Lady Parts

If you’ve read anything we’ve written about the show to date, you already know that we’re emphasizing gender roles in our upcoming production of ROMEO AND JULIET at this year’s Capital Fringe Festival. Below is the list of actors and their roles, including the ways that we’ve used creative double-, triple-, and even quadruple-casting.

Nathan James Bennett: Nurse & Tybalt

Raven Bonniwell: Juliet

Chris Dinolfo: Lady Capulet, Peter, Apothecary, & Gregory

Chris Genebach: Capulet, Friar John & Sampson

Sean Hudock: Romeo

Kiernan McGowan: Benvolio & Paris

Paul Reisman: Friar Lawrence, Montague, & Abraham

William Vaughan: Mercutio & Prince

Juliet is the only female character being played by a woman. We’re attempting to emphasize the male-dominated world by which Juliet is surrounded by having all of the other women characters, namely the Nurse and Lady Capulet, also played by men. That is to say, these other women have already become a part of the society dictated by the wills of men in the world of the play.

It is not our intention to make a parody of the women characters, which is the really the opposite of the point we’re trying to make. We definitely won’t be giving them fake boobs (as much as they might want them). We will, however, be attempting to show how Juliet and her Romeo begin to break out of the boundaries set by this masculine, patriarchal society as they break traditional Capulet and Montague rules. But of course, that forward motion comes to a screeching halt at the end of the play for obvious reasons. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, definitely go read the play.

Our ROMEO AND JULIET is Underway!

We Happy Few is working hard to bring you a great production of ROMEO AND JULIET as part of this summer’s Capital Fringe Festival. Just this week we had our first read through with the cast and a production meeting. Great ideas abound! Check back with us here for more information about the show as it’s finalized.

Tickets for ROMEO AND JULIET (and all other Fringe shows, for that matter) will be on sale June 17th! There are two ways to get your tickets: through the Fringe box office or through a link we’ll provide right here when the time comes. Also, be sure to follow us on facebook and twitter for interesting tidbits.

While we can’t part with too many secrets yet, here’s the cast list to satiate your curiosity for now: Nathan James Bennet*, Raven Bonniwell, Chris Dinolfo*, Chris Genebach*, Sean Hudock*, Kiernan McGowan, Paul Reisman*, and William Vaughan.

*Equity Actors are appearing under an exclusive arrangement with Actors’ Equity Association.



Let’s Get Physical

At our rehearsals for THE TEMPEST, it’s pretty obvious that there’s something special going on. There are equal parts Shakespeare, music, movement, and innovation. Best combo ever. There’s a certain amount of athleticism lent by our actors which allows us to figuratively and literally build the world of the show. We see the island as a living, breathing component of the play.

It’s difficult to explain what we mean by “movement-based” in describing the show. You can get a better idea by seeing it for yourself! But for now, we’ll do the best we can to tell you what to expect.  Our ensemble of actors comes to rehearsal in athletic wear, ready to climb, jump, fall, roll, crouch, perch, slide, and slink. We Happy Few is all about the collaborative environment of rehearsals to explore the meaning behind Shakespeare’s words and the almost endless staging possibilities. To get our winning combination of movement, we start with some gymnastics and stretching, add a pinch of pretzel,  a dash of dance, a hint of contortionism, and a bunch of the buddy system (times 3 or 4 or 5 or 6).

For example, in Act 2 Scene 2, there are so many ways that Caliban can be introduced to “celestial liquor” by Stephano and Trinculo. The cast worked with director Hannah Todd and movement director Jacob Janssen to work through a few possible ways to incorporate all the dialogue, not one but TWO original songs, Caliban’s character-specific stylized movement, and even a few slapstick funny moments. There’s a lot of thought jam-packed into every gesture and step. Each scene was crowd-sourced in a sense, allowing the actors to interpret what might be a natural progression for their character based on the tone of the scene. Most scenes are staged in multiple ways before a final decision is made on the blocking. While it makes a lot of work for our cast and crew, it also means that our audience will see the best possible variation of the show, which is what we aim for!

We’re creating the magic of the island through the movement of our bodies in this production of THE TEMPEST, and it wouldn’t be magic unless we kept a few secrets to ourselves. Want to find out what they are? Then get your tickets now! THE TEMPEST opens tomorrow night and runs through May 12. You have just 9 opportunities to see this show, and you definitely won’t want to miss it.

An Interview with a Composer

The musical component of our production of THE TEMPEST takes center stage in this interview with Composer John Todd, who created music that will, in turn, help to create our world in the play. John Todd is a lawyer with a passion for music living in Massachusetts. As the name suggests, he is the father of our beloved director and We Happy Few co-founder, Hannah Todd, and therefore it seemed fitting to have his help in designing the sound of the island.

WHF: How did you come to be a part of this project?

John Todd: Making music together has been a big part of our family life.  When the kids took up instruments, I composed things I could play with them or they could play with friends.  Hannah and I have been singing together since she was a toddler, and she herself has done some composing.  In fact our first collaboration was setting to music some reminiscences of my mother (Hannah’s grandmother) for her 70th birthday, and later we set some Shakespeare sonnets to music for my father’s 75th birthday. It was a natural outgrowth of that collaboration that Hannah asked me to work on this project.

WHF: Can you talk a little bit about your approach to composing music for THE TEMPEST? Was there anything in particular that inspired you or that Hannah (our director) gave you as a guide?

Todd: The Tempest is a very musical play, full of songs and Shakespeare’s own musical directions (“solemn and strange music”).  In WHF’s production, everything emanates from the actors and their bodies — the magic, the music and the evocation of the island itself; so the songs and incidental music are a cappella, without instruments.  Hannah and I talked through what she was trying to achieve in each scene and how the music or song should drive the scene and the characters; then I would try to conjure it with the music.  Some things worked right away; others, we went back and forth a bit until it felt right.

WHF: What kind of tone does your music lend to the performance?

Todd: At first, I tried to give the music a kind of Elizabethan madrigal quality (it is Shakespeare, after all), something you can hear a bit in the first song, “Full Fathom Five.”  But after a few tries, we decided to aim for something more unmoored from a particular era or style, particularly for the music “of the island” like Ariel’s and Caliban’s songs and the feast music.  It’s the interlopers whose music has roots in our world, as in the sea chanty “The Master, The Swabber.”

WHF: We are adamant that this show is not a musical. But it is a show with music. Can you explain how the music fits into the performance?

Todd: Shakespeare infused the play with music, and while the music should be subservient, at times Shakespeare has the characters themselves stop, listen and wonder as the music manifests itself.  So we didn’t have to be too shy about the music, try to hide it unobtrusively in the background, because that’s not where Shakespeare put it.  At the same time, our aim musically was to capture the mood and character of the scene, from Caliban’s harsh, otherworldly cry for release in “No more dams”, to Ariel’s hidden existential sadness in “Where the bee sucks” (“shall I live now”).

WHF: Please tell us about the timeline of preparing the music. What part will you play in the rehearsal process, if any?

Todd: I created initial versions of all the music working from Hannah’s first edit before rehearsals began; but we knew it would need to evolve as part of the very collaborative process that is at the heart of this production.  Once we had the actors – and their various voices – and as the scenes took shape, we monkeyed with the music to make it work.  Fortunately, the production has been blessed with a very talented music director, Ben Lurye, who has been able to shepherd the music through that collaboration, keeping it fully integrated with the evolving movement and direction.

WHF: Do you have a vision, or hope, of how audiences will react to Shakespeare set to your music?

Todd: While this isn’t a musical, the music should serve the same ends – it should feel like a natural outgrowth of what is happening on the stage, and bring added dimension to the characters, which is what Shakespeare wanted.  Hopefully, it also reflects the peculiar character of WHF’s vision of a clash between Prospero’s world and ours and its resolution.

WHF: Is there anything else you’d like to share about the project?

Todd: Only a father’s deep pride in what Hannah, and Raven, have accomplished, and the real joy in being part of it.

I’d like to thank John for taking time to speak with us and shed a bit more light on the musical component of our take on THE TEMPEST. Can’t picture (or hear) it? You’ll have to come to the show and experience it! Click here and get your tickets today!

Oh Oh, it’s Magic

We Happy Few’s THE TEMPEST is starting to take shape. The script is in its final stages and slowly-but-surely the artistic vision is emerging.

What makes this show special? We are reimagining THE TEMPEST on a living, breathing island- its primal magic conjured in the bodies and voices of a seven-actor ensemble. The omniscient Prospero stands apart, wielding the island’s power to manipulate monsters and spirits, kings and drunkards, a treacherous brother, and a daughter in love. But is harnessing the magic of the island for one’s own ends really worth the isolation it brings?

The most difficult part of staging THE TEMPEST has always been making it truly magical. At WHF, we believe there is nothing more magical than watching actors on a stage create a world. As such, WHF’s THE TEMPEST will follow in the company’s tradition of stripped-down productions, focusing on using the actors themselves to produce the entirety of this world. Just as the ensemble will build the world of the island, they will also create all the magic that happens – not with sleight-of-hand, but with the movement of their bodies. Additionally, the sound of the world will all be created with only the actors’ voices and bodies – including original music composed for the production. Along with these elements, WHF will continue its signature focus on maintaining the integrity of Shakespeare’s text while exploring it from an exciting new angle.

Stay tuned for more details about THE TEMPEST– there will be many more to come!