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Kisses, Spoofs, Puns and Rap Run Wild in Repertory Theatre’s Shakespearean Vaudeville

| August 5, 2011

Kaylee Rotunno and Tyrique Harper practice Shakespearean tongue-twisters under Agata Sokolska's reprouving eyes. (© FlaglerLive)

Kaylee Rotunno and Tyrique Harper practice Shakespearean tongue-twisters under Agata Sokolska\’s reproving eyes in a scene from ‘Rockabilliewillie.’ (© FlaglerLive)

You could call it Monty Python does Palm Coast. You could call it Shakespeare vaudeville. You could call it, as its punning and nervy creator likes to call it, “a bastardization of the bard conceived in chaos and dedicated to the proposition that ‘all’s well that ends.’”


“RockabillieWillie,” A workshop production of the City Repertory Theatre

  • Aug. 4, 5 and 6 at 7:30 p.m., at Hollingsworth Gallery, at City Marketplace, 160 Cypress Point Pkwy. Suite 210B in Palm Coast. Written and directed by John Sbordone. A $10 donation is requested. This is a fund-raiser for the theater’s upcoming season. Call 871-9546 for details.


Or you could call it sheer art for hilarity’s sake by John Sbordone, the theater director and artist of the shake-up. Sbordone’s “Rockabilliewillie” is a play, a musical, an actors’ workshop, a send-up and an equally entertaining and surprising event all wrapped up in the form of a performance-in-the-making by an ensemble of 11 young actors. None of them has done anything like it before, particularly the serial and compulsive kissing that smacks all over one scene. “There’s 25 different plays represented here,” Sbordone says, all of them Shakespeare’s, “so there’ll be lines about kissing from 20 different plays and they’re just thrown against each other.” The lines and the actors, that is. With audience participation thrown in on occasion during other scenes, though no kissing is required.

Few of you, it’s safe to say, have seen anything like it before.

Here’s your chance. “Rockabilliewillie,” the new City Repertory Theatre’s first stage production, had its opening night Friday evening in the new improvised storefront theater at the Hollingsworth Gallery, at City Market Place in Palm Coast. It’s on again tonight at 7:30 p.m., and one last time Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Sbordone originally wrote the work in 1988 when he had an acting ensemble at the Taft school in Connecticut, a school known for its arts and drama program. He staged “Rockabilliewillie” 35 times there, taking it to Paris and London and reaping a few awards for it along the way. He’s staged it again only once since. “I really wanted to do it with an all-star cast of kids from the area, and this workshop afforded a great time,” Sbordone says.

Yes, it’s also a workshop: you’ll see assistant director Lynne Dicianni and co-director Diane Ellertsen—Sbordone’s long-time stage double—run a four to five-minute warm-up of the actors in front of the audience, including dance moves and tongue-twisters to loosen up cords and articulation, and exercises designed to make the actors comfortable with each other: face-touching exercises, mirror exercises. The actors will then get dressed, Sbordone will talk about the show, they’ll come out, and they’ll stage a few scenes, some of them done twice by different actors, among them the raucous kissing scene—to a live soundtrack of “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine.”

“This is something very different,” says Agata Sokolska, a student at Flagler Palm Coast High School and a regular presence on stage there and at the Flagler Playhouse, where she started working with Sbordone.  “I’ve never been so intimate with other people that I’m working with, with the cast members. So I really enjoyed it and it was a very great learning experience. As an ensemble we have to work together very well, we have to be used to each other and not feel uncomfortable around each other to do all these scenes, like kissing, and being close—very close. I’m doing a scene from Romeo and Juliet, so I’m thinking that I think probably kissing seven times,” not always the same guy.


Similar story with Kaylee Rotunno, an alumni of Sbordone’s plays at Matanzas High School and the Playhouse, who’s leaving the area for Stetson University this fall, where she’ll study drama. “This is my first stage kiss,” she says.

“Well, first ten,” Sbordone corrects.

“Hey, you put it in the script, OK?” She’s not bashful. She kisses for people for a total of six times. “We just go with it. They’re real kisses. They’re not fake.”

“After we do this there’ll be people who’ll be scandalized, I guarantee it.” Sbordone says, though the evolution of the kissing scene adapted to Stratford-Upon-Palm Coast never reaches its natural conclusion: no two boys kiss, nor two girls, so the town committee for the propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice can have the night off. “We talked about it,” Sbordone says, “But again, we didn’t get the time to develop it. And that wouldn’t have been a problem because they’re at the point where they would have done that.” The workshop would have normally lasted six weeks, 10 hours a week, but had to be abbreviated by vacations and students’ usual summer distractions.

The result is a literal work in progress that should yield surprises with every performance. “What I like most about this show, the feel and everything of it, is using the Shakespearean language, but we almost modernize it with the way we are interacting each other and our unmodest way of conveying things. That’s what I love. I think it’s wonderful,” Rotunno says. How do you prepare for these roles? “Depending on my character, in the play I do Kate from ‘Taming of the Shrew.’ It was a long process. I was like, what woman is strong and kind of, doesn’t let the men really have her? There’s the character in Hercules, Megara, I found her very much like that, so I really model a lot of the things that I do after her. That’s where I get a lot of my inspiration for the Kate and Petruchio scene.”

And, inevitably, from her fellow actors, whose energy level through the work, which runs less than an hour, will exhaust even those sitting still, but likely exhilarate them too.

“Rockabilliewillie” follows the City Repertory Theatre’s one-evening Poetry Clash on July 23, which filled every seat (and more) in the theater’s improvised digs at Hollingsworth gallery. The workshop production still ranks as a preview of the Repertory Theatre’s season, which officially opens on Sept. 15 with “The Laramie Project,” an investigative play based on the death of Matthew Shepard, the University of Wyoming student tortured and murdered in 1998 for being gay.

Rockabilliewillie

At the City Repertory Theatre

Written and directed by John Sbordone
Co-director: Dianne Ellertsen
Assistant Director: Lynne Dicianni

Cast:

John Birney (FPC, UCF)
Caitlin Eriser (FPC)
Leana Gardella (FPC)
Gabriella Giuliano (FPC)
Tyrique Harper (Matanzas)
Justin Register (FPC, Flagler College)
Kaylee Rotunno (Matanzas)
Troy Rossi (Matanzas)
Hunter Sanders (Matanzas)
Agata Sokolska (FPC)
Liz Sovia (Matanzas)
A.J. Torres (FPC)

Thursday, Friday and Saturday August 4, 5, 6 at 7:30 p.m., at Hollingsworth Gallery, at City Marketplace, 160 Cypress Point Pkwy. Suite 210B, in Palm Coast. Admission donation: $10.

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