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Location: Lincoln, Nebraska

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Final Thoughts on "Antony and Cleopatra"

A Few More Audience Comments from the Final Weekend --

Another great Flatwater Shakespeare production!

Melissa Lewis Nuss’s performance was stunning!


I said it before, I'll say it again! The best Flatwater production I've seen.

The show was amazing last night -- what an awesome job! Great entertainment, and a bonus to get to attend the Swan prior to its upcoming Extreme Makeover.

Congratulations and thanks to our stunning, amazing, awesome cast and crew. And thanks to our devoted and supportive audiences. Stay tuned for information soon on our 2011 Season. Visit us here and at our website, flatwatershakespeare.org.

Photo: Bob Hall, director and designer for the show, created an original artwork every night, with Dustin Witte's shaved head serving as his canvas. Then Dustin created an original artwork every night as well, in his portrayal of the Soothsayer. (Photo Credit: Andrea Swartz, our Octavia.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Four Shows Left!

Additional Audience Comments on Flatwater's Antony and Cleopatra

The cast did an amazing job: the acting was phenomenal!

What a love story, what a beautiful and talented Cleo [Melissa Lewis Nuss]! The whole cast was wonderful.

A perfectly scintillating performance!

I loved every minute of this; great cast, lovely night, and the playwright [oh yeah, William Shakespeare] wasn’t bad either.

Thanks for the wonderful night.

The sound design [by Stephen Buhler] defined and decorated the line between warlike Rome and exotic and sultry Egypt. I cannot stop talking about this show!

I feel that the play was put on wonderfully – the acting was fantastic! I was impressed at how skillfully the actors made evident what was going on with their tones of voice and expressions of emotion.

Watching the play I was overwhelmed by the work of both cast and crew in combination. It was a great marvel to behold, an experience that I considered very moving.

The cast and crew get major respect for pulling off dramatic, sunny Egypt in a freezing September mist.

The entire cast is amazing. Bravo!

See this killer show!

The Flatwater Shakespeare Company proudly presents
William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra
directed by Bob Hall

The Swan Theatre at Wyuka
3600 “O” Street in Lincoln
Final Weekend!
Thursday -- Sunday, September 23-26
All performances 7:30
Tickets $18 general, $12 seniors, $10 students

CALL 402-473-2897

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Isis, Venus, and Cleopatra

In the Egyptian cult of Isis and Osiris, Isis is a fertility goddess, a version of the Great Mother, like Demeter or Gaia. Her cult’s mythology and rituals center around the murder of her brother-husband Osiris and her painstaking efforts to restore and resurrect him. She is linked to magic, the renewing powers of the Nile, and the rejuvenating forces of nature embodied in the serpent shedding its skin. Isis also represents Justice and is associated with the life-giving powers of the Sun. Queens in Egypt were often worshiped as incarnations of Isis. The historical Cleopatra VII developed a personal cult as Isis-Aphrodite, also presenting herself as an incarnation of Venus (as the Romans called the deity – but Cleopatra was part of the Ptolemaic dynasty, of Greek ancestry). The mythology of Venus, goddess of beauty, love, and desire, includes her infidelity to Vulcan, god of fire and the forge, in a love affair with Mars, god of war. During the affair, of course, peace breaks out all over the world.

(The image shows a statue of Isis-Aphrodite from the Roman Empire of the 2nd or 3rd century, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.)

Shakespeare’s Mardian recalls the myth when asked by Cleopatra if, even as a eunuch, he feels desire:

Yet have I fierce affections, and think
What Venus did with Mars.

Throughout the play, Cleopatra and her attendants invoke the goddess Isis in a variety of contexts:

Good Isis, hear me this prayer!

By Isis, I will give thee bloody teeth . . .

As well as being outraged at Antony and Cleopatra being publicly crowned, Caesar is also concerned by Cleopatra’s claims to divinity when “she / In the habiliments of the goddess Isis / That day appeared.”

Cleopatra’s death, enthroned with serpents that she compares to a suckling infant, visually echoes other ancient depictions and descriptions of Isis.

The Flatwater Shakespeare Company presents
William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra
directed by Bob Hall

The Swan Theatre at Wyuka
3600 "O" Street in Lincoln
Performances continue tonight and tomorrow, September 18-19
And next Thursday -- Sunday, September 23-26
All performances 7:30
Tickets $18 general, $12 seniors, $10 students

CALL 402-473-2897

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Audience (and Other) Comments

People are talking about Flatwater's Antony and Cleopatra!

About the production overall: “Thanks for another wonderful theatrical experience.”

“The show has a lovely richness to it.”

“Beautiful, beautiful show. Go see it.”

“STEAMY hot chemistry and the play was exquisitely performed by everyone!”

“Awesome show. Everyone should see it.”

About Vince Learned as Antony: “An Antony to die for! No wonder Cleo couldn’t live without him.”

About Melissa Lewis Nuss as Cleopatra: “Amazing! One of the best performances I've seen.”

“Melissa nails one of the most difficult roles in Shakespeare. To play Cleopatra you need to be comically manipulative and flighty (literally), but also regal and sympathetic. Easier said than done. I have seen some very talented actors fall short, but Melissa brings it off exceptionally well with strong support from the rest of the cast.”

About Scott Herr as Octavius: “You have a knack for keeping it honest and passionate.”

About the staging, including Kat Covers costumes: “Everything was wonderful, but especially the dresses for the Egyptian ladies.”

About John Marinovichs fight choreography: “Fantastic . . . just like in the movie 300!"

Also, one audience member confessed that she was enamored with Danny Kubert as Mardian and has decided that she wants “an eunuch” for Christmas.

And a member of the cast “LOVES, LOVES, LOVES working on Shakespeare. Everything else just pales in comparison. I could easily spend the rest of my life going from one play to the next.”

Don't miss it!

The Flatwater Shakespeare Company presents

William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra

directed by Bob Hall

The Swan Theatre at Wyuka

3600 "O" Street in Lincoln

Thursdays -- Sundays, September 16-19, 23-26

All performances 7:30

Tickets $18 general, $12 seniors, $10 students

CALL 402-473-2897

Monday, September 13, 2010

Real Shakespeare

A couple of questions have come our way about Flatwater Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, involving the authenticity of the attire and the propriety of the production for younger audiences. Since others may have similar questions, we’d like to share our answers here.

“Authentic” is a somewhat vexed term generally, but especially in matters of dress. Theatrical costumes in Shakespeare's day reflected contemporary ideas about royal attire, not historical ones. There’s evidence of this even in the language of this play. “Cut my lace, Charmian,” says Cleopatra, at one point – clearly indicating that Shakespeare imagined her (and the boy actor playing her) in a cinched-in 17th-century bodice. “To flatter Caesar, would you mingle eyes / With one that ties his points?” demands Antony later – points being the laces used to hold up men’s hosiery in Shakespeare’s own age.

That said, Flatwater’s costume designer for the production, Kat Cover, has done a wonderful job of suggesting the historical period depicted in the play, with flowing Egyptian dresses, severe Roman tunics, and rugged leather armor. She achieved such successful effects despite a severely limited budget – this because we like to keep ticket prices affordable.

(On that point: any support, from attendance to donations, would be greatly appreciated! See details below.)

The question of propriety also connects with the idea of “Real Shakespeare”: in other words, are we keeping to the original playtext or are we adding extraneous, even gratuitous stuff? At Flatwater, we believe there are many ways of getting Shakespeare right, just as there are many ways of doing him wrong. With Antony and Cleopatra specifically, our interpretation is guided by Shakespeare’s glorious and gloriously candid language concerning sensuality and moral censure – and his acute insights as to how human frailty and aspiration can be involved with sensuality and censure alike.

So our staging includes passionate embraces and kisses (the chemistry between our lead actors has been justly described as STEAMY, all in capital letters), sinuous dancing, a brief bit of tunic-lifting, reeling drunkenness, and physical violence – culminating, of course, in several suicides. All of this, however, is done in keeping with the play’s language and structure (and also with Shakespeare’s historical source material). Most of all, we want to make immediate to our audience’s ears and eyes the searching question that Shakespeare proposes in the play: is it better to be greatly powerful or powerfully great?

Our audiences so far have included ten-year-olds and octogenarians and, in between, a group of seminarians. They have been captivated and moved by Shakespeare’s play – and our realization of it. We hope you will be, too.

The Flatwater Shakespeare Company presents
William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra
directed by Bob Hall

The Swan Theatre at Wyuka
3600 "O" Street in Lincoln
Thursdays -- Sundays, September 16-19, 23-26
All performances 7:30
Tickets $18 general, $12 seniors, $10 students
CALL 402-473-2897

Flatwater Shakespeare is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.
Send your tax-deductible contribution to:

Flatwater Shakespeare Company
P. O. Box 84935
Lincoln, NE 68501-4935

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bravado, Passion, and Tragedy

Flatwater Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra Filled with Bravado, Passion and Tragedy

By Robert Stewart, Star City Blog, September 11, 2010

Under tempestuous skies and intermittent mists, Flatwater Shakespeare kicked off its run of Antony and Cleopatra at the Swan Theatre at Wyuka Cemetery, 3600 O St.

Not deterred by mere precipitation, the cast stormed onto the stage, immersing the audience in a world where flecks of rain could be interpreted as soft sand rasping through Cleopatra’s Egypt, or the salt spray of a sea battle.

Director Bob Hall has assembled a deep roster of Lincoln’s finest actors, who are more than up to the task of populating Shakespeare’s historo-fictionalization of the great and lamentable romantic tragedy of Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile, and Marc Antony, the Roman conqueror who aspired to love her and sacrificed an empire for the pleasure of her company.

As the titular lovers, Vince Learned and Melissa Lewis Nuss create an immediate sense of the passion that bound Antony and Cleopatra together. Learned fills Antony’s early speeches with the bravado of a soldier, and late in the play, in the face of faltering military campaigns, he creates in Antony a real sense of that bravado deflating as power slips out of his grasp.

Antony and Cleopatra share an almost manic sense of fluctuation between sensual bliss and morose introspection. In the hands of Learned and Lewis Nuss, these qualities twine around each other in a serpentine fashion, sending the two gripping together tight as magnets, or conversely falling back and gasping from the exquisite tortures they devise for each other.

Lewis Nuss gives Cleopatra a regal flirtatiousness in her most formal encounters and an unbridled wit and carnal ferocity in her more private moments. Shakespearean speeches can overwhelm some actors into a lulling recitation, but Lewis Nuss adroitly avoids this, giving her lines the breath and pacing of contemporary speech without diluting the language’s poetic power.

Under Hall’s direction, she creates a motif of gesture, clasping people and objects to her breast, above her heart, providing the attentive viewer with a bit of subtle foreshadowing and pointing to Cleopatra’s (and Antony’s) tendency to make decisions with their more emotional organs.

The two leads are surrounded by a lively, capable supporting cast. Scott Herr imbues his Caesar with a touch of a Napoleon complex, giving a hint of how powerful men throughout time often have similar motivations. Andy Dillehay pulls triple-duty as Demetrius, Messenger and Clown -- although his Demetrius is not a stand-out, his performances in the latter roles are well-played and entertaining. As Enobarbus, Nathan Weiss gives a thoughtful and ultimately melancholy power to his portrayal of a soldier who betrays his leader and friend, Antony.

In the smaller role of Soothsayer, Dustin Witte makes an impression as a shaman confronted with the portent of his visions and shaken by the experience. Also worth noting is Danny Kubert, who turns in a sinuous rendition of Mardian, a eunuch and confidant in Cleopatra’s court.

Kubert also choreographed the dance sequences that appear in the production. These sequences contribute greatly to the atmospheric resonance of the show, serving at times to introduce the Egyptian setting or as a rollicking addition to a drunken party (of which there are many). One imaginative sequence is performed by Kubert and Witte using only a length of blue fabric stretched between them to simulate a battle at sea.

Director Hall takes full advantage of the talented cast during the scenes in which the stage is crowded with characters, whether they are fighting or engaging in the aforementioned drunken celebration. As an ensemble, the cast carries its own weight, never letting a populated scene distract them from their task as actors. Fluid stage pictures of off-kilter symmetry help draw the borders of the play from one place to another.

Richard Imig’s set for the production uses raw, blonde lumber as stand-ins for the sun-blasted landscape of Egypt and the columns of Rome. The set carries over the ragged symmetries of the action it encapsulates and additionally suggests the fragility of structures, whether emotional or political. The relative simplicity of the rough-hewn boards provides visual impact and versatility, allowing itself to be imagined as a palace, or a courtyard, or a golden barge, floating on the river Nile.

It is a testament to the abilities of everyone involved in the production that when Shakespeare’s stormy story reaches its conclusion in a throne room strewn with corpses, the audience feels a deep sense of loss.

The Swan at Wyuka, which has long housed Flatwater Shakespeare’s productions, will be closing for two years for renovations following the last performance of Antony and Cleopatra on Sept. 26th. Flatwater Shakespeare will continue to produce shows at alternate locations while renovations are underway, but Antony and Cleopatra will be the last chance for audiences to see a talented cast perform in the space the company calls home. "Antony and Cleopatra" will be performed Thursdays through Sundays at 7.30 p.m. until Sept. 26. Call 473-2897.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Knockout Performances!

Flatwater Deals Memorable Performances

Jeff Korbelik, Lincoln Journal Star, September 10, 2010

The Flatwater Shakespeare Company presented its version of a Lifetime movie Thursday evening in the Swan Theatre.

Complete with intrigue, gossip, bloodshed and more, Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra mesmerized the opening night audience, who sat through a misty rain in the outdoor theater to enjoy the production.

The Bob Hall-directed play featured knockout performances from Melissa Lewis Nuss and Vincent Learned as the title characters.

Nuss, a veteran on the theater scene, rarely disappoints. She excelled here in portraying the vivacious, sexy queen of Egypt or as my fiancée called her, “the drama queen of Egypt.”

Nuss has a knack for turning ordinary lines into those worth remembering.

When a slave brings her good and bad news about Antony, she intones “I do not like ‘but yet’ . . . ” which drew chuckles from the audience.

As did her jealousy of a horse when she said with a sly smirk, “O happy horse to bear the weight of Antony . . . ”

Learned, too, shined in what he has called his most difficult part to date. Sometimes a bit stoic on stage, he was not here.

He was quite at ease playing the Herculean-like Antony, conveying the fierceness and tenderness of the character when necessary.

Hall’s production also included fine performances from the supporting cast.

Scott Herr, known for his work in musical theater, pulled out all the stops in portraying the insolent baddie Octavius Caesar.

I didn’t even recognize Dustin Witte as the spooky soothsayer, complete with a shaved, tattooed head for the role. It was quite a departure from some of the lighter fare we’ve seen him do in the past.

Most impressive was Nathan Weiss, who enjoyed one of the play’s best scenes when, as Antony’s right-hand man, he told the story of his friend’s meeting with Cleopatra. It was extremely moving.

As was the entire production. The company produced a memorable staging of the Bard’s tragic love story. The only things missing were the TV cameras.

Flatwater Shakespeare presents Antony and Cleopatra tonight through Sunday, 7:30 p.m. at the Swan Theatre at Wyuka, 3600 "O" Street in Lincoln. The run continues Thursdays through Sundays, September 16-19 and 23-26. Call 473-2897 for tickets.

It's Past the Size of Dreaming

Flatwater Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra enjoyed a magnificent opening last night.

As Cleopatra, Melissa Lewis Nuss provides an alluring and heart-breaking portrait of the one of the most fascinating women in all of history. As Antony, Vince Learned communicates vividly why Cleopatra is so drawn to him -- and how he also inspires love and admiration in his troops and even his enemies.

Directed and designed by Bob Hall, the production features a strong ensemble of actors: in Egypt, Noelle Bohaty, Darin Hemmer, Daniel Kubert, Dawn Marie Moe, and Dustin Witte; in Rome, Scott Herr as Octavius Caesar, with John Marinovich, Dick Nielsen, Richard Sibley, Andrea Swartz, and Shawn White; in Antony's army, Nathan Weiss as Enobarbus, with Andy Dillehay, Eric Ojeda, and Jeff Tinnean.

The production also boasts striking costumes by Kat Cover, compelling choreography by Daniel Kubert, evocative lights by Richard Schroeder, ingenious set construction by Richard Imig, menacing fight choreography by John Marinovich, and stirring sound design and music from dramaturg Stephen Buhler.

William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra is presented in the Swan Theatre at Wyuka, 3600 O Street in Lincoln. Performances continue Friday-Sunday, September 10-12; and Thursday-Sunday, September 16-19 and 23-26. All show times are 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, and $10 for students. Call 473-2897 for reservations.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

A Most Triumphant Lady

FSC Antony and Cleopatra Opens Tonight

With Melissa Lewis Nuss as Cleopatra!

Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety: other women cloy
The appetites they feed: but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies.

As one preview audience member (who happens to be a talented film director) said about the production:

“Sexy. Twisted. Shakespeare. Need I say more?”

And $5 Opening Night Rush Tickets – call ahead!

The Flatwater Shakespeare Company presents
William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra
directed by Bob Hall

The Swan Theatre at Wyuka
3600 "O" Street in Lincoln
Thursdays -- Sundays, September 9-12, 16-19, 23-26
All performances 7:30
Tickets $18 general, $12 seniors, $10 students

CALL 402-473-2897

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Mars, Hercules, Antony

The characters in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra regularly associate Antony, the greatest general of his age, with Mars, god of war, and also with the demigod Hercules, his supposed ancestor. In the opening of the play, Philo laments that Antony is no longer the man whose “goodly eyes . . . Have glowed like plated [that is, dressed in armor] Mars.” Since Cleopatra identifies herself with Venus, it’s only fitting that she has an affair with the latter-day Mars – although in this case, he’s the one being unfaithful (to Fulvia). After learning about Antony’s marriage to Octavia, Cleopatra reveals the combined anger and longing she feels toward him:

Though he be painted one way like a Gorgon [that is, a monster],
The other way’s a Mars [that is, a heroic, godlike figure].

Hercules, son of the supreme god Jupiter and the mortal Alcmena, was noted for his strength and, at times, for his lack of judgment. His mythology includes a year-long servitude (a penalty for murder) to Omphale, a queen of the east. During his time as one of Omphale’s slaves, Hercules was compelled to wear feminine clothing and to do chores, such as spinning, associated with “women’s work.” Some ancient vases and mosaics depict Omphale wearing the skin of the Nemean Lion (killing it was one of the Twelve Labors of Hercules) and carrying Hercules’s club.

The image shows Omphale and Hercules with emblems of each other’s gender – the club and the distaff – by 18th-century painter Francois Lemoyne.

Shakespeare alludes to this myth when Cleopatra recalls how

Ere the ninth hour, I drank him to his bed;
Then put my tires and mantles [headresses and robes] on him, whilst
I wore his sword Philippan. [The sword he used in the battle against Brutus at Philippi.]

When Cleopatra succeeds in angering Antony at his departure for Rome she calls him “this Herculean Roman.”

Hercules continued as a military hero during his service to Omphale. In some versions of the myth, Omphale rewards him at the end of the year with marriage.

In one scene, Shakespeare calls for music to be heard: the mysterious sound and its disappearance is interpreted by Antony’s own men as Hercules withdrawing his divine patronage of Antony.





Saturday, September 04, 2010

Eternity Was in Our Lips and Eyes

. . . bliss in our brows bent!

The Flatwater Shakespeare Company

proudly presents

William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra

directed by Bob Hall

with Melissa Lewis Nuss as Cleopatra

and Vince Learned as Antony

Under the stars at

The Swan Theatre at Wyuka

3600 "O" Street in Lincoln

Thursdays -- Sundays, September 9-12, 16-19, 23-26

All performances 7:30

Tickets $18 general, $12 seniors, $10 students

CALL 402-473-2897


Photo credit: John Nollendorfs

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Shakespeare Intensive Fall Theatre Arts Academy

FALL THEATRE ARTS ACADEMY October 25-29 (LPS Fall Break)

Flatwater Shakespeare Company / Lincoln Community Playhouse
Shakespeare Intensive!

For students 13-18 years of age

Join Bob Hall, Steve Buhler, and Sasha Dobson of the Flatwater Shakespeare Company as they guide you through this week-long intensive course providing you with the tools to be a Shakespearean star!

Enrollment is capped at 20 students
Tuition: $125 LCP subscriber / $150 non-subscriber
Scholarships Available

Lincoln Community Playhouse, 2500 S. 56th Street
CALL (402) 489-7529