182). *QED is used to convey that a fact or situation demonstrates the truth of one's theory or claim.
 “Nature (clouds, mountains, trees, sunsets, stars) is said to be beautiful. Bergson suggests that we did not find these beautiful until Art opened our eyes to that beauty…I had not sufficiently taken into account the fact that the emotion of beauty in nature derives also from recall (the reminder) of the sights that surrounded us when we were happy. A portion of every childhood is happy; in the majority of cases a large portion of every childhood is happy. Leaving aside for a moment the objections raised by Mrs. Apfelstrudel that there are many unhappy childhoods…I now declare that the beauty of nature is a qualification we confer on those things (effects of light and moisture surrounding land, sea, and air) which recall to us the surroundings of our happier hours. Natural beauty is a memory of the scenery that we scarcely noticed in our early life during moments when we were deeply stirred. The child being taken on a walk, a drive, by the big mysterious loved one, is storing up the norms of what he will later recognize as the concomitant—the d├ęcor—of happiness” (Journals 244).
 “The intervening material need not be as freighted with emphasis as thought, and should not be, but the theatric invention must tirelessly transform every fragment of dialogue into a stylization surprising, comic, violent, or picturesque. Here lies the increased difficulty over the writing of Our Town, where the essence of the play lay in the contrast between the passages of generalization and those of relaxed and homely tone. Had I not all my writing life been convinced of the fact that the subconscious writes our work for us, digests during the night or in its night the demands we make upon it, ceaselessly groping about for the subject’s outlets, tapping at all possibilities, finding relationship between all the parts to the whole and to one another—had I not long been convinced of this I would have been the other night. Turning over the play in feverish insomnia, I suddenly saw that there, waiting for me in the structure of the Act, was a felicity, integral, completely implicit and yet hitherto unforeseen…” (Journals 23). *The play mentioned at the end of this quote is Skin of Our Teeth--isn't his writing in his subconscious fascinating?
 “My play, golly!” (Letters, 188).

Our Town in Production
Jessica Hecht, Will Rogers and Dylan Baker
 “As you predicted Jed [Harris—the producer] got the notion that he had written the play and was still writing it, As long as his suggestions for alterations are on the structure they are often very good; but once they apply to the words they are always bad and sometimes atrocious. There have been some white-hot flaring fights. At present we are in a lull of reconcilement. The play opens a week from Sat[urday] (Jan 22) in Princeton, New Jersey, for one night; then goes to Boston for two weeks; then enters New York. Even with Jed’s sentences in it—which I hope gradually abrade away—it is a very good play. The cast is fine. But that’s not all: Morning’s—Jed’s first phone calls don’t start before noon, nor cease until 3: A.M…” (Letters, 206).
 “The theatre’s a furnace. Its been one long fight to preserve me [i.e. my] text from the interpolations of Jed Harris, and I’ve only won 50% of the time. We opened in Princeton. Then we opened in Boston. Now we open Friday night in New York. The play no longer moves or even interests me; now all I want out of it is money. Money so that I can feel justified in going off to Arizona and write some more,--reconstruct the mode of life I had at Zurich. The may be a failure. The newspapers in Boston were not much more than luke-warm. But in every audience there are a few people who are extremely enthusiastic” (Letters, 207-208).
 “Perhaps this bare stage will never be completely right within our theatre; nevertheless, although a compromise, I hope to wrest some signal advantages from it for this play. Foremost is the already proven suggestibility of the imagined scene. In Our Town that was accompanied by a studied resort to changes of lighting” (Journals 43).

Playing the Stage Manager
Thornton Wilder playing Stage Manager in WTF's 1959 Our Town
 “Girls, what do you think? I’m playing the leading role in my play—six nights a week and two matinees. Wouldn’t that freeze you? Every night my insides turn white—all that memorization to sustain—its like walking a tight-rope of danger. I’m only doing it for 2 weeks while Frank Craven gets a rest” (Letters, 223).
 “So I’ve been acting all Summer. I will have played it in four different theatres with four entirely different casts. Its been very successful. In places, we’ve broken house records; chairs in the aisles; ovations; weepings. Being present at these repetitions I get to know the play pretty well and I find a lot to wince at in addition to some fine wincing at the actors’ renderings, but I hope I’ve learned a lot that can go into future plays” (Letters, 242).

Peterborough, NH
 “There’s only one thing that’s a little disappointing about this. And that is missing July at Peterboro’. I shall be there all June, but the advantage of that place lie in duration. June and July in that deep pine-wood is what I need most of all. I have an Arabian Night play-subject that’s a fine house-afire, and I could only grasp it and devour it in the Green Isolation up there” (Letters, 146). 

Excerpts from The Letters of Gertrude Stein and Thornton Wilder edited by Edward M. Burns and Ulla E. Dydo with William Rice and The Journals of Thornton Wilder, 1939-1961 selected and edited by Donald Gallup.

2010 photos by Sam Hough. 1959 photo by William Tague.
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Video | WTF this Week July 26- August 2

Here's what's happening this week at the Festival.

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Video | Our Town Director, Nicholas Martin

Check out this video interview with Nicholas Martin, Artistic Director of WTF and Director of Our Town. 

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Interview | Stephanie Polhemus, Props Master for Our Town

by Sarah Slight, Dramaturg

I caught WTF Props Master, Stephanie Polhemus, on an afternoon that she wasn’t in tech to find out about her job and specifically props for Our Town

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Video | Our Town Actors Becky Ann and Dylan Baker

Check out this interview with Becky Ann and Dylan Baker!

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Friday, July 23, 2010

After the Revolution Opening Night Photos

Last night the Williamstown Theatre Festival celebrated the opening of the World Premiere of Amy Herzog's After the Revolution!  We had a great time enjoying ourselves at the Williams College Faculty House.  Check out all of our photos from last night!

[photos] Sam Hough for WTF ’10
(1) Elliot Villar, Katherine Powell
(2) Carolyn Cantor, Amy Herzog, Tim Sanford
(3) Mare Winningham, Marc Blum
(4) David Margulies, Lois Smith
(5) Meredith Holzman, Stephen Sanders
(6) Brynn Almli, Ato Essandoh
(7) James Joseph O'Neil, Candy Buckley
(8) Bekah Brunstetter, Tibi Galis, Kerry Whigham, Justine Lupe-shomp
(9) Jacinda Johnston, Joey A. Frenette, Sarah Gosnell, Julia Locascio
(10) Gregory T. Livoti
(11) Josh Butler, Alyssa Rachels
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Video | After the Revolution Audience Reactions

See what Wednesday Night's Audience thought of After the Revolution!

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Special Feature | From First Workshop to World Premiere, After the Revolution at WTF

by Rachel Lerner-Ley, Dramaturg

Every year, WTF gathers an emerging playwright, an early-career director, and 10 talented non-equity actors into a rehearsal room. 3 weeks later a new, fully produced play emerges.

AFTER THE REVOLUTION, now receiving its world premiere on the Nikos Stage, was one such play. The play was developed last year as the 2009 Bill Foeller Fellowship production.

I was able to catch up with Amy Herzog (playwright) and Amanda Charlton (producer and Artistic Associate ) as well as some of the non-equity actors who appeared in last year’s workshop production to share some thoughts and memories of being a part of this unique process.

The Fellowship
Artistic Associate and workshop producer Amanda Charlton explains how the Bill Foeller and Boris Sagal Fellowship work:

Every year an artistic team pitches an idea that they would like to develop into a play or a musical. Once we choose the projects we cast a company of ten actors who we feel will make a diverse and interesting ensemble.  It’s important to cast people who are excited by the prospect and challenge that comes along with creating new material. 

We encourage the playwright not to write a single word until the workshop, where they meet the actors for the first time. The actors are sent assignments and research material to read before the workshop so that they are informed about the subject matter and can really contribute something to the work.  We want the process to be collaborative and for the artistic teams to be inspired and influenced by the actors hired. That’s why the Fellowship Projects are always ensemble pieces.  The writers write for the actors in their plays so every part is rich and important to the telling of the story.  Morty in ATR is only in two scenes, but they are two fantastic scenes!

A Last-Minute Change…or two
The fellowship allows for a playwright, director, and cast to play with ideas, try out new scenes. It is a constant process of collaboration and re-writing, a process that can be incredibly inspiring for all involved.    

Lucas Kavner, a non-equity actor who played patriarch Ben
(or rather as he was called last year “Robbie”) and is currently appearing in Six Degrees of Separation explains:Working on the fellowship last year, I think all of us can universally say, was one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of our careers.  To watch Amy Herzog work was just this prodigal, remarkable thing - she would get a few notes from Tamara [Fisch, Director] in rehearsal and then run off to Tunnel City for an hour and write this beautiful monologue and bring it in for us that same day.” 

It can also be an exciting process, with changes happening right up to the night of the first performance.

Dominic Spillane, a non-equity actor who appeared last year as Leo and is currently appearing in Six Degrees of Separation recalls “One of the most interesting things about our production was that Tamara Fisch, the director, had found the original transcripts of the Joseph senate hearing. The play opened with a staging of this. It was about 10 min long and we all played various senators and what not. This scene was fully teched and costumed, and was cut right before our first show.” 

A Tale of Two Casts
The original cast of AFTER THE REVOLUTION featured members of the 2009 Non-Equity company. Early career actors mostly in their 20s, the ten cast members took on characters anywhere from 5 to 60 years their senior.

 However, as Amanda Charlton recalls the age discrepancy made no difference. “The play worked with 23 year olds playing parts outside of their age range or experience, which I think is a testament to the strength of Amy’s writing.”

The current cast of AFTER THE REVOLUTION features a collection of stage and film veterans, all age appropriate to their roles. The current script also has been cut down from 10 characters to 8.

For playwright Amy Herzog having the opportunity to work with two different casts on developing her script has been quite advantageous. She reflects: “Last year, I developed this play with a really wonderful company of actors who were all in their twenties. They didn’t know a lot of the history, which was very helpful in its own way because I learned what I could sort of short hand and what I had to really explain. And having that experience meant that I got the script into fairly good shape before arriving here this year. Now I feel that the current actors have a solid textual basis. This company’s made up of extremely seasoned actors and hearing from them when they feel like something is missing or when they are struggling is really valuable information for me as a writer.”

Now on the Nikos Stage
Tonight, AFTER THE REVOLUTION will receive its world premiere on the Nikos stage.     

Lucas Kavner: “We are all just so insanely excited to see the Nikos production.  Almost too excited, I think; everyone in the new company is probably a little freaked out by how much we tell them how excited we are.  But it's going to be phenomenal, I'm sure.  It's pretty impossible for that text to go wrong...”

Amanda Charlton: “I love the play for so many reasons. I was not alive during the McCarthy hearings and it seems extraordinary to me that something like that could actually happen. The play tells us not to forget the lessons learned from McCarthyism.  But it’s not a political play; that’s just the landscape for a very personal story about family in crisis.

It’s also exciting on a personal level. We bring artists to the Festival that we believe in and hope that this process allows them to create new work that will take their career to another level. We believe Amy is an extraordinary playwright with a strong voice, and we are thrilled to be part of her journey.  ATR is a powerful and important play and it was created here with us, and we just love that!”

A Life After Williamstown
This fall, AFTER THE REVOLUTION will make its New York premiere at Playwrights Horizons. Carolyn Cantor will direct. 

Photos by Sam Hough from the 2009 Workshop and 2010 Season Production of After the Revolution

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

After the Revolution | Whatever Happened to Cousin Jake?

by Rachel Lerner-Ley

After developing AFTER THE REVOLUTION here at Williamstown last summer, playwright Amy Herzog spent this past year revising the script. There are several changes throughout, most noticeably, though, is that two of the original ten characters have been cut from the script. These characters—Emma’s cousins—are now off-stage presences, mentioned by other characters, but never actually appearing on the stage.

Whereas I always thought that it was decision based in the dramaturgy of the piece, I recently learned that Amy’s decision to cut Jake, Emma’s cousin, was in fact one made for the greater good.
Dan Hartley and Irene Sofia Lucio 

Below Dan Hartley, a non-equity actor who appeared in last year’s production and is currently appearing in Six Degrees of Separation, explains the logic behind Amy’s decision to cut the character of Jake, the role he originated last season:    

In the 2009 workshop, I originated the role of Emma's cousin, Jake, the family albatross.  Jake never achieved quite enough and drank a little too much.  He is constantly overshadowed by Emma's achievements, but let's face it, standing out in a family with a hyper-achiever is no easy task. It was a great role that showed a different side of the family dynamic, and provided some comic relief toward the end of the first act.

The problem, however, is that I was just too damn good.

Dan Hartley and Irene Sofia Lucio
Amy felt that all actors playing Jake in future productions of the show would inevitably fail since I, the original Jake, had set the bar so impossibly high.  It's understandable. The day will come when I will be unavailable, and that production's unfortunate director will sadly but surely find herself screaming at her second-choice Jake. "BE MORE LIKE DAN HARTLEY," she’ll bellow.  An easily offended actress, no doubt playing Mel, will attempt to seek retribution on Jake's behalf by hurling a copy of the Communist Manifesto at the director's head. The assistant sound designer, who will have gone to college with the director, will defend the director by stabbing the belligerent actress in the neck with a knife from the restaurant scene.  At which point, the technicians will launch an assault on the actors, and a bloody battle will ensue which will leave only one soul alive to tell the tale, the actor playing Morty, but his tongue will have been cut out in the throes of the backstage skirmish, so he will only be able to write his account of the carnage.  Such tasteless unprofessionalism would no doubt crush the production.

All this because I was so stunning as Jake in the original production.

So, in the end, Amy reluctantly cut the character of Jake from the play. To avoid bloodshed. Which is, ya know, smart of her...

Photos by Sam Hough
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Video | Lighting Department Tour

Check out this video tour of the Lighting Department with Wilburn Bonnell

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Video | Changeover from Samuel J. and K. to After the Revolution

Watch the crew changeover the set from Samuel J. and K. to After the Revolution.

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Dramaturgy | A Short (and quite simplified) History of Communism in the United States

by Rachel Lerner-Ley, Dramaturg

On Wobbly Legs—pre 1917
Huge waves of immigrants from Eastern Europe bring Marxist teachings. Soon, these socialist teachings will move into the mainstream…in fact, Oklahoma becomes a hotbed for communists!   

At the same time, an American brand of Socialism is emerging. There is great discontent amongst the working classes that primarily labor in dangerous and unsanitary conditions in factories (a la The Jungle by Upton Sinclair). Monopolies and robber barons are everywhere; Big Business has begun. As Howard Zinn puts it: “In this situation—terrible conditions of labor, exclusivity in union organization—working people wanting radical change, seeing the root of misery in the capitalist system, moved toward a new kind of labor union.”

A new union is formed—a mega, all-inclusive union called the Industrial Workers of the World (the IWW; still kicking today). Members are later nicknamed “Wobblies.” The Wobblies hold large meetings, organize workers, strike. This is scary for Big Business, and thus, the Wobblies are deemed a threat to “America.”

The First Red Scare—1921
In 1917, the Bolshevik Revolution occurs. An official American Communist political party is formed soon thereafter—an above ground institution directly tied to Moscow—and advocates for revolution. A combination of misunderstanding and fear leads to a massive governmental strike against American communists. There are constant arrests and deportations. Anti-subversive laws are passed, making it illegal to deliver speeches promoting revolution. Communists go underground: change names, destroy incriminating papers. By the end of 1921, the “Red Scare” is over. In its own way, the scare leads to the emergence of a stronger, more devoted party, as those who were “armchair” communists had fled at the first sign of trouble.

1930’s—the height of American Communism
A tiny little economic crisis cripples the U.S. in 1929 and proves that there are some major problems with the capitalist system. This revelation boosts the communist party. The party begins to take a softer approach, focusing on immediate reforms to help the unemployed masses rather than calling for violent revolution. By 1939, the party has 100,000 registered members, let alone hundreds of non-citizens.

WWII—My enemy’s enemy…
Once Hitler invades Russia, the Soviet Union joins the Allies. This new alliance takes the heat off American Communists for a bit, and they begin working beside Democrats. Meanwhile, Soviet spies have infiltrated the US and recruited government employees and scientists to pass along information.

Korean War and Cold War—late 1940s and 50s
It’s post-WII, and the Cold War begins. The arms race is in full swing. Truman requires all non-elective government employees to sign a loyalty oath stating that they have never been and never will be involved with the Communist Party. Penalty for perjury will be imprisonment.  

America practices a policy of “containment”—trying to keep Communism from spreading—but it’s not working. The USSR has already held onto more territory than its due at the end of WWII, and soon communist North Korea will invade South Korea. Communism is spreading, and the US government fears the American communist party, already so public. Will communism spread within America, too?

HUAC and Blacklisting—late 1940s
In 1947, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) begins investigating alleged communism within the film industry. Several actors and producers, including Ronald Regan and Walt Disney, came forward and name names. However, a group of ten writers, producers and directors refuse to testify, taking the 5th. The “Hollywood Ten” are sent to prison for Contempt of Congress. The “Hollywood Ten” along with the other film professionals whose names were named are blacklisted by producers and are unable to get hired for years.

McCarthyism—early 1950’s
Joseph McCarthy, a Republican senator from Wisconsin, leads a vigorous and vicious campaign against potential communists within the government. He kicks off his anti-red campaign with a 6 hour speech delivered before the senate in 1950 in which he claims the Democratic Party has been harboring communists and assisting the Soviets for years. In 1952, he is named chairman of the Senate Sub-Committee on Investigations and holds public hearings, putting hundreds of “communists” on trial. His persistence leads to a second “red scare.” However, once McCarthy begins attacking members of the military, his credibility is called into question, and the anti-communism fervor begins to die out.

Horrors of Stalin revealed—late 1950s and beyond
In February 1956, Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union, delivers a secret speech to the USSR’s Communist Party Congress. In the speech, he details the atrocities committed under Stalin’s nearly 30 years of what essentially was a dictatorship masked under the title “Communism.” Under Stalin, thousands of innocents were killed in “purges” (let alone the thousands in the Ukraine that died due to Stalin’s agricultural reforms that resulted in the starvation of an entire nation). Hundreds were sent to gulags—prison camps—in Siberia. Khrushchev refers to Stalin’s regime as a “cult of personality,” and his speech inspires Soviet satellites to come forward with their own tales of Stalinist terror.

Eventually the speech is leaked and published in major US newspapers. It presents a devastating blow to American communists. As Klehr & Haynes explain: “In the mental world of American Communists, Stalin’s mass murders were visible only if Moscow could see them. Once Khrushchev gave Moscow’s sanction to the charges against Stalinism, American Communists, in shock, suddenly saw bodies littering the landscape.” This new acknowledgement crushes the spirit of many an American communist.

By 1958, ¾ of the American Communist Party has dropped out. During the 60’s many of the political movements take on communist teachings, and radical groups such as the Weather Underground emerge. The Communist Party continues to be active today, though has never again reached the heights of the 30’s and 40’s.

--sources/adapted from A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, The American Communist Movement: storming heaven itself by Harvey Klehr & John Earl Haynes,,
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Video | After the Revolution Director, Carolyn Cantor

Check out this video interview with After the Revolution Director, Carolyn Cantor!

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Video | After the Revolution Actor, Mark Blum

Video interview with After the Revolution actor, Mark Blum!

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Interview | Fitz Patton, Sound Designer After the Revolution

by Rachel Lerner-Ley, Dramaturg

I recently caught up with AFTER THE REVOLUTION sound designer Fitz Patton to discuss the pre-show and transitional music that he created specifically for the show. The music features embedded historic texts from the likes of McCarthy and Malcolm X.  

After listening to some of the pieces, Fitz and I got into a fascinating conversation about the power of rhetoric, how we think about history, and the use of sound design within the world of the play. Here are some highlights from our chat:

Rachel Lerner-Ley: Why combine speech and music?

Fitz Patton: When you embed text in music, you take away the speaker's command of time. You strip away the moment in which they're operating, and you connect with the way they use language. Music has this funny way of imposing a kind of objectivity where you can really evaluate what the experience is of listening to this person. You can strip away the decisions we make about history: the good, the bad, and the ugly. This music has the ability to put McCarthy and Martin Luther King together, and you can appreciate that on some weird level, they're actually equal in making their case.  When you go straight to the voice it's really an amazing thing because what you learn is that when you compare McCarthy with Martin Luther King or to Malcolm X or Huey Newton who founded the Black Panthers, you see that all of these people have an incredible command of language. It's a power in as many ways as it is a synergy between a kind of zeitgeist and the capacity of someone to rise and harness it. You realize the power of oratory to drive social movements.

RLL: It's easy for us to talk about McCarthy, but forget about what the horror is of actually listening to his words, of seeing him in action. But listening to the track you just played for me and hearing him, I was like "Oh my God. He can really suck people in"

FP: He's totally mesmerizing.

RLL: And I can totally see why we had another red scare and why people were turning in their neighbors, their friends.

FP: And what's weird is to make it effective with regard to the music you heard, the music has to get behind it. It doesn't do anything to paint a skeptical frame through the music because what you really want to do is get at the speech. And the skeptical frame comes from other experiences outside of the music.
The other thing that's interesting about these pieces is that they are really musical events sculpted around a person's spoken series of ideas in solving a political moment in their life. The cameras are on them, the microphone is there. Whatever they say now is going to change the direction of everything they've been working on and they speak with incredible concision and you really can feel it.

RLL: And how did you go about finding the texts?

FP: They're online. Because people are so passionate about them, they've organized them into archives.

RLL: How long does it take you to compose one of these pieces?

FP: About four or five hours each. I've made about 10 or 11 of them. It's a chunk of work, but the speeches just inspire the music. The music is entirely responding to the person speaking. And so, the music comes very, very quickly. If someone is singing to you, you can write the accompaniment because they've already made the song.

RLL: So how do these compositions work within the play?

FP: Rather than illustrate or decorate the play or solve the play's technical problems of getting furniture moved around, the music can actually flow in independently of content and inform the way we see what is happening in the play without the play really acknowledging that it is there. It's truly theatrical. It's truly why this is a play and not something else.
This music also re-tensions the arguments inside the play. Because the play is so intensely personal and somewhat provincial to the family, the music gives you a window into what is driving them into the arguments and that, in a way, puts extra muscle onto the bone of the play.

Amy [Herzog, playwright] is really staggeringly brilliant to have seen the epic social storylines behind events mentioned in the play. And then not to have offered any answers to them. The role of dropping the music into the play is similar. I hope to find resonances with the text but not to answer it or reduce it in any way or narrow the message of the play.

This type of sound design is asking bigger questions about plays. Plays are produced as entertainment, but maybe plays should really be an event. The play occupies a point on a landscape of ideas. And so, if we have this preshow music that drives this world and then we flow that preshow world into the play itself, then maybe we'll think of the play as part of something larger, as a point on a landscape of ideas.
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Monday, July 19, 2010

Weekly Preview | July 19-25

Critics agree, Six Degrees of Separation is a "superb production!"

Ato Essandoh, Tim Daly, and Margaret Colin. Photo by Sam Hough
"Six Degrees of Separation ended up being a totally spellbinding evening of theatre, one which I would not hesitate to see again."
-Berkshire OnStage
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Video | WTF this Week July 19-25

Here's what's happening this week at the Festival

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Fellowship Musical | Western Country Sneak Peek Part 3

by Rachel Lerner-Ley,  Dramaturg

WESTERN COUNTRY director Davis McCallum, music director Matt Citron, and choreographer Sara-Ashley Bischoff share some of their experiences working on the show.
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Friday, July 16, 2010

Video | Ato Essandoh, Actor in Six Degrees of Separation

Check out this video tnterview with Ato Essandoh who stars in Six Degrees of Separation!

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