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Summerfest 07.07.2009


Click here to View PDF. Summerfest 7.7.2009 Ace coverstory
by Kim Thomas

On Sunday, two weeks before the opening of the first
show of this year’s SummerFest at the Arboretum, photographer
Tom Eisenhauer and I did our summer-heated
best at three rehearsals to take photos without disturbing the
artistic process, talk to some of the players, and catch a glimpse
to share.
SummerFest President Joe Cannon Artz, anticipates a
warm (pardon the expression) reception with this year’s offerings
of Henry IV, Part I (opens July 8) Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (July
15), and Once On This Island (July 22). SummerFesters will
indeed enjoy a broad spectrum of entertainment, from the seriously
funny Shakespearean drama of a king and his battles
within his kingdom and his family; to the twisted humor and
obvious fascination we all have with the Dr. Jekyll in us and
our darker, Mr. Hyde side; then ultimately soothed with the
music messages of acceptance and reconciliation found in the
musical Once On This Island.
SummerFest, in its third year at the Arboretum keeps
Shakespeare and outdoor theatre alive and well in Lexington. It
represents a collaboration of civic, cultural, and educational leaders.
In conjunction with the University of Kentucky, SummerFest
extends opportunities for young artists to study in an intensive
summer immersion program with a curriculum covering the full
spectrum of theatre practice and study. Conservatory students to
act alongside Lexington’s stage veterans.
Artz is excited about the organization’s future. “We are
positioning ourselves to become a year-round producer of
performance arts training and educational opportunities
along with live theatre.”
With veteran directors Margo Buchanan (Once On This
Island) and Patty Heying (Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde) at the helm of
those two productions, Joe Ferrell’s role as a Producing
Director (in addition to directing Henry IV, Part I) for
SummerFest is invaluable as he oversees each show and
ensures the continuity of quality education and entertainment
throughout the entire festival.
“A plague of all cowards, I say, and a vengeance too! marry, and amen
! … A plague of all cowards ! — Give me a cup of sack, rogue!”
— Falstaff, Henry IV, Part I
by William Shakespeare
SummerFest: Henry IV, Part I
Gates open at 7pm Wednesday, July 8 and continue thru Sunday.
In a tough economy, it seems that we see more of the
good and more of the bad in people. We can allow ourselves
to be fooled for a while by people’s behavior, but William
Shakespeare provides insights that help us understand the
people we are dealing with. Proof positive is SummerFest’s
first offering of Henry IV, Part I.Walter Tunis plays the role of
Falstaff with comedic gusto and Henry IV is mischievously
portrayed by Trent Fucci. Other area stage veterans include
Eric Johnson (Henry IV) and Joe Gatton (Sir Walter Blount).
Gatton laughs at the challenges of outdoor theatre. “I saw in the New York Times review of the Twelfth Night production
with Anne Hathaway, etc., how they had to deal with
bugs, planes, ambulances etc. I’m glad the big boys have the
same issues!” He also recalls Shakespeare Festivals past, and
how actors had to at times incorporate the natural ‘additions’
to the show. “Back in the good old days, at Woodland Park,
we’d have a dog come up on stage once in awhile. Jeff Sherr
(who is also in this show as Bardolph) and I were going to do
some shtick with a Black Lab who came on stage and hung
around during Taming of the Shrew once. That doesn’t happen
at the Arboretum.”
Joe Ferrell directs Shakespeare’s most popular play (in
print as well as on stage), and when we visited rehearsal at the
Arboretum on Sunday evening, he and the cast were busy rewriting
a tavern scene (according to Ferrell “perhaps the
longest scene Shakespeare ever wrote”).
It is Falstaff’s charisma that captivates the Prince, who is
weary of the grave nature of royal hypocrisy. Therefore, at the
center of the play are the young Prince Hal and his companions
Falstaff, Poins, Bardolph, and Peto.
These quick-witted squanderers use the colors of comedy
to paint over grim history, and it’s a treat to watch Tunis
in action as his Falstaff commands his group of scoundrels.
Trent Fucci’s playful Henry V teases and taunts Falstaff
throughout the tavern scene, delights in the spiking of
Falstaff’s ‘cup of sack’ (sherry) and provokes the gentle mock
battle against Falstaff with his fellow rapscallions.
Ferrell often would stop an actor to help them enhance most good story tellers, he surely compresses time, includes
only those characters who interest him and move the story
along, and, yes, he even lies a little — the prime example here
being the fact that Prince Hal did not kill Hotspur and thus
become a hero at the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403.”
He adds, “I think that, in this the first year of a new U.S.
President, one who is dealing with economic chaos, two
war/conflict fronts, and is trying to push through major new
legislation, Henry IV offers up a country which is also in
some chaos. In 2009, therefore, we have a chance to examine
with Shakespeare the characteristics of leadership — what is
good and bad — what is needed to lead a country, AND with
the very important comedic elements of the play (close to
half) we also get Falstaff’s everyman perspective on war,
honor, country, etc. — much in the same way I suppose we
could say that Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, etc. entertain us in a
political nature.”
“‘I incline to Cain’s heresy,’ he used to say quaintly: ‘I let my brother
go to the devil in his own way.’“
— Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Chapter 1,
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde begins Wednesday, July 15 at the
Arboretum and continues thru that Sunday. Gates open at 7pm.
Jeffrey Hatcher adapted Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886
best-selling novella to include not just one Mr. Hyde, but four … and part of that intrigue is that one of the four Hydes is a
female. Patty Heying directs the cast of characters played by
Bob Singleton (Jekyll) and Adam Luckey (Lanyon and Hyde
3) as well as Susan Wigglesworth, who steals the show in her
myriad roles and comedic take on various moments in the
play, to the point of momentarily taking Singleton and
Luckey out of character and causing them to break out in
laughter during rehearsal. With the mid-day sun beating
down on them, it was not surprising to see the players take
measures to protect themselves from heat exhaustion. Kim
Dixon (Elizabeth) collapsed on a nearby blanket, covering
her head as soon as her character exited, but cheerfully gathered
up her energy to scramble back onstage for her scenes.
Heying, who works for the Department of Public Advocacy
in Frankfort, kept the energy level up though her involvement
doesn’t end with the direction of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde,
though, as later in the day she appeared at the Once On This
Island rehearsal, sporting a fine pink sunburn, ready to meet
with Haitian dialect coaches to assist the cast of the
Caribbean musical.
Bob Singleton is also no stranger to Lexington’s theatre
goers. He explains that he has no difficulty adjusting to the
four actors playing the four different Mr. Hydes. “It’s not very
tricky, in that all the actors are playing the same character. Of course, they are each putting their own stamp on their ‘version’
of Hyde, and they are emphasizing different elements of
Hyde (i.e., although all are sinister, one is more playful, one is
more sensual, etc.), but I haven’t really noticed a different
type of challenge to working in this manner. I think it helps to
be working with talented people who are relishing the opportunity
to play such a character … they give me a lot to play off
of and hopefully that works both ways. And maybe that’s the
trick, if there is one … to not think of it as one Hyde, but to
work with, use, and respond to what each individual actor
brings to the different scenes and scenarios.”
This is Singleton’s first SummerFest appearance however
he did perform in the AGL/Equus Run production of
Love’s Labour’s Lost in 2007.
Singleton admits the character of Jekyll is similar to some
other roles he has played that either have a double-identity, or
at least a certain duality to the character. “Many well-written
characters are drawn so well that there is a certain amount of
dissonance to their personality traits … if not two-sided, certainly
complicated and conflicting aspects. In this case, the battle
between the ‘good’ side and the ‘evil’ side is certainly played
out much more overtly, more literally I guess you could say. But
it is also separate from most other roles I’ve performed in that
Jekyll’s ‘internal’ battle is actually externalized, and that it plays
out against and with another actor (or actors, in this case).”
This show’s a chance to watch the dark side from the
outside in.
This is a chance to watch it from the outside-in.
You’ve never been away from the sea, child; You’re gonna need a
helping hand; A fish has got to learn to swim on land! from “Mama
Will Provide”
— from Once On This Island,
words by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty
Once On This Island
Performances begin at 8:45pm, Wednesday, July 22 and continue
thru Sunday.July 25. (Gates open at 7pm.)
UK Opera great Alicia McCorvey, show-stopper Peggy
Stamps, triple threat Taylor Eldred and charming vocalist
Manuel Castillo are all familiar names on area stages. Their
voices and talents are pooled along many others in Director
Margo Buchanan’s superbly selected ensemble to bring the
musical Once On This Island, a Caribbean tale of human passages,
which will wrap up this year’s Fest. Buchanan has an
ease with such performers, has a fine voice herself, and was
organizing the performers in the rehearsal hall into a human
pyramid, a life-filled tree that supports and saves the title
character from a terrible storm.
The story begins, appropriately, on a stormy night. The
thunder rumbles and roars, making a small girl cry in fear. To
comfort her, four storytellers tell her the story of Ti Moune, a
peasant girl who falls in love with a grand homme, Daniel
Beauxhomme. This is a story of life, pain, love, grief, and faith.
As Armand, Manuel Castillo portrays the character of
the Tale of the Beauxhomme, a high class Frenchman living
(perhaps governing) in Haiti.
Recently seen in UK Opera’s ambitious production of
Lucia di Lammermoor, Castillo has only performed once before
in an outdoor venue, in the highlights of West Side Story, but
realizes the outdoor arena is a test of ability. “It was fun, but
the challenges of an open space are bigger since the performers
have to catch-and-keep the audience’s attention from
‘going out the window’ … well … you get the idea, there are
no boundaries that can separate the illusion as opposed to
the Opera House, where you have a curtain to make change
of stage and stuff.. In this open space, many times the
changes happen at the sight of the audience. That means that
any movement done on the stage needs to as accurate as possible
to carry-on the story without losing its meaning.”
However, Castillo finds comfort in the fact that he has worked with Tai-Kristin (Ti-moune, a peasant girl who tries
to break the social barrier), Luther Lewis (Agwe, God of
Water) and Taylor Eldred (Andrea, Madame Armand) before.
“They all are wonderful performers … we were part of the
last UKOT production of Lucia di Lammermoor in the
spring. The entire cast of Once On This Island is wonderful
and full of energy. It is a great mix of singers, actors and
dancers, we all put our best effort and complement each
other as best as we can, which results in a wonderful environment
to work with and to create a better play.”
The message, according to Castillo, “is a simple one, that
becomes complicated…it is about love, loving our differences,
accepting them and make things work for the best. It
is, in a way, a sad story since Ti-moune dies, but I am certain
the show will leave the audience a good taste of human interaction:
which values we think they are good, but in fact, are
not … and vice versa.”
Artz acknowledges, “It has been an interesting year
for Lexington’s arts community. To say that times are
tough would be an understatement. It is difficult to
run an arts organization even in the best of times. The long
and winding road to financial sustainability is often difficult
to navigate, but how do you produce a three-show, outdoor
theatre festival when everyone is dealing with one of the
most terrifying financial times in recent memory? I’ll tell you
what we did. We turned to our friends and neighbors. They
say that your friends will stick with you no matter what. I
now say the same thing with enthusiasm, vigor, and gratitude.
SummerFest 2009 has been funded because of our
Board’s personal friendships with the best kind of people.
Over 18,000 people come out to enjoy SummerFest each
year.” He asks, “Certainly there are some new friends to be
General admission tickets and reserved seating
are available at the gate. Phone Reservations at
859.608.3805. General admission: $10 adults, $5
children (aged 12 and under). Reserved seating:
$12 chair, $49 blanket area for four.


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