Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Kate Paulsen (Elena) and Kevin Fennessy (Telegin) in Apollinaire's UNCLE VANYA
For the past two months, I've been in rehearsal and performance (we're entering the third of a four week run, that's been extended to five) for the remounting of Apollinaire Theatre Company's UNCLE VANYA.  The Craig Lucas adaptation of Chekhov's play was produced last winter, running from Dec.29 for a run that was extended through January 22, and starred John Kuntz as Vanya.
That production was important to me for many reasons: for one, it was my return to acting after seventeen years (aside from a dip in the waters as one of The Miseries in the ART/MIT/Chicago Opera Theatre collaboration "DEATH AND THE POWERS: THE ROBOTS' OPERA", at the Cutler Majestic in the spring of 2011).  Following a long career in theatre as an actor and award-winning director, in 1994 I was offered a job in casting with Carolyn Pickman (CP Casting) and followed it for a run that included my own Casting company and office, which was destroyed in a fire in 2002. (Though the company folded, I continue to "dabble" with some freelance clients and in consulting with colleagues).  My last stage appearance was as the Narrator in the New Repertory Theatre's HOLIDAY MEMORIES, the holiday season show of 1994 that combined two Truman Capote stories, The Thanksgiving Visitor and A Christmas Memory.  (Coincidentally, the New Rep is producing HOLIDAY MEMORIES once again this year, at their Watertown home in the Arsenal Center for the Arts).
But the winter 2011/12 production of UNCLE VANYA came at a very difficult time for me.  My Mom, Georgia Ravanis Fennessy, died on October 25, 2011, and her funeral was on Nov.2, just 9 days before I went into rehearsal.  (The auditions for UNCLE VANYA happened in late August 2011.  I read that John Kuntz was playing Vanya and called director Danielle Fauteux Jacques to set up an audition.  Casting was completed in early September and a rehearsal schedule went out shortly after.  If I hadn't already been cast, I doubt I would have followed the funeral with an audition search).
Telegin (Kevin Fennessy) and Nanny (Ann Carpenter) at tea with the samovar
The rehearsal period and performances were just what I needed to get through a very dark time.  The Theatre, capital T, picked me, wrapped its arms around me and carried me through.  Mom was always so proud of my career in the theatre, and enjoyed saying "Kevin's an actor".  She would beam with a mile-wide smile every time she told the anecdote of my returning home from school one day in the first grade, bursting with the announcement that "the teacher said I read with expression!".  Having the world of the play to immerse myself into, and finding connections to my family in the play, were what kept me going through a period that included my birthday (1/21) and Mom's (1/22).  (As I mentioned, UNCLE VANYA ran through Jan.22, with performances on both of our birthdays.  And with our birthdays so close to each other, that end-of-January time of year became "our" time to celebrate).
It's a year later, and here I am once again performing in UNCLE VANYA, as the anniversary of Mom's passing approaches.  The sadness and grief of October 2011 has gotten easier, as the happiest of memories fill my thoughts.  I miss her now and always, but it does get easier and the joys with which she lived her life daily have become more available to me.  She truly is with me, in my heart, and available whenever I need a reminder.
During the summer, we learned that John Kuntz had been offered a role in THE LILY'S REVENGE, in direct conflict with the planned revival of UNCLE VANYA.  Initially this was taken by the company as a huge blow: how would the show go on?  But this is theatre, and we all know from song and history that "the show MUST go on" ... and that of course it could, and should. We already knew we'd be recasting the roles of The Professor and Elena, as both of the actors in that original company had chosen not to continue in the revival.  I looked at the challenge before us and made a casting suggestion: Diego Arcienegas, a respected and talented actor who could be, and indeed is, the right fit.  Diego was auditioned, along with other appropriate and exciting possibilities, and was cast.  With Diego and two additional "new" actors to the company, Jack Schultz as The Professor and Kate Paulsen as Elena (who Danielle discovered through additional auditions), the rehearsal period became more involved, but also richer than a "mere remounting" would have been.  Our talented newcomers to the cast brought new energies and interpretations, which in turn offered us the opportunity to look at moments and relationships in a different light: not better, not drastically different, but "fresher" than just dusting off the sets and costumes and brushing up our Chekhov.
Diego Arcienegas (Vanya) and Kate Paulsen (Elena) in Apollinaire's UNCLE VANYA

Come see for yourself.  UNCLE VANYA continues Wednesday through Sunday evenings (Wed., Fri., Sun. at 7:30, Fri. and Sat. at 8).  As it's a revival from just last season, most of the area's critics weighed in with reviews on the first round, resulting in nominations from the IRNE and Elliot Norton's , including a win for Director Danielle Fauteux Jacques as Outstanding Director/Fringe Theater from the 2012 Elliot Norton Awards. We did receive a review from WBUR's Critic-At-Large Ed Siegel, which you can read here.  Tickets and additional info at

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