Thursday, July 31, 2008

An Appetite for Love

Need a few more reasons to see the hottest ticket in town?? Check this out... I've got a few!!

If I ask you what the most romantic piece of classical literature is, what would you name? Romeo and Juliet is a prime candidate, of course. If I ask you who the most popular modern composer and lyricist is; who would you name? Stephen Sondheim is a logical choice. What if I tell you there’s a show that gives you the best of both of those worlds?! Well, that’s West Side Story and it’s playing now at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. The story line is adapted from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and the lyrics are by Sondheim. Throw in dynamos like Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents, and Leonard Bernstein and you’re sure to have a hit on your hands!! Now I’ll leave the history and accolades to the theatre professor and stick to my own thoughts! (The link goes to a review by Auburn Montgomery theatre professor Val Winkelman.)

To begin, I cannot tell you how impressed and glad I am to know that there is a live orchestra playing for this musical production! We were greeted by the thrilling sounds of instruments warming up as we quickly found our seats. The curtain speech welcoming the audience and thanking the sponsors of the production was both quick and sincere and also brought the exciting news that next summer’s season will bring a production of the world-wide phenomenon, Les Misérables, which is sure to be a “must see” for theatre goers from far and wide.

I knew this would be a great performance the moment the lights came up on a well designed and very open stage. The boys took to the stage and commanded it with their exciting mix of dance and stunts. These gangsters were truly impressive as they seemed to dance their way across the stage and through the lives of those street-wise characters. Director and Choreographer Karen Azenberg did a marvelous job of capturing the look and feel of the original musical while adding her own elements. Paul Wonsek, the designer, created the set to continuously adapt and provide just the spaces the actors needed to stretch their dancing talents. The stage hands as well as Paul deserve a huge round of applause for the incredible and impeccable scene changes. It was truly remarkable to see a set and scene changes work so beautifully!

The actors blew the audience away with their triple talents in singing, dancing, and acting. The Jets and Sharks fit their “tough guys” personas and provided very nice vocal performances while their ladies sang and danced beautifully throughout the show. Loren Christopher portrayed a wonderful and gentle wide-eyed young boy in love while Nina Negri brought her gorgeous Opera trained voice to the role of Mari. Beautiful Jacqueline Colmer made the perfect Puerto Rican hot tamale as Anita, friend and confidante to innocent Maria. I dearly hope that they’ll bring these three back next year for Les Misérables, mostly Nina to lend her voice and experience with the show.

This is a wonderful show from beginning to end and my date for the evening is still talking about how much he enjoyed it! This show really is the hottest ticket in town and is well worth a trip to Montgomery to see. I have a feeling that once you see this show then you’ll start to look forward to Les Misérables next summer! I know West Side Story has certainly whetted my appetite for it now!


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

West Side Story and other news

Good morning bloggers!

I finally went to see the whole show of West Side Story last Friday and I was completely blown away. This really is the must-see show for the South this summer and it is simply spectacular. The music and dancing are out of the world and the costumes are just beautiful; this show really sets the bar high for what the Alabama Shakespeare Festival can do for regional theatre here in the South.

Our production of West Side Story recently had an article in the online Playbill (!), an e-zine that has all the ins and outs of theatre entertainment. Here's a link to the article.

West Side Story has taken the city by storm and is really the show to see this summer. If you haven't checked out the actor's bios online then check it out here and see the great people behind this amazing show.

As always, I'll see you at the theatre!


Monday, July 28, 2008

Les Miserables Announced!

Everything is bustling around the Festival as we gear up for a new season. And oh, what a season it will be. Have you heard that we are doing Les Mis? YES! Les Misérables, “the musical that swept the world.” We are all super excited about everything we have in store for you. Not only are we presenting three musicals but also three World Premiers, including Bear Country, a play based on the life of legendary University of Alabama coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant. And don’t forget our repertory season…Othello, the playful Comedy of Errors and Charles Morey’s adaptation of The Three Musketeers.

I am also ecstatic to report that our beautiful, full-color season brochure is hot-off-the press and on its way to your homes. Graphic Designer Jenna McCollough and PR Manager Meg Lewis have been working hard since February designing, editing, tweaking and proofing. Inside, you will find all the information you need on subscriptions (including our new payment plan!), travel packages and education programs.

Remember that West Side Story is still running and is “the hottest ticket in town!” Make sure to get your tickets now. And while you’re at the box office, you might as well order your subscription as well. ASF continues to bring you the great classics of the stage side by side with exciting new works and Broadway hits. Come be a part of our 2008-2009 season and play with us!

-Kristi W


Friday, July 25, 2008

Scot Bruce is coming back!

Good morning bloggers!

The news is in! Scot Bruce is coming back to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival on August 18th for a one night performance! If any of you didn't catch his pelvis shaking performance last time he rode through town then this is your chance to shimmy and shake your way through a night of classic Elvis. Here's a little snippet for you. Enjoy!


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Roses at the Theatre

West Side Story has captivated audiences already and we're only in the first week of true performances (I've heard tales in the box office of repeat customers). Last night was also a very romantic evening for many of our patrons as they received a glass of champagne going into the theatre and a rose on leaving. Yesterday was an interesting day in the office with buckets and buckets of roses huddled about and a few boxes of champagne sitting in the corner.

If you're interested in sharing champagne and roses with someone special, then don't fret, we still have another champagne and roses night next week on July 29. If you haven't already gotten your tickets to West Side Story then give the box office a call at 1-800-841-4237 or visit to get your seats now.

That's all for today. I hope you've gotten your seats because this show is selling quickly!


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tony and Maria singing "Tonight"

Good morning bloggers!

Here's another snippet from the press junket on 7/9. Tony and Maria singing "Tonight (Balcony scene)" in the rehearsal hall. Enjoy!


Monday, July 21, 2008

Karen Azenberg talks about West Side Story

Good morning bloggers!

I know, this is the same post that I put up a few days ago then took down again. I thought I had a mistake in the video, only to find out that it was correct. So, in the way of OK-Go, here we go again! This is an interview done with Karen Azenberg a week before West Side Story opened. And wow, was it ever a party yesterday! The show is amazing and the after party was spectacular. Kudos to the amazing Meg for getting all of that together.

And now on to the interview!


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

West Side Story Rehearsal- Jet Song

Good morning bloggers!

Remember that press junket from last week? I've just edited a few songs that I caught on film. Here's the first of the two, the "Jet Song" that continues after the last clip. Enjoy!

And if you didn't catch the scene leading up into this song, check it out here. I'll see you at the theatre!


Monday, July 14, 2008

Review of Beaux Stratagem

Hey there bloggers!

Here's a special treat for this afternoon; a review of our limited engagement play "Beaux Stratagem" still here till Saturday night. This play is the beautiful result of our talented MFA (Master of Fine Art) students who have given zest to this Restoration period play. Here's a link to the actual review at the Montgomery Advertiser's website. Enjoy!


An inside look in Tony's day

Good morning bloggers! Here's another entry in "Tony's" (aka Loren's) blog. Enjoy!


July 10th (10:43),

Okay, we have a problem. Nina (Maria) is making me cry in MY death scene (POST DEATH)! Which isn't going to fly. I mean lets really think about this, how many times have you attended a funeral where the one who passed away starts crying... I'm doing my best to be a good little dead boy (reduce my breathing, try not to sneeze, twitch, or swallow), but if I'm getting all choked then we have a problem. So I guess we'll just have to cut her final " many bullets are left in this gun, Chino?..." monologue. LOL. No no, just kidding - it's a very intense moment, and Nina never fails deliver the characters unfortunate, but honest feelings. ALL THE WHILE conjuring up magical notes from mid air, long after any instrument has stopped playing, and still landing it perfectly on pitch. No pressure for me right?? HUH!

Nina is a treasure.

This week we've started full run-through of the show. It's getting very exciting. Each week it's as though we're all working on a vast painting together. In the beginning we sorted out all our colors, brushes, and techniques. Then we started to apply large broad layers to the canvas, and NOW, we're finally starting focus on the details that will make the painting accomplished and unique. However, as details go they are often the most difficult, and sensitive to apply. Thankfully we have Karen, the women who envisioned this painting, in all it's detail, long before we were chosen to help illustrate. Thank you Karen, I only hope you know...

July 11th (6:24)

We just got back from lunch, YEA LUNCH! And now back to work. We're on the stage for the rest of this week, which is both exciting and intimidating. There are so many people at work to make this show a true spectacle, which really makes you appreciate the opportunity you have to be apart of it all.

Today will mostly be spent adjusting to the stage and our EXTRAORDINARY set. I hope everyone reading this has or will soon have the chance to see this amazing work of art, and I can't wait to see the lighting designers magic in play. Additionally, the crew has been so supportive and helpful in our adjustment to the stage. "Cool boy, REAL cool...!"

HURRAY, Mark (THEE Stage Manager) just brought out a basket full of our 'dance at the gym' shoes, but NOW . . . with rubber soles. For a little while it seemed like we were doing Hans Brinker the Musical instead of WSS. LOL. Now, I have to be honest, these rubber soles are a million times more important for the dancers than for me - BUT climbing up a 12 foot metal latter to the arms of your star-crossed love with no traction underneath you has it's own level of impending doom.


We just finished the RUMBLE, with knives, search lights, a 42 foot fence, and everything - well...9 foot fence, but it feels like 42 when you're climbing it. LOL. Just kidding, I think it's TONS of fun, I think everyone should come on down and give it a try.

We're about ready so start working Act II for the first time on far so well. No major injuries, or life crises (as Karen would say...)

Talk to ya'll again soon. One last shout out to all the amazing people that are helping this come together, and to each of my extraordinary fellow actors who are filled with talent and love. Thanks to all of you!


We're all looking forward to West Side Story coming together starting this Friday night at 7:30. I'll see you at the theatre!


Friday, July 11, 2008

Paul Wonseck and the Set of West Side Story

Paul Wonsek, the set and lighting designer for West Side Story, flew into town a few weeks ago to check up on how the set build was going. He found a half-hour between meetings to sit down and talk about the show, his design, and what it’s like to be working with the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Below are excerpts from our conversation:

Welcome back to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Paul. We’ll start out with an easy one. How has it been working at ASF?

I worked here 10-12 years ago doing Little Foxes, and I hadn’t been back until Geoffrey arrived and you produced Beauty and the Beast. Geoffrey and I have been working together since the late 70s, and so you could say I’m here because Geoffrey is here. You have a beautiful facility, and it gives a designer the opportunity to do more.

Were you trying for a historically accurate set from when the show first premiered?

Yes, I did go with a ‘50s feel. When I was growing up, West Side Story was the original production. I was from Massachusetts, and I didn’t know much about New York City, but even the name West Side Story invoked fear because people heard about the gangs of New York City and of how scary all that was. If you’d never been there and only heard the stories, then it was way scarier than it really was.

I’ve seen a number of West Side Story productions over the years, and it has turned into a caricature of what life might have been like in New York City then, and to me it has lost some of the grit and the scary quality it had once.

I think if there is anything I’m trying to do, [it] is get it back to the grit and slightly scary atmosphere of what that life might have been like, instead of stepping back and looking at a cartoon version.

What places in New York City inspired your set?

The buildings themselves were not particularly important as much as [were] the laundry hanging from the windows and the desolate alleyways. This is the part of town that isn’t the beautiful city that you think about; [it’s] the area where people are a little poorer and live hand-to-mouth. So it’s not so much the city skyline but the texture of the neighborhood and what that feels like that inspired the set.

How do you go about designing a show?

The first thing is [to] develop the machine of the play so that it moves efficiently. This has nothing to do with decoration or emotion or anything; it’s how to get from one scene to the next. This play has 15 to 25 scenes, and the problem is how to keep it flowing magically so that you don’t lose momentum. A piece can die if it takes 30 seconds to change the scenery because you lose the attention of the audience.

In West Side Story, once the ball starts rolling you don’t want to stop it because it’s scary, you know – there’s going to be death out there, and if you wait five minutes for a set to change, then you lose the momentum and it’s very hard for the actors to bring it back.

Then, secondly, you are trying to do things that allow the director to have interesting playing spaces and interesting confrontation amongst the actors. Again, that’s not an aesthetic consideration but [finding a way to give] the director get the variety she needs.

And finally it’s getting the environment, the colors, and also coordinating with the costume designer to make sure that the set doesn’t overpower the costumes, because you don’t want to make the set the most important.

You always design around people. You make the set feel like it’s only finished when an actor stands in front of it.

Is there a piece of the design that you are particularly proud of?

Some of the backdrops in this particular set are some of my better. That doesn’t mean that on stage it will be the same, because there’s the translation between what I paint and what can be painted on stage.

How did you design the lighting to establish the feel of the play?

In this case, it’s really in what you see and what you don’t see. It’s more of a matter of shadows and darkness that people come in and out of. It mostly takes place at night, so I tried to give spots of light and dark that people come out of, like what happens in a horror story.

Not that West Side Story is a horror story, but it is a sinister place where people are hidden in the dark and they come out and snatch and hurt you.

How much imagination is the audience going to need to see the world of the show?

I think you see the entire world. Each scene’s set feels like it’s a full stage. For the most part, I think this is going to present what life in New York City was like in the 50s. It’s different than a piece where you have one or two abstract elements, and you ask the audience to imagine the rest; it’s not that kind of play, at least this design isn’t.

What do you want the audience to feel when they fist sit down and see the set?

I won’t say fear so much as trepidation about what’s going to happen. I’d like the environment to set up a feeling that there is something hard about living in this city, and that it’s a place where life can be taken away very quickly.


And Paul's set is truly amazing; it is so very complex and looks so very real. You'll just have to see the show to really appreciate it. As always, if you have any questions for our actors, designers, builders, or anyone who makes these shows happen, then comment here and I'll be sure to get you an answer.

Remember, West Side Story opens on July 18th, so if you haven't gotten your ticket yet you'd better hurry. Specials are still good for the first two Tuesday nights, so go to or click the BUY TICKETS link in the sidebar to get your tickets today!


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Behind the Scenes Video of West Side Story Rehearsal

Good Afternoon Bloggers!

I know, I know, it's almost four in the afternoon and I usually have this updated before noon, but trust me, this is worth it. I mentioned that yesterday we were schedule to have a press junket at the theatre for West Side Story and it ended up being awesome fun. We were allowed into rehearsal with cameras to film some of play and I got some great shots. Here's the first one, the first scene with the Jets right before their song. The song will come in a few days. Enjoy!


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Blog from Nina (Maria in West Side Story

Good morning bloggers!

I've got another treat for you this morning! Another cast member of West Side Story, opening in less than two weeks on July 18th, has written a blog for today. Enjoy!


Ok, so this is my first time writing a BLOG entry. I guess I will just let you know my thoughts in a somewhat organized manner (If I told you my thoughts without organization, I'm afraid you might either judge me or dismiss me as COO-COO!!!).

2 weeks ago, when we pulled up to the Festival Theatre, we all gasped. The beauty of the theatre, the acres and acres of grass, and the cute ponds and bridges. It is definitely a big change from good ol' NYC.

We dove right into rehearsal. I wasn't rehearsing as much as the others at first, but I knew that would change quickly....a little too quickly : ) Rehearsing is definitely cutting into my poolside and pina colada time. LOL.

The cast has connected quickly. Already, the Jets/Sharks pranks have begun. Crazy tricks like writing on each others' cars ("Jets Rule", "Maria's got a bun in the oven", etc..) to silly stringing each other after a long day of rehearsal. Maria wants peace, not war!! So, of course, I was not involved in these games. C'mon guys, someone could get hurt.....or SHOT or STABBED. Oops, did I just give away too much of the PLOT?

I could not ask for a better Tony. Loren Christopher is the most beautiful, passionate, sincere and vulnerable Tony you will ever see. What is even better is that he is like that off stage as well.

I don't know how Karen (our director AND choreographer) is still alive after these long days of rehearsal. She gets no break. She is such a hard worker who is also extremely creative and precise. She is fun to work with.

I have so much more I want to tell you , but I must get back to my duties on stage : ) I will write more soon! Thanks for reading and come see the show! Get your tickets fast! I almost could not get one. See you!


Thanks Nina! And in other exciting news, we've got a Press Junket scheduled for today, so by next week there will be a podcast with behind the scenes footage of rehearsal and dancing. Maybe I ought to get one of the pranks on film as well, eh? Sounds like the back hallway has turned a bit dangerous. As always, leave a comment if you have a question for any of our actors, builders, costumers, or pretty much anyone here.

See you at the theatre!


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bueax Stratagem at ASF

Starting this Friday we have our MFA production of The Beaux Stratagem, a rowdy romp through 17th century England involving two young men's scheme to woo and then rob young women across the countryside. What's the only problem? They didn't anticipate a real love. Check out all the facts behind this hilarious play at wikipedia and see why love can cause the best of plans to go awry. Tickets on sale now at the box office at 334-271-5353 or 1-800-841-4273 -or- online at We'll see you there!


West Side Story Interviews and More

Good morning bloggers!

If you're local and have been watching tv, then you know that the new West Side Story commercial hit the airwaves yesterday. The original can still be found on youtube under our channel. Keep checking back as we add more press junket footage and some footage of choreography from our two upcoming shows Beaux Stratagem and West Side Story.

There's going to be quite a few radio interviews going on in the next few weeks as we rush towards opening the show on July 18th. Today we had an interview on the morning show at WAKA, Mix 103 with JT and Leanne, and 12Talk at WSFA's channel. Listen tomorrow as our director, Karen Azenberg, is interviewed on Alabama Live at WSFA.

Can you believe that time is winding down? We've got less than two weeks to get this show on the stage. Rehearsals and building have been killer as everyone gets this massive job ready for opening. All of the hard work will be worth it when the lights go down on July 18th for the opening night and the audience watches this amazing show come to life. I for one can't wait until the official opening on July 20th when we have a large party after the show where everyone is invited to eat, drink, and dance the mamba!

Yesterday we had a large rush for tickets so I hope everyone already has their tickets. And as always, leave a comment if you have a question for any of our actors, designers, or builders and I'll be sure to get you an answer the next day!

I'll see you at the theatre!


Monday, July 7, 2008

Now for a blog from "Tony" of West Side Story!

Good morning bloggers!

In place of the "A Day in the Life" series, today we have a special blog from Loren who plays "Tony" one of our young lovers in West Side Story. Enjoy!

July 5th

It's 11:00am, which means we're exactly an hour from getting started in Studio B. I think a general review of Act II is on the schedule for today. Which means somewhere throughout the day (perhaps a few times in a row), I will - generally - get shot! HOWEVER, yesterday I rushed a cue, which ultimately put Nina (Maria) and I in the wrong place at the wrong time, resulting in her getting shot in the back, instead of me getting shot in the front. Although it would be nice to NOT get shot for once, I HAVE NO IDEA how we would play that one out. LOL! Needless to say, I don't think I'll be rushing that cue anymore. Thanks GOD we're only acting...

Long before guns and death scenes however, is the ballet, which is first on the list of things to review today. These dancers are worth the price of any admission - dedicated, talented, professional, and good people. It's so difficult for me to concentrate on weaving in and out of their choreography (as my character observes the fantastic world of "Somewhere") when all I really want to do is stop and watch them.

It's now 11:05am and two of our dancers (Lauren and Ashley) are in the studio deeply involved in their yoga routine, as Maria Totten (our dance captain) is warming up in front of the mirror, in between stretching and doing abdominal crunches. Our AMAZING stage management is busy running in and out of the studio setting up for the day, while our director, Karen (::applause - applause::), who I've never seen NOT working, is in her chair deeply involved in whatever it is in front of her. All the while Jets and Sharks are filtering into the room, one of which is John (Baby John) with his new RED hair color! Which looks awesome! All the Jets (except for me) have dark brown hair, so the costume and make-up depot is slowly changing that up a bit. In fact there's some talk that Eric (Riff) will be joining me in the Kingdom of Blondom sometime here soon. I'll keep you posted. LOL

Everything is going great...and this show is going to rock. So much more to say, but I have to get myself ready for the day. It's not east getting shot ya know...takes ALOT of preparation. LOL. Take care...

Loren (Tony)


Thanks Loren! Man, lately every time I try to type an "e" I always get a "3." I don't think many people would appreciate a post in leetspeak. As always, bloggers, if you have any questions about our actors, shows, or build, then just leave a comment and I'll make sure you have an answer in no time flat. See you at the theatre!


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

West Side Story Lolcats

Good morning bloggers!

Yesterday I found an awesome lolcat pic while surfing Take a look:

Am I the only one amused by this image? I hope not.

On to the news! We'll be doing a complete series on "A Day in the Life of..." (hopefully with pictures) on people throughout the building and featuring an employee a week. So keep checking back each Monday to learn more about what people do around here and put some names to the work being done.

I've been sneaking the rehearsal reports for West Side Story and it looks like rehearsals are going extremely well. Scenes are being block and the musical numbers are being worked. I love going by and hearing the music from the show. I have to admit, I wasn't very familiar with the show before working on this project, but now I'm a little addicted to "Jet Song" and "America." There's also a video floating around the internet where Cher performs all the music from West Side Story and plays each character. The special effects are pretty good for the time that it was shot.

I hope you've gotten you tickets already because I checked with the box office and they are going very quickly. The previews are about completely gone now but you can still grab some seats if you act quickly. I would suggest the first two Tuesday nights. Not only are there some great seats avaliable, you'll also get a glass of champagne and a rose. Very romantic, no? Also the first week in August has some great seats still open. See, don't I look out for all of you?

That's it for today. If you like the post then digg it on by click the little icon up at the top of the post. And keep checking back for your backstage connection to life at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival!