High school rush ticket program

The Theatre @ Boston Court has a rush ticket program that provides tickets to high school students at no cost:

High School Rush Ticket Program from Boston Court on Vimeo.

Samuel Beckett’s HAPPY DAYS: Review Rundown

wpid-latimes.gifChalk this sighting up to the uncanny familiarity of Brooke Adams’ Winnie in Andrei Belgrader’s superb revival of “Happy Days,” now at the Theatre @ Boston Court. The unforced neighborliness of her performance allowed me to experience the play with new eyes — and spot the Winnies all around us.

This production — which features Broadway veteran and multiple Emmy winner Tony Shalhoub, Adams’ real-life husband, in the role of Willie, Winnie’s there-but-not-there life partner — preserves the universality of Beckett’s vivid stage metaphor while making it seem right at home in Southern California.

Click here to read the entire review.

la-weekly-logoThis production’s perfect blend of scorching pointlessness and humor approaches the slapstick of a Buster Keaton movie and also the pathos of tragedy, yet only flirts with — rather than plunges into — either extreme.

To call Andrei Belgrader’s direction “restrained” would be off-point: Shalhoub’s Willie blows his nose for a good minute and a half in an extended crescendo, and pops his head up and down from behind his ravine like a Jack-in-the-box. Yet circumventing such slapstick rhythms, Adams’ Winnie luxuriates in the time it takes to brush her teeth and probe her gums, and relishes the sight of a crawling insect — the only sign of non-human life.

Click here to read the entire review.

wpid-cropped-header22.jpgDirector Andrei Belgrader balances the grim, unforgiving quality of set and situation with just enough humor to keep the darkness from descending too soon. He also establishes a pace which makes room for the performers’ art and interpretation without stretching the necessarily repetitive script to a point where the audience disengages. This is a major element in this production’s success.

Takeshi Kata’s diorama-like set falls well into Beckett’s vision for the scene at hand. Melanie Watnick’s costumes evoke the barren, the bleached, the dirty and the worn. The thing looks right, which becomes particularly important in a play where setting is almost a character.

In short, this play – like many others, new and old, produced at Boston Court – asks an audience to absorb, discuss and ponder. “Happy Days” may be listed as a classic, but not one commonly done. It proves most certainly to be a tour de force for Adams, and worth watching if only for that. For all these reasons, go see this “Happy Days”. Then feel free to ask yourself and everyone around you what the answer is to that ending question. You may learn much in the process.

Click here to read the entire review.

wpid-screenshot_2014-07-02-23-47-47-1.pngAny actress who tackles the role of Winnie faces the nearly impossible task of keeping us interested and involved for two longish acts while she’s almost totally immobilized. But Adams rises to the occasion handsomely, keeping the opening night audience in thrall, by exploiting the comedy of Winnie’s ever-shifting moods, her unflagging spirits, and her ability to survive in increasingly desperate circumstances.

Shalhoub, as Willie, makes the absolute most of a seemingly constricted role: He says little, and is mostly invisible in Act 1. We see the back of his bald head, fringed with wispy white hair, we see his eyes peering over the edge of his pit, and we even get a glimpse of his bare backside, but we never see his face till almost the end of the play, when he emerges from his burrow dressed unaccountably as a down-at-heel banker, in cutaway coat, striped trousers, spats, and a battered top hat. He clowns shamelessly and zestfully, takes pratfalls, and seems to be enjoying himself immensely.

Click here to read the entire review.

hollywoodreporterlogoThis impeccable rendition of Beckett’s bleak evergreen harmonizes the Irish playwright’s craggy temperament with a peculiarly Southern California optimism.

Brooke Adams achieves her own originality of conception with a vocabulary of simple, deliberate gestures, meticulously delineated. Her sunny disposition is conceived in mannerisms recognizable to anyone in the audience, effectively suggesting that Winnies are all about us — and within us, too.

Adams performs efficiently and economically yet is utterly in touch with the demands of the play’s bleak vision. This is an all-American Winnie, and Takeshi Kata‘s set design, however inflexibly dictated by the text, allusively suggests a sense less of an Anglo-Irish seashore than a desert not so far off a freeway.

Click here to read the entire review.

glendale news pressFor a strikingly fresh, definitive revival of Samuel Beckett’s 1961 existential tragicomedy, “Happy Days,” look no further than Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena.

Directed by Andrei Belgrader, this superlative production features Brooke Adams as the literally earthbound, endearingly and determinedly optimistic Winnie, well-matched by her fellow stage and screen veteran (and husband) Tony Shalhoub in the nearly wordless and nearly unseen role of Winnie’s lowbrow mate, Willie.

In the post-apocalyptic bleakness of heat-blasted terrain (effectively rendered by scenic designer Takeshi Kata and light designer Tom Ontiveros as consciously theatrical yet all-too-believable in this time of extreme drought), Winnie, confined in the dirt, cultivates acceptance.

“Ah, well, seen enough,” she says, when wondering if she’s losing her sight.

Click here to read the entire review.

artsinlaBritish director Peter Hall once expressed that Beckett’s much-dissected work was “as much about mime and physical precision as about words”—an observation clearly buttressing the perception that the gossamer directorial vision of Andrei Belgrader, guiding an actor as fearless as Brooke Adams, has inspired something truly remarkable. With her body stuck in a massive mound of dirt from just below her chest throughout Act One, only Adams’s arms, her incredibly mobile face, a scattering of everyday items pulled from a large leather satchel, and a few scattered groans and mumbles emanating from the mostly out-of-sight Tony Shaloub as her husband Willie are available to help her keep our attention.

Click here to read the entire review.

stageandcinemaTheater of the Absurd can easily go awry if too much license is taken by a creative team. Beckett saw his intentions as inviolate, potentially devastated by irreverence or meddling, and anyone who’s seen a student production of Pirandello knows he was right to worry. Belgrader does not meddle, but neither does he prostrate himself. Adams, and her husband Tony Shalhoub as Willie, seem to be inventing this scenario in real time.

In bits scattered through the entire show, but especially in a phenomenal display of physical dexterity in the second act, Shalhoub provides the hideous counterpoint to the existentialist question: What if living means losing what makes life worth the effort? Well, as Winnie shows, that needn’t happen; no matter how much is taken from us, there’s always something for which to be grateful. The strain of sentimentalism that runs through Beckett’s work has never sounded so hip to me as now, because this Winnie made me want to live as vibrantly as she does.

Click here to read the entire review.

cultural weeklyJessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn performed this play together, as did French actors Madeleine Renaud and Jean-Louis Barrault. In each case the actors were married to each other. The production @ Boston Court also is performed by a married couple: Brooke Adams and Tony Shalhoub. This may seem like a trifling observation, but the intimacy of the offstage relationship has theatrical relevance. It helps to enhance the onstage chemistry.

The primary focus in this quasi-monologue is on Winnie, who talks more or less nonstop, while Willie says next to nothing in his own very eloquent way. Winnie speaks, she tells us, because the preternatural silence is too deafening. She focuses first on the big things, announcing at the start of her day, “No change. No pain. Wonderful thing that. Nothing like it,” followed at frequent intervals for a variety of reasons by a gratitude she’s intent on maintaining. “Great mercies, great mercies” is heard quite often.

Click here to read the entire review.

lifeinla logoAs Willie, Tony Shalhoub has a fantastic physicality. At times, he moves with such oafish fatigue and painstaking resolve that it’s hard not to wince when watching him. He is not seen for most of the play, but when he is he knows how to embody the desperation and the sloth of Willie—a less than charming combination—and his comic timing is exquisite.

But this really is Brooke Adam’s play. As Winnie, she is outstanding. What a challenge for an actress to be mostly buried, with her face straight out to the audience, unable to fully move, and still completely captivate an audience. She holds us in the palm of her hand and we never deter from her. She imbues Winnie with a sweetness that is infectious, and a sorrow that is heartbreaking. We empathize so much with her because, in a sense, she is us. And Ms. Adam’s is able to convey that humanity, that everyday quality with such precision and tender sadness that you’ll want to jump out of your seat and free her from her gravelly prison.

Click here to read the entire review.

onstagelosangelesAdams is a beauty. She impressed me as a Marilyn Monroe at first. Blonde and buxom. Frilly white dress. All she has to work with are the words and her arms. Her facial expressions, especially in Act Two are priceless. The black bag and her concern for Willie engage. In Act One all we really see of Willie is the back of his balding head and stringy hair, as he attempts to relieve the heat of the day and protect himself from the sun. Shalhoub’s elegant gestures: spare and complete, allow us to understand that great acting can still be accomplished silently by an actor who ‘gets it!’ A broken straw boater is carefully placed and then given a rakish tilt. It defines unfortunate Willie.

Click here to read the entire review.

examinerUnexpectedly poignant, Samuel Beckett’s “Happy Days” directed by Andrei Belgrader stars Brooke Adams in a tour de force performance and real-life husband, Tony Shaloub. This production of Beckett’s infrequently performed allegorical play explores the resilience of the human spirit on a desolate barren landscape as two souls struggle to connect.

Click here to read the entire review.

ustheaterBoth actress Brooke Adams and her husband Tony Shalhoub performed admirably as the doomed couple. For a short while in act one, I must admit, that I felt (like Los Angeles Times reviewer Charles McNulty) that the purposely slow pace of Adams’ actions and observations created a kind of tedium that, while perhaps conveying the emptiness of Winnie’s world, made the play itself a bit tedious. But quite soon thereafter I began to see her performance as a subtle indication of Winnie’s endless thought-processes, as revealing the mind behind her never-ending but constantly shifting fantasies of possibility that she daily invented in her delirium.

Click here to read the entire review.

stagehappeningslogoSo what to make of Beckett’s Winnie (as sunnily depicted by Brooke Adams)? Buried waist-deep in a huge mound that takes up the entire stage at Boston Court, Winnie’s smile belies the desperation of her circumstance.  It is astonishing that her difficulty is never remarked upon.  She seems to be oblivious to her surroundings as she creates a series of tasks, murmuring about the “many mercies” that make up her life. The presence of Willie (Tony Shalhoub), seems to provide her with the grounding that makes living bearable, although his mono-syllabic responses punctuating her running monologue seem hardly to penetrate.

Although a play where nobody moves and nobody complains might be wearing, this production hums along and never lets down. As impeccably directed by Andrei Belgrader, Adams embarks on her trajectory with a sunny disposition that never fails her all the while sinking deeper into the mound.

Click here to read the entire review.

The Theatre @ Boston Court’s Artistic Directors Announce the 2015 Season

T@BC2015SeasonOur 2015 season is breaking new ground for Boston Court. In addition to the four shows you see yearly on the Main Stage at Boston Court, this year The Theatre @ Boston Court is producing in additional venues on both coasts!

First, if you find yourself on the east coast this coming February/March/April, please join us as we continue our co-production with Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre of Sheila Callaghan’s Everything You Touch, first seen here at Boston Court this past spring. Jessica Kubzansky will direct at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City.

Meanwhile, here at the Boston Court Performing Arts Center, we are enormously proud of the challenging, stimulating plays that comprise our twelfth season.

Opening in the Winter is the World Premiere of The Missing Pages of Lewis Carroll by Lily Blau, directed by Abigail Deser. Lewis Carroll kept a journal of his life, including his befriending of Alice Liddell, the young muse who inspired Alice in Wonderland. Upon Carroll’s death it was discovered that several pages of his journal had been torn out. This play takes us down the rabbit hole to explore what might have been on these missing pages.

This Spring brings the West Coast Premiere of the riotous and riveting My Barking Dog by Eric Coble, directed by Michael Michetti. Two reclusive apartment dwellers’ unfulfilled lives take a turn for the bizarre when a starving coyote begins to frequent their fire escape. This brush with wildlife incites them to embrace their animal instincts as they bond with their untamed visitor.

Next Summer is the West Coast Premiere of Shiv by Aditi Brennan Kapil, directed by Emilie Beck. This poetic, highly theatrical post-Colonial fantasy explores the relationship between a girl becoming a young American woman and the South Asian poet father who inspires and eventually disappoints her. With little but a mattress as a vessel for her imagination, Shiv struggles for liberation from a difficult past.

And Fall brings the West Coast Premiere of our co-production with Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre of Seven Spots on the Sun by Martin Zimmerman, directed by Michael John Garcés. The people of a Latin American village are reeling from the impact of a devastating civil war when a mysterious plague begins to ravage their children. An embittered doctor discovers that he could be their savior, but he must wrestle with his own soul to discover whether he wants to offer compassion or retribution.

Finally, in September we invite you to join us at the stunning Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades for Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles by Luis Alfaro, directed by Jessica Kubzansky. For those who saw Oedipus el Rey in our 2010 season, Luis continues his brilliant reexamination of the Greek classics through a modern lens: Medea, a Mexican seamstress with extraordinary skill, is running from a past filled with betrayals. With husband Jason and their son in tow, Medea’s old and new worlds collide in the City of Angels.

We couldn’t be more excited about this season and hope you’ll join us for these stimulating plays that open the mind, the heart, and push on the cultural conversation.

As ever, we hope you enjoy the ride!

Jessica Kubzansky and Michael Michetti

Artistic Directors, The Theatre @ Boston Court


What is a ‘Boston Court’ play?

A Conversation with our Literary Managers

EMILIE: We are often asked what a “Boston Court” play is, and that’s both a difficult and easy question to answer. In some ways, it’s like any art: we know it when we see it. This is particularly true because we look for scripts that break known boundaries; if we could tell each other what those looked like, they would already be known entities. But we wanted to share some thoughts that could be helpful in identifying our brand.

We tend to respond to deep human themes; stories that are more investigative than they are clever; and perhaps most importantly, plays that make us talk more about ideas than about plot. In general, we like plays that ask more than answer. And, in all of that, a story told with a strong voice, a unique vision, that breaks boundaries not for the sake of breaking them, but because that’s the only way to tell that particular story.

And by the way, I offer none of this as an absolute prescription, simply as an articulation of what we’re often attracted to.

AARON: Our mission makes clear that we appreciate and celebrate work that is “inherently theatrical,” but what does that phrase mean? In the simplest sense, it means that the work could not exist in another form. For any variety of reasons, be they about style or thematic explorations, this piece of writing would not be at home on a television screen or in a movie theater. In addition, for us, “inherently theatrical” also means that the work does not always strictly adhere to the perceived rules of our world. Instead, it may create its own rules and ask us to participate in the endeavor.

Here’s what, stylistically, is up our alley. While we enjoy and program work in a wide variety of styles, I think it is safe to say that a Boston Court Play only truly lives when it is fully staged and realized. Any piece that can accomplish all, or even most, of its narrative goals in a reading, for example, would not be for us. Many of the plays we produce have fractured or non-linear narratives, poetic dialogue, and physical explorations that are non-naturalistic.

Many are also what some would call “expressionistic”, meaning that everything from monologues and movement to the structure of the pieces themselves are vehicles to allow the inner working of the characters, and the story, to be externalized.

As mentioned earlier in this conversation, these are not hard and fast rules–we have certainly programmed plays that do not meet every single one of these points of interest–but they are techniques and choices with which we often work.

EMILIE: Aaron, you speak about creating rules, and I want to riff on that a little. You have to know the rules to break them, and then you have to know what rules you’ve broken in order to create your own. The plays that pique our interest often have at least some of this in the way they’ve been mapped. An obvious way to make an example of this would be to look at Nancy Keystone’s Alcestis, which we produced last year. We can point to the original play, and then look at the ways Nancy busted it open. The story is the same, but it hasn’t been plotted in the same way. Nancy used the play as a way to explore grief, but then she circled back and conveyed the story of Alcestis using her own language. There was deep thought in the process in which it was created, in form as much as content. And I think this is an important piece to us: that structure is equal to content; one defines the other.

AARON: Absolutely. The idea that form and function are intertwined is integral to the work we produce. The stylistic choices cannot be separated from the content of the material. Nor can the style be separated from the metaphoric resonances with which the pieces are engaged. Additionally, the plays that we choose ask for a certain kind of focused attention in which there is no opportunity to detach from the experience. Instead, they require a high degree of investment, both intellectual and emotional, on the audience’s part.

Another example is Aaron Posner’s Stupid Fucking Bird, a modern-day adaptation of Chekhov’s The Seagull. This piece utilizes the bones of The Seagull‘s narrative to create an exploration of art’s value, inherent and otherwise, to society. This is accomplished partially through meta-theatrical moments, in which characters/actors blatantly call out the artifice of this theatrical experience, while also honoring it fully and being inside the experience. It may sound like a trick or a device, but it is not. These moments get to the heart of what this new piece, as well as Chekhov’s original, is about.

EMILIE: Yes, SFB accomplishes in a different way what Michael Elyanow’s The Children–based on Medea–did a few seasons ago. Each remains loyal in certain ways to the original, and each also succeeds in becoming a new play of its own making. These versions are heightened if you’re familiar with the original plays, but that isn’t necessary for the emotional or intellectual experience of viewing the updated incarnation.

And we’ve now named several plays based on earlier plays, so let me open this up to say that what’s exciting is when we read a script – new or adapted – that is deeply exploring something. The kind of exploration that we’re drawn to can sometimes feel big enough to almost seem convoluted or unwieldy, but if we have a sense that the playwright is trying to drive toward a specific, powerful idea, we are excited by that diamond in the rough. We love plays that are messy but deep, as opposed to plays we read that are slick and shiny but thin. It’s difficult, as we’ve found, to flesh something out, and much more interesting to work with a playwright on paring something back.

And this goes back to your earlier point, Aaron, about the kind of work we do being different to what can be found on a screen. We aren’t doing kitchen-sink dramas, unless there’s maybe an actor playing a kitchen sink. (That sounds like a joke, but we did have actors playing objects in our most recent show: Sheila Callaghan’s Everything You Touch. They played ashtrays and telephones and coat racks, among many other things, as a way of showing society’s objectification of women.)

AARON: We should also mention that we have some practical considerations as well. We do love world premieres, but we’re also interested in producing a play that would give the playwright a second production of the work. Playwrights find getting second and third productions as difficult or more difficult than getting an initial production. It’s really only after a play has found three or more productions that it tends to find its own momentum. But for us, it’s always about our excitement about what the play is up to, rather than the status of it as a world premiere.

Conversely, I will say that sometimes, we’ll find a script that has had five or six productions elsewhere in the country, and though none of them are in our backyard, we know that someone else in Los Angeles will likely produce that play. We would rather give our programming space to plays that other theaters tend to think of as too challenging, risky, or even too flawed. Dan Dietz’s American Misfit and David Wiener’s Cassiopeia were both scripts that had gathered dust in their respective playwrights’ drawers for a decade before we programmed them.

EMILIE: Yes, and we also understand that a play sometimes can’t find its voice without all the elements of a full production. Sometimes that means we take a risk by agreeing to give a production to a script that hasn’t yet fully come together on the page. But part of that risk is because we want to offer the playwright the opportunity to discover the alchemy of all the elements that are impossible to pursue on the single dimension of the page. We take a calculated risk that the play’s discovery of itself fully realized will be far richer than purely the text on the page.

And so, it goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway, that we’re very interested in working with playwrights who want to dig into their scripts. Not everyone is interested in this, and we respect that. But we’re always going to look for people who want to engage with us on the work.

AARON: Emilie, I think that’s a great place to leave us, with the idea that we, at Boston Court, are hoping to interact with writers who will find it exciting to be in an environment where the desire is to help the play become its best self–not to try to mold it into something else, but to have a collaboration that deepens the scope of the work and expands the possibilities of the ways in which their own voice and their own creation can most effectively communicate.

THE VISION STATEMENT: The Theatre @ Boston Court produces passionate, artist-driven theatre that challenges both artist and audience. The Theatre @ Boston Court urges its artists to fearlessly and passionately pursue their unique voice and vision. Play selection encompasses a wide variety of genres (classics, musicals and world premieres, with a special emphasis on nurturing playwrights and new play development) which are inherently theatrical, textually rich, and visually arresting.


Announcing Samuel Beckett’s HAPPY DAYS featuring Brooke Adams and Tony Shalhoub


What is it about Chekhov?

By Damaris Montalvo

In the past couple of years, I have seen a fair amount of adaptations of Anton Chekhov’s plays – enough to put them in a table:

table of chekhov

And when so many theatre companies are adapting his works, you’ve got to wonder: why? What is it about Chekhov that’s so important for today’s theatre audiences to experience? What are these adaptations saying about society, about us, about the reality that we live in? And why are they often adaptations instead of straight productions?

Anton_Chekhov_with_bow-tie_sepia_imageIt’s certainly not the plot. I’m by no means a Chekhov expert, but the productions I’ve seen are very unconcerned with plot. Not a lot “happens” in these plays. They’re mostly plays where the characters sit around in a room talking, often loving unrequitedly, and lamenting their reality while longing for the alternative they’d rather be living in.

Now, that description may be greatly oversimplified, but the point is that Chekhov’s work is about the characters themselves – their trials, tribulations, trivialities, and turmoil (#alliteration). And that’s kind of the purpose, I think: to show us how everyday people can be completely cognizant of the discrepancy between desire and reality, and the purposeful choices of some to do something to bridge the gap, versus the choices of others to merely observe and lament the void. They are plays that show action versus inaction, and how choosing to not choose is as much of a decision as committing to a choice. The character of Nina flat-out brings this to the forefront when she asks Trigorin if Shakespeare’s Hamlet was asking “the right question”: whether it should be “to be, or not to be” or “to act, or not to act.”

SFB_0311 copy2In a very real way, Stupid Fucking Bird (SFB) asks us – the audience – to act, to be present, to be another player in this cast. SFB constantly breaks the fourth wall and asserts its meta-theatricality, sometimes in ways we’re used to, like the classic play-within-a-play, but often in ways we’re not used to. For example, having actors address the audience directly is arguably common, but SFB goes beyond the direct address and actually, actually expects you to answer the questions thatare being posed to you. SFB asks you to engage in a real dialogue, to take responsibility for your role as the audience, for you to treat the characters not as “fictitious people” but as people made of flesh and bone, standing right before you, with real, deep feelings.

I’ve often heard that actors don’t “pretend” or “lie,” but that they find the truth within themselves to play a character, to become that character. And I’m 100% certain that in the moment Will Bradley asks us how he can get Nina back, he is asking it as Conrad, not as Will.

SFB_0318 copy2

I’ve seen the play four times, and one of my favorite moments was when an audience member suggested that Conrad could get Nina back pretending to be in love with Mash and making Nina jealous. It was my favorite moment because Adam Silver (who’s playing Dev, whose in love with Mash), raised his hand and said, “I’m right here.” I loved that moment because in the intense dialogue that’s happening between Conrad and the audience, it’s easy to forget that Dev is there, or to think that he’s only going to be in the background chuckling like the rest of us. But in that moment, Adam Silver reminded us once again that Dev observes everything and feels everything as well, so he reasserts his existence.

This moment, of course, adds to the humor. And that’s what I think is the real genius behind these adaptations: the comedy. I remember Tina Kronis and Richard Alger once mentioned in a talkback that Chekhov is actually funny, and that many of his works were written as comedies. I feel that sometimes when we read or see a straight rendition of the original, we perceive the bleakness, the loss, the heartache … and not so much the humor. In these adaptations, humor plays an essential role. Impro Theatre also caught on to this, as the two productions I saw were very funny – but not without gravitas or dire consequence.

trig at tableYou know, in a way, Chekhov’s plays aren’t unlike Seinfeld – the incredibly popular TV show with people whose idiosyncrasies and everyday obsessions and trivialities are heightened to great comedic effect. Chekhov’s characters are just as quirky and conflicted as Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer. Because, well … they’re human. They’re real. As Trigorin reminds us, we “are all so fucked up in such endlessly fascinating ways,” that he can’t help but to love us. He can’t help but loving the messy, complex, weird beings that we are.

And he’s right … ‘cause, you know, he’s brilliant.

Applause to the Understudies

By Damaris Montalvo

As the kind of gal who watches the same play multiple times, I’ve got to say I love understudies. I’ve written about the beauty of repeat viewings before, and one of the key reasons I love them is that I get to see a slightly different play every time. So when an understudy enters the scene, he or she brings with him/her a different kind of energy and a different interpretation of the character that makes things newly exciting. This is actually why I really appreciate that The Antaeus Company double-casts each show, as it allows me to see different hues of the same color.

Futura_artAt Boston Court, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing various understudies come onstage. The first understudy I recall was Julia Silverman, who stood in for Bonita Friedericy as the character of the typography professor in Futura. I remember experiencing Bonita as more emotional and Julia as more stoic, and I enjoyed them both. The emotional version of the Professor allowed me to connect with her passion and love for the written language, for ink, for smudges; the stoic version of the Professor presented a woman who was such a fierce force to be reckoned with, that The Corporation couldn’t bring her down. And both versions were true to the character.

everythingEarlier this year, I got to see Teya Patt understudy for Kirsten Vangsness in Everything You Touch, which has been one of my favorite shows at Boston Court. I had thought that Kirsten was Jess, so I’ll admit that I had a little trepidation at the thought of anyone else playing Jess. But when I learned that her understudy was Teya, I started feeling more ease. I had seen Teya in Heavier than…, and one of her strengths is her comedic delivery and timing, so I knew she’d bring that to a character who renders her journey to identity and acceptance with a fair amount of nerdy, self-deprecating hilarity. I learned with Teya’s performance that Jess could, in fact, have a different skin. I loved how Kirsten learned to accept and play with the models/muses/chorus, while Teya was watchfully suspicious of them. I also loved that in a show where fashion is quintessential to the story and the characters, Kirsten and Teya’s outfits in the last scene were unique to them. I enjoyed this seemingly small detail because it would have been easy to have the understudy, but this show is about fashion as an extension of your identity, and it wouldn’t have been right to make them fit into the same fashion mold for a scene that’s all about self-identity and acceptance. So it was fitting for their outfits to be tailored to each of them.

Recently, I actually got to see an understudy performance for Stupid Fucking Bird, with the entire understudy cast. The only other time I’d seen an understudy performance was with How to Disappear Completely and Never be Found, so it had been a while, and I was greatly looking forward to it. I deeply enjoyed all the subtle differences between each cast.

SFB_Cast_v3I loved how Amy Pietz plays a bitter, biting, attention-seeking Emma, but I loved Stasha Surdyke’s subtlety, patience, and elegance in the kitchen scene when she convinces Trigorin to stay with her. I loved how Emily Goss enhances Nina’s radiant youthfulness, but I also loved how Zarah Mahler’s maturity contributes to Nina’s seduction of Trigorin. I loved Will Bradley’s tour de force performance that makes me feel every feeling there is, but I’m also convinced Jeff Nichols is Conrad, with his hipster, artistic angst. I could go on like this about the rest of the cast, but I think you get the point.

Ultimately, I appreciate understudies for their willingness to commit to their role with as much passion and dedication as the main cast. And I love that they support each other, too. When Stasha understudied for Amy last time I saw the play, I noticed that the entire understudy cast was in the audience, supporting her.

I think they all deserve our respect and our support.