Julie Voshell is a member of the Barrow Group where she performed in the play, The Pavilion. A New York Times review said “ Voshell is dryly funny!”and the production was “a tantalizing revival.“ Julie also appeared in numerous FAB performances at The Barrow Group. She recently became a member of New Circle Theater Company where she performed Cindy Cooper’s play, Entrepreneur.
She stars in the leading role of Marina in the full length feature film, Alberto and the Concrete Jungle opening soon in NY and LA. Filmthreat.com says “Julie Voshell’s biting, acidic barbs, and one-liners are hysterical.
She performed with Sidse Ploug Soerensen in Soerensen’s Bubbles, a series of comic theatre vignettes. They played to sold out audiences at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, West Bank Cafe, and in Palm Beach.
As a dancer, her credits include numerous ballet companies. National Tours of Movin Out and Swing! and Dances...Patrelle under the direction of Francis Patrelle, where she performed in several of his ballets including Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and Gilbert and Sullivan/ The Ballet. www.julievoshell.wordpress.com
Nick Gisonde is scheduled to return to the Bay View Music Festival in 2021 to direct La Traviata and for his fifth season as co-stage director for SOARS Opera scenes program. He will also direct Romeo et Juliette with South Bend Lyric Opera next summer.
Last summer he directed Rigoletto for South Bend Lyric Opera and Die Zauberflöte for Bay View Music Festival. He directed Così fan tutte for North Shore Music Festival. He directed a workshop of Macbeth, which led to a full production of the play at the Secret Theatre in New York for Endless River Arts. Nick staged Shakespeare Cabaret, a series of songs based on Shakespeare's monologues written by Emmy Award winning composer Glen Roven and accompanied with scenes from the plays, featuring soprano Risa Renae Harman and pianist Casey Robards at Central Michigan University. He co-directed a production of Pierre Corneille's El Cid for the The Pendragon Ensemble in New York.
Nick appeared in the 1998 Tony Award Winner, A View from the Bridge, directed by Michael Mayer and starring Anthony LaPaglia and Allison Janney. His film credits include 53rd Calypso starring Edward Norton, The Strawberry Girl and Helene. On stage, he appeared in many New York and regional theater productions. His credits include Rodrigo in El Cid, Posthumus Leonatus in Cymbeline, Laertes in Hamlet, Paris in Troilus and Cressida, Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Clunette in The Battle of Shallowford and Lee in True West.
My Director’s Notes
160 years ago, The United States was faced with an incredibly challenging time in the nation’s history. The country was on the brink of war, The Civil War. The rights and equality of human lives were being questioned in all states. Did a man have the right to own another man or woman as a piece of property? But not only own them but be able to treat them any way they wanted. The question was very complicated in both the North and the South. Some felt it was a moral issue, others felt it was an economic issue. Even Abraham Lincoln was faced with the moral dilemma of keeping slavery intact if it meant preserving the Union.
Though August Strindberg’s play does not directly deal with slavery, the commentary on class distinctions between master and servant is the play’s powerful main theme. Miss Julie comes from an aristocratic family and is unable to empathize with the plight of her servants. She has seen life through her privileged eyes. She does not understand how someone like her father’s valet, John, wants to rise above his station in life as a servant to become a wealthy businessman and landowner. The play also addresses the issues with gender dominance. Miss Julie is the mistress of the house but throughout the play John gains the upper hand. The back and forth struggle for supremacy asks the question: is it gender or class that truly determines who dominates the species.
Strindberg created a group of offstage house and field servants who provide Miss Julie with a false sense of friendship. She is disillusioned by thinking her servants love and respect her. In her mind, these are her true friends and family. John points out to her, it is only because she is the mistress of the house that they respect her and most of the time talk behind her back. Frequently servants were forced to show respect for their masters, which could be misconstrued for affection and friendship. She has grown up in an isolated environment plagued by problems of her parent’s marital infidelity, scandal and bouts of mental illness. So it make sense that she might be disillusioned by a false sense of reality.
I decided that the beginning of the Civil War would be a relevant and powerful time period for the production. The action takes place on the eve of Saint John's Day during the Midsummer festival in June 1861. The location is Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy. Midsummer Festival is a world holiday observed in the United States at the time. Two events that bookend the play are the attack on Fort Sumter, which happened in April 1861 and the First Battle of Bull Run/Manassas in August. This was the official start of the Civil War. At the conclusion of the play, Miss Julie’s father, a Colonel in the Confederate Army is about to head into the bloodiest war in American history. The production is inspired by the films: Gone With the Wind, 12 Years a Slave, Harriet, Gods and Generals, Gettysburg and Glory, in addition to several Civil War documentaries.
The Rehearsal Process during the 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic
“Let everything happen to you / Beauty and terror / Just keep going / No feeling is final/ Don’t let yourself lose me." from Go to the Limits of Your Longing by Rainer Maria Rilke
These words ring so true during these challenging times. I can’t help but feel empowered by them; knowing that nothing is final and we must continue to pursue the things in life that bring us happiness.
In the beginning of 2020, plans for a workshop and production of Marion Craig Wentworth’s play War Brides came to a halt. In just a few months, life and the world we live in changed forever. Working on any artistic project seemed impossible, let alone thinking we could present any kind of live theatrical performance for an audience in the near future. The arts were coming to a complete standstill. At least that is what we thought. But as we moved into what was to be the new normal, I couldn’t help feeling that art will always endure no matter what devastation or despair the world is faced with. When I formed Endless River Arts, I always felt that creativity can never be stopped or silenced just like an ever-flowing endless river.
I made a decision to work on a project that would allow me to produce a play during the current circumstance. The project seemed not only manageable but could possibly lead to a full production. I thought that Miss Julie would be the perfect play to dive into since it has a three-person cast and one scenic location. In addition to the reasonable demands that the play requires, it offers actors the challenge of performing these tour de force roles. It is for these reasons I have wanted to direct this play since the early 2000’s.
I am finally getting the opportunity to explore the creative genius of August Strindberg‘s masterpiece. It is a play that stands the test of time for the themes are still relevant today. I adapted and rewrote some of the script to reflect the Civil War time period. Immediately I knew I needed to cast an actress that could not only handle the emotional challenges of the role but could also embody the many psychological dimensions of Miss Julie’s mind. I cast my very talented friend, Julie Voshell, who turned out to be perfect for the title role. Her talent first came to my attention when we worked together on two previous projects that I directed and produced: a Macbeth production workshop and a Shakespeare scenes workshop. I then cast her in the role of Hedwig in War Brides. When the production changed to Miss Julie, I knew that in order for the play to be successful I needed an artist of Julie’s caliber to play the part. Her creative versatility as an actress and dancer allows her to easily access her emotions mentally and physically. It is phenomenal to watch her transformation into the many psychologically disturbing moods of the character while she still manages to instantly find ways to entice the very headstrong and honorable John.
The next step in the process was to figure out how to rehearse the play. I thought I would step into the role of John only for this stage of the rehearsal process. My plan is to cast the roles of John and Kristin when we are able to start rehearsing in person in a safe environment. So I decided to use the isolation time to pick apart the script line by line with Julie. Getting the opportunity to play opposite her while directing and coaching her, has been an absolutely wonderful artistic experience. I told her it is like being her acting sparring partner.
Rehearsing in the virtual world can present many challenges. For one, the internet connection can be spotty sometimes so trying to keep the concentration when you get audio dropouts or screen freezes can be frustrating. Luckily for the most part we have been spared a lot of technical difficulties throughout the rehearsal process.
We started rehearsing at the beginning of March. At first we met once a week then started meeting twice a week over the last several months. We try to treat the rehearsal as a staging rehearsal as much as possible. We use props and position ourselves on camera as if we would be on stage. Somethings we can’t actually recreate because we have to stay in front of the camera and close to the microphone. But I will talk through staging ideas with Julie so she understands my visual concepts. I have also created a production presentation so she can see my thoughts for costumes and scenery as well as a study guide of historical references, documentaries and films of the period. Because we have put in an extensive amount of time in researching this period in history, we are immediately transported to the play’s time period when we start reading the text. A lot of the time I forget we are talking on our computers in our living rooms. The power of imagination can be incredible.
On a final note, Julie and I long to be in a rehearsal room with the other members of our future cast and to be able to totally immerse ourselves in this incredible work. However, one thing that the pandemic has taught us is that this process is about craft and that it can not be rushed. It is a lifetime journey. In our very complicated fast-paced world of trying to get your work up in front of an audience and sell tickets, we forget to slow down and work on perfecting our artistry!
More notes and thoughts to come when we move into the next phase of the process.