By Jessica Osnoe, Assistant Artistic Director and Master of Education
One of my favorite things about Sweet Tea Shakespeare is that the artists involved in a production have a share in creating both the world you see on stage and the trappings (costumes, props, set pieces) which help make it real. The moments during rehearsal or dedicated workdays when such things happen have become some of my favorite times. It’s during these days, like one last week when I sat in a sewing circle attaching suspenders buttons to costume pants, that I got to talk with cast mates and laugh as we figured out what we were doing, often by trial and error.
This process is both endearing and gracious; it provides an opportunity to grow as we solve problems together and allows people to learn how to make and do things. In such an atmosphere, it’s easy to laugh at our own mistakes and appreciate how we learn with others to translate an idea into reality. For me, there is an implicit trust in such actions that acknowledges my fellows as family; we grow and learn both with and from each other, sharing ideas, help and laughter in turn.
If you have experience sewing on buttons, or would like to learn more about it or any of our design/tech elements, please visit www.sweetteashakespeare.com/volunteer.
By Candace M. Joice, STS Visiting Artist
When Anton Chekhov titled his final play, which he wrote over a period of several years, it was a very personal selection. He talked about the play to almost no one as he was writing it, not even to his wife. In fact, he only revealed its name to her to comfort her following her miscarriage, and she later recorded that when he finally did tell her, he said its title in a whisper.
Chekhov was a deep admirer of all things green. He had a special fondness for trees that was fostered in his youth and sustained throughout his adulthood. Russia’s movement towards massive deforestation in the age of industry was something that broke his heart; his play Uncle Vanya reflects this concern particularly. At one point in his later years, he bought a country estate in Russia and planted his own small cherry orchard. When he had to sell the estate to move to a warmer climate due to his poor health, he was later devastated to learn that the new owner had cut down most of the cherry trees.
Cherry blossoms are a lovely sight to behold. When you see several cherry trees clustered together, the effect is quite dazzling. But if you don’t pay attention, you can miss the blooms entirely; their blossoms usually last for no more than two weeks.
The trees are particularly popular in Asia, where they have taken on special significance. In Japan, they are upheld as a metaphor for life: a brief bloom followed by the inevitable fall. In China, cherry blossoms represent things of promise: education, hope, youth, virility, and feminine beauty. Wherever they are located, they represent death and rebirth and new awakenings.
How touching to note, then, that Chekhov completed this play in 1903, less than a year before his own death. The final story he offered to audiences is one of life and death, the closing of some doors and the opening of others. It is not, however, a tragic tale. Quite the opposite, actually, for Chekhov resolutely insisted that The Cherry Orchard is a comedy.
It is helpful to think of the characters of the play as trees in the orchard. When doors close, others open to them. They move forward, and will bloom again after the winter. They endure seasons of winter, only to be revived in glorious beauty once again in the spring:
Lubov: We go away, and not a soul remains behind.
Lopakhin: Till the spring.
By Brandon S. Bryan, STS Master of Stage
I am a man. I have man-parts, manly features, a man’s voice, and I get cast in roles written for men which, honestly, is a lot of roles.
Think about this: how many strong, meaty, important or impactful female roles can you drum up off the top of your head? Go on, think about it for a good ten seconds, at least. Some of the more theatrically-educated and inclined might have come up with enough to count on two hands. Seems unfair, doesn’t it? One might ask, “why doesn’t someone do something about it?”
This lack of strong, substantive roles for women – especially in classical and Shakespearean plays- gave rise to a new branch of Sweet Tea Shakespeare: the Honey Series. The series aims to put talented women in the spotlight by presenting plays which feature strong female casts. The Honey Series debuts with Antigone, a Greek Tragedy centered around the titular character and her struggle to find justice and decency regarding the burial of her brother; an act forbidden by the King of Thebes. In the spirit of Honey, the cast is comprised of five women and two men. Of those women, three are playing multiple roles, some of which would traditionally be portrayed by men. This might not seem like a very big deal, (especially, perhaps, to men); yet, consider how a fresh perspective can change even a mundane sentry or messenger into an intriguing, resolute character committed to do what is right no matter the consequences.
The Honey Series is an important part of bringing equality and fairness into the world of theatre. Nowhere else offers such opportunities that specifically target women. As it continues to develop and grow, I hope to see many more women given the opportunity to display their craft. This town is home to so many talented and inspired women, and now there is a place that wants to show how talented the females of Fayetteville truly are.
And they deserve nothing less.