Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Macbeth: From the Directors

When approaching any new project onstage we find it vital to ask ourselves one question: Why on Earth are we doing this to ourselves?

Long days, late nights, mental strain, a social calendar that becomes non-existent, (sometimes) bodily harm, (often) poor dietary choices, and (never enough) money. What kind of person makes the conscious choice to pursue this art while not under duress? The answer, we found, was "some of the absolute best."

Our ultimate goal for this production of William Shakespeare's Macbeth was two-fold; assemble an ensemble of artists that we admire to build a show together and strip this classic piece down to its core values. In regards to the former, as you'll soon see, we couldn't be more proud. Our names may be on the program but next to "Director" it could just as easily read, "Everyone."There isn't a moment in this show that doesn't have the entire team's fingerprints on it and chances to work on a true ensemble-driven piece of theatre are few and far between.

As for the latter... we keep coming back to Shakespeare, don't we? It's not hard to see why; his poetry is beautiful and his stories are human. With over thirty plays to choose from, one can see oneself in any number of characters, for good or for bad, and that is the inherent reason for the unbelievable longevity of his work. To connect with people and characters from over four centuries ago means we aren't so different from them... which means we certainly aren't so different from each other now. It's a humbling reminder of the importance and truth in art.

The themes in Macbeth are universal and well-known. Ambition, power, corruption, greed; seemingly inevitable aspects of human nature that have been no more resonant than they are in our world right now. But this idea of connectivity through relationships (romantic, familial, brotherhood in combat, etc.) is not, historically, the main focus of this play. For us, however, it was the most important.

The idea that witches, curses, prophesies, and even fate are not actually inevitable is an attractive one, especially when framing it around the complex relationships that truly make the events in the play come to pass. The Macbeths don't start their lives as villains. Everybody is one bad decision away from the life-altering event. Who we surround ourselves with, who we build up, who we let in, and who we connect with can change everything. This is not just a story about what drives us through life; it is also a story about who.

Which brings us back to our primary question: Why on Earth are we doing this? Simply put... connection.

Real connection with the piece, the past, each other... and now you.

-Max Tachis & Roneet Rahamim

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Macbeth: Fight choreography

Something we don't get to talk about too often here at Dragon is fight choreography. Between Macbeth which opens this week, and our next play, Shoggoths On The Veldt, which is ALREADY in fight training a bit earlier than usual, we get to do it a lot this season. They use the word choreography to describe it for a reason - any bit of violence, be it a sword fight, a hanging, or even a simple shove gets choreographed like dance movement. The movements are drilled with your partner over and over and over again. The simple rule of thumb is that for one minute of performance fight time you work NO LESS than TEN HOURS for the fight. That seems extreme but the reason is simple - safety, for both your actors and your audience members. When you have combat happening mere feet away from the audience it's got to be safe. And it's got to look good, which is easier said than done.

This video gives you a general idea of the work that goes into throwing a simple punch.

Two things to keep in mind with this video: 1. they're talking camera angle but it's a bit harder in live theatre, especially with a rounded stage like ours and 2. they have the luxury of adding sound effects in "post production" with foley artists. When you do this in a live theatre, you have to figure out a way to also make the effect of a slap or punch live. There's a technique called knapping that's often used. Knapping goes something like this:

Macbeth has a whole lot of fighting, especially towards the end. So not only do the actors, Tasi and Max have to recite a bunch of Shakseaprea, they also have to do a several minute dance that involves remembering angles, a lot of physical acting, and making murder actually incredibly safe but look brutal. No problem right?

And wait til you see what's coming in for Shoggoths... it's gonna get CRAZY (and it's why we've started combat training a good month early)!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Macbeth: A Word From the Artistic Directors

This season is full of firsts for Dragon Theater; the first season under our new leadership, and the first time Dragon has ever produced a Shakespearean play. In Dragon’s nineteen years as a company, the Bard’s work has never graced its stage. The reason for this absence was mainly due to the contradiction of Shakespeare to our mission: “to produce professional theatre that is uncommon, intimate, and accessible to its audiences, artists, and community,” and there is no shortage of wonderful theater companies that explore the body of Shakespeare’s work. However, when Max Tachis and Roneet Rahamim approached us with their unique proposal to produce Macbeth, we all knew it was time. They proposed a lean, actor-centric production that would bring the play to life in front of our very eyes as the actors created the environments and soundscapes live on stage using musical instruments, foley, and found objects.

As actors ourselves, we were thrilled at the prospect of presenting the tragedy of Macbeth for it holds a special place in both of our theatrical hearts. Beyond being our favorite from Shakespeare’s cannon, this story could not be more timely in dealing with power and gender dynamics in a way which mirrors our world to a disturbing extent. But the thing that tipped us over the edge in selecting this piece more than anything else was the team who proposed it. When this pitch was presented to us with four stalwarts of the Bay Area acting community, Roneet, Max, Tasi, and Maria as the core team around whom the rest of the ensemble would be built, we knew that we had something truly special on our hands. Throw in Dragon veteran, Troy Johnson and newcomers to the Dragon stage Jonathan, Sarah, and Maya and we believe what you get is pure alchemy. We hope you enjoy the magic of our first 2nd Stages show of the year (and our very first Shakespeare production EVER) and we cannot wait to keep sharing more with you.

 -Alika Spencer-Koknar & Max Koknar

Macbeth: Meet the Designers

Dylan Elhai (Lighting Designer) is a Southern California based lighting technician, programmer, and designer. She also works as a stage manager and production manager. Dylan has been working professionally in the industry for 10+ years. She is pleased to be part of her first Dragon production, and is very thankful to her cousins, Roneet and Max, for asking her to be a part of this show. Dylan has a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Marquette University and a degree in Graphic Design from Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.   

Rachel Nin (Stage Manager) is so pleased to be returning to Dragon! Her past Dragon credits include Three Days of RainEquivocation and The Making of the Star Wars Holiday Special, Live!. She has worked as a stage manager and ASM for companies around the Bay, including Opera San Jose, Merola Opera Program, Sunnyvale Community Players, and Western Ballet, and toured children’s shows throughout California as a stage manager with California Theatre Center. She is an alumna of the Professional Training Company at Actors Theatre of Louisville, and she holds a B.A. in Theatre and Creative Writing from Denison University in Granville, OH.

Roneet Aliza Rahamim (Directors/Co-Producers/First witch/Sergeant/First Murdered/First Lord/Lady Macduff/First Soldier) is excited to be back at the Dragon (Becky’s New Car, 2013 season). Roneet is a Bay Area native and has worked with companies such as City Lights Theater Company, The Pear Theater, Palo Alto Players, Los Altos Stage Company, Breadbox Theater, Shotgun Players, Golden Thread Productions (resident artist), Swandive Theatre (MN), Mixed Blood Theatre (MN), among others. Roneet’s directing credits include Making God Laugh (Asst., City Lights Theater Company) and will be working on 12 Angry Women at Foothill College later this year. Some favorite performances to date: Anne Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank (Palo Alto Players, Theater Bay Area Award), Constanza in Amadeus (City Lights Theater Company), Elizabeth in Defying Gravity (Swandive Theatre) and Kiss (Shotgun Players).

Max Tachis (Director/Co-Producer/Duncun/Mcduff/3rd Lord) is excited to return to Dragon Productions Theatre Company as a producer and director, having been seen last season in Equivocation (Shag, 2018 TBA Award Finalist). As an actor, he has been onstage most recently in Mothers and Sons (Will) with City Lights Theater Company, The SantaLand Diaries (David/Crumpet) with TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, and Noises Off (Garry/Roger) with Hillbarn Theatre.