by Kyla Brewer
The Recap Sequence
A hotbed of comedians, classically trained actors and self-made celebrities, Los Angeles, Calif., is the home of rising stars, seasoned veterans and everything in between. It may be the epicentre of the film and television industries, but the area boasts a thriving theatre scene as well.
“ I love to do theatre — it’s great fun and Antaeus is such a great acting group. There’s such an abundance of great actors in that group.”
— Kurtwood Smith, Vernon Masters on “Marvel’s Agent Carter”
Whether you’re a fan of sci-fi, drama or even comedy, chances are your favourite actor started out on stage, not onscreen, and for many, theatre remains their first love. One classical theatre company has been capitalizing on the abundance of talent in L.A. for years, and they’ve grown so much, they need a new home. The Antaeus Theatre Company (www.antaeus.org) has launched a Kickstarter campaign to finance their new digs and they’re getting some help from famous members and friends.
One such Antaeus member is Kurtwood Smith (“That ’70s Show”), who just wrapped up a gig as Vernon Masters in season 2 of ABC’s “Marvel’s Agent Carter.” He recently spoke to The Recap Sequence to discuss his work with Antaeus.
“I love to do theatre — it’s great fun and Antaeus is such a great acting group,” said the actor. “There’s such an abundance of great actors in that group.”
In fact, the sheer volume of talent is what allows the company to continue to attract such high profile players.
“Because it [is] such a large and talented group of people, all our plays are double cast so that there are two actors for each role, which works out perfect in Hollywood because work comes up,” explained Smith. “That’s one of the reasons that more actors haven’t done theatre in the past is because you’re usually in L.A. to work in television and film. But this way, since the roles are double cast, there’s always somebody ready to go on.”
In addition to his work in “24,” “The X-Files” and the Star Trek universe, Smith is widely known as villain Clarence Boddicker in the original “RoboCop” (1987). But he really shot to stardom thanks to his role in Fox’s nostalgic comedy “That ’70s Show.”
As cantankerous dad Red Foreman, he was known to refer to his son, Eric (Topher Grace, “Spider-Man 3,” 2007), and his friends as “dumbasses.” However, Red Foreman’s got nothing on the Bard’s barbs and Antaeus is taking full advantage of Shakespeare’s penchant for insults with their latest Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a facility that will meet their growing needs.
Following in the tradition of past Antaeus fund-raising videos such as Naked Actors Need Costumes and Turn Off the Dark, the company’s Shakespeare Insult Challenge features familiar faces from the Star Trek franchise, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “24” and more. In the videos, performers encourage the public to donate, spread the word and even create their own videos lest they be mocked in Shakespeare’s own words.
Some of the stars who’ve submitted video challenges so far include Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner and Marina Sirtis of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” fame, as well as Armin Shimerman, better known to TV viewers as Ferengi Quark in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” Shimerman, who serves as an Antaeus co-associate artistic director, explained why the company has now turned to the public to reach their fund-raising goals.
“We are blessed to have so many passionate people in our midst whose hearts are so devoted to the arts,” he said. “Having emptied our pockets, we now look to a wider community to help build our new home.”
Last June, the classical theatre company launched the Play On! Capital Campaign to raise funds to transform a vacant storefront in Glendale, Calif., into a cultural arts centre. So far, donors, board members and company members have contributed $1.3 million through the Play On! campaign. Antaeus has now turned to crowdfunding in the hopes of securing the final $75,000 needed to create their new home.
And what a home it will be! The finished facility will include an 80-seat theatre and 45-seat black box space, as well as a lobby gallery and classics library. The new centre will allow the troupe to continue to reinvigorate the classics for our contemporary world, train artists and reach out to youth across Los Angeles.
As of press time, the Kickstarter campaign had raised just over $50,000, meaning they’ll need a final push to reach their $75,000 goal before the March 17th deadline. To learn more, or donate, go to www.playon.info or check out #ShakespeareInsultChallenge. If you don’t, you’re an “ingrate and cankered louse” according to Stewart. Seriously, it’s worth looking up the Kickstarter just to see Star Trek’s Captain Picard scrunch up his face in a scowl after delivering the insult.
Celebs have also offered up some sweet incentives to entice donors. In addition to the feel-good vibes you get from supporting a theatre community, a $5 donation will get your name on their site, not to mention their eternal gratitude. A $25 donation earns a ticket to a preview of a production and $50 could get you a personalized Shakespeare insult tweeted to the person of your choosing from Smith himself. Other incentives include signed photos, tote bags, personalized thank you videos, or even a meal with one of the company’s members if your pockets are deep enough.
Antaeus may have the support of stars, but much like the theatre company’s namesake, its members keep their feet squarely on the ground with classical productions, and community and educational outreach. The mythical figure Antaeus could best any opponent so long as he remained in contact with the earth. Should the Antaeus Theatre Company secure a new piece of earth for themselves, they, too, could be unstoppable.