THEATRE

ARTICLE | "The Immortality Of Mae West"

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“When Mae West showed a trusted friend the manuscript of her 1970 autobiography, “Goodness Had Nothing to Do With It,” he complained that the book lacked any mention of her struggles, failures, and disappointments. She scoffed. ‘Her fans don’t want Mae West to have problems and have to struggle,’ she declared in confident third person. ‘Mae West always triumphs.’

And so she does. Embraced by the public the moment she hit the movie screen in 1933 at the amazingly advanced age of 40, she still hasn’t lost her grip on the American consciousness. Two decades after her death, she continues to be a source of fascination and controversy, one of the most powerful sexual and cultural figures of our— as well as our grandparents’—time.

Her impact was immediate. She cropped up in Betty Boop and Walt Disney cartoons and in Cole Porter’s song lyrics. She came in for some ridicule—critics called her ‘the first female leading man,’ ‘the greatest female impersonator’—but major writers championed her. F. Scott Fitzgerald thought her ‘the only Hollywood actress with an ironic edge and comic spark,’ and the immensely popular British novelist Hugh Walpole wrote that only she and Charlie Chaplin ‘dare to directly attack with their mockery the fraying morals and manners of a dreary world.’ Colette praised her independent spirit: "‘She alone, out of an enormous and dull catalog of heroines, does not get married at the end of the film, does not gaze sadly at her declining youth … does not experience the bitterness of the abandoned older woman… She alone has no parents, no children, no husband.’ Nine of her witticisms appear in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, and she herself has been a dictionary entry since World War II, when RAF pilots named their full-chested, inflatable life preservers after her… more.

SOURCE: American Heritage


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SEX | OCT 11-26, 2019


BIOGRAPHY | MAE WEST

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Mae West, whose career began at 38, is a symbol of charm and self-assurance. But her movie career might have never been, coming only after battling with opposition from her own family. In fact, she didn’t hit the big time until she was in her late 30s.

West was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1893, to John and Matilda West. She was originally named Mary, but her family called her Mae, a moniker she kept as her stage name.

She was passionate about acting and stardom from a very young age. At three-years-old she was already mimicking friends and relatives, and fell in love with the vaudeville performances that her mother took her to see from a young age.

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West first stepped onto the stage herself in 1907, at the tender age of 14, according to Biography.com. She signed up with Hal Clarendon’s stock company, working the vaudeville and burlesque circuit. Her first taste of Broadway came in 1911 with a minor part in A La Broadway.

While the show was a failure, West’s performance revealed a very promising actress, leading to a part in Vera Violetta and opening the door to roles in off-Broadway productions. Despite the success of Sometime in 1918, in which she famously danced the shimmy, West remained a feature in vaudeville up until 1926 when she came to notoriety with her self-penned play, SEX.

Despite her clear talent for acting, West’s family was not supportive of her career path. Her father, in particular, struggled to embrace West’s fame and controversial image.

Her mother was more supportive — having had a career in modelling she was able to relate to the experience her oldest daughter was living.

As a sexy and outspoken actress who loved attention, West decided to make her personality and charm her main asset. In the 1920s, she began writing and producing her own plays.

A pair of “trick” platform shoes worn by Mae West in films to make her look taller, which also contributed to her unique walk.

A pair of “trick” platform shoes worn by Mae West in films to make her look taller, which also contributed to her unique walk.

Using word-play to carry sexual jokes, West became at the same time very popular and a public figure with a contested image, one that was considered by some a “bad” role model.

In 1926, West wrote and starred in the Broadway play SEX. The play was an immediate success, but was sanctioned as obscene, and resulted in West being sent to jail for ten days.

Because of her good behavior, she was released after only eight days. The whole affair was an effective career-booster for West, proving the rule that no publicity is bad publicity.

This sulfurous and sexy image would become intrinsic to West’s career. She kept writing plays for several years, and had actors learn two scrips. One of the scripts would contain her original writing, while the other would have a more prude version for a more reserved audience.

It was during that time that West wrote Diamond Lil. The show was a massive hit, with more than 300 performances on Broadway alone.

Her success on stage slowed down with the Great Depression, as the global economy took a hit. Eager to remain on the top, West decided to leave New York and relocated to Los Angeles.

The success West had endured as an actress and play writer had not gone unnoticed. In 1933 she starred as Lady Lou in She Done Him Wrong, Paramount Pictures’ adaptation of her Diamond Lil.

Mae West was finally offered a motion picture contract in 1932 by Paramount Pictures, when she was already 38-years-old. This contract not only launched her cinema career, but saved Paramount from bankruptcy.

Despite the fact that the Hays Offices had designed a clause stipulating that the plays could never be turned into movies for moral reasons, Paramount still made a very profitable decision. The company indeed grossed more than $2 million at the box office.

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From this moment, West went on to be a sex symbol, having honed her persona as a controversial and liberated woman. Her rare beauty inspired the design of the perfume “Shocking” by Elsa Schiaparelli. She even the famous painter Salvador Dali to design a sofa based on her lips, known as “West Lips’ Sofa”.

The image of a woman owning her charming beauty and sexuality became the key to her success. Mae West challenged societies’ norms, and brought a different perception to sexual matters. Having been challenged herself by her family, West used her own experiences to influence the world around her.

SOURCE: The Vintage News


RELATED PROGRAMMING

SEX | OCT 11-26, 2019


DIRECTOR'S NOTE | "SEX"

“Once upon a time, I was hired to write the American adaptation of an Oscar-nominated Dutch film. On the eve of starting work, I received an unsettling email from the original writer/director warning me not to turn her movie into an ‘Edward Jordon thing.’ This wasn’t exactly the warm welcoming I dreamed of for my first big Hollywood gig. Although Mae West is sadly missed, I’m relieved she won’t be sending me an email. But If I could magically drop her an email, I would say, ‘Don’t worry, Ms. West. Despite my tinkering, your show is – and always will be – a Mae West thing.’

And what exactly was Mae’s thing?

Most of us can put a hand on one hip and imitate some of her classic one-liners. But Mae West was so much more than ‘Come up and see me sometime.’ Throughout her life, she was light years ahead of the times, fearlessly speaking about taboo subjects; date rape, white privilege, criminal justice reform, prostitution, police corruption, suicide, drug addiction and, of course, sexuality in all its glorious orientations.

SEX was written in 1926, but on many levels, its plots could have been ripped from today’s headlines. Mae’s themes are serious, but they’re handled in patented Westian style. We laugh at the show’s despicable Rocky character, because Mae knew that an effective way to effect social change is with humor. But she also makes sure Rocky is humiliated in the end, proving that crime just doesn’t pay, unless, of course, it’s consensual sex for pay in a brothel in Montreal… the setting for Mae’s timeless and wickedly funny satire.

And what about Edward Jordon’s part in all this?

I simply typed my adaptation with one hand on the keyboard and one hand on my hip.” — Edward Jordon


RELATED PROGRAMMING

SEX | OCT 11-26, 2019


MEET THE ARTISTS | SEX

THE CREATIVE TEAM

Edward Jordon (adaptation / direction), as book writer, has two Broadway-bound musicals currently in rehearsal in NYC: J’ai Fait and Bollywood And Vine. Both are with his longtime collaborators, Broadway conductor Charles Czarnecki and Emmy-winner Daniel Neiden, and June Rachelson-Ospa. The recipient of eleven international screenwriting awards, Edward has worked for actress Sally Field, Oscar-winning producer Jonathan Dana, and Golden Globe-winning producer Renee Missel. Edward’s own feature films, which he wrote and directed, include The Original Cast Album, It’ll Have Blinking Eyes & A Moving Mouth, Dogwalking On Jackson Crescent, Bollywood And Vine, and Lucky Bubbles. With over fifty directing and producing theater credits in New York, this production of SEX marks a reunion with his Bollywood and Vine film star, Skye Aubrey.

Jana Szabo (musical direction) relocated to Seattle in 1981 from her home in NYC. Since arriving in the Pacific NW, Jana received her BFA in Music Performance/Jazz at Cornish Institute of the Arts. She is presently involved in theatre here on Whidbey Island. Jana’s recent Outcast Productions roles include Stella in Follies, a performer in City Beat, and part of the workings as a Vocal Coach for Hotel Belle Claire. She was the Musical Director for Seussical (WICA ). Jana has been teaching Voice, Piano, and Performing Art related work since 1985 and is grateful to her family for their unending support, WICA, Deana Duncan, and Edward Jordon for giving her this fabulous opportunity.

Robert McElhinny (scenic design)

Alex Wren (lighting design) has returned to WICA this season for DjangoFest NW 2019 and this production of SEX. Other works at WICA you might remember such as: Prelude to a Kiss, White Christmas, MacBeth, One Act Fest NW (2016, 2017), The 39 Steps, Rumors, Wait Until Dark, Enchanted April, Dr. Horrible’s Sing a Long Blog, and Big! the Musical (Backstage Manager). He also has design credits for Island Shakespeare Festival and Outcast Productions where he has been the resident lighting designer for the past nine seasons. Alex is lead trainer and creator of West Seattle High School and Chief Sealth International High School’s Tech Training Program, with the addition of Ingraham High School this year. Alex had the pleasure of working with Seattle Children's Theatre this summer on their “intro to tech classes” for their summer drama school program, as well as lending a hand for their summer season. Grab a glass of bubbly and get ready to enjoy this wonderful production of SEX!

Zachary Schneider (projection design) grew up on Whidbey Island and attended ten years of WICA’s Advnaced Production Acting Conservatory. He graduated from Seattle’s Northwest High School and attended Worcester Polytechnic Institute for Physics and Game Design before transferring to Cornish School of the Arts where he received his BFA in Film in 2018. Zachary is Whidbey Island Film Festival’s ShortsFeast curator, teaches at Seattle International Film Festival’s summer and break camps, is the owner of ZPPD Media. His documentary on homeless youth, Alley, is being used by the Roots Young Adult Shelter to raise awareness.

Daunne Zinger (choreography / ensemble) has been involved with WICA since 2015 as a Choreographer. This is her first time on WICA’s stage as a performer and is delighted to be a part of SEX. Daunne has choreographed many local musical theater productions since 2008 for WICA, Whidbey Children’s Theater and Whidbey Playhouse Theater in Oak Harbor. She received her BA degree in Dance from the University of Washington in 2011. When Daunne is not choreographing, she is teaching jazz and tap classes at Island Dance and In-Motion Studios. She also teaches “Luigi jazz“ master dance classes throughout the Puget Sound region and is honored to have her classes featured on Whidbey TV’s segment “Life’s Better Here.” Daunne and her husband, Jerry Bacon, reside in South Whidbey. Daunne wishes to acknowledge Edward Jordon for providing the opportunity to be a choreographer AND a performer in this production. Enjoy!

Tyler Raymond (sound design)

Rob Scott (stage management) has previously appeared on the WICA stage as the Angels City Four bass in City of Angels, Fezziwig in Scrooge the Musical, James Talbert Winston in The Kentucky Cycle, Jonas Fogg in Sweeney Todd, and Frederick Arnott in Enchanted April. He has been the stage manager for the WICA productions of Rumors, Our Town, Metamorphoses, Oliver!, On Golden Pond, The Rocky Horror Show, and Rabbit Hole. He co-produced Whidbey Children’s Theater’s Pirates of Penzance and was the technical director for Les Miserables and many other productions during WCT’s early years. Rob wishes to thank his wife Kate for her patience and support. Rob also wishes to thank the Whidbey community for their generous support, which makes theater and the arts of all kinds possible.

THE CAST

Wendy Ashford (Dawson) is thrilled to be working with Edward and the cast of SEX. This is her fourth production with WICA as an actor. She started as a volunteer in the booth and loved watching the shows and actors grow. She presently works part-time at WICA as a production assistant. Some of her professional acting experience have been with Seattle Opera, in the fourth season of Z Nation (Syfy network), and in the Capital Hill web-series with Jinkx Monsoon and Ben DeLa Creme. She attended two years of acting classes at Freehold Theatre Lab.

Skye Aubrey (Clara) starred on Broadway in Cactus Flower. For two decades, she guest starred on virtually every classic TV series including Fantasy Island, Marcus Welby, Love American Style, Ironside, Owen Marshall, Thriller, Toma, Banyon, Batman, Green Acres, Emergency, The Most Deadly Game, Insight, Switch, and Superboy. She also won raves for her film work – most notably in The Carey Treatment with James Coburn, The City with Anthony Quinn, A Very Missing Person with Eve Arden, The Phantom of Hollywood , and Vanished (TV’s first-ever mini-series). Skye credits one of the highlights of her career as co-starring with her mom, actress Phyllis Thaxter, in the TV movie, The Longest Night. Skye’s dad was Hollywood Producer James T. Aubrey who served as President of CBS Television, ABC Television, and MGM Studios during his storied career. In addition to her acting credits, Skye co-produced the Christopher Reeve Superman franchise with then husband Ilya Salkind.

Katrina Bentsen (Bellhop/Manicurist) discovered her love for the theatre in Martha Murphy’s barn AKA Whidbey Children’s Theatre. She performed in various plays and musicals at WCT, in school, at church, and into adulthood. Katrina is grateful for not only this nurturing community, but also for the exposure she got at home, where she, Kyle, and Mosa grew up dancing and learning to harmonize through family dinner prayers (epic!). Katrina currently works as a Registered Nurse and lives with husband Kristian and daughters Anja and Kaia in Langley. Being part of Sex has been a very educational experience about the various facets impacting the lives of of sex-workers, both in the time of Mae West and the current day. Katrina is so grateful for this opportunity, for her family for making it possible to participate, and for this awesome cast and crew.

Kyle Collins (Inches) was born in the cabin his parents built on Whidbey Island. Home was filled with music and dancing and continues today. Kyle has enjoyed entertaining since high school when he and friends orchestrated elaborate magic shows for the community. Last year, he made his first theatrical debut as Spike in Vanya and Sonja and Masha and Spike (also directed by Edward Jordan). When he’s not onstage, he loves to play ultimate frisbee, sing karaoke, play trivia, and share meals with his family. He works as an electrician at Whidbey Sun and Wind. He would like to thank his family for their love and support, the entire cast for being super awesome, and last but not least, Barb and Dave Bennett for helping him get to rehearsal on time!

Suzi Dixon (Mae West/Margy Lamont) loves performing in musical theatre, especially the work of Kurt Weill. She has appeared in Weill’s Beggar’s Opera, Berlin to Broadway and a Brecht/Weil cabaret. She also performed in the campy musical Forbidden Broadway and the decidedly less campy but lovely musical Shenandoah. Just like Remy in the movie Ratatouille, Suzi is a Paris-trained chef, a job that has taken her all over the world. She has also worked in prisons, teaching people like Rocky to train service dogs for people with disabilities. An expert horse whisperer, Suzi drove a team of Friesians in the parade scenes of The Hunger Games movie. Suzi is a year-round resident of Whidbey Island and she is delighted to be making her third appearance at WICA.

Betsy Harvey (Maxine/Lady Beckley)

George Henny (Lt. Gregg) is a dedicated supporter of WICA, and is always thrilled to perform on the WICA stage. George most recently appeared as Phil Davis in White Christmas. Before that, George appeared as the Baker in Into the Woods, Alan in God of Carnage, Brad in The Rocky Horror Show, Evan in ART, Inspector Craddock in A Murder is Announced, various roles in WICA’s Firesign Theater productions of Waiting for the Electrician (or Someone Like Him) and Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers, Crabtree in Lew Carlino’s The School for Scandal, and Telemachus Clay. He received his BA in Drama from the University of Washington and is a passionate champion of community and making a powerful, positive difference in people’s lives. George is active in the leadership of Whidbey Telecom, and is proud to serve the community through it.

Marla Kelly (Bellhop/Pedicurist) is thrilled to join the cast of SEX. Some of her favorite credits include Almost, Maine as Marci, The Boyfriend as Fay, and You Can’t Take it With You as Ms. DePinna (South Whidbey High School). Her most recent performance was as Mustardseed in Island Shakespeare Festival’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Marla plans to study Musical Theatre when she goes to college next year.

Connor Kinzer (Jimmy Stanton)

Keagan Leland (Patty/Jillian) has been acting since she learned how to scrunch her face into expressions, beginning in earnest with You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown (Sacramento Theater Company) at age five. She is thrilled to making her WICA debut in this new adaptation and thanks Edward, Jana, and Daunne for all their direction and collaboration. Keagan was been on stage with Bob and Ro Productions, Whidbey Children’s Theater, South Whidbey High School Drama Club, and Outcast Productions. Her theatrical studies include training in script writing, On Camera Acting, Ballet, Tap and Jazz, and singing.

David Mayer (Rocky) is happy not only to return to the WICA stage, but to don his rarely-worn “musicals” hat. David was last seen as Murray in Outcast Productions’ spring offering of Shtick. He portrayed the title character in WICA’s Sherlock Holmes and The American Problem in 2018. Thrilled to have worked with director Edward Jordan, David offers special thanks to the crew and entire WICA team, including many volunteers, who really make this happen.

Michael McInerney (James Stanton, Sr.)

Nicole Parnell (Agnes) studied at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic arts and recently completed the audio production of Blizzard Entertainment’s “Starcraft: Ghost - Spectres” and is currently producing the audiobooks for the “Aphrodite's Sister” Trilogy. Always active in the dramatic arts, Nicole played the lead in Pike & Pine’s short film Search and Rescue, she played Nina in Edward Jordon's production of Vanya & Sonya & Masha & Spike at WICA. She contributed a recurring voice role as Iris - the ships AI navigation system in Whidbey TV’s The Adventures of Captain Callie and Her Crew, as well as narrating several independent audiobook productions. Nicole feels very grateful and excited to work with and learn from the tremendously talented Edward Jordon.

Cindy Rutstein (Laverne/Cruise Director) returns to the theatre after raising two sons who recently earned their degrees in Film and Television. Cindy studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC and her favorite performances include Grandma Tzeital in Fiddler On The Roof, Frosine in L’Avare, and Penelope-Ann in Bye Bye Birdie. Cindy is best known as co-founder of musical duo, “disappear fear.” For her music recording work, Cindy has been honored with the GLAAD Award for Best Album and her CD, “Get Your Phil,” went to #1 on the Folk charts. Cindy would like to thank Edward Jordan for this delightful version of SEX, sister Sonia Rutstein for unyielding encouragement, and partner Mel Oyler for making re-entry into the magical world of theatre possible!

Ethan Worthington (Officer Dan) has played lead roles and helped create many independent and traditional productions in high school and college. He has appeared in a few Shakespeare plays (including Romeo in an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet) and most recently playing an upright bass and singing at local open mics. Ethan spends his days raising his children and his weekends showing kids and adults how to play virtual reality at his arcade, The Holodeck, on the other side of town. After being absent from the theatre to creating a family and business, he is extremely excited to be back on stage with such a talented cast and crew.


RELATED PROGRAMMING

SEX | OCT 11-26, 2019


ARTICLE | Mark Rothko on How to Be an Artist

Famed Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko believed that art was a powerful form of communication. “The fact that a lot of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I can communicate those basic human emotions,” he said in an interview in 1956. “The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them.”

Through canvases of floating forms and glowing, suspended rectangles, Rothko sought to create a profound connection between artist, canvas, and viewer. What’s more, he asserted that his works not only expressed human emotion, but also stimulated psychological and emotional experiences in those who witnessed them. “Painting is not about an experience,” he told LIFE magazine in 1959. “It is an experience.”

While Rothko believed his paintings spoke for themselves—and routinely derided art critics who attempted to explain his practice with words—that didn’t stop him from developing his own theories about the power of art and the creative process. Throughout his career, from the late 1920s until his death in 1970, the New York–based painter amassed a body of writing and gave a number of interviews that reveal his views on how creativity can be unlocked and encouraged. Below, we highlight several of Rothko’s words of wisdom… read more.

SOURCE: Artsy


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RED | FEB 07-22, 2020

ART TALKS: MARK ROTHKO | FEB 19, 2020


BIOGRAPHY | Robert Schenkkan

Robert Schenkkan is a Pulitzer-prize winning, Tony Award-winning, Writer's Guild Award-winning, three-time Emmy nominated writer of Stage, Television, and Film. He is the author of fourteen original full-length plays (including WICA’s production of The Kentucky Cycle in 2010), two musicals, and a collection of one-act plays. He co-wrote the feature film, Hacksaw Ridge (six Academy Award nominations) and The Quiet American, and his television credits include: All the Way, The Pacific, The Andromeda Strain, and Spartacus.

Learn more about Robert Schenkkan here.

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The Investigation | August 24, 2019


ARTICLE | How Mark Rothko Unlocked the Emotional Power of Color

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“The name Mark Rothko is synonymous with sensitive canvases that feature arrangements of rectangular panes in vivid hues. The artist was a skilled colorist. The great joy of experiencing his paintings is looking at how the colors, shapes, and backgrounds interact with one another, particularly around the edges. The soft, brushy borders that surround his color fields create one mood, while the sharper, straighter lines of the central forms elicit another. Alternate juxtapositions of similar or divergent tones—shades of deep blue against dark purple or bright red against brown—elicit disparate emotional responses. In employing a signature structure, Rothko found infinite variation.

Untitled (Red, Orange) , 1968

Untitled (Red, Orange), 1968

Despite his devotion to this modern, abstract mode, Rothko derived significant inspiration from ancient, medieval, and Renaissance art and architecture. An erudite researcher, the artist transformed his scholarly understanding of art history into pared-down paintings. If they can at first feel opaque to the viewer searching for reference points, Rothko didn’t mind. “My pictures are indeed façades (as they have been called),” he once said. “Sometimes I open one door and one window or two doors and two windows. I do this only through shrewdness. There is more power in telling little than in telling all.” That mystery and complexity have given him one of the most enduring and esteemed reputations in 20th-century art…” more

SOURCE: Artsy


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RED | FEB 07-22, 2020

ART TALKS: MARK ROTHKO | FEB 19, 2020


ARTICLE | Is "Next to Normal" Normal?

“A few months ago I headed to New York for my friend Jenny Fisher’s 50th b-day celebration along with a few high school friends. I sprung for tickets to Next to Normal, a play described to me as a musical about familial dysfunction. When we waffled about our other activities, I suggested that we see Ground Zero. I wanted to physically experience for the first time the spot that remains seared in the memory of every living American. My friends appreciated the free tix, but thought I was nuts. “What’s next on the Depression Tour?” They razzed. “Graveyards? Prisons? Hospitals for the terminally ill?”

Next to Normal is fabulous; make time to see the show. The script zings, both funny and painful. The music pulses, keeping a tough subject palatable—even entertaining. If you’ve seen the show and read my book you might understand why I was sobbing by the end of the first act. Middle-aged Diana, the play’s lead, is adored by her husband Dan, but drops into a deep depression. Despite medication and psychotherapy, she catapults further. Diana attempts suicide followed by ECT. The details are different, but this story is my story on stage…” more.

Julie K. Hersh, Psychology Today


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Next to Normal | Apr 05-20, 2019