“PEMCo’s Kiss Me, Kate changed my life.”—overheard, an elderly woman leaving the theater
“The thing I liked most about Kiss Me, Kate, as performed by the students here at Notre Dame, is how it really seemed to get at a lot of the issues that are important in this life. Love, business failure, gambling all your (or somebody else’s) money away, feminism, divorce, armed assault. It really makes you think, you know?”—very intelligent Notre Dame professor
“I never thought anyone would come up with a new way of interpreting Shakespeare that would be original in this day and age. And then I saw PEMCo.’s Kiss Me, Kate.”—Shakespeare scholar from the Globe Theater in London
“Theater won’t be the same after PEMCo. is through with Kiss Me, Kate.”—Arrogant theater student from New York
As you can see, a lot of people have been talking about Kiss Me, Kate. We here at PEMCo. just thought it was funny. I mean, how can you go wrong with gun-wielding gangsters with large vocabularies, women of quick wit and acting skills bringing men of power and pride to their knees, formerly proud and powerful men seeking revenge on quick witted women, theatrical mishaps, mistaken identities, clever poetry, and Shakespeare?
We also liked the music. Combine Cole Porter’s catchy tunes with his incredible skill for wit and euphemism, and you will find yourself laughing all night and singing all the next day. Every number is a show stopper, so be careful not to wear yourself out clapping before you get to “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.” Finally, we knew our company would be able to handle the difficulties of the show, such as assuming the roles in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, while switching to the quirky characters that play those roles, or managing the intense dancing required of the entire cast.
So, maybe our version of Kiss Me, Kate will give you a new spin on Shakespeare, help strengthen your marriage, inspire you to stop carrying around a handgun to be more intimidating, make you move from your engineering major into FTT, or even change your life. But, more importantly, we hope you laugh, giggle, guffaw, smile, feel silly, tap your toes, hum along, and lose yourself in the magic of musical theater. It’s what we’ve been doing for the past few months and we can’t wait to share it with all of you!
Here’s to Another Op’nin’ of Another PEMCo. Show, Connor Nowalk, Director
PEMCo Producers Bring 'Kiss Me, Kate' To Stage
February 08, 2008
by Tae Andrews
A casual theater-goer might wonder what a producer does. A better question would be, what doesn't a producer do? As one half of PEMCo's team of co-producers along with Jacqui Acuna, Kathleen Sullivan differentiates between the role of the director and the role of the producer by separating the creative from the administrative. "The creative team [including the director, music director, choreographers, set designer, stage crew, etc.] is in charge of how the show looks and sounds," she said. "We take care of everything else. The producers are there to support the staff, handle the budget, and, especially, keep everyone on a timeline. Basically, the producers make sure PEMCo puts on a show every year." Acuna and Sullivan also double as the club presidents of PEMCo. After winning election last February to a one-year term, Sullivan and Acuna chose Connor Nowalk as their director through an interview process last spring. Over the summer, the producers and the director chose the show. After the success of last year's show, "Ragtime," Sullivan said she wanted to take PEMCo in a different direction this year. "We decided to do 'Kiss Me, Kate,' a show with great Cole Porter music, because we wanted to do something upbeat and fun this year, as a contrast with last year's very dramatic production," she said. "We like to vary the type of shows we do, to keep it fresh for the audience and for the company. "Once we decide on a show, the producers are responsible for the administrative side of the company," she said. "There's a lot of work that goes into a musical, and most of it happens behind the scenes." Some of the many items on Sullivan's never-ending laundry list include getting the legal rights to do the show, finding rehearsal and performance spaces, getting publicity, arranging ticket sales, determining the budget, making up programs and working with Student Activities. Despite her current gig moonlighting as the woman working behind the scenes to make it possible for others to act on it, Sullivan originally got her start in show business as a performer. After performing since grade school, Sullivan joined PEMCo her freshman year as an actress. Ever since, "the company has become very dear to me," she said. Sullivan also said that she has found purpose in producing for the good of the company that trumps even the experience of performing onstage. "I see producing as a way to really work for the best interest of the company, to be able to influence its path more so than when I was a cast member," she said. "Musical theatre is definitely an adrenaline rush, and I love being in the shows, but I've found producing almost more fulfilling. "PEMCo producers are often in the cast my - co-producer is this year - but I like being able to take a step back and see the big picture. I get to sit in the audience on opening night and watch my entire cast and crew's work pay off in a wonderful way. It's a great feeling, knowing that I helped get them up on that stage giving great performances, and to me is actually more fulfilling than being in the show myself."
Sullivan Relishes Blonde Role
February 08, 2008
by Tae Andrews
Carolyn Sullivan seems to think blondes have more fun, even if she isn't a natural one. To prepare for her twin roles as Lois/Bianca in "Kiss Me Kate," Sullivan watched what she calls "dumb blonde" roles - performances from actresses in other musicals, including Lena Lamont from "Singing in the Rain," Marilyn Monroe's performance as Lorelei Lee in "Gentleman Prefer Blondes" and the character Lilly from "Annie." During her time at Notre Dame, Sullivan has enjoyed an acting career that has seen her go from bit parts to starring roles. She performed in PEMCo's production of "Ragtime" last fall as the Irish housemaid Bridget. "I had a grand total of three lines," she recalls. Sullivan also had roles as il servitore in last spring's "La Locandiera," an Italian play, and as Denise Savage this past fall in "Savage in Limbo." Since making the transition from smaller roles to the status of a leading lady, it would appear that fame has gone to that blonde head of hers. Sullivan said her burgeoning celebrity has made her reluctant to divulge intimate details to the media, but she maintained that she has made good friends on the set. "Being a big star and all, I don't really like sharing my personal life with the general public," she said. "Let's just say [co-star] Kelly [Rice] and I have gotten particularly close over the past few months. I'm quite fond of her." Sullivan, who also goes by the nickname "Sully," said her favorite number from the musical is "Tom, Dick, or Harry." "Not only do I get to sing it," she said, "but it's an up-tempo tune with a four part harmony and a swingin' beat. ['Kiss Me Kate' composer and songwriter] Cole Porter knows what's up." After "Tom, Dick, or Harry" Sullivan said her second favorite song is "Too Darn Hot." "It's got great music," she said. "Our choreographers really nailed it, and I love watching the cast dance. They just have a blast with that number, and I think it shows." Upon being asked to describe "Kiss Me Kate" in three words or less, Sullivan replied, "Odds bodkins." With her mix of quirky humor, talent and research, it's safe to say Sullivan is having fun with her role.
Getting into character no problem for versatile Rice
February 8, 2008
by Tae Andrews
Kelly Rice doesn't have a lot of difficulty getting into character. "I really just try to think about everything that is going on in Lilli's [her character's] life at each moment during the show," she said. "She is very difficult to play because she is always very conflicted and there are very few times where there is only one thing she wants that she can actually have. She may be a diva, but her occasional animosity stems from her very deep emotional confusion." Rice has been singing since the tender age of six. She participated in her first musical at age 12 and started vocal training at age 13. Rice was also a member of the ensemble of last year's PEMCo production of Ragtime and performed in PEMCo's 2007 "Revue Beyond the Curtain." Rice also said that she has reveled in working opposite Carolyn Sullivan (Lois) because of the onstage feud between their characters. "It's really fun to be angry with Lois because Lilli sees her as extremely inferior to herself, yet she still envies her. Carolyn does a fabulous job of playing Lois, and makes it very fun to interact with her character." On the flip side of the coin, she also said she has developed considerable chemistry with fellow castmate Kyle Carter, who plays Fred Graham. "Kyle and I have had a wonderful time getting to know each other better during the course of the show, and I think that my close relationship with him has helped us create a sincere stage relationship for Fred and Lilli." Like many of the performers in the show, Rice said her favorite songs from the show are "Too Darn Hot" and "Tom, Dick, or Harry." "They are both very fun and energetic and really draw the audience in," she said. Upon being asked (how she would describe the show in three words or less), Rice replied, "There is no doubt in my mind that this show is spunky, sassy and sincere."
Connor Nowalk Makes Directorial Debut
February 7, 2008
by Tae Andrews
A job description for the position of director of "Kiss Me Kate" might read something like this: Must have an eye for talent, flexible creativity and the vision to put it all together. As the man running the show behind the scenes, Connor Nowalk has all that and more. "Casting is an interesting thing, because for any given role there are several people who could play it well," Nowalk said. Given the sheer amount of talent on display during the auditions, he said that the casting process amounted to matching various talents to roles. "Joe [Jurasko] excelled in all three areas of performance: singing, dancing and acting," he said. "We knew we wanted to utilize his talents, but we weren't quite sure how." Nowalk also found himself playing matchmaker in order to pair off actors to ensure that they had onscreen chemistry. Carolyn Sullivan's smooth jazz voice and commanding stage presence made her a perfect fit for the part of Lois. "When we put the two of them together in a scene during callbacks, the chemistry was there, and we knew we had our pair," he said. Nowalk also paired Kyle Carter and Kelly Rice as the characters Fred and Lilli. "Kelly showed us power, control and sweetness in her voice, which works perfectly for the incredible vocal demands of the role," he said. "Kyle showed us the charisma and magnetism required of Fred, with the voice to match. As if those qualities weren't enough, the two looked great and acted well together." For the uninitiated, "Kiss Me, Kate" features a play within a play, as the characters within the show put on a show of their own, a Broadway musical version of Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew." "A really interesting aspect of 'Kiss Me, Kate' is the way the two plays are intertwined," he said. "The characters offstage are all very similar to the characters they portray in "the Shrew." Add to that a couple of mistaken identities, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings, and characters start jumping in and out of character, blurring the line between what is 'supposed to be happening' and what is just happening and encouraging the audience to get lost in the mayhem. We made some decisions, both in terms of set and otherwise, to develop that ambiguity."
As such, the action moves around quite a bit. Keeping everything in perspective required some innovation and creativity from the crew. "What is neat about the set for this show is that it all occurs in one building," Nowalk said. "During the scenes from 'The Taming of the Shrew,' the action takes place on the stage itself. All the other action occurs behind the scenes in the backstage corridor or dressing rooms. At least conceptually speaking, instead of moving the set, we wanted to 'move the audience.'" To accomplish this, the production has a mobile set which takes the audience backstage with the rest of the characters within the show. As such, set pieces are "set" in name only - the production has a lot of moving parts to create the backstage corridors and dressing rooms of the mock production of "The Taming of the Shrew," Nowalk said. "By taking the audience on this trip to see exactly where they are going, we hope that people will know exactly where they are in the theater." After holding auditions in mid-October, Nowalk and co. got into the swing of things with rehearsals starting after Fall Break. Excluding breaks and finals, the production has had about 10 weeks of rehearsals. In a production featuring so many parts, Nowalk said he hasn't further muddled things up by trying to put his own take on the material in the show. "Kiss Me, Kate is not really the kind of show that lends itself to 'directorial interpretation,'" he said. "Sure, you can taste a little bit of 'Connor Nowalk' in it, especially in the humor, but for the most part, I wanted to let the show speak for itself." Nowalk, who did his first musical in fifth grade, has been unable to keep himself out of theater ever since. "Singing was what got me interested in the first place, but the more shows I was in, the more I started to love all aspects of theater," he said. Starting primarily as a performer, Nowalk made his directorial debut as a freshman at the Cleveland Institute of Music. After transferring here to Notre Dame, Nowalk knew that he wanted to direct a show here before graduating. "I am glad that my first opportunity was with a group I love," he said. "Though I will never direct a PEMCo show again, I am sure that this will not be the last show I direct."