Thursday, December 22, 2011


Last week we brought you the final product of one group's Dramatic Retelling of the Rosenberg Trial.  As promised, here is the final product of our other group!  They were asked to cover the story of the Hollywood Ten. They chose to portray an inside look at "One Tenth" of them by creating a trailer for a fictional movie that follows the life and involvement of screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo.  

To fill you in on the history surrounding the Hollywood Ten, we have included a brief synopsis below.  Just as before, this group was given only two and a half hours to cast, write, rehearse, and film their projects. ( Additional time was spent on editing.)  So, due to certain limitations with resources and time, you may see some elements such as contemporary clothing, gender/color-blind casting, and resourceful uses of Shirlington Village throughout the film. 

The Hollywood Ten
 The first systematic blacklist was instituted on November 25, 1947 and contained a list of ten Hollywood screenwriters and actors known as “The Hollywood Ten.” When asked, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” they simply refused to testify.  The following April, The Hollywood Ten was convicted of contempt of Congress and sentenced to jail.  All the members of the Hollywood Ten were screenwriters, except for director  Edward Dymtryk. Although, in addition to their efforts as screenwriters, most doubled as actors, authors, directors, and even journalists.

Herbert J. Biberman   Served six months in prison for his convictions and was blacklisted by the official Hollywood studio.
Lester Cole   Co-founder of the Writers Guild of America. Joined the American Communist Party in 1936. Served ten months in prison.  After the blacklisting, three of his scripts were produced under the names of his wife and friends.
Edward Dmytryk   After spending several months in prison following his conviction, Dmytryk testified again, confessing his former involvement with the Communist Party and giving away the names of those he was involved with.
Ring Lardner Jr.   While blacklisted, he moved to England and wrote for several television series under a pseudonym.  Once the blacklist was repealed, he returned to writing in America and wrote M.A.S.H.
John Howard Lawson   Co-founded the Screen Writers Guild and served as head of the film division of the Communist Party.
Albert Maltz   Won the 1951 Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Drama, submitted under the name Michael Blankfort, a fellow screen writer.
Samuel Ornitz   Co-founded the Screen Writer’s Guild.
Adrian Scott   After being blacklisted, he wrote for the series, The Adventures of Robin Hood, under a pseudonym.
Dalton Trumbo   While blacklisted, he won two Academy Awards for his screenplays.  One was written under his pseudonym, Robert Rich, and the other originally presented to a front-writer.
Alvah Bessie  Blacklisted and Imprisoned for ten months.
On December 3, 1947, Eric Johnston, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, held a meeting at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. At the conclusion of the meeting, Johnston released the “Waldorf Statement” which contained a list of over three hundred working members of the Hollywood film industry suspected of being communists or communist sympathizers. This marked the start of the blacklisting movement. Anyone on the list was questioned by HUAC which typically ruined their professional careers, friendships, and relationships. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Signature in the Schools and Hairspray

Cameron, an actor in Un-American

Cameron, a member of the Apprentice at Signature program, is a senior at Yorktown High School where he studies theatre under the direction of Signature Academy instructor, Carol Cadby. This is his first year performing with Signature in the Schools and is very excited to be originating the role of Taylor in the world premiere production, Un-American. A few weeks ago, Cameron was lucky enough to attend a matinee performance of Hairspray at Signature Theatre with his fellow Apprentices. A couple of weeks later, he attended the show a second time.

What did you think about Signature's production of Hairspray? 
Let me start out by saying… HAIRSPRAY WAS INCREDIBLE. Over the years I have seen dozens of shows but Hairspray at Signature was by far my favorite. Not only was the music and choreography incredible but the acting was outstanding. As an aspiring actor I thoroughly enjoyed watching these actors. They were truly reacting to what the other was saying, living the circumstances fully, and had amazing characterization. Often times there are shows with a few stars and then the ensemble is “average” but in Hairspray it was different. Each cast member created an extensive and detailed character, which made the show as a whole that much more real and that much more entertaining. Having been at Signature non-stop these past few weeks I have gotten to know some of the actors and they are some of the kindest, most talented people I have ever met. I hope to work more with Signature in the future and it is great to know that incredible individuals, who are not only great actors but great people as well, will surround me.
The cast of Hairspray performs on the Max stage

How do you feel about performing on the same set as Hairspray?
Being in Un-American gives me the chance to perform on the hairspray set. That is just down right awesome. Many sets are often one-dimensional in that they don’t have “levels.” Or, worse, they are just too over the top. But the Hairspray set brings both the levels, which creates a city vibe, while also adding just enough “flavor” to make the set stand out without being to flamboyant. I cannot wait to utilize the steps and the thrust in general. Hope to see everyone at Un-American this February! Happy Holidays and go see Hairspray!
The cast of Un-American rehearses with director, David Zobell, on the set of Hairspray.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Let's Get Personal with....Max!

Max Rosenberg, now in his junior year at Wakefield High School, has dedicated himself to Signature in the Schools for the last three years as our faithful stage manager.  Max was asked to say a few things about his duties as stage manager and what some of his favorite experiences have been working with Signature in the Schools in the past.  

Max hard at work during a rehearsal for Un-American.
When I was a young freshman boy coming to Signature for interviews, it was really scary. It was like walking into a new world that I knew nothing about. When I walked into the interview with Marcia and Joe I was nervous to say the least, and all I wanted to do at that point was work the lights and sound. Almost immediately after looking at my resume sheet, Marcia  asked, “How would you like to be stage manager?” That was the start of my great relationship with Signature in the Schools

This is going to be my third year working with Signature and it just keeps getting better and better every year. I learn more about what it’s like to work in a professional theatre, and I get more opportunities to work with others in Signature as well. Part of my job for my shows is to keep track of everything that goes on, from blocking to props. From what lines are cut to giving out calls for the next day’s rehearsal. But my favorite part by far is when we get to go into the theatre because from that point on, I am in charge of everything. I have the most authority in the room so when I call, "Break!" we have break, when I say "Let’s go back to this line," we go back to that line. From there I get to put in cues for lights and sound that I am given by the light and sound crew so that when it come to the first performance, I am ready to go. There is a lot of stress and time commitment that goes into this as well, but when you want to become something, you will work for it, and Signature is by far the one thing that that I can’t wait for each and every day.  My favorite part about doing this is being able to get to know people from my school and being able to work with them to have a great show for all the schools to see by the end. 

My first year though had to be my favorite. After the first couple of weeks Marcia started saying, “This cast always has had the most food at rehearsal by far compared to the other years.” We all laughed at that. Also, that was the year she called me the best stage manager she has ever had. This is why I keep coming back to Signature: for the people and to get better and better every year.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Spotlight on Joseph!

Joseph, a senior at Wakefield High School, is a veteran of the Signature in the Schools program. He will be returning to the cat walk this February for a second time as one of our spotlight operators.

1.Where were you born? City/State/country?
Born in DC. Raised Northwest, Maryland, and Arlington. Stuck in the metropolitan area.

2.What is your favorite subject in school?
Orchestra even though eight years hasn’t paid off yet.

3. What is a favorite memory from your childhood?
Riding on my bike around the cul-de-sac. The suburbs were very rewarding.

4. What got you into theatre?
Right now, I am trying to find my inner self which is resulting in strange acts that some people find humorous. I do like acting and watching people act; sometimes, looking at an actor makes me wonder why I didn’t audition. Still, working with the technical crew is very fun, relaxing, and enjoyable.

5.What was the best show you ever saw? Where?
Unfortunately, I’ve only seen one Broadway show but I plan to see more. I could not guarantee if it was good though; the Addams Family seemed appropriate for traveling students. One play that I loved was the play held at our school last year starring Wakefield’s finest: Lintle and Jame (Both who starred in Signature in the Schools' productions of Image is Everything and Shakespeare, Will.)

6. What was the best thing you ate this Thanksgiving?
I got back from New York to enjoy a good meal late at night. Nothing wrong with cold turkey...

7. What is one thing on your holiday wish-list this year?
I wish for new glasses. More of a need than a want at this point since my glasses broke and I am sadly blind.

8. What is your go-to song to belt in the shower?
I like to pretend that I am Win Butler and that I could sing as well as him even though some people say he doesn’t have a very good voice. I don’t have an exact song though.

Here's Win Butler, lead singer of Arcade Fire:

9. If you were forced to appear before HUAC, would you choose to give away your friends to save yourself, OR save your friends and suffer the blacklist? Why?
If my friends fooled me then I would definitely give them away but if they were in a situation with no resolve, I would testify that they were innocent…even if I wasn’t a communist.

10. What has been your favorite exercise in SIS rehearsals thus far?
I like how the cast and crew were called together to participate for learning about the background history. Last year was totally different which is why I respected this year so much since the “techies” and “acties” were both required to attend those sessions and not just the actors. I like doing improv because it allows me to become more comfortable with more people.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Dramatic Retelling of The Trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

This year's Signature in the Schools production, Un-American, is inspired by the McCarthy Era.  The cast and crew spent the first three weeks of the rehearsal process becoming experts on this topic. They devoted several rehearsals just to learning about the significant figures, events, and acts surrounding this period in history.  To culminate the research part our rehearsal process, the company, including both cast and crew, were asked to create short films that accurately portray  major historic events surrounding the McCarthy Era.  The company was split into two groups. Each group was assigned a topic, and given only two and a half hours to cast, write, rehearse, and film their projects. (Luckily, editing was not included in those two hours.)  Due to certain limitations with resources and time, you may see some elements such as contemporary clothing, gender/color-blind casting, and resourceful uses of Shirlington Village throughout the films. 

Our first group was asked to cover the Rosenberg Trial.   Be sure to tune back to From the Classroom soon to see Signature in the Schools coverage of the Hollywood Ten!

The Rosenberg Trial 

To this day, the Rosenberg trial is regarded by some as the most controversial case of the McCarthy Era.  Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were the only two people to receive the death penalty during the McCarthy Era and the first husband and wife to receive the death penalty in American history. They were found guilty on charges of espionage and delivering top secret, first hand information about the Atomic Bomb to the Soviet Union.
In February of 1950, German physicist and spy, Klaus Fuchs, was arrested in Great Britain for supplying information from the American, British, and Canadian atomic bomb research to the USSR shortly after World War II. Although he initially refused to name people who worked with him, he did eventually confess to working with courierHarry Gold. In turn, Gold made remarks that led to the investigation and arrest of David Greenglass.

David Greenglass, Sergeant in the United States Army, and member of the Communist Party of the United States, was assigned to the highly confidential Manhattan Project, the wartime project intended to develop the first atomic weapons.  Greenglass began passing nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union, while also supplying his brother-in-law, Julius Rosenberg, with top secret documents. In June of 1950, Greenglass was arrested for espionage and sentenced to fifteen years in prison (although he only served ten.) During Greenglass’ trial, he implicated Julius Rosenberg as a collaborator in the espionage ring.  In 1951, the FBI offered Greenglass an immunity agreement, allowing his wife to stay at home with their children if he testified against his sister and brother-in-law.  While he initially denied his sister’s involvement with the crime, he later changed his story, admitting that Ethel Rosenberg helped to type his notes, including her in the espionage ring.

Ruth Greenglass, David’s wife, also testified that Ethel Rosenberg typed up the notes for her husband.  She also testified that Julius and Ethel were the ones that pressured her husband into sharing nuclear secrets with the Soviet Union. Both Julius and Ethel chose their right to plead the fifth in court, refusing to answer any potentially incriminating questions. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted on March 29, 1951 and sentenced to death the following April. Up until their death in 1953, both Rosenbergs denied all charges of espionage.  

Judge Irving Kauffman, upon imposing the death penalty upon the Rosenbergs declared:

I consider your crime worse than murder... I believe your conduct in putting into the hands of the Russians the A-Bomb years before our best scientists predicted Russia would perfect the bomb has already caused…the Communist aggression in Korea, with the resultant casualties exceeding 50,000 and who knows but that millions more of innocent people may pay the price of your treason. Indeed, by your betrayal you undoubtedly have altered the course of history to the disadvantage of our country…We have evidence of your treachery all around us every day for the civilian defense activities throughout the nation are aimed at preparing us for an atom bomb attack.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Let's Get Personal with....Morgan!

Morgan, a member of the Apprentice at Signature program and a junior at H.B Woodlawn, will be creating the role of Sara in Signature in the Schools' world premiere production of Un-American this year. 

  1. Where were you born? City/State/country?
I was born in the oh-so-far-away land of Washington, DC.

  1. What is your favorite subject in school?
My favorite subject in school is probably English Literature or Creative Writing. I have always loved stories, both reading and telling them, and English type classes are the few places in school where you are truly pushed to stretch your imagination.

  1. What is a favorite memory from your childhood?
I was an eccentric little child; in fact I was basically the Lady Gaga of my preschool. My teachers knew me as that kid who rushed in to put a skirt on their head every morning, plush toy in hand and plastic jewelry jangling.

  1. What got you into theatre?
It was only natural then that my parents found an outlet for my budding creative insanity. At age three, I was signed up for acting classes at Imagination Stage, and the rest was history. I have been involved with theater ever since.

  1. What was the best show you ever saw? Where?
If I had to pick the best show I ever saw, it would have to be a draw between Billy Elliot in London, and The Boy Detective Fails here at Signature. I liked both shows for very different reasons. Billy Elliot is brilliant for its message of hope while The Boy Detective Fails is one of the most creative stories I have heard in a very long time. Also, the music from both shows is completely addicting.
  1. What was the best thing you ate this Thanksgiving?
Moving down my list of questions, the best thing I ate at thanksgiving was a pumpkin pie my little sister made.

  1. What is one thing on your holiday wish-list this year?
And one thing on my holiday wish list this year is a melodica; it’s an instrument that kind of looks like what would happen if a piano and a recorder had a baby. It is incredibly cool.

  1. What is your go-to song to belt in the shower?
My go-to song to belt in the shower is currently “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones.

  1. If you were forced to appear before HUAC, would you choose to give away your friends to save yourself, OR save your friends and suffer the blacklist? Why?
Our show Un-American deals heavily with the impacts of McCarthyism, and what people chose to do when they went before the House of Un-American ActivitiesCommittee, or HUAC. I wish I could say I wouldn’t rat anyone out, that I wouldn't name names and allow myself to be placed on the blacklist, but honestly, I’m not sure. I think I would be tempted to rat out people who had hurt me in the past, even if I knew they were innocent. I hope I could stay loyal to my friends, but that takes a lot of resolve, and I’m not sure I have it.
  1. What has been your favorite exercise in SIS rehearsals thus far?
Morgan with fellow cast and crew members during a rehearsal.
Over the past week we have done a number of incredibly difficult activities that are designed to make us more vulnerable to our peers, and the audience. These activities have left me feeling emotionally exhausted, and I often came home from rehearsal just to crash on my bed. My favorite exercise was ultimately the hardest. We had to tell the group something we had never told anyone else before. It was unbelievably difficult, but at the end of the day I felt relief. I was suddenly so close to these people who I had only met three weeks ago, and that was really amazing. The connection I now have with this cast makes it that much easier to relate to them, and I wouldn’t have traded this last week for anything. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why Signature in the Schools?

By Ariel
Ariel, a sophomore at Wakefield High School, will grace the Signature stage for the first time this February in our world premiere production of Un-American, written by Joe Calarco.

            One of the reasons I auditioned for Un-American was because I love Signature and the quality shows they produce.  I have been coming to see productions at Signature since I was little and had heard about the work they did with high school students, but wasn’t sure what it was.  Now that I’m in the show, I realize that working in a professional theatre with theatre professionals on an original play are the things that make this program exceptional and unique. 
            I’m hoping that through the research, rehearsal and performance process I gain both acting experience and a better understanding of theatre and performance in general. I feel very fortunate and honored to be cast in this year’s production and I can’t wait to witness the show’s growth over the next two months. I’m sure the memories and lessons from this experience will continue to affect me daily, even after the show is over.   I hope you enjoy the show as much as I’ve enjoyed being a part of it!

Ariel stops for a photo-op during a recent rehearsal for Un-American.


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