ISC IAMBIC Creating Transformation a Weekend of free workshops February 23-26
The weekend of the SAG AWARDS I had the pleasure of attending a series of free workshops at the INDEPDENT SHAKESPEARE COMPANY (ISC). I have not written about ISC here before. The reason I have not covered them a great deal is because I know the directors Melissa Chalsma and DAVID Melville. I actually took some classes in SHAKESPEARE acting with DAVID. I met them both back in 2006 shortly after I moved into LOS FELIZ. THE ISC used to perform in BARNSDALE park just blocks from where I currently live. I wanted to keep ARTISTIC HOPE professional. To me it still is. In AMERICA we have a tendency to forget that people can be a business all to themselves. Every artist and ACTOR is a business. A solo practitioner. Because I know DAVID and MELISSA I was hesitant to write about ISC here because well, personal BIAS. But the way ISC conducts its services as a performing arts group fit with the goals of ARTISTIC HOPE, to both create art and also create positive change. (This website is not a nonprofit, but a source of information and opinions.)
ISC periodically gives what are called IAMBIC workshops for free that are part performance and part education. IAMBIC is the meter or rhythm Shakespeare uses in his poetry and plays. This is ISC’s Iambic Workshop number 23. Creating Transformation started with Cocktails and Coward: Adapting “PRIVATE LIVES.” ” Private Lives” is ISC’s next in studio production. This was an informative open talk with the audience about this play and how it is being adapted for the Los Angeles audience. It was an opportunity to learn about how this production is going to be made and the direction that ISC is taking.
I received the following post card in the mail the week after the IAMBIC lab, perfect timing. MARKETERS for THEATER take note. Timing can be everything with marketing a production. It is the most important aspect of the business of running any art organization. If no one knows a show is going on, there will be no audience no matter how good the art is.
The panel of speakers for “Cocktails and Cowards” was David, Melissa and Nilhil Pai the director. David and Melissa are the stars of the show. David apparently is a fan of the Playwright and has always wanted to do his work. Nikhil mentioned that he was not familiar with the playwright having studied theater in America. Private lives was written by Noel Coward, a British writer. I had never heard of him either. He apparently is better known for songwriting, at least outside of the UK. However the audience of the workshop seemed to be very familiar with Noel Coward and his work. He was an actor and film maker. By 1929, and I found this information on line, he was one of the highest paid writers in the world. Shame on us for not knowing about him. He lived from 1899 to 1973, which would make him a MODERN playwright. American contemporaries would be TENNESEE WILLIAMS and EUGENE O’NEILL. During World War 2 he ran the British Propaganda Office in Paris.
“PRIVATE LIVES” is a 1930s play set in the 1920s. However, ISC is adapting this play and it is the first time this play has been altered from its original form in the Unites States. It is in the public domain. ISC is moving both the time and location. Instead of 1920s France, the play is going to be set in 1950s Acapulco and Palm Springs, 1950s Hollywood. Part of the discussion was a slide show of images that will be used the inspire the costumes and set design, as well as showing us clips of Noel Coward performing and audio files of possible music they may use for the production. David Melville is going to be performing and singing during the production. I believe he is trying to learn PIANO for it. I have not read this play, but it is about a wealthy couple, divorced and remarried. They meet again on their honeymoons and run off together. Both the 1920s in the UK and the 1950s in the UNITED STATES were times of pomp and show. Both divorce and infidelity would have been seen as scandalous by today’s standards. This was discussed as part of the work shop and it was revealed that the play was almost banned by the Lord Chamberlain but Coward appealed, acting out the objectionable scenes himself, to show that they would be done in good taste.
Melissa Chalsma informed us they intend to alter the play to fit the time period, but probably over 80% of the original play will be untouched. I pointed out that moving the play to the 1950s is perfect for today’s audience. First, the 1950s is the age of the current BABY BOOMER generation that is the older set in political power right now. Second the X generation, for which I am a member, grew up in the 70s and 80s but the TV Shows we all watched as kids were written by the generation that were teenagers in the 1950s. TV and film has a tendency to lag about 10 to 15 years behind the current generation who are children. Because the people who are writing for TV and film are typically 20 and up in age. Third the political atmosphere of today is the result of these conflicting generations. What I am adding here is that the 1950s was the time when the US put GOD into the PLEDGE and was the time of HOLLYWOOD BLACKLISTING by the elite. I say that instead of patriots versus socialist, because some of the people blacklisted probably did not deserve it. Yet it was also a time when scandal happened but was hidden. The occurrences in this play would have still been questionably moral in the 50s. Ironically there is a scary movement in the US to move us back to a time when divorce and infidelity would be socially criminal. Nikhil and Melissa both pointed out that this play is about soul mates and love. I think it is important to see this play because it has never been re-imagined like this, and we live at a time where some want a return to the old and others want to move forward. Reliving the past through art may take the rose colored glasses off. Life can never go back. It can only go forward. But we can artistically recreate the past to reflect on our present.
Here is a 1964 TV show called “What’s my line?” starring Noel Coward as a guest star.
The play runs from April 6- May 7th 2023 and see ISCLA.org for details.
Stage reading of Galatea by John Lyly
The second workshop of IAMCIC Creating Transformation was a stage reading of a Contemporary of Shakespeare, GALATEA. It was first performed for Queen Elizabeth I for New Years in 1588 by the all boys Children of St Paul’s troupe.
Below is the program with the list of actors.
The performance was a stage reading with minimum costumes and props. Many of the actors played multiple roles and used costume props and voice changes to tell this story. It is similar to Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors” but also has characters intentionally not playing the sex they were born to be. Think “Comedy of Errors” meets “Twelfth Night” with the mythology of “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” They had a guest speaker for the post Q&A, Dr. Juan Lamata, Assistant Professor of Literature at Cal State Los Angeles. I asked Lamata if Lyly would have known Shakespeare as he would have been about 23 or 24 when this play was done. He informed us that Shakespeare did know Lyle and made fun of him in his plays. He also pointed out that the messsage of this play is very modern, that how one is born does not control who one loves.
This play should be put on as a full production. It has some very modern themes, like Transgender identity, and loving who you love. Also there is a sub plot with characters who discuss unemployment and labor issues of the day that are very relatable. I think this was a great way to introduce this rarely done production to the modern audience with minimum production costs. A way to get the word out that this story exists. With all the trans hate I think that maybe this play could be a way to express a message safely in areas where trans shows are being threatened. Just cast the characters as the sex they were born with actors who actually are trans. For example one of the characters is a girl dressed as a boy, so cast a trans man. But be careful. Don’t let people know the truth. I normally do not condone lying. I hate it. But this play may be a safety net for expressing values of love and understanding.
I wonder if ISC will perform this production and I hope I am not stealing their thunder by putting this IDEA out there. FYI I do support JK Rowling, or at least condemn people attacking her. As a woman who has been assaulted you need to understand she lives with fear and it never really goes away. She is honestly scared for women. CONSENT is important for all, women, gay, trans, and men. We all deserve respect over our own bodies. It is not healthy to feel like you do not have control over your own identity but also if you do not feel your body is safe from others abuse and control.
The year 45 became President everyone was doing the SCOTTHISH PLAY. Maybe 2024 should be the year of Galatea.
On Saturday February 25th they had a discussion with Juan Lamata, due to other plans and the weather, I did not attend.
Screening of Live at the Portentine: A Comedy of Errors and a Q&A
Sunday Feburary 26th, the final day of the IAMBIC workshop weekend was a film. “Live at the Portentine” was shot during the Pandemic and is a SAG AFTRA film. It is a re-imagined adatation of “Comedy of Errors” about two sets of twins who are split apart in a town where one set is from Syracuse and the other is not, and anyone from Syracuse is not welcome. It is a 1960s musical. The events of the movie all take place on one day where the two sets of twins cross paths and misdirection and miscommunication lead to brilliant comedy.
The movie has a sound track that is very Jazzy. David Melville wrote the lyrics and performs the instruments and the lead vocals are done by actress Erika Soto who plays Frau Mueller. This is not Shekespeare’s “Comedy of Errors,” or the Latin version written by Plautus. Shakespeare probably plagiarized. This is a fun musical romp. I found the music on Amazon. Check it out for yourself. The film is worth a watch to anyone who is a fan of Shakespeare and musicals.
The participants for the Q&A were David Melville, the writer and Director, Producer Melissa Chalsma and Supervising Producer Cary Reynolds, along with the Cinematographer and Editor William Lancaster. Lancaster told us this was his first full feature production. They shot it digitally with minimum crew, and he edited it with PREMIERE PRO. They used a rig like a steady cam arm to shot some of the shots in order to repeat scenes with the same actors playing twins. Lancaster said he did a lot of compositing, which is using After effects to layer film clips to create effects. It is what editors do with green screen film to create the final work, though it also works with out green sceen depending on the intent.
I am very impressed with this film. Lancaster pointed out that they were impressed with how the actors kept track of what costume they had to where and when. Theater trained actors know that it is their responsibility to keep track of those things. I remember working on film and tv sets I always tried to turn in my wardrobe the way I got it. Details matter. In film and television it is the same. Actors have to be on top of not just their lines, but on everthing that belongs to their character, props and costume.
Please check out the IMDB for this film. Here is the TRAILER.
An overview of the ENTIRE IAMBIC 23 can be found on ISC’s website.