Today is Giving Tuesday!

Today, people across the nation
are giving to their favorite non-profits.
Please donate today to show your support for We Players!

With YOU as our ally, We Players transforms public spaces into stunning stages for multi-dimensional, full-sensory site-integrated theatre performances.

2016 was a banner year, with our Capulet Ball masquerades and an extended run of Romeo & Juliet in partnership with California State Parks and supported by the prestigious Montalvo Arts Center

Help us continue the momentum in 2017!

The new year starts in February with a special Season Launch Party
followed in March by the world-premiere of BEOWULF
at Aquatic Park and Fort Mason.

Join us this summer for live music concerts, including the
5th annual Canciones del Mar aboard the tall ship Balclutha.

Then, come summer (or fall), we’ll head into the forest together for a novel adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

We look forward to more great art together...
Please give generously today to We Players.

Join together, make great art,
give on Giving Tuesday

Artists of We: Monica Lundy's carborundum and intaglio prints

Once upon a time, long long ago, in the year 2011, We Players launched a gallery in the cell house on Alcatraz - a space still being used for visual art installations today! Monica Lundy's stunning portraits of the first female inmates at San Quentin (when that prison first opened it was co-ed) were featured in our first visual art exhibit in that fledgling gallery. We are so lucky to know Monica - we love her work, which has been shown at many galleries throughout the Bay Area over the years. Recently, Monica was invited to be the first international artist in residence at Stoney Road Press in Dublin, Ireland where she made a suite of prints with them.  Monica writes: "For this series, I decided to commence working on my upcoming, UK based project: portraits of Victorian era psychiatric patients from London based insane asylums."  She has just announced the arrival of a new suite of limited edition, fine art prints from that residency, and we are so excited to help spread the word! 

Monica at work

Monica at work

"I was in Ireland a little over 3 weeks, working every day, sometimes day and night. I worked with two printmaking methods: Carborundum printing and intaglio. The culmination of this process being a suite of 4 different original fine art prints, printed on hand made Indian paper.  The prints were based on photos I found while researching at archives in London last fall.  The portraits are of 19th century insane asylum patients from both West Riding Asylum and Bethlem Royal Hospital (one of the oldest and most infamous hospitals, also known as “Bedlam”). At long last, after months of working on these both in Dublin, followed by corresponding across continents to complete the fine-tuning of colors, the suite of 4 prints is complete. Each of the 4 different prints is in a limited edition of 25."  -  Monica Lundy

“Harriet” Gesso and Carborundum print on handmade Indian paper 54 x 38 in. / 137 x 97 cm. Edition of 25

“Harriet”
Gesso and Carborundum print on handmade Indian paper
54 x 38 in. / 137 x 97 cm.
Edition of 25

“William” Gesso and Carborundum print on handmade Indian paper 54 x 38 in. / 137 x 97 cm. Edition of 25

“William”
Gesso and Carborundum print on handmade Indian paper
54 x 38 in. / 137 x 97 cm.
Edition of 25

“Acute Melancholia” Intaglio print on handmade Indian paper 30 x 22 in. / 76 x 56 cm. Edition of 25

“Acute Melancholia”
Intaglio print on handmade Indian paper
30 x 22 in. / 76 x 56 cm.
Edition of 25

“Consecutive Dementia” Intaglio print on handmade Indian paper 30 x 22 in. / 76 x 56 cm. Edition of 25

“Consecutive Dementia”
Intaglio print on handmade Indian paper
30 x 22 in. / 76 x 56 cm.
Edition of 25

The prints have debuted in New York at IFPDA Print Fair, from there they will travel to fairs in Dublin, Miami, Los Angeles and Portland.

Want to see the work in person? Here's the where and when...

IFPDA Print Fair: New York,  Nov. 3-6, 2016   www.ifpda.org/content/print-fair  
VUE: Dublin, Nov. 3-6, 2016   www.vueartfair.ie

INK Art Fair : Miami, Nov. 30- Dec. 4, 2016   www.inkartfair.com
Portland Fine Print Fair: Portland, OR.  Jan. 27-29, 2017   http://portlandfineprintfair.com/
Los Angeles Fine Print Fair: Los Angeles, Feb.4-5, 2017   http://losangeles-fineprintfair.com/

For pricing or more information, you can contact Stoney Road Press at: 
email:  info@stoneyroadpress.com
website:  www.stoneyroadpress.com

Special for those of us here in the Bay Area - there are limited sets available through Nancy Toomey Fine Art. 
email:  nancy@nancytoomeyfineart.com
website:  www.nancytoomeyfineart.com

 

Congratulations Monica! With love from all of We! xx

"I still will stay with thee"

"Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds!" 
My my, such a long and wild journey we've been on! 

2016 has been a grand experiment in stretching my process and practice. We spent SEVEN months working together - the same ensemble, creative and production team endured THREE tech weeks for essentially THREE very different productions (albeit all interpretations of Romeo & Juliet), built carefully into SIX different sites ranging from the dusty, dry expanse of rugged fields in Petaluma, to a 14th century inspired Italian castle (complete with a moat and a torture chamber), to the sleek lines of a steel and glass modern home, to the lush lawns and gardens of a prestigious villa. 

We ended our journey on Sunday October 16, 2016 with a double header at the Montalvo Arts Center, performing in the pouring rain for the matinee (then occupying virtually every dryer in the Los Gatos laundromat to whisk the costumes back into shape for the evening performance). Many, many hours later - packing and loading and driving and unloading and sorting and sifting and washing and organizing - Romeo & Juliet is settling into slumber and those touched by the experience can begin sifting through our individual and collective memories. Hopefully images and sensations will continue to arise as we move through our own journeys of love and loss and discovery, heart-break and heart-swells. Sounds and scents in the landscape may draw our attention back to the dry alfalfa grasses of Petaluma and the stunning sunsets crowning Juliet's death corral, or perhaps to the ionized air after the torrential rain, when the green earth pounds its vibrancy against the immaculate background of white columns and archways in Juliet's final resting place in the "Temple of Love" at Montalvo. 

Temple of Love, Italianate Garden - Photo by Ava Roy

Temple of Love, Italianate Garden - Photo by Ava Roy

Romeo and Juliet at Petaluma Adobe - Photo by Lauren Matley

Romeo and Juliet at Petaluma Adobe - Photo by Lauren Matley

 

Much of my reflection will be private. I will go to Iceland in December, into the darkness (literally) to absorb the lessons, to reflect on the highs and lows, to detach from both the stresses as well as the successes, to get quiet and clear enough to move forward honestly into the next experiment, the next pushing of the edges of my creative practice. Soon, I'll be shifting into the sagas of Nordic heroes and investigating monsters of the inhospitable realms of untamed earth and psyche. I'll be joining forces with some inimitable collaborators - the searing satirical intellect and humor of Nathaniel Justiniano of Naked Empire Bouffon, the astounding physical precision and improvisational prowess of Shinichi and Dana Iova-Koga of inkBoat dance theatre, and the profound sounds of avant-garde saxophone quartet Rova, a team of musicians truly enviable for their deep listening skills developed over nearly four decades of collaboration. Together, along with Charlie Gurke, We Players' resident Music Director and composer, and myself - performing again after a 2016 hiatus from the stage - we'll create something entirely new, as yet unknown to any of us, inspired by the ancient poem Beowulf. 

Soon we'll begin to share the images and visions that will guide our journey into that cave of shadows...

At the moment though, Juliet still swirls in my heart. "Dear Juliet, why are art thou yet so fair? Shall I believe that insubstantial death is amorous, and that the lean abhorred monster keeps thee here in dark to be his paramour? For fear of that I still will stay with thee."

And I will. I'll spill a bit more ink on you yet. And you, yon reader out there on your screen somewhere - if you're interested in this clatter of keys, this tap tap tapping out of memories from this 2016 R&J journey, well, you are most welcome. Perhaps drift off into your own daydream of memories from your year. Fall is a good time for letting go, for letting things fall away. It's good to long a little for what we're letting go of...even as we know this release will open the window into tomorrow. If this is your moment to sign off, thanks for accompanying me this far and see you next time! Those of you sticking around...

Brave actors - thank you so much for sharing the journey with me. For trusting me with the bulk of your year and courageously moving from site to site, integrating with each new environment and letting each space inspire you and dramatically shift your interior landscape. It was stunning to watch the inner life of your characters evolve over time and from location to location. Lady Capulet how you swayed your hips and devoured the vast open space in Petaluma, only to pull inwards towards sharper, cleaner lines and tight fisted control among the refined structures of Montalvo. Oh Tybalt! How you sulked at the adobe as an insulted and belittled boy who just wanted to claim some shred of dignity. In your own words, "Who just wanted to matter and who hated Mercutio for having made him kill her. Who had no choice but to go back and kill Romeo, or die trying. Some of the best acting I've ever done was out in that field, alone, for no one, realizing what he'd just done and where he could go from there...what a thing to look at your dagger and see someone else's blood on it." And then what Montalvo did to you! You didn't plan it, but your communication with the space led you somewhere entirely new. Mean and violent and definitely dignified. Who, instead of battling with himself out on the open field, intentionally creeps back through the forest to kill Romeo. To stab him in the back if you can time it right. You described it to me that the experience was "Almost like his psyche is being determined from the outside in. I knew one version of Tybalt, but another, different in so many ways, was just lying in wait. This one doesn't think there could be anything wrong with killing Mercutio or a Montague....Coming back to kill someone, what a weird thing to imagine. What a thing that most people don't imagine. Sneaking up to kill a person. it comes so naturally being up there on that hill...The lasting image I have from the adobe is falling on the hard dirt, knowing I'm about to die. The image that will stay with me from Montalvo is creeping up to the back of unsuspecting Romeo's head, ready to kill him."

Each of you taught me so much about the truth of letting the space inform your characters. Thank you.

Rehearsals in April at Montalvo Arts Center - Photo by Tina Case

Rehearsals in April at Montalvo Arts Center - Photo by Tina Case

In April we lived together in the 10 live/work studios of the incredible Sally and Don Lucas Arts Residency Program Center at Montalvo. I recall the sun drenched mornings. The cry and clatter of crickets. The sense of both subtle and significant progress. Of artistry - collective and individual - daily moving apace. The late nights full of surprises, like that April full moon when the two owls called to each other back and forth, back and forth, late into the night, into the early morning even. In bed listening - 1am listening, 1:30am listening, 2am listening… Are they lovers? Friends? Sharing in the hunt? Arguing? What can I learn from them? How do I attune my listening such that nature can teach me how to proceed with the work? The sense of being at summer camp with these artists, who are good people. Big generous hearts all round. In Shakespeare summer camp, our text work pierces the valley air along with the sounds of construction and hikers and local birds blending in their song. The clean breeze feels gentle and kind. 

Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park - Photo by Miller Oberlin

Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park - Photo by Miller Oberlin

 

In each site the environment offers sudden surprises that enrich the meaning and delight the senses. In Petaluma a frenetic swallow took jagged flight at the very moment Mercutio was stabbed, as if her surprised soul was leaving her body in a rush. One day, as we rounded the corner of the adobe to lay Juliet to rest in her corral full of black crosses, a dozen stoic black bulls stood hulking in their massiveness in the pasture beyond. At twilight, for those remembering to look up, a criss-crossing of bats streaked the violet sky as the death mask was placed on Juliet's face. Then the hawk that screeched it's high, clear cry as she was laid into the open tomb. That sunny Sunday matinee when Benvolio and Mercutio loitered listlessly in the hot summer sun and Tybalt approached with hate in his eyes and a vulture swooped down from the sky, as if on cue, circling the feverous trio, waiting to see who would die first and possibly become its next meal. And who among those present can forget the precious moment during the marriage of Romeo and Juliet when just as the lovers kissed and said amen a burst of wings shot up from the great walnut tree as a flock of red-winged blackbirds took flight!

We'll bow our heads with humble acceptance for the sometimes distracting noise of traffic and inopportune airplanes, for these golden moments where art and nature align in precious, unrepeatable beauty.  

Yes. But sometimes the forces of nature held us right up against the edge of the possible. And we invited the audience to uncross their arms and legs, to lurch from their would-be theatre seats, and instead lean into the experience with us. We don't pretend they're not there. They don't pretend they're not there. We are actually all inhabiting the same space together, scorching sun or pouring rain notwithstanding. This is a different request of the audience. To be willing to navigate occasional discomfort to be fully immersed into the world with us. It isn't always easy, but we hope it's worth it.  

THANK YOU for this huge, long adventure. Thank you artists and thank you audiences for leaning in and joining in at Capulet Ball parties, at Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park, at the Montalvo Arts Center. Don't forget to get out and play, no matter the weather. 

Death Procession to the Temple - photo by Miller Oberlin

Death Procession to the Temple - photo by Miller Oberlin

 

"The show was FABULOUS!!!  It was the most memorable theater experience of my life, apart from the downpour. The 3 hours flew by! The experience of following the players from scene to scene, and in many cases interacting with them, was so engaging. The actors were superb...and then there was the final scene at the crypt, when the steps were covered with dead bodies and Juliet's mother was weeping, surrounded by Montagues and Capulets, and the narrator walks among them and tells us, "We're in mourning. Go home now." -- WHOA.  No curtain call, no applause, no chatting with happy actors after the show. Just this end...And the actors stayed in character (we saw Juliet's mother crying -- and several cousins leaning on poles crying and consoling one another, all the way up to the parking lot). SUPERB!!! And it will be a huge advantage for my daughter Juliette when she sits in class and wades through the play, like they do in so many old-school high school English classes; Shakespeare is meant to be ACTED and LIVED.  Well, it doesn't get any more alive than the We Players on Sunday."  - Vikki B, audience member.

   

 

 

Flashback

Under the scorching sun at Petaluma Adobe, We Players built a play in the dusty streets of our Wild West Verona...

Have you met Romeo?

Meet the gallant Mohammad Shehata!

Q) How has working with We Players changed your perspective of theater, or of the world at large?
A) We Players emphasizes all of those things which make theatre unique and separate from any other form of art or entertainment. I’m reminded of the great potential for intimacy and awe in theatre which can only come from the kind of communion that We Players aims so clearly to establish.

Q) Describe We Players in four words.
A) Community. Brave. Mysterious. Now.

Q) Any funny or memorable We Players moments, anecdotes, quotes/metaphors you'd like to share?
A) We went to dinner as our characters one night, and were given special missions to accomplish while at dinner. One of my tasks was to be in disguise, so I put on a Russian accent. It made no sense but it was crazy fun. It was like a version of Romeo and Juliet put on by 5 year olds who just stole and devoured Mama’s cookie batter. That’s what we get up to in rehearsal… what the hell are we doing?

Q) Tell us about some new favorite of yours, whether it's a lunch dish, a singer, movie, color, or something else entirely. What is it about this new thing that's rocking your world?
A) I’ve seen the film A Separation (written and directed by Asghar Farhadi) about 8 times now. Talk about flawless filmmaking. I require all of you to view it. You’ll be reminded of what it’s like to be nourished in every way a story caught on camera is supposed to nourish you.

All photos by Lauren Matley

Howard Levitt, 35 years with the Park Service

If you're not yet receiving the newsletter from the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, we want to share with you a recent post celebrating one of our favorite, most valued and visionary park stewards we know: Howard Levitt. Howard has been a champion for We Players in the parks for nearly 10 years and we are so grateful to know him and honored to call him a friend. Thank you Howard! Here is the post from "The Gateway" newsletter...

"After 35 years in the National Park Service, Howard Levitt - the director of communications and partnerships for Golden Gate National Recreational Area- is retiring in October. As the NPS liaison to the Parks Conservancy, Howard is also one of our closest friends and most admired rangers. His visionary leadership has helped transform park sites, promote parks and places of health, and welcome new and diverse visitors to the parks.

Gateway's question for him was simple: What will you remember most about your 30 years at Golden Gate?

"Golden Gate is in my heart and soul. I have far too many park memories to count, but a few come to mind. In 1983, my wife and I decided to get married while we were walking in Tennessee Valley. I have gone with dear friends on dozens of full-moon hikes over the ridge to Muir Beach. I've traced the perimeter of the Presidio on foot many times while visiting the Andy Goldsworthy artwork scattered throughout the post.

"I've seen marvelous Shakespearean performances at Fort Point, Alcatraz, and Sutro Heights Park. I've watched tearful visitors writing postcards to political prisoners after viewing the powerful art installations by Ai Weiwei at Alcatraz.

"I've seen proud new Americans sworn in as citizens at Immigrant Point Overlook. I witnessed a United States Army general (Lt. Gen. Glynn Mallory) welcome a former Soviet president (Mikhail Gorbachev) to the Presidio. I've seen San Francisco kids from the Mission District glimpse the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

"I partnered with the Conservancy in the genesis of that powerful change-maker, the Institute at the Golden Gate. I watched the greatest fireworks display I will probably ever see from the vantage point of Crissy Field, while celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

"I've been filled with hope as I watch the next generation of park leaders step up from Crissy Field Center and Park Stewardship programs and student internships into career positions with the National Park Service. And through it all, I have had the privilege of working with the greatest colleagues and partners anyone could ever have."

Howard, it has been the great privilege of this park - and the entire park community- to have you as our staunchest supporter and wisest friend. Thank you."

Romeo & Juliet at Villa Montalvo featured!

We're in the September edition of Modern Luxury Silicon Valley!

The article is a little difficult to read online as it's overlaid upon an image of Juliet, so we're sharing a copy of it here in plain text.

___________________________

SETTING THE SCENE

On a sprawling 175-acre landmark estate, a classic Shakespeare play is given an interactive twist. 

By Kate Evans

IN A FORTHCOMING production of Romeo and Juliet, Montalvo Arts Center promises to take the concept of audience participation to another level. A series of performances by We Players, the innovative theater troupe formed by Ava Roy at Stanford University in 2000, will capitalize on the magnificent setting in Saratoga: theatergoers will follow the Shakespeare characters throughout the grounds, immersing themselves in the scenery and storylines— from donning masquerade masks at the Capulet's ball held in the Italianate mansion Villa Montalvo to surrounding the sword-fighting action that takes place on the Great Lawn to witnessing the heartbreak in the Love Temple, where Juliet's tomb will be on view. 

"The first time I saw Villa Montalvo, it was talking to me— screaming at me," recalls Roy, whose company famously presented an islandwide staging of Hamlet on Alcatraz in 2010. "I'd been looking for a home for Romeo and Juliet for years. I had to get out of the fog and mist of San Francisco and, here in the South Bay, I found Italy." Nestled within acres of wildwood and sculptured gardens, Villa Montalvo— built in 1912 as a country home for former U. S. Senator and San Francisco Mayor James D. Phelan— sits on a gentle hill, overlooking the Great Lawn, which stretches down a slope to the cypress tree-lined formal garden below. "Because we create depth of perspective and a larger sphere of performance," Roy continues, "the audience is encouraged to look around them at all of the multidimensional elements: what other characters are doing over on that hill, or watching a servant set up for the ball." 

According to Angela McConnell, Montalvo's executive director, "[this] is is unlike anything we've ever staged here," she says. A production that involves open-air sets, as We Players' does, comes with its challenges— including seemingly simple logistics such as where to store costumes and props— as well as its rewards. "We will experience this classic in a new and intimate way," McConnell adds. "Where we, as the audience, are usually removed, here we will see every expression, share experiences and feel a connection to the artists." 

Oct. 6-16, Thu.-Sun., tickets $40-$80, 15400 Montalvo Road, Saratoga,408. 961.5858, montalvoarts.org

ACTING OUT In We Players' site-integrated production of Romeo and Juliet, Maria Leigh portrays the title female protagonist. 

ACTING OUT In We Players' site-integrated production of Romeo and Juliet, Maria Leigh portrays the title female protagonist. 

We Players Takes Textiles Faculty Sasha Duerr and Soil to Studio to the Stage

CCA students from the spring 2016 EcoTAP Soil to Studio course, taught by organic dye expert and Textiles Program faculty member Sasha Duerr, are seeing their work -- in the form of costumes made from natural dyed fabrics -- performed on stage by Bay Area site-specific theater company We Players. Read more at California College of the Arts!  

In addition to our collaboration with Soil to Studio (for both our 2016 production of Romeo & Juliet and our 2015 production of Ondine at Sutro), We Players is celebrated as a "valued community partner", recognizing our multiple offerings with undergraduate and graduate students at CCA. In addition to multiple in-class workshops led by Artistic Director Ava Roy, We Players has enjoyed several meaningful partnerships over the past 5 years...

Fall 2014
We Players served as the outside experts for a cross-listed Community Arts and Diversity Studies course, "Activating Public Space," taught by Center for Art and Public Life (the Center) Director Shalini Agrawal and Diversity Studies and Center scholar-in-residence Chris Treggiari.

Fall 2012
We Players, California State Parks / Angel Island, Angel Island Conservancy, and CCA collaborated to present site-specific student work in an island-wide public art installation on Angel Island.

The installation served as the central project of an MFA elective course, ENGAGE: Gatekeeping Nation, taught by CCA alumnus and We Players Visual Arts Director Patrick Gillespie (MFA 2009) and CCA First Year Program and Community Arts faculty member Aaron Gach.

Thanks CCA for your incredible role in our greater Bay Area Community!

OZY Interview & Video with our Artistic Director, Ava Roy

“Imagine standing next to Hamlet as he delivers the famous “To be, or not to be” soliloquy … beside the rusted bars of an Alcatraz prison cell. Or imagine breaking bread at a table next to the murderous Macbeth. These are the kind of immersive experiences that theater director Ava Roy believes will awaken your senses, and make the Bard’s words relevant in a new way.”

Click through to see the full interview!

Lana Richards- Production Spotlight

Meet Lana Richards, Production Assistant and Intern.

Prior to joining We Players, Lana just wrapped up a semester at the National Theater Institute in Waterford, CT, where she studied directing 15 hours a day, 7 days a week for three months. She-Ra is real!
 

Lana.jpg

Q) Describe We Players in four words…
A)Sensory, curious, personal, expansive

Q) How has working with We Players changed your perspective of theater, or of the world at large?
A) As a theater-maker and a human being, working with We Players has encouraged me to think about space in multi-dimensional and emotional ways. We Players lets you ask questions of the space just as you ask questions of the play–and in turn, ask yourself how you belong in the play, the space, this world, and beyond.

Q) Any funny or memorable We Players moments, anecdotes, quotes/metaphors you’d like to share?
A) The Petaluma Adobe is home to three lovely sheep named Barbara, Princess, and Frida. Maya and I like to greet them in the morning, and whenever we say, “Good morning ladies!” they usually turn to stare at us, and then they pee a little bit. It’s one of life’s little miracles.

Q) Tell us a little sumthin’ about you:
A) I just finished up a semester at the National Theater Institute in Waterford, CT… It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done and certainly the most rewarding.

Q) What is it about this new thing that’s rocking your world?
A) Earlier this summer I read 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write by Sarah Ruhl. It’s been influencing the way I think about theater and life in general, and I have no doubt I’ll read it again soon!

a life long love affair...

“The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet”

This is the show that began my love affair with Shakespeare... I played Juliet my freshman year of high school. Changed everything. Sports turned into iambic pentameter in an instant.

Flash forward! Spring of 2000, freshman year in college, We Players is born with a beautiful, ragtag array of friends in all the roles - actors-cum-doctors, engineers, scientists, social anthropologists in training - playing all the parts in, you guessed it, Romeo & Juliet.

It was set sprawling across the campus from the student union, through pedestrian thoroughfares, under archways, across courtyards, and finally arriving at a collection of iconic sculptures - Rodin’s The Burghers of Calais. We bit our thumbs and brawled in the cafeteria at high noon, were married in front of the stunning facade of Stanford’s Memorial Church, fought to the death in the center of the quad and were buried, by way of red ribbons that tied the dead bodies to the sculptures. The audience followed along, growing bigger, a great parade, and the fire-eyed fury and soaring love story of Juliet and her Romeo swept us along throughout the landscape. The concept and practice of We Players - this transforming of public space into immersive performance venues - was ignited.

Zoom into the future once more! Here we are, the summer of 2016. 16 years since the first We Players’ performance, our patchwork garb now converted to costumes dyed with the native plants of the land, our homemade cookies transformed into fine organic cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery, our shopping cart full of props is now become a team of talented designers and devoted production crew members, our studious friends respectfully replaced with some of the finest actors in the Bay Area, and our impromptu takeover of public spaces grown into a unique and very special partnership with both our State and National Parks. 

It is with great honor, humility, and joy that I share this production with you, dear audience members! This year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The works are as vital and relevant as they ever have been. It has been a great pleasure to delve back into this familiar story to be nothing less than astonished with the multitude of new perspectives and discoveries packed into this year’s exploration of it. 

Of course, this is always one of the great joys of the rehearsal process: the discovery, the breathing of life into it, the responses to what the actors bring, the questions asked, and then even more questions, the flashes of insight, and then back on the trail, searching again…

I hope that when you join us on this performance adventure - at this historic adobe, immersed in this stunning slice of northern California landscape - that you will be rewarded for paying attention, that your senses will be activated, and that you will find something in the story and the place to carry with you in the years to follow.

-Ava Roy
Artistic Director

The National Parks Centennial & Art's Integral Part

As part of the National Park's Centennial celebration this year, the Park Service has shared four short videos about the important part artists can play in creating new park experiences that are more welcoming, meaningful and relevant to a wider range of visitors.

A bonus feature for We Players fans: stills of our events can be spotted here and there in each of the segments!

Actor Spotlight: John Steel Jr.

"Part, fools!
Put up your swords! You know not what you do!"

Meet John Steele Jr. as Benvolio!
(He's also a playwright and fervent tea enthusiast!)


Q: Describe We Players in four words.
A: Challenging, engaging, immersive, enlightening.

Q: How has working with We Players changed your perspective of theater, or of the world at large?
A: I have really reconnected with nature during this rehearsal process. I'm a city boy by choice, but I have never felt so at ease and at home in the elements as I have delving into Romeo and Juliet. Also, I have always been a fan of theater that doesn't occur in an actual theatre, but the idea of using the art form to bring awareness to the stories that are already a part of our cultural history is exciting. And having performed in a few state parks before, I am so proud to be working with a company that makes it their mission to bring attention to those natural gems that our country must continue to protect and value.

Q: Any funny or memorable We Players moments, anecdotes, quotes/metaphors you'd like to share?
A: One night when hopping from studio to studio [at our Romeo & Juliet Montalvo artist residency], a few of us began singing a basic choral chant in the round, but it slowly evolved into a bizarre choral chant version of the Sir Mix-A-Lot classic "Baby Got Back." We all took it so seriously, and sang through our little version, and once we had finished and we fully registered what we had created, we burst into hysterics.

Q: Share with us something about your process for creating your character thus far.
A: One of my favorite things about finding Benvolio has been discovering what a skilled fighter he is and has to be. Verona is a place where everything is in turmoil. Benvolio doesn't enjoy violence, but he understands the need for self-protection so he has learned how to fight with the best of them. Our brilliant fight choreographer approached the fighting styles in the play as a means of understanding the character, so I got to have a lot of input into what makes the way Benvolio blocks an attack different than how Tybalt or Mercutio would do it.

Q: Anything fun you'd like to tell us about yourself? Something that your audiences might never get the chance to ask about?
A: I have a red-nose clown persona named Scooter who has a panic disorder. But he tries his best, bless his heart, and he's usually okay if he has his safety goggles. When I was young I learned how to do balloon animals and basic juggling, so of course Scooter learned too. It's quite a process though. It usually takes him a few (maybe more than a few) tries to get it right.


Romeo & Juliet rehearsal photos by Lauren Matley

Actor Spotlight: Rush Rehm

Here's Romeo & Juliet actor spotlight #3!

Rush is an actor, the artistic director of Stanford Repertory Theater, a professor of Theater & Performance Studies and Classics at Stanford, and a published author in the areas of Greek tragedy and contemporary politics (phew!)-you’ll meet Rush in Romeo & Juliet as Friar Laurence.

 Q: Describe We Players in four words.
 A: Fun, Intimate, Engaged, Ava! 

 Q:How has working with We Players changed your perspective of theater, or of the world at large?
 A: I’ve lived too long and seen too many things for anything in the theater to change my view of the world. As for the theater, there are many ways to make it, and many of them are valid, rewarding, and effective. We Players is one such way.

 Q: What’s your hometown? How has it shaped you? 
A: No hometown, I traveled as a child. I like Greece, Paris (duh), Australia, New Zealand, Cuba, Berlin, London, Istanbul, I could go on. 

 Q: What would you be if you weren’t an actor? 
A: Few people (me included) are just “an actor.” What /who else would I be? Depends on the day. 

 Q: Tell us about some new favorite of yours, whether it’s a lunch dish, a singer, movie, color, or something else entirely. What is it about this new thing that’s rocking your world? 
 A:  Joseph Conrad. 

Photos by Tina Case Photography

Actor Spotlight: Libby Oberlin

Drum roll, please! Here’s our Romeo & Juliet Actor Spotlight #2! 
Meet Libby Kelly Oberlin as CAPULET (Lord and Lady) 

Q: Describe We Players in four words. 
A: Profound, extraordinary, meaningful, purposeful 

 Q: How has working with We Players changed your perspective of theater, or of the world at large?
 A: Shakespeare got it right when he said, “All the world’s a stage” and We Players takes that quite literally. Working with We really makes you realize that art can and _is_ happening all around us- and it does not have to be confined to a theater. I’ve worked on non-traditional stages and locations but the thought, research, and care that We puts into deriving meaning from a place is quite special. The place becomes another character, another player, and a real means of inspiration.

Q: Any funny or memorable We Players moments, anecdotes, quotes/metaphors you’d like to share? 
A: I think I’m going to get away with it this time so don’t tell Ava or Brooke but, in the past two shows that I’ve performed with We I’ve had the “pleasure” of wearing a flesh colored unitard, known as the nuditard. When in the nuditard during rehearsals, I’d sometimes wear a sweatshirt to keep warm. Park goers always did a double take when they saw me, as it looked like I forgot to put on my pants. Memorable, for sure! 

 Q: What’s your hometown? How has it shaped you? 
A: I grew up in Springfield Massachusetts, the birth place of basketball. No, I’m not a good basketball player but I definitely jammed and broke a number of fingers when I played as a kid. Most Springfield residents I know have an incredible knowledge of and mental repertoire of 90’s R&B songs, myself included. Mary J Blige was/is everything!! 

 Q: If you weren’t an actor, what would you be, and why?
 A: I’ve always known I would be an actor. Since I was seven years old. In addition to acting, I’m also a theater teacher. I can’t get enough! 

 Q: Tell us about some new favorite of yours, whether it’s a lunch dish, a singer, movie, color, or something else entirely. What is it about this new thing that’s rocking your world? 
A: As of 3 years ago, my new favorite person is my daughter Maeve. She’s the coolest!     

 

Photos by Tina Case and Jim Norrena 

Building ROMEO & JULIET at Montalvo Arts Center

We Players were blessed with a spring residency at Montalvo Arts Center this past May, and Montalvo's Lori Wood wrote this exciting article about the experience of having us on site!

Maria Leigh (Juliet), Libby Oberlin (Capulet), John Steele (Benvolio), and Stage Manager Britt Lauer at work building this year's Romeo & Juliet! Photo by Tina Case.

Maria Leigh (Juliet), Libby Oberlin (Capulet), John Steele (Benvolio), and Stage Manager Britt Lauer at work building this year's Romeo & Juliet! Photo by Tina Case.

"As We Players developed these experiences at Montalvo, the villa and its gardens rang with new sounds: the clash of swords on the front lawn, the calls of the characters’ spirit-animals, the music of a rueda on the villa’s front terrace, and the loudest artist dinner ever held in the Lucas Artists Program Commons. One Thursday night, the full cast of Romeo and Juliet came to dinner in character, each armed with secret instructions designed by director Ava Roy to build insight into their character—instructions that also served to create maximum drama, hubbub and happy consternation. A night of hilarity and chaos ensued, the windows shook, and culinary artist Andrea Blum and lone novelist Lynn Freed leapt for cover as the We Players brought their characters to life at full throttle."

Check out the full article at the Lucas Arts Program blog, Open Access!

Actor Spotlight: Courtney Walsh


We can’t believe week two of rehearsals at Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park is coming to a close. As we learn more and more about each other as fellow cast members of Romeo & Juliet, we will share those insights with you here in our Actor Spotlights!

Meet Courtney Walsh, our Mercutio!

Photo: Lauren Matley

Photo: Lauren Matley

 

WE: Describe We Players in four words…

CW: Adventurous, smart, committed, fun.

WE: How has working with We Players changed your perspective of theater, or of the world at large?

CW: Performance outside the black box removes inhibition. No room for self-consciousness at play or at large.

WE: Any funny or memorable We Players moments, anecdotes, quotes/metaphors you’d like to share?

CW: You can have a whole conversation between two people using just my character’s name:
Mercuti-YO!
Mercuti-you-HO!
Mercuti-WHOA!
Mercuti-GO.
Mercuti-NO!!
…Etc :)

WE: Tell us a little sumthin’ about you:

CW: I have four children, ages 12-23, and have been married 25 years. I have a horse and do competitive dressage. I also took several years off of acting to be a lawyer representing abused children. I have argued in the California Supreme Court.

WE: What is it about this new thing that’s rocking your world?

CW: Girls never get to sword fight - but now I do!