Written by Daniella Litvak
Rock ‘n’ roll belongs to everyone, but the origin of The Beat Goes On belongs to Orange County. Back in 2014 Vanda Eggington created The Beat Goes On as a showcase for Vanguard University’s students. It was a hit. Now it’s back, but it’s not just a repeat of a previous success. This time The Beat Goes On is an American Coast Theater (the resident professional theater of Vanguard University) production. In addition to the professional upgrade, Eggington has also made some changes that include more material.
So what’s it all about? The short answer is that it’s a recounting of the history of rock ‘n’ roll in the style of a musical revue. Featuring music from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and today, each time period has song and dance segments dedicated to the rock ‘n’ roll music of its era. In between and throughout these sections the Narrators not only provide background information for the music but they also bring the audience up to speed on what else is happening in the world at that particular time.
As someone who’s always liked history class, I don’t mind when the Narrators start lecturing. Nevertheless I appreciate the show for coming up with more creative framing devices —such as the infomercial shown during the 70’s —and for allowing the Narrators to be more interactive with the rest of the cast as we progress. I also like how the show becomes progressively more tongue-in-cheek with the performers gleefully embracing the campy and zany aspects of the music they perform.
It’s not all bubblegum pop though. Even if you’re already familiar with the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, the images and songs from the time still strike a chord. Despite being very brief, one of the most poignant moments of the night is when Justin Budds sings a bit of “Mrs. Robinson” while narrating about Watergate.
It’s important to remember that the songs are performed in a medley style. There may be times when you wish the whole song (or even just one more chorus) would be performed, but the song choices contained in each medley are well chosen. They actually use this format to their advantage— particularly in allowing the men and women to sing counterpoint to one another.
Overall the singing is good. Some consistency issues still occur though, particularly at the beginning when the performances feel a bit too restrained. Once the 60’s roll around the performers really get into the grove. They have some great energy and stage presence. It is clear the entire cast put their heart into the show, which pays off in the results because there are a lot of great moments.
The Beat Goes On invites you to reflect and revel in our past and present. Things have changed. Yet the more things change, the more they stay the same. No matter how uneasy we feel about the social climate or the growing sense of isolation from one another, we’ll always have rock ‘n’ roll to lift our spirits.
Meet the Killer Women of ‘Life Without Parole’ (West Coast Premiere!), Plus Video Teaser
*The women of Life Without Parole are real women. This is their story.
At a parole hearing at the California Institution for Women in Chino in 1999, Helen Broker must fight to regain her freedom. She’s been jailed for killing the abusive husband who beat her, threatened to rape her daughter, and who pointed a pistol at her.
She’s a member of a prison support group, CWAV (Convicted Women Against Violence). Her fellow group members are all women who have killed the husbands or boyfriends who beat them. According to the criminal justice system, they’re all guilty of second degree murder. But were they just defending themselves against perpetrators of domestic violence?
Life Without Parole is the story of Helen Broker and her fellow inmates who have all trod down this heartbreaking path. Where is justice for them?
Playwright Warren John Doody based his narrative on the research of the late Dr. Elizabeth Dermody Leonard, who interviewed over forty incarcerated women in the course of her research. Much of the play’s text consists of verbatim transcriptions of the women’s stories. Some scenes are re-enactments of actual events.
Read more and watch the teaser video at EURThisNthat.
On the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s Death, American Coast Theater is proud to commemorate the great bard by presenting two unique plays in repertory that explore life and death, fate versus choice, decision and indecision, art versus reality. In Hamlet, the titular character wrestles with whether or not to kill, as the play dramatically asks the question: how much is a life worth? Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead comedically portrays the misadventures of the two supporting characters from Hamlet, musing their way through events they may or may not have control over as they face their own fate. See both plays for one truly, unique theatrical experience. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: June 3, 4, 18, 25, and July 3rd at 7:30pm. June 5, 11, 19, 26, and July 2nd at 2:00pm. Hamlet: June 10, 11, 17, 19, 24, 26, and July 1, 2 at 7:30pm. June 12, 18, 25, and July 3rd at 2:00pm.
The play’s the thing at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa. Well actually no, it’s two plays that are the thing. From June 3– July 3, the American Coast Theater Company will be performing William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy about a conflicted Danish prince and his struggle to avenge his father’s death. In conjunction with Hamlet, the company will also be presenting Tom Stoppard’s less well-known tale about Hamlet’s old college chums, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
The latter is a work of absurd existentialist comedy that is more linear than Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot and less abstract and bizarre than, say, Christopher Durang’s The Marriage of Bette and Boo. Driven mostly by dialogue, the plot addresses the topics of identity, fate, existence and reality while poking fun at theatrical concepts and its source material (for example there are frequent references to Hamlet walking around and talking to himself).
The plot is familiar, but it’s turned on its head. The audience follows Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as they answer a summons from the King and Queen, who ask them to figure out what’s bothering Hamlet. Along the way the titular duo run into The Player and his band of fellow Tragedians, poor actors looking for any audience they can get. Dispersed among Stoppard’s original work are scenes from Hamlet, though the scenes are almost always presented from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s point of view. This soon proves to be an interesting angle to the original story.
While the play is a nice introduction to absurdist theater and has a plot that’s generally easy to follow ( there’s also quite a bit of slapstick comedy to break up the heavy dialogue) it isn’t an easy play to pull off. The actors of the American Coast Theater Company step up to the challenge quite well. As Guildenstern, actor Aaron McGee comes across as a man who wants to think of himself as intelligent but struggles to understand the world around him. Katie Canavan captures Rosencrantz’s charming >innocence and naïveté. The pair have wonderful chemistry on stage together, and it is easy to believe they are best chums. As a counter to their confusion, Brock Joseph’s version of The Player displays a confident and nonchalant attitude while delivering key moments of true emotion when appropriate. The band of Hamlet characters add humor to the plot, especially Susan K. Berkompas’ increasingly drunk Gertrude and James McHale’s Hamlet, who borders on cartoonish. The actors all repeat their roles on the nights the company performsHamlet, so it would be interesting to see these actors crossover to the more dramatic story.
Moving the setting from the Renaissance to a more modern time period actually helps capture the timeless nature of the play’s theme while making it seem more accessible. It was just one of many great decisions from the production team, lead by director Christi McHale. A simple and versatile stage, great lighting work and vibrant costumes all contribute to the success of the production. The American Coast Theater Company’s production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is one that shouldn’t be missed, so I feel safe in saying their version of probably shouldn’t be either. So head up to Vanguard University and catch them both.
Two Plays, One Cast for Hamlet and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern at ACTC
American Coast Theater Company, the resident professional theater of Vanguard University, will present two plays as part of its 2016 Summer Series. Shakespeare’sHamlet and Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead will be performed in repertory, in the Lyceum Theater on Vanguard’s Costa Mesa campus, beginning June 3.
Jeremy Aluma, founder of the award-winning clown troupe, Four Clowns, directsHamlet, while Christi McHale, associate producing director for ACTC, directsRosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead.
“I plan to use the audience as a more involved participant in the play, using them like another character,” said Aluma. “I also want them to have some kind of relationship to the ghosts and death in the play. Life is precious and Hamlet’s hesitancy to kill his uncle is not cowardice; it is his understanding that life is important, which leads us to think about what life is worth.”
The same actors will play roles in both productions, which will allow the audience to experience the characters from two different points of view; one dramatic, the other more comedic, both unified by related themes, questions, and tragedy.
Those actors are Susan Berkompas, James McHale, Paul Eggington, Amanda Zarr, Brock Milhorn, Ian Jenkins, Ahmed Brooks, Katie Canavan, Tyler Thoreson, Aaron McGee, Taylor Stephenson, Andrew Puente, Jason Evans, and Lola Kelly.
In one half of the experience, audiences will hear Shakespeare’s classic verse – in the other, Stoppard’s witty and philosophical modern banter juxtaposed with physical comedy. The two productions will also share a unified aesthetic and design, with scenic elements woven throughout both shows.
“We will be physicalizing the idea of man as a puppet through the action on stage and the design, in a way that we cannot wait to share with audiences,” said McHale. “It’s a wonderfully collaborative process with the actors and whole design team; the device of actors performing a play within a play gives us so much room for creativity and theatricality.”
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