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). www.roneet.com

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.

Macbeth: Foley Sound Effects

One of the fun things about our upcoming production of Macbeth is the use of a live Foley sound station. Named after sound effects artist Jack Foley, Foley is the use of items to reproduce sounds. The practice started in the early 1920s with radio dramas. The idea is to use props and every day objects to reproduce sounds to create a richer radio, theatrical, or film experience. Footsteps, breaking glass, and the swishing of clothes are among the most common Foley effects. The most widely recognized Foley effect is probably in Monty Python And The Holy Grail when they use coconuts to imitate the sound of a horse.


In our production of Macbeth, a number of Foley effects are being used. There's a drum, some fight noise, and other fun moments that the actors take turns creating live during the show.

Foley effects are widely used in film. Hollywood routinely employs these special artists to provide better quality sounds than can be captured during the shoot of a scene. This video has a pretty cool look at all the little details that go on behind the scenes of a TV or film shoot to make the scene that we see on the screen. It's an impressive amount of work by some unsung heroes.



Enjoy the show and be sure to keep your ears open for more than just the beautiful words of the Bard during our production of Macbeth!


Friday, March 8, 2019

Macbeth: Meet the Cast

Tasi Alabastro (Macbeth) is über excited to be returning to the Dragon stage and collaborating with this stinkin’ talented team! In addition to working onstage, he is an online content creator and photographer whose work focuses on reflecting his community and culture. He has had the honor of being the 2018 Silicon Valley Creates’ Emerging Artist Laureate as well as being published in CONTENT Magazine and Tayo Magazine. He was previously seen in Spending the End of the World on OKCupid(Pear Theatre). The productions of The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, Three Days of Rain, and The Libation Bearers are among his recent Dragon Theatre appearances.Bay Area credits include productions with CenterRep, City Lights Theatre Company, Hillbarn Theatre, and TheatreWork’s New Works Festival. Film/TV includes “Yes We’re Open” and PBS’ “Futurestates.” He is a proud member of the Red Ladder Theatre Company and is currently working with inmates in state prisons as part of the California Art’s Council’s Arts-in-Corrections program: a program which re-engages participants with their creativity and imagination. Catch him live three times a week on twitch.tv/kreenpananas.

Jonathan Covey (Malcolm/Fourth Lord/Son Mcduff) is not quite sure what he’s doing here. He has only acted once before but, has been a part of the theater in some capacity for years. Typically, he’s in some dark room with a laptop, guitar, carrots, celery and a microphone, making noises for various productions at the Dragon, such as last year’s Equivocation (starring Macbeth’s own Max Tachis as none other than The Bard himself) and most recently, The Making of the Star Wars Holiday Special this past December. But here he is. On stage again for the first time in almost exactly ten years. You see, all the way in the innocent, goodly days of 2009, he played Detective Sgt. Trotter for the Crystal Springs Players’ production of Agatha Christie’s The Mouse Trap. However, the bug bite didn’t get very deep. He enjoyed the process but stuck with recreating the sound of a neck breaking using the aforementioned carrots and celery instead. Yet now, for whatever reason, he has the itch for baking under those stage lights once again. And perhaps again after that. And maybe again and again.

Maya Greenberg (Banquo/Hecate/Doctor) is an Israeli actress and she is very excited to work with such talented people in her debut with the Dragon Theatre in one of her favorite plays. In her native Hebrew she performed in both Hamlet and Midsummer Night's Dream. Now she’s excited to perform Shakespeare in its origin language. Maya also performed as Phaedra in Phaedra's Love, as well as Clytemnestra in Mythos and toured with the latter at festivals in Europe and the U.S. Having earned a Theatre Arts bachelor’s degree from Tel-Aviv University, Maya worked in the film and television industry as an actress, creator and the host of One-On-One, women’s interviewing show. Nevertheless, her love of the stage, especially the classics, is everlasting: “Any classic role is an acting class, full of challenges and pure joy. It’s something that I can’t resist.”


Sarah Hass (3rd Witch/Ross/Servant/Fleance) is thrilled to be making her debut with the Dragon Productions Theatre Company. Recent credits include Stupid F*cking Bird (Nina) with City Lights Theater Company, Seminar (Kate) at San Jose State University, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Puck) at San Jose State University, The Shape of Things (Evelyn) at San Jose State University, The Great Gatsby (Daisy) at San Jose State University, and Curtains (Ensemble) with South Bay Musical Theater. She graduated with BA in Theatre Arts from San Jose State University and spends her days as a pastry baker. She would like to thank her family and friends for being an overwhelming and constant source of love and support. 



Troy Johnson (2nd Witch/Porter/2nd Murdered/2nd Lord/Soldier)-To be back onstage at Dragon Productions is wonderful, and to be amongst this team of artists working on this project is an absolute delight.  Troy has been acting and directing around the Bay Area for the past 25 years.  Previous acting credits at Dragon Productions include Tesman in last season’s The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler, and Mitch in A Streetcar Named Desire. Favorite acting credits elsewhere include Tesman in Hedda Gabler, Mr. Daldry in In the Next Room by Sarah Ruhl, Colonel Pickering in Pygmalion, Johann Fasch in Bach at Leipzig, and Frank in Molly Sweeney, all at The Pear Theatre; Jimmy Jack in Brian Friel’s Translations at Stanford Summer Theatre, and Arthur Kipps in The Woman in Black and Lennie in Of Mice and Men at Broadway West. Two fond distant memories are working onstage with both co-Artistic Directors in the world premiere of No Good Deed by Paul Braverman at The Pear Theatre, as well as directing Alika Spencer-Koknar in Steel Magnolias at Broadway West.  Finally, Troy thanks you for continuing to support live local theatre.

Maria Marquis (Lady Macbeth) is happy to be back at the Dragon after working on The Revolutionists earlier this year. She has been acting in the Bay Area since 2008, and is a theatre and voice actor, as well as corporate trainer committed to making work less boring. She most recently appeared at City Lights in The Merchant of Venice and Making God Laugh. You may have also seen her at the Breadbox, The Pear Theatre, Custom Made Theatre, and Impact Theatre. You can learn more about her at www.mariagmarquis.com. You can also find her audiobooks on audible.com. Love to S.

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). www.roneet.com


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.







Monday, March 4, 2019

Macbeth: William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (most likely April 23,1564 to April 23, 1616) was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. His father, John Shakespeare, was a leather merchant, and his mother, Mary Arden, a local landed heiress. William had two older sisters, Joan and Judith, and three younger brothers, Gilbert, Richard and Edmund. Before William's birth, his father was a successful merchant and held official positions as alderman and bailiff, an office resembling a mayor. However, records indicate John's fortunes declined sometime in the late 1570s.

Anne Hathaway
Not much is known about William Shakespeare’s early life, but we do know that he married Anne Hathaway on November 28, 1582. William was 18 and Anne was 26, and, as it turns out, pregnant. Their first child, a daughter they named Susanna, was born on May 26, 1583. Two years later, on February 2, 1585, twins Hamnet and Judith were born. Hamnet later died of unknown causes at age 11.

Shakespeare moved up to London by the early 1590s, and documents show that he was a managing partner in the Lord Chamberlain's Men, an acting company in London with which he was connected for most of his career. Considered the most important troupe of its time, the company changed its name to the King's Men following the crowning of King James I, in 1603. Early in his career, Shakespeare was able to attract the attention of Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton, to whom he dedicated his first- and second-published poems: "Venus and Adonis" (1593) and "The Rape of Lucrece" (1594). By 1597, Shakespeare had already written and published 15 plays. Records show that at this time he purchased the second largest house in Stratford, called New House, for his family. By 1599, Shakespeare and his business partners built their own theater on the south bank of the Thames River, which they called the Globe Theater. All told we now believe that William Shakespeare wrote a total of 37 plays and 154 sonnets in his lifetime.

King James I
The exact cause of William Shakespeare's death is unknown, though many believe he died following a brief illness. Tradition holds that Shakespeare died on his 52nd birthday, April 23, 1616, but some scholars believe this is a myth. Church records show he was interred at Trinity Church on April 25, 1616. In his will, he left the bulk of his possessions to his eldest daughter, Susanna. Though entitled to a third of his estate, little seems to have gone to his wife, Anne, whom he bequeathed his "second-best bed. After his death, two of Shakespeare's friends at the King's Men, John Heminge and Henry Condell, collected his plays and bought them to a publisher. This collection was officially published in 1623 and today is known as the First Folio. 233 copies of this First Folio still survive today.

 Macbeth was written in 1606 for England’s new Scottish King James I. Macbeth is Shakespeare’s shortest and bloodiest tragedy and deals with some popular themes current to James’ new reign. The meditation of witches and what makes a good king are direct nods to policies and thought pieces being created by James. What’s made Macbeth endure, however, is its gripping examination of the effects of power on leaders and its study of the characters of the men and women in the story.

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Revolutionists: A Word From the Director

What would your brain be doing if it knew it had little time left? What thoughts would be running through it? What fantasy world would it create? Lauren Gunderson’s play, The Revolutionists, shows what Olympe De Gouges, a french feminist playwright during the French Revolution, might have been creating in her mind as she faced Madame Guillotine. During the "Reign Of Terror," tens of thousands of men and women were confronted with a similar fate as hers. Their minds racing through their last moments before being quieted forever. This includes two other women in our play, Charlotte Corday, the assassin of radical French journalist Jean Paul Marat, and Marie Antoinette, the historically misunderstood queen of France. After their murders, Marat was made a martyr and Marie Antoinette was made the butt of many jokes (that cake thing was a lie brought up by those who hated her). And the reality is that it was quite easy to erase and malign these women from history.

The French National motto, that started during The Revolution was "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité." Just as the United States Thomas Jefferson was stating in the Declaration of Independence, “ That all Men are created Equal." Both of these nations at the birth of their Democracies had already forgotten their women in their pursuit for liberty and freedom. And as I read the play, I was struck how history almost erased these women had it not been for a modern female playwright, Lauren Gunderson, writing these women back into our present conversation. Furthermore, Lauren includes a fictitious Freewoman named Marianne Angell, fighting for the abolition of slavery in what is today known as the country of Haiti. It is this voice that really makes clear for the audience the voice of women of color where few stories were physically written down, was purposely erased from history.

This is why I am so excited as a Director to shed light on these forgotten voices. The production team working behind the scenes created a world where these women could finally find their light, and show how universal their story still is. The design elements from the set design showing the guillotine always letting its presence known, never far away from her thoughts. And the sound of the clock ticking away her mortal hours. These elements are all to bring you into the mind of Olympe as she faces her mortality and her fear of being forgotten.

So lean in and enjoy as we rediscover the almost forgotten women of the French Revolution.