Wednesday, August 20, 2014

James Zager

An Interview with James Zager!          
[ Co-director of Master Class ] 

James Zager
What kind of research did you do to prepare for MASTER CLASS?

Since MASTER CLASS is based on a real event but is not an actual recounting of the event I spent a great deal of time looking at how Terrance McNally combined multiple students, 30 or so, into the three distinct characters we meet on stage.

You are co-directing the show with Jill Anna Ponasik. Please share a bit about the process and how it worked.

This is our 10th creative collaboration and each one has a slightly different configuration. We both have our strengths and we share a strong artistic sensibility so the real challenge is not talking at the same time or finishing each other’s sentences. For MASTER CLASS we started with Jill Anna focusing on the music and the classroom, with me on the text and technical elements, but once we got rolling we really shaped the show together.

MASTER CLASS is also in collaboration with Carroll University - where you are a professor. Could you share some details about that collaboration?

There are two main contributions; The projection surface, which is comprised of acoustic panels that came directly from our concert hall,and two fantastic student interns working as assistants to the stage manager and directors. This is a great experience for them to get a change to work at the professional level.

Although this is your MCT debut – you and your family have a long history with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre! Could you share that story and tell readers what it is like to now be working at MCT?

My parents have been involved with MCT since the very beginning and have been major supporters with both their time and money for 40 years. It is very possible that they will be serving a sundown supper between shows on a Saturday to this cast during the run. Besides getting to see so many of the early productions I myself participated in a number of 5 hour mailing prep sessions when I was home from college and licked more stamps for MCT than I care to remember! I sometimes wonder what they would have thought if their brash young son had said, between stuffing envelopes, that someday he would be directing at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre.

What aspects of the show are you most excited for patrons to see? What do you hope audiences take away from MASTER CLASS?

A look behind the curtain into a world that as preforming artists we are intimately familiar with but as audiences we never really get to see.

Melissa Cardamone

An Interview with Melissa Cardamone!    

                      [Sophie in Master Class]

Melissa Cardamone
Tell us a bit about your character, Sophie.

Sophie is a good, but not great singer. She is well-prepared, at least on the surface. She's an excellent student - her professors all enjoy her and she knows how to succeed in academia. Sophie has never really been challenged to dig deep and pour out her emotions. She wants to please Maria, but feels confused by all the stops and starts, and by the different filters through which Maria approaches the music, and she realizes she has so much more to learn than she has done so far. She goes through an emotional roller coaster, sinks into weeping despair, but eventually has an inkling as to what Callas wants from her. 

What did you do to prepare for this role? Any special studying or Maria Callas research?

I learned the entire aria my character presents, even though in the show I only get through a couple of phrases. :) Of course I read the script, learned my lines. We watched quite a few videos of Maria Callas to get a flavor of the real woman. My favorite was probably a snippet of the actual master classes she gave.

Is there anything fun or interesting about rehearsals and tech process that you would like to share with readers?

It is difficult as a singer to prepare an aria, then sing it not quite correctly so there are elements for Maria to shape and enhance. Especially difficult for me was to have poor diction. It is so ingrained in us singers to pronounce and project, to do the opposite is tricky! And since these students WERE chosen for the master class, it can't be TOO bad, or else it wouldn't make sense that they were selected to perform. 
Melissa Cardamone, Brian Myers & Angela Iannone

It was also interesting to participate in a show where the leading lady has done the role so many times and knows the show so completely and intimately.  The rest of us met the week prior to rehearsing with Angela in order to flesh out our characters on our own. That was valuable time spent. 

I also found it fascinating how much the show evolved in the transition from rehearsal room to the theater. The larger space rounded out the broader, more passionate emotions and I found them easier to digest as an audience member.  The lighting as well as the projections behind Maria give a glimpse into her memories and set the atmosphere for her flashbacks effectively. It was neat to see that transformation.

What aspects of the show are you most excited for patrons to see? What do you hope audiences take away from MASTER CLASS?

I think Angela Iannone is a force of nature. She is strong, frightening, vulnerable, funny and completely captivating. Her performance alone is worth the price of admission. She has done a ton of research into the woman who was Maria Callas. It's a little unsettling to be onstage with her -  that's how complete her embodiment of "La Divina" is. That being said, the entire ensemble has impressed me. I'm looking forward to sharing this story with an audience. There are so many insightful and acute observations in this show regarding singing and music, but also art in general. Hopefully audiences will be able to see what Maria expected out of students, and how much work and close attention the art of singing requires. As much as she expected out of her students, Maria expected even more out of herself.   

Alicia Berneche

An Interview with Alicia Berneche       
[ Sharon in Master Class

Alicia Berneche
Tell us a bit about your character, Sharon.

Sharon is the sleeper Maria Callas. She is a nice person, had a lovely childhood, and has had a fine life so far. None of this has given her grit, the grit one needs to survive a career in opera, especially the top eschelons of the art form. She has a ton of talent, but it is the drive, the guts she needs to succeed. 

What did you do to prepare for the role? Any special study or research of Maria Callas?

I had already studied Maria Callas as a student, reading handfuls of biographies to learn about this amazing and singular singer. She could do more standing still and emoting than anyone. I brushed up a bit, but I needed to come at this as someone who doesn't know her end, only the story to 1971. I also own the actual master classes on CD, so I re-listened to a few of the sessions again. But, as this is the fictionalized version of them, I needed to divorce myself from the real to what McNally dramatized. I also have been singing the Macbeth aria for months to get it in my voice. It is not an aria I would EVER sing in real life (it is for a MUCH heavier voice than mine), so I had to learn a healthy way of singing it in my voice but still sing it in the style and force of someone who would sing it without any doubt, and multiple times a week, no less!

Is there anything fun or interesting about the rehearsals and tech process that you would like to share with readers?
Alicia as Sharon in

It has been really interesting coming from an opera background into a straight theatre. There are slightly different conventions and language that we singers needed to learn, but it is heartening to know that we are all essentially the same in process and frustrations!   

What aspects of the show are you most excited for patrons to see?  What do you hope audiences take away from MASTER CLASS?

McNally has structured such a beautiful show. There are so many perfectly placed musical moments that echo what we are seeing and what we are about to see, so much mirroring of Callas' real life in her advice to the singers. It really explains the life of a singer and how truly singular Callas was to the art form. There are very few people who would truly give everything--their energy, time, money, love, EVERYTHING, for their art. Callas did that. It elevated her, but left her bereft and alone, and killed her in the end.

Friday, April 4, 2014

An interview with Rick Pendzich!

Rick Pendzich returns to the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre stage in LEND ME A TENOR. His past MCT appearances include JEEVES INTERVENES, THE FOURTH WALL, BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS and HAY FEVER.

Tell us a bit about your character, Max:

To use Mr. Saunders' words, Max is the "factotum, gopher, and all-purpose dogsbody" for the Cleveland Grand Opera Company.  Basically, it's his job to do whatever Mr. Saunders tells him to do.  Max is quite suited for this job, because he's kind of a doormat.  Even though he has dreams of singing professionally and marrying his girlfriend, he doesn't have the confidence to make things happen for himself.

What are some of the benefits and challenges of performing in a farce/comedy?

The great part about this play is that it's so well-written.  Ken Ludwig writes in a way that not only gives you great dialogue and jokes, but almost gives you a built in rhythm that makes it all land.  This is also what makes it difficult; it's all so rhythmic.  If you space out for a second and drop the ball, you have to build the rhythm back up.

Anything fun you’d like to share with readers about LEND ME A TENOR, rehearsals, etc?

Everyone is hilarious, but I must say that I've probably laughed the most in my scenes with Drew Brhel.  We have similar senses of humor, so we crack each other up a lot.  When we can keep it together, though, it's a great thing.  Sometimes, I feel like we're two volleyball players setting the ball for one another, so the other one can spike it.  I must also say, singing the duet with Steve Koehler has been a joy.  It's such a sweet, pure moment in the show.

What are some of your favorite moments in theatre that made you who you are today?

I really learn something new from each show.  Sometimes it's about the craft; sometimes it's about life.  The cool thing about being an actor is that I get to go through a bunch of different situations (most of which, I would never have the chance to in real life) and take away a lesson.  From comedies to dramas, children's theatre to Shakespeare: they all leave you with something new.  The bonus is that I get to share that with a room full of people and other actors.

What do you like about being a theatre artist in Milwaukee?

I really feel that Milwaukee theatre is a community.  We see each other around all the time, and we all support each other.  Milwaukee audiences are part of it too.  We're all proud of our city's art scene and the local artists that contribute to it.  I love when people come from out-of-town and say, "I had no idea Milwaukee had so much going on."  It's such a blessing to be a part of that.

Thanks Rick! We can wait to see you and the rest of the cast April 10-27.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

An interview with MU student Hannah Klapperich-Mueller

Hannah Klapperich-Mueller
A junior at Marquette University, Milwaukee native Hannah Klapperich-Mueller is making her Milwaukee Chamber Theatre debut. MCT and MU are collaborating on this production of LEND ME A TENOR and Hannah is one of two Marquette students in the cast.

Tell us a bit about your character, Maggie:

Maggie is a young woman with a very vivid imagination and has spent her life in the upper crust of Cleveland's social circle. She's been more sheltered than she would have liked and wants to experience something rather more exciting. Cue global celebrity Tito Merelli, and her search for romance goes a little haywire.

LEND ME A TENOR is a collaboration with Marquette University and you are one of several current students and alumni involved with the show. Any thoughts you’d like to share about your experience as a MU student here at MCT?

Primarily, I just spend every day feeling really excited and lucky to be here. One of the first things I learned in any of my acting classes at Marquette was that watching your fellow actors in rehearsal is the best way to learn, and every moment of this rehearsal process has been a great opportunity to observe and learn from the other people who I'm onstage with. I feel really grateful to have this opportunity to work with so many actors I really admire, and to spend 6 days a week laughing with them.

What are some of the benefits and challenges of performing in a farce/comedy?

The greatest thing about this particular farce is that it has a very specific rhythm that sets up the humor for you. And the show is so funny that it makes every rehearsal zoom by. The biggest challenge is actually keeping a straight face whenever someone adds some brilliant new, humorous wrinkle.

Anything fun you’d like to share with readers about LEND ME A TENOR, rehearsals, etc.
One of my favorite parts of the rehearsals is something that will be lost when we're actually on the set-- to compensate for not having the doors, which are staples for the comedy, we've all been saying "Open" or "Close" or "Slam!" when necessary. Everyone has come up with a way to say these in character, and they've become some of the funniest lines.

What are some of your favorite moments in theatre that made you who you are today? ​

One of the clearest moments I had watching a show and actively thinking "This is going to change my life" was during my senior year of high school when I was on a class trip to the Broadway Theatre Center to see Jim DeVita's one man show IN ACTING SHAKESPEARE (at Renaissance Theaterworks). This was a time when I was really nervous about the prospect of college and studying theatre and the fear that I would fail. But I remember sitting in the Studio Theatre and starting to feel that those worries weren't as important as doing work that I really loved. I still have my program, and sometimes it serves as a good reminder of those same lessons.

We'll see Hannah and her fellow LEND ME A TENOR cast members, April 10-27 in the Cabot Theatre.

Insights from Linda Loving

Linda Loving
Linda Loving makes her MCT debut in LEND ME A TENOR. She recently returned to both her hometown of Milwaukee and her acting career! Here are a few more insights from Linda...

Tell us a bit about your character, Julia:

Julia Leverett, Chairman of the Cleveland Opera Guild, is an absolutely delicious character! She floats and fawns and fearlessly charges in and out of peoples' lives. She is used to "getting her way," whether through feminine wiles (even at sixty!) or blatant threats. Just when you think she has the personal power and style to run an entire industry...her flakiness and gullibility emerge. Over-the-top charming and exasperating, yet you can't help but love her. I do.

What are some of the benefits and challenges of performing in a farce/comedy?

Performing farce is such a beautiful challenge. Even the slamming doors become characters to reckon with! An actor has permission to "overdo" a tad in farce which is always fun. And OH - the timing! Challenges of electric, perfect timing - your mind can't wander for an instant! And I think actors have to trust each other and rely on one another in a very particular way in farce. This makes for a unique cast connection. In early rehearsals we could hardly get through the script, we were all laughing so hard at one another. Pure joy! 

What are some of your favorite moments in theatre that made you who you are today?

My favorite theatre moment was early in my career when I played Stella in "Streetcar." It was opening night and my parents were in the front row. When I came sliding down a winding staircase in blue light and a black slip (responding to Stanley's "STELLA!!!), I actually heard my mother gasp. She came to my dressing room afterwards saying "when I loaned you that black slip I assumed you were going to wear something OVER it!". Ah the surprise of theatre, of becoming someone else. I have been trying to "take people aback" ever since!

What do you like about being a theatre artist in Milwaukee?

Two years ago when I decided to return to my acting career, I was ready to move anywhere in the country. I considered several cities, but honestly Milwaukee won hands down. What a well kept secret Milwaukee is! I love all the various theatre groups and the generous spirit of the arts community here. Plus, I have ALWAYS loved the Milwaukee Brewers!!! Great to be "home"!

Thanks Linda! We can't wait to see you in TENOR, April 10-27.

Monday, March 31, 2014

An Interview with Marquette alum Alexandra Bonesho

Alexandra Bonesho
Alexandra Bonesho returns to MCT in LEND ME A TENOR. She made her debut here in THE LION IN WINTER in 2011 - while she was still a theatre student at Marquette University. Both "TENOR" and "LION" are MCT/MU collaborations - and she brings her past experience to this new collaborative production.

Tell us a bit about your character, Diana:

Diana is a fierce, driven, diva soprano who knows how to “work her assets” and use her sexuality in order to get what she wants. She has a distinct way of maneuvering her way through space while keeping her eyes on the target of making it to New York City.

What are some of the benefits and challenges of performing in a farce/comedy?

Performing a farce allows an actor to stretch his/her comedic instincts…one has to take risks in order to find a happy medium and moments that will play humorously to the audience. The challenge of farce lies in keeping characters rooted in reality. As performers, it is our goal to create real moments of vulnerability within our interactions on stage. Despite the fast-paced dialogue and movement, we have to discipline ourselves to move and interact realistically.

LEND ME A TENOR is a collaboration with Marquette University and you are one of several alumni involved with the show. When you were a Marquette student, you participated in a similar MCT / MU collaboration in 2011 with THE LION IN WINTER. Any thoughts you’d like to share about that experience? What is it like to be back at MCT?
Alexandra Bonesho & Brian Mani
Photo by Mark Frohna

Returning to MCT in another collaboration with Marquette University means a lot…THE LION IN WINTER was a wonderful experience that made it possible for me to interact and perform with actors I had admired for a long time. The experience furthered my aspirations and determination to pursue acting professionally. MCT creates such a welcoming, professional, and fun environment that it is really great to be back and introduce more Marquette performers to the MCT family!

Anything fun you’d like to share with readers about LEND ME A TENOR, rehearsals, etc?

I don’t want to give too much away…so I will just say this…get ready to laugh like crazy!

Thanks Allie! Looking forward to your return to MCT, April 10-27-