Weekly Update: August 27, 2013

JUST IN: Shakespeare Santa Cruz to fold after fall production of It’s a Wonderful Life. Read the company press announcement here, or follow our Links of Interest page.

Our theater critic, Philip Pearce—burned out on the bard after several days at Ashland’s Shakespeare Festival—is back in the local fray with his coverage of Magic Circle’s new I’m not Rappaport. See our Theater Reviews page.

A new production of Tom Stoppard’s masterpiece, Arcadia, will open at Jewel Theatre in Santa Cruz on Sept. 5 (preview) with weekend performances, Thursday through Sunday, through Sept. 22.

Jewel is the brainchild of Julie James, a stage veteran (actor, director, producer) who has realized her passion in both the SF and Monterey Bay areas. She founJulieHScropded Jewel Theatre Company (JTC) in 2005, and initially rented Center Stage, the intimate (88 seats) downtown theater, and other local venues. (JTC became the resident company at Center Stage in 2010.) A member of Actors’ Equity, JTC is the only year-round professional company in the county. As such, inviting amateurs into its productions accords them the opportunity to gain points pursuant to joining the Equity Membership Candidacy program. This, in effect, vets their professional credentials and, implicitly, opens more doors, and offers benefits not commonly available to non-members.

James is drawn to Stoppard for his “serious comedy” and “complicated ideas.” The playwright is well known internationally for his novels, plays and adaptations for the stage, film and broadcast. Among his best known are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, The Real Inspector Hound, Jumpers, Travesties, The Real Thing and Every Good Boy Deserves Favor (a collaboration with composer André Previn). The much acclaimed Arcadia (1993) “explores the meeting of chaos theory, historiography, and landscape gardening,” says the Oxford Companion to Theatre and Performance. And just possibly more, such as an “exhilarating” multi-layered feast that oscillates between the 1810s and 1980s and includes arcane mathematics, metaphysics, adolescent coming-of-age, a Byronic mystery, intellectual dexterity and hilarious comedy. Moreover, Arcadia leavens the technical dazzle which made some critics suspicious of Stoppard’s earlier successes. In The New York Times, Vincent Canby wrote of it as his, “richest, most ravishing comedy to date, a play of wit, intellect, language, brio and . . . emotion. It’s like a dream of levitation: you’re instantaneously aloft, soaring, banking, doing loop-the-loops and then, when you think you’re about to plummet to earth, swooping to a gentle touchdown of not easily described sweetness and sorrow.”

James, who herself ‘turned’ Equity in the late ‘80s, has been a grant-writer and analyst, coach and teacher (school and private) all without ever straying far from theater. She first saw Arcadia in Los Angeles, two decades ago, and has itched to stage it herself (unaware that it had been produced at Center Stage before she opened JTC.) The new production is being directed by Susan Myer Silton. In Arcadia, James says, “audiences see what happened in 1809 and, like the modern-day cast members themselves, simply get things wrong. It makes us laugh at the same time it makes us doubt ourselves. It puts free will and determinism to the test.”

If you attend, it might be wise to familiarize yourself with the narrative ahead of time.

Later during JCT’s ninth season, plan for the musical comedy Pump Boys and Dinettes, Richard Greenberg’s, Three Days of Rain and Joe Orton’s comedy What the Butler Saw. www.jeweltheatre.net

The Monterey County Fair, now underway at the Monterey Fairgrounds, features several prominent musicians in performance, free with your admission pass. See our Calendar page.

Scott MacClelland, editor

Posted August 27, 2013