Produced by: Foothill Theatre
By: Tom Stoppard
Featuring: Warren Wernick and Jacob Marker
When: November 1 through 18, 2012
Where: Lohman Theatre, Foothill College, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills
Tickets: $10-$18; visit www.foothill.edu/theatre or call650-949-7360
Parking: $3 in parking lot 8
See a video interview of Bruce McLeod, Warren Wernick and Jacob Marker at Peninsula Backstage.
Read Mary Miller's review of this production.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
are still dead
Bruce McLeod, who is directing "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" at Foothill Theatre through November 18, 2012, has spent his entire life in the theater.
Born in Indiana, where his father was a professor at Purdue, McLeod spent his childhood backstage as his mother and father were involved with community theater, and as soon as he and his siblings were old enough, they started helping out.
"We helped clean up the building, and as soon as we were old enough, started doing tech work. My siblings and I were in the shows."
He went to Western Washington University in Bellingham, getting "a degree in speech with a theater concentration - that's the way they did it, in those days," he said, during a phone interview from his office at Foothill College.
"If it didn't rain so much, I'd probably still be up there."
But rain it does in that part of Washington, so McLeod started migrating south.
He hired in at Ashland for two years, he said, "At a time when there were a lot of people from the Bay Area spending their summers up there. One was a sound designer, who was teaching at College of San Mateo. He needed someone to run his shop.
"So I came down, took a look around, went, 'This is cool!'"
He's been in the Bay Area ever since - doing "a lot of tech jobs, mostly on the Peninsula, a few in San Francisco and the East Bay."
He started out crashing on a couch in Palo Alto. It was the best of all worlds - living in Palo Alto and doing theater.
"I hooked up with Kelley at TheatreWorks. He was directing a show, needed a small set and help to get things organized. I was hired for the youth workshop as the tech director and designer ... about 1974."
Those were the days when he and founder Robert Kelley were the only two employees at TheatreWorks. Now it is huge.
TheatreWorks is where McLeod met his wife, Carla Befera, when she was performing in "Stepping Out," in 1988, and he was the lighting designer. She is now a great theatrical press agent who is thinking about maybe getting back into performing. Their two children, Ryan and Lily are away at college, and both are involved with performing or theater. Natch.
McLeod was hired at Foothill College in 2005, to run the theater tech program, and got too busy to be fulltime at TheatreWorks.
And as it turns out, he loves teaching.
"It took a long time to get to it, but I love being in classroom, love teaching, love having the energy of the students around, love watching them figure things out. I like watching them make mistakes - as long as it's not dangerous."
Foothill College, nestled in the Los Altos hills, has an excellent theater program that stages impressive plays and musicals, and has continued to build an army of actors, singers, dancers, directors and tech people who come back again and again to help out.
"Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" is the first play McLeod has directed at Foothill, although he has directed many times before elsewhere, starting in his own college days.
There are four people in the theater faculty at Foothill, including McLeod, but one is on sabbatical, one is directing the coming musical, and so McLeod was asked to direct "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead."
"'It will be a struggle,' they said, 'it will be hard.' And it has been a struggle."
McLeod is directing and also co-designing (with Carlos Aceves), which means rehearsals, individual work with the two leads (Warren Wernick and Jacob Marker) and about a thousand other things to do, plus he is still teaching a full load of classes.
"Five years ago, when the children were still at home, I never would have done this," McLeod said. "Rehearsals Monday through Thursday nights for three and a half hours, afternoons with the two leads, Saturdays, 10 to 3, during the week, teaching my regular load.
"Pretty much I've been living here for six weeks."
But, then, there is that whole love of theater thing and that love of teaching thing.
Directing the student cast, McLeod said, is like being in the classroom.
"Almost all of them are between the ages of 18 or 19, and 25, with one exception. They have all this energy. You just try to point them in the right direction. I give them focus, provide them with leadership."
"Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead," by Tom Stoppard, is nearly ideal for a collegiate production, because it is a play that begins in absurdity (92 consecutive coin tosses with the same side coming up every time? Absurd) and just continues on with plenty of odd logic and exploration of deep ideas in the silliest of ways.
Plenty of teaching moments.
Plus, it takes place, in part, in the wings of a production of "Hamlet," so there is all kinds of important theater going on around Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who are nearly a footnote in "Hamlet," but of course the centerpiece of their own play.
It opened on November 1, and continues through November 18, 2012. It's in the comfy Lohman Theatre at Foothilll, which is nice because it doesn't include a climb up cardiac hill, just a nice stroll from parking lot 8.
"Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is going great," McLeod said the day before opening. "The students are great, working hard. The two guys in the leads (Wernick and Marker), I think they'll be great.
"Imagine. Two young actors, also going to school. Learning lines and going to classes. "They're great."