by Lorie Lewis Ham
This week the Madwoman’s Attic Ensemble opens their second show, Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), Friday, November 13 at the Broken Leg Stage in the Tower District in Fresno.
According to Heather Parish, artistic director of the new company, the Madwoman’s Attic Ensemble’s first gig was a reading of Imaginary Friends at the Rogue Festival in 2010. “Putting together a working ensemble combining people I’ve worked with for years with new talent has been something I’ve wanted to do for a few years.” They launched their first production, The Turn of the Screw, in July of 2010 to sold out houses. The Ensemble focuses on language based plays with an ensemble approach.
After the intense subject matter of Turn of the Screw, Heather stated that they wanted something light and playful, but that still had that emphasis on language. “Desdemona (Juliet) had been on my shelf for some time and I took it down and reread it. The central character, Constance, was a perfect match for my long-time theater friend Kristin Lyn Crase, who has taken on the challenge with aplomb. Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) is an exuberant romp through two of Shakespeare’s most popular tragedies, but it also has messages about understanding oneself, listening to your intuition, and making your voice heard. Audiences will walk away smiling and feeling pretty great!”
This play is a Shakespearean themed comedy written by Canadian author Ann-Marie MacDonald. In this exuberant comedy, Constance Ledbelly, a drab and dusty academic, deciphers a cryptic manuscript she believes to be the original source for the tragedies, and is transported into the plays themselves. In true, Shakespearean spirit, Constance plunders the plays and creates something new, all the while engaging in a personal voyage of discovery.
The cast is primarily made up of women, highlighting the gender bending often found in Shakespeare’s comedies. Heather stated that their core value of training and allowing new or young actors opportunities to grow lends itself to this earnest, little known play. Kristin Lyn plays Constance the academic dreamer, and Ashlyn Walker, Chelsea Bonilla, Dorian Follansbee, Christina Tellifson, and Bruce Robinson all play a variety of roles throughout the show. “Most of the play takes place in a dream world so the women really play off of one another well. Working with casts that are predominately one gender or another is a particular challenge and joy. My next show, The Pillowman, will be predominately male.”
Heather has been directing for 12 years in both large and small venues, including directing for the Woodward Park Shakespeare Festival. For this show, she has chosen a small, intimate venue in The Broken Leg Stage. “The space is a small black box that seats only 50, so you’re right there with the action. There is very little separation between the actors and audience, which really makes it a shared experience. For those used to theaters in large auditoriums or a traditional stage, it can be very exciting and new.”
This week the company announced that they have chosen the shows for their upcoming season and that some big changes are happening. “I’ve decided to plan four more productions in the spring/summer of 2011, making our informal troupe something more permanent and lasting,” said Heather. Beginning in January 2011 the MWA Ensemble will formalize its organization under the name The New Ensemble and forge ahead in producing a season of plays for 2011. “Our mission will be to develop vital and innovative work with literary merit, a collaborative approach, and a commitment to emotional immediacy in performance for our community.” The spring 2011 plays will be announced first in the Goodnight Desdemona program.
To check out this new company, go see Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), which will run November 12, 13, 19 and 20 at 8 p.m., with matinees November 13 and 20 at 2 p.m. at the Broken Leg Stage, 1470 N Van Ness, Fresno, one block south of Fresno City College. Latecomers will not be admitted to maintain the integrity of the performance space. Tickets are $10. Reservations are recommended as there is limited seating. Call (559) 457-9613 for reservations or go the MWA website. Advance tickets are also available at Brown Paper Tickets.
Watch for another Local Live next Wednesday at 7 p.m.