You Never Can Tell: Openings…
On Saturday August 13th, under a half moon, the resident owl hooting backstage, with a full house, we celebrated the Opening Night of George Bernard Shaw’s You Never Can Tell on the gorgeous outdoor Cal Shakes stage in Orinda, CA. Just before our first previews we faced a difficult occurrence when a fellow cast member was injured and an understudy had to go on. The phrase “You Never Can Tell,” has definitely become a big part of our vocabulary and now has taken on a whole new meaning for us after an intense and productive tech week and three previews. The actor who was hurt plays 3 different roles in our show and is a crucial element to the story. Our fabulous assistant director, LeeAnn Dowd, filled in for his meticulously specific Act 1 roles and a young local actor, Lucas, took on his difficult language heavy Act 2 role. Lucas went on Wednesday night with book in hand, then Thursday he did an incredible job off book and Friday night our actor returned with a cane, healed and hungry to get back to work. His first audience was our third and when he walked off stage that night he was so wide-eyed with how thrilling and informative it was to share our crazy tilted story with the patrons. We were ecstatic to have him back, and so grateful to LeeAnn and Lucas for their heroics.
The day of opening night began with errands and house cleaning to welcome my love Miles for the weekend, he was on the road from LA and heading straight to the theatre for curtain. We had rehearsal in the afternoon to clean up and tighten a few things, everyone’s spirits were high and filled with anticipation. When I walked into our dressing room flowers had arrived from my parents, sending opening night wishes and love. Just before dinner break our director, the incredible Lisa Peterson, gathered us in a circle on the stage, a ritual we started in the rehearsal room. With a huge smile she filled our hearts with encouraging words and led us in our final cheer: “You Never Can Tell!”
Miles kept me updated on his progress on the road and I showered and finished opening night thank you cards. Finally, it was an hour before curtain and I began the process of styling my hair, applying makeup, getting into my corset and costume, practicing my Ukulele and feeling the butterflies flit and fly around in my belly. Miles arrived at 7:45 and ten minutes later we were called to places. It was a warm clear night, the sun set as the first act flew by and intermission showed up so suddenly! We closed the show to joyous applause and headed to the green room for a toast and photos. Cal Shakes hosted an after party where Miles and I chatted with friends old and new. We ended the night with a wonderfully crafted Manhattan and Old Fashioned at Prizefighter in Emeryville.
Since Miles and I met, two years ago in the Bay Area, he has made every opening night of my performances (From Dallas to Los Angeles to Cincinnati back to LA and now in the Bay!) Having him by my side increases my gratitude for being on this journey. While I was in Tech for the opening of this show, Miles opened a thrilling production he had been rehearsing for several weeks. Director Robert Allan Ackerman and playwright Dotson Rader have been on their own journey with a play about Tennessee Williams titled God Looked Away starring Al Pacino and Judith Light ! After a few readings Miles joined the creative team to play opposite Pacino as “Baby,” Tennessee’s lover of 14 years. The project opened a fully staged workshop production for invited audiences in a West Hollywood theatre and my love Miles shined like the star that he is! Sadly I wasn’t able to attend, since I was in tech, but I swear I could feel the positive vibrations that his performance had on that town all the way up here in the Bay. Recently an article by Michael Fairman was posted online and beautifully captured the past few weeks in Miles’ career which has been blossoming and growing as I always knew it would. So even though it has been hard being away from one another, we are hard at work, and when he arrived for my opening night weekend we celebrated both of our accomplishments!
Sunday after opening we had our first matinee, the play takes on a little different tone in the full natural light against the golden hills, there are no blackouts and you can see the entire house of audience members. It was a strong show with a sense of calm, Miles was in the audience again and I could see his perfect smile from the stage. When the show was over we had a brief talk back led by Cal Shakes resident dramaturg Philippa Kelly. (Check out her fascinating blog posts about our production HERE.) After sharing a little about each of our characters, our process and the adaptation of Shaw’s classic to California, the final question was from some siblings who had come to the theatre for their very first play and wanted to know more about acting! We jumped at the chance to encourage them to get involved with Cal Shakes and any other opportunities they could find, eager to recruit more members to our wonderful world of storytelling. We said our goodbyes and well wishes for a happy day off, Miles hugged my cast and crew, now new members of our theatre family and we headed back home to get ready for a romantic and celebratory night out!
One of our favorite places is The Brazen Head in San Francisco, I found this neighborhood gem back in 2012 when working at The Magic theatre and have returned ever since. We got dolled up, crossed the Bay bridge, ready for a big meal in the city and a visit with one of our favorite bartenders: Jimmy. Sitting in the dimly lit corner we shared a glass of champagne and toasted to the moment: being together back in the bay and our theatrical/artistic successes. Our meal was to die for! French onion soup and a burrata caprese salad to start, followed by a filet mignon and shrimp scampi with a bottle of Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon. Jimmy came over and sat with us for a bit after dinner and we talked about the life of an artist, he was a recording musician for many years. We discussed the drive to succeed, the hardships in love and life and he encouraged us to keep going and aiming high. (And he just about died when he found out Miles had been in one of his favorite shows, NCIS: LA, with one of his favorite actresses: Daniela Ruha!) It was a luxurious ending to the weekend and the perfect place to celebrate….
Monday morning we found a new favorite place for brunch in Berkeley: Aunt Mary’s Cafe! We feasted on pancakes, a chorizo scramble, collard greens, cheddar cheese grits and biscuits with sage gravy. We were so excited to eat we didn’t even snap a photo! We ran a few errands, visited a dear mutual friend and their little 6 month old baby girl, and returned back for an early night in since Miles had to get on the road first thing Tuesday morning. As I type this post he is cruising south on I-5 back to LA to make to a general meeting with a casting director, followed by an audition and then dinner with his theatre family from God Looked Away, he is incredible… I am cleaning house, resting and gearing up for the start of another week of shows up in the beautiful Orinda hills, filled with gratitude and awe from this weekend. Curtain is at 7:30 tonight and this Friday I will have a big group of cousins in the audience! The work continues for both of us…
It was an ideal opening weekend! Having Miles in town, celebrating with the talented cast and crew at Cal Shakes, hearing Artistic Director Eric Ting remark on our process, meeting all the loved ones and theatre family/friends who came to support, the wonderful meals and now the exciting challenge of a full run ahead. My parents will be coming in a couple of weeks and Miles will return again. ( I can’t wait!!!) Until then, I have my days back, time to get back into the hot yoga studio, update my website, return emails and messages, wash dishes, continue binging Cheers on Netflix, catching classics on TCM and possibly visiting some museums and local attractions… (Bay Area folks any suggestions?)
On with the Shaw Show! I am excited to share our story with more and more audience members in the weeks to come and hope they enjoy our delightfully strange world as much as we do…!