Behind the Curtain

Official Blog of International City Theatre

Abigail/1702 is ICT at Its Core

May 21st, 2015

Jennifer Cannon in ABIGAIL/1702

International City Theatre has always believed that theatre was more than just another form of entertainment. In fact, the resident professional theatre company of Long Beach was founded with the goal of creating new theater that not only entertains, but educates and provokes thoughtful dialogue as well. So it should come as no surprise that when ICT Artistic Director/Producer caryn desai announced the 2015 season back in August of 2014, she introduced a season of new works and premieres (with a classic thrown in as well) that are engaging, relevant and insightful. Perhaps the perfect embodiment of ICT’s mission is their currently running show Abigail/1702.

The basic premise of this new Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa play is that it is an imagined sequel to the Arthur Miller classic The Crucible. The play begins 10 years after the Salem Witch Trials and shows what happened to Abigail Williams, the famed seductress of the original tale. On a much deeper level, it is a searing portrait of someone facing their own self-created demons and desperately seeking atonement and absolution in their determined quest for redemption. Such a notion is something to which anyone can relate, although in various degrees, but nonetheless sparking a conversation about the path one takes to find forgiveness.

Jennifer Cannon & Kevin Bailey in ABIGAIL/1702desai was so moved by the play that she decided to not only give it its West Coast Premiere but also to direct this moving piece of contemporary theatre. As an art form, we must stay fresh and support new works and new writers in their growth and development. Theatre cannot continue to  produce the same tried-and-true hits over and over if it is to stay relevant. And theatres must invest in relevant, sometimes challenging new works and not the latest movie made into a stage production. Theatre’s role is to create a more educated society.

ICT is pleased to present this captivating play from a talented young playwright who continues to shine in his craft. More than half of the shows produced in ICT’s 30-year history have been premieres, and they are delighted that Abigail/1702 is part of their milestone season.

Abigail/1702 runs through May 24th on the ICT stage at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. To purchase tickets or for more information about Abigail/1702, please call (562) 436-4610 or visit www.InternationalCityTheatre.org.

Jace Febo Loves Being the Only Kid

May 14th, 2015

Jace Febo

Jace Febo may only be 11 years old, but he is no stranger to acting and is currently starring as part of the cast of International City Theatre’s current production Abigail/1702. He was kind enough between performances to answer some questions for us about the show and his career.

1. How long have you been acting, and what do you love about it?

I’ve been acting professionally for about 2 years. I love meeting new people and building Theatre families. Performing is my passion. I also love to sing.

2. Since the show has opened, what has your experience at ICT been like so far?

Great! I love my fellow cast mates.

Jennifer Cannon & Jace Febo in Abigail/1702

Jennifer Cannon & Jace Febo in Abigail/1702

3. What have you learned from being part of a show such as Abigail/1702 that is new and allows you to really create a new character?

I’ve learned how to project my voice because there are no mics. I’m having fun creating Thomas, the character I play in the show.

4. Is it difficult being part of a cast where you are the youngest by many years, and if yes, what is so difficult? If no, why not?

No, I love it! Being the only kid is great! I get treated nicely.

5. What play or book might you want to see an imagined sequel to?

I love the book Where The Red Fern Grows, so I think a follow-up to that would be exciting to see.

Ross Hellwig Looking Forward to Work Every Day

May 8th, 2015

Ross Hellwig

1. As you head into the opening of the show, how has your experience at ICT been so far?

My experience with ICT has been fantastic. Theatre is a collaborative art form, and everyone I’ve met here has been incredibly talented, hardworking, and a joy to be around. Going to work here is something I look forward to every day.

2. What do you hope audiences take from Abigail/1702?

While rehearsing the play, I grappled with questions about redemption. I hope audiences find themselves examining similar themes. I hope they are entertained, have something exciting to discuss after the show, and enjoy looking at Arthur Miller’s The Crucible from a fresh, new angle. And for those who aren’t familiar with Miller’s play, I hope they are inspired to go and give it a look.

Ross Hellwig & Jennifer Cannon in Abigail/1702

Ross Hellwig & Jennifer Cannon in Abigail/1702

3. You play John Brown, who acts as a love interest to Abigail as well as a catalyst for exposing Abigail’s past. Which parts of your character can you relate to and which can you not?

John Brown has an intriguing past of his own that gets exposed through the events of the play. Without spoiling anything here, I’ll just say that his personal history is very different from my own past and has been interesting to explore. The themes of judgment and forgiveness run throughout this play. We are often harshest when we judge ourselves, and sometimes the way to self-acceptance comes through helping a loved in their own battle for forgiveness. I think that’s something many of us can relate to.

4. The play involves aspects of the supernatural quite a bit. What are your thoughts on the supernatural? Do you believe in it, and if so, why?

The jury is still out on the supernatural. I think there are things we can’t explain, and we do our best to make sense of them; however, I doubt anyone has all of the answers. The fun thing about performing in a play featuring supernatural elements is the process of figuring out what the rules of the world are and then recklessly throwing yourself into that world with absolute faith. And when your character’s faith is shaken partway through because he or she had made incorrect assumptions about those rules, that can be fun too.

5. What play or novel might you want to see an imagined sequel to?  

I’ve always thought that it would be fun to look in on Kate and Petruchio about five years after the events of The Taming of the Shrew. Are they happy? Are they the ultimate power couple? If the world threw some crazy, seemingly-insurmountable problem their way, how would they conquer it? Because you know they would conquer it.

Michelle Holmes Hopes to Spook You a Little

May 5th, 2015

Michelle Holmes

Abigail/1702 just opened this past weekend, and cast member Michelle Holmes was kind enough to answer some questions for us about the show and herself. Enjoy!

1. As rehearsals finally end and performances begin, what has your experience at ICT been like so far?

This is my second experience with ICT, and the first one was a musical, so doing a new work like this is so exciting. I, personally, love The Crucible and have done it, so the chance to do a sequel was too irresistible. Yet, it’s so well-written you don’t have to know the original play to appreciate Abigail/1702.  caryn is such a great director, loving to her cast, yet very specific and direct, which I so appreciate. And her choices of script, set, lighting and direction were so bold. Everyone at ICT is just a joy to work with, and the theatre is so beautiful. The cast is also to die for, and they’re not only talented but some of the finest people I’ve ever worked with. And I get my own big dressing room. What can beat that?  But I’m definitely excited to open and begin the run of this extraordinary piece. Oh, and our stage manager rocks!!!

2. What do you hope audiences take from Abigail/1702?

I hope they are all surprised and enlightened in different ways. I hope they appreciate what a spectacular experience live theatre can be and then get to witness the West Coast Premiere of a play this good that is so well-directed and acted. It’s a remarkable play, and I don’t think you’ll find a finer production of it anywhere. And I hope they get spooked a little, too!

3. You play multiple roles in the show. What are some of the perks of embodying different characters and what are some of the disadvantages?

I see no disadvantages in playing multiple characters.  I love it.  Bring it on!!  And, luckily, in Abigail/1702, I have a nice amount of time between entrances to be able to fully transform in makeup and costume.  To be able to go through so many ages and from comedy to pathos to high drama in one play is a gift.

Jennifer Cannon & Michelle Holmes in Abigail/1702

Jennifer Cannon & Michelle Holmes in Abigail/1702

4. Since Abigail/1702 is a new play, what are your thoughts on new works and theatre companies’ role in developing them?

I love working on new plays, and I give International City Theatre so much credit for being a larger theatre still willing to take a chance on something new and bold and not always doing the familiar or the reliable.  I mean, there’s certainly a place for both, but you usually see newer, edgier works done at small theatres that don’t have to rely on the box office as much.  But ICT takes chances, and their audiences and subscribers are extraordinary in that they go right along with them and know that caryn desai is a smart, creative woman who will not steer them wrong.  When you have a title like Abigail/1702, it can be confusing to potential patrons.  But everyone who’s seen the previews, whether they knew or even liked The Crucible, has remarked on what a great experience it was to see a play like this and this production in particular.  So I laud ICT for its continued willingness to promote new works.

5. What play or novel might you want to see an imagined sequel to?

Hard question, because there are just so many works, both literary and theatrical, that I love.  I would have to say that I would be interested in the sequel to most anything because I always imagine years later what the characters I’ve already seen in anything from theatre to movies to even television, would be doing now.  I mean, look at how much Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher have changed from the original Star Wars trilogy. Seeing Hans Solo and Princess Leia together as an old married couple now, if they even are still married, slays me!  You know, I would love to see a sequel to The Crucible, and here it is!!  And I’m loving every minute of it.

Jennifer Cannon: Abigail Williams in the Flesh

April 24th, 2015

Jennifer Cannon

1. How are rehearsals going?

Rehearsals are amazing. It is good, hard work that ALL of us are putting in. caryn desai is allowing her actors to explore and “play” in an effort to find the best choice for the scene or character. That freedom has opened a gate of true artistic expression from her actors and we are still discovering nuances and layers that are adding to the richness of this play, its characters and their relationships.

2. What do you hope audiences take from Abigail/1702?

I hope audiences will walk away remembering that we ALL struggle with the light and dark in our souls. We should all find a way to embrace and accept our darkness as part of who we are but not let it RULE us.  Abigail is creating a path for herself. She wholeheartedly accepts her demons and her mistakes but is desperately fighting to not let them rule her life. Whether we are learning that for the first time or just need to be reminded, we can all learn something from Abigail’s plight.

Jennifer Cannon in Abigail/1702

Jennifer Cannon in Abigail/1702

3. Since the play centers around your search for redemption, what are your thoughts on the ideas of “falling from grace” and “righting your wrongs”?

I believe “falling from grace” does not just refer to a holy or supernatural “grace.” It can also mean falling from the grace of others or even yourself. You can make choices that garner the disappointment from your family or disapproval from your friends. You can also fall out of favor with yourself. “Righting your wrongs” can be asking forgiveness in an effort to show remorse or engage in an action that will possibly make a situation better. But ultimately, “righting a wrong” begins in yourself. Acknowledging and embracing your mistake, taking action to correct the issue, and then truly letting it go and moving on. We are all human and can only strive to be balanced.

4. Is it difficult to create a character on stage who has already been created in another story? If yes, what are those difficulties?

It is a double-edged sword. Because this is not a new character there is a lot of research and history that provides clues to how the character should be portrayed. But that is only the foundation. This is a new chapter in a character’s life, and more specifically, a different side and color of that person. There are preconceived notions and expectations for Abigail Williams and this play is challenging those ideas. She is not as simple as she may have appeared in The Crucible. There is so much more that goes so much deeper, and trying to do justice to that while still showing a completely different side of her and against the stereotype and audience expectation is a challenge indeed.

5. What play or novel might you want to see an imagined sequel to?

Pygmalion (or My Fair Lady) would be very interesting. How is Eliza Doolittle getting on? Did she marry Freddy? How have the skills she learned from Henry Higgins hindered or helped her?  It would be interesting to explore that strong female character and her relationship with Higgins well after her time of tutoring. Ten years after her time with Higgins would put her in the Roaring Twenties. I would want to see her in that period!

Kevin Bailey Inside-Out

April 22nd, 2015

Kevin Bailey

Kevin Bailey stars in International City Theatre’s upcoming show Abigail/1702, the West Coast Premiere of an imagined sequel to Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and directed by caryn desai, FiBailey’s versatility will be showcased as he plays many important roles in the production. He was kind enough to take some time from rehearsals to answer some questions for us.

1. You are in your second week of rehearsals right now. How has your experience at ICT been so far?

I love ICT!  The collaborativeness (is that a word? — hah) is everything an actor wants in a rehearsal period.  It’s a joy to know you are co-creating a piece with a great director and talented castmates who genuinely love working together.

2. What do you hope audiences take from Abigail/1702?

The message for me is one of radical forgiveness — it’s always possible and it’s never too late for anyone to do what is right and turn life around for the good.

3. Because the play is an imagined sequel to The Crucible, what were your initial thoughts on it?

I liked the “idea” of the play from the start when Casting Director Michael Donovan described the story to me.  And then when I read it, I sobbed my eyes out at the end. Seriously!

4. You play multiple roles in the show. What are the special challenges you face in creating different characters within the same story?

Any time a play calls for the actor to play multiple parts the trick, of course, is how to make “yourself” seemingly different.  Costume and hair go a long way to helping in this area, but as actors  we often talk about a character’s spine. What is it that is the essence or core of the individual we are playing, and how does that manifest itself in movement, voice, posture and attitude?  It’s working from the inside out as an actor, but with a vision that the “outside” is different for each of the three characters.  I don’t want to give away too much, but one of my characters is stern, gruff and desperate — and those traits have an applicable physical and vocal  way that enhance the character.  Another character is all power, control and charm, and the way he moves and talks and commands the stage is like a giant who never needs to raise his voice unless he chooses to do so.

5. What play or novel might you want to see an imagined sequel to?

Play:  Well — it may seem obvious as it’s Arthur Miller again, but I’d love to know what happened to the Loman family after Death Of A Salesman.  I imagine Linda kicks butt and whips those boys into shape … or else.  And even more — A Streetcar Named Desire.  These are sacred texts in the theater world, so it seems unlikely, but I would have said that about The Crucible too.

Book:  Okay, randomness here, but I always wished there was another book to The Lord of The Rings.  I want to know what happens to all of those characters.  Did Frodo get well living with the Elves?  Sam must have needed another adventure and maybe hit the road with his own kids one day to go see King Aragon and his Elven Princess.  I watch these movies every year from beginning to end with my son.

Musical:  Brigadoon!  Think about it. The next 100 years is coming up soon.  Maybe Tommy and Fiona have a family and we see the child or perhaps even grandchildren of his friend Jeff who have heard the story passed down to them.  How fun would that be?

To see Kevin and the rest of his amazing castmates in Abigail/1702, please visit www.internationalcitytheatre.org for tickets. It runs April 29 – May 24.

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.

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