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The Lady from the Sea

Written by Henrik Ibsen
Directed by Susannah Martin

Photos by Ashley Forrette

Presented by the American Conservatory Theatre’s Professional Training Program
October 24 – 27, 2007

Lyngstrand / Nick Gabriel
Stranger / Lloyd Roberson
Dr. Wangel / Patrick Russell
Ellida Wangel / Liz Sklar
Arnholm / Chris Tocco
Bolette / Kelsey Venter
Hilde / Erin Washington
Ballasted / Weston Wilson

Costume Design / Callie Floor
Dramaturge / Michael Paller
Production Manager / Dick Daley
Set Construction + Scenic Painting: Joel Franquist + Larry Krause
Sound Design / Susannah Martin + Jake Rodriguez
Stage Manager / Tanner Agron


Written by Luis Alfaro
Directed by Susannah Martin

Photos by Steve Decker

Presented by Sacramento Theatre Company
March 28 – May 20, 2007

SACRAMENTO BEE “The production maintains a fine balance of tones and honest emotional integrity under Susannah’s Martin’s sure measured direction.” – Marcus Crowder

SACRAMENTO NEWS & REVIEWS “5 Stars, Shockingly Good..Director Susannah Martin, a recent MFA from UC Davis, balances the show’s many diverse elements and changing moods adroitly, and brings tension to a brutal ending that’s foretold.” – Jeff Hudson

Director’s Note
Program note written in collaboration with dramaturge Jon Rossini.

Electricidad, “a Chicano take on the tragedy of Electra,” combines elements from the Aeschylean, Sophoclean and Euripidean dramas of Electra with additions and substitutions that reflect the specific conditions of East Los Angeles Chicano culture. In the story of Electra, Clytemnestra, wife to Agamemnon, has killed her husband after he returns from a 10-year absence while fighting the Trojan War. Electra, who becomes a slave to her mother and her mother’s lover, Aegisthus, waits many years for her brother, Orestes, to return and avenge her father’s death. When this act of matricide finally occurs, Orestes is driven mad. He is only freed from this madness when the gods determine that the father’s divine right outweighs that of the mother—a patriarchal and not a matriarchal culture must dominate.

The political and cultural structure of Alfaro’s setting, an East Los Angeles barrio, is organized around cholo culture, a specific articulation of Chicano urban consciousness. Often associated with gang identification, the word cholo also reflects a larger cultural history of marginalization that harkens back to the Pachuco and the Bandido. The Pachuco, explored in Luis Valdez’s seminal play Zoot Suit and Octavio Paz’s Labyrinth of Solitude, is an identity forged in the spaces between US and Mexican culture. The Bandido, or bandit, is exemplified by the romanticized Joaquin Murrieta or Tiburcio Vásquez.

Their actions, and the stories told about them, contested the incursions of U.S. cultures into previously Mexican spaces. All three of these figures have an ambivalent relationship to the communities from which they come. They served and serve as a form of political resistance that questions corrupt and abusive power; they manifest cultures and identities that provide alternatives to mainstream representation; and they often practice a range of extra-legal and even violently destructive activities. Alfaro’s account of cholo culture ties it into Aztec mythology, giving it a long cultural history that parallels the long mythic history explored in Greek tragedy. The complexity and richness of this history and his characters allows Alfaro to provide the audience a vision of the cholo that does not immediately reduce cholo culture to media stereotypes of violent gang behavior.

Unlike the Clytemnestra of the Greek tragedies, Alfaro’s Clemencia attempts to usher in a new world, a new possibility of living that moves away from the old cycles of violence and from the male dominance that accompanies that violence. Also, unlike the Greek versions, Clemencia has no lover; she is trying to make it on her own, putting into question the morality of a murder that in other versions of the story is clearly an evil act. Two characters new in Alfaro’s version, Abuela and Ifigenia, offset the supposed villainy of Clemencia. Abuela, the grandmother, offers a useful counter to Electricidad’s assumption that life was better in the past, illustrating not only the matrilineal responsibility for child rearing, but also a long history of the social marginalization of Chicanos that results in a “cholo culture.” The sister, Ifigenia, already dead in the Greek versions, is here born again to offer Electricidad an alternative to the path she has chosen for herself. Ifigenia is not presented as a model of reform, but as a complex character groping for another way, exploring the possibilities of spirituality and forgiveness.

Orestes, a young man with a poet’s heart, is forced to harden himself in order to take his father’s place whether he wants to or not. Alfaro’s presentation of his preparation to take over his father’s “kingdom” questions the limits of this violent form of masculinity by demonstrating Orestes’ own concerns about submitting to a male role forged in violence. The chorus, which represents the polis, or society, in Greek theater, here consists of Las Vecinas, three neighborhood women who are constantly attempting to clean up the barrio while they share tales of their place in the city. These chismosas, or gossips, provide a sense of comic relief that reflects the everyday survival strategies of women protecting their neighborhood. At the same time, as caretakers of their community’s history, they clearly articulate a fundamentally ambivalent relationship to cholo culture.

Alfaro’s careful attention to the humanity and complexity of his characters effectively combines the issues of fate in Greek culture with the cycles of violence attached to urban gang culture. It forces the audience to examine the choices made by a community pushed to the edges of society and marginalized by explicit and subtler forms of racism. By setting the play within a Chicano cosmos Alfaro not only captures the humor and innovation that enable Chicano culture to survive, he offers the possibility of an intra-ethnic critique—an internal questioning of the values of that culture. These questions are the same large questions that Athenian audiences were asking in the face of the original tragedy: What choices are possible when fate appears inescapable? What notions of honor and responsibility are worth preserving? What is gained and lost by holding onto values that are themselves potentially problematic? How is it possible to make a good, ethical choice in a world in which cyclical violence becomes a rational answer? What sacrifices can and should be made in order to change the world? And finally, in this urban space charged by the electricity of the protagonist, shaped by the deprivations of discrimination and limited resources, how can one move beyond violence and revenge?

Electricidad / Saffron Henke*
La Cuca / Therese Llanes
Ifigenia / Katherine C. Miller
Orestes / Gabriel Montoya
Clemencia / Elisabeth Nunziato*
Nino / Roscoe
La Connie / Nancy Silva
Abuela / Janis Stevens*
La Carmen / Irene Velasquez

*Member of AEA

Artistic Director / Peggy Shannon
Managing Director / Kendra Lewis
Assistant Stage Manager / Susie Evon
Costume Design / Rebecca Redmond
Dramaturge / Jon Rossini
Fight Director / Melanie Julian
Production Manager / Betsy M. Martin
Properties Manager / Jenifer Schlosser
Set Design / Steve Decker
Stage Manager / Drea Konomos*
Technical Director + Lighting Design / EJ Reinagel

The Faith Project

Conceived, Written, + Directed by Susannah Martin

Photos by Elise Kane

Presented by UC Davis Department of Theatre + Dance
May 11 – 21, 2006

Director’s Note
The impetus for this project was political, personal, and creative.

After 9/11, I became fascinated with the continuous accusations that all religious extremism existed “over there” – in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Europe. I kept hearing that America, by contrast, was the birthplace and paragon of religious tolerance. I had a strong urge to get past propaganda and find out what people were really thinking about religion, belief, and faith. Additionally, after a particularly horrible year of personal family tragedy, I began to wonder how, in the face of calamitous loss, people hold on to their faith.

I come from mixed faith parents who didn’t bring me up anything and yet I have often wondered about my religious heritage and what community I missed out on. I longed for an understanding of some special tradition that deemed me a part of some group. Really, the longing was simple: a desire to fit in. But sometimes I was curious if participating in a weekly ceremony with a consistent community would have absolved me from the feeling that I didn’t belong.

Despite this longing – or perhaps, because of it – theatre has been my church for a very long time. It is the place I fit in. It is the place where I am part of some special tradition. It is where I go to for fellowship, ritual, ceremony, spectacle, and to commune with something higher – something greater – than myself.

So I began to ask myself the question: what would it mean to connect the two worlds of theatre and religion? What would it mean to create a theatrical liturgy? When is theatre spiritual? When is a service theatrical?

This production – devised by myself, the choreographer, the music director, and an immensely talented, giving, patient, and imaginative group of performers – is the result of those questions. I realize that I am trying to ask and answer questions that are too big for one full-length piece. And that there are many, many questions we have not asked at all. But it is a start – an experiment with something greater than myself. And, I hope, one that passes off some modicum of both insight and entertainment – spectacle and reverence.

Written, created, + performed by
Jennifer Arnott
Samantha Blanchard
Christopher Maikish
Karen Marek
Ashanti Newton
Michael Ortiz
Karuna Takahashi
Natasha Tavakoli
Carolyn Thomas
Rosa Threlfall

Francesca Jimenez
Ara Glenn Johanson
Joanna Tripet-Diel
Jossie Tripet-Diel

Dance Chorus
Rebecca Abednour
Jennie Amaral
Mary Anderson
Brennan Figari
Hector Marin-Rodas
Vivian Thorne

Jesse Fineman / cello
Parsa Kamali / right bass
Dave Malloy / piano + mbira
Juliet Shih / oboe
Natasha Tavakoli / djembe + percussion

Choreographer / Kristin Heavey
Composer + Music Director / Dave Malloy
Costume Designer / Victoria Livingston-Hall
Lighting Designer / Daniel Goldin
Set Designer / Javan Cayo Johnson
Sound Designer / Richard Scholwin
Stage Manager / Samantha McBride

Parts of this production were originally presented as a workshop as part of the Shotgun Players Theatre Lab in September of 2004.

Richard III

Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Susannah Martin

Presented by Woman’s Will
July 9 – August 14, 2005

OAKLAND TRIBUNE “…director Susannah Martin and a cast of 12 fiery women offer plenty of rewards…a nightmare does indeed inflict Richard toward play’s end, and director Martin stages it beautifully, with all of Richard’s victims covered in black veils and dancing through his foul deeds.” -Chad Jones

Director’s Note
A civil war has raged for 30 years between the House of York and the House of Lancaster. The warring factions are of one family and brother fights against brother: the White Rose against the Red. When peace is declared, the House of York claims the throne of England and makes Edward IV their King. But there is blood on everyone’s hands and vindictiveness in everyone’s hearts.

During the War of the Roses, most involved manipulated their way to a position of power. Peace is declared but several nobles hold a grudge and many seek vengeance. Characters smile with one face and spit daggers with another. Like a bunch of children fighting over a toy, they curse, taunt, jeer, and insult each other. Into this enmity leaps Richard, a man spoiling for a good fight.

When most people think of Shakespeare’s Richard III they have an image of the bard’s “bottled spider” or “bunch-backed toad.” Richard is the great, deformed, Machiavellian villain; the devil incarnate. But what if Richard is not simply a “bad apple” but the worst in a barrel of rotten ones? What if Richard is only the biggest bully amongst a pack of fighting kids?

When Richard takes action, he invites us along for the ride. We love Richard because he tells us the truth even while he lies to others. He expertly charms the snakes while letting us in on his plans. He seduces us with his devilish wit and cunning machinations. While the rest of the aristocracy denies culpability, Richard invites us to revel in his successes.

The women, children, and common citizens of the play entreat with us to listen — to notice his monstrous acts — but the other characters hitch their wagons onto Richard’s and we, the audience, are too entertained by his wiliness to stop the show.

By the time Richard has become King and has moved on to slaughtering the innocent (the two princes locked in the Tower) it is too late to halt the runaway train. We change our minds about our alliance with Richard because he kills children, becomes irrational, paranoid, and hasty in his decisions, and, most importantly, he no longer confides in us. But why didn’t we stop him earlier?

Richard III is an example of what happens when we allow terrible deeds to flourish because they seem to serve our ends. When our own quest for power or safety allows a man to become a tyrant. The acts that Richard commits
are transparently corrupt and immoral, yet the other characters sit by and say nothing. And neither do we.

Queen Margaret, Ensemble / Karen Aldridge*
Ensemble / J. Rachel Anderson
Duke of Clarence, Ensemble / Diana Boos
Queen Elizabeth, Ensemble / Jenny Debevec
King Edward, Duchess of York, Ensemble / Carolyn Doyle*
Lady Anne, Ensemble / Elissa Dunn
Duke of York, Ensemble / Quinn Haberman
Richard III / Emily Jordan
Sir William Catesby, Murderer / Jessica Kitchens
Prince Edward, Ensemble / Claire Martin
Duke of Buckingham / Leontyne Mbele-Mbong
Lord Hastings, Ensemble / Erin Merritt
Earl of Richmond, Ensemble / Bernadette Quattrone

*Member of AEA

Artistic Director / Erin Merritt
Assistant Director / J. Rachel Anderson
Assistant Stage Manager / Erin Badillo
Costume Design / Rebecca Redmond
Fight Director / Carla Pantoja
Set Construction / Peleus Uhley
Set Design / Ron Reisner
Sound Design + Music Composition / Eric Roth
Stage Manager / Amanda Melton

Miss Julie

Written by August Strindberg
Directed by Susannah Martin

Photos by Luiza Silva

Presented by UC Davis Department of Theatre + Dance
March 3-6, 2005

Jean / Scott Baird
Christine / Jessica Kitchens
Julie / Rosa Threlfall

Costume Design / Rebecca Redmond
Dramaturge / Aaron Begg
Lighting Design / Ron Reisner
Music Composition / Phil Daley
Scenic Design / Victoria Livingston-Hall
Sound Design / Kristen Orlando
Stage Manager / Amber Whitney
Assistant Stage Manager + Properties / Jennifer Anson