The Official Blog of the
Williamstown Theatre Festival


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

Monday, August 23, 2010

Our last goodbye | WTF Moving Out

As we leave Williamstown for the summer, we thought we'd share some of our thoughts about leaving and how the summer has gone with you. Thanks for watching and reading--we will, of course, be back again next summer.  In the meantime, stay tuned for updates about our 2011 season and don't forget to SAVE THE DATE for our NYC Gala on November 15, 2010.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Video | The Last Goodbye interview with Jeff Buckley's mother, Mary Guibert and Original Developer, Lauren Fitzgerald

Check out this interview with Jeff Buckley's mother, Mary Guibert, and The Last Goodbye Original Developer, Lauren Fitzgerald.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fifth of July Opening Night

Last Thursday we celebrated the opening of the final show of our 2010 Season, Fifth of July, at the Williams Inn.  Take a look at our photos from the evening!

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Video | Fifth of July Actors, Shane McRae and Noah Bean

Check out this interview with Shane McRae and Noah Bean from Fifth of July!

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Video | Changeover from Our Town to Fifth of July

Watch the crew changeover the set from Our Town to Fifth of July!

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Friday, August 13, 2010

The Last Goodbye Opening Night Party!

Last weekend we celebrated the opening night of the World Premiere of  The Last Goodbye at Goodrich Hall on the Williams College campus.  Check out all of our photos from the evening!

[photos] Sam Hough for WTF '10

(1) Damon Daunno, Kelli Barrett
(2) Lauren Fitzgerald, Sonya Tayeh, Michael Kimmell
(3) Grace McLean, Chloe Webb
(4) Jo Lampert, Merle Dandridge, Michael Park
(5) Ariel Woodiwiss, Tom Hennes, Nigel Defriez
(6) Grace McLean, Michael Bradley Cohen, Brian Smith
(7) Ariel Woodiwiss, Jesse Lenat
(8) Gayle Rankin, Ashley Robinson
(9) Celina Carvajal, Ian Pai
(10) Kris Kukul, Joe Finnegan
(11) Reed Wilkerson, Rebecca Stevens, Austin Vaclavik, Amanda Charlton, Emily Kent, Brian Smith
(12) Rachel Seklecki, Danno Cuillane
(13) Sarah Harris, Julia Borowski, Teresa McHugh
(14) Toni Portacci, Julia Locascio
(15) Alison Chemers, Lauren Scottow
(16) Patrick Stengle, Clark Flynt
(17) Sylvia Seib, Alyssa Rachels, Alison Chemers, Lauren Scottow
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Video | Changeover from After the Revolution to The Last Goodbye

Watch the crew changeover from After the Revolution to The Last Goodbye!

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Video | The Last Goodbye Actor, Damon Duanno

Check out this video interview with The Last Goodbye Actor, Damon Duanno. 

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Special Feature | Famous Missourians

by Rachel Lerner-Ley, Dramaturg

Shirley dreams of becoming a famous artist—“the greatest artist that Missouri has ever produced.” To which John responds “would that be so difficult?” Shirley then spouts off a list of famous and influential people who got their start in Missouri.

Here’s a glimpse into the famous folks of the Show Me State that make their way into Fifth of July:

Mark Twain (author and wit): Samuel Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri and at the age of 4 moved with his family to Hannibal, Missouri—a bustling town situated on the Mississippi River. It is in Hannibal that Clemens observed life along the Mississippi as well as the realities of slavery—two major themes of his later works. It is also in Hannibal that he began writing and drawing. His brother, Orion, owned the local newspaper, the Hannibal Journal, and Clemens became a frequent contributor.     

Betty Grable (actor and pin-up): Betty Grable was born in St. Louis, Missouri. She made her first film appearance at the age of 13 and made her way up the Hollywood ladder, appearing in musicals and comedies. She eventually rose to the top of the box office throughout the '40s. In 1943 she posed in a swimsuit and became the most popular pin-up of WWII. The picture has even made it into LIFE’s list of the "100 Photos that Changed the World." Her legs were insured for over $1 million, and Hugh Hefner has noted her as an inspiration for Playboy. She died of lung cancer in 1973.

Tennessee Williams (playwright): He may have been born in Mississippi and have family roots in Tennessee (hence the name), but Williams did in fact spend many of his “formative years” in Missouri. From the age of seven until his late teens, Williams was a resident of St. Louis, Missouri. Here he wrote his first essays and stories as well as found inspiration for several characters that would appear in his later masterpieces. He began writing plays while a student first at University of Missouri and then at Washington University, St. Louis.

Vincent Price (actor): Price was born and raised in St. Louis eventually going away to Yale to study Art History. He traveled Europe and became an actor. He is most well known for his (somewhat campy) appearances in horror films and for his spooky voice (he “raps” in Michael Jackson’s landmark song “Thriller”).  Later in life, he followed his passion for gourmet cooking and started his own line of cookbooks.

Harry S. Truman (President): Truman was born in Lamar, Missouri and grew up in Independence, Missouri. As a boy, he got to serve as a page at the DNC in Kansas City in 1900. He spent the majority of his young adult life in Missouri as a farmer and then went away to fight in WWI. He returned to Missouri and soon was elected a district judge, beginning a political career (as a Democrat) that would eventually lead him to the presidency.  

Gwen also gives two other Missourians a shout-out. She compares June’s persona in the 1960s  to these two ladies...

Ma Barker (outlaw): Born outside Springfield, Missouri, she married her husband in Aurora, Missouri. They moved to Oklahoma. Her sons became known as the “Bloody Barkers,” committing a series of kidnappings, robberies, and other crimes in Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma throughout the '20s and '30s. Ma Barker is remembered in popular culture as being the ring leader of this gang of criminals, though recent evidence suggests quite the opposite. In 1977, Boney M. came out with a song called “Ma Baker” based on Ma Barker in which they call her “the meanest cat.”

Belle Starr (outlaw): Born in Carthage, MO, though she eventually moved to Texas after the outbreak of the Civil War.  She became an outlaw in the “Old West”—“the bandit queen” helping to organize and lead gangs that participated in horse stealing, bootlegging, and other profitable ventures. Later in life, after being released from jail, she took on a long line of various lovers. She was shot to death, possibly by one of her children.

And of course, there is one important Missourian very close to the play itself:

Lanford Wilson (playwright): Born in Lebanon, Missouri and growing up in the town of Ozark, Wilson points to his experience of the Mid-West as being a major inspiration of several of his plays.
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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Video | Fifth of July Actor, Jennifer Mudge

Check out this video interview with Fifth of July actor, Jennifer Mudge!

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Video | Fifth of July Director, Terry Kinney

Check out this video interview with Fifth of July Director, Terry Kinney!

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Monday, August 9, 2010

Dramaturgy | Lanford Wilson and Circle Repertory Company

by Rachel Lerner-Ley, Dramaturg

Circle Repertory Company was founded in 1969 by playwright Lanford Wilson, director Marshall Mason, actor Tanya Berezin, and director Rob Thirkield. With little money—paying the rent out of their own pocket for the uptown crumbling loft that would serve as a theatre and offices until they got a permanent home in the '80s, the four founders created one of the original off-off broadway theatres that would come to be a major influence in the American Theatre and the creative home to some of American Theatre’s biggest names. The theatre closed its doors in 1996.  

“It was created out of the need from the artists to express themselves,” Mason pointed out in an 1999 NewsHour interview. “and at that point, Broadway was almost exclusively English: Harold Pinter and John Osborne, these guys were occupying the Broadway theaters. Off Broadway had become very commercial. It was running ‘Little Mary Sunshine’ and ‘The Fantastics,’ and that sort of thing…..A young American playwright had no place to go, and so we went to the little coffee shops—you know—down in the village. Most of it was down in the Village.” It was in one such coffee shop, Caffe Cino—a tiny place of  mismatched chairs, postered walls, and a killer espresso machine—that the four founders of Circle Rep. met in the early '60s and began the collaboration that would eventually lead to the creation of a theatre company.

Circle Repertory Theatre was established as “an on-going ensemble of artists—actors, directors, playwrights and designers—who would work together to create a living play.”
 The company was host to resident playwrights who wrote new plays inspired by and tailored for the company’s core of actors. The company held workshops for the actors, training them in voice, movement, and scene study. These workshops allowed the company to build a vocabulary so that everyone could contribute to the creation of the play. At Circle Rep, making a play was an all hands on deck, collaborative process.

Circle Rep. was the perfect artistic home for Wilson who confessed in a 1978 New York Times article, that he has a deep aversion to working alone: “A long time ago I was told that writing plays was a lonely business and I knew then that wasn’t for me. You’ll never catch me a hundred miles away from New York, cloistered in a cabin, pounding out the third act. I could as easily write in a closet. I know I can’t work away form the city. Eight years ago I found a house in Sag Harbor, made a fine writing room there, and have never written a word in it. It’s a kind of mild aversion to working alone that everybody at Circle Rep comes by honestly. We began working at Caffe Cino and La Mama, with everyone bumping elbows, and it never occurred to us to ask if we had good working conditions. At Circle Rep we bump each other around a lot….”

It is from such a bumping of elbows that Wilson’s Fifth of July emerged. Fifth was written entirely at Circle Rep. with five readings of five different full drafts occurring over several months, plus the readings of numerous other scenes that Wilson tried out by just grabbing actors as they passed by.

The actors at Circle Rep. were critical to Wilson’s process. He once reflected, “Sometimes you see something in an actor (a small, odd movement, a turn of voice) that suggests a whole character, someone you’ve know and wanted to write about….” He continues “I’ve always written for actors. ‘Whom do you write for?’ Actors. ‘But what audience do you write for?’ Anybody. One of the pleasures of being a playwright (count them on one hand) is watching an actor in the process of understanding, believing, the part.”

In the end, all the aspects of Fifth of July were Circle Rep derived: the direction, the acting, the designs, and even the song which Wes Hurley plucks out on his guitar throughout the play was composed by actor and company member Jonathan Hogan.
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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Video | The Last Goodbye Audience Reactions

See what our first preview audience thought of The Last Goodbye!

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Friday, August 6, 2010

Video | The Last Goodbye Actor, Kelli Barrett

Check out this interview with Kelli Barrett who plays Juliet in The Last Goodbye!

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Special Feature | Jeff Buckley and William Shakespeare in Dialogue Across 400 Years

by Kristin Idaszak, Dramaturg

Jeff Buckley
“My skin is tight underneath the tear, dried upon my cheeks the night I cried.
When I smiled Good Morning to you, my crow's feet let you know that I lied.
Please let me give these gifts of mine to the woman who eyes shined on my back
as I slept. I left you because I loved you.”

William Shakespeare
“There's beggary in the love that can be reckon'd.”

Jeff Buckley
“And though the meaning fits, there's no relief in this. I miss my beautiful friend.”

William Shakespeare
“How heavy do I journey on the way
When what I seek, my weary travel’s end,
Doth teach that ease and that repose to say,
Thus far the miles are measur’d from thy friend.”

Jeff Buckley
“I am a man enclosed in quotation marks, ever since I took a drink of you.”

William Shakespeare
“If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken and so die.
That strain again, it had a dying fall.”

Jeff Buckley
“I'm lying in my bed, blanket is warm.. this body will never keep me safe from harm.
I still feel your hair, black ribbons of coal. Touch my skin to keep me whole. If only you'd come back to me.”

William Shakespeare
“When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed…
All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.”
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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Video | Delftree Department Tour

Check out this behind the scenes tour of the scene shop at Delftree!

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Dramaturgy | Romeo Prefigured: A Portrait of Jeff Buckley

compiled by Kristin Idaszak, Dramaturg

Starlight takes hundreds of light years to reach the earth, and as a result stars continue to shine brightly in the night sky long after the antecedents themselves have died. Jeff Buckley’s light similarly continues to shine 13 years after his death. Excerpts from this 1993 article form The New York Times give us a glimpse into a brilliant past from an artist on the brink of stardom:

Strange things happen when Jeff Buckley opens his mouth to sing. One moment he's a white bluesman with a sound straight out of the Mississippi Delta; the next, a jazz singer whose acrobatic voice swoops and glides through a haze of cigarettes and pained memories. The last thing he sounds like is his age -- only 26.

Even odder, his singing makes otherwise jaded clubgoers and music-business executives rave with none of their usual cynicism. They will talk of catching Mr. Buckley at East Village hangouts like Sin-é and the FEZ, where they have heard him sing anything from "I Loves You Porgy" to a Sufi chant, an obscure Elton John oldie or one of Mr. Buckley's own unconventional songs. And they will talk about his new contract with Sony Records and how Buckley is a name to watch.

The one person who doesn't care for the talk is the source of it all. "The music business is the most childish business in the world," Mr. Buckley said one morning last month at a downtown bistro, "Nobody knows what they're selling or why, but they sell it if it works."

Mr. Buckley, whose hair is cut in a short, modestly spikey buzz, pauses and shoots an intense stare out the window. "There was a woman outside who was talking to someone, and I was trying to guess from her eyes what she sounded like," he said softly. "You can tell everything from the eyes."

You can tell a lot from Mr. Buckley's eyes, too. He's the son of the late Tim Buckley, who helped disassemble the barriers between folk, jazz and improvisational music before a fatal overdose of heroin, morphine and alcohol in 1975. Not only does Jeff Buckley have the same winding, sensual, octave-stretching voice as his father, but his waiflike looks recall the face on the covers of Tim Buckley albums like Goodbye and Hello, a cult classic from 1967.

Mr. Buckley grew up with his mother and stepfather, mostly in Southern California, and learned about his father from old friends…[He] played briefly in a rock band, Gods and Monsters, but departed in the spring of 1992. As his main solo base, Mr. Buckley chose Sin-é (Gaelic for "that's it"; pronounced shin-AY), a coffeehouse where the occasional baby mouse scurries across the wooden floor. The stage, such as it is, is a cleared-away area against a wall.

"I figured if I played in the no-man's land of intimacy, I would learn to be a performer," Mr. Buckley said. Gradually, he did; he also paid the rent on his East Village apartment with money he'd collect from the plastic pitchers passed around at Sin-é.

Shane Doyle, Sin-é's owner, said : "He'll stop by to sing at 2 in the morning, and it doesn't matter if only a handful of people are there. He's definitely unusual in that way." Mr. Buckley often helps wash the dishes, too.

When asked which musicians have influenced his work, Mr. Buckley cites figures that predate his father. Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan, Louis Armstrong and Judy Garland records taught him about phrasing, for example. And "there was a time when I wanted to be Miles Davis," he said.

"A lot of time I feel like I don't belong here" he added, quickly turning forlorn. "Here" meaning where? "Here," he replied, as if the question was downright silly.

One moment Mr. Buckley will gush about a Led Zeppelin bootleg or will cockily say, "There are no precedents for what I'm doing,." Then he will turn near-suicidal : "I'm sick of the world. I'm trying to stay alive."

by David Browne ©1993 by New York Times. This interview was originally published in The New York Times, October 24, 1993.

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Interview | Stephen Sanders, Original Developer on The Last Goodbye

Williamstown Theatre Festival's Artistic Assistant Stephen Sanders is one of the unseen, unsung members of the festival's year-round staff who knows the festival inside and out. In addition to his integral role in keeping WTF up and running, he also has a special affiliation with The Last Goodbye--as one of its producers and an original developers of the piece, before it was ever slated to come to Williamstown. He sat down with dramaturg Kristin Idaszak to talk about the role of producers in non-profit theatre.

Kristin Idaszak: How did you first get involved with The Last Goodbye?

Stephen Sanders: My first summer here was 2007. I was the Assistant to the Artistic Director and General Manager, and I met Lauren Fitzgerald, who was working as the Publicity Manager that summer. We had a great summer and became fast friends. The same thing also happened with Kris Kukul, the Music Director here. So the relationships were in place before anything ever happened.

Fast forward to last October of 2008. Lauren and I work in the same building in New York and we’ve remained close, and she started working on this project with Michael during that summer while I was gone. When I got back to the city and I saw her on the elevator and she said to me, “Let’s take a walk; I have something I want to talk with you about.” We walked from our offices on 42nd and Eighth, to 46th and Eighth where they were having auditions for the first reading they were about to do. So between 42nd and 46th she told me about the whole project, and that Michael’s wife was pregnant and had the baby early so they needed extra help producing the reading. By the end of those four blocks I said, “Sure, let’s do it,” having no idea what I was getting myself into.

I walked into the first rehearsal and introduced myself to Michael, and then sat down and started reading stage directions for the first reading of the play. And that’s how it happened—I just dove in. And we all worked really hard to produce that reading in the East Village.

There’s a great sort of unspoken rule about producing:  always work with your friends because you need that level of passion and trust from the people you’re working with. And I learned that really quickly working on this project. We had no idea if this was going to succeed—it hadn’t been anything yet. It was just a group of friends working on something we believed in.

KI: What has been the best thing about working on this show?

SS: I think just having a dream or idea and seeing it fully realized. Initially it was just the four of us talking about it and working on our own, and now it’s here and I know that we created that—the four of us worked together to create it. And now I get to help give them what they need to fully realize that initial vision. That’s really my job—to make sure they have everything they need. And that’s what I like about producing in general. You’re like the invisible hand making sure everything is in place. It’s also about cultivating relationships and seeing a show through to production, and anything I can do to help attain that goal, whether it be big or small, is what I enjoy most about the process.

KI: So what’s your official role now?

SS: The four of us are calling ourselves “Original Developers.” In the first two incarnations of the piece—and here for us, too—in non-profit theatre the role of a producer is different than in for-profit theatre. It doesn’t mean necessarily financially backing a project; it’s about putting the pieces together and the organizational and developmental aspects of producing a show. In the commercial world the producer’s role is augmented by the money and the investments, though there are definitely still developmental responsibilities as well. We got The Last Goodbye on its feet!

KI: What does that entail in general for non-profit theatre?

SS: In non-profit theatres every institution has a unique producing model. It’s an umbrella title—we do a little bit of everything. Producers have to be jacks-of-all-trades. You’re working with a limited staff and with limited resources for that staff, so you really have to be able to help them do their jobs efficiently and keep things moving along. And actually, my position here at the festival as Artistic Assistant was really designed to be a catch-all. I’m around everywhere, I try to know about everything that’s going on, I’m trying to stay in the know about every project’s particular needs so that if there’s ever a problem I’m totally informed and ready to jump in at a moment’s notice and help push that project through to the end. And it’s not only the big things. The small things add up.

KI: It seems like the producer is the person who has to see the forest through the trees but also know where every branch and leaf is too.

SS: Exactly. And it’s so easy to get bogged down in the details but you also have to be able to pull yourself out and see the big picture. But that’s also what I like about it—getting to do both of those things.
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Monday, August 2, 2010

Video | The Last Goodbye Actor, Ashley Robinson

Check out this video interview with The Last Goodbye actor, Ashley Robinson!

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