Performer Spotlight: Ava Roy

“My sea-gown scarf'd about me”

-Hamlet

Ava Roy


We caught up with our Artistic Director, Ava Roy, to talk about memories of past work and about Undiscovered Country!

What was your first show with We?
My first show with We Players was Romeo and Juliet in spring 2000. I was a freshman in college and had just turned 20. The performance blasted off in the student union/ cafeteria at high noon with the Montague and Capulet brawl. The audience doubled in size over the course of the performance, as passersby joined the procession and became audience members. We traveled through the campus, using archways, corridors, and other impressive architectural features of the Stanford campus as our backdrop. 
Romeo and Juliet were married in the center of "The Quad" and ultimately were bound to the Burghers of Calais Rodin sculptures with red ribbons as their tomb. I played Juliet. And directed. And made all the costumes. And so on. This was the beginning of We Players and the earliest stages of development of our company philosophy, methodology, and aesthetic!

Four words to describe working with We?
Visceral, demanding, sensational, surprising

Describe a favorite memory working with We.
A favorite memory?! There are too many! 
Here are a few...waiting backstage as Viola at the top of 12th Night. My backstage was a little rowboat, tied up to the schooner Alma. I'd drink tea and huddle in blankets while Captain Tom waited for the walkie-talkie to cue us to row to shore. One day my dad was on the boat with me. That was especially precious. Or maybe waiting backstage as Ondine on the edge of the cliff at Land's End and observing two baby seagulls hatch and fledge over the course of the run. Or perhaps climbing to the top of Angel Island with my brother and listening to the sounds of The Odyssey waft up from around the island and watching the audience procession wind along the perimeter road. Or maybe all the many times and places I've spied on the audience from hidden locations on Alcatraz, and from the tall grasses on the Albany Bulb, or lying on my belly on the balconies at Montalvo or... every site has its secret nooks and unique vantages.

What is your favorite thing about working on Undiscovered Country
My favorite thing about working on Undiscovered Country thus far has been the celerity and ease with which the script has emerged. I am writing it, but it feels more like it is writing itself and I am playing a supporting role. It has felt very organic and surprising from the first draft to the current (fifth ?) draft. My #1 favorite thing is working with this group of collaborators - thoughtful, dedicated, kind, communicative, sincere, and very talented artists one and all.

What has been surprising about the process?
How much I am appreciating the anomaly of walls, electricity, and plumbing! 
Most We Players' performance venues are physically demanding and intense. This is part of the power of these sites, that they ask performers and audience alike to lean into the difficulty of wind and weather, to navigate hills and uneven terrain, and awaken their senses and enjoy heightened awareness. So it's come as a surprise how lovely it is for this rare bird of a show to occur indoors (albeit in a beautiful historic building with its own character and unique qualities), with heat, electricity and a bathroom less than a half mile hike away! Who knew how nice that could be?!



Don’t miss Ava in Undiscovered Country. Only three chances left! 

Photo by Lauren Matley

Crew Spotlight: JD Durst

“glass of fashion and the mould of form”

-Ophelia, Hamlet

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We’re so thrilled to spotlight our amazing JD Durst. JD has been doing incredible work for us for years! You saw his leather work in the belts and holsters in Romeo and Juliet, his prop artistry in Caesar’s cart, and now his weapons and leather expertise in Undiscovered Country. Working with someone who has such expansive knowledge and such artistry is a joy. Hear what JD has to say about working with We!

What was your first show with We?
2010’s Hamlet on Alcatraz

How would you describe working with We in 4 words?
Fresh, empowering, rewarding, intriguing

Describe your favorite We Players memory. 
The exploration of Grendel’s plight in BEOWULF.

What is your favorite thing about working on Undiscovered Country?
The fact Bingo (the dog) gets to visit the set.

What has been surprising about this process? 
It comes as no surprise that everything is met with a welcoming warmth and acceptance.

Don’t miss JD’s beautiful work in Undiscovered Country!
Only 4 performances left! 

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Crew Spotlight: Brooke Jennings

“By his cockle hat and staff,
And his sandal shoon”

-Ophelia, Hamlet

Spotlight on our resident costume designer and frequent collaborator, Brooke Jennings!

The costumes in a show are not only an integral part of the audience’s experience but also of the actors. They shape the character from the inside out! Hear from Brooke about her experience working with We and check out her note in the Undiscovered Country program about the special We Players paisley!

Brooke Jennings

What was your first show with We?

Ondine at Sutro, in 2015

How would you describe working with We in 4 words?

Expansive, Detailed, Grounded

Describe your favorite We Players memory.

Sharing the We experience with a new audience member always leads to my most cherished moments. So in that vein, I’ll share an extra special moment with you all.

My partner, Cole, and I first started dating during Romeo and Juliet at Petaluma Adobe. He had yet to see a We Players Show at this point (I know!), so naturally he was my date on opening night. The show begins in the usual We flurry; gun shots, leather clad rancheros, and the audience looking on with our canteens of wine and napsacks of cheese and crackers. The bells ring in the distance and it’s time for the Ball! We are all given black lace masks; I help Cole tie his and he helps me with mine. To the sound of trumpets, we dance in the middle of the courtyard in the beautiful hills of Petaluma with the actors, staff, fellow audience members, and each other. We laughed, fumbled, and sealed our small moment with a kiss just before Romeo and Juliet lock eyes for the first time.

What is your favorite thing about working on Undiscovered Country?

The expansive quality of We shows usually requires my work to draw and hold audiences attention against roaring cliff sides, sweltering trails, and dense forests. No easy feat given the stunning natural beauty of our performance sites! And while I am deeply grateful for the gift of nature in our shows, this production feels much more distilled. It is a concentrated version of We shows, allowing me to explore detail and precision in the work.

What has been surprising about this process?

The Paisley Research! It’s so satisfying when you stumble onto a treasure chest like this one. The history and story fits so well into our aesthetic for this piece and I learned so much delicious information about a subject I hadn’t really considered before. [Read more about the paisleys in the Undiscovered Country program guide]

Also, pocket soup! Look up a recipe, it’s a real cowboy treat!

Don’t miss Brooke’s costumes in Undiscovered Country- the final four performances are here, so get your ticket today!



Performer Spotlight: Chris Steele

“Heart with strings of steel”

-King Claudius, Hamlet

An interview with Undiscovered Country's Chris Steele

We caught up with Chris Steele, who plays Horace in our upcoming production of Undiscovered Country. Here's what they shared about the rehearsal process and about working with We Players.

What was your first show with We?
I played Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet at Petaluma Adobe and Villa Montalvo. I've been enamored with We ever since.

How would you describe working with We in 4 words?
Visceral, Thrilling, Rewarding, Dionysian!

Describe your favorite We Players memory.
During Midsummer of Love, as my co-Puck Britt and I were speaking about summoning the darkness, this MASSIVE bank of fog rolls over the hilltop out of nowhere and plunges down upon us all. I'm still not convinced that we didn't actually cast a fairy spell.

What is your favorite thing about working on Undiscovered Country?
The intimacy of the immersion is unlike anything else I have done with We. It is going to be a treat to be so immediately involved with the audience both in terms of proximity and size. This show is really a special chance to feel like you are spitting distance from real and vital theatre.

What has surprised you during the building of this production?
Honestly, this show has felt magically effortless in its creation in a way no other show has. Ava, Nick, and Hunter are such generous and supportive collaborators so we all keep bouncing ideas off each other and so many of them seem to stick. That kind of synergy is rare!

Don't miss Chris in Undiscovered Country opening next week at San Francisco's Sunnyside Conservatory! Enjoy special low prices on tickets for our Preview performances April 18th & 19th!

Step right up and behold!

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! 

Caesar returns home from battle and the villagers are flocking to the Concourse Maximus to celebrate her victory. News spreads fast in Rome and the streets are on fire with all the local celebrities gathering for the feast of Lupercal. Don't miss their amazing feats of strength and seduction! 

Our glorious leader Julius Caesar has won another stunning victory against the enemies of Rome! It all began when former ally Pompey the Great objected to Caesar’s new title of Dictator-For-Life. Pompey, a Senator, put together a striking team of wealthy and stylish Romans, including the hometown favorite Marcus Brutus. But Pompey never had a chance against the greatest general in the known world. Caesar is merciful, and after the ferocious pounding, she forgave her beloved Brutus! Caesar may be getting that crown after all. You heard it here! Happy endings really do happen.

In other news, Cinna the Poet has been spotted singing outside Caesar’s window at all hours of the night. “Caesar loves me well” the well known street singer admitted to yours truly, “I have a new song coming soon, O Cesare!” Caesar’s wife Calpurnia declined to comment at this time, although she did have good words for the patent medicine she’s been popping: “keeps the organs youthful!” affirms the soon-to-be Empress of Rome.

Are the rumors true? Does domestic disharmony dwell in the Brutus household? Gossips whisper that Rome’s favorite senator has been keeping to himself, taking long walks late into the night. What does his little lady Portia get up to when the noble Roman is not around?

Speaking of Noble Romans, the well given Caius Cassius has pledged a thousand drachmas to repair the defaced statue of Pompey at the Capitol. A risky move from the normally cautious gentleman. Sources have spotted him behind pillars having shadowy conversations with Rome’s elite. What could the senator be up to?

Rome’s most eligible Bachelor Marc Antony has announced he will lead the festivities at the Feast of the Lupercal. “This will be a traditional Lupercalia” insists Antony.  Know for his lavish parties, the carrouser continued, “But we’ll also have some fun!” Antony has climbed the ladder of Roman Politics with ease, recently named Master of the Horse. That’s second in line to Caesar!

If this year’s Feast of the Lupercal is anything like last year’s, all of Rome will be in their best attire, some of them will climb on rooftops, and a small fringe may turn violent and burn several buildings. Remember to vote Caesar in the next election! 

 

From the Editor's Desk: Caesar Maximus is infused with 19th century popular entertainments of circus and opera, and the glitz and glitter of modern Imperialism echoes it's ancestry in ancient Rome. Is it any wonder? The wheel of fortune spins, time comes round...


CAESAR MAXIMUS at The Music Concourse

Thursdays-Sundays now through September 30

Step right up and get your ticket to a show you'll never forget!

"Time has come round" - CAESAR MAXIMUS previews begin tomorrow!

CAESAR MAXIMUS: A show not to be missed, folks!

Experience Julius Caesar as you never have before, at The Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park, surrounded by iconic San Francisco landmarks.

Don’t take our word for it, get a taste of our Rome in this sneak preview!

Get your tickets before they’re gone!
http://weplayers.org/caesar-maximus-2018

Nick Medina: nominated for Outstanding Male Actor in a featured role

The 2017 Theatre Bay Area Awards ceremony arrives on October 30th and We Players is nominated for eight (eight!) awards for our recent productions of Romeo & Juliet, BEOWULF, and Midsummer of Love.

For Midsummer of Love, Nick Medina was nominated for Outstanding Male Actor in a featured role. This is especially impressive given that Nick gallantly stepped in with three days of rehearsal! Congratulations, Nick, and thank you. And a big shout out to Nathaniel Justiniano, who originated the role!



Photos by Lauren Matley

We Players lands 8 Theatre Bay Area Awards nominations

The 2017 Theatre Bay Area Awards ceremony arrives on October 30th and We Players is nominated for eight (eight!) awards for our recent productions of Romeo & Juliet, BEOWULF, and Midsummer of Love.

For BEOWULF, Yoshi Asai is nominated for Outstanding Properties Design, Allen Willner for his Outstanding Lighting Design, and Maria Chenut for her Outstanding Costume Design! Congratulations!

Photos: Lauren Matley

Mother Lear draws ever near

"YOU ARE WELCOME HITHER"

- King Lear

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We are thrilled to announce our next production!

MOTHER LEAR

An irascible scholar with dementia communicates with her caretaker daughter using only the text of Shakespeare's King Lear, as the two struggle with aging, love, and their own balance of power. 

A facilitated conversation on the themes of death and dying immediately follows each performance.

Join us at unique and intimate venues around San Francisco Bay this autumn to experience this powerful two-person distillation of one of the Bard's greatest works.


Actor Spotlight: Nick Dickson

We’d like to introduce you to our friend Nick Dickson, playing Flute/Demetrius!

Long-time We Players’ fans will remember Nick as Sebastian in our production of Twelfth Night all the way back in 2012. We’re so happy to finally be working with him again! Nick’s clown training and movement skills have been indispensable in helping to create this physically complex show. During long rehearsals Nick keeps us all laughing with a great sense of humor and we couldn’t be more grateful for his constant willingness to try something new. Don’t miss Nick’s fantastic performance in our Midsummer of Love; the specificity that he brings to both characters is really a treat!

Join us at El Sobrante’s Kennedy Grove this Saturday and Sunday and back in Golden Gate Park 7/27-30. Tickets are going fast!
http://www.weplayers.org/midsummer-2017 

Photos: Lauren Matley

2 weekends of BEOWULF remain - catch it while you can!

"HANDS DOWN ONE OF THE BEST, MOST VISCERAL PIECES OF THEATRE I HAVE SEEN... I LEFT SHAKEN AND RAW."
-John S

Photo by Lauren Matley

Photo by Lauren Matley

Think for a minute about what it would be like to have no light, only total darkness.
What a candle would mean to you…

BEOWULF: 
We expect this work to challenge... it is unlike any other We Players' production to date. We invite you to journey into strange new territory and to release expectation of the usual.

"The performers labour and labour for the audience; every welling of laughter and emotion in me felt wrought from determined and sacrificing humans." - Colin S

It is a fever-dream of memory and forgetting, a ritual that will both include your participation and leave you suspended in the shadows...

"Charlie Gurke, Jon Raskin, Larry Ochs, Bruce Ackley, and Steve Adams clothed in their own versions of early Middle Ages furs, hides, and rough robes become an integral part of the storytelling, offering a musical score like none any of us has likely ever heard nor will long forget." -Theatre Eddys

BEOWULF has only 2 weekends remaining.
Join us before it’s too late!

The journey begins at sunset
at the SF Maritime Museum.
Only through April 16. 

Wrestle with humanity and monstrosity under the stunning expanse of the sky and in the warm embrace of our mead hall. 

BEOWULF Cast Spotlight: Steve Adams

We Players fans may remember Steve of Rova Saxophone Quartet from our 2015 production of HEROMONSTER. He's one of five musicians in our current production and we think he's just great! We caught up with Steve and asked him a few questions about the process. 

Check back to learn more about our other collaborators and see Steve live in our upcoming production of BEOWULF March 18-April 16

Photo: Lauren Matley

Photo: Lauren Matley

Describe your experience of  BEOWULF's collaborative process. How is it similar or different from past projects/ experiences?

Steve: Rova's last experience of being part of a theatrical production was for A.C.T.'s 1992 production of Antigone, directed by Carey Perloff and starring Elizabeth Peña and a young Wendell Pierce. The music was composed by David Lang of Bang on a Can. We were placed in black boxes at the two ends of the balcony, completely out of sight of the audience. So the experience was extremely different from Beowulf, where we are fully participating, onstage members of the production and co-creators of the music. This is a much more gratifying way to be part of the process, having (and receiving) creative input on all aspects of the play.

Share a favorite artistic experience: Why/ how did it impact you, affect your life, your work afterwards?

Steve: When I was in high school, my parents took me to several seasons of varied culture events, which included a production of Samuel Beckett's play Krapp's Last Tape. It was so far outside of my experience of, well, anything, that I think it made me aware of the possibilities of art that goes beyond the boundaries of what has come before, and that has been with me ever since then.

You can catch Steve (plus four other saxophone players!) in BEOWULF
Tickets on sale now! http://www.weplayers.org/beowulf-2017

Photo: Lauren Matley