Real Live Theater

UPWAKE: Natasha Tsakos’ multimedia theatrical adventure

In Found Treasures on August 31, 2009 at 8:05 pm

A Found Treasure from the Editor

INTERNET, TED.COM – Playwright and performer Natasha Tsakos works in a brave new form of theater, where sound, computer-generated images and the performer move in sync to create a dreamlike yet sharply real stage environment. Within this space of total possibility, Tsakos muses on the deepest questions of the human soul.  Tsakos presents part of her one-woman, multimedia show, Upwake. As the character Zero, she blends dream and reality with an inventive virtual world projected around her in 3D animation and electric sound.

A Found Treasure from the Editor shares with you a peak at an item from our collection of favorite pieces we’ve found on the internet. Enjoy!

Carol Mayo Jenkins: creating a life beyond the footlights

In Artist Spotlight on August 20, 2009 at 2:56 pm

by Ray Sikorski

Carol Mayo Jenkins in Collected Stories at Cinnabar Theater, photo by Eric Chazankin

Carol Mayo Jenkins in Collected Stories at Cinnabar Theater, photo by Eric Chazankin

KNOXVILLE, TN – Carol Mayo Jenkins may be most well known for her role as English teacher Elizabeth Sherwood in the popular 80s T.V. series Fame – and that’s perfectly all right with her.

“I moved to Los Angeles with two suitcases to do 12 episodes, and it lasted for six years,” says the London-trained actress. “I was very proud of that television show. And because it was about the school of the performing arts, it was about everything that I love anyway.”

While embracing a mainstream television series might seem inconsistent with a career spent performing Chekhov, Strindberg, Beckett, Pinter, and Albee, to Jenkins it all makes perfect sense. To this grande dame, it’s not just about time spent on the stage or in front of the camera. It is a life, filled with experiences that go well beyond the footlights.

The Tennessee native trained in London at the Central School of Speech and Drama and soon afterwards started a new theater company called Drama Center London. The company did a successful tour of the U.S. and later returned with playwright Harold Pinter for off-Broadway productions of The Dwarfs and A Night Out. Those never made it to opening night, however, when the cast’s visas were denied. Jenkins moved on – first to act on Broadway in Philadelphia, Here I Come!, and later to San Francisco, where she was offered work with the fledgling American Conservatory Theater. It was A.C.T.’s first season in San Francisco, and it was characterized by non-stop work; the company put on 16 plays in 22 weeks, and followed that up the next year with 22 plays in 40 weeks. The all-day, all-night schedule included not only rehearsal and performance, but constant training – voice lessons, singing lessons, Alexander technique, mime, and more.

“It was just incredible,” says Jenkins. “I don’t think there’s been a theater in this country – certainly not before or since – with that kind of scope.”

Working hard was nothing new to her. She credits her training in London with giving her a different sort of perspective on acting.

“”When I went to school in England we were trained not just to be good actors, but to be theater artists, and to want to create and build and do extraordinary things in the theater. If you don’t want to just stand around and hold a spear, build your own company. If you’re unhappy with the roles you’re getting, create your own theater.”

And create she did. In the years that followed, Jenkins defied a traditional logic of gradually taking on bigger and more impressive roles, instead building theaters and theater companies, spending six years in L.A. for Fame, living in Mexico City to film a novella, and working in more than 20 regional theaters throughout the countries.  Once she confounded her agent by taking an understudy role in a production of First Monday in October in Washington, D.C.; he felt it was beneath her and a bad career move, but she wanted to do it anyway. After all, she got to spend time in the Supreme Court to research the part, and ended up becoming great friends with Henry Fonda, the play’s star.

“I mean it was a fabulous lifetime experience, one I will never forget. So, what’s so bad about that? I often think actors get so intent on, ‘I can’t leave New York, I can’t do this, and I can’t do that because I’m building my career,’ that they forget that building your career is living.”

She contends that off-the-stage experiences are just as important as on-stage experiences. “That’s the fabric of one’s life, and that’s one’s material. That’s what you have to draw from.”

Fame to her was not just about the show, it was about learning to act for the camera, learning to live in L.A., and the rewarding feeling she got when she visited performing arts schools that popped up around the country, inspired by the show. Likewise, on a trip to Lithuania and Russia in 1991 for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, her lasting impression was one of international kinship among actors during a tumultuous time.

“And so it’s as much the work that one does as the places that that work takes you,” says Jenkins, who has returned home to Knoxville, Tennessee to perform and teach. “Not only in the world, but in your own mind and heart that are important.”

Carol Mayo Jenkins in Collected Stories at Cinnabar Theater, photo by Eric Chazankin

Carol Mayo Jenkins in Collected Stories at Cinnabar Theater, photo by Eric Chazankin

Ray Sikorski wrote and directed his first one-act play in 1988, and his second 20 years later. He is a freelance writer based in Bozeman, Montana.

Additional articles by Ray Sikorski incude:

Sonoma County Repertory Theater

In Places and Spaces on August 19, 2009 at 3:17 pm

By Kim Taylor

Sonoma County Repertory Theater

Sonoma County Repertory Theater

SEBASTOPOL, CA – Traveling down North Main Street in the little hamlet of Sebastopol, California one could easily pass by one of its most valued treasures.

Built in the 1870’s, the storefront location at 104 N. Main Street was originally the town’s general store. Today, this vintage gem is an intimate 80-seat theater venue and home of the Sonoma County Repertory Theater.

Founded in 1993 as the Main Street Theater, its first production, Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Ernest,” set the standard for professional quality theater in Sonoma County.

In 1995, a second theater was opened in Santa Rosa, prompting a name change to Sonoma County Repertory Theater, fondly referred today by locals as “The Rep.” Economic challenges of operating two theaters forced the closing of the Santa Rosa location in 2000.

But, the best things do come in small packages. During the past decade the theater company has garnered respect and accolades with bold play selections and a talented roster of company players.

Without a wing space or fly system, the artistic staff of the Sonoma County Repertory Theater takes a positive approach at its main stage location with creative and inventive staging. Storage is located at an off-site facility, but administration offices and dressing rooms are conveniently located on the second floor, above the theater.

During the summer months the Sonoma County Repertory Theater can spread its wings, its vision and its audiences presenting its annual Sebastopol Shakespeare Festival with outdoor productions at Sebastopol’s Ives Park, also located downtown at 7400 Willow Street.

Featuring beautiful trees surrounding the stage, easy accessibility and a large grass area, the park venue can accommodates over 300 patrons each performance. The Ives Park location offers a family-friendly environment and Sonoma County tourists a fun, cultural destination, making The Rep’s Shakespeare fest a favorite Sebastopol summer tradition.

Sonoma County Repertory Theater has an annual audience of about 10,000 patrons. The theater company presents seven to eight productions per year including its critically acclaimed annual holiday presentation of “A Christmas Carol” and two productions for its annual Sebastopol Shakespeare Festival.

Sonoma County Repertory Theater also serves over 5,000 young people annually through its arts education and outreach programs.

Additional information about Sonoma County Repertory Theater can be found at

Mary Gannon-Graham and Wendel Wilson in Midsummer Night's Dream at Sonoma County Repertory Festival's Sebastopol Shakespeare Festival 2009

Mary Gannon-Graham and Wendel Wilson in Midsummer Night's Dream at Sonoma County Repertory Festival's Sebastopol Shakespeare Festival 2009

A former entertainment calendar editor and features writer at the Marin Independent Journal, Kim Taylor, combined her media experience and appreciation for arts and entertainment and established herself as a successful and award-winning publicist.

Additional articles by Kim Taylor include: