Thursday, August 30, 2007

First year CONNECT trip to American Village

American Village was a perfect place to talk about liberal arts, theatre, history, and more.
Back to Front: Liz Wyngaert, Alan Litsey, Joseph Laughridge, Kristen Lennard, Jordon Crewnshaw, Conner McVey, Destiny Traweek, Chelsie Miller

Taking Stock

Joseph Laughridge, Destiny Traweek; Jordon Crenshaw, Amanda Kramer (Peer Advisor)

More Fringe

Here's the copy of the wonderful article written by BSC English Major Jeremy Burgess for the Birmingham News.

TO THE FRINGE: BSC takes Southern adaptation of Strindberg play to Scotland festival
Tuesday, July 31, 2007

JEREMY BURGESS For The Birmingham News

When Alan Litsey, a theater professor at Birmingham-Southern College penned an adaptation of August Strindberg's 1888 classic "Miss Julie," he chose to set his script in the American South. Now he's getting a chance to bring the South to the other side of the world.

Litsey, along with his ensemble of cast and crew members, left Monday to showcase the world premiere of his adaptation of "Miss Julie" at the world-famous Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. Beginning Friday, they will perform the play nine times at the C Soco venue there.

"One of the reasons we chose the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is that it's the largest arts festival of its kind," Litsey says. Last year, the festival advertised 28,014 performances of 1,867 shows in 261 venues, a larger tally than the year before. "We are excited to give our students the opportunity to work in that kind of international venue."

Along with Litsey, the BSC Edinburgh contingent includes Kate Jenkins, a recent BSC graduate from Vestavia Hills; Amanda Kramer, a junior from Alabaster; Mac Smith, a sophomore from Auburn; Alex Brouwer, a senior from Fort Payne; Nikki Craft, a senior from Decatur; and Laura Spurgeon, a sophomore from Phenix City. Faculty making the trip are director Michael Flowers, scenic/co-lighting designer and technical director Michael Mielke and co-costume designer Patti J. Manning.

Although Litsey put a great deal of time into the writing of his script, the actual production process was a bit rushed - especially for the students. "The production time is much shorter than that of most plays that we work on at BSC," Kramer says. "I still can't believe that we ran the show in front of an audience after approximately two weeks of rehearsal."

Rehearsing was just one of the tasks the ensemble had to accomplish. Throughout the summer, they've been building sets, designing costumes, and perfecting every piece of the process. Although the students have said that working during the summer is nice because of the absence of schoolwork, it has still been a tremendous task putting this production together.

"It's easy to become overwhelmed by all the responsibility of putting the production on its feet," says Jenkins, who was given the daunting task of playing the title role in "Miss Julie." "But I know that my main job is to explore my character to the fullest extent." That exploration doesn't come easily. Just ask Smith, who was given the role of John, the play's least likable character.

The character "is, essentially, an evil man," Smith says. "(Playing this character) is particularly hard because I have to draw these maniacal feelings from places that I was unaware I had to draw from, and it can be rather frightening. I have to find pieces of my life in this alienated and constant theater life that allow me not to lose myself in the character."

There is one element that each of the actors already knew how to adapt: their Southern backgrounds. Being from the South was an added advantage for each of the actors. Litsey, however, faced the more difficult task of bringing the American South to a play that was originally set in 19th century Sweden.

"I've made my home in the South for over 17 years," Litsey says. "I love the region and, other than my native central California, it's the culture I know best. And, certainly, our company of theater students brings rich, Southern-based experiences to our process. We hope that the play will connect with a diverse audience, at home and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival."

When penning his adaptation of "Miss Julie," Litsey was forced to update not just the region but the time period of the play as well. "`Miss Julie' in its debut was considered controversial, dangerous, edgy," Litsey says. "It's still a great, great play. But what happens if we envision how our 21st century challenges might influence Strindberg's rich, complex world?"

"Miss Julie" won't be finished after the Fringe Festival - the ensemble will be performing the show at Birmingham-Southern on Sept. 18-23. After that, Litsey will take up the role of directing an adaptation of Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" that takes place during the '60s for BSC's fall production.
© 2007 The Birmingham News
© 2007 All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Student Company members with our host for an English High Tea with BSC Alum Byron Matthews at the Scotsman Hotel.

Nikki Craft and Laura Spurgeon and a handful of food props used in the show.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

More pictures of BSC in Edinburgh

We gather at the airport waiting for a flight. We seemed to spend a fair amount of time waiting in airports.-Atlanta, Newark and Edinburgh.

The entire Miss Julie Company before the gates of Holyrood Palace. When the Queen comes to Edinburgh, she stays at this palace. She did not come out to greet us-probably busy that evening.

Alex, Amanda and Kate. Behind them is an ex-volcano in the middle of the city with the peak known as Arthur's Seat.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


The Rover by Hunter Productions

The Rover is one of the great discoveries of the 20th century--a virtually forgotten comedy-drama by one of the two most popular dramatsts of the Restoration. Amazing, in the male-dominated theatrical swirl, Behn single-handed created the role of the first professional female playwright in history.

Hunter Productions brings The Rover to life at the Edinburgh Festival with a zest, honesty, and creativity that would have made Behn herself proud. Her language has as much wit as any Stoppard play and still very relevant social comment. In this company's graceful hands, her words are urgent and full of vitality. Tom Hunter, as the rogue Willmore, makes us like the scalawag despite his considerable faults. Abby Forknall, Sarah McKendrick and Valeria (as Florinda, Hellena and Valeria) are a formidable trio. Together they model Behn's new vision for fighting the gender war.

Natasha Dawn plays the take-no-prisoners courteson, Angelica. In addition, she is director and adaptor, pairing down the original text to 90 minutes of swift playing time. Dawn stages the play with panache, making full use of the small space, beautifully chosen props and costumes. This is true ensemble work.

View some excellent production photos at

This production is a disctinctive example of young professionals at their best--creating their own opportunities in the setting of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. As Behn herself did beginning in the fateful year of 1640--they are making it happen for themselves.

What a fitting finale for my Feast of Fringe plays.


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Rosebud: The Lives of Orson Welles

Rosebud: The Lives of Orson Welles made its debute at the Edinburgh Festival in 2004, and fortunately its back this summer. Created by Emily and Christian McKay, it's a brilliant insight into the humanity, humor and achievement of one of theatre and film's most dazzling figures.

For those who may not know Welles' work, he is most known for the infamous War of the Worlds radio broadcast on Halloween night in 1938. His Citizen Kane is embraced by many as perhaps the finest film ever made--and almost destroyed forever by Kane's real-life archetype, newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst. Welles preferred making art to making money--though much of the money he did make went into his own film-making pursuits.

Christian McKay's performance is a rare gift for theatre lovers. He is unpredictable, charming, dangerous, fiery, elegant, unforgettable. He captures' Welles' rhythms and mannerisms with astonishing grace--making them his own.

The writing, direction and simple scenic design is as seamless as the performance. Though Welles was larger than life, in an hour and twenty minutes, Rosebud captures his Falstaffian essence. I did not intend to "blog" today--but this was an important theatre event. For me, as a long time theatre goer--it will be one of the events--a magical experience. And one that asks some big questions about the nature of creativity, politics, personality, and more. What more could one ask for?

Find a link to a clip of Rosebud: The Lives of Orson Welles at

And--the production may come to the US and Birmingham in the near future. I urge you to see it if you can.


Friday, August 10, 2007

Joanna at the Fringe

Joanna is an intriguing play by Neil Brand playing at The Jazz Bar--the most inviting venue I've attended at the Fringe. It is a comfortable, cool, and charming space with loads of history.

Brand adapted the play from a from his radio play. Here's the description of the story form the web site: "One grand piano. One secret. Joanna tells her tale of being encased in wood for a century, revealing more than just a few notes… "

Joanna's "notes" play on the connection between art and human experience, the ephemeral nature of it all, the fragililty of magic, and its importance in our lives.

The talented young company share the story with passion, pathos and humor. It was a delightful hour of theatre.

We have two more performances of Miss Julie, so more "flyering" for us--and we're hoping to catch some more good productions as well.


Thursday, August 9, 2007

Alex's pictures of the trip so far!

Scotland outside of my window in the plane!

Mac and Spurge having dinner in front of the Edinburgh University!

Spurge, Amanda, and Kate having at picnic!

I like the way you prep


Over the past three weeks, our ensemble has been on an emotional roller coaster. The cast had to come in and immediately create intimate relationships and duplicitous characters without the crutch of a script. “No time to waste with scripts! We’re going to Scotland in three weeks!” We had to design, construct, and prepare the scenic elements with less of a technical crew and more of a—well, whoever had their hands free to work. “We don’t have time to redo this! Time management in crucial! We’re going to Scotland in TWO weeks!” We have bit our tongues, gritted our teeth, and pulled out our hair. “What else do we have left to do? We have to go back to the store? We don’t have time for that! WE’RE GOING TO SCOTLAND IN A WEEK!” Why do we allow ourselves to become stressed, you ask? Because we love it! At the end of the day, we have one goal—to entertain. “If you can’t run with the big dogs…”

We have had our fair share of fun getting ready. My favorite preparation experience was taking Mac to karaoke. He needed to connect with his inner rock star to prepare for his character, John, and I just needed an excuse to go. Instead of rocking out, Mac decided to ‘bust a flow’ to Big Boy’s “I like the way you move.” (Video blog hopefully coming soon.) Please note that I met Mac at nerd camp two years ago—which is not an insult because I was there too! Needless to say, I was shocked, but not long enough to keep myself from joining our posse in a sing-a-long.

I’m not sure what else to explain about our prep work. I could go through the intricate details of how we made the props, hung the lights, arranged the set… or you could just come to the show and see all of our hard work put into action! Until then, keep checking back here to see what’s happening. Don’t forget to look for that V-blog! Also, Mac will have to do his own blog discussing the tattoo experience, a saga in its own right.

The Bloody Tour

Ok, so we were under the impression that we agreed to go on an underground tour through Edinburgh to see the "Lost City." Much to our surprise, there was a big blood red tri-fold advertisement at the meeting spot informing us that we were going on a haunted underground tour. That's not what we signed up for, but we agreed. The tour guide made it very clear that some women have had strange encounters with ghosts, such as having their hair pulled and coming out with scratches on their arms. Without hesitation, we two ladies agreed that throwing punches would be our best defense.

The stairs leading up to the side of the hill smelt like urine. Great. The door opened into an old college flat for the university that is now housing us. Awesome. The story goes something like this: the resident of this particular flat became bored one day, and after knocking around on his walls, realized they were hollow. So, he did what anyone in their right mind would do and took a sledge hammer to it, revealing a secret city.

The secret city contained a series of vaults--stone caves in short. The vaults housed anyone needing anonymity such as thieves and rapists. These vaults are now apparently haunted by those that died within. We were really excited to be there, to say the least. There have different reportings of attacks by spirits, such as pushing, having the sensation of being followed, and showing up in pictures as gray like figures.

Our favorite story was of the watchman. He was always described in the same manner: long dark hair, with half of his face disfigured, and wearing a long black cloak. Who did this sound like to me? Bill Weasley, ladies and gentlemen! Of course I (Spurge)have been reading the last Harry Potter book, so it's probably just wishful thinking. Two tours have been known to follow this figure as if he were the tour guide (who is also clad in a black cloak) until he "disappeared" into the wall. (I wonder if anyone actually followed him into the wall?)

The last room we entered contained medieval torture devices. On the far wall was a device known as the man trap, which I (Spurge) confessed I had been looking for for a long time. The most noticeable device for me (Nikki) was the anal probe. Hmmmm, what does that do? Well, it's heated and inserted....

So anyways, the tour was pretty cool, but the day tour is too short. Our guide was cool, and even came to see the show. Cheers!

Nikki and Spurge

Grasmere at the Fringe

Yesterday's theme reflected "man's inhumanity to man." Surely a fertile pool for the theatre, including this year's Fringe offerings.

Grasmere, which I saw performed yesterday, is a subtle and poignant meditation on this issue as well. Here is the description of the premise on Grasmere's web page: "Lives unravel as jealousy, addiction and love threaten to tear them apart. In the exquisite seclusion of the Lake District, William and Dorothy Wordsworth live happily until the unexpected arrival of old friends promises to change their lives forever."

Grasmere is the setting of the play. Web sources indicate it is the final home of Wordsworth. For Wordsworth, it is an oasis for his genuis to flower. For his sister Dorothy, the pastoral setting is a microcosm of early 19th century western culture. In one distinctive scene, Dorothy, clearly a gifted individual in her own right, unleashes her anguish at the limitations her gender has placed on her options. This fateful choice leads her to a difficult and painful choice that will define her fate.

The play raises provocative and timely questions. How does gender influence our lives, positively and negatively? What is the "right" choice? How is society blinded by its own bias and agendas?

Grasmere is performed by a youthful company, all of whom are mature and sure of their craft. Their honesty and integrity to their characters and the play, I think, is what this kind of Festival is all about. I hope we'll hear more from this company,


Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Underground of Edinburgh

Yesterday a few of us took the famous Underground tour of Edinburgh. Interesting, this site of "Old Town" was bricked up and forgotten until the 1970s. A bored college student discovered a certain wall seemed hollow and battered it down--discovering an underground lairs undisturbed for over 150 years.

The vaults were created, circa 17th century, as the over-crowded city had no room for growth. Conditions were dangerous and deadly, the average life expectancy for those poor citizens inhabiting the vaults was about 18 months. Crime in the vaults was rampant. The vaults are a respository of innumerable tragic stories, known and unknown.

Allegedly, there is much paranormal activity in the Underground vaults. In one gloomy space, we were warned to avoid entering a circle defined by ancient rocks. This warning was framed with a rather dramatic story. Our guide put a brilliant button on her tale as she switched off her flashlight, plunging us into the most dense darkness you can imagine.

The tour ends with a visit to a small room with mighty implements of torture that have been collected over the years. Our articulate guide shared a few more stories to make our heads spin. This is truly a memorable, if dark insight into a piece of Edinburgh's history.

Needless to say, we invited our guide to the afternoon's show, and she graciously accepted!


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

photo time from Edinburgh

Our performance space: C Soco Venue Studio 1-a brand new venue, so new it does not yet have houselights. It is in the very large attic of a building next to the main C venue. It has 58 seats in thrust arrangement and is, compared to many spaces that act as venues at the Festival, quite user friendly.
On the Royal Mile--many thousands of people, most of whom are handing out flyers to promote their plays, music events, dance and comedy shows. Edinburgh is an amazing, ancient, exciting city during Festival time.
Our approach to Edinburgh Airport. Here we are over the Firth of Forth after an approach over the city from southwest to northeast. Final leg will take us over Arthur's Seat before landing at the airport.

Julie's Daily Journey

Many thanks to my friends Tony, Joan and Rowan Haigh for being guests in our audience last night. Tony and I go back to graduate school days. Tony and Joan teach at Centre College, a member of the Associated Colleges of the South consortium. It was a real treat that Tony, Joan and their daughter Rowan (who works in the theatre like her dad) could see our work.

We have lucked out. Most days are sunny--not typical for Edinburgh. Ideal weather for our afternoon flyering, and perhaps catching a quick show. Late afternoons are all about preparation for "magic time" (as Jack Lemmon used to call it). Actors do make-up and hair at the "flats," then everyone walks or take a short bus to the C Venue on Chamber Street. Other company members are carrying props, including our previous laptop computer!

The first few days, dressing rooms were not available. They are now, though all company members schlepp up three flights to our performance venue in Studio One. We generally wait about twenty minutes for the previous show to end, then a C Venue staff member gives us the cue to enter the space. We wait for the stage to clear, then the company sets up within five minutes. When the house open, audience members are seated within a few minutes. The show lasts 68-70 minutes. Then we "strike" the show within five minutes. After a brief post-show chat, all props go back to the flats!

Yesterday, my son Trevor and I caught an interesting comedy show called Heroes and Villians, playing in the basement pub of a near-by restaurant. The writing is very witty, and all connected to the challenges of post-modern relationships. So far as I can tell, the company consists of the two actors and the stage managers (who Trev and I flyering the other day). Interesting and encouraging that so many of the company members here at the Fringe are young people who appear to be in their twenties. Here we are in the midst of the new generation taking theatre to the next level!

We also caught a lunch time stand-up routine, a very funny fellow who is clearly a seasoned performer. His name is Brian, and his intentionally "low tech" political humor was original and saucy. The audience was small, couple of his buddies, also comedians, a middle-aged couple, and us--but a delightful 45 minutes. The masters of comedy also expressed interest in Miss Julie, so we may see them at a show. (Yes, I'm always looking for graceful ways to share my excitement about our work!)

I am hopeful of getting photos posted this evening--Edinburgh time. A number of us have been on the look-out for interesting bits.

A number of us are off to do the tour of the Underground Edinburgh at lunch, before dazzling the city with our flyering technique.



Sunday, August 5, 2007

Bob says, Bloody Brilliant!

Hey everyone, this is Alex. Today was a very productive day! Not only did I see one show before our performance, I passed out tons of flyers and even twenty actual tickets. Yay! I had a lot of help from Spurge. People seem to actually talk to her! People here are so pretty- no really, they're gorgeous! They are all friendly too.
Bob came to see our performance tonight. I have never met this Bob before, but he said the show was "bloody brilliant." He promised to pass the word along about this amazing Miss Julie company. ( We were all wondering if we could put that on our flyers; you know, "Bloody brilliant!" -Bob.)
Today before the show, all of the actors were in places, and our C-venue staff member started to announce that we were ready to begin. At that moment, the light board monitor went completely black. We died. The end. Ok, just kidding. We managed to fix it in a couple seconds and went on with the show. Then, in the middle of the show, a light cue refused to come up correctly, so we decided to skip it and move on. Really, we just wanted to see if the actors were on their toes! They survived beautifully!
Right now we're just hanging out at the cafe in the theatre building. A gorgeous guy is currently staring at Amanda (who can really blame him?). He's in the show that we're going to see tomorrow, called Someone Who'll Watch Over Me. Mac saw it a few days ago and hasn't shut up about it since, so we thought we'd try to see it. Also, tomorrow, I'm going to see a kid's show. I'm kidnapping ten-year-old Rosalind (Alan's adorable daughter) to go with me. I'm excited! I hope Alan doesn't press charges! : )


PS- Karate chop your neighbors!

Flyering High (Street)

Promotion is the Word for each day. High Street is one of the The Spots that company members who are producing at the Festival attract an audience. Not only are actors, stage managers and technicians passing out flyers (colorful postcards trumpeting our shows), but street acts abound! Fire eaters, magic acts, musicians, tight rope acts--just to name a few--festoon the streets with color and action.

The challenge is to make a personal connection with as many passers-by as possible. It is not enough to merely get our flyers into someone's hands, to but entice them with something about the world of the play in about ten seconds. Yikes!

"Flyering" is also a great opportunity to meet other Edinburgh theatre folks. In fact, I suspect that company members make up a significant number of theatre goers at the Festival. We have exchanged flyers with more than a few. Hitting the streets is essential for generating audiences.

The most interesting production I've seen at the Festival--not that there's been much time yet--is Tony the Blair Musical. The writing is fresh and funny, and the young company plays it with a brash charm.

Well, off to lunch, then more "flyering" for me...and perhaps a quick squint at show before our 5:15 performance.

Look for photos shortly, and more updates from the company!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Cheers, mates!

Hi! Amanda here again, along with Kate.
Well, we survived opening night! This is not a small accomplishment. We had to put on our make-up and do our hair back at the flat, and then we gathered all of our costumes, accessories, shoes, extra make-up, props pieces, and who knows what else, for the trek down the street to the theatre. Because it was opening night, Ms. Patti treated us to a bus ride to the theatre, so that we wouldn't have to walk. Once we arrived, we tried to change into our costumes in a crowded restroom, and then we all gathered in the lobby of the theatre, only to find that the venue was running shows about ten minutes behind schedule. I don't know how all of the company members felt, but I was a bit relieved to find myself with a few extra minutes to breathe before we had to jump on stage! We began our set-up and fight warm-up five minutes before the house opened, and then we were on. For me at least, the show flew by. I think that there were perhaps 15 audience members there, but I really didn't pay much attention. We had a few technical difficulties in that one of the panels on our kitchen counter fell off, and then Kate's necklace went flying off her neck just before the big fight scene began. Thankfully, we were able to recover from those two unexpected events fairly easily. I tried to replace the panel during one scene, but it fell off again. The next time I went on-stage, I was able to motivate carrying it off-stage while still in character (at least, I think I may have pulled that off!). Miraculously, brilliant Kate managed to catch her necklace as it went flying over her head! Other than that, the show seemed to run pretty smoothly, and now, I think we can all breathe just a bit easier. Until tonight's performance at least!

Now Kate informs me that I have written quite enough, and it is time for some of the other company members to make entries. So, we leave you for now, and head off to harrass Mac, Spurge, and Nikki into writing to you!

-Kate and Amanda

Alarms and Adventures

We awoke yesterday morning to the sound of bold alarms. We found ourselves together on the Clerk Street sidewalk with other semi-amazed (and some of us still sleep glazed) guests. It was a quick episode to be sure. An official looking gentleman in a black suit, in tandem with at least two firemen, scoured the building from to bottom. Apparently, this big drama was due to mere burnt toast. However, romantic that I am, I preferred to think of the brilliant electronic battle cry as a declaration of the opening day of Miss Julie!

And open we did. We have loads to share with you. Briefly, I just checked the net and we have received our first review. Geoffrey Evans gives us four stars. The entire text, available at is quoted below:

"Miss Julie
The three handed play Miss Julie written by August Strindberg has been adapted by Alan Litsey bringing it up to date and also relocated in the American deep south and is performed with zest and no mean talent by Birmingham Southern College Theatre from Alabama.

Now set in the home of a wealthy family on the fourth of July, Julie, played with passion by Kate Jenkins, is the beautiful, rich bitch, crazy daughter of the house. Kristin, the much put upon family maid, Amanda Kramer and her boyfriend, trailer trash musician with a past John, portrayed by Mac Smith are the other two performers.

At the party Julie makes a play for John, because she can and her attentions are not rebutted but him, but does he have an ulterior motive? Who is Julie’s stalker? Is Kristin as mild as she seems?

The answer to these questions can be found by going to see this superb interpretation of an engaging play, but be quick the show only runs until the 11th."

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Scotland Rocks!

We are finally in Scotland! This is Amanda here, and Kate and I are writing to you from an internet cafe here in Edinburgh! We are about to head to the Royal Mile to pass out flyers for the show, and then we will be off to the final dress rehearsal before our opening tomorrow night. We had a four-hour tech rehearsal yesterday, in which our miming skills were put to the test; none of our set or props has arrived yet! We are all eagerly hoping for their safe arrival sometime today, but unfortunately, there are no guarantees. Oh, the joys of touring overseas!
Last night, Alex, Spurge, Mac, and I went to a party at our venue. We met a ton of theatre people, most of whom are from the UK. Everyone is very friendly and excited about the festival. We plan to try to go and see tons of shows while we're here. Kate has already seen two! (Sadly, I was too exhausted yesterday to drag myself out before the party; lame, I know!) Kate and the rest of the company saw Tony: The Blair Musical, and she also saw a musical called Famished, which they described as a combination of Urinetown and Young Zombies in Love. Yep, we feel right at home around here!
Well, our time here at the internet cafe has totally expired, so we'll check back in with you later!
- Amanda and Kate