Friday, August 28, 2009

ApCo Alumni Enjoying Being "At" the Park rather than "In" the Park.

Photo by Brenda Sparks, August 27, 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

Some Closing Thoughts From ApCo 2009


The Cast of The Taming of The Shrew - Apprentice Company 2009, Photo by Jeff Frazier
Demark Grant, ApCo student 2009
Father Ryan School class of 2009, entering University of Tennessee, Knoxville

"The difference between school and life? In school, you're
taught a lesson and then given a test.

In life, you're given a test that teaches
you a lesson."

And man, what a lesson it was! Before entering ApCo, I was hot off the heels ofportraying Seabee #7 in South Pacific, and prior to that, embracing the lunacy of aboundless General Harrington in M*A*S*H. Shrew was going to be my first non-bit role, and in an arena like no other: the fabled, oft mythologized (Nashville)Centennial Park. I had never played an unabashed romantic like Lucentio. Many of my early ideas centered on comic execution, rather than narrative necessity. So Brenda (our wonderful director) had to steer me back on course a few times, inform me of my narrative function, and remind me that the comedy of the piece is rooted in the earnestness of the character's attempting to achieve their objectives, rather than something that may look funny but deter from that authenticity. The most significant evolution has been the maturation of my craft as a live performer. Theater is focus, focus, focus. Undoubtedly, I execute my art with a higher level of truth, precision, and clarity. I must say: I am going to miss the time spent this summer as an Apprentice Company member. There's nothing like being a member of a talented troupe and opening a show every night to a crowd of over a thousand people.


Joseph Stanley, Senior at McGavock High School
Apprentice Company has been a wonderful and exciting experience. I have gotten to know and befriend many others who share my passion. I have been able to play with an ensemble full of mature, intelligent, and exuberant young adults. As a young man with a passion for acting, ApCo has assured me that this is what I live for, and what I want to do for the rest my life.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Last Weekend to See Taming of The Shrew

Monday, August 17, 2009

Thoughts On The First Weekend from Meredith and Diego

Performing in "Taming of the Shrew" this first week was the most exhilarating,tiring, wonderful, hottest, grooviest time I've ever had. I can't wait for next weekend!!- Meredith Locke, Belmont University



From what I have learned from doing theatre so far, is that no show is ever the same. The cast is always learning or, adapting to their environment and basically just growing. It does not matter how many times you have rehearsed a show, what ever it is, it will always change with an audience. Our opening night was fantastic because of our amazingly energetic audience. Every actor on stage feeds off of the audience's energy just as much if not more than our audience feeds off of the actors.

The second night was a good lesson in teaching us that we can still make mistakes and wrong choices, but as human beings, who happen to be actors, we learn from them. We pulled through with good energy even though we had a few technical difficulties. Saturday night we had explosive energy thanks again to our magnificent audience. We gave them all we had and they just ate it up. It is shows like these and moments that I notice that will never happen again on stage, that cause me to love and crave to pursue theatre as a career. I love every second/aspect of the theatre world and cannot see myself doing anything else. - Diego Gomez




Saturday, August 8, 2009

Say it Hot, or Say it Not - Catlin Kelly on Commitment

Catlin Kelly as Kate in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (Ben Reed as Petrucio in background) - Photo Brenda Sparks


I am so grateful to once again be a member of the Nashville ShakespeareFestival's Apprentice Company; so grateful for another opportunity to workwith and be taught by such interesting, intelligent, and inspiring individuals.

To spend a summer in the park is sort of like building a tree house in the highest, fruitiest branches of the proverbial Tree of Knowledge. The feat is not easy: it requires energy and drive and awillingness to learn, but if one is truly COMMITTED to absorbing all that the experience has to offer, the fruit will fall in abundance. In fact, if I had to use only one word to describe the most importantand useful thing I've learned this summer in ApCo it would be this: COMMITMENT.

Being a successful member of the Apprentice Company requires commitment, being an artist requires commitment, and, perhaps most importantly in this case, performing Shakespeare requires commitment. Commitment is of course an important concept in any artistic environment,but it seems especially necessary this summer. This summer we are facing not only the usual summer heat, but also the lagging support for the arts due to the bad economy, a smaller budget, a large ensemble encompassing many ages and levels of experience, a short rehearsal period, and an incrediblychallenging text. The odds, it seems, would be against us, but fully committed, there are no odds. I stand by the words Petruchio speaks in act one of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, "Think you a little din can daunt mine ears?"

This summer I have witnessed everyone involved in this summer's productions, from the ApCo members, to the professional actors, to the directors, to the designers and the technicians, rise magnificently to the occasion and commit. And out of this commitment comes constant discovery, endless possibility, truth, comedy,wisdom, awareness, and true connection. In just the past month I have spentt raining with the Apprentice Company and rehearsing for THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, I have realized that any challenge can be faced confidently and successfully if there is a true commitment on my part.

Personally, my greatest challenge this summer has been the text of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW itself. Shrew is a funny play, but it is also, when taken purely on it's literal, surface level, quite misogynistic. The challenge of putting on this show in modern times is how to work within a text and tell a story that is about love, union, and transformation rather than submission, misogyny, and male-domination. At first I was scared out of my mind. How could it be possible? I might be able to justify the story in my head, but how could it possibly be communicated to the audience? The answer was commitment. If I am committed to the story as we are interpreting it, committed to my goals and objectives in each scene, committed to clearly telling the story to the audience, then it is impossible to go astray.

Just as if an ApCo member is committed to learning, it is impossible that he or she won't learn anything. However, it's not as though I stumbled theoretically upon this answer in my little head. I came to the conclusion that commitment is key both onstageand off by seeing examples of true dedication and commitment all around me. Seeing Brenda Sparks, our wonderful director, being totally and utterly committed to the story and totally committed to our interpretation of it. Seeing the professional actors commit their full days to working on two shows, and never giving less than their all even at nine o'clock at night when they've been on their feet for nearly twelve hours. Seeing our amazing costume designer June Kingsbury put in endless andendlessly stellar work, never ceasing to making our costumes better and better. Seeing ApCo members in minor roles commit to so fully to theircharacters that they come up with fascinating and thorough backstories fully supported by the text. Also, seeing the staff of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival; Artistic Director, Denice Hicks, Executive Director, Nancy VanReece and Producer Robert Marigza, and other Festival volunteers devoted completely to Saving Our Shakespeare.
Witnessing all of this commitment is proof enough that it is fully committing to something, no matter how silly or outrageous, not matter off stage or on, no matter whether you are committing to shrieks of fury or utter silence, commitment is that action that opens the doors of the most opportunity. As D.H.Lawrence said, "when genuine passions moves ou, say what you've got to say,and say it hot." That is commitment.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Miranda Fisher on The Creative Process

photo by Brenda Sparks
pictured: Paige Gober, Diego Gomez, Miranda Fisher

I’m continually amazed by the strength and creative expression that theatre allows. The cast of Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s Shakespeare in the Park 2009 production of Taming of the Shrew is comprised of a generous assortment of differing individuals. The youngest being a fourteen year old student and the oldest being a well experienced teacher, it has been a highly advantageous learning experience in each element of the spectrum. I’m learning so much from everyone. It simultaneously reminds me of how inexperienced I am and how much I’ve already learned in such a short amount of time. Last summer, my first time being in the Apprentice Company, was my first real exposure to Shakespeare. I remember at the beginning of my sophomore year being embarrassed that I was unable to name five Shakespearean plays. I was terrified of Shakespeare! But now, only two years later, I’m thrilled to tear apart and analyze any of his text.

The first day of Apprentice Company training I was filled with heaps of nervous energy and apprehension. I’m not some fanatic believer in Murphy’s Law, but the first day of training a couple major things went wrong. One of our workshops fell through because the instructor's wife had a baby that morning! But like a Shakespearean superhero, Nashville Shakes Artistic Director, Denice Hicks made an impromptu text based workshop. I’m constantly reminded of the fortune theatre provides even in the midst of unfortunate happenings.

Nashville Shakes has lost numerous sponsors and support due to this distasteful economy. We’re fighting against the odds, but it’s all good. My experience this summer has been filled little potholes of the like but it seems that, with a little flexibility, anything can be mended.
To say the least, our training went exceptionally well. After we all were acquainted with one another, we chose monologues to rehearse, and began a series of Viewpoint exercises. Anne Bogart’s Viewpoint exercises have been the foundation for our character development, and the creation of our ensemble. Thanks to Viewpoints Brenda Sparks, our director, has been able to effectively communicate broad ideas. We’ve mainly focused on ideas of shape, spatial relationship, tempo, architecture and topography. Viewpoints is an essential part of our creative process.
We just completed our second day of blocking rehearsal and have made it through the entire first act. (With only two weeks of rehearsal , we’re making great time!) Over the next two weeks we’ll be finishing the blocking, exploring specific character interactions and layering in the technical aspects of the show. We’ve already got some groovy costumes, thanks to June Kingsbury. I cannot wait to make it to opening night. Everything is coming together so quickly.

Dude, ApCo has been such an essential part of my growth as an actor and human being. It’s offered such and opportune learning experience. Donations, please! Keep this program around! Young people need this exposure to Shakespeare and the arts.
Miranda Fisher, ApCo 2008, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Alex Spieth talks about her Directing Apprenticeship

Hello from ApC0 Training!
I have been in two previous Apprentice Companies (in 2006 and 2007) and performed in “Macbeth”, “Merry Wives of Windsor”, and “Two Gentlemen of Verona”.

I have loved Apprentice Company and I believe that any actor MUST/SHOULD AUDITION (for the program) because I grew TONS through the experience. This year I auditioned again but this time as Directing Apprentice for “Taming of the Shrew”. I was ecstatic to discover that I would again get to work with such talented actors and receive the incredible training of Apprentice Company, but I was even more excited to look at Shakespeare through another angle, this time of Directing.

Before Apprentice Company, Brenda Sparks (ApCo and Shrew Director) gave fellow ApCo student Markus McClain and I topics (such as “Social History of the late 1960s and 1970s” or “Themes on Taming of the Shrew”) to research and make presentations to help enlighten the actors on the time period and happenings of where and when the show is set and elucidate the textual work.
So away I went to the Library and began the process of research. It felt so good to feel like I was helping serve as dramaturge and maybe was getting the show more grounded about the times on the late 1960s and early 1970s. Once I arrived as an Apprentice on the fateful first Monday of training, I was nervous about feeling a disconnect with the group. I was nervous about being THAT GIRL who arrived with informational posters aplenty for the first day. But under the guidance of Denice (Hicks, Nashville Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director) and Brenda I never felt isolation.

The Directing Apprentices and the Stage Managing Apprentice were encouraged to participate in all activities—Sometimes I felt ungrounded due to my lack of assigned character, but mostly I had the freedom to create a new character each time we did an exercise, actually feeling freed by my lack of text. As Directing Apprentice, I am still able to participate in all of the incredible explorations with monologue work, vocal training, stage combat (with my boy Gus Gillette!), and dancing. Doing training with the acting apprentices firstly helps create a friendly relationship and secondly creates a common language for the show that everyone understands.

Instead of only waiting for my own discoveries about an individual character, I try to watch to discover the other actors make discoveries. I want to be fairly in tune with the characters they create so when the time comes I can help Brenda mold inspiring viewpoints work into THE REAL SHOW! Watching the actors is inspiring, because people I have known for years still shock me with their talent and bold acting choices and people I hadn’t met before create character habits I would never be able to think of. I feel very close to the other apprentices and can’t wait to see them truly take on scenes and create the “Taming”; they are talented beyond belief.

The next part of the plan for me is to work scenes for twenty minutes before Brenda works them onstage at the band shell, to clear up questions on the script and give the actors another set of eyes. We move from Studio A at the Npt Arts Center to Centennial Park next week!

I am so excited to help this wonderful show develop and get to participate in Shakespeare in the Park again (because it makes for WONDERFUL SUMMERS AND TRAINING EXPERIENCE) before heading to college. APCO FOREVER!
Love, Alex

Sunday, July 19, 2009

First Week of Training Wraps

Hello everyone! J.R. Knowles here with your ApCo 09 blog update. This is my second year in The Apprentice Company, following being in CORIOLANUS last year, and it's exhilarating to be back! There's such a huge disparity between the first week of this year's training and last year's training, at least from my perspective. Last year, walking into the NPT Arts Center, home of The Nashville Shakespeare Festival, for just the third time (the first and second being auditions and callbacks) was unfamiliar and intimidating; this year it feels like coming back home. After a very busy year's time, I had forgotten just how much I missed working with Nashville Shakes! It seems to be a magnet for all the most illuminating teachers, talented professionals, and eager theatre students.

watch the Npt Arts Break Feature on Nashville Shakes Education Work

On that subject, it's so incredible to be around all my old friends again! Being around all these talented and familiar faces helped jump start me mentally and got me right back in the saddle very quickly. While most of this year's apprentices I've known or met in some in some fashion prior to training, the new friends we're all making is icing on top of the Shakespearean cake. If the packed callback wasn't enough proof, all the new apprentices this year is proof of just how much young talent middle Tennessee has to offer.

Alright then, the training. This year, for myself and at least last year's apprentices, is a mix of review and wholly, completely different training. Er, let me explain. This year marks a return to Viewpoints work. The monologues work we've started on is also a similar but wonderful system of presentation, Q and A, and constructive feedback. However, the aspects of this year's training pertaining specifically to our Groovy Shrew is quite different from what we did to bring Rome to Nashville last year.

Needless to say, this year's Shakespeare in the Park may find a marked decrease in the amount of gratuitous blood and staff-on-club combat :). Amongst watching an Episode of Laugh-In that had us all in stitches(It's Sock it to Me Time!*punch*) and a trip back through Time magazines, we got in a fantastic stage combat lesson with David Wilkerson, with more of a focus on comedy than raw violence. Thursday, we were all treated to a groove-tastic dance lesson with the especially groovy Rowena Aldridge. Just another perk of Apprentice Company!

I mean, honestly, where else are you going to see pieces from HAMLET and KING LEAR one day, and immediately the next day learn everything from The Madison to the Monster Mash?

In summary, J.R. Knowles is alive and thoroughly enjoying every moment of the 2009 Apprentice Company. Stay groovy!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A student's thoughts on the first 3 days of training

photo by Brenda Sparks
From ApCo member David Corlew:

We are now three days into the first week of Apprentice Company training. Two ideas have dominated for me so far: a continual process of self reflection and the importance of a wholly connected ensemble.
The first idea, that we should always be probing deeply to learn more about ourselves and how that affects our interactions with the world, comes up in two daily activities.

We warmup each morning with a short yoga routine to center and quiet our focus, and wejournal once a day, writing without pause in a "stream of conscienceness" style to answer quesitons like, "Who am I?" "What are my causes in life?" or "What moves me to action?" There's an obvious benefit in forcing yourself to come to terms with who you are. But in thinking about these answers for ourselves, we are also practicing a mode of observance that every actor uses in trying to create characters. If we are honest, which we try to be by writing without reserve, our answers will make us feel both good and bad, revealing traits we like and traits we don't like, nobility and shallowness together; and this is a reminder of the complexity of all human beings and thus all characters. That's not to make the training sound isolating - really, it is anything but. The group is very open and feels very connected, both while working and during breaks (for VitaminWater10...added by mangement ha!).

Another daily activity is Viewpoints work, which is too complicated to try to explain in one online blog entry (or really any number of online blog entries). Suffice it to say that it gets us thinking about the physicality of our characters. It is a way to begin working on the outer manifestations of whoa character is - how they walk, what their posture is like, etc. - by actually doing it. It really breaks down barriers in the group and makes everyone comfortable. Instead of feeling self conscious, or wondering if what you're doing is right (or worse, convincing yourself you have some more thinking to do before you try doing something) you are forced to jump the gun and try something. Plus you benefit from watching what seventeen other people are trying. All that takes place in the morning.

The afternoons vary every day - Monday we worked on textual analysis (working through the poetry of Shakespeare's plays and identifying how that poetry can even direct us to clues about who our characters are), Tuesday we watched Laugh-In (our inspiration for the setting of our TAMING OF THE SHREW) and looked through magazines from the '60s for ideas about our characters, and Wednesday we did stage combat (!). Theory is a tempting weed to action. In math, I always like to understand every facet of every tool I am using to solve a problem before I start trying the problem. Fifteen minutes later, when I'm fifteen problems behind my classmates, I normally give in to just working each problem and find that I pick up (at least most of) the theory that way. In relationships, we sometimes obsess over the best way to approach bumps in the road, but the decision all that thinking pointed toward is so often thwarted or transformed (you pick the slant you like) when it is put in the hands of the friend we're trying to patch things up with. Thinking is most rewarding when coupled with action. It's often hard, in shows, for me to jump overthe hurdle of first trying what I've thought about my character. So far the coolest thing ApCo has done for me is force me to jump that hurdle immediately and really quite effortlessly. It's not that theory or thinking is bad, but it's strongerwhen coupled with action. When one actor has an idea, that idea won't reach its full potential unless the actor brings it into the real world, where it is vulnerable to be shaped by other actors and constantly evolve. It is this sort of organic possibility to which Viewpoints helps open up our group. It sounds pretty obvious now that it's spelled out plainly here, but it was a very striking revelation to me earlier about how important it is to have courage to shoves omething out there and availability to work with what's being shoved back."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Gathering Up For Day 1


Monday, June 29, 2009

Everything is Groovy This Year

The 10th class of The Apprentice Company has been selected and everyone is gearing up for for a wonderful summer. Training begins July 14, 2009.

Follow this blog for information about the process from the student's POV.

This year, ApCo students will join with the professionals in a Shakespeare in the Park production of a 1970s Laugh-In inspired THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, directed by Brenda Sparks.

The performances will run Thursday-Sunday for the first 2 of the 5 weekends of the 22nd Annual Shakespeare in the Park, produced by The Nashville Shakespeare Festival.

Here is a Calendar
The 2009 Class of The Byron & Beth Smith Apprentice Company
Ricardo Beaird
David Corlew
Lee Daniel
Kylie Davis
Miranda Fisher
Diego Gomez
Denmark Grant
Paige Gober
Caitlin Kelly
John Ryan Knowles
Meredith Locke
Veronica Longo
Markus McClain
Lindsey Myrick
Haley Oldham
Mariah Parris
Alex Spieth
Joseph Stanley
Cody Woodside