Friday, July 27, 2012

Surveying the Scene

I can easily imagine the days of summer slipping by as I sit in my office, window open, looking out onto the blue sea, taking leisurely walks along the boardwalk, dipping my toes in the water, grabbing a latte from the CafĂ©, sunnin' my skin to a darker shade of brown (much to the dismay of all my relatives in India)...but wait...what?  WHAT?  I have to WORK?

It's true.  I betta work it, cuz I got dis fly gig...and I'm going to make pretty dance on the beach!  Ok, so maybe it won't always be pretty, but it will be pretty interesting.  Here's my first video blog from a few weeks ago, when I first took a walk around the grounds, seeing what areas inspired me.  I invite you into my process, as I continue to update you on the inspirations and challenges and unexpected moments...and look forward to sharing the journey with you!


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Duality and Joy with Sheetal Gandhi, new Choreographer in Residence

2012 Choreographer in Residence Sheetal Gandhi and her collaborator Meena Murugesan have been spotted already casing the site, wandering from sand to View Deck and points in between! Beach House guests can observe Gandhi (and perhaps participate...) as she creates a brand new dance piece throughout the grounds. The culminating dress rehearsal and performances take place at 6pm September 28 and 1pm September 29-30. Rehearsal schedule and updates will be posted to this blog. She'll also be conducting two lecture/demo/workshops on July 29 (at capacity) and August 21, so if you want more info and you aren't already on the Beach House email list, join now!

About Sheetal Gandhi:

Sheetal Gandhi is Choreographer in Residence July 23 – September 30, and is creating a new site-specific dance piece on the Beach House grounds, presented in free outdoor performances September 29-30 at 1pm. She is blogging about her residency experience at Reservations for the performances will be available in August at

Sheetal Gandhi is an inter-cultural, multi-disciplinary choreographer and performer based in Los Angeles. Her interdisciplinary work layers movement, complex rhythmic structures, theatricality and live singing - referred to as "eloquent, inventive…virtuosic" by the Philadelphia Inquirer. By exploring traditional forms of dance and music through decidedly postmodern compositional structures that comment on global and multi-layered contemporary society, Gandhi’s work references the past, grounds itself in the present, and evokes the possibilities of the future. Her career has spanned genres and disciplines including work as creator and performer in Cirque du Soleil’s Dralion and playing a leading role in the Broadway production of Bombay Dreams. Gandhi is a recipient of a 2012-13 NDP Touring Award for her acclaimed solo dance-theater work, Bahu-Beti-Biwi and her work has been presented at The Painted Bride (Philadelphia),  Maui Arts and Cultural Center and Kahilu Theatre (Hawaii), Black Magic Woman Festival (Amsterdam), The Lab Theater (Minneapolis, MN), Highways Performance Space (Los Angeles), REDCAT (Los Angeles), Erasing Borders Festival (NYC), National Asian American Theater Festival (NYC), among others. She received a 2011 COLA Grant for the creation of a new multi-media dance-theater work entitled Human Nature, and is a participating member of the 2012 Choreographers in Mentorship Exchange (CHIME) program. Gandhi’s passion for intercultural exchange has recently been supported by a Cultural Exchange International (CEI) fellowship in Amsterdam and an invitation to attend the Tanzmesse International Festival for Contemporary Dance in Dusseldorf, Germany.  She continues to engage in collaborations with artists and communities both locally and abroad, embracing opportunities to expand the limits of imagination, creativity and human compassion.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Taking Flight

Sorry, but I AM having serious withdrawal. I mean 6 weeks of going almost every day to one of the most beautiful houses on a beach FILLED with beautiful houses, and getting to work on the most beautiful poetry in the English language, and on, arguably, maybe the most beautiful of all the plays in the canon………well, even someone with a less addictive personality than my own might fall into delirious ecstasy.

Perhaps I overstate. I’m prone to it. But this summer residency at the Marion Davies House was truly sublime. Even when we couldn’t do some things because the historic status of the house itself might be damaged. Well, we just did what Salty Shakespeare does-----we went around and found another way. And often a better way.

But that wonderful sunken terrace on the west end of the house became a playground for us; and I’m pleased to say, I believe we used it to full advantage without harming it at all. I think the actress who owned it originally, in fact, was watching from somewhere and loving every minute of our improvisational antics. And in the last performance when Sam Hardie as Hamlet put his arms around a woman watching from the south wall, and said, “To England?” and she nodded and giggled-------well, it seemed like Marion herself giving approval to the whole affair.

I know. My imagination explodes. And now it’s over and I go on to taking a meeting in Starbucks today with a guy interested in bringing Salty Shakespeare to the Tube. Who knows. Salty Shakespeare is never planned. We go forward laughing into the darkness, stepping off cliffs and assuming we’ll know how to fly.

May all our flights be as exhilarating as the Annenberg. Thank you!!!

Nancy Linehan Charles
Artistic Director, Salty Shakespeare

 Photography by Margaret Molloy

Friday, July 20, 2012


Okay, well, I’m crying. Full out. It’s our last performance of HAMLET today, and the last day of our summer residency with the Annenberg. Last day of pretending we’re Scarlet O’Hara living in luxury at Tara.

Feels like leaving summer camp after two weeks of bonding with the other pre-teen girls, over campfires and marshmallows. And smoking behind the cabins. Too much information.

So before I drown in metaphors, let me say it has been an amazing experience. Ya know, actors can invent their magic in a barrel if that’s all that’s around. We’re like cockroaches: we WILL survive after everything else is gone…….doing one last scene from WAITING FOR GODOT or……HAMLET. We endure, no matter what.

So to be dropped into this beautiful setting for 6 weeks was like being knocked on the head and waking up in the Emerald City. But with all your best friends in tow. And we flourished. Audiences seem to like our HAMLET, filling up waiting lists as long as your arm. It’s a lot of work for only six performances but I believe we filled those with energy and focus and inventiveness enough to make Marion Davies proud. And maybe William Randolph Hurst. Who might have given us more money.

But I digress.

Sometimes, when I was alone and leaving that big house late at night, exhausted from a full day of rehearsing, I could feel the ghosts of all those early Hollywood celebs, all decked out in costume in the photographs in the entrance hall…….and I’d think, Wanta do a play??? Our costumer, Jaymee, could take that clownish thing you’re wearing and make it into TITUS ANDRONICUS, if she chose to.

We’ve loved it. Bye, Gigi and Liz and Melissa and Naomi and Alex and Art and everyone who helped us. And Nan. Of course, Nan. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Nancy and Linda and Tom
And the company of HAMLET, 2012

 Photography by Margaret Molloy

Friday, July 13, 2012

Releasing the Beast

We’re OPEN!!!  And flying.  Heart-stopping.  OMIGOD!  About a thousand things to do before the audience started arriving for Wednesday’s performance.  There’s a very audible pulse backstage on any opening day.  Actors warming up, joking with one another both in character and out, shaking out all the tension, and giggling nervously to each other over missed cues at the final dress the day before. 

The adrenaline is palpable.  I’ve often thought if you could harness that throbbing, pulsating atmosphere, you could……..I dunno…….run a theatre on the Moon.  Which is where my mind goes when I hear about NASA goals.

Backstage on Wednesday at the Annenberg was no different.  Where are my cufflinks?  Anyone seen my Diva hat?  Are the foils set?  Someone check the chairs
on the set.  You stepped on the last part of my line yesterday…….give it a breath, will ‘ya?  Can you help me with that change before the Ghost’s entrance? 

Actors on crack; and not a drug in sight.  There’s something so intoxicating about showing an audience your work for the first time.  ‘Cuz, God, ya wanna be liked.  But even more than that, you want to be true to what the playwright intended……and HOPE they like it.

Salty Shakespeare is particularly challenging because we’re right there in and among the audience------cheek to jowl, as we say.  So an actor can pretty much SEE what the audience thinks of us.  We don’t have to wait for reviews.  And the audiences both on Wednesday and Thursday seemed to love us.  A standing ovation on Wednesday (not on Thursday-----hmmmmmm.  Have to look into that)

And so on we go.  Rain predicted today.  Friday.  What will that bring?  More surprises.  We HATE planning.

Photography by Margaret Molloy

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Final Crunch

What’s the law that says, whatever can go wrong…..WILL. 

It felt this week like that physicist had nailed it.

The Costume Designer, who had 20 costumes to stitch together, sliced her index finger open.  Yikes!

I suddenly realized the basement ramp entrance and exit to the Marion Davies House (in and out of which characters go A LOT) needed masking.  I had assumed the Annenberg people had a way to fix this.  They didn’t; not only that, they had told me from the beginning that particular fix was up to us.  That warning had sunk to the bottom of my brain somehow.

An actor who had already had to miss numerous rehearsals because of work, suddenly informed me he had booked a paying gig this Sunday----our final run at the show before dress rehearsal on Monday……..


And on and on.

So I watched SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE for the hundredth time.  And heard the words……

“But HOW will such and such get done?”

“I don’t know; it’s a mystery”.

It’s a mystery.  Indeed.  I began to breathe again.  I relaxed.  Right away, I remembered the name of the costumer who’s a friend of our Producer, Linda Wickens.  Haleh.  I had her number.  I called her on the off chance she could help our wounded designer.  No, she couldn’t, but she had a seamstress who had just offered her help. 

I called.  She was able to pick up many of the costumes the next day and is sewing away, even as we speak.

The name Norman Scott suddenly popped into my mind……one of the excellent techies (also an amazing actor) from Pacific Resident Theatre.  He met me today and is right now masking the troublesome entrance.

And the actor who can’t come to Sunday’s rehearsal will be covered.  And I’m SURE will be flawless in his performance on Monday.

It’s a mystery.  Why we do this crazy endeavor we call live theatre.  Well, Salty Shakespeareans do it, I think, because more than any other group, we get close up and personal with the audience.  And THAT’s intoxicating.  Eye to eye.  We go in deep.  And the effect of that lingers with us for a long time.

And we hope it does with you.  Things fall into place……usually when you least expect and at the last moment.  Magic.  Mystery.  Our stock in trade.

 Photo by Susan Cobb Vincent of Vincent Photography

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Salty Shakespeare Too

We’re coming down to the wire----opening is a week and a half away.  My mind is consumed with a hundred details.  I barely see my own family-----except at rehearsals:  Will is one of the Hamlets.

So yesterday I had an hour and a half with 2 of the Salty Shakespeare Too kids-----the group of young people, training with the professional actors.  These kids will have one public performance of their own, before one of our final dress rehearsals.   Four scenes.  Including a sword fight.   We’re also planning to take their HAMLET scenes into some schools next year.

Now these are children…….talented and eager……but children all the same.  I’ve worked with some of them before and they know I look on them as professional actors, expecting the same emotional courage from them that I do from adult, experienced actors.

And yesterday they both made a giant leap.  I was reading both Gertrude and Ophelia (the SST girls had conflicts) and both young actors came on full throttle.  Laertes (Sebastian Schier) went from giggling his instructions to Ophelia, to warning, chiding, even threatening his sister if she continues her relationship with Hamlet.  For his part, Hamlet (Christian Soto) found the rage which erupts in him both with his mother and with his girlfriend.

And those things aren’t easy to find at 14 or 16.  Especially when you live in Santa Monica.  There’s a lot of life you’ve yet to experience.

Several visitors were watching us in the courtyard; they found me later and raved about the boys’ performances.  I’m really proud of these young actors.

Now back to the details!

 Photo by Susan Cobb Vincent of Vincent Photography