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Five Questions with Paul Kiernan, TSC’s Petruchio

April 1, 2014

  

How is rehearsal going for you, Paul?

Well, we ran the first act tonight. We sat in a circle and we jumped up and we said the words and we did the entire first act on the first day of the second week of rehearsal.  It was amazing.  I was so deeply humbled and impressed by the cast.  I am trying my best to find my way around this character that, admittedly, is not a character that I would normally be cast as, but I believe I am pushing myself and jumping into the fray.  Some days it feels like I am way out to sea and then, I find a moment, a line, a blip that tells me, okay, perhaps this is the right direction and then, I feel like I have a hand-hold.  I am so enjoying this process, the way the director has us working.  The amount of improvisation and the amount of work off-text has been a luxury. Yet, more than that, I am seeing how necessary the work is and how quickly and deeply it is feeding the text for me.

Has anything surprised you yet?

Dan McCleary. I worked with Dan many years ago as an actor. I did four shows with him as an actor, but I have never worked with him as a director before. Now, Dan is, as I have clear memories, a formidable, clear, passionate, deeply brilliant actor. I shall never forget his Richard III. However, being a good actor does not mean you know how to direct. Those are two completely different skill sets. Many actors cannot direct, and many directors should not act. Dan is just as skilled, just as passionate as a director as he is an actor. He is clear, he is supportive, he knows the text inside out and, above all, he understands how to talk to actors and give us exactly what we need.

I am also surprised that I am jumping in on this show. I was very worried that I would be unable to step from my comfort zone and risk enough. I am surprised how easily and how skillfully Dan has guided me to a place where I am willing to do things that I cannot imagine ever doing. There are little triumphs happening for me that, at night, I cannot believe. During an improvisation of a moment in the play where I was trying to make a point about the fact that clothes and outer trappings are not who a person truly is, I took off my shirt and stood, naked to the waist, in front of the cast. Now, for me, a heavy man, who is not very fond of his body, being able to stand shirtless in front of strangers because that is where the moment went was kind of big deal for me. I was able to do it because that is the kind of work Dan has built and has given us permission to do. It was a huge risk for me. I know that to make this production what it needs and wants to be, I must push myself.

You also have a successful film and television career going.  What’s it like being on stage and in a leading role at this point in your career? 

I am not famous by any stretch of the imagination, but I am very happy to do the TV/film work. But being on stage, for me, is always, always the best work, the most challenging work, the most rewarding work. The time, the intensity, is very different from film/TV, and it is where I learn most, grow most, and where I always feel most comfortable and alive. Being on stage is a blessing, it is a privilege, and I never forget how lucky I am every day when I walk into the rehearsal room and I get to say these words, play this character, and work with this remarkable group of people.

I have never wanted to play leads or be the star. I just want to be a part of the company and do my job as best I can. I want to serve my fellow artists, give them my very best, add to the show and then, hand it off to the audience.

What have you enjoyed about being in Memphis so far?

Well, to say “everything” is going to sound silly but, it is very true. I am blown away by the generosity of my house host, Barbara Apperson (a TSC founder), opening her incredible home to me, making me feel welcomed and special and safe. It’s kind of hard when you are on the road, you don’t have all your little familiars. You aren’t in your own bed, you’re not in your kitchen, you cannot walk to your coffee shop. All the while, you’re trying to lay yourself bare, risk it all and do the best work you can. Having housing like I have here in Memphis, so welcoming, so kind, really makes the whole situation that much easier. Also, I sure do like the puppy that I am living with too. She’s sweet.

I am so enjoying the dedication of the company. The feeling I got when I arrived was that this was going to be fun, this is going to be a good show but, most of all, this is going to be something you will be proud of, the community will be proud of, and an experience you will not soon, if ever, forget. There is a great sense of ownership I have felt in the community about this company, and that is incredible. Sometimes, when you do enough regional theater, it can feel distant. You’re just doing another show, in another town, for another audience. Here, I feel it’s very personal, very important to the community, and that makes the work that much more exciting and that much more important.

I have completely enjoyed the Germantown Commissary. That is some damn fine pulled pork.

You and Dan both acted in a production of The Taming of the Shrew in Orlando, 19 years ago in Orlando, what do you recall about that production?

Am I supposed to be able to recall anything from 19 years ago? I recall I had more hair. That was, as were all the productions I did at Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, a great show. Dan played Petruchio, and I was Tranio. I remember the concept was a riverboat situation, much gambling and such. I remember Dan coming into the pre-wedding scene, dressed in his wild outfit to shock and appall Kate and all the characters questioning him and then, he said the line, “Were it better I should rush in thus.” And then, he dropped his pants and he had on white boxers with big red lipstick marks, big kisses all over them. Well, he stood, with this great, kind-of “that’s right, I just did that” look on his face, and the audience rolled with laughter, and he held that laugh for so long, it was great. Then, he would lift an eyebrow, or smile, and the laugh would keep on rolling. That was a funny, funny moment. It was a very good production, and I had a lot of fun working with that company. Also, it is where Dan McCleary got his nickname, Gator. Ask him about that sometime.

Anything else? I know liquid refreshment awaits you.

It’s a privilege to be here. It’s an honor to be invited to be a part of this company, to work on this play, and to be welcomed into this community. I am glad there is so much love for Shakespeare here, and I hope that continues to grow. I don’t think people understand how important a resident, professional theater is. What it adds to a community. How it teaches, how it enlightens, and betters the life of a community. The arts are so important. Especially today when, in schools, the arts seem to be the first things on the chopping block. Reading plays is important. It is a very clear, immediate, kind of history. Seeing live theatre is primal for us as people. It goes back so very far. No matter what period, no matter where on the Earth, it is important to remember that somewhere, someone is standing up in front of the fire and telling a story. We have to tell these stories. If we don’t, we risk losing who and what we are, where we started and what we have achieved. We risk forgetting how to come together and experience laughter, love, sorrow, and joy as a group, as a people. So, I am very thankful, very blessed, very honored to be able to come and stand up in front of this fire, with this company of brilliant story-tellers and share what I know is going to be a splendid story, with the people of Memphis.

News

  • Eighth Season Announced
  • The Oliver Experiment
  • Midsummer Night
  • AC Wharton, Jr. Visits R&J Project in Action

Tennessee Shakespeare Company
Announces Eighth Season of Plays and Education Programs:

Celebration 400
1616-2016

(Memphis, TN, September 1, 2015) – Tennessee Shakespeare Company (TSC), the Mid-South’s professional classical theatre, today announced its 2015-16 performance season, which commemorates the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death with a celebration of plays, readings, salons, feasts, and extensive programming for children.

TSC continues its cultural/educational partnerships with the University of Memphis’ Department of Theatre & Dance and with Dixon Gallery & Gardens.  Full productions of Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well (Dixon) and Henry V (UofM) will feature professional, AEA casts from around the country and Memphis.

The Company also partners with the Memphis Hunt & Polo Club to feature three weeks of feasts and two-hour readings of Shakespeare plays that TSC has not yet produced.  The Southern Literary Salons continue in September with a focus on Harper Lee, and in February spotlighting Ernest Hemingway in Key West.  The Seventh Annual Shakespeare Gala at Germantown Performing Arts Center moves to April to commemorate Celebration 400 during the month of the 400th anniversary.

Running concurrently with the performance season are the expanded offerings of TSC’s Education and Outreach Department.  These include a newly-authored schools show touring the southeastern U.S., student matinees, playshops and residencies, expanded Summer camps, and the recently-trademarked Romeo and Juliet Project™ literacy/non-violence residency.

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Sponsored by Theatrical Rights Worldwide (NYC)

Presents its Third Musical in Development August 15 on the University of Memphis mainstage:

The Oliver Experiment

What if your entire life were a Broadway musical…and you had no clue?

Featuring Broadway’s Brightest Stars

Memphis, TN (July 27, 2015) – Tennessee Shakespeare Company, in partnership with the University of Memphis’ Department of Theatre & Dance, presents its third and final developing musical reading on the U of M mainstage with The Oliver Experiment by Jeremy Desmon and Jeff Thomson on August 15 at 7:00 pm.

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Midsummer Night

Live music, glow sticks, and power chords!
Featuring Broadway’s Katrina Lenk and Eric B. Anthony

Memphis, TN (June 15, 2015) – Tennessee Shakespeare Company, in partnership with the University of Memphis’ Department of Theatre & Dance, presents its second developing musical reading on the U of M mainstage with Midsummer Night by Valerie Vigoda and Brendan Milburn on June 27 at 7:00 pm.

Tickets for the reading are just $15, or $10 for Students and Seniors.

Midsummer Night, directed by Janet Roston, is the second of three developing musicals in TSC’s inaugural Showplace Memphis: Musical Works in Progress.

Broadway's Katrina Lenk

 Eric B. Anthony

Broadway's Katrina Lenk and Eric B. Anthony 

Sponsored by one of Broadway’s elite musical licensing companies, Theatrical Rights Worldwide (TRW) and President/CEO Steve Spiegel, based in New York City, Showplace Memphis has been devised as the next creative stage for three musicals en route to full productions in New York and on the regional theatre circuit across the U.S.  The first musical in Showplace Memphis last month was a very successful reading of Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical.  The final musical will be a charming and surprising new piece, The Oliver Experiment (August 15).

TRW has selected the musicals, and the Actors’ Equity casts and directors are coming from all around the country and Memphis.

The cast includes Broadway’s Katrina Lenk (Once; Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark; The Miracle Worker) as Titania and Eric B. Anthony (The Lion King; Hairspray; Mary Poppins) as Puck.

Songwriters Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda join with co-creator/director Janet Roston (Artistic Director of The Los Angeles Rock Opera Company) for this new take on William Shakespeare’s beloved comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The musical is set within a modern-day rock festival.  It’s a rollicking collision of rock music, iambic pentameter, and hipsters – where rock stars Titania and Oberon quarrel, festival assistant Puck creates havoc, and roadie Bottom gets a chance to shine.  

Keyboardist Milburn and electric violinist Vigoda have been singing and writing songs together for over 20 years, first for their band GrooveLily, and more recently for musical theatre and film.  Theatre:  Striking Twelve, Sleeping Beauty Wakes, Beautiful Poison, Wheelhouse, Toy Story: The Musical, Long Short Story, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, its complete reworking as the rock musical Midsummer Night, and Ernest Shackleton Loves Me.  Film: many songs for Tinker Bell for Disney animated movies.  Additional music is provided by Gene Lewin.   

The Midsummer Night creators and cast will collaborate and rehearse at the U of M for ten days leading up to its reading.  Though it will be going through both script and music changes, Midsummer Night will be played and sung in its entirety and with musical accompaniment on the U of M’s mainstage.  No other design elements (scenic/costumes/lights) will be integrated.

Audiences will have an opportunity to speak with the actors and creators of Midsummer Night immediately following its reading.  Audiences also will inform the production by completing an audience survey that will help the creative team in future development phases.

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Memphis Mayor AC Wharton, Jr. to Visit Tennessee Shakespeare Company’s Romeo and Juliet Project in Action at East High School Monday, March 23

March 17, 2015 – Memphis Mayor AC Wharton, Jr. announced today he will observe first-hand Tennessee Shakespeare Company teaching and playing its Romeo and Juliet Project with 100 ninth graders in four simultaneous sessions at East High School on Monday, March 23 at 9:00 am.

“On behalf of TSC and our Board of Directors, I am so proud and honored to have Mayor Wharton joining our teachers in the classroom,” said Project creator and TSC Education Director Stephanie Shine.  “It was at the Mayor’s urging we created this Project, and I am excited for him to see his challenge come to positive life.”

pic-romeo-and-juliet-castTennessee Shakespeare Company began its nationally-recognized, four-part performance and in-school residency in the Memphis area in January.  The Project, now in its fourth year, brings a cast of eight professional actor-teachers into each Language Arts classroom at a participating school.  Students are guided by the actors to live the play’s urgent tragedy of young love amidst rage, experiencing its relevant story while ensuring that participating freshmen have a first exposure to Shakespeare that is active, rich, and rewarding.

As the teenagers in the play face armed violence, students discover positive actions available to them in their own lives in the face of real conflict.  Student post-Project assessments have recorded a 20% increase in students’ compassion as a result of their inclusion in The Romeo and Juliet Project, as well as a full letter grade increase, on average, in Language Arts classes.

The Residency concludes with an intimate performance by the actor-teachers of Romeo and Juliet, which encourages student participation.

By the end of March, The Romeo and Juliet Project will have performed the play 44 times in 27 Memphis area schools, and will have taught the Residency in 342 classroom visits in 11 schools.  At least 4,360 high school Freshmen will be reached and positively affected by The Romeo and Juliet Project.  That figure represents 34% of all freshmen in the Shelby County Schools system.

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Tennessee Shakespeare Company is generously supported by:

Boyle         FedEx         logo-arts-memphis

International Paper            University of Memphis

logo-ibank

Theatrical Rights Worldwide

First Tenneessee Foundation

Tennessee Arts Commission


Season Sponsors:
Arts Memphis, Barbara B. Apperson Angel Fund, Nancy and Dan Copp, FedEx Corporation, Independent Bank, Ernest and Pat Kelly, Jr., National Endowment for the Arts/Arts Midwest, Milton T. Schaeffer, The Family of Margaret and Owen Tabor, Ann and Wellford Tabor, and Tennessee Arts Commission.

Season Partners:
Boyle Investment Company, Dixon Gallery & Gardens, St. George’s Episcopal Church, Theatrical Rights Worldwide,
and The University of Memphis.

Tennessee Shakespeare Company is a proud member of:
Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence       ArtsMemphis    logo-gacc          Tennesseans for the Arts     Tennessee Theatre Association