Tuesday, July 16, 2013

HYPERBOLE:bard - Interview with Derek Petropolis

Derek Petropolis
The talented Derek Petropolis is currently appearing in Rogue Artists Ensemble's HYPERBOLE:bard. As he's gearing up for another week of bard at the Annenberg Community Beach House, he took a minute to talk about his first experience with Rogue Artists Ensemble:
Rogue Artists Ensemble: How did you get involved in creating HYPERBOLE: bard?  Have you worked on other Rogue HYPERBOLE shows before? 
Derek Petropolis: Well, I'm pretty new to LA and stumbled onto Rogue by chance.  I am a graduate of Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington and generally prefer theatre to film.  I was basically perusing for theatre auditions and came across the HYBERBOLE listing.  It stood out because it was a mask audition (something I have always been quite passionate about.), and I immediately knew that I wanted to be a part of the show.  I have taken classes in mask work but have never had an opportunity to be in a mask and movement based show, so it is quite exciting to be a part of HYPERBOLE!   I have never worked with the Rogues before, but after this experience I can say that I would definitely want to work for this company again.  They are all very close knit, but that didn't stop them to inviting me into their family with open arms.  They are friendly, daring, and talented group.
RAE: What was the process like in developing the piece?  How did it challenge (or not challenge) you as an actor?
DP: I feel like the process for this piece was very unique.  When I came into the process, they had already basically made the show.  They knew which scenes they wanted and had a basic layout for each one.  However, that's not to say that every scene hasn't changed dramatically since we started rehearsals.  In each rehearsal we were encouraged to play around in each scene and just kind of see where the masks take us.  If it went with what had already been established, great.  If it went in a weird and funky new direction, great.  We would play in each mask form and see how it informed the circumstances of each scene.  It was both a total blast, and completely frustrating.
RAE: What is your favorite story or character in the show and why? 
Derek performing in HYPERBOLE:bard
DP: I LOVE the Apothecary character.  The mask is hilarious, but also kind of mysterious and devious.  It really lends itself to being a character to steal the show.  Not to mention all the possibility for all the prop comedy!     I think Taylor has been doing a wonderful job with the character and has really brought it to life.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to take that mask out for a spin...     
RAE: What is it like working at the Annenberg Beach House?

DP: The beach house is an amazing venue for this piece.  For a movement and mask show, I don't think we could have asked for a better space.  The house provides us with lots of different levels, entrances and exits, and provides us with lots of different ways to stage things.  At first it was a bit of challenge to use the space, but I think that made us work harder and come up with a better product.  It is still a challenge everyday to use the space with masks, but that's part of the challenge and fun of the show!

RAE: Why do you think audiences should come see the show?

DP: I think this is an awesome show for everyone to come out and see.  There is truly something for Shakespeare newbies and buffs alike.  The show is easily accessible to audiences of all ages. Its a delicious cake of physical comedy topped of with the tasty icing of wit.  Now the show is a cake.  Who doesn't like cake?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Words, Words, Words

by Julia Garcia-Combs
HYPERBOLE:bard at Annenberg Community Beach House

Movement coach & Part of the Development Team of Rogue Artists Ensemble's HYPERBOLE:bard

In the philosophies of Art and Aesthetics, Theater is considered a subcategory of Literature. Edward Hopper said, “If you could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.” Theater isn’t literature, because it isn’t meant to be read. What makes the theater so exciting as an art form is it’s incorporation of all forms. Theatre is visual, auditory, visceral, experiential, moving and changing. It is the closest artistic approximation to the experience of life itself: as soon as something beautiful has happened, it just as quickly disappears.

Imagine for a moment what it must have been like to go see the latest Shakespeare play. What relationships will we watch unfold? What decisions will they have to make? Will we connect to the character’s desire for love or power? Do we want what they want? Do we feel what they feel?

My favorite hyperbole, “O, I could weep my spirit from mine eyes!” (Julius Caesar), expresses a universally understood emotion; we all know what it’s like to feel betrayed by someone we love and weep our spirit from our eyes. We all know what it is like to ask, “To be or not to be - that is the question;” as artists we make it our pursuit to question the meaning of life.

But today, to the larger majority, it is just poetry. Beautiful poetry. But it’s literature. (Or it’s boring theater.) Why? In Peter Ackroyd’s Introduction to The Complete Works he states:

In recent years it has become all the more necessary to read William Shakespeare. We live in a visual, rather than an oral culture. Shakespeare’s first audiences were used to the long sermon, as well as the ‘mighty line’... The audiences of the twenty-first century are ill-equipped to listen to Shakespeare's plays... They cannot follow the dialogue, even if they can more or less comprehend the plot. Half the significance is lost to them. 

We must ask: what is this significance that is lost? It is not the plot, but the imagery - the associations of words that create meaning through memories, thoughts, opinions, emotions and beliefs. We must connect with the significance of Shakespeare's plays to our own, visual, real-time culture.

William Shakespeare used his gift with words as a tool in seeking to communicate, to express the full depths of his imagination to his audience. The key to unlocking the significance of Shakespeare's work today is not in speaking the language, but in asking, “What does the language do?” What did it do to the audiences of the day (where it was essentially pop-culture)? What does it do to those of us today who connect to it?

It is an outward expression of the internal experience. It makes us feel and imagine experiences outside of ourselves. It is this act of creating an outward experience to express internal forces. “It is as if we are gazing upon the spectacle of language in the act of expressing itself,” (Ackroyd). The challenge of HYPERBOLE: bard is to communicate a piece of Shakespeare’s imagination to our modern day, visual audience through a visceral theatrical experience.

HYPERBOLE:bard continues at the Annenberg Community Beach House July 17 - 19!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

HYPERBOLE:bard - Interview with Matthew Hill

HYPERBOLE:bard's Assistant Director Matthew Hill is an Ensemble member and long-time collaborator of Rogue Artists EnsembleHe's been busy at Annenberg Community Beach House this week, but took a minute to discuss his experience with his first HYPERBOLE show with the group:

Cube-masked Hamlet (at Carlson Park)
Rogue Artists Ensemble: How did you get involved in creating HYPERBOLE: bard?  Have you worked on other Rogue HYPERBOLE shows before?

Matthew Hill: Well, I'm an Ensemble Member with the Rogues and before that I was an associate artist. So I've definitely worked on a few Rogue shows. But this is my first HYPERBOLE, which is pretty exciting. When I heard that we were developing a HYPERBOLE built around Shakespeare, I knew I had to find a way to be involved. Sean and I spoke and we agreed that I could best serve the production as the assistant director.

RAE: What was the process like in developing the piece?  How did it challenge (or not challenge) you as a director and artist?

MH: I first came in with the development team. It was 11 of us, I think, in the Rogue space just jamming for a few weeks on what Shakespeare meant to us, what we liked, didn't like, what commonalities we saw, why we think Shakespeare is still relevant, what fun could be had with his work--all that stuff. We played with masks, puppets, built mockups, and just generally workshopped everything that came to mind. It was a really wonderful and artistically free time.

And then of course it came time to move on and start developing the actual performance. I think this was the most challenging part because you have to start to cut and shape and reign in. It can be heartbreaking to let things go. Or in the case of one pieces (that made it into the show actually), I feel like we have been constantly struggling to recreate the magic from the first time it was explored in the workshop. However, this part was equal parts exciting. There was a new energy and fresh perspective that came with the new faces joining the process. The piece is better for having gone through this tempering. And it's still getting better every day!
Cube-masked Hamlet at Annenberg Community Beach House

RAE: What is your favorite story or character in the show and why?

MH: I feel like there is a lot to love, but my favorite is probably the cube-masked Hamlet. It is just so delightful poignant and simple.

RAE: What is it like working at the Annenberg Beach House?

MH: Rather fantastic. There is nothing quite like the ocean breeze lightly blowing into the living room of the guest house. And the facade that we perform on is really beautiful. It really is just a beautiful place to be. And I'm grateful that we have been able to create there.

RAE: Why do you think audiences should come see the show?

A friend of mine once said, "If you can't laugh at it, it isn't worth doing." And Shakespeare once wrote that "Jesters do oft prove prophets." So if we follow the logic, things that are humourous are worth experiencing. And there is much truth spoken in jest. Therefore, they should come and laugh! And feel and learn and experience some simple but delightful truths. Plus it has ukuleles. How cool is that?! 

RAE: Any funny/interesting/terrifying/inspiring stories about the rehearsals/performances/process that you want to share?

MH: That is a tough one, strangely. My experience has been thoroughly enjoyable and I just remembering laughing a lot throughout. There was a wall squat competition during one rehearsal break. And I did get to climb a treat to MacGyver our banners up during a preview performance in a park. And then there was the time when we discovered that we had unintentionally turned a piece into King Lear. It has just been a great wacky ride.

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Storm, A Sword Fight, A Song, and More!

This first week of performances at the Annenberg Community Beach House has been quite an adventure for the Rogues.  The audiences at Annenberg have been super supportive and amazing!  HYPERBOLE:bard is constantly in development while we're in residence at the Beach House; we're tweaking designs, jokes, stories and music and really making the show shine.  The evolution of a creative endeavor like theater is never ending, as we always want to improve, refine and really pack a punch in each show.

So if you missed HYPERBOLE:bard this week - no need to fret!  You'll be seeing an even BETTER version of the show next week!  And if you came this week - thank you!  If you enjoyed the show, think about coming back (and bringing a few friends) and seeing how the show has changed in just a week of work (on the beach!).

A special thank you to all our audiences this week.  Because, boy, were there some crazy things happening!

First there was this weird makeshift band that invaded the stage:

 And then this flower started to sing, and, if we're going to be honest, we all got a bit teary eyed:

And then these witches appeared out of nowhere and interrupted the show by bringing some of the audience on stage:

Which, of course, made a sword fight break out...because this is Shakespeare and that's just how Ol' Shakes rolls:

And then this giant storm came in and swept all our actors out to sea.  Somehow the audience wasn't affected.  There was a weatherman in the audience but he didn't have an explanation for it either:

Wait a minute.  Maybe that was all part of the show.  Hmm.  I guess there's only one way to find out.

See you next week!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

HYPERBOLE:bard - Interview with Taylor Coffman

Taylor Coffman
The brilliant actress Taylor Coffman is currently appearing in Rogue Artists Ensemble's HYPERBOLE:bard. She took a minute out of her busy performance schedule this week to talk about the show, the process, and Shakespeare-Nerdom!
Rogue Artists Ensemble: How did you get involved in creating HYPERBOLE: bard?  Have you worked on other Rogue HYPERBOLE shows before?

Taylor Coffman: I had heard murmurings that the Rogues were going to tackle some Shakespeare and as a certified Shakespeare DORK, I knew I had to get in on the fun. I became an associate artist with the Rogues last year after appearing as 'Jane' in D IS FOR DOG and working on Songs of Bilitis at the Getty Villa.  I met the Rogues just auditioning as an actor and immediately fell in love with their storytelling methods. It's really been fun to take a look at Shakespeare's stories from new and exciting angles.

RAE: What was the process like in developing the piece?  How did it challenge (or not challenge) you as an actor?
TC: Developing this piece was a lot of fun. As they say "serious art comes from serious play, " and that was definitely the case with this piece. We played around in a room with a bunch of creative folk. Some, like me, were Shakespeare purists and others barely knew the Bard's work but were amazing creative storytellers - so the result is truly a piece for those who know the bard well AND for people who might be meeting Shakespeare for the first time. Especially kids! This is a fun all ages piece and I love the idea of introducing Shakespeare to young folk!

RAE: What is your favorite story or character in the show and why?
TC: OOOOOOOOO. Tough question! I think my favorite may be the Witches character from MacBeth - it's definitely always fun to play with a giant puppet!

I also have a special connection to Sam who is playing our "Spearcarrier"- I had this idea for a piece that involved creating a monologue that combines all the one line characters of Shakespeare's - a sort of homage to the small roles of the canon. So I went and researched those characters and crafted a piece. Sam does a great job bringing all these characters to life in one exuberant piece. FUN FACT - it's often said that Shakespeare himself played many of these walk on roles.

Taylor Coffman in HYPERBOLE:bard in Carlson Park
RAE: What is it like working at the Annenberg Beach House?

TC: It's beautiful! Often doing theatre involves being in a dark room for hours and hours. Especially in the Summer, it can kinda be a bummer... but at the beach house, we're next the ocean and this beautiful setting. It's definitely energizing and joyful. The staff has been so supportive as well. It's rare to do theatre that brings out my freckles!

RAE: Why do you think audiences should come see the show?
TC: It's FUN! It's FREE! It's in a beautiful setting! It's especially a good time to celebrate the bard in a way that is unique. It's a really joyful piece.

RAE: Any funny/interesting/terrifying/inspiring stories about the rehearsals/performances/process that you want to share?
TC: Well, this is definitely one of the only shows I've ever done were the cast absolutely needs to take SPF breaks!

HYPERBOLE:bard is playing at the Annenberg Community Beach House Wed, Thurs & Fri at 4:30pm through July 19!  CLICK HERE to read more about the Rogues!