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'Wisdom of Eve' at Camelot

Because our area is so rich with theater, it is easy to — take for granted the many new seasonal productions that begin appearing — in midwinter. The reality is that every play represents hundreds of hours — of preproduction planning, countless rehearsals, all sustained by the — hope that if an ensemble of talented people offer it, they, the audiences, — will come.

It is also clear that for all the careful planning that — goes into every production, things happen. Case in point is Mary Orr's — "The Wisdom of Eve," Camelot Theatre Company's opening play for its 2005 — season.

According to John Litton, the play's director, Camelot's — season opener was slated to be "The Dresser," in which Litton had been — cast as the lead. The rights for "The Dresser" were abruptly taken from — Camelot when a national theater group decided to do a tour of the play. — Litton points out that production rights aren't offered on a first come — first serve basis; who can pay the most royalties wins. Hence, Camelot — was forced to quickly reexamine its list of plays. The best laid plans — had been made and now had to be changed. Quickly.

Since Litton had already committed to "The Dresser" he — was asked to direct "The Wisdom of Eve." He says he accepted before even — reading the play. Thus began a process of research and more research. — "It became a challenge for me to find the true characters in the play — and the history of its origin."

Litton discovered that Mary Orr had written "Wisdom of — Eve" as a short story published in Cosmopolitan Magazine in 1946. It was — then turned into a movie, "All About Eve," in 1950 starring Bette Davis. — Some twenty years later it became the basis for the 1970 Broadway musical, — "Applause." And it wasn't until 1979 when the play version of "The Wisdom — of Eve" was created. As a film it garnered 14 Academy Award nominations — and won four Tony awards as a musical.

Litton, whose formal study was with the Western Australia's — Academy of Performing Arts, decided to ignore the movie and the musical, — and having a strong sense of the characters, turned to the casting portfolio — created by Camelot's yearly auditions. Using only photos and resumes, — he chose a select group of people to audition for the play. "I didn't — stop there," he says, "I scouted the town, getting on the phone and talking — to actors, telling them what I am looking for."

There are ten roles in the production and at this point — he has looked at some 100 actors. Reducing the list to 26, auditions are — held and seven of the ten parts were cast. After a second round of auditions, — Nicole Marie Strykowski was cast as Eve. Ms. Strykowski is a senior B.F.A. — Theatre major at SOU and was recently seen as Laura in Artattack's production — of "The Glass Menagerie." OSF veteran Daniel Grossbard was selected to — portray playwright Lloyd Roberts, Linda Otto would play his wife Karen, — Doug Mitchell was chosen for the role of Bill Sampson and Livia Genise — the aging Diva, Margo Channing.

"It is now November (2004)," Litton says, "and the cast — is set, we have our first read through in mid December. The actors are — given a blank character study chart and their scripts. Then they are sent — away until the beginning of January." During this time and with the help — of the theater staff, Litton puts together the production crew. The rehearsal — schedule is set and in January work begins developing the play.

There is one month to pull the production together, which — will include a dress rehearsal in front of a live audience. "We need to — see what the audience's contribution to the play will be," says Litton. — "Crying, laughter, shouts of dissension and even the totality of silence — are the audience's lines of the play. The play is incomplete without them. — An invited dress rehearsal is the format for this interaction to start." —

Litton points out that "The Wisdom of Eve" takes the audience — through a two year period in the lives of the characters. "Eve is the — catalyst that affects each character that she touches. For some flattery — gets you everywhere, for others it brings up caution flags. What drives — a woman like Eve to follow the path she has chosen and how would it affect — you should you fall within her grasp? I am not saying that you will like — or even agree with all of the decisions the characters choose. However — you will find many moments of self recognition which mirror your own life."

Livia Genise, the Artistic Managing Director of Camelot — Theatre, who is playing Margo Channing, (the role made famous by Bette — Davis in the film), and who was in "Applause" in the Bay Area six years — ago, says that one of the challenging things about this play is that there — are six locations. "However, we have a wonderful set designer, Nick Walsch, — who has created a dressing room, living room, country house, TV studio, — backstage alley and theater stage, all in our little space."

Costumes, too, were a challenge since the play is a period — piece set in the 50s. Dotti Isom, the costumer, is described by Genise — as being a "miracle worker."

"The play is a great deal of fun," says Genise, "and we — get to go over the top not only in production values but in acting style. — I play a real prima donna. I think what is compelling about the play is — that there is a part of Eve in all of us. I know the audience will have — a great time."

"The Wisdom of Eve" opens February 4th and runs through — March 6th. All Friday, Saturday and Monday performances are at 8 PM and — all Sunday performances are at 2 p.m. with a special "Pay what you can" — performance on Thursday, Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. On Feb.11 the company will — host a "Director's Night" wherein the cast will remain on stage for a — post-show discussion.

Tickets are $14 for students and seniors and $16 for adults. — To reserve seats call the Camelot Theatre Company box office at 535-5250 — ext. — on Wednesday through Saturday and Mondays from — p.m. to 5 p.m. — Camelot Theatre Company is located at the corner of Talent Avenue and — Main Street in Talent.