Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Sep 30th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

The Real Thing

New theater company raises the curtain for Tom Stoppard

therealthingSanta Cruz has long been a haven for theatrics (both on stage and off). The town is hardly lacking in drama. While virtual “plays” are often seen downtown everyday amongst our colorful cast of locals, theater companies in town also keep audiences delighted.

In a coastal community that’s saturated with creativity, our actors, playwrights, directors and their ilk are a close-knit crew. Many of these artists and the companies they perform with are firmly rooted in town, sort of like concrete. They’re not going anywhere.

So, from the depths of no particular theatrical void, arises Red & Black Stage, a new entity with two long-time local thespians at the helm: Judith Wellner and Daniel D. Hughes. The pair has been involved in varying levels with groups around town. But now, it’s time for these friends to plow ahead into their own uncharted territory—launching a theater company.

“We want to see people come back to the theater,” Hughes says of his company’s manifesto.

It’s not that people don’t go to see theater, mind you. Shakespeare Santa Cruz has full bragging rights, as does Cabrillo Stage and a number of other companies producing work here in Santa Cruz.

And, may it be known that Wellner and Hughes are in no way hoping to scoot other companies aside, but rather, they wish to join the ranks and introduce their fresh vision to the “theater scene.” That “vision” means going back to the basics—straight up plays, a la Tom Stoppard and Arthur Miller.

Their first play, which opens on Feb. 23, introduces Stoppard’s “The Real Thing” at the Actors’ Theatre. This tried-and-true script by a classic playwright is a sure fire way to forge an impression. Ultimately, the story is about a writer, Henry, who is married, with a child. He meets a woman named Annie, they fall in love, and Henry’s family dissolves. From there, Annie and Henry try to live a happily ever after existence, only to find out that things don’t always turn out that way. Henry is played by Hughes (who is also directing the play) and Annie is played by Wellner. Rounding out the cast are April Bennett, Aimée Shunney, John Burke, Steven Macramalla and Mark Palmtag.

Interestingly, the idea for producing this play as the company’s first production has long been in the works. Rewind to 2004. Wellner and Hughes are deep in the trenches of acting class with respected local instructor Ian McRae. They’re in his advanced class pounding out a scene from “The Real Thing.” Apparently, as they tell the story, things were going so well that the idea came up that the pair should, in fact, produce the entire play.

“It tells the truth about relationships—about love,” Wellner says of the play. “What ties people together and what separates them, even if they still love each other.”

This idea of truth, of integrity, is what propels the founders of this company. It’s also their foundation; and it seems to be what they’re seeking when choosing plays and deciding on production value.

“We want to produce a great show,” Hughes says. “To me, that is enough. ‘Integrity’ may seem like a bold generalization, but it is what we want to bring to the stage. If we have a niche, it is yet to be discovered, and like Pisces Moon or ScripTease, I believe our audience will be an integral part of that discovery.”

And while the audience may be crucial in discovering what Red & Black Stage becomes, the company itself has been enmeshed in the discovery process.

It all started about 10 years ago when Wellner was studying in England. Originally from Hungary, the doe-eyed actress was awarded a scholarship to study Stoppard’s plays.

“I read everything he ever wrote,” she says of her theatrical idol.

During her stay in the U.K., a friend introduced her to the playwright at a reception. “It was fascinating,” Wellner says, reminiscing about that memorable day. “He was very quiet and very graceful, subdued. He seemed like someone who doesn’t say more than he really needs to say. I remember him in his long, dark trench coat, being very much a writer.”

Years later, Wellner and Hughes would go on to perform Stoppard’s work in their acting class. Like a tumbleweed, Red & Black Stage began to roll from that point on. Now, in 2007, the story comes full circle, as Wellner and Hughes perform that same scene, but in a full-length play.

“We wanted to pick a play that is very reputable,” Hughes says of the company’s debut performance.

And how about that name? Red & Black Stage?

“It’s not that cryptic,” Hughes says. “We went and bought some office supply notebooks. One was red and one was black. We each kept our notes in those notebooks, and that’s where [the name] came from.”

The name, the groundwork for the company, the artistic partnership, it’s all been simple, really—just like Wellner and Hughes’ philosophy on theater.

“We’re obsessed with finding the truth in theater and in real life,” Wellner says. “I think that’s a main motivation—theater that is accessible. When people talk, you listen and it makes sense. It’s not pretentious. It tells the plain truth.”

“The Real Thing,” written by Tom Stoppard is directed by Daniel D. Hughes and produced by Red & Black Stage. It will play from Feb. 23 to March 24 at the Actors’ Theatre, 1001 Center St., Santa Cruz. Show times are at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and 3 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $17/general, $15/students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium or by calling 420-5260. For more info, call 425-7529.
Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Reflecting Glass

Composer Philip Glass’ first trip to Big Sur was by motorcycle; little did he know that he’d establish a music festival there six decades later.

 

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, occurs this year during Libra, the sign of creating right relations with all aspects life and with earth’s kingdoms. We contemplate (the Libra meditation) forgiveness, which means, “to give for another.” Forgiveness is not pardon. It’s a sacrifice (fire in the heart, giving from the heart). Forgiveness is giving up for the good of the other. This is the law of evolution (the path of return).

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 26

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Wurst Case Scenario

Venus Spirits releases agave spirit, Renee Shepherd on planting garlic, Sausagefest 2014, and wine harvest in full swing

 

Do you think you are addicted to technology?

Santa Cruz  |  Unemployed

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Apricot Wine for Dessert

Thomas Kruse Winery, a participant in the new Santa Clara Wine Trail, has been around for a long time—since 1971, to be exact. When our little group arrived to try some wine at the Kruses’ low-key tasting room, Thomas Kruse and his wife Karen were there to greet us. Theirs is a small operation, and they’re proud to offer quality wine at affordable prices. “Because we are small and low-tech, it’s easy to relate to the whole winemaking process,” says Karen—and the Kruses take pride in making wine “just like it has been made for centuries.”