DC Metro Theatre Arts gives this “valentine to the English language” a full five stars!
DC Metro Theatre Arts gives this “valentine to the English language” a full five stars!
Now is your chance! During the run of Lettice and Lovage, QTC will be selling items from its recent productions of The Veil, Hedda Gabler, and Lettice and Lovage at below cost prices. Most of the items will be available for viewing and purchase in the theater lobby or on stage. (However, if you want to buy something used in the current show, you will have to wait until the end of the run to take it home.) You may also view our sales inventory with details and descriptions of each item on-line at http://www.32auctions.com/QTCprops
In keeping with our old-fashioned charm, QTC is only able to accept cash or checks payable to the Quotidian Theatre Company for any items purchased. Smaller items may be purchased via the mail, as well. Just send QTC a check (please add delivery charge) and we will mail your purchase to your address. Or, call 301-8160-1023 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will make arrangements with you for pick-up.
Please take a look and consider supporting QTC by taking home a treasure from one of our shows!
Typically, lighting is one of those aspects of theatre that most patrons cannot recall when you have done a good job of it. Fortunately, it has been quite a while since I made it through tech week with a bad lighting design (one that the critics noticed). Even if I don’t get mentioned in the reviews, there is still great satisfaction in seeing a well lit show. Lettice and Lovage has some nice opportunities for me to continue in the vein of doing good lighting that few people in the audience are aware of. L&L departs from many Quotidian shows in that it is set in multiple locations: the front hall of an English stately home and a couple of other, smaller locales. As is almost always the case in a theatre with limited setting capabilities, some of the location differentiation must be defined by the lighting. Lettice’s apartment and Lottie’s office are created in the same space on the stage, but will appear quite different through the use of furniture, set dressing, and lighting.
A lot of my design work is drawn from my personal affection for minimalism. My lighting has a tendency to be somewhat spare, my set designs, even more so. I have always worked from a limited color palette. I think of this leaning as a natural extension of reality and feel it is quite appropriate to Quotidian’s mission. The Writer’s Center has a small lighting rig with only 16 dimmers and I seldom use more than 20 instruments. However, the rig is adequate for most situations and I have a very high comfort level with it. On rare occasions do I evenly light the entire stage, more likely to end up with pools of light, darkness in between, and instructions to the cast on how to find their light. I expect that Lettice and Lovage be treated in this manner. One of the pleasant aspects of regular work in a small space with a minimal rig is having the luxury of building the design in your head without having to commit it to paper. When you are dealing with 150 instruments or are new to a space, you just can’t do that. So, I pretty much know in my head what the show will look like and how I will accomplish most of that look. I will make the final choices for color and levels in the week before we open.
Working with Quotidian Theatre Company is a labor of love for me. Jack Sbarbori, the Artistic Director, is quite often the set designer and set dresser. With over 15 years of collaboration, I find that I instinctively know what he expects of the lighting for a show, especially if he is directing as well. The other designer, Stephanie Mumford, who does our costumes, also works in controlled familiar palette. The result of this is a well defined set of prerequisites and an easy framework within to create the lighting. So it really is a lot of fun. This is my first outing with Lou Pangaro directing, but I have lit several shows in which he was a member of the cast and he is aware of my idiosyncrasies. And we are all looking forward to opening.
BETHESDA, Md. – Quotidian Theatre Company regulars, Jane Squier Bruns (Lettice Douffet) and Leah Mazade (Lotte Schoen), will delight audiences in Peter Shaffer’s comedy about the most eccentric tour guide ever to lead lackadaisical visitors through one of England’s dullest stately homes.
Like most outrageous comedies, it has a simple premise – colliding personalities. The tourists seem bored, so Lettice’s imagination takes flight and her inventiveness goes so far that she gets fired by Schoen, a fastidious bureaucrat.
Audiences who know the author, Peter Shaffer, will recognize the excitement he generates by opposites colliding. His masterwork, Amadeus, is based on the irreconcilable differences between Mozart and Salieri. The relationships in Shaffer’s other great plays are similar –in Equus the psychiatrist and the boy he’s treating who blinds horses; in The Royal Hunt of the Sun, the conquistador Pizarro ends up killing the Inca God-king Atahualpa.
In Lettice and Lovage, the conflict is all for laughs, though, and Bruns and Mazade are joined by QTC veteran John Decker as Mr. Bardolf and newcomer Elizabeth Darby as Miss Framer, with Ruthie Rado and David Johnson rounding out the hilarious cast.
Director Lou Pangaro notes, “What’s unique about Lettice and Lovage is that here we have two amazing parts for strong women, and this one’s a comedy. There’s a bit of blood spilled, but it turns out that polar opposites can be friends.”
Lettice and Lovage opens April 17 at the Writers’ Center in Bethesda, MD, and runs weekends through May 17, with Friday and Saturday evening performances at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at Brown Paper Tickets (http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1351426) or by calling the Quotidian Theatre Company box office at 301-816-1023.
Audience members may also join director Lou Pangaro and his talented cast directly following the 2 p.m. matinee on 26 April for an after-show discussion moderated by QTC board member, actress, and Folger Theatre dramaturg Michele Osherow.
Quotidian Theatre Company leans toward presenting works by playwrights whose “way with the words” is little short of brilliant. Not uncommonly, those plays give actors the chance to try on characters that speak in accents different from their own. In the past, I’ve grappled with a Texas drawl for Horton Foote’s The Carpetbagger’s Children and with the intricacies of a County Donegal Irish accent for Dancing at Lughnasa. Now, my task is a British accent (the one known as “received pronunciation”) for Lettice and Lovage, QTC’s production opening on April 17th at the Writer’s Center.
Playing a character who speaks with an accent adds complexity to the work an actor always does to figure out how his or her character sounds. With many accents, you use your lips, tongue, and teeth differently than you usually do to make various sounds. I’d had some experience with that back in high school, learning French. (Of course, when you’re a teenager, you’re already so self-conscious that the last thing you want to do is screw up your face and thrust your lips out to form the words properly.) Received British doesn’t provide quite as much exercise for your lips and mouth as, say, the “u” in the French word “rue,” but it has its challenges. For instance, as my character Lotte Schoen, I say “all” with my lips quite a bit further forward than they are when I say it as myself. And the consonants—particularly the sharp ones, such as “t” and “d” and “b”—have to be very clear. Then there’s the speed! We have quite a few words to say in Peter Shaffer’s lovely play, and Hamlet’s injunction that they flow “trippingly on the tongue” certainly applies.
I frankly found this all rather daunting. Lotte, in the play, has been to the best schools and is a very proper stiff-upper-lip kind of person; I desperately wanted her to have the right kind of voice, with a (reasonably accurate) accent! After dithering anxiously for a bit, I decided to call in an expert—the ever-gracious Pauline Griller-Mitchell, a card-carrying Brit and stalwart of the British Players. One afternoon in my living room, she very kindly worked through several general principles with me, coaching me on specific pronunciations and giving me tips which, during rehearsals, I’m constantly trying to put into practice. (As authors do in their acknowledgments, though, I wish to state firmly that any mistakes you may eventually hear are wholly my own!)
At one point, my struggles with the accent put me in mind of the saying that seems to be everywhere these days: Keep calm, and carry on. It was originally the wording on a poster designed to raise the British people’s morale; the government produced thousands of copies in the run-up to World War II, but it was never actually used and was later forgotten. (A copy only recently came to light in 2000.) I decided to adopt it as a kind of mantra, muttering it (in a British accent, of course) when I became discouraged. Calm would, indeed, return, and I could move forward in getting ready to play Lotte.
Now, with the lines pretty much learned and the accent pretty much under control, I find the calm starting to give way to excitement. We still have a ways to go, of course—director and cast, designers and crew—as we adjust the pacing here, tinker with a moment there, and integrate the technical features that will bring Lettice’s and Lotte’s world to vivid life. But the end is in sight. Soon, we’ll have the joy of bringing Peter Shaffer’s wonderful words to our audiences—with (some of us fervently hope) the accent and cadences he heard in his head.
One of the most fun things about being an actor is the variety of people you get to become. Life is never boring as you go from character to character. Also varying with each role are the circumstances.
For example, how do you approach playing an actual person – especially one who may still be living and/or is very familiar to the public? Think Meryl Streep as Julia Child or Margaret Thatcher, Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II, David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr.
Does the actor do an impersonation directly mimicking their subject or work more internally doing an interpretation of how the subject would feel more than look? Of course, there is no specific answer to that question – it’s very much up to the individual actor and is most often a combination of those approaches.
A similar but different situation is when the role one is about to play is almost totally identified with a specific actor. A couple of examples: Yul Brynner in THE KING AND I, Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice in FUNNY GIRL.
This is my current challenge as I prepare to play Lettice Douffet in Quotidian Theatre Company’s production of LETTICE AND LOVAGE.
The play was written and the role specifically created by British playwright Peter Shaffer for Dame Maggie Smith. So many people have said to me when I’ve told them I’m doing the role, “Oh yes, I saw Maggie Smith do it in New York (or London)”. Indeed, she won the Tony Award as Best Actress in 1990 for playing Lettice. And she is still very visible in the public eye. She stars in the current box office hit film, “The Second Best Marigold Hotel” and, of course, as the grande dame matriarch, Violet Crawley, on “Downton Abbey”. I absolutely adore watching her perform!
But then I began to feel that, in an eerie way, she was accompanying me as I prepared to play what was her role. I would almost hear her in my head and think, “Is that how Dame Maggie would say that line?” “Am I mimicking her accent?” and “Will my performance be compared to hers?” It was a bit disconcerting for a time…
…until I had a complete emotional reversal and began to think of her not in an intimidating way but rather as a compatriot. Look at what I’m sharing with her! I’m busy learning the very same lines that she had to learn and speak onstage. I’m sharing the feelings that Lettice experiences with the feelings Dame Maggie felt as Lettice, and it all becomes quite exciting.
As I’m joined by Leah Mazade who, in playing Lotte Schoen, has a somewhat similar situation (that role was created by another distinguished British actress, Margaret Tyzack), here we all are –Margaret and Jane and Leah and Lettice and Lotte – creating a lovely sisterhood with Dame Maggie!
Our production features Jane Squier Bruns as Lettice Douffet, Leah Mazade as Lotte Schoen, John Decker as Mr. Bardolph, Elizabeth Darby as Miss Framer, with David Johnson and Ruthie Rado.
Directed by Louis Pangaro. Tickets available today!
QTC is pleased to offer a limited number of complimentary tickets to U.S. military veterans to attend Peter Shaffer’s delightful comedy Lettice and Lovage running weekends from 17 April to 17 May at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda. Please see the VetTix website for details.
QTC began this practice for The Veil last summer and is happy to give back in this small way for the service and sacrifice U.S. military personnel and their families have shown our country. The tickets are available through the Veteran Ticket Foundation via Brown Paper Tickets or call QTC’s reservation number 301-816-1023 or email QTC at email@example.com. We hope a number of Vets will take advantage of this offer to enjoy the eccentric antics of Lettice Douffet as she takes on the world…
Lettice Douffet, an expert on Elizabethan cuisine and medieval weaponry, is an indefatigable but daffy enthusiast of history and the theatre. As a tour guide at Fustian House, one of the least stately of London’s stately homes, she theatrically embellishes its historical past, ultimately coming up on the radar of Lotte Schoen, an inspector from the Preservation Trust. Neither impressed or entertained by Lettice’s freewheeling history lessons, Schoen fires her. Not one, however, to go without a fight, Lettice engages the stoic, conventional Lotte in battle to the death of all that is sacred to the Empire and the crown. This hit by the author of Equus and Amadeus featured a triumphant award-winning performance by Dame Maggie Smith in London and on Broadway.