Behind the Curtain

Official Blog of International City Theatre

The Salem Witch Trials Close to heart of Abigail 1702

April 9th, 2015

Salem Witch Trials

Our upcoming production of Abigail/1702 is an imagined sequel to Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. The Miller Classic was a fictionalized account of the events surrounding the Salem Witch Trials, and this historic event has a direct influence on the context of Abigail/1702. The show’s time and place is Boston ten years after the trials and executions. This part of American history was highly influential on many aspects of how the U.S. governs today, and some background on it may give greater insight into our upcoming play.

The Salem Witch Trials occurred between February 1692 and May 1693. Approximately 100 years before the United States became a country, what is now considered the East Coast was at this time a collection of British colonies. Many of these residents were Puritans seeking religious freedom from England. The belief in Satan and the supernatural was common, so it was not rare to find peasants performing spells in hopes of prosperous crops and good fortune.

The trials in Salem were ignited by the peculiar behavior of Betty Parris and Abigail Williams (yes the same one who holds the name of our show’s title). Violent rage, the moaning of odd noises and the contortion of their bodies in unnatural ways were deemed to be the cause of possession by the devil and witchcraft. Other young girls began to show the same symptoms, and this mass hysteria led to a domino’s effect of one person accusing another of being a witch. All accusations had personal motives, but none were made with evidence or truth. The accused were essentially guilty until proven innocent, and none were found to be innocent.

Hearings before local magistrates took place, which resulted in the conviction and execution of 20 people, most of which were women. A further eight were condemned to prison, with four of them dying in prison.

It was a horrific and shameful series of events that have gone on to shape many of the tenets of American liberty. A strong example of mass hysteria, the Salem Witch Trials would be cited as a direct influence on the ideas of due process and false accusations.

Abigail/1702 happens ten years after the Salem Witch Trials, where Abigail is now living under a false name after having accused many of witchcraft, ultimately sending many to their death. Desperately seeking atonement, Abigail’s quest for redemption, while fictitious, is a fascinating look at what happens after events such as the Salem Witch Trials. Perhaps you should come find out.

Abigail/1702 runs April 29 – May 24. For tickets, please visit ww.internationalcitytheatre.org or call the ICT Box Office at 562.436.4610.

Aiding the Development of American Theatre

April 3rd, 2015

ICT Audience

ICT has produced 76 world and regional premieres.

Celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, International City Theatre has had many achievements over the course of their history. Running in the black for continuous years, winning over 300 professional awards for their productions, but one achievement truly demonstrates what their company’s goal is: to continue the development of theatre as an art form by producing new works by new voices. The achievement is this — they have produced 145 shows, and 76 of them have been regional or world premieres.

This means that more than half of the shows they have produced have been seen for the first time at ICT. That is an incredible feat, one that certainly credits their intent to aid in the development of American theatre. In fact, this current 30th Anniversary season includes three premieres: LA premieres of The Heir Apparent (a very funny comedy) and Sondheim on Sondheim (an opportunity to hear the genius himself talk about his life and music while performers bring his music to life). Their upcoming production, Abigail/1702, is a West Coast Premiere and another shining example of engrossing storytelling of a psychological thriller.

Abigail/1702 answers the question of what happened to Abigail Williams. It’s 1702, a decade after The Crucible‘s infamous seductress danced with the devil in Salem. This thrilling next chapter finds Abigail living under an assumed name in a village far from Salem, trying to start afresh. Will she find redemption, or will the devil have his due?

ICT has been at the forefront of contemporary theatre for more than a quarter century, and Abigail/1702 supports their commitment to producing new works by new voices.

Abigail/1702 runs April 29 – May 24. All performances are at International City Theatre at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. For tickets, call 562-436-4610 or visit www.InternationalCityTheatre.org.

ICT Playwright Loves to Tell Stories

March 27th, 2015

 

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa loves a good story. More specifically, he loves telling unconventional stories with topics not typically addressed. His play, Abigail/1702, the upcoming production at International City Theatre, is a West Coast Premiere of an imagined sequel to Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. As a teller of uniquely grand tales, you will be riveted by this Aguirre-Sacasa work.

roberto aguirre-sacasa

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Playwriting is Roberto’s first love, and he has had much success with it. Born in Washington D.C. to a Nicaraguan diplomat, he graduated from the Yale School of Drama in 2003. His plays have reached Broadway and many reputable regional theatres around the country. Notably, he wrote the book for the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.

A self-proclaimed comic geek, he began writing for Marvel Comics in 2004 after an editor was seeking playwrights whom she felt might have anew voice for comic books. Creating a zombie-version of Archie entitled Afterlife with Archie, its success led to Roberto being named Archie Comics’ Chief Creative Officer in 2013.

Further demonstrating his versatility, he has written for the television shows Glee, Looking and Big Love. He also wrote the film remake of Carrie in 2013. As someone who clearly is fond of storytelling, Abigail/1702 will not disappoint.

Abigail/1702 answers the question of what happened to Abigail Williams. It’s 1702, a decade after The Crucible‘s infamous seductress danced with the devil in Salem. This thrilling next chapter finds Abigail living under an assumed name in a village far from Salem, trying to start afresh. Will she find redemption, or will the devil have his due?

This latest Aguirre-Sacasa tale is a first-rate psychological thriller.  Don’t miss Abigail/1702 at ICT.

Abigail/1702 runs April 29 – May 24. All performances are at International City Theatre at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. For tickets, call 562-436-4610 or visit www.InternationalCityTheatre.org.

Abigail 1702 Cast Announcement

March 20th, 2015

Cast of Abigail 1702

The next production of our 30th anniversary season is the West Coast Premiere of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s Abigail/1702, an imagined sequel to Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. This fascinating psychological thriller is directed by ICT’s Artistic Director/Producer, caryn desai. We are happy to announce the talented cast of this incredible production.

 

Jennifer Cannon will star as Abigail Williams after starring in My Fair Lady and Hamlet. Kevin Bailey, playing Paris and two other roles, was the original Scar in both the Broadway and Los Angeles casts of The Lion King and starred on Broadway opposite Bernadette Peters in Annie Get Your Gun. Ross Hellwig, cast to play John Brown, has starred on TV shows Numb3rs and Law & Order: SVU.

Performing multiple roles will be Michelle Holmes, who has won LA Drama Critics Circle Awards for The Crucible and Dreamgirls. Completing the cast will be Jace Febo, who has starred in Les Miserables. This cast will certainly make this show shine.

Abigail/1702 answers the question of what happened to Abigail Williams. It’s 1702, a decade after The Crucible‘s infamous seductress danced with the devil in Salem. Imagining the destiny of the immortal stage villain who cried “Witch!,” this thrilling next chapter finds Abigail living under an assumed name in a village far from Salem, trying to start afresh. But now her past is about to catch up with her.

Creating new works in theatre can be difficult. Having a cast like the one ICT has assembled for Abigail/1702 assures an extraordinary experience in the theatre.

Abigail/1702 runs April 29 – May 24. All performances are at International City Theatre at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. For tickets, call 562-436-4610 or visit www.InternationalCityTheatre.org.

Have You Met Mickey Deans?

March 6th, 2015

Michael Rubenstone

Michael Rubenstone stars in International City Theatre’s current hit show End of the Rainbow, an Olivier Award-nominated play about the life and music of Judy Garland. Rubenstone shines as Garland’s fifth and last husband Mickey Deans. He was nice enough to give us some of his time to answer some questions about his role and the show. To see Michael in End of the Rainbow, please visit www.internationalcitytheatre.org for tickets.

1. Since this is your ICT debut, what has been your experience with our audiences so far?

As a newcomer to ICT, I am loving the audiences at ICT. They are tried and true theatre goers and theatre lovers and I’ve felt that every night.

2. You play Judy Garland’s 5th husband Mickey Deans. Being that he is the other character based on an actual person in the play, what did you learn from your research that aided your performance?

The character I play, Mickey Deans, was a regular guy, a blue collar kid from New Jersey. I am an east coaster, born and raised in Philadelphia, so I understood his sensibility right from the start. I read his book, Weep No More, My Lady, about his time with Judy, and I got the sense that he really loved her and wanted the best for her, and that’s what I tried to convey in my portrayal.

Gigi Bermingham & Michael Rubenstone in End of the Rainbow

Gigi Bermingham & Michael Rubenstone in End of the Rainbow

3. What do you hope audiences take away from seeing End of the Rainbow?

I hope people walk away from the play remembering the incredible impact Judy Garland had in the entertainment world, while at the same time recognizing the price she paid to give that gift to the world. To me the play is both a celebration as well as a warning.

4. As an actor who has done your fair share of theater, what do you love about acting on stage that you don’t get from doing television or film?

I’ve worked quite a bit in both theatre and television and to me there is nothing like live theatre. When I shoot a TV show I show up at 5 AM, no one knows who I am, I shoot my scenes sporadically over a day or two and then I’m done. The theatre allows you the opportunity and time to develop a character, develop a real relationship with your director and cast mates and when it’s showtime, anything can happen. It keeps you on your toes.

5. Since EOTR is biographical, who would you love to see a musical or play about?

I’m developing a piece right now about Marlon Brando so I’d like to see that when I’m done with it!

Brent Schindele Does It All

March 4th, 2015

Brent Schindele

Brent Schindele not only stars as Judy Garland’s friend and accompanist Anthony in End of the Rainbow at ICT, but he is also the show’s Musical Director. Needless to say he is a very busy man, but he was nice enough to answer some questions for us so please enjoy.

1. As someone who has performed at ICT before, what have been your experiences with ICT audiences?

I’m very impressed by ICT’s audience, because I think they’re coming to the theater for the best reasons: they just want to see good, interesting and often new stories told with high-quality talent and production value.  It seems increasingly that theater audiences have to be lured either by something already familiar, whether it’s based on a popular movie or starring a well-known “name”, or by something patently shocking or provocative.  I think ICT’s work is trying to steer down the middle – being thought-provoking without being abrasive, accessible without being pedestrian – and I applaud any audience that signs up for that.

2. You not only have a major role in the show, but are also acting as the show’s musical director as well. Is this the first time you have done such, and if so, what are the challenges in trying to balance the two jobs at the same time?

Actually, I’ve done this double duty numerous times now, in a number of shows that have required my character to play the piano.  I’d have to say that I’m an actor first, so I always approach any music based on whatever is needed dramatically in the context of the story and the characters’ relationships.  The play informs the music.  Though, of course, I have to laugh when directors (not my present one) make demands that betray a great underestimation of how music works – like, “You’ve memorized all your lines, can’t you memorize the whole score as well?” and “Can’t you keep playing the piano while you answer the phone and loosen your tie and open the window?”

Gigi Bermingham & Brent Schindele in End of the Rainbow

Gigi Bermingham & Brent Schindele in End of the Rainbow

3. You are obviously an accomplished musician. What is your background with regards to music and orchestration? 

It’s all been learned on the fly, by observing others and learning-by-doing.  I’m a self-taught pianist, and I’ve basically taken on a series of assignments that were too big for me, managed to survive them, and come out the other side stronger and wiser.

4. What do you hope audiences take away from seeing End of the Rainbow?

We’re trying to say some specific-but-universal things about love, art and perseverance.  I’d like to think that audiences are truly on the edges of their seats regarding the unorthodox love triangle between my character, Judy Garland and her fiancé – can she find emotional happiness, stability and fulfillment with either of us?  I’d hope that audiences would reflect anew on what art costs the people that make it — whether it’s celebrated people like Judy Garland or the average actor, painter or musician working in the trenches in virtual anonymity – we love to do what we do, can’t seem to live without it, and yet it exacts a toll on our lives.  And also audiences may be struck by the nature of addiction and the persistence it requires to overcome it – Judy Garland’s life is a cautionary tale, but instructive as well.

5. Since EOTR is biographical, who would you love to see a musical or play about?

That’s a good question.  I’d like to try my hand at portraying one of the stars of yesteryear, like Steve McQueen or Alan Ladd or Robert Redford.

Meet Our Judy

February 25th, 2015

Gigi Bermingham

 

Gigi Bermingham stars as Judy Garland in our production of End of the Rainbow, the Olivier Award-nominated play about the life and music of Judy Garland. She was nice enough to take some time during rehearsals to answer some questions for our ICT audience.

  1. Since you are no stranger to ICT, how was your experience the first time you performed here?

Amazing!  caryn is so welcoming and appreciative of the artists, the environment is beautiful, the staff excellent, and I worked with some fantastic artists, especially director Todd Nielsen.

  1. Are  you finding any challenges in trying to emulate an iconic character while also giving your own interpretation of the role? If so, what are they?

Yes of course.  Judy Garland was such a genius – it is intimidating to portray someone whose gift was so profound, and all I can do is to try and capture some essence of Judy while using my own abilities to convey the story.

  1. Gigi Bermingham as Judy Garland in END OF THE RAINBOW at ICTWhat do you hope audiences take away from seeing End of the Rainbow?

Compassion for a woman at the end of her life, a great artist who didn’t know how to manage her intense emotions, and whose life was twisted by drugs and stardom – and by the people who took advantage of her.

  1. What have you learned about Ms. Garland that you did not know before landing this role?

Everything!  I only knew about the Wizard of Oz!  I can’t believe I wasn’t familiar with this astonishing performer and all the movies she made and her own television shows and concerts and records.

  1. Since EOTR is biographical, what real figure would you love to see a play or musical about?

So many fascinating people in history – I don’t know – the Dalai Lama – George Harrison – Mother Theresa!

Gigi and the rest of the incredible End of the Rainbow cast can be seen on stage thru March 15th. We think you would be crazy to not see this incredible actress bring Judy Garland to life!

Celebrating 30 Years of Theatre

February 12th, 2015

2015 GalaIt has been 30 years in the making, but we are finally just one week away from raising the curtain on our 30th anniversary Gala celebration! Join the ICT board and staff as we celebrate our history and toast to our future. After all, we could not have done it without all of your gracious support. Details of our snazzy event are below.

Our Opening Night Gala will take place on Friday, February 20, 2015 and includes:

– Wine and Dinner Reception: 6:00-7:30 pm in our beautiful theatre lobby

– Recognition of past ICT Board Presidents

– A short talk, “More about Judy Garland” by the director John Henry Davis

– Reserved seats to End of the Rainbow: 8:00 pm curtain

And if that wasn’t enough, come join us  for our post-show opening night party with the cast and creative team.

We are so thrilled to have made it to such a milestone, and we believe that because of our wonderful audiences and donors we can sustain our success for many more years to come. This party is about all of us, so put on your best and join the celebration!

For more information , please visit www.internationalcitytheatre.org. To purchase tickets, please call Denis at 562-436-4610.

Ms. Garland, You and Your Sweetheart!

February 5th, 2015

End of the Rainbow press photo

(l to r) Brent Schindele, Gigi Bermingham and Michael Rubenstone in END OF THE RAINBOW

That special day is almost here, no not the Super Bowl, that was last Sunday. We are talking about the one day where being romantic, cheesy and thoughtful are encouraged and expensive dinners are accepted. Yes Valentine’s Day is almost here, and while our wonderful show End of the Rainbow will not be open yet, we still wanted to help those that are looking for something to do to celebrate this sweetheart holiday. So avoid the crowds and celebrate with ICT.

From now until Friday, February 13, at 6 pm, you can purchase two tickets to End of the Rainbow’s opening weekend — Feb 20-22 — for just $70. Since two tickets usually costs $96, we thought it would be great to help you celebrate and give your wallet a break. So grab that special someone and spend some time with Ms. Garland!

Use code VDAY when making your purchase for tickets and this Valentine’s offer is yours! To purchase tickets: call the ICT Box Office at 562-436-4610 or visit www.internationalcitytheatre.org.

10 Fun Facts About Ms. Garland

January 23rd, 2015

Judy Garland

As we are about to begin rehearsals for End of the Rainbow, the Olivier Award-nominated play about the life and music of Judy Garland, we thought it would be fun to share some information about Judy Garland that you may not know, so here are 10 facts about the American icon to tickle your fancy.

End of the Rainbow1. When she wasn’t filming, Judy knitted a pink wool sweater for the newborn baby of an electrician on The Wizard of Oz. Shortly after making the movie, Judy began designing clothes for animals. Mickey Rooney placed an order for a hat for his parrot.

2. She appeared in 35 films. This includes cameos and uncredited roles.

3. She never won an Oscar, but was given an honorary Oscar for her role in The Wizard of Oz.

4. She stood just 4’11” tall.

5. Judy had many insecurities about her looks, and it did not help that her boss, MGM president Louie B. Mayer, used to refer to her as his “little hunchback.”

6. She was paid $500 for The Wizard of Oz.

Judy Garland on cover of Time magazine7.  Her real name was Ethel Gumm, and she changed her name to Judy because of a famous Hoagy Carmichael song she loved.

8. Her television variety show, The Judy Garland Show, was cancelled after just once season mainly because it was in direct competition with Bonanza — one of the longest running television shows of all time.

9. Had to wear removable caps to cover her crooked teeth and rubberized disks to reshape her nose.

10. Her funeral was attended by over 22,000 people, and was believed by many to be the main reason and inspiration for the Stonewall Riots.

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