Postcard from The Odyssey – Post #1, Rehearsing the Odyssey on Angel Island

Rebecca Longworth takes us on a voyage with the cast and crew of We Players’ Odyssey. Keep your eye on our blog for more updates from this unique production. Want to plug another group, artist or project from the Bay Area’s diverse small theater scene? Write us and let us know!

Hello world!

Welcome to Postcards from The Odyssey. This is the first in a biweekly series taking you behind the scenes of We Players’ current production, The Odyssey on Angel Island, playing May 12 – July 1 at Angel Island State Park.

It seems as though whenever I talk about this show, someone asks if there’s an ampitheatre on the island. Nope – this Odyssey uses the entire island as a stage: we actors get plenty of exercise running amongst the spectacular natural environs, historic buildings, and decommissioned military installations of Angel Island. The audience will follow us hither and yon, on foot or bike – or, for those that need it, there’s a special vehicle on selected days. They’ll also interact with the performers in many scenes, so some of our rehearsals seem to consist of chatting with imaginary friends while we eagerly await the addition of audience members!

As you can imagine, staging a play on a 742-acre island is an enormous undertaking. Members of our production team take trips to the island throughout the week, and our site manager, Dave, actually lives there full time. Each weekend the performers (12 actors and 7 to 10 musicians) join the production team and volunteers on the island for two days of rehearsals. We arrive Saturday morning, rehearse during the day, and spend Saturday night so that we can rehearse Sunday starting in the morning. We take ferries from San Francisco or Tiburon to get to the island, and sleep in bunk beds in a dorm or outside in tents. It’s kind of like summer stock meets summer camp, with spectacular views of San Francisco and geeky mythology references. Luckily, we all like each other a whole lot. But life on the island could be a post in itself… (hint).

Right now, I’m excited to share with you some fabulous shots of a recent rehearsal, taken by our most excellent photographers, Mark Kitaoka and Tracy Martin. They’re some of the most fun and friendly people I can think of to spend a chilly Saturday with, and they take gorgeous photos! We have a production-photo-shoot this weekend, and I’m totally jealous that I’m not one of the lucky ones donning costume and looking artfully intense for the camera.

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Here we’re rehearsing a scene in the old military hospital near the East Garrison. Julie Douglas, playing Circe, is talking to our director, Ava Roy, about a ritual her character will perform with Telemachus (James Udom, who’s in the tub). Note the fabulous golden bathtub!

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Natty Justiniano looks to be deep in thought in one room of the hospital. Or he could be checking Facebook.

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Director Ava Roy and actor Caroline Parsons watch members of the ensemble rehearse on the hospital’s upper levels.

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Maria Leigh, Libby Kelly and Caroline Parsons – playing sweet-voiced nymphs – rehearse with music director Charlie Gurke in the old Fort MacDowell military chapel. The military used the chapel to offer services of all varieties; we’re creating a shrine to Athena in it.

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Actors visible through a window in the hospital.

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Caroline as Calypso and James as Telemachus frolic on Quarry Beach while Ross Travis as Hermes determines how best to deliver a message from Zeus. It’s always a beach party with Calypso. And Hermes usually has bad news. Couldn’t you just look at that view forever?

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More song rehearsals at Quarry Beach. Here you can barely make out Maria’s arm behind James, and three of Joan Howard’s limbs behind Charlie, who is playing his awesome and very portable melodica. Ava looks like she’s giggling at something; and there’s Claire Slattery and Caroline Parsons laughing as well. In this scene Caroline plays the nymph Calypso, with backup from other Oceanid nymphs, played by the other ladies.

Ticket sales for The Odyssey on Angel Island open TODAY at www.angelislandodyssey.eventbrite.com And please check out www.WePlayers.org, like us on Facebook, and follow @weplayers on Twitter.

–Rebecca Longworth

Rebecca Longworth plays Eurycleia, Hera, and Anticleia – among other roles – in The Odyssey on Angel Island. When not performing, directing, or producing, she creates motion graphics for Truc Designs, Inc. Rebecca recently directedBuried Child for Boxcar Theatre, and occasionally blogs about her goings-on at www.rebeccalongworth.wordpress.comor tweets (more frequently) @directorebeccer.

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