May 27, 2014

The Wars of the Roses

In a city that rarely sees a production of Shakespeare without an easily recognizable name, the EclecticPond Theatre Company (ETC) has become a welcome respite. The group, which was founded in 2010, has embraced some of the Bard’s lesser-known works, with productions like “The Comedy of Errors” and “Shakespeare Wrote What? and “10x10.” Now, about to close its third season, ETC decided to tackle something big.
Their latest endeavor is the most ambitious to date, “The War of the Roses” covers eight of Shakespeare’s histories using on eight actors. The shows will be spaced over the course of four weekends with different batches shown on different days. Audience members will have the opportunity to see the shows all in one day, two at a time or four at a time. This unique experience, which has been in the works for more than a year, begins in June. The cast and crew are excited to see how this new challenge unfolds. There are three directors sharing the responsibility for the eight shows and each actor is taking on multiple characters, learning hours and hours of lines. 
“I have absolute and total faith in the cast we’ve assembled,” said Artistic Director Thomas Cardwell. “We had to make some tough decisions when we were casting, but we’ve got a great group.” 
Each play has been condensed into a single hour, allowing ETC to fit multiple shows in each night. The eight actors will start with a base costume and as they shift from character to character they add specific props and colored elements which will make them easy to identify. The goal of the festival is not to appeal only to aficionados of the Bard; it’s to make the work accessible to anyone and everyone who is curious about it. The extensive cast of characters and warring nations should appeal to fans of “Game of Thrones” and “Lord of the Rings” as much as Shakespeare lovers. 
“Audiences like to be challenged, they just don’t like to know they’re being challenged,” said Thomas Cardwell. “They need to be actively engaged.” 
The goal of the shows, in addition to providing some incredible entertainment, is to give people a chance to experience these plays the way they were meant to be seen. Seeing Shakespeare performed instead of reading it breathes life into each play. Seeing them back-to-back, whether it’s over the course of a few weekends or all in one day, is a chance to see the history unfold in the order it happened.
“We’re still living these stories today,” said Kate Homan, one of the eight actors in War of the Roses. “There’s politics and war in the world and these shows teach you a lot about yourself and how you respond to those things.” 
EclecticPond’s original mission was to breathe new life into classics. Founded by Polly Heinkel, Thomas and Catherine Cardwell, the organization came from a mutual love of Shakespeare the trio discovered while living in England. Catherine Cardwell and Heinkel were Midwesterners studying abroad and Thomas Cardwell was a Brit, acting in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Thomas and Catherine later married and moved back to her home in Indiana, where EclecticPond became a reality. The group focuses on education in addition to revamping the classics. They believe being able to perform Shakespeare for students in the midst of learning about him for the first time is crucial to igniting a lifelong love of his work. 
"Shakespeare is one of the greatest writers of western civilization,” Catherine Cardwell said. “You can see his work performed in so many different ways and it still feels fresh.”  
In the future the members of ETC would love to become more of a repertory theatre, with a full cast of actors on staff, but for now they are happy to be embarking upon some incredible new projects. They will continue to bring Hoosiers excellent productions of shows that have fallen by the wayside and The War of the Roses is sure to be a highlight for theatre-goers this summer.
“Live theatre is incredible because it forces people to use their imaginations,” Thomas Cardwell said. “Anytime you can spark people’s imagination you are encouraging their creativity as well!”
Don’t miss your chance to see the War of the Roses for yourself. Performances run from June 6 to June 28. Tickets are only $10 per show or $40 for a festival pass, which allows you to see all eight shows. Each performance will be held at the Irvington Lodge, 5515 E. Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN, 46219. For more information, a complete schedule of the shows or to purchase tickets, visit ETC’s site here.
Photos courtesy of ETC

May 14, 2014

The Addams Family

Everyone’s favorite dark family is parading its macabre members across the Clowes Memorial Hall stage in a national tour of The Addams Family musical. The instantly recognizable characters are all there; from Lurch’s slow gait to Uncle Fester’s giggle.  
In this latest rendition of the group, young Wednesday has fallen in love and is struggling to understand her new “sunny” disposition. Jennifer Fogarty’s plays the tempestuous girl and her powerful voice brings songs like “Pulled” to life. When her “normal” boyfriend is introduced it’s clear that everyone is embarrassed by their parents, no matter who they are.

The patriarch of the family, Gomez, is played by Jesse Sharp. Despite the family’s ghoulish tendencies, Gomez is a loyal husband and devoted dad. His biggest problem is when one of those roles conflicts with the other and he has to keep a secret from his seductive wife, Morticia (KeLeen Snowgren.) The two always seem able to tango their way through the issues with aplomb though.
There are certainly some filler numbers, like Uncle Fester’s silly love song “The Moon and Me” but the show never takes itself too seriously. There are continuous jokes about the fact that you’re watching a musical, which is a playful reminder to the audience to have fun with it. Don’t look for too much depth or a life-altering message. Instead embrace the goofiness and *snap snap* right along with the rest of the crowd.

Don't Miss the Show

The show runs until Sunday, May 18 at Clowes Memorial Hall so hurry to get tickets. Tickets can be purchased at Clowes Memorial Hall, Old National Centre (Murat Theatre), by calling (800)-982-2787 or online here. Shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

Photos courtesy of Broadway Across America

May 5, 2014

Les Misérables

Les Misérables has seen a resurgence in the past couple years. The popular musical, which tells the story of a convict who finds redemption, has been everywhere from Broadway to the Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre and is now on stage at the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre. Yet despite being around for decades, there are still audience members at each performance seeing the show for the first time. It is with those individuals in mind that I recommend this production. Anyone who has seen the show many times will inevitably compare it, which makes it easy to pick out the flaws, but those seeing it for the first time will be swept away by the huge cast and the sheer scope of the story.

The production’s minimalist set makes use of lighting over set pieces. The lighting design, by Ryan Koharchik, balances some tricky moments when one cast member is performing at the front of the stage and the set is being shuffled for the next scene in the back. The result is relatively smooth transitions in a technically difficult show.
Each time I see this show I’m moved by the story and the music in a new way. This particular production shines in numbers like “Bring Him Home” performed by Matt Branic as Valjean. Branic seem to struggle with a few notes in the early moments of the show, but he hits his stride quickly and proves his prowess in the demanding role. He is matched by Paul D. Nicely's fervent Javert, the intense inspector who hounds Valjean's every step. 

It lacks the huge scale of some Broadway productions of the musical, but provides and intimacy that holds with the heart of the story. As with any large, community theatre cast, there are a few weak links, but on the whole our core actors rise to the occasion. Their heartfelt performances are enough to rouse a cry of “One Day More” from any audience.

Don't Miss the Show
Performances: The show runs until Saturday, May 10 Performances begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. The Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre is located at 3 Center Green, Carmel, IN 46032 at the Center for the Performing Arts.
Tickets: Ticket prices range from $36.50 to $46.50 and can be purchased by calling (317) 843-3800 or visiting
Photos courtesy of Zach Rosing