Q & A: David Morden

How did you first get involved in theatre?

My first introduction to theatre was doing church plays as a boy.  I took drama classes in junior high and and high school.  In college, I realized that I was spending all of my free time at the theatre department and decided to commit to acting as a career.

Why acting?

Why acting” is the big, big question.  I think I like that form of communication above all others:  acting out a story so that an audience gets a vicarious experience of something out of the ordinary.

Can you tell me an interesting or amusing theatre story?

I could tell you a million!  Most theatre stories revolve around something going wrong and how one got out of the situation.  I once did an avant-garde play in Seattle–a series of monologues with two other actors.  At one point during the show, an audience member stood up, walked out of the theatre, came back and announced from the front of the stage, “The is the worst show I have ever seen in my life” and then left!

Do you have any actors/actresses you admire?

I usually admire British actors over American actors, because they have better training in classical theatre in Britain.  My favorites include Simon Russell Beale, Alan Rickman, Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman.
What is your favorite previous role? Do you have a dream role?

My favorite role is the one I just did for The Rogue:  Louis De Rougemont in SHIPWRECKED.  My dream role used to be the title role in Shakespeare’s RICHARD II — but now I’m too old to play the part!  Anything in Shakespeare is a dream role for me, but I suppose Elyot in PRIVATE LIVES would be high on my list, too!

Are there qualities in your character that you also see in yourself?

Always – though I would state it differently.  I always find the qualities in myself that work for the character.  We all have qualities such as love, jealousy, caring, anger, etc. inside of us.  As actors, it is our job to call them forth and explore them.

What are you most excited about for in this play?

This play has one of the most beautiful reunion scenes at the end of the play, when everything that was lost is found again.  If we do our job correctly, our audiences will be deeply moved by it and will leave the theatre thinking about those people that they love and can’t afford to lose.

Tech: Part Two: Music

Part Two: Music

The Winter’s Tale is set in two different worlds. The Sicilian part of the play is courtly and structured. The Bohemian part is freeform, pastoral and pagan.

To emphasize this difference, Meier split the musical direction in two. Dawn Sellers will design the Sicilian portion, using harpsichord. Paul Amiel will employ harps and flutes for Bohemia.

“I thought it was a very good artistic decision,” Amiel said. “We’re two different people with two different backgrounds so there’s no way the two different places are going to sound the same.”

Amiel is a full time teacher at the University of Arizona’s Center for English as a Second Language. Though he has a strong passion for music, he hasn’t made it his profession. Having it as just a hobby gives him some flexibility to explore and experiment. Currently, he’s learning to play the accordion.

“I’m mainly interested in instruments that have a bigger meaning or purpose than entertaining. Music that functions as something other than making you tap your foot,” Amiel said.

After studying the text, he decided to base his sound on Bulgarian music. Then came the research; becoming familiar with the arrangements, rhythms, and patterns in Bulgarian music.

It’s like learning a language,” Amiel said.

Next, he’ll study the script again, picking out places that need music. Some are obvious; when Shakespeare calls for a song. Some are technical; long set changes or transitions. Some are artistic; Meier wants a monologue by Time to be sung.

Amiel says that the requirements form “a mental grid that you poor into your head and then you just wait for some inspiration.”

Flexibility is a key factor for theatre musicians. “I get to be a co-creator,” Amiel said. “Just the same way that actors don’t say the lines the same way every night, I get to play it differently every night. We start to listen to each other and we start to have a relationship.”

Though Amiel spends entire performances on stage in the face of the audience, afterwards, they rarely recognize him. For him, success is when he’s not noticeable. “It’s like oxygen. You don’t think about it when you’re breathing but if it were gone it’d be a problem. I want the music to be like that.”

Click To Listen To Music Samples

Dawn Sellers first met Cynthia Meier when she was writing a play. Meier discovered that Sellers had an extensive musical background that began when she was a young child playing for her church. Sellers has been working with the Rogue for three years.

“I love images with music. I love words and the combination of using those together is like my dream situation. I love the fact that they use acoustic music all the way through.” Sellers said.

For Sellers, the first step is so sit down with the director to learn about her concept of the play. Sometimes she gets a description of a feeling, sometimes an image, sometimes a particular sound. Sellers works off that and comes back to present the director with ideas to choose from.

I sit down with the director and ask her what her concept of the piece is, of the play. She’ll give me general comments of the feel or some kind of image or a particular kind of sound bu nothing really specific . then I’ll come back and present some ideas and she choses from them. So that’s always the key. Kinf od unserdatning what they want with what they say and bringing something that fits the mood and character off the piece.

“The key is understanding what they want with what they say,” Sellers said. “It’s bringing something that fits the mood and character of the piece.”


Q & A: Matt Waley, Philip Bennet

How did you first get involved in theatre?

Bennet: I have always wanted to be an actor.  At four years old I made a little puppet theatre and cut out photos from the newspaper to use as marionettes.  At six I had my first experience on the stage which was inspiring and transformative.

Waley: I had just quit the football team in HS because my knee was bothering me. My mom thought I should try out for the play because I was outgoing. I finally decided to audition and got the lead role of Joe Ferone in Up The Down Staircase.

Can you tell me an interesting or amusing theatre story?

Waley: I missed a cue in my first play at Live Theatre Workshop in 2002. I was playing Silvius in As You Like It. I missed that cue because I was telling people backstage what my favorite karaoke song was… Fat Bottomed Girls by Queen. I was absolutely mortified. Luckily my ensemble covered well. But, I have never missed a cue since (I refuse to talk backstage) and I have not karaoked since either.

Bennet: I had been acting for about 4 years on Broadway in American Stanislavski Theatre Repertory Company.  We did about 6 plays a season and alternated the plays, sometimes twice daily:  I was so confused one evening that I went on stage at the opening of the play and couldn’t remember which play I was in.  I stood blank and completely lost for what seemed an eternity.  If it hadn’t of been for the maid in the scene who said my opening lines, perhaps I’d still be standing there.

Do you have any actors/actresses you admire?
Bennet: Yes, many.  I deeply admire actors who are true artists, who take the time it takes to develop their technique and who build solid characters, not just play themselves:
Merryl Streep, Glen Close, Johnny Depp, Derick Jacoby, Ian McKellen, etc.

Are there qualities in your character that you also see in yourself?

Waley: When I looked up academic studies on the character I am playing- clown- the only description I could find was “A country booby.” So, besides the fact that I live in the desert, yes.

Bennet:  I believe I would behave just as he does in trying to save the life of Perdita; although, I hope to get back home safely before any bear could eat me!

What are you most excited about for in this play?

Waley: Always- the people I get to work with.

Bennet: I think the acting is outstanding. The music, singing and dances are exhilarating and beautiful.

Tech: Part One: Lights

Part One: Lights

It is 10 p.m. Rehearsal is over, the actors are gone. But work for Clint Bryson is just beginning.

Though he designs and builds sets for the drama department at Catalina Foothills High School, Bryson is the lighting designer for The Winter’s Tale. He began in theatre as an actor, but he discovered a passion for working backstage in college.

Bryson admitted that he’s not adept in the graphic arts. “With painting, my hands just don’t work that way,” he said. Lighting is a good balance between the artistic and the technical. “It’s painting with light on a three dimensional black canvas.”

This evening, Bryson is hooking up the lights. The process takes about 8 hours, spread over a couple of days. “One of the fun challenges here is that every show is a different configuration,” Bryson said, referring to the theatre’s changing setup.

For Winter’s Tale, the stage is pushed back farther than normal, with two sections on either side for the musicians. There is a large section jutting out in the middle, the audience surrounding it on three sides. This means that Bryson must figure out how to treat all three sides equally.

There’s an old adage in the theatre that the lights are something that shouldn’t be noticed. They serve to enhance and support the play, not be the focus. The lights are essential in driving the emotion and energy people experience. “It’s a lot of fun to have that kind of manipulation of an audience,” he said.

He’s not the sole creative force behind the look of the lights. The process began with script consultation and style discussion with the director before he applied his knowledge. He typically watches one rehearsal near the end of the process to help make final lighting decisions.

The design process, according to Bryson is  “adding your artistic stamp and ideas to a collaborative group of people that have a vision for the show.”

As an example, he explained how music influences his decisions. Like lighting, it helps set the emotion in a scene. Hearing the music can help pinpoint the specific emotion underlying the moment.

He then turns to the small swatch books full of colors, searches through the subtleties for just the perfect color.

Though Bryson designed the lights, he won’t be running them for the show. The stage manager, Leah Taylor, will ensure the cues run smoothly during the performance.


The Director’s Vision


TUCSON, Ariz – The long buffett table is loaded with Magpie’s pizza, salad and bottles of wine. A dessert table is covered with brownies, cookies and delicious cake pops. Chatter and laughter fill the house.

It is the Rogue Theatre’s traditional meal before the first read of a new play, in this case, The Winter’s Tale, which will open April 27. According to the show’s director, Cynthia Meier, it was cast last May, but this is the first gathering of all the actors and crew. Veteran Rogue actors greet one another with enthusiastic hugs, and new cast members get introduced.

“Time to eat! Time to eat!” Joe McGrath, the artistic director, announces but there is no mad rush for food. Conversations seem more engaging.

Relationships between actors are key, according to Meier, since they help character relationships on stage. This meal is the start of turning a cast of actors and actresses into a family. The practice began 3 years ago, after hearing of a similar even Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre.

“Since putting on a play is such an exciting adventure, we thought starting with a meal together would be a kind of celebration,” Meier said. “We also have a big potluck party at the end of the play.”

At length, after everyone has eaten, Meier makes a toast. She said that though the play was written nearly 400 years ago, there is still something fresh and exciting about becoming one of the many artists to interpret the work.

For casting, physical appearance wasn’t as important as an actor’s ability to convey an understanding of Shakespeare’s words. She said the company looked at how well an actor could make the poetry live.

There is a flurry of activity as food is cleaned up and chairs are rearranged for the read through.

The actors sit shoulder to shoulder, pressed tightly together on stage. The tables in front of them are covered with scripts, Shakespeare lexicon books, pens, pencils, highlighters and water bottles.

McGrath urges the actors to not feel intimidated by the un-traditional circumstances of this first-read environment. Normally these rehearsals aren’t attended by outside supporters – in this case, members of the Rogue Theatre Company board.

Meier takes her seat close to the stage. The lights dim. The stage manager, Leah Taylor, reads the stage directions. The play begins.

The cast seems at ease. The synchronized turning of pages is sometimes interrupted by laughter. Some make small hand gestures and lean across the long table to direct their dialogue. Pieces of the characters’ personalities come through and the distinct Shakespearean cadance can be heard.

Even in this early first read there is a sense of the differences between these two worlds. The events at the palace are serious while the scene with the shepard are light and amusing, elliciting laughs from everyone.

Another moment that gains a few chuckles is when one of Shakespeare’s most famous stage directions is read:

[Exit, pursued by a bear.]

Matt Cotten, a puppet designer who worked with the theatre in the past will design a giant puppet to be the bear. Backstage, some of Cotton’s previous work hang from the ceiling behind the large black stage curtains. Above Meier’s head, massive puppets loomed much larger and more threatening than one might expect.

To gain a better understanding of the play, Meier spoke with Professor Fred Kiefer, a Shakespeare scholar at the University of Arizona. She read the text many times and even watched a few productions on video.

Meier plans on staying faithful to the original text. “Many productions tend to put a Shakespeare play somewhere different – put it on the moon.” She said. “We want to look at what’s in the text and the world Shakespeare created.  We’re trying to render Shakespeare’s poetry as beautifully and faithfully as possible.”

Despite all of the reading, research, and thought, where the emphasis will fall on the play’s themes is still up in the air. “Nothing really happens until we get the cast in the room together.” Meier said. “Things emerge that I don’t even know were there.”

However, one important idea is that this play is the ultimate wish fulfillment. At the end of the play, Leontes’ wife comes back to life. “All of us that have lost a loved one can understand yearning for resurrection.” Meier said.

The Winter’s Tale isn’t a popular or widely performed Shakespeare play but there’s a richness to the text, a certain maturity that Shakespeare brings to one of his last plays that spurred The Rogue to choose this for production. They want to be thought provoking, to have material for discussion and the complexity of the plot and the interesting journey is one that invokes questions of who’s justified, who’s not, who’s the villain, who’s the hero.

“It’s not a clearcut comedy, tragedy, or history.” Meier said. “It’s a combination of all the elements and that separates it from other shows.”

The Winter’s Tale

TUCSON, Ariz – Professor Fred Kiefer was out of breath when he reached his office on the fourth floor of the Modern Languages building. Arms laden with books he paused at his office door to unlock it, casting a glance over his shoulder.

Kiefer is a professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance drama at the University of Arizona. Sitting in his office, framed by two desks covered in stacks of books and papers, Kiefer spoke about how he came to work with The Winter’s Tale director, Cynthia Meier.

Patrick Baliani, a fellow professor at UA, has an ongoing relationship with The Rogue Theatre and suggested Meier speak with Kiefer about The Winter’s Tale.

“At it’s most basic, it’s about a king who early in the play goes mad. As a result, his young son dies and his wife apparently dies, although she doesn’t really,” Kiefer explained. “At the end, the husband and wife are reunited, and they’re reunited with their daughter, whom the wife hasn’t seen in 16 years.”

Kiefer said he emphasized one thing in particular when he spoke to Meier: the play has elements of a fairy tale. It’s not realistic yet it speaks profound truths through symbols, through the subconscious.

“So to succeed to that extent, the director needs to tap into fairytales, dreams, visions. Not what’s rational.”

Not one of his most famous plays, the piece has some interesting elements that set it apart from Shakespeare’s other works: the unusually long time span of 16 years, the two unique and contrasting locales, the shift from being a psychological drama in the first half to a comedy with a happy ending in the second half.

The serious material in Shakespeare’s comedies surprises people. “My undergrads are often puzzled by the potentially tragic action,” Kiefer said. “All of his comedies contain a great deal of material different from our notion of comedy today.”

Shakespeare plays tend to fall into obvious categories: history, comedy, tragedy. But the mix of dramatic elements within a comedic atmosphere makes it a difficult piece to classify. Though originally thought of as a comedy, recently scholars have regarded it more as a romance.

“Labels are attached to it because along with Pericles and The Tempest, they are different from Shakespeare’s other plays. People try to find a label that expresses what is different and unusual.”

For Kiefer, the “psychological improbability” of the play sets it apart. “The play will defeat you.” Kiefer said. “The action in this play is not meant to be seen in the way the action is meant to be seen in a conventional novel.”

In some novels, you have certain expectations of rational and realistic behavior. That standard isn’t always met in this play. “The characters behave in ways that seem to have no basis in reality. For example, [Leontes] suddenly goes mad then regains sanity without any indication to the audience why.”

This makes the play challenging, particularly for the audience. “It defies our expectations for realism.” He said. “The audience will have to adjust to that.

Despite its eccentricities, Kiefer says there are always points of comparison among Shakespeare plays. “Dynamics of families: what causes stresses, interactions, formations, endurance overtime – those are constants in Shakespearean comedy.”

Not much is known about Shakespeare’s private life at the time he wrote the play so we have few insights on the possible factors that influenced him. We do know that at the time he was beginning to plan for retirement, planning to leave the theatre world of London. According to Kiefer, it’s one of the last plays he wrote.

Kiefer has seen his fair share of performances of The Winter’s Tale. One production in London took place in present day with electric guitars providing the music.

But no matter the artistic differences, Kiefer says that for him, the most likeable scene is always the ending: the reunion of the family. “It is always the most powerful point in the play.”

“Virtually every production I’ve seen has worked,” he said. “I hope it’ll be good.”

Bryan Rafael Falcón ~ Assistant Director

Bryan Rafael Falcón, Assistant Director

Bryan is a director/designer, recently re-based in Tucson, who also spends time crafting the occasional independent film. He is the former artistic director of two Indiana-based theater companies: The Backporch Theater Company (a Shakespeare traveling troupe) and New World Arts (an experimental black box theater company). His most recent projects include directing The New Electric Ballroom and assistant directing As I Lay Dying and The Tempest at The Rogue as well as directing Tracy Letts’ Bug at New World Arts. Every once in awhile he flexes a pen to stroke a quiet phrase or two.

Leah Taylor ~ Stage Manager

Leah Taylor, Stage Manager

Leah was Stage Manager for The Rogue Theatre’s Major BarbaraAs I Lay DyingShipwrecked! An Entertainment andThe New Electric Ballroom, and Assistant to the Stage Manager for The Decameron. She was Stage Manager for The Now Theatre’s The PillowmanThe Bald Soprano and Overruled. Other work includes shows with Winding Road Theatre Ensemble and Sacred Chicken Productions. Leah graduated from the University of Arizona in May 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in Classics and Anthropology.

Anton Shekerjiev ~ musician

Anton Shekerjiev, musician

Born and raised in Bulgaria, Anton traveled extensively in Eastern and Western Europe playing music from the Balkans, and lived for several years in Spain performing with masters of Bulgarian music. In 2001 he moved to the USA, and in Tucson formed the bands Balkan Spirit, Trite Muzikante, MoroMore and others, performing Mediterranean, Flamenco, Moroccan, Asian and other types of world music. Anton currently performs with the bands Gsol, Tarraf de Tucson, Mzekala and others playing tamboura, djura, guitar, and kaba gaida (bagpipe). He has recently graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

Paul Amiel ~ Musical Director

Paul Amiel, Musical Director

Paul is a multi-instrumentalist and ethnomusician focusing on Medieval, Turkish, Chinese, Japanese, Middle Eastern, and ancient music, having studied abroad with master musicians. He founded and performs with the Summer Thunder Chinese Music Ensemble, the traditional Japanese music duo Muso, and various Turkish/ Middle Eastern/Mediterranean ensembles such as Seyyah and Zambuka. Paul has performed on harp, flute, saz, ney, dulcimer, and shakuhachi for groups such as Musica Sonora and the Arizona Early Music Society, as well as in many Rogue productions, including The DecameronThe TempestOur TownOthello, Immortal LongingsOrlandoEndymionThe Dead and on the recent Rogue Album CD. Paul was Music Director for this season’s As I Lay Dying at The Rogue.