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Persuasion Insights from the Playwright

Persuasion at Livermore Shakes starts July 7th


Jennifer Le Blanc as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, LSF 2014. Costume by Barbara Murray. Directed by Lisa A. Tromovitch. Photo by Gregg Le Blanc,


Hi! I’m Jennifer Le Blanc, I adapted Jane Austen’s novel, Persuasion, for the stage. I’m so excited that Livermore Shakespeare Festival will be producing it this summer with Mary Ann Rodgers directing.

My absolute favorite passage from Persuasion, is the letter. If you’re familiar with the book, you know exactly the swoon-worthy letter I mean. A soul-piercingly good missive. If you’re not familiar with the novel – Hooray, welcome to Persuasion! And don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil the best part for you.

Instead let’s take a peek at another brilliant moment. Our heroine, Anne Elliot, and her friend, Captain Harville, are having a heartfelt conversation about who loves more strongly, men or women. Captain Harville argues that there is a correlation between men’s physical strength and their emotional strength; so since men are stronger than women, their emotions must be stronger, too. Anne, who has experienced considerable romantic disappointment, feels that women love more tenderly than men.

Captain Harville brings up literature as evidence:

“But let me observe that all histories are against you- all stories, prose and verse. If I had such a memory as Benwick, I could bring you fifty quotations in a moment on my side of the argument, and I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say on woman’s inconstancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman’s fickleness. But perhaps you will say they were all written by men.” (p. 216 in Collins Classics edition of Persuasion)

Lindsey Marie Schmeltzer and Ryan Tasker in Sense and Sensibility, directed by Jennifer Le Blanc for LSF 2015. Costumes by Callie Floor. Photo by Gregg Le Blanc,

Lindsey Marie Schmeltzer and Ryan Tasker in Sense and Sensibility, directed by Jennifer Le Blanc for LSF 2015. Costumes by Callie Floor. Photo by Gregg Le Blanc,

To which Anne replies:

“Perhaps I shall. Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything.” (p.216)

In the 21st century we are seeing the need to celebrate all sorts of diverse voices in our story-telling, just as Austen recognized the need for women’s voices in the 19th century. It’s so exciting to me that her response was to pick up a pen. And how lucky for us that she did! We get to enjoy her satire, her romance, and her philosophy. I love her wit and wisdom as she illuminates the strength, nobility, foibles, snobbery, and passions of humanity- all delivered with a healthy dose of humor. And I hope you enjoy it, too!

The Clothes Make the [Wo]Man.

July 12, 2013

The Clothes Make the [Wo]Man.

img-kat-blogBy Kathryn Zdan
Livermore Shakespeare Festival



Rebecca Pingree, Kathryn Zdan and Luisa Frasconi in The Liar. Costumes by Barbara Muraay. Scenic Design by Randall Enlow. Photo by Gregg Le Blanc,

I’m just going to say it up front: I am an actor that absolutely loves designers.  I adore them.  I almost worship them.  I may have years and years of training under my belt, I may be a ninja in the rehearsal room and on the stage, I may have the skills to pay the bills, and I may work with more than my fair share of fantastic actors and directors, but I’m going to say that so much of the success of my final performance is due to the fact that I am privileged to work with fantastic designers.  The lighting designers make me look fantastic.  The scenic designers give me a world to inhabit.  The sound designers create the mood, the tone, and feel of a scene for me.  But perhaps my best and most secret weapon as an actor is the work of the costume designer.

There is something transformative, and almost magical, about putting on a well made costume.  Think about it.  When we dress ourselves in the morning we put on clothes that express something: how we feel, our cultural identity, our job, our socio-economic status (or desired socio-economic status), our fashion sense, whether we feel happy or sad, open or closed off, our level of audacity that day, our modesty (or lack thereof), and any other number of things.  Think about how different you feel and behave in a tight dress and heels versus a pair of sweatpants and some Uggs.  What we put on our body both expresses and shapes who we are.

Inside the Mind of the Director for “The Taming of the Shrew”

July 7, 2013

Inside the Mind of the Director for “The Taming of the Shrew”

img-Gary-blog_thumbBy Gary Armagnac
Director, The Taming of the Shrew,
Livermore Shakespeare Festival


Video created by Michael Wayne Rice.

Michael Wayne Rice created our earlier video/blog with Lisa Tromovitch discussing Livermore Shakespeare Festival’s hilarious The Liar.  This time Michael’s video/blog focuses on Gary Armagnac, director of The Taming of the Shrew, LSF’s Shakespeare production for this summer.

Gary gives us some insights into his work as a director, into the play itself and his vision of it, and into the Livermore Shakespeare Festival, too.  The video includes some nice shots of our beautiful venue at Concannon Vineyard.

Come on out and see the shows!  You’ll enjoy plenty of hearty laughs.  Bring a picnic, buy a bottle of wine, and settle in for a delightful evening.

A Tale of Two Kates

June 28, 2013

A Tale of Two Kates

img-katie-blogIntroduction By Katie Marcel (Kate #3?),
LSF Administrative Director



Katherine Vajda – America’s first professional female winemaker (1950 1960). Photo courtesy Concannon Vineyard.

One of my favorite things about director Gary Armagnac, besides the fact that he is a lovely human being, is his ability to extract the theme of community in Shakespeare’s works. Gary’s Romeo and Juliet (LSF 2010) focused on the people around the star-crossed lovers: their parents, cousins, friends and clergy. In our production of The Taming of the Shrew, Gary has once again focused his director’s lens on the community within the story, and this time, it is OUR community! LSF’s Shrew is set in Livermore, post WWII in…get this…a vineyard! Our Katherina is a “Rosie the Riveter” type, a woman who worked the vineyards while the boys were away. In true Gary Armagnac fashion, he has weaved in a fascinating bit of Livermore history to this production. Lo and behold, the first professional female winemaker was employed at Concannon Vineyard. And…wait for it…her name was Katherine.

The essay below is from the Concannon Family archives: a piece written by John Concannon, 4th Generation Concannon, a member of Concannon Vineyard’s management and winemaking teams, and a spokesperson on behalf of the winery and the wine industry.

A Director’s Vision

June 18, 2013

A Director’s Vision

img-Gary-blog_thumbBy Gary Armagnac
Director, The Taming of the Shrew

img_blg3_rosie_the_riveter_with-soldierHi, Gary Armagnac here. I’m directing The Taming of the Shrew for Livermore Shakespeare Festival this summer. I thought I’d share some of my thoughts about the play and this particular production via this blog.

First of all, I’m very excited to be returning to LSF to work on this project. My last experience here was in 2010 when I directed Romeo and Juliet, and I had one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences of my career.  Artistic Director Lisa Tromovitch and her team created an extraordinarily relaxed, focused, and disciplined (read organized) environment. Everyone was more than willing to “go the extra mile.”  LSF is a great place to work. And I’m not the only one who thinks so; have you ever noticed how many of the same actors, designers, technicians, and staff return year after year? There’s a reason for that…….