is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lookout Judds, the Clark Girls Are In Town!

Move over, Naomi and Wynonna - there's a new mother-daughter duo about to take the Bluegrass by storm.  As SummerFest closes its first show, The Merchant of Venice (one of the best rejuvenations of a Shakespeare classic ever) it is with pleasant anticipation that we await the opening of  Pride and Prejudice to open in just a few days. The show is starring some favorite familiar faces and brimming with new talent, but all eyes will be upon mother-daughter duo, Trish and Ellie Clark as they put the pretty on Pride and Prejudice.  

Trish Clark, the emotional voice of reason behind SummerFest, is entirely captivating once she makes her entrance as Mrs. Bennett, mother of Elizabeth, played masterfully by daughter Ellie. Elizabeth of course is the centerpiece of Jane Austen's classic, and in Jon Jory's delightful adaptation, her pivotal character is onstage nearly the entire play, but Ellie handles it all with the polish and shine of a true professional as she and Trish seal their familial and dramatic onstage bond - it's intriguing, it's fun, it's a moment that any Mom or daughter would love to be a part of, and it's nice to know the moment is not lost on either one of them. 

Also, from all appearances, the entire cast and crew are having a good time with this production, there's a lot of laughter on the set.  A big part of that is the fact the director Sully White has kept the entire cast on their creative tippy-toes when coming up with ways to get the most from them in certain scenes.  Last week, I dropped in on rehearsal, surprised somewhat to see Ellie and Tom in a standing wrestling match of sorts, going through an exercise White was using to help them with the intensity of one of their scenes together. Sully was watching intently, clapping with delight when their reaction was just as she wanted.  In fact, one thing that is remarkably fascinating about White's rehearsal process is the presence of laughter. Everyone's serious about having a good time. 

Phillips points out that working with both Ellie and her mother creates the perfect storm, creatively speaking.  "I've known Ellie Clark for years, but this is the first time we've worked together, and she is an absolute dream. She has one of the sharpest minds I've worked with. She's fearless in rehearsal, really puts a lot of herself into the role, takes chances, is grounded and focused, all the things you could ask for. As much as I feel Darcy's a perfect role for me, I'd say even more so that Elizabeth is a perfect role for Ellie."

He's also worked with Trish in several productions, "and, like her daughter, she's a treat. She brings such deep need and emotion to a role, but always has her sense of humor alongside it. She plays the over-wrought and beleaguered mother so well, and I suppose we can thank Ellie for that, heheh. One of my favorite things about Trish is the unique melody of her voice. It's so rich and musical, it's opera without singing. She could read a cereal box, and I could listen to it for hours on end."

Ellie Clark is radiant as Elizabeth, and it's apparent she is enjoying the role and shares that with the audience when she's on stage.  She explains her fondness for the role.  "I think it was several years ago I first read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It was an attempt to familiarize myself with more classics, not out of any desire for reading that book in particular. I have, since then, read the book twice more, seen the movie more times than I care to mention and every time am moved in a profound way by the story. Jane Austen is timeless and was so forward thinking for her time it is almost hard to comprehend. When it was announced that SummerFest was doing the show, I knew I had to fly down for the auditions. To have the opportunity to play what some consider the most well known British heroine of all times would be quite frightening and invigorating, but I knew I had to audition. I don’t use the word heroine lightly in the previous sentence either. She is the true definition of a heroine: a woman of distinguished courage or ability, admired for her brave deeds and noble qualities. Just in reading with Tom in the audition room it felt like my blood was boiling, my heart was racing and my face was so flushed it was a tad embarrassing. It just made me want it that much more.  Sully directing was the whip cream, chocolate and cherry on top."

She has worked with Sully in several capacities. "She was my teacher, now we co-teach on occasion for workshops and the conservatory, and she has directed me as well. This is our third show together. Our first show together was Wind Chill Factor at Actors Theatre of Louisville over 9 years ago. We also collaborated last summer on Big Love which was an amazing experience. Sully is incredible in the rehearsal room. She has a very keen sense of how to approach each actor in a way that will challenge them and take them to the next level. She is always willing to laugh and play but takes the work very seriously. She has the ability to pull things out of me from such a deep place that sometimes I can hardly articulate what has just happened. She is so genuine in her approach and really works from the heart of every play she gets her hands on. There is nothing comparable to working with her. She really just blows my mind. I can’t say enough."

Ellie describes her character as "passionate, compassionate, nurturing, witty, full of pride, very playful. What is there not to like? There is nothing to dislike. She fights for what she thinks is right and is open to the revelation of being wrong. Allowing that revelation might be challenging because she is a tough little nut to crack."

Ellie's view of the choice of women to direct all three SummerFest shows, which I have carelessly used the word brave to describe, is something she prefers to call smart. "The season is challenging. All the scripts deal with prejudice of some sort. Society, sex, religion, sexual orientation, alternative lifestyles, you name it and these scripts might deal with it. I think the three women hired were hired for their ability to explore the sensitive nature of the material and bring it to light in the most thought provoking way possible. They were not hired because they were women," they were hired because they were the best directors for the job."

As for working with her Mother, she's embracing the moment. "The last time I worked with my mom was in Bo List’s “Dracula…..a variation” which we took to the Fringe in Edinburgh. The rehearsal process was incredibly speedy. I have watched my mom rehearse and work as an actress since I was a little girl. She still amazes me…on and off the stage. I think people in the room feed off her incredible energy. She brings so much to her work. It feels familiar on stage with her. It’s where we are both meant to be. My face lights up every time I watch her work."

In addition to her Pride and Prejudice role, she's also an instructor at KCTC, and points out that she, too, is enriched by her students.  "I learn so much every day by teaching. It takes an immense amount of energy to creatively inspire young people, especially 40 of them, and I think people don’t understand that fully unless they have experienced it. There are too many funny and inspiring stories to think of just one. It inspired me this year that Avery and Thea Wigglesworth, Taylor Eldred and Nick Vannoy whom I share the SummerFest stage with this summer, came to my class every morning to learn. They gave me the energy to keep going. They let me challenge them and I learned so much from watching them work."

"Since I was a little girl, this festival has been a part of my life. I was an apprentice while the festival was happening at Woodland Park and Joe Ferrell would rehearse with his cast in our back yard to have my mama in the cast, I was in high school when my mom was artistic director during the Lexington Shakespeare Festival and now the Institute/Conservatory, KCTC, with Summerfest has become my baby. Working with my mom putting together KCTC every summer is what I look forward to all year. The artists we have at our fingertips in this community always amazes me. Every time there is a show that suits me during Summerfest I start itching to audition and get on that stage. I think, maybe, it’s in my blood:)

Does she have a hidden talent?  "I do have a secret talent....but that is all I can say," she laughs.

As for her mother, Trish is feeling the magic as well, and is riding the wave of enthusiasm as both an actor and as director of KCTC and SummerFest.  She basks in the glow of watching her students come full circle and is loving every moment onstage with her daughter, who carries the role of Elizabeth as if she were born to do it.  "What I can say about Ellie is that she has a perserverance and work ethic that I admire. Her journey as an actress has not been easy, even though she has been brought up in an environment that is all things theatre. Watching her grow into herself is the most facinating observation! We have desired to work together for a long time, but perhaps the universe knew better than we when that time was right, because this experience has been pretty perfect. And I am not being the 'mom.'  In fact, I only have to worry about myself and the job I need to be doing as Mrs. Bennett. Never about what Ellie needs to be doing as Elizabeth. What I can say is that I have never been so impressed with an actor in the room like I have been with her. It is her work ethic that is so notable. She keeps her focus on the work, she is prepared, she is never at less than 100%. I am honored to be in the room with her and I am honored to have all my former students see her in this process."

So, does Trish have a Secret Talent? "Really, my life is an open book! There are no secrets. That reveals a lot about how simple I am, huh? I have to say I have very few talents, but the few I own, I am very grateful to have. My favorite ability is the capacity for love and patience. Even though I get anxious about pleasing people and wanting harmony to be established with all things, I can't really hold a grudge or be "warned" about some negative energy. My favorite element of being an actor is having the opportunity to see through the eyes of other perspectives, and investigating how people arrive at making choices.  It saddens me tremendously that their are people who feel it their job to judge and determine the choices of other lives. As if they are appointed by...?"


If you are Mom, if you are a daughter, if you have a Mom or a daughter, or if you just love good theatre, you will not want to miss this show. It's such a treat, the cast Sully White has assembled is excellent, and Jon Jory's adaptation of Jane Austen's masterwork is sure be brilliant under the stars at the Arboretum.

SummerFest continues a 29-year tradition of outdoor summer theatre at The Arboretum: State Botanical Garden in Lexington, KY. This year's season includes:


by William Shakespeare

Directed by Ave Lawyer

PRIDE & PREJUDICE (July 14-18)

adapted by Jon Jory

Directed by Sullivan Canaday White

RENT, THE MUSICAL (July 21-25)

Book, Music and Lyrics by Jonathan Larson

Directed & Choreographed by Tracey Bonner

Music Direction by Mark Calkins


Sullivan Canaday White (2008’s The Lord of the Flies) returns to SummerFest to direct a critically praised adaptation of one of the most beloved novels of our time, Pride And Prejudice. The adaptation is written by Jon Jory, well known in Kentucky as the celebrated, former, longtime Artistic Director at Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Pride And Prejudice will play July 14 through July 18, 2010.

Pride And Prejudice Cast Includes:

Mrs. Bennet - Trish Clark

Mr. Bennet - Walter Tunis
Elizabeth Bennet - Ellie Clark
Jane Bennet - Holly Brady
Mary Bennet - Annie Barbera
Kitty Bennet- Erin Cutler
Lydia Barret/Georgiana - Avery Wigglesworth
Mr. Darcy - Tom Phillips
Charlotte - Sarah Levy
William Lucas/Mr. Collins/Mr. Gardner -Tim Hull
Miss Bingley/Mrs. Gardiner - Vanessa Becker
Lady Catherine - Stephanie Peniston
George Wickham - Drew Davidson


SummerFest concludes with the show that transformed the definition of musical theatre, rocked a generation and changed Broadway forever, Jonathan Larson’s blockbuster musical, RENT, playing July 21 though July 25, 2010.

Tracey Bonner, no stranger to the Lexington musical theatre scene, makes her SummerFest directing debut with this Pulitzer Prize and Tony-winning musical.

RENT Cast Includes:

Mimi Márquez -Jessica Lucas
Roger Davis - John Dawson
Mark Cohen - Chip Becker
Maureen Johnson - Caroline Griffeth
Angel Dumott Schunard - Emanuel Williams
Tom Collins - Nick Vannoy
Joanne Jefferson - Sheronda Piersall
Benjamin 'Benny' Coffin III - Thomas Gibbs
Seasons Of Love Soloist - Andrea Johnson

The Ensemble Includes:

Casey Mather
Justin Norris
Taylor Eldred
Brandon Smith
Cate Poole
Beth Kovarik
Wood Van Meter
Katie Berger
Nick Covault


All SummerFest 2010 performances will begin nightly at 8:45 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays, at the Arboretum: State Botanical Garden of Kentucky on Alumni Drive. SummerFest tickets will go on sale in June 2010 and will once again feature very affordable single ticket prices of $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. Season Passes to see all three shows will also be available at $25 for adults and $12 for kids.

For more information on SummerFest, or the Conservatory programming, please visit them the web at

No comments: