This is a great show.
Hey Christian, why don't you elaborate? I dare you. You'll be on the T for a while, anyway.
Fine. Well, folks, Stoops is a once in a lifetime kind of show. In the euphemistic sense, and both as a performer and as an audience member. Contemporizing a classic theatre work while keeping it relevant is often a challenge. For instance, I was once cast as Puck in "A Midsummer's Night Dream" within which the concept was that I'd be wearing a neon speedo and all my scenes would be done in blacklight.
This is a bad thing, and luckily for the world and for the Epileptic Society of Baton Rouge, that show never happened.
But Stoops knows how to reimagine. It doesn't simply lift archaic dialogue and transpose it haphazardly into regular, 2013 life. Nor does it change the original content: I've always felt as if thats like biting into a well-disguised off-brand pop tart: a poop tart, if you will.
The many-brained, fabulous beast that is Divine Stage Works takes traditional words and revitalizes them with a modern, unique perspective. This isn't a show for thespian archaeologists, it's a show for trendy, hip eyes.
"But Christian," you think, "I don't have these eyes of which you speak."
Yes, you do. In 1773 this show was about duality. 240 years later, it still is. We've just dressed it in skin tight pants.
Stoops is for the banker that daydreams of that one time at band camp. For the quiet commuter in a suit and tie that listens to Kylie Minogue on their earbuds and maps out choreography to practice in their shower after the long day at work. For the janitor at 4am that turns a mop into a microphone.
I'm rambling. Stoops is you. It's all your sides, the spectrum from crazy to sane, captured all those years ago by Oliver Goldsmith and dusted off today by Divine Stage Works.
Here is an example of how we've remixed this palette. There are several women in this show playing men.
Hysterical, right? Right?
Now, that you're done laughing, how will you be entertained for another two hours? This is a comedy, you know. I'm going to focus on one instance, for brevity's sake: Jennifer Bean. She takes the character of Mr. Hardcastle and adds a depth and charisma such that backstage I myself find myself calling her: "him." And this is before costuming.
There are so many gorgeous layers like that in this show, and in each of these characters... Stoops is like a slushie machine manufactured by Willy Wonka with every delicious flavor ever, even pancakes... It's like a funky, fluorescent, fuchsia onion in which the next layer is a glistening green, then golden yellow...
You get the alliterative drift.
Goldsmith set much of Stoops at dusk, at this collision between night and day, between waking and dreaming... we've just set our production in one of those sublime sunsets wherein the world shimmers in a heightened kaleidoscope of costumes and characters. You will find some of your personal colors painted in every scene, in every cast member, and even be invited to share your particular pigment with this brilliant painting that is Stoops.
This cast is astounding, and I am humbled and intimidated by the fact that I have the honor of being out there with these gems. The term "ensemble" production is used a lot, usually to placate the ensemble. There is no ensemble here. Yes, some have more lines than others. But look over there. Watch Audrey Stuck-Girard as Roger when the guests first arrive and banter. Yup. That's you on your first day at work when the CEO suddenly walks in with his friends and you forget how to use a calculator. Watch Rodney Raftery (Mrs. Hardcastle) reenact that terrible moment when you sit down on the plane and realized you left your cell phone at home... then dial that reaction up to eleven. Watch Amber Candy Dixon (Stingo) as she watches the world burn around her and does nothing but light a cigarette from the embers, then wink at you.
I have mentioned four people from a cast of fourteen, and that's not even including the countless others that brought this to life behind the pageantry. Every single person involved brings a beauty and truth to what was once just a cavernous, empty room. Together, we're creating something genuinely special, and something I really believe will resonate with you.
Look. Whether you giggle at the word "booby," or are more intrigued by a creative dissection of societal constructs as relating to gender roles, whether you prefer farce, or whether you prefer farts: you will find your music here.
So, friend, come dance with us. Find your art. Find your music. Find your self.
I dare you. Stoops, dares you.
Post submitted by Stoops! actor, Christian Masters
"Pink of Perfection"
For my dear Aunt, Mrs. Hardcastle
Dear Aunt, please suck it.
I'M the pink of perfection!
The jewels are mine.
submitted by Stoops! actress, Angel Veza
Creating theatre is hard work, y'all! So, the Stoops team recently let down their hair for live-band karaoke at JP's Costellos, our local "Three Pigeons"!
Photos by Stoops Publicity Director, Jason Hoagland
During this dim time in Boston, color lives and glows through our art. Costumes and masks as viewed during our recent Stoops! costume parade. Designs by Stoops! designer, Arika Nabutovsky
Artwork by Jennifer Bean, "Mr. Hardcastle", Stoops! cast member
A behind-the-scenes glimpse of Costume Designer, Arika Nabutovsky's off-the-wall designs for Divine Stage's upcoming stage spectacular, Stoops!
I tend to bounce from show to show – there are seldom more than a couple of weeks between when I strike one production and when I start rehearsing the next. In fact, I often know what I’m doing “next” before a show I’m in closes.
As a result, when I meet up with people, they’ve stopped asking me if I’m doing a show, but rather, they ask what show I’m doing at that given time. And that question has created an interesting problem for me in the process of working on Stoops. Since we’re doing something entirely new, how do I describe the show to people whom I’m inviting to the performances?
It’s a challenge – most of the people within the theater world that I know aren’t familiar with She Stoops to Conquer, so describing the show in Peyton’s terms (“a funked-up version”) only gets me so far. I’ve stopped describing it as an “Irish” play, too, cause inevitably the first follow-up question is: can you do the accent?
What I’ve temporarily settled on is to relate it to another piece of theater that more people locally are familiar with: The Donkey Show. I’ve come to ask people to get an image of The Donkey Show in their head, and to imagine the process by which you took A Midsummer Night’s Dream and turned it into that raucous disco. Now, take it down a couple of notches, and apply it to the classic farce She Stoops to Conquer. The result is Stoops.
It’s not a perfect solution, I’ll readily admit. But it’s a good place to start the conversation. It’s a reference point they can recognize and that I can move from when talking about the fun (and funky) journey that is Stoops.
Contributed by Stoops! actor, Adam Sell ('Sir Charles Marlow')
Artwork by Jason Hoagland
Hi, I'm Shari! I play Pimple, a maid, in Stoops, a part which involves a lot of dancing and non-verbal acting. I'm a Lesley MFA poetry candidate and was challenged to try to write a poem inspired by the show. The other night at rehearsal, we worked on three different dance numbers (choreographed by the genius and adorably excitable Fish), all of which express the duplicity and personal drive of the characters. The first poem, Dance in the Garden, is most inspired by the last dance number in the show, which includes the entire cast in masks! The second, The Show, sounds a bit like Mrs. Hardcastle in my head, but is also about the play's themes of costume, secrecy and class. I hope you enjoy them!
Dance in the Garden
Like tropical birds, they dance mating calls
to the mirror, trying to tempt themselves
out of black masks. Midnight lovers, they
circle behind lace’s haze. Swoop and delve
stalk and peck, plant gems in plots to be harvested
at sunrise. Each glides alongside herself, watching.
Beneath their wings the truth waits, silvering slivering moon.
Quick, step over yourself and help me into this corset I’ve made
from hummingbird bones and hibiscus. Fill my shoe
with liquid gold! We can’t lose a moment, the hourglass warps
like a caterpillar. In the neon forest we’ll be lost
to robbers if we don’t wear the latest in Paris chic.
Fill my shoe with liquid gold, got to have the brightest
bit be the first they perceive. Help! Can’t you see
I’ve lost myself? There’s my head over there on the linden tree,
and I’m sure my elbow’s got somewhere it shouldn’t be.
Pick up the pieces and put on the powder, the show must glow on
until love melts the mask the wearers are weary of wearing.
contributed by Stoops! actress, Shari Caplan
Artwork by Jason Hoagland
If I remember correctly, when Peyton called to offer me the role of Mr. Hardcastle in his production of Stoops!, I told him he was on crack. And then I said "Yes, absolutely, I'll do it."
For readers unfamiliar with the play, Mr. Hardcastle is the elderly patriarch of the well-to-do Hardcastle family. I am an unimposing thirty-something woman, with hips and boobs and such. Hrrm.
I do have prior experience being cast as the opposite gender. The first time, I was eleven years old and cast as the Littlest Munchkin Boy in The Wizard of Oz. I had one line and a sneeze. My entire preparation for disguising myself as a boy involved putting on a pair of overalls and hiding my long hair under a baseball cap. My next cross-dressing experience was as the title role in a period play called The Revenger's Tragedy. I had more lines for that one. And I got to wear facial stubble to disguise my feminine skin. In my next male role as Uncle Ernie in The Who's Tommy, I got a full-on goatee and a soul patch. Maybe in my current role, I'll get a long gray beard? Then I would be able to view my entire cross-dressing stage career as a progression of ever-increasing facial hair.
[insert picture here, if possible]
Out of curiosity, I went to the internets to research "women playing men." This search turned up lots of results about young gold-diggers marrying older men for their money. This made me sad for the state of the world, so I changed my search to "drag kings." This at least turned up results with women dressed as men, which was an improvement. However, I didn't find any results with young women dressed as older men; all the girls want to be hot Elvis or James Dean. Mr Hardcastle is no James Dean, so this was not terribly helpful. One site said that to walk like a man, you should lead with your groin. Another said to lead with your chest. I tried both, and they both made me feel like a broken marionette. So I gave up on the research, and decided to make this up as I go along. (Turns out, Mr Hardcastle seems to lead with his knees and his shoulders. But that might just be him, and not something to apply generally to all men.)
I have never really considered myself to be a character actor, but I do keep a small stash of character voices on file in my head. I brought out my Old Man voice for Mr Hardcastle. My Old Man is a combination of Mel Brooks, Regis Philbin, and the old Jewish man from the barbershop in the movie Coming to America. With maybe a dash of Peter Falk. I have no idea why my inner old man is Jewish, he just is.
Ultimately, I am more concerned with playing the character than with playing the gender. Mr Hardcastle is cranky, he's lovable, he's a sucker for his daughter, he likes pushing his wife's buttons, he's stubborn and proud and a surprising voice of reason amid the madness. None of this has anything to do with being male or female. Our audience will probably be able to tell that I have womanish hips, and that's OK. Because, male or female, I'm hilarious.
Artwork by Jason Hoagland
And once again...from the brilliant and twisted mind of actress/artist wunderkind, Jennifer Bean. See her play a stodgy old man in Stoops!, playing this month at Capen Hall, JP!