An inside look at Amadeus at City Lights

Arts / Article

I can’t tell you how excited I am about Amadeus at City Lights.  I underestimated the size and scope of the overall project, but experience tells me that the projects that are the hardest – that pose the most challenges, are ultimately the most fun and fulfilling.  I love it when an art form celebrates another art form, and especially in the theater.  This beautiful story written by one of the best modern playwrights about this glorious music pushes all my theatrical buttons!   Mozart’s music is an ever-present and profound device in the piece, and yet the play at its core is about two men struggling with real issues revolving around their relationship with God, their work, and their place in life: what does each have to give, what is his passion, and how does he get his voice heard – and make a living doing what is at the heart of his being?  The play is highly theatrical and dramatic, and yet real at the same time.  Once in a while a project comes around and you can just tell it will be special.  This is one of those projects.  For our audiences and our artists.  We always want to impact our audiences, certainly, but this project, I feel, will impact the artists in a particularly meaningful way.

George Psarras as Mozart and Aidan O’Reilly as Salieri. Photo by Mike Ko, SiliconValley Design

It has been a joy to work with this cast as well.  City Lights veteran George Psarras plays Mozart, in addition to designing sound for the play.  George has been our resident sound designer since 2010, and it has been wonderful to see his two worlds come together with Amadeus.  (It is a boon to the overall production, and to the role of Amadeus, that George is something of a classical music scholar, a Mozart fan, and an accomplished musician in his own right.)  I am blessed to have, in fact, a Mozart and a Salieri that can both actually play the march in the scene in the palace!  (That, of course made the challenge of finding just the right piano to be used in the play ten times harder!  Lots of folks have a fake fortepiano we could have borrowed, but not one that actually plays!)  Roneet Aliza Rahamim has been in two productions previously here at City Lights, but I had not yet had the privilege of directing her myself until this project; she is easy to work with and brings a lot to the table – including a unique blend of innocence and sass that is perfect for the part of Constanze.  The role of Salieri is played by City Lights newcomer, Aidan O’Rielly.  Aidan participated in our general auditions in the Spring of 2013, and wrote on his audition sheet that he was interested in being considered for Amadeus.  I brought him in to audition for the role of Salieri, and he blew me away.  Aidan also happens to be legally blind.  I have never worked with a disabled actor before, and it has been a profound, positive learning experience for me, as well as for my team and, I am sure, for the other actors in the play as well.  I was not sure what it affect his blindness would have on the process when I cast him – how the process would need to be different for me as the director and for the company – but I was more than willing to find out.  I have learned much about my work and myself during this experience and we still have a lot more to do.

The rest of the ensemble is not only talented but a joy to have in the room, and I could not dream of a better design team.  Good thing too, since this play is hard – and HUGE!  I need all those hearts and souls and great ideas around me to help bring this one to life, and to tell this story the way it deserves to be told.

This beautiful play has breathtaking music!!  The Knight Foundation grant has made it possible for us to FINALLY replace our very old, out dated speakers, with new ones.  And George Psarras, our resident Sound Designer, had this to say about our new speakers: “I’m super stoked about the new QSC speakers we purchased to replace our main speakers.  As the resident sound designer/composer, any chance to up the quality of the music and sound in the space, whether it be mine or Mozart’s for example, is something that I’m going to jump on.  QSC has become a high-end standard in the speaker world and I’m very excited to bring this quality product to augment the sonic profile of CLTC productions.  These new speakers are smaller, louder, cleaner, and have a wide range of output to more evenly distribute sound.  Also the other performers/musicians that use our space will not only hear the difference in quality, but know that they’re going to get something good before they even hear a thing.   Even though I will miss the hushed sound of Mexican, sometimes Indian, radio during tech…  Ok, I won’t really miss the local radio interference.  Can’t wait!”

The difference is remarkable.  We have also been able to purchase and install a large pipe upstage for a Cyc, and one over the audience for more front light, and last but not least, something we have never had before . . . 4 new side boom pipes.  This show is very challenging technically, and with the support of the Knight Foundation, we have been set up for success!!