THE THREEPENNY OPERA, FIGARO & More Set for A Noise Within's 2014-15 Season
A Noise Within, led by Producing Artistic Directors Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, announces its 23rd season of classic theater in Southern California. Informed by the climate of social and economic upheaval in which we live, the season's theme-reflected in a kaleidoscopic palette of plays-is REVOLUTION.
"We have always crafted overarching themes for our repertory seasons," says Geoff Elliott, "but none has presented itself as organically and viscerally as this year's." Julia Rodriguez-Elliott reinforces this notion, adding, "In many ways, the idea of REVOLUTION had entered our collective consciousness in ways that all but dared us not to embrace it. As a director, I am especially energized by the concept of 'disorderly conduct'-both because it appears as a theme in every one of these plays, and because wherever we look, it is rearing its head in the forms of civic, social, and political unrest."
The company's revolutionary season unfurls this fall with Shakespeare's The Tempest, followed by The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, and The Dance of Death (Part 1) by August Strindberg. Spring 2015 includes The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, Figaro by Beaumarchais (adapted by Charles Morey), and concludes with Julius Caesar by Shakespeare. The season once again includes A Noise Within's annual holiday tradition, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, adapted for the stage by Geoff Elliott.
"Throughout history, the very best plays have stirred rebellious ideas and demanded discussion -hushed in back alleys, contemptuously in the halls of power, and out loud in the streets as in Julius Caesar. But we can't discount the fact that personal revolutions, like those in The Dance of Death and The Tempest, often laid the groundwork for revolt of a wider sort," said ANW's Co-Producing Artistic Director, Julia Rodriguez-Elliott. "The great dramatic disruptors understood the disarming power of humor-so The Importance of Being Earnest and Figaro (in a provocative and rarely produced adaptation) are also among the season's plays. And of course, The Threepenny Opera is revolutionary in style as well as subject matter; in many ways, it introduced a revolutionary coalescence of music and drama-and augured even more avant-garde theatrical styles to come."
The theme inspires the new season's staging as well: for the first time ever, A Noise Within unveils REVOLUTIONRep. On three spring dates, audiences will have the option to experience a heady day of theatre when The Threepenny Opera and Julius Caesar are presented on the same set sequentially. This is an event that brims with talks by noted experts, chats with cast and crew, a deckside dinner, and lively social interaction with other theatergoers.
Julia Rodriguez-Elliott says, "REVOLUTIONRep is the kind of event I dreamed about from the first time I saw our new home (the former Stuart Pharmaceutical Building in East Pasadena). It promises a completely new theatrical experience, one where we forge alliances among our patrons, company, and cast-and also celebrate the magnificently diverse communities we serve."
While new in format, REVOLUTIONRep brings to high relief the repertory platform that has made A Noise Within one of the country's premier presenters of classical plays. "In many ways, this unique event punctuates the very premise of repertory theatre, and brings it front and center," says Geoff Elliott. "Patrons will enjoy a bird's-eye view of the repertory process, and get a glimpse of how its interlocking components allow us to present so wide a variety of theatre all season long. Chief among these are our nurturing of Resident Artists, a focus on ingenious stagecraft, and unwavering commitment to the participation of guest directors, actors, and behind-the-scenes crew. What results is a creative cauldron that constantly bubbles with new ideas and theatrical invention."
The co-producing artistic directors also proudly announce A Noise Within's inaugural collaboration with LA Opera on Figaro Unbound: Culture, Power and Revolution at Play. The two companies' offerings in 2015 celebrate Figaro, one of the most glorious and influential of fictional creations, with ANW's performances of this adaptation of Beaumarchais' classic play The Marriage of Figaro presented in close concurrence with LA Opera's performances of operatic adaptations of the Beaumarchais trilogy: Rossini's The Barber of Seville, Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro and John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles-based on La Mere Coupable (The Guilty Mother). For more information, please visit www.LAOpera.org/FigaroUnbound.
A Noise Within's 2014-2015 Season: The Seven Plays
The Tempest by William Shakespeare
One of Shakespeare's final works, The Tempest occupies an in-between world that straddles the fine line between the ethereal (magic, fairies, and hybrid humans) and the real (love, freedom, and the power of nature). The Tempest tells the tragicomic tale of Prospero, The Duke of Milan, and his daughter, Miranda, who are marooned on an island by Prospero's brother, Antonio.
When Antonio's ship is run aground by a massive storm, he and his comrades must navigate an isle rife with spirits and temptation. It is a morality tale about the rulers and the ruled, and how those roles can shift over time. Written in 1610-11, The Tempest is said to be Shakespeare's farewell to the theatre - driven home by Prospero's famous final speech, in which he drowns his book of magic in the sea. The revolution here is both political and personal; and the theme of those who rule vs. those who are ruled is a major part of the play. This will be the third production of The Tempest for A Noise Within, which also mounted the play in 1993 and 2006; going against the grain, in true revolutionary form Prospero will be cast with a female in the role (ANW favorite Deborah Strang).
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
A satire of the Victorian era, The Importance of Being Earnest is considered one of the best-loved comedies in the English literary canon. Wilde's play savages the intricacies of manners and social mores of that time and is one of the first encapsulations of what we now know as "gay sensibility", generally considered to be a cornerstone of theatrical work. First performed in 1895, Earnest is lighter in tone than Wilde's earlier comedies and was immediately acclaimed by audiences all over England. Sadly, it was to be his last play; soon after through a series of very public trials involving his lover's homophobic father, he was sentenced to prison for "gross indecency." Wilde changed forever the way social mores are portrayed on stage-a revolutionary tack mirrored by events in his own life. Oscar Wilde's other notable works include The Picture of Dorian Gray, Lady Windermere's Fan, and An Ideal Husband. A Noise Within previously produced The Importance of Being Earnest in 1994.
The Dance of Death (Part 1) by August Strindberg
Written in 1900, The Dance of Death depicts the dissolution of a marriage between Edgar, an artillery captain, and Alice, a former actress. This couple, married for a quarter century, lives on a remote Nordic island - the ideal setting for feelings of claustrophobia and dysfunction.
When Kurt, Alice's cousin arrives in their manipulative marital landscape, the intensity escalates into a deadly battle of wills. Strindberg's mordant yet bracingly funny play about spouses revolting against one another was revolutionary in its brutally honest depiction of marital discord and psychological warfare, and influenced an array of 20th century playwrights (not the least of whom are Edward Albee and John Guare).
The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill (Feingold version)
An adaptation of The Beggar's Opera by John Gay, The Threepenny Opera debuted in Berlin in 1928. This forerunner of modern musical theatre follows the exploits of Macheath, Victorian London's most notorious criminal. It highlights the failure of capitalism and celebrates socialism, all the while introducing a stage full of rogues; thus, by foisting a radical new brand of theatre with music (rather than "musical theatre") upon an unsuspecting public, the work was rebellious both in form and content. Threepenny is nothing short of a groundbreaking work of what is now termed "epic theatre" whose hallmarks include a gesticular mode of acting, full chorus, and innovative use of lighting and projections.
When first produced, the musical challenged the audience's notions of how songs could be used to tell a story, and the characters' ostensible amorality was thought unworthy of expressing in song. A Noise Within previously produced The Threepenny Opera in 1997.
Figaro by Pierre Beaumarchais (translated and adapted by Charles Morey)
Figaro is an adaptation of the second of the three Figaro plays penned by a member of French royal court, Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais; Lorenzo Da Ponte later adapted the work as the basis of the beloved Mozart opera. Beaumarchais, a French playwright, watchmaker, inventor, musician, diplomat, and revolutionary, played small but incendiary roles in both the American and French revolutions.
The Marriage of Figaro, the sequel to the playwright's The Barber of Seville, was initially passed by the censor in 1781, but was soon banned from being performed by Louis XVI. Queen Marie-Antoinette lamented the ban. The King finally lifted the ban in 1784 and the play was enormously popular, even with aristocratic audiences.
The play's denunciation of aristocratic privilege foreshadows the French Revolution. The New York Times said, "Most people know the plots of the two Beaumarchais plays from their respective operatic adaptation. Both pieces follow the same gleefully warring cast of boorish aristocrats and quick-thinking servants, but the farce has a dark side that's savagely vivid in the originals. Marriage, which had its premiere in 1784, seethes even more harshly with the class resentments that boiled over in the French Revolution just a few years later."
The artistic directors also proudly announce A Noise Within's inaugural collaboration with LA Opera on Figaro Unbound: Culture, Power and Revolution at Play. The two companies' offerings in 2015 celebrate Figaro, one of the most glorious and influential of fictional creations, with ANW's performances of this adaptation of Beaumarchais' classic play The Marriage of Figaro presented in close concurrence with LA Opera's performances of operatic adaptations of the Beaumarchais trilogy: Rossini's The Barber of Seville, Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro and John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles-based on La Mere Coupable (The Guilty Mother). For more information, please visit www.LAOpera.org/FigaroUnbound.
Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
A play of shifting civic tides, paranoia, and betrayal, Julius Caesar (previously produced by the company in 2005) is a tense thriller steeped in civil war and the unending quest for power. Brutus, in concert with a cabal of senators fearing for the future of the Republic, slays its one true threat, Julius Caesar, but underestimates his power as emperor. The assassination throws the Republic into chaos and leads to the first Triumvirate.
This play demands that its viewers consider just how far revolution can be taken. Though in Julius Caesar it is taken to the ultimate degree-assassination.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
2014 marks the third year the company has presented their popular and critically acclaimed production of A Christmas Carol, adapted by Co-Producing Artistic Director Geoff Elliott, with original music by Ego Plum. "Remounting our acclaimed presentation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol allows families to once again take a supremely theatrical journey, celebrating the transformative power of forgiveness during the holidays," says Elliott. Julia Rodriguez-Elliott adds, "Ebenezer Scrooge's rebirth from miserly curmudgeon to the epitome of love and generosity affirms our faith in the potent goodness of human kind during this joyful time of year."