Arena Stage service will honor philanthropist Jaylee Mead
The service will include performances by Nicholas Rodriguez, E. Faye Butler and Will Gartshore. George Fulginiti-Shakar, a music director, pianist, and vocal coach, will also participate. A NASA scientist will speak about Mead’s work as an astronomer, and Ted Van Griethuysen will read a sonnet. Nova Payton and Tom Story will sing, and a chorus consisting of Rachel Zampelli, Nicholas Vaughn, Mark Hairston, Matthew DeLorenzo, Sam Ludwig and Natascia Diaz will perform “Let the Sunshine In.” The conductor and musical director is Jon Kalbfleisch.
“It’s beautiful combination of artists from all over the city celebrating her legacy and her life,” said Arena Artistic Director Molly Smith. “Jaylee was a gift to all of us.”
Mead, along with her late husband, Gilbert, became trustees of Arena in 1992. Together they donated more than $50 million to theaters in Washington — Arena, Signature and Studio Theatre, among them — earning numerous awards for their service to the humanities and generosity to the city.
The memorial will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday. It is free to all; there is no reserved seating.
Spirit in the night
Ian Gallanar is trying to scare you.
The artistic director of the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company oversaw the selection of “Richard III” as this year’s outdoor movable production because “in the October slot, in the creepy ruins of a building, we like to do things that are a little more of the Halloween-themed side of things,” he said. “And certainly Richard III is not only one of the greatest villains of all time — lots of murders, killing children, all the rest of it — [but also] the atmosphere really lends itself to a production like that.”
Ah, yes. The just-right atmosphere for murder. This will be CSC’s fifth movable Shakespeare production staged on the “haunted ruins,” as CSC describes them, of Patapsco Female Institute (PFI) Historic Park.
Gallanar has “a particular passion” for CSC’s movable shows. “Part of our mission [is that] we want to change the way people think about Shakespeare. And this kind of production really does that for people. It’s theater in the way they’re not used to. . . . It’s much more intimate.”
The production is set in World War I, as far as the “visual and technological universe” goes, said Gallanar. (Just don’t look for any other parallels. “We’re not trying to say that Richard III is the kaiser or anything.”) The PFI building “was used as a convalescent home for American soldiers in World War I, and I’m always really interested . . . in finding those links between the text and the physical space itself,” Gallanar said.
Rehearsals have been on-site from the beginning, which gives the actors a chance to get used to being able to touch the scenery. “In a normal production, we’re taught, ‘You can’t touch the wall or lean on this; it’s an illusion.’ But in a place like this, there’s no scenery here; it’s real walls and stairs and all the rest of it. I encourage the actors to relate to things physically.”
I admit to Gallanar that when I read “Richard III,” I had to keep a family tree or I would completely lose track of which Edward or Elizabeth the text was referring to. “I have that family tree sitting five feet from my desk!” Gallanar assures me. “The characters are — it’s very confusing. We’re going to do whatever we can to help people out with that,” including information in the program and posting a family tree in the tent area at the park that serves as a makeshift lobby.
In other CSC news, progress on its new building in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is going as planned, Gallanar said. CSC has raised about half the money it needs. Construction should begin on Valentine’s Day, a decidedly less scary time of year.
Friday through Oct. 28, Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park, 3655 Church Rd., Ellicott City. chesapeakeshakespeare.com. 410-313-8661.
(Fat) suiting up
In “The Government Inspector” at Shakespeare Theatre Company, Rick Foucheux plays the mayor. Which means he is wearing a fat suit.
“The mayor is just a pompous, blustery old guy,” Foucheux said. He “thinks he owns the world and gets by just on his ability to bribe and be bribed,” and his gluttonous personality is embodied by his gluttonous physique.
“I think his corpulence comes from his greed,” Foucheux said. “It’s representative of his greed and his avarice. He wears his excess all over. . . . I supposed it contributes to a total picture of this guy who is out of control in just satisfying his own needs and wants.”
The fat suit adds 20 inches to Foucheux’s waist; two other actors wear the suits, as well. First question: Isn’t it really hot?
Foucheux described the allowances made to prevent actors from overheating. For instance, his shirt sleeves are sewn into his jacket so that all Foucheux has to wear beneath the suit is a T-shirt. “I sweat a bit,” he allowed. “But I always sweat onstage. It isn’t as bad as some fat suits I’ve worn.”
The honor (or disgrace?) of Worst Fat Suit Experience goes to Foucheux’s stint as Saunders in “Lend Me a Tenor.” “That was in the middle of the summer down in Virginia, and the fat suit was a bit more all over the body than this one is. And that was murder.”
Though the suit makes him look extremely heavy, it is actually light. It’s cotton stuffing sewn into a T-shirt, in reality more fluffy than fatty.
“The costumes are clownish, and that contributes to our acting,” said Foucheux — right down to the way he walks, leading with his Santa-size stomach and not his feet. “It sort of adds to the pomposity of this guy.”
Foucheux, whose father was a small-town barber, spent his childhood listening to his dad “go on and on about these ‘mealy-mouthed politicians,’ ” so the uglier side of bureaucracy is nothing new. “I grew up aware of the vagaries of local politics, and how interesting they can be,” he said. “Whoever said that a little power is a dangerous thing, they were right.”
Through Nov. 4, Lansburgh Theatre, 450 Seventh St. NW. shakespearetheatre.org. 202-547-1122.