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Interview with Playwright Theresa Rebeck

Posted Thursday, December 16, 2010 - 3:10pm

David Gardner: How did The Understudy come about?

Theresa Rebeck: I had been asked to write a monologue or a short one-act for a fundraiser at Playwright’s Horizons, and I wrote this monologue that was pretty crazy — it went a lot of different places. But there was something about it that I liked: you didn’t know who this person was, you didn’t really know what was going on, and that became the seed of the opening monologue for The Understudy. And the confusion, the sort of mystery around it — are people there, or are they not there in the house — was built into that moment. And when I decided that it was an understudy rehearsal and that he would be the understudy, I then had to come up with what’s the play. And I’ve also had a life-long fascination for Kafka: I love his work, and I felt like the kind of mysterious, you know, surreal tragedy of his work could echo in a comedic way. That’s what I was interested in — could the things that were at stake tragically in the play being rehearsed be turned upside down and remain the same existential issues, only presented in a comedic way in the play that held the other play. Who is running the show here, and what does it mean to be human, and why are we so out of control of our lives? 

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A prostitute, a toy soldier, and your first love

Posted Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - 11:05am

By Johnny Van Heest

This week,  the actors are on stage for The Understudy rehearsals. I was able to sneak down to the stage for a bit for a photoshoot with the actors. Aside from being extremely funny when running lines, these guys are pretty hilarious even when they are not in character. It perhaps comes as no surprise that these three actors, Jenn Harris, Brad Coolidge, and Cody Nickell, all have experience working in comic theater, television, and film.

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Something to think about AFTER the holidays

Posted Friday, December 3, 2010 - 11:22am

We hope you got some great Cyber Monday deals (perhaps you took advantage of the $25 deal here at the Wilma?) While I am still not over the fact that it is already December and the second full day of Chanukah, I am totally getting into the holiday spirit. I even found a 4’ ‘holographic’ fiber-optic Christmas tree in my basement that now stands proudly on a table in my sitting room.  It's in extremely poor taste, but it stands as a reminder that for the next month, there will be cocktail parties, cookies, and cards - and at the end of it all, a kiss with a loved one to ring in another new year.

Even after my tacky Christmas tree is put back in its box and placed in the dark closet in the basement, I will have something to look forward to – the Wilma’s upcoming production of The Understudy, Directed by David Kennedy.

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Giving Thanks to the Wilma

Posted Wednesday, November 24, 2010 - 12:47pm

I love meeting new people. While other individuals may shy away from the getting-to-know-you dribble, I excitedly anticipate being asked what I do. I’m smitten with my Fellowship and, if nothing else, working at a professional theater, and in addition, living in actor housing, is always a great conversation piece. As it is Thanksgiving, I thought I’d take this opportunity to brainstorm what I’m most thankful for in relation to the Wilma, from the more material to lofty:

1. Comps and discounts to artistic productions inside and outside of the city.

2. Opening and closing nights – revelry in the wake of our collective artistic achievement!

3. Access to a library of stimulating literary, photographic, and artistic materials and individuals whose job it is to help you research and explain these resources to you.

4. Becoming a part of Philadelphia’s artistic community.  

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A Day in the Life of a Student Matinee

Posted Thursday, November 11, 2010 - 11:20am

At 8:45am I entered at the Broad and Spruce Street entrance, meeting my caffeine-fortified co-workers who have arrived early to help greet our student patrons. It’s all hands on deck for the student matinees – including those in the offices, cast, and crew. Soon Javier, the sweet and sassy House Manager, throws open the doors, turns up the lobby lights, and the music on; the theater, inside and out, is transformed into show mode. Pavel Fajt’s contemporary drum and synthesized creations waft down the block, energizing passersby for the Wilma’s thrilling production of Macbeth.

So far, our Group Sales Manager Julie Cassidy has scheduled over 3,400 students, most of whom have attended one of our seven student matinees. Macbeth explodes our previous records, serving more students than our past two seasons (eight shows) combined! Education Director Anne Holmes and I have been training and arranging Teaching Artists and actors from the show to visit schools throughout Philadelphia and surrounding suburbs and lead high school and college students in pre and post show discussions. These workshops aim to empower students with a sense of ownership over certain characters, plot points, and language found in the play; generate interest in Macbeth by getting students to weigh in with their own opinions on some of the more charged themes in the play; prompt students to consider how some of the themes and plot points might be tackled in a live theater production (as opposed to say a film which is often their only point of reference); and introduce them to their role as an audience member.

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