Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Contact: Scott Palmer
503 516 4840
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BAG&BAGGAGE HUNTS THE GREAT WHITE WHALE
Bag&Baggage Presents Orson Welles’ Remarkable Theatrical Experiment – The First Production In History With A Woman Playing Ahab
Hillsboro, OR – How does a theatre company take a nearly 1,000 page novel about a monstrous white whale and a 19th century Nantucket whaling ship with a full complement of sailors and perform it live on stage? The first thing you do is get a mad genius like Orson Welles to do the adaptation.
Bag&Baggage Productions, Hillsboro’s resident professional theatre, is proud to present a history-making performance of Welles’ breathtaking 1950s theatrical experiment, Moby Dick, Rehearsed, at The Venetian Theatre from March 3 – 20, 2016. Moby Dick, Rehearsed has been called “an adventure in theatre going…there is literally nothing else anywhere like it in the theatre,” by the New York Daily News.
Bag&Baggage is also the first company in history to receive permission from the Welles Estate to cast the lead role of Captain Ahab as a woman, continuing the company’s long history of giving women artists access to iconic dramatic and literary roles traditionally played by men.
Herman Melville’s quintessentially American novel Moby Dick, published in 1851, is considered by many critics to be among the most important works of the American Renaissance and contains perhaps the most famous opening line in all of American literary history; “Call me Ishmael.” There is broad critical agreement that one of the most important literary influences on Melville’s approach to Moby Dick was Shakespeare, and particularly King Lear. The novel is Shakespearean in its sweep and emotional range, and concerns itself with the nearly superhuman obsession of Captain Ahab to get revenge on the whale, Moby Dick, that nearly killed him and took his leg.
Orson Welles, famous for his movie Citizen Kane and infamous for creating a nationwide panic with his adaptation of War of the Worlds, played Father Mapple in the film version of Moby Dick starring Gregory Peck as Ahab, filmed in the early 1950s. It is likely this experience encouraged him to turn his signature directorial eye towards Moby Dick in 1955. Welles proceeded to strip Melville’s massive, epic, sprawling masterpiece down to its bare bones, transforming it from a 1,000 page novel to a less-than 2 hour play within a play.
“The basic idea of Moby Dick, Rehearsed is that a group of Shakespearean actors is in rehearsal one afternoon before an evening performance of King Lear,” said Scott Palmer, Director of the production. “The lead actor arrives and hands out copies of a new script, a rehearsal experiment, based on Moby Dick. Scripts in hand, the actors transform the empty rehearsal space into the docks of Nantucket and the deck of the Captain Ahab’s ship, and then they start the hunt for the mythical Moby Dick.”
Palmer, who has directed a number of all-female Shakespearean productions, was intrigued by the idea of having more women in lead positions in Moby Dick, Rehearsed. “There are references in the play to how difficult it will be to take the cast of King Lear and have them perform Moby Dick. Welles himself writes into the script a number of comments about cross-gender casting, which got me thinking about pushing that envelope further and including other characters into that mix.”
Palmer contacted Samuel French, who controls the rights to Moby Dick, Rehearsed, to ask if it would be possible to cast a woman in the role of Captain Ahab. “They had never had anyone ask that question before,” said Palmer. “Initially, they said they thought it was unlikely. Then, after reaching out to the Welles Estate, they came back and said maybe a 50/50 chance. After a few weeks of torturous waiting, we finally heard back. A simple email saying, ‘We just received approval on the Ahab question. Congrats.’ It was a very exciting day.”
Taking up the mantle of one of the most iconic figures in American literature is Kymberli Colbourne in her first role with B&B. “As I anticipate the opportunity to be the first woman to play Ahab in Moby Dick, Rehearsed, I can honestly say I am equal parts excitement and terror — which, for me, is the best possible place to start any creative endeavor,” said Colbourne. “I naturally feel the weight of being trusted with being ‘the first’, but at the same time I am humbled and energized by the trust placed in me by Scott and the Welles Estate. I cannot wait to get started!”
“Ahab is a whale of a role, pun intended. Everything about him is huge; his obsession, his drive, his hubris,” Colbourne said. “I love the connections drawn in this script between Ahab and Lear — another larger-than-life, epic character. The marriage of the stories of these two giants of literature and drama underscores the universal experience of what happens when power, dominance and the need to hold on to it at all costs, blinds us.”
Joining Colbourne in the cast are Bag&Baggage Resident Actors Jessi Walters (as Ishmael), Peter Schuyler (as Starbuck), Cassie Greer (Cordelia/Pip), Gary Strong (as Stubb), Joey Copsey (as the Carpenter), Arianne Jacques (as Elijah), and Eric St. Cyr (as Queequeg). Other actors include Portland favorite David Heath (as Peleg), Heidi Hunter (as Flask), and a number of high school students playing various shipmates and sailors. B&B Resident Actor Clara Hillier will provide movement and voice coaching.
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Moby Dick, Rehearsed
By Orson Welles, adapted from Herman Melville
Directed by Scott Palmer
March 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, & 20 (2016)
Thur/Fri/Sat at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2:00pm
The Venetian Theatre, 253 E Main Street, Hillsboro, OR 97123
www.bagnbaggage.org or 503 345 9590