Production Blog

A behind the scenes peek at rehearsals, artistic choices, artist interviews, and the daily business of running a theatre.

A moment with Director Joanne Zipay about the curtain FINALLY going up

Q: This production of Into the Breeches! has been years in the making. It was originally slated to be produced in the summer of 2020, and we feel very fortunate to finally have the opportunity to share this story with our community. While the play is set in the 1940’s, elements of it remain wildly familiar and timely. What do you find to be the most exciting aspects of working on this show now, and what about it are you excited for audiences to experience?

A: I have a history with Stage West that goes back into the 1980s, when I worked as a young actress with Jerry and Jim on several shows, and so this theatre has always had a special place in my heart. When I was getting ready to move back to Texas (I'm originally from New York) I reached out to Dana Schultes, and she just happened to be looking for a director for a show that was right in my wheelhouse. After serving as Artistic Director for Judith Shakespeare Company NYC for 20 years - the company I founded to give women more opportunities to perform classical theatre - there could not be a more perfect fit for me than Into the Breeches!  And what a fun show! It was a match made in heaven!

I got to town August 1, 2019, and we cast the show that next week as part of the full season - even though the show would not go up until the following summer. Little did we know that, thanks to Covid, things would get so crazy. No one knew what to expect from one moment to the next - but Dana and her staff fought hard for the theatre these past two years, and fought hard for this show as well. By the time we start rehearsal it will have been THREE YEARS since we initially cast the roles! That's pretty unique! And, boy, are we looking forward to it finally getting onto the stage!

The show follows a group of women on the home front during WW2, who are trying to keep their local Shakespeare theatre alive while the men are "over there." Their spirit to "make it happen" in the face of daunting challenges speaks to us even more vitally now that we've been coping with this pandemic for a good long while - and especially to that unrelenting determination of theatre people to keep our art alive. The entire staff of Stage West has demonstrated this in particular. Life imitates art imitates life...! The drive to create this art - which gives us so much more than we can describe or quantify - is a part of all of us who work in the theatre, and at the heart of this play itself. It's a show that celebrates resilience, ingenuity, the love and magic that is theatre! The show must go on - somehow - and it will! We are SO excited!

Patron Spotlight: Sandra Lackey

Stage West’s Development Director, Tonya Wilson-Brown, recently got the chance to chat with loyal Stage West supporter, Sandra Lackey.

How long have you been coming to Stage West?
I have been a patron of Stage West for a very long time. I remember coming over from Hurst where I used to live.

How did you become interested in theatre?
I love live theatre. I will go to live theatre before going to a movie. In fact, I haven't been to the movies in years. Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris (pictured) was the first show I saw at Stage West (at least the show that stuck out the most). It was dinner theatre back then. You stayed in your seat as the show was performed. The play itself was riveting! I really enjoyed the music. There is a kind of energy that comes from the stage to the audience in really great productions. That production (Jacques Brel) had it. I hope that same energy gets reflected back to the stage. The actors in that production had a very special energy. It was intimate.

What do you like about Stage West?
The variety of the productions that you stage. Musicals, contemporary dramas, classics...Variety is brought to the audience through Stage West’s productions. Also the quality of productions amazes me. I know when I bring friends to the theatre they will have a great time. When we were in the pandemic and everything shut down one of the things I missed most was theatre. When the lights go down and come back up and you see the world through someone else's lens - it rivets me. I am glad theatre is back.

What is your favorite show of this season?
Scrooge in Rouge. I enjoyed seeing the four actors playing different parts. The young man who played the ingenue just blew me away. I like theatre that makes me think. On the way home I want to ask questions. I watched both Church and State and On the Exhale. I was in Dallas in ‘63 and heard the shot that killed Kennedy. When the gunshot happened in Church and State it really impacted me. Both shows made an impact.

What words would you use to sell SWT to a friend?
Quality. When you go to Stage West you know you are going to see people who are good at what they do, doing it at their best. I would also use the words thought-provoking. I have been a season ticket holder for at least 30 years. I remember telling Jerry Russell once that I can give what I can to keep the theatre going. I will continue to do that. If you want quality, you must show your support and give.

We thank Sandra for her long-time support of Stage West our local arts scene!

A chat with Laura Payne on the endurance of Shakespeare

Q: In this play, a group of actresses (and an actor or two) are working to put together a production of Shakespeare’s Henriad trilogy in the thick of World War II. Shakespeare’s text and stories resonate with the women in the play, and will also likely resonate with Stage West audiences seeing and hearing the production. As he continues to be one of the most produced playwrights in the world, what do you think it is about Shakespeare’s plays that continue to resonate and entertain today?

Laura Payne: Imagine a ten-year-old girl, sitting in front of the television set watching Henry V with Kenneth Branagh absolutely mesmerized. As a burgeoning theater kid, obsessed with the televised production of West End’s Cats, the Brandy Cinderella, and the 1955 Oklahoma!, my mother quickly recognized a pattern; so, in popped the VHS of the 1989 Henry V. This ten-year-old was hooked. I was entranced by the language, the drama, and the poetry. I could watch Henry woo the French Kate over and over again. I was fascinated with the character of “the boy,” and wanted to play him as soon as I could. My mother, seeing this intense reaction, then popped in the 1993 Much Ado About Nothing (also Branagh) and I was hooked again! I loved watching the comedic tricks, the love stories, and the witty language. I loved watching Emma Thompson quip, “a bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours” as much as I had loved Branagh’s rousing “we few, we happy few, we band of brothers.” Soon after, I begged for a complete works of Shakespeare, mostly to have on the shelf and not yet read. But no fear, by age 13 I was reading them all. I attended a reading focused school and in fifth grade we started reading abridged versions of Shakespeare, beginning with Romeo and Juliet (“a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”) and (my favorite) Much Ado About Nothing. We even got the chance to perform Much Ado, and although I did not get to play my dream of Beatrice, I jumped in gladly to play the benevolent Prince Don Pedro. After that, we read a Shakespeare a year, it was Julius Caesar (“e tu, Brute”) in 6th grade, Henry V (again for me) in 7th, and The Merchant of Venice (“the quality of mercy is not strained”) in 8th. Not to mention by 18 I had read As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Macbeth, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Antony and Cleopatra. By 18, I had consumed almost a third of Shakespeare’s canon.

I start this way not to make any points about my reading prowess, most of these were read only after watching their film adaptations. But more to turn the question, “why does Shakespeare’s work resonate with audience all these years” back on myself. For why was a young girl who barely understood the language and the poetry (and let’s face it, most of the humor), so enthralled by this playwright?

First, story. Little Laura was simply obsessed with the stories. Whether comedy or dramas or histories, western literature has followed in Shakespeare’s footsteps when it comes to storytelling. Whether it’s the playboy turned king and hero (The Henriad), the antihero (Richard III), mistaken identities (Twelfth Night or As You Like It), or star-crossed lovers (Romeo and Juliet), these tropes and stories are familiar to us now. If acted well, you don’t even need to understand every word of Shakespeare to know where the story will go. It’s an intense feeling of familiarity without even realizing it, and I think that is part of what childhood me loved so much about these movies, and then subsequently the scripts themselves (once she got a bit older and could actually understand them). And I believe that’s why we love seeing Shakespeare still today. Not to mention, these stories are extremely adaptable and is it not such a joy to see them done in different ways!

And that gets me to my second reason why we all love Shakespeare so much, the language. Even if I couldn’t quite understand every word, I understood the feeling. Great poetry is not about word for word understanding, it is about what the words evoke. In some ways, Shakespeare’s plays perform like fairy tales, with heightened language that makes everything seem more beautiful, more important, or more hilarious. Even after saying the St. Crispin’s day speech every day in rehearsal, I still get chills reciting, “then he will strip his sleeve and show his scar and say, these wounds I had on Crispin’s Day.” Try saying this line for example and take note of how many s-sounds are in it. A quick google search and you’ll see this is called sibilance, and sibilance is often used to create a drawing in or immersive response for the listener. I mean, call that genius. To use sibilance during a speech wherein a King is inspiring his men to not fear battle. And this kind of language and poetry is in so much of Shakespeare’s work! It’s why when writing this I can think of a line from every play I have mentioned. It’s why we keep coming back, to watch the fairy tales. Not just the stories themselves but also the way in which they are told.

The Shakespeare nerd in me could go on and on and write speeches and speeches about why these plays are still produced. But I’ll end here. Take a moment to think of your favorite Shakespeare line, and if you don’t have one, just flip through that old Complete Works by William Shakespeare that you probably have on your bookshelf, and I bet you’ll find one you like pretty quickly.

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