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Shakespeare Company Gets Rehearsal Space

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By THERESA WINSLOW
The Capital of Annapolis

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Just wait one darned minute. This is the Annapolis Shakespeare Company, not the Regency Theater. So, what in the name of Jane Austen is the troupe doing putting on “Pride and Prejudice?”

Why, continuing to present the classics, said company founder Sally Boyett-D’Angelo. Annapolis Shakespeare is about all kinds of classics, not just plays by the Bard.

And Boyett-D’Angelo is used to stretching herself, anyway.

The Crownsville mother of four has spent many 100-hour weeks building her company. She started off in 2010 with a cast of students and rehearsed and put on shows at churches.

Now, Boyett-D’Angelo is:

– Mixing professional actors with student performers and interns. “Pride and Prejudice,” for example, has a cast of 20, including five high school students, three college students (two of which are interns), and 12 professionals.

– Putting on productions as one of the resident companies at The Bowie Playhouse.

– Rehearsing in the troupe’s first-ever dedicated space.

– Planning to start a youth troupe, as well as a series of shows at City Dock. Boyett-D’Angelo wants to stage nine performances of “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” at Susan Campbell Park in the summer of 2014. “This is such a great arts town, and it’s wonderful to have a new player,” said Michelle LeFurge, special projects coordinator for the city.

– Teaching classes at the new space.

– Working with other companies as part of the Shakespeare Theatre Association on plans for the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death in 2016.

Whew!

Local theater veteran Rick Wade, who created the iconic “A Christmas Carol” at Colonial Players with Dick Gessner, is impressed with what Boyett-D’Angelo’s accomplished.

“She’s the only one doing what she’s doing around here, and that gives her a special niche,” he said. “It’s important to have something like that in the theater community to challenge the audience and actors.”

Wade speaks from experience. He was in “Cymbeline” with Annapolis Shakespeare. “I was blown away by some of the these young actors in their 20s and their level of skill,” he said.

But Boyett-D’Angelo doesn’t have much time to take in accolades. She’s too busy juggling responsibilities.

“No question, I’m excited,” she said. “But we still have a ways to go. We’re still in the building stage as an emerging company.”

The new rehearsal space, though, should make things a bit easier. The company has two rooms in the basement of 111 Chinquapin Road Round, an office building just off West St. in Annapolis.

One room will serve as an office for the company, as well as a primary rehearsal space and small theater for the youth troupe. The other room will be a secondary rehearsal space and costume shop.

Boyett-D’Angelo, a former dancer and actress, attributes the success of the company to hard work, the transcendence of Shakespeare’s works, and her ability to blend Broadway production values with classic texts.

“I just love doing this,” she said. “We’re not just churning out productions. It’s the process that’s important. How we get there is important to me.”

Strictly ballroom

Boyett-D’Angelo’s passion was evident as she worked through some ballroom dance scenes from “Pride and Prejudice” with cast members recently.

She guided the performers through a series of carefully-choreographed moves, sometimes critiquing their dancing, sometimes praising their efforts.

“Ladies, I don’t want to see any elbows,” Boyett-D’Angelo said. “Look at your partner, please.”

“This isn’t a dance recital. This is people from the Regency Period having a good time. We have to make it look that way.

“One. Two. Nice. Good.”

The formula worked as the actors quickly mastered the moves. Rehearsals began last month and play is slated to open April 11.

“Mrs. D’Angelo is an amazing director,” said Solveig Moe, 15, of Annapolis, who is playing Lydia Bennet. “She tells you exactly what you need to learn to produce what’s she’s looking for.”

While part of the cast continued to dance, others went over lines or worked with a dialect coach.

“This is as professional a company as I’ve ever worked for,” said Jim Reiter of Annapolis, who plays Mr. Bennet. “From the first read-through, I was blown away by the talent out there. Sally’s got it.”

Zach Brewster-Geisz of Greenbelt, who is playing Mr. Collins and just graduated from the National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts in Washington, D.C., was equally complimentary.

“I like the attention to detail,” he said. “I wasn’t surprised, but I was certainly happy to see it.”

The rehearsal at Heritage Baptist Church in Annapolis was one of the final few times the company would have to gather in a space that wasn’t its own.

“I’m impressed with how motivated and dedicated Sally is,” said Nello DeBlasio of Washington, who is playing Mr. Darcy. “It’s a pretty rare undertaking to start a theater company like this.”

Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md., http://capitalgazette.com

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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