By Ivy Olesen, Teen Council member
Mark Wing-Davey has a firm handshake and booming voice with a
thick English accent. One could easily be intimidated by his presence and
achievements; he’s an acclaimed director, actor, and the chair
of NYU’s Graduate Acting Program. Instead, Mr. Wing-Davey is a disarming mix of wit and mischief. I had the pleasure of interviewing him as part of Teen Night, which allows high schoolers to see Berkeley Rep shows for only $10 and interview people like Wing-Davey -- it’s a deal that can’t be beat.
His gift for storytelling and inclination to talk with his hands makes him an engaging interviewee. I, along with the 60 or so other teens attending Teen Night, was immediately drawn in by his descriptions of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, and his work in directing, acting, and teaching.
He began by describing a prank he had pulled on Berkeley Rep. In his production of Pericles, Prince of Tyre there is a (fake) baby onstage that is swung back and forth, sloshed with water from a fire hose, and (or so it seemed to me, as an audience member) almost lost to the sea. On April Fool's Day, Mr. Wing-Davey sent Berkeley Rep staffers an enthusiastic email to let them know that he had found a real newborn to play the part. This did not go over well for him, he explained gleefully.
I gasped in astounded laughter and was then compelled to turn the questions over to the other teens. Their queries yielded even more interesting answers from Mr. Wing-Davey. Like Aristotle said: “the more you know the more you don’t know,” and we all wanted to know more about him and Pericles badly.
I learned that there is a time for questions and then there is a time for the art to speak for itself. For this we all walked a block over to the Roda Theatre to actually experience the show. Mr. Wing-Davey had proclaimed that Pericles is a “work in progress” and that although we may not agree with all of the choices he made, he hoped they would be thought-provoking. Those provocative choices kept me at the edge of my seat, an unprecedented experience in my viewing of any Shakespeare play ever.
During intermission, I talked with my peers who were teeming with ideas, insights, and opinions about the first half of the show. Was it crazy nonsense? Insane genius? The most profound art that had ever been created? Pure silliness? Mr. Wing-Davey succeeded in leaving behind the stereotype of a boring Shakespeare play, creating something that felt immediate and even relatable to teenagers, which is no easy feat.
As I left the Roda I couldn’t help but smile. All around me audience members of all ages streamed out discussing the various things about Pericles that surprised, disgusted, and delighted them. This, I thought, is just how theatre should be.
Ivy Olesen is a senior at Berkeley High School. She directed the original play, Orpheum, written by Frances Maples as part of the 2013 Teen One-Acts Festival.
Teen Night is a staple of the School of Theatre Teen Council programming. The event allows Bay Area teens to see a Berkeley Rep show for a discounted price, enjoy a delicious meal sponsored by Phil’s Sliders and IZZE Sparkling Juice, and hear an exclusive interview from an artistic professional. On March 8, teens heard from Oskar Eustis, director of Lawrence Wright’s Fallaci, before heading to the theatre to see the show. Teen Council member Sophia Cannata-Bowman conducted the interview, and her reflections are featured below.
As artistic director of The Public Theater in New York City and director of Berkeley Rep's Fallaci, Oskar Eustis could be considered a sort of "hero" to the teens he spoke to at Teen Night. But Mr. Eustis doesn't strut like a hero, or drawl like a hero, or place any claim on being a hero. As he spoke us about his career and passion as a director, he exuded a great sense of modesty and told only the truth.
I had the great honor of being Mr. Eustis' interviewer that night, and he could not have made the job easier for me. His career alone lent itself to a great many questions already, but the stories he told in response to those initial questions left me teeming with many more by the end. When asked to share a moment of great passion that epitomized his love of the craft, Eustis provided a particularly poignant answer. Lighting up at the memory, Eustis recalled a moment working with Tony Kushner on Angels in America. They had been agonizing over a particular scene for ages, working and reworking it, but never getting it right -- as a writer, I know the feeling. Then one day, Kushner came into rehearsal with yet another rewrite. Eustis took a look, they tried it out, and he knew. They had gotten it. Perhaps that moment of satisfaction –- that gut feeling that this is right -- is why artists do what they do. Perhaps we young people dream so fervently for moments like that.
Toward the end of the interview, Eustis worked up a great passion as he gave the room full of aspiring directors, writers, actors, and designers advice on how to overcome the obstacles of the business. He urged us to fight for our passions and to not be afraid of failure. And when we do fail, he said, we must not take that as defeat.
The honesty with which Eustis trusted us, the passion he exuded -- a passion we all shared to the fullest degree -- was nothing less than inspiring. I am among the population of wide-eyed students who dreams of telling stories for a living. And listening to a man of so many accomplishments get excited about the same things I get excited about gave me, personally, a great sense of comfort as I strive to make a place for myself in this business -- to become my own kind of hero doing something that I love.
Sophia Cannata-Bowman is a senior at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory in San Francisco. Her original play, Story by Leonard Watts, will be featured in the 2013 Teen One-Acts Festival. For more information on the Festival, please click here.
Here's more from Alex Moggridge (Daniel) and the cast of Chinglish during their sold-out stint at the Hong Kong Arts Festival! Alex shares some excellent insights about bringing this show to a Chinese audience, and what it means for everyone involved in the show. Congratulations on a fantastic run, everyone!
The cast of Chinglish has arrived safe and sound in Hong Kong. Want to follow them on their trip? We've got you covered. Thanks to the candor and wit of Alex Moggridge (who plays Daniel in the show), everyone can follow this awesome cast as they prepare to perform at the Hong Kong Arts Festival. In this installment, Alex chats with his fellow cast members about how they think the show will be received by Hong Kong audiences -- inlcuding some thoughtful musings on subtitles, conjugations, and costume changes.
Be sure to check back on our website for more updates from Alex and the rest of the Chinglish cast throughout their stay.
Greetings repitilian gameboys and gamegirls, we at Berkeley Rep are in the midst of a time warp, and we're taking you with us in honor of tonight's world premiere of Troublemaker, The Freakin Kick-A Adventures of Bradley Boatright.
The year is ninghteen-mighty-four, the place is working-class Rhode Island, and the clothes -- wait just a gosh-darn minute, hold the cat phone, the intel has just dropped via solaroids of our last opening night, and let me tell you, those kicks with that hat ain't gonna do us any good unless you're goin' on the lam.
So gamers, scrap plans a-z on your opening-night duds, and dress as fly as our tween hero Bradley Kick-A Boatright himself with these fashion tips: