Playing March 7-28, 2004
"A rare treat... A rich artistic melange... Priscilla Allen, grand dame of local theatre has outdone herself!..."
"Director Robert Salerno, choreographer Esther Emery and designer Nadja Lancelot all provided me with a hearty boost to my bliss, using their handsome cast of 17 actors as though they had bred them for this very occasion. (Salerno and Lancelot even did a slick new translation ). I just relish the joyous leaps through torn logic and the startling images in such improbable juxtapositions."-- Welton Jones, SanDiego.com
"An evening of absurdist delight... a true tour-de force... astonishing... rife with craft and subtlety... must be seen."-- Charlene Baldridge, Village News
"Two brilliant, hilarious, and thought-provoking productions... "-- Rob Hopper
"Using a singular sense of comedy, symbolism, and satire... under the insightful direction of Robert Salerno, the show moves at a breathless pace leaving one always thinking, laughing, and feeling a bit confused – but definitely never bored."-- Playbill.com
"Classic Cocteau... absolutely not to be missed... Priscilla Allen is powerful, in charge, bigger than life... This is a must see."-- Carol Roper, SD Jewish Times
Robert Salerno's award-winning production of The Wedding on The Eiffel Tower, by Jean Cocteau
Running with Eugene Ionesco's hysterical farce, The Painting,
both starring Priscilla Allen
March 7-28, 2004
TUE, WED @8PM;
Best Direction-- Robert Salerno
Outstanding Costume Design
(IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE)
Priscilla Allen, Charlie Riendeau..........Phonographs
Jen Meyer.....................The Ostrich, A Telegram
Jim Turner...........................The Photographer
Terence Burke...................The Hunter, A Telegram
Nick Herrera...............The Manager, The Art Dealer
Jen Kraus.........................The Bride, The Groom
Erin McKown...............Mother-in Law, Father-in-Law
Rhys Green.................................The General
Eric George.............................The Ushers
Sandra Little..........................The Bridesmaids
Wendy Savage....................The Cyclist, The Child
Annette Nixon.......................The Bathing Beauty Rachael VanWormer.......................A Telegram Brennan Taylor................................The Lion Tom Fitzpatrick..................The Art Collector
Setting: The Eiffel Tower, Paris, 14 July 1921
Priscilla Allen has been a theatrical institution in San Diego for decades. She has starred on all of the major local stages and has also appeared opposite such stars as Arnold Schwarzenegger in film and TV. Beyond her monumental talent, she is much beloved for her generosity of spirit and her many years of teaching excellence and dedication.
Charlie Riendeau was last seen as Alfieri in the award winning View From the Bridge with Renaissance Theatre. Before that, Jonathan in Arsenic and Old Lace, Clint Cary in Spaceman of Ocean Beach, Quince in Midsummer Night's Dream with New Village Arts, The Reverend in Buried Child at NCRT and Serebryakov in Uncle Vanya. He has acted in 10 plays for the Old Globe and Stage Managed 6 others. He has directed 20 plays and served as Artistic Director for The Ramona Hillside Players and The Temecula Overland Players. Charlie has served on the board of directors of the Fritz Theatre for 5 years.
Jen Meyer is a quadruple threat- actor, singer, dancer, choreographer who has worked at Eveoke, Women’s Rep, SD Comic Opera, and the Beacon, Muse, & Stone Soup Theatres.
Jim Turner performed in the title role of Vantage Theatre’s The Butterfingers Angel, and in Picasso at the Lapin Agile, and The Shadow Box, both at Mira Costa College. He also is currently appearing as The Painter in Vantage Theatre’s The Painting.
The Trouville Bathing Beauty
Annette Nixon is a triple threat. She has performed as an actor at Starlight Bowl (Evita, Jekyll & Hyde), dancer (Disney Cruises), and stage manager at Starlight and SD Rep.
The Eiffel Tower
Nick Herrera has recently appeared at Mira Costa College’s The Merry Wives of Windsor (as Dr. Caius) and Picasso at the Lapin Agile (as Pablo Picasso).
Terence Burke has been seen in productions at Vantage Theatre, Coronado Playhouse, 6th@Penn, Lyceum Space, San Diego Opera, and last year’s AASD Actors Festival.
Rhys Green is CO/FOUNDER AND ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF THE SAN DIEGO BLACK ENSEMBLE THEATRE. NEW YORK ACTING CREDITS: THE PHANTOM SWORD, SLAVE TRADE, HOME COURT, THE ROBERTO CLEMENTE STORY, THE COTTON CLUB REVUE AND A RIBBON IN THE SKY. SAN DIEGO CREDITS: FOOL FOR LOVE, THE AFRICAN COMPANY PRESENTS RICHARD THE III, MISS EVERS BOYS, PILL HILL, LIFE’S A DREAM, MOJO AND THE SAYSO, AFRICAN MEDEA, HARLEM DUETS, KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN. DIRECTING CREDITS: AFRICAN MEDEA, BONDAGE, SAM I AM, BEIRUT,THE SECRET GARDEN, PROMETHEUS BOUND, AND HOME (KPBS AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTOR)
Wendy Savage has performed recently in The Marriage of Bette and Boo, Christmas at The Starbrite Diner, and Conventional Behavior. She has appeared in films and on TV (TLC).
The Dealer and The Collector
of Modern Paintings
Nick Herrera & Thomas Fitzpatrick
Tom is excited to be a part of this incredible theater experience. Tom was last seen in Flaming Idiots at Lamplighter’s and “not seen” as the Polka-dot Ghost with Big Joe Puppet Production. Other local favorite credits include 6th@Penn’s musical hit Trolls, and Diversionary’s critically acclaimed Psycho Beach Party. Thanks to family, friends and Vantage Theatre.
Erin McKown is a newcomer to S.D. She has recently appeared as a dragon for the Playwright’s Project at The Globe.
Eric George is a veteran of AASD and is known about town as one of the mimes of Imagination Express. Eric is also among the Living History crew aboard the Star of India.
Jennifer Eve Kraus recieved her degree in Acting from The College of Santa Fe in 2001. You might have seen her recently at NCRT as Grete in Sight Unseen or as Sara In the Patte Award Winning Ensemble of Stop Kiss.
Sandra Little. Actor: "Kingdom of the Shadows" (Chronos Productions), "Wannabes: Episode I" and "The Wedding on the Eiffel Tower" at the Actor's Festival 2003;"Deathtrap" & "12 Angry Men" (Parrot Players) and "Hennry the Horse" - Beacon Theatre. Stage Manager:"Farside of Paradise" (6t@Penn). Lighting Tech:"Fridays with Maureen"(Beacon Theatre).
Brennan Taylor has performed at the Lyceum.in the Fritz Blitz last summer. Most recently, he was at North Coast Rep in "The Rainmaker". He says that this show makes him want to travel.
The Dancing Telegrams
Terence Burke, Jen Meyer, Rachael Van Wormer
Rachael Van Wormer. Acting credits: Sarah in Seascape, and Willie in "This Property is Condemned" (Grossmont College); Echo in Eleemosynary (La Jolla Stage Co.); Amanda in "Curious Dangerous" (Fritz Blitz 2003); and The Player in "Rozencarantz and Guildenstern..." (Hilltop HS); Playwrighting experience: Playwrights Project and the Fritz.
Robert Salerno (Director, Music Designer, Producer) is Artist In Residence at Vantage Theatre. He is an author of poetry, screenplays, and plays, and has directed for stage and screen. A workshop production of his epic OPHEUS ROX was one of two plays selected as “Critics Pick” for 1999. Other recent productions include a staged reading of The Holy Man. He has loved Cocteau’s Wedding ever since he directed and starred in it as a radio play, and he is delighted to have teamed up with so many gifted and dedicated artists to bring it to the stage. The 2003 San Diego Actors Festival production won awards for Best Production and Best Direction, as well as a "Billie" Award for Outstanding Costume Design. Watch for a return to the stage of OPHEUS ROX this summer.
Esther Emery (Choreographer) Local directing credits include: Green (Staged Reading at Muse Theatre); Jason and Claire (Playwright's Project); Like a War and Xtreme Unction (Fritz Blitz 2002); Love's Fire (Stone Soup Theatre Company). Esther is also a professional Stage Manager and a Board Member of the Fritz Theatre. She is currently Stage Manager for A Divine Comedy at Lamb's Players Theatre.
Sally Stockton (Lighting Designer) is Technical Director and Lighting Designer for Vantage and 6th@Penn. She coordinates Vantage’s apprenticeship program and is an accomplished actor. Sally has designed for Diversionary, Fritz, St. Cecilia's, Circus Earth, Grossmont Opera. Her most challenging design to date was for the multimedia Vantage world premiere workshop of ORPHEUS ROX, at the World Beat Center in Balboa Park.
V. Nadja Lancelot (Art Director) is an MFA graduate from the Theatre Department at UCSD in scenic and costume design. Theatre productions include Having Our Say at the La Jolla Playhouse, Why We Have a Body at the Diversionary, Macbeth, Mad Forest, and Don Juan at UCSD. Her film credits include Art Director on several Disney productions, Traffic, For the Boys and K-9. Nadja is also a professional murals designer and painter.
Sheila Rosen(Costumes) is an award-winning costumer and actor. She has most recently received critical raves for Vantage Theatre’s Frankie and Johnny in The Clair de Lune.
Sheila and Nadja won the 2003 "Billie" Award for Outstanding Costume Design for The Wedding on The Eiffel Tower.
Click picture for more on The Painting, by Eugene Ionesco
The head that speaks sonorously from a gramophone
in "The Wedding on the Eiffel Tower," now at the Lyceum Stage, is
the same one that exploded for our governator in "Total Recall."
San Diego theater fans will know to whom that putty face belongs: Priscilla
Allen, grand dame of the local stage, Allen's outdone herself in a pair of
little-seen absurdist plays produced downtown by Vantage Theatre as "C'Est
L'Absurd." Jean Cocteau's "Wedding on the Eiffel Tower" and
Eugene Ionesco's "The Painting" both offer strange, demanding roles
to Allen whose vocal and physical resources and sheer stamina are something
The "Eiffel Tower"(1921), is one
of Cocteau's first works. Like the Serge Diaghilev modernist ballets that
it so closely resembles, this absurdist romp is both visually fascinating
and gently satirical. Vantage director Robert Salerno staged the cubist-inspired
piece with Allen during the most recent Actors Alliance Festival here, which
may account for the smooth performance when it was revived over the weekend.
Allen and actor Charlie Riendeau are encased
in gramophones on either side of the stage, just their faces showing, as they
narrate the playful, non-linear proceedings. A photographer in formal attire
tries, and perpetually fails, to shoot a picture of the wedding party on The
Eiffel Tower. A dancing ostrich escapes from the mechanism and draws a rifle-toting
hunter. The stuffy Tower manager gets in on the act, as well as a stiff German
general (Rhys Green) and a roaring lion. Members of the wedding party itself
are two-sided creatures, male on one side, female on the other. All wear Picasso-style
masks that show their features from many angles at once. The gramophone faces
speak all the dialogue, while the actors mime. Along the way, new technologies
and proto-fascism come in for mockery that must have seemed even grimmer when
the work premiered just after the devastation of World War I. "Wedding"
is a rich artistic mélange, connected to the progressive music, art,
and dance of its period in ways that few theatre writers and almost no regional
theaters, attempt these days.
It's a rare treat to see it staged. The jaunty,
mildly dissonant musical selections evoke the Paris of the musical collaborative
Les Six (Georges Auric, Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, Arthur Honegger and
others inspired by composer Erik Satie). Happy to report, Salemo, Allen and
company (despite an obviously limited budget) reveal Cocteau's tone and spirit
The Ionesco piece opened brilliantly Sunday
with Allen as The Corpulent Gentleman delivering a blustery monologue. Dressed
as a fat-cat capitalist who rants about the lack of beauty in his materialistic
life, Allen's Gentleman intimidates a young painter (Jim Turner, wonderfully
obsequious), with a canvas rolled under his arm, who's come to sell "The
Painting." Allen's Gentleman segues ridiculously from bravado to blubbering
as he whines about his unhappy childhood and the ugly, deformed sister whom
he is forced to support, and even worse, to look at everyday.
Ionesco's would-be art patron turns the tables on the painter, forcing him to pay for the privilege of having his work displayed. And in a final inversion, the Gentleman, who's fallen pornographically in love with the sexy woman who steps forth from the painting, turns artist himself. But there's a hitch..The Corpulent Gentleman kills both real beauty and real women to objectify them. Both plays on this "C'Est L'Absurd" program are rife with such timely themes. The more one contemplates the ideas and imagination enshrined in these performance scripts, the more impoverished our contemporary realistic theater seems.
Cocteau and Ionesco Plays
Review by Welton Jones, San Diego.com
The chance to see some virtuoso acting
by a local icon and a general air of saucy abandon? That should be enough
to drawn mid-week audiences to the Lyceum Space Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays
through March 28.
Vantage Theatre has the Lyceum lease
these days for its version of Terrence McNally's "Frankie and Johnny
in the Clair de Lune" but the real news is a pair of plays by Jean Cocteau
and Eugene Ionesco featuring Priscilla Allen, well-known force of nature.
Allen plays a "corpulent gentleman"
in Ionesco's "The Painting," which follows with lip-smacking, ironic
lechery the abuse and misuse of art by commerce (or something) as the gent
perfects the use of violence to transform his surroundings into erotic fantasy.
In Cocteau's "The Wedding on the
Eiffel Tower" (1921), Allen joins Charlie Riendeau as a pair of gramophones
flanking a stage-full of stylized Dada characters including an ostrich, a
cyclist, a bathing beauty, three telegrams and a wedding party as they interact
mutely inside the famed monument. All the words come from the phonographs,
Others may knot their brow over the
meaning of Cocteau plays, but not me. I just relish the joyous leaps through
torn logic and the startling images in such improbable juxtapositions.
On this occasion, director Robert Salerno,
choreographer Esther Emery and designer Nadja Lancelot all provided me with
a hearty boost to my bliss, using their handsome cast of 17 actors (most of
them unfamiliar to me) as though they had bred them for this very occasion.
(Salerno and Lancelot even did a slick new translation of Cocteau's play.)
Allen anchors the Cocteau but she dominates
the Ionesco, with Jim Turner scurrying and dodging as a supplicant painter
and Laura Bozanich swinging between dominant and submissive as the gent's
elderly (and equally salacious) sister. Naturally, Allen fits herself in with
the generosity and craft of the seasoned player but I can assure everyone
of two things:
None of the other 16 actors will soon
forget working with Priscilla Allen, and...
Priscilla Allen is the best (though not the only) reason to seek out this show.
Vantage program reveals void in local theater
by Martin Jones Westlin, San Diego City Beat
The night started when the scurvy little blob of a kid iced the members of a wedding party ’cause he wanted to share their croutons with the audience. The gal a few rows down couldn’t have stifled her gale-force laughter if she’d wanted to; that scene from Jean Cocteau’s The Wedding on the Eiffel Tower had her (and the rest of us) by the ass.
This avant-garde milestone scathingly slams the advance of technology, class distinction and wartime mentality. Add the auspices of San Diego’s gritty Vantage Theatre, and it also becomes a superior entry in a three-play bill running in repertory at the Lyceum Theatre downtown.
The San Francisco Mime Troupe of 1960s America had a similar idea—social discontent was acute in Cocteau’s post-World War I Paris, and director Robert Salerno fleeces the fervor in The Wedding.
He gilds Cocteau’s disenchantment
with the defiance of a true iconoclast. The scene where the boy pelts the
guests is handled almost joyfully, and Sheila Rosen’s bright costumes
and Salerno’s great stop-and-go stage pictures eventually yield dancing
telegrams, a hunter who can’t see past his nose (Terence Burke), a pompous
paper-tiger general (Rhys Green) and the dubious prospect behind ostriches
and lions disappearing into a camera.
A funny Priscilla Allen and Charlie
Riendeau don’t narrate so much as pontificate; their heads are encased
in vintage phonographs to illustrate our technological disconnect. What’s
more, the play is done in pantomime—and as Cocteau robs the actors of
their speech, so too does he predict similar estrangement for us all. His
play is a hilarious textbook on the almost mean-spirited absurdity of everyday
life and the realization that we’re not alone in our dismay.
The second one-act is The Painting,
one of Romania-born playwright Eugene Ionesco’s wonderful works. Ionesco
moved to France in the late 1930s, just as a Hitler sought to plunder the
globe in the name of his Master Race. He found something bourgeois in such
psychopathy and his plays illustrated the asininity of social distinction
and the false values it creates. It’s a world in which the Corpulent
Gentleman (a brilliant Allen) talks a young artist (Jim Turner) into renting
space for display of his own work in the Gentleman’s home. Underneath
his riches, of course, the Gentleman is worth the cost of the carbon it takes
to keep him viable. The crazy climax says as much, preceded by a tirade from
the man’s sister, Alice.
The final entry of the night, Frankie
and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, is playwright Terrence McNally at less than
his best, although the show features the right look and decent production
values. Director D. J. Sullivan patiently shepherds actors Daren Scott and
Devlin in a quirky tale about requited love and one party’s unsettling
persistence to that end. But McNally’s small talk renders Frankie’s
fears almost anticlimactic. And there’s something Woody Allen-ish about
Johnny’s befuddlement—while Scott’s OK philosophically,
he could go further in adopting an according body language.
No such complacency was evident in the
patron who went crazy. She had a ball during the absurdist plays, delighting
in a visit from two of the most renowned figures of their genre. “You
don’t see this stuff done here,” she declared afterward, her smile
threatening to split her face.
Her observation speaks to a trait that
San Diego’s arts scene sorely lacks.
New York and San Francisco came to be
this country’s theater capitals through a key element that San Diego
misses—the true spirit of competition. Competition, after all, yields
the difference between some fine absurdist fare every so often versus a yearly
absurdist festival, however modest.
At this point in San Diego’s theater
history, the like-minded company could essentially create its own ground floor,
propelling others to follow suit in search of that girl who busted a gut.
If relatively unsung heroes like Vantage don’t do it (and here they do it pretty darn well), who will?
The Thirteenth Annual Actors Alliance Festival wrapped up a highly successful two-week event that included the work of some 100 local actors, 20 local playwrights, and 24 plays. This year’s festival featured numerous pieces of polished, entertaining, and creative works, beginning with Jean Cocteau’s The Wedding on the Eiffel Tower , the most anticipated event of the festival starring local favorites Ron Choularton and Priscilla Allen as human phonographs who narrate the story and supply a host of quirky characters with their voices. Cocteau, a friend of Picasso, creates a world that feels like you’re lost in a Picasso painting (aided by the swirling background of the Eiffel Tower that drew us into the surreality of the scene, and the fact that many of the characters wore painted blocks for heads with Picasso-like faces, some of them being two-sided (some four-sided) so that they became two (four) characters in one – just a few of the fantastic creations of Nadja Lancelot).
The surreal world is situated on the Eiffel Tower right after World War I, and concerns a photographer whose “birdie” (the one that his customers are supposed to watch when he takes their picture) is an ostrich that actually runs away and gets chased by a mighty ostrich hunter. Meanwhile the photographer ends up photographing a very odd wedding party, his camera going even more berserk in the process. Now, instead of “birdies” popping out, out jumps a bathing beauty, a little boy who is the wedding couple’s future son and who massacres the entire wedding party with balls of wedding confetti, and a hungry lion that munches on a stubborn general who thinks everything out of the ordinary is a mirage (and therefore isn’t afraid of the lion who, logically, must really not be there).
Using a singular sense of comedy, symbolism, and satire, Cocteau illustrates the often ridiculous and tragic nature of war, society, and our social conventions. Technology seems to be out of control (the freaked out camera) and yet controlling us (with the phonographs dictating and explaining the actions of the humans). With the charismatic ensemble who fully embrace Cocteau’s weirdness, and under the insightful direction of Robert Salerno , the show moves at a breathless pace leaving one always thinking, laughing, and feeling a bit confused – but definitely never bored.
La Jolla director/playwright Robert Salerno staged Jean Cocteau's "Wedding on the Eiffel Tower" during the Actors Alliance Festival is presented at the ARK Center for the Performing Arts on Kettner Blvd. Salerno, whose "Orpheus Rox" is soon to be staged in Los Angeles, made much of Cocteau's amusing premise that images captured by the camera can be released from the black tunnel to wreak havoc. Art director Nadja Lancelot's black and white backdrop suggested the Eiffel Tower; her colorful costumes were redolent of Picasso. I was more than mildly entertained by the absurdist concoction.
Comments from Rob Hopper- Judge of Festival
~ Outstanding Direction ~
Robert Salerno for The Wedding on the Eiffel Tower
"The most ambitious production of the Festival was definitely The Wedding on the Eiffel Tower, a mind-bending romp through the lands of surrealism, absurdism, and Picasso run amuck in a hysterical farce that hits on technology, war, society, and the very nature of reality. Director Robert Salerno’s creative and insightful direction, along with an exceptional cast and artistic crew, produced a performance that completely sucked us into this extraordinary world with all its peculiar characters and problems that strangely mimic the characters and problems in our real world."
~ Outstanding Production ~
The Wedding on the Eiffel Tower
"And finally, the award for Outstanding Production of the 2003 Actors Alliance Festival goes to the show that offered so much on every level of theatre, from the beautiful and imaginative surrealistic sets and costumes, to the fantastic performances by the cast, the incredible direction, and the unusual but unforgettable script – Jean Cocteau’s The Wedding on the Eiffel Tower."
2003 Playbill "Billie" Award
Outstanding Costume Design:
Nadja Lancelot and Sheila Rosen for The Wedding on the Eiffel Tower (Actors Alliance Festival)