Shakin’ Up Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Notes > Rehearsal + Performance Blog

The Armonk Players Presents A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Dec. 6-7 & 11-14 Whippoorwill Theater, North Castle Library, Armonk, N.Y.

Bruce the Blog at WorkBy Bruce the Blog the Actor as Peter Quince

Rehearsal > 11.20.14
I was reminded at tonight’s rehearsal of something that seemingly has nothing to do with what we’re doing. And yet it does.

Choreographer Christine Gavin takes the cast through its paces. Like Gene Kelly sang, “Gotta dance!”

Oberon, Fairies FInale

Dave Morabito (center), who doubles as the show’s talented set builder, is King of the Fairies Oberon, as his crew (from left) Nancy Jane Blake, Julia Ryan, Leah Wendt, Tom Ammirato, Heidi Giarlo pays him homage.

Tony Val as Bottom laps up the attention from Leah Wendt as Queen Titania as a flurry of Fairies flutter and fawn. (Pay full attention to that man in front of the curtain, because we’ll miss Mr. Mark Pierce!)

It harks back to when I was lucky enough to cover the video part of Hollywood, and was invited to Lucasfilm’s Skywalker Ranch outside San Francisco. They gave me an eye- and ear-opening demo of how movies come alive in post-production. It started with some raw film footage of a scene in the first Star Wars (actually Episode IV in the chronology). You can hear the camera motor whirring and George Lucas directing. Nothing special as an entertainment experience; like the proverbial “watching sausage being made.” But bit by bit, in the screening theater, my hosts added one layer after another to that same scene — editing, music, sound effects, and visual effects — until the legendary Star Wars movie magic was all up there in its full glory.


As cranky Egeus, Nancy Jane Blake’s costume looks like she channels flinty Clint Eastwood as The Man With No Name from his Spaghetti Western days.

Watching the scenes tonight in Chris DiTota‘s (our George Lucas!) re-imagining of this Shakespeare comedy, I was excited by the dynamic elements she’s added that are not normally associated with this timeless masterwork. Then I realized we’re watching the equivalent of that Star Wars “raw footage,” before we have a set or lighting or props or costumes or full-scale sound accompaniment, or all the other “layers” that add up to the off-Broadway production values audiences expect of anything mounted by the Armonk Players.
Without giving too much away, it’s not a stretch to dub this interpretation “Shakin’ Up Shakespeare” (which this blog has been renamed effective right now). There are broad enough hints of what’s in store in the billing, with Christine Gavin credited with Musical Staging and Michelle DeAngelis with Music Arrangements.
Ms. Gavin was busy tonight choreographing the Lovers and Fairies. Others diverged to breakout sessions to run lines and sharpen characterizations, stage business and delivery. I got a lot of great line help from Pia Haas, who also worked with Anthony Barresi (Demetrius) and Jennifer Kawa (Helena), who also worked on her monologue with Mark Pierce, who also tutored Anthony Valbiro aka Tony Val (Bottom). Sort of a rehearsal roundelay.
Rehearsal > 11.18.14
Well, it was quite a strenuous rehearsal, in particular for my castmates Anthony Barresi Jr. (Demetrius), Steven Bendler (Lysander), Brandi Danielle Gestri (Hermia) and Jennifer Edwards Kawa (Helena). I was winded just watching them.
I sat out most of the rehearsal after the first hour, using the time to go over my lines, take photos and make notes for this very blog. Anthony Vilbaro had to scoot early, so I also was a “stand-in,” as we say in the trade, for his Bottom (that didn’t exactly come out as intended….), during a scene with Titania (Leah Wendt) and Puck (Daniel Carlino) and Fairies (Tom Ammirato, Nancy Jane Blake, Julia Ryan). I was snuggled and pampered in a comfy, shell-shaped divan, so I’ll volunteer for that duty again anytime.
Anthony Baressi Jr. as Demetrius (left) and Steven Bendler as Lysander have a "Tug o' Hermia" (Jennifer Kawa) to win her favor.

Anthony Barresi Jr. as Demetrius (left) and Steven Bendler as Lysander have a “Tug o’ Helena” (Jennifer Kawa) to win her favor.

From my perch in the audience, it was quite an entertaining night to watch the great progress being made by everyone, and a gymnastic calorie burner of a night for the quartet aforementioned in the first paragraph. The detailed physical comedy staged by director Chris DiTota is coming together very effectively.
I would normally about this point post a photo of some of the highly unusual physical action on stage I witnessed, but I had to sign an oath of secrecy in blood (it’s cool, only stage blood), and promise not to show any photos here that would divulge the big reveal, so you’ll have to come see our show to find out what Bardman (no relation to Birdman) himself probably would find quite appropriate and amusing.
But the photo above (“Tug o’ Helena”) gives you a taste of the physicality in store as Demetrius and Lysander will go to great lengths to keep each other at arm’s length, even if it means borrowing Helena’s arms to do it.


Big Dave Morabito (Oberon, King of the Fairies, right) conspires with Dan Carlino (Puck). Dave also builds stage scenery, and we can’t wait to see ours for the first time at next Sunday’s rehearsal ! Woo-hoo!

For my part (literally), I stumbled some through the play-within-a-play sequence we ran the first hour of rehearsal. As cold as I know the lines while driving around town and walking around my office, reciting them to myself, it’s not exactly the same when you’re on stage in the throes of the action. There’s a lot of activity, with starts and stops and director’s notes interjected. The occasional result is that entire lines or words can fly out of your head just when you need them. I felt pretty foolish at a couple of points.

The conga line

I tell ya, some actors’ll do just about anything to sneak out of rehearsal early. But that’s not what (from left) Jennifer Kawa, Steven Bendler, Brandi Gestri and Anthony Barresi are doing. Come to think of it, I don’t know what they’re doing because this just isn’t my scene, man. Come see the show to find out how they escape from this down-low conga line.

Director Chris exhorted me to start my “If we offend” speech with “declamatory” assertion and projection and to modulate my inflection as I worked through the brief monologue. After a couple of run-throughs and adjustments, I got the hang of it.
I tried something new tonight physically by adopting a limp. Chris is reserving judgment on whether that bit of business sticks or stinks, but it got a chuckle from her and from others in the cast. Special thanks to Tom Ammirato (Thisby) for his encouragement, saying that he found the limp amusing. Chris! Chris! Hint! Hint!
  1. Christine DiTota says:

    You rock!

    Liked by 1 person

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