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Posts Tagged Gilbert and Sullivan

How To Dress A Pirate (and Other Zany Characters)

Park Square Theatre‘s adaptation of The Pirates of Penzance by Doug Scholz-Carlson has Gilbert and Sullivan on a steamer, heading to New York for its opening. But–oops!–they’ve left the score in London! Forced to recreate the show from memory during their voyage, they use their ship mates as the cast and all the costumes they’d packed along in their trunks. In the world outside of the play (and the play within the play), the person who created all those clothes and accessories for our production is Costume Designer Rebecca Bernstein.

Rebecca gave the costumes for The Pirates of Penzance a Victorian-like feel but didn’t make them super-realistic. This stage costume-y aspect to the clothes supports the idea that the passengers on the ship (the real people) are playing parts in a show.

The premise is also that Gilbert and Sullivan have to make do with what’s on the ship, which includes just a small number of available people to play all the roles so Rebecca used color to help audiences more easily identify the characters. For instance, all the pirates have red, black and gold in their costumes, and the police are in blue. This color-coding also helps the actors make fast costume changes.

What I could not help noticing about Rebecca’s design renderings is how beautiful they are–like beautiful children’s storybook illustrations. This turns out to be a common compliment that Rebecca has heard many times before.

Rebecca feels like she’s been designing costumes “forever.”

“I’ve always liked clothes even as a kid,” Rebecca recalled. “My mom taught me to sew when I was five. I was interested in clothes as an art form and liked going to museums with fashion exhibits. I was also always interested in theatre–seeing plays.”

In junior high, Rebecca attended a magnet school that focused on the arts. They offered a costume class that produced the costumes for school plays. When she took the class in eighth grade, as Rebecca put it, “The sky opened; the angels sang. I knew I wanted to be a costume designer.”

Rebecca went on to attend an arts-oriented high school and obtain a BA in General Theatre. She then got her master’s in Costume Design from New York University.

Three years ago, Rebecca and her family moved from New York City to Minneapolis when her husband became the head of the sound department at the Children’s Theatre Company. Rebecca herself has found the Twin Cities to be a great arts community for professional opportunities, which includes her current stint at Park Square Theatre. Be prepared to keep seeing more creative works from this talented New York transplant on our stages for years to come.

 

 

NOTE: All renderings shown are by Rebecca Bernstein

Tickets and information here.

Alice McGlave, the Bride-to-Be

Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance is a fast-paced, zany comedy with a love story at its core. Playing Mabel, the bride-to-be of Frederic, the pirate apprentice, is Alice McGlave. Here she is to tell us about her role and a bit about herself:

1. What do you like about playing Mabel?

I like Mabel’s optimism and vulnerability. She falls in love so quickly with Frederic and remains positive even when the odds are against them and it seems like they won’t make it as a couple.

2. What’s the hardest part about playing Mabel?

I think the hardest part about playing Mabel is her music. She has some demanding vocal lines. It is a challenge to sing through those vocal lines while in character. Throw some choreography on top of that, and it can get pretty tricky.

3. How has your training prepared you for this part?

Alice McGlave in rehearsal
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

The key to playing Mabel is to make sure I am warmed up. Warming up was a crucial part of my training. Every voice lesson begins with a warm up. I compare singing a role like Mabel to that of an athlete. Like athletes warm up before a game or race, singers have to properly warm up to prepare for a performance.

4. What was your aha moment in realizing that you wanted to be an actor?

It was in high school. I began to realize how much joy performing brought me. There is nothing like performing in front of a live audience. It’s exhilarating!

5. What’s your favorite song in this show and why?

I really enjoy When the Foeman Bares His Steel. In the song, I am trying to motivate the police to go and fight the pirates. It’s such a goofy song, and the police are so much fun to watch. There is a lot of physical comedy throughout.

6. What’s your favorite “piratey” thing?

I am a huge fan of the pirate hats. The more feathers the better!

 

L to R: Bradley Greenwald, Alice McGlave and Christina Baldwin
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

 

Tickets and information here

Max Wojtanowicz, Pirate Apprentice

In Park Square Theatre’s production of The Pirates of Penzance, Max Wojtanowicz plays the rather naïve but lovable pirate apprentice, Frederic. His character’s accidental path to piratehood is a hoot, and so is his path to finding true love. Here’s Max to tell us a bit about playing Frederic and also a few things about himself:

1. What’s your favorite thing about playing Frederic?

I love looking at the world through the eyes of a child, and Frederic has a childlike innocence about him. He’s been on a pirate ship his whole life, and adulthood, women, and dry land are entirely new to him! And even though he’s a little clumsy with his words and his feet (I empathize there!), he still wants so badly to do right. I’m also so glad to be working on this role with our director, Doug Scholz-Carlson, who knows the play and the character so well.

2. This is a really rigorous production for cast members. What is the most difficult thing to do as Frederic and why?

Our production is really demanding, both physically and vocally, but the most difficult part by far is not breaking character by laughing at the comedic genius of Christina Baldwin and Bradley Greenwald. Sharing the stage with both of them, and the rest of this gorgeous cast: Can we talk about a dream come true?

Max being fitted with a mic for an interview
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

3. Frederic could have become a pilot but, due to unexpected circumstances, ended up a pirate. If Max had not gotten hooked on theatre at an early age, he may have become a (fill in the blank) instead.

I think I might have become a writer. I wrote a lot of stories as a kid, and I still do! Maybe I would have ended up in journalism? That might be the best case scenario. Realistically, I probably would have ended up a bit like Frederic: out to sea, singing high Bs, not much direction in life.

4. You have a number of upcoming gigs after The Pirates of Penzance. What are they?

Cab Cabaret at Troubadour on April 16; The Good Person of Szechwan with Ten Thousand Things from May 10 to June 3; Ball ArtSHARE at the Southern Theater from June 20 to 24; and I have an ongoing Musical Mondays at LUSH with The Catalysts.

5. You’ve been a Minnesota Fringe Festival favorite for the past years. Do you plan to put on a show to keep up the tradition this year?

Not this year! We had a good run for five years in a row; and I can’t wait to be back in the Fringe with a really good idea, but that idea hasn’t quite come to me yet. Plus I’m buying a house and getting married this summer, so it’ll be a wee bit busy already!

6. What is fulfilling for you about being in The Pirates of Penzance in 2018?

Gilbert and Sullivan were writing at a time when opera was very popular, and they were really smart guys, so smart that they knew exactly how to make fun of both opera and society. They were keen on world events and satire, and I think the temptation right now is to make sure all of our art reflects the world we live in, like they did. To be frank, that would make for some pretty glum stuff. We need hard-hitting, incisive and relevant stories onstage right now, but there is also room and use in the world for fluff, silliness and frivolity. Hopefully, our show has a little of all of that. Maybe a little more silliness than anything else.

7. Do you have a favorite “piratey” thing?

I like to involve my nephews in whatever play I’m doing. They’re five-year-old twins, and they have huge imaginations, so lately my favorite piratey thing to do is pretend to be pirates and draw costume sketches and making “arrrr” noises with them!

Tickets and information here!

 

 

(In)Famous Pirates of Stage and Screen!

In rehearsal at Park Square now is the ageless musical comedy, The Pirates of Penzance, by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. Fans of musical theatre and classic drama will no doubt be familiar with the opera; it has been making people fall in love with dimwitted pirates since it premiered in 1879 in New York City, and it accompanies H.M.S. Pinafore and The Mikado as Gilbert and Sullivan’s most produced works today.

All of my research into this show now, has stirred my latent fascination with pirates – especially those buccaneers we see in film and on TV. Of course, Pirates of Penzance was turned into a movie in 1983 starring Kevin Kline and Angela Lansbury. This film was based on the acclaimed 1980 Broadway production, produced by Joe Papp.

But who else makes up our motley crew of fictionalized swashbucklers? Who did I leave out and who shouldn’t I have included?

1. Let’s go back to the beginning, when pirates made their first big splash on the screen. Errol Flynn as the debonair renegade, Captain Blood, in the 1935 film that launched his stardom. Now that I think about it, why did it take over a hundred years to make a Pirates of Penzance film?

2. Of course, before film there was literature and coming out only a few years after Pirates of Penzance, was the dastardly Long John Silver of Treasure Island. This is absolutely the character that set the template for all the pirate-isms we know and love today. The peg-leg, the eye-patch, even that squawking parrot! Thanks Robert Louis Stevenson…. Naturally there have been dozens of depictions of Captain Long John and even a tasty fast-food joint. Famous actors such as Charlton Heston, Wallace Beery, Orson Welles and Jack Palance have all had a turn with the black spot, but who doesn’t love Tim Curry’s portrayal in Muppet Treasure Island?

3. Another infamous pirate has to be the one and only Captain Hook. While made famous the world-over by Disney’s 1953 animated classic, the character first appeared in the play Peter Pan (1904) by J.M. Barrie and the subsequent novel in 1911. The archenemy of the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, Captain Hook attributes his name to the sinister iron hook that has replaced his hand (bit off by a very persistent crocodile). I would say that he and Long John Silver would certainly get along well!

4. Well, I think we’ve had enough of villainy for the time being, haven’t we? Let’s get back to the lovable-rogue archetype that Flynn perfected so well. Next up…. that captain of the Black Pearl and scoundrel of the Caribbean, Jack Sparrow! Thanks to Johnny Depp’s chameleon-like transformation in Disney’s 2003 classic, Pirates of the Caribbean, this pirate not only became famous but a world-wide phenomena, launching a multi-billion dollar franchise and four subsequent sequels (for better or for worse…) The only question we have now is – why is the rum gone?

5. Finally, I figured we would end this whole escapade where we started it, with 1983’s The Pirates of Penzance and Kevin Kline’s performance as the Pirate King. Kind-hearted and gentlemanly, the Pirate King is not your typical brand of bloodthirsty buccaneer, and that’s what makes the character so endearing!

(Now we have someone even better stepping into the role for Park Square: the multi-talented Bradley Greenwald.)

Bradley Greenwald (Photo by Petronella J Ytsma)

Buckle up your bootstraps and get ready for some serious silliness on the high seas; tickets and information can be found here!

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