StageVoices Recap: Bill Rauch on Equivocation

Here are just a few things we didn't know about Equivocation until Saturday night's StageVoices conversation with director Bill Rauch:

- The script for this version of Equivocation incorporates the original script from the OSF production, along with some new additions made when playwright Bill Cain was working on the play at the Geffen Playhouse in L.A. "The Seattle Rep production is really a hybrid," said Rauch.

- The notion of bringing Equivocation to the Rep began when Rauch, stuck in Seattle during last year's snow storm, gave a copy of the script to the Rep's Producing Artistic Director Jerry Manning.

- Rauch also spoke to how much the play has evolved in it's new space in the Bagley Wright Theatre. "We anticipated that it would be fun, but technical," said Rauch of transitioning from OSF to Seattle. "But it was also about reclaiming the work in a new space... We spent much more time on relationships and making discoveries than we did on lighting cues."

Our thanks to Bill, his interviewer Andrea Allen and everyone in attendance for a fun, enlightening evening talking about theatre. For details on upcoming events like StageVoices, keep an eye on this blog and the Rep's website.

Stage Voices: Andrea Allen Talks Theatre with Equivocation Director Bill Rauch

This Saturday, our StageVoices Series of conversations with theatre artists sees Bill Rauch sit down with our Director of Education Andrea Allen, who offers her thoughts on this can't-miss event here:

On Saturday, November 21 at 5pm in the rotunda, I get to sit down with one of my very favorite theatre artists in the world, Bill Rauch. I've known of Bill for years, mainly through his amazing work with Cornerstone, a community-based theatre company that has inspired and awed me for years. I met Bill in person at a conference a few years back, and was able to take a theatre workshop with him, learning first hand how he elicits such incredible performances from professional and non-professional actors alike. When he took over at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I was intrigued, wondering what he would do in a "regular" theatre company. The news coming from Oregon has been good--lots of interesting initiatives (e.g. American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle) and great art (e.g. Equivocation). On Saturday, we'll talk about OSF, Cornerstone, world premieres, Shakespeare and anything else that comes to mind. Please join us for this hour-long conversation. I promise I'll leave time for others to ask questions too.

Gary Cole Comes To Seattle Rep in Glengarry Glen Ross

You read that headline right - Seattle Rep's production of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross will feature Gary Cole in the role of tough-talking real estate salesman Ricky Roma.

While Cole is an award-winning stage actor who has been a member of Chicago's storied Steppenwolf Theatre since 1986, audiences will probably know him best from his many film and TV roles. Most well known for his role as one of the finest villains in modern cinema, dastardly middle manager Bill Lumbergh in Mike Judge's Office Space, Cole has played a variety of memorable characters in his career. He's been the picture of well adjusted suburbia as the patriarch of the Brady clan in The Brady Bunch films, and a gun-toting drug kingpin in Pineapple Express. He's played Will Ferrell's wildman, absentee father in Talladega Nights, and distinguished Vice-President Bob Russell in Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing. You've seen him in TV shows from Entourage to Desperate Housewives (and heard him more than a few times on Family Guy), and now you can see him live on the Rep's Bagley Wright Stage this February.

Cole also has a long history working with Glengarry Glen Ross director Wilson Milam, and Seattle Rep is proud to be a part of the continuing collaboration between these two great theatre artists. You'll be able to read more about the working relationship between the two in upcoming posts and articles.
We want to hear from everybody who's as excited as we are to have Gary Cole appearing at the Rep. Tell us what your favorite Gary Cole performance is on our Facebook fan page or tweet it @seattlerep - everyone who participates will be entered in a drawing to win two free tickets to Glengarry Glen Ross later this season!

Guest Blogger Lorin Wilkerson on Opus

We're very excited to have Northwest-based musician, singer, writer and blogger Lorin Wilkerson share his thoughts on the Seattle Rep's production of Opus. You can read more of Lorin's thoughts about the Northwest classical music scene on his blog, Musical Oozings.

Seattle Repertory Theatre turns to music as a central theme with playwright Michael Hollinger’s hilarious, moving, and insightful work Opus at the Leo K. Theatre. The play offers a detailed look into the frenetic existence of the imaginary world-class Lazara Quartet as they begin preparations for the gig of a lifetime at the White House. They have only one week to prepare the monumental Beethoven string quartet Opus 131 with brand-new violist Grace (Chelsey Rives), a fresh-faced, idealistic young woman who presents a stark contrast to the world-weary companions who have made music together for decades.

Hollinger’s insight as a violist who has played many string quartets was obvious; judicious name-dropping, high-brow insider’s jokes and the occasional below-the-belt one liner were present throughout, and even when the play got more serious as it moved toward the climax there were countless, genuinely hilarious moments. His portrayal of the volcanic frustrations and sometimes uncomfortable intimacy thrust upon men of mercurial temperament who have worked together so closely for so long, on something as personal as this music, never comes off as anything other than sincere. The love, cynicism and rancor between the men, and sometimes between them and their music, paints an honest, multi-layered portrait of these complex relationships.

The delivery by the five actors was by and large extremely convincing, and their timing was impeccable in the oft razor-sharp repartee called for by Hollinger’s dialogue. Of particular note was Allen Fitzpatrick’s brilliant performance as Elliot, the harried, antagonistic first violinist who is tormented by the fact that his lover Dorian (Todd Jefferson Moore), who is a much better musician than he, had been relegated to the viola despite Dorian’s superior skills, his ability to “hear things that we don’t,” as the second violinist portrayed by Shawn Belyea puts it.The structure of the work is non-linear and consists of many flashbacks that flesh out the circumstances behind Dorian’s mysterious disappearance, shortly after erratic behavior forces his ouster from the quartet at the beginning of the play. One feels genuine sympathy for the plight of this bi-polar genius whose unpredictable personality dooms any attempt to seal the rifts in his disintegrating relationship with the maddeningly self-absorbed Elliot. Rapid-fire changes of the minimalist set served to highlight the quick firing-off of the flashback sequences, and the soundtrack was poignant and familiar; lots of Bach, and Beethoven. Hollinger succeeds marvelously in portraying the passion, love and conflict the characters feel toward their music and each other; indeed one of Hollinger’s stated purposes was to use the intimacy of the players as an allegorical tool to portray the inter-play between the instruments in a string quartet.

One might have liked a bit more (indeed, any at all) finger-movement by the actors as an added verisimilitude, but thanks to Hollinger’s clever writing, the time-span in which the audience watches the group ’play’ music without moving their fingers across the neck is relatively short. The structure is such that the play takes about 90 minutes and is uninterrupted by intermission, so that by the time the shocker at the finale takes place, the audience is breathless and wondering if it’s actually over. The standing ovation was well-deserved.

Mozart For The Masses

"It's a play about classical music that everybody can enjoy."
I know, I know - it sounds like a pitch. But here's the thing - Opus really does have something for everyone. Being that my education in classical music comes mostly from old Merrie Melodies cartoons, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who knows less about classical music than me, and I loved this show. I loved it for the sharp writing. I loved it for the terrific performances. I loved the stellar treatment of a story about five brilliant, passionate people making incredible art together.
So yes, Opus is in large part about classical music. And yes, that's intimidating to plenty of folks, yours truly included, who have spent most of their lives feeling like classical music is best left to folks in in tuxedos and monocles and such. But it's not, and even the White House says so.

On Wednesday, the President and First Lady hosted an evening of classical music for everyone in the East Room of the White House, with an emphasis on bringing classical music off of its pedestal and into the homes of everyone who would really enjoy it if they ever thought to try it. In hosting a discussion with aspiring music students followed by a great concert from performers of a variety of ages and backgrounds, the Obamas made an effort to show that today's classical music need not be ivory tower territory. The evening drove home the fact that you don't need a trained ear to appreciate classical music - just an open mind. You can read more about the event in this great article from the Washington Post.

So at this point, you've got two choices. You can keep being afraid of classical music - or you can decide that you can enjoy any number of things, and get an introduction to classical music while seeing a great play in the bargain.

What are you going to do?

Guest Blogger Nicola Reilly on Opus


Violinist Nicola Reilly is a founding member of Seattle's Bella Trio. She performs regularly throughout the Puget Sound region with the Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra, Bellevue Philharmonic, Northwest Sinfonietta and many others, and has recorded with artists like Sera Cahoone, Sky Cries Mary and Mastodon. Today, we're happy to have her share her thoughts on the Rep's production of Opus.

I attended Opus on opening night at Seattle Repertory Theatre. Before the show, my trio – The Bella Trio, performed some dangerously light classical music to polite applause in the rotunda. We sat in the second row, two violinists and one cellist. I could use every cliché term in the book to describe how accurate the dialogue is, “it really hit a home run,” “hit the nail right on the head,” “hole in one.” The play is truly perfect. The neurotic first violinist, bow tie and eye wear; the slightly lecherous, yet well meaning second violinist, in a shabby brown bathrobe; the laid back cellist, with deep pathos; and the two violists, one young, female and beautiful and one crazy and wildly gifted. Stereotypes are based in reality and Michael Hollinger took what he knows of musicians and created the beautiful and fragile world of a string quartet.

Each scene reminded me of moments from my own chamber music career. Anger, laughter, tears and even, a little bit of love. It truly is the greatest experience and provides the strongest most intense relationships. The people who you make music with are the people in your life with whom you share the most. It makes sense to talk about your love life on the way to a gig and it equally makes sense to pour your own sadness into the music.

I played the second movement of the Bach Double Concerto, the Largo, at the funerals of both my grandparents. When the first violin enters on the f-natural and the universes collide, softly, there is peace for a moment. The movement rises and falls in dynamics and yet the phrase carries throughout. I have never played that piece and not thought about life, death and my many blessings.

Every musician should put down their instrument and run to see Opus.

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November...

Opus officially opened last night with a great performance at which playwright Michael Hollinger was on hand. We're super excited for the run, and you can hear more about the show from the Bella Trio's Nicola Reilly right here tomorrow.

But with Equivocation coming up later this month, we'd be remiss if we didn't wish everyone a happy Guy Fawkes Day! The most nortorious conspirator in the Gunpowder Plot that's explored in Equivocation, Guy Fawkes was found beneath the House of Lords early on the morning of November 5th, 1605 along with 36 barrels of gunpowder and, one would assume, a distintctly surprised expression on his face. Fawkes was arrested for attempting to blow up the English Parliament and King James I, tortured and executed, as were several other men who were implicated in the conspiracy.

But while many of the conspirators names are now obscured by centuries of history, Fawkes bashing has remained a national tradition in England for more than 400 years. Every November 5th, the antion celebrates Guy Fawkes day, which is marked by bonfires, fireworks displays, and the burning of countless effigies of Fawkes throughout the nation. It's not just a history lesson for younger generations of Britons, but also an important moral tale - the moral being: Do not earn the ire of British royalty, because they really know how to hold a grudge.

But hey, if you're going to remind an entire nation to hate a guy every year, you might as well have fireworks, right?