Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Upcoming Andrew Hamm Events!

Hey, all. Here's what's coming up on the Andrew Hamm schedule. Mark your calendars!

  • An American Daughter. Come see a staged reading of Wendy Wasserstein's political-process comic drama on Tuesday, February 28, 2006 at 8pm on the Barksdale Dinner Theatre's lobby stage. It's directed by Billy Christopher Maupin and features many of Richmond's brightest acting stars (and me), gathering to pay tribute to the late great Wasserstein. See what happens when I play a flamboyantly gay arch-conservative political columnist. All heck breaks loose!
  • Othello. The Encore! Theatre company wraps up its first resident season in downtown Richmond with Shakespeare's Tragedy of the Moor of Venice (or, as George Costanza would call him, the Moop of Venice), starring Ted Carter, Cynde Liffick, Thomas Nowlin, Dorothy Pawlowski, and Robin Pierce. This was my first professional directing job (what a way to start, huh?), and I'm pretty happy about it, so come see it. The show runs through April 8, 2006, with performances Thursday through Saturday at 8pm and Saturday at 2pm. Check out Encore's website for ticket details!
  • While you're at their website, check out The Richmond Shakespeare Festival. Come on out to Agecroft Hall this summer to see The Taming of the Shrew and Macbeth. Yes, it's a good summer for intense Shakespearean women!

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My New Leafblower Sucks.

I mean it. It totally sucks. Even when I turn it around and change the configuration, it blows. It both sucks and blows.

Yeah. That's the kind of thing that I'm going to be posting here.


Why an Ange Hamm blog?

Or perhaps the better question is, why not an Ange Hamm blog? Blogs are, by definition, pretty self-referential, and I'm rather full of myself, so let me introduce myself.

I am Andrew Hamm, the Postmodern Renaissance Man. Hello. How are you today? By night I am a costumed righter of wrongs and adjuster of injustices! Yo Joe! Avengers Assemble!

My secret identities have changed many times throughout the years. In Richmond from 1992-1997, I was a Theatre student at Virginia Commonwealth University, then a touring actor for Theatre IV. In New York City from 1997-1999, I was an administrative professional, an optical lab technician, an actor, a musician, and a freelance sports writer. In Albany from 1999-2001, I was once again an administrative professional, an optical lab technician, an actor, a musician, and a freelance sports writer.

In Richmond once more from 2001 through the present, I graduated from the lab to the front of the optical store before getting my MFA in Theatre Pedagogy from the same Virginia Commonwealth University (now under new management!). At VCU, I taught publich speaking and acting, wrote plays, produced plays, directed plays, scored plays, acted in plays, created an ensemble theatre laboratory, and did my thesis on a staged concert based on Joe Jackson's Night and Day and Night and Day II albums, cleverly entitled Joe Jackson's Night and Day. After graduating in May 2005, I heeded a call and served as Interim Youth Minister at Christ Church Episcopal in Short Pump. My interim concluded, I have recently joined the staff of the Encore! Theatre Company.

But all that is just noise. Let's get one thing straight: the number one thing is my faith. Period. Not to get all evangelical on you, but in the words of King Missile, "Jesus was way cool." You should look Him up, if you haven't spoken to Him lately.

I've been thinking very seriously about creating a blog for some time, and this just seemed to be the time. So here it is. What will I write about? Well, whatever comes across my mind, and I assure you a lot of junk shoots across these silly synapses. The performing arts, for example. I'm a professional theatre and music artist in Richmond, Virginia, and I'd like to write about that. Politics and world events are big for me; I'm a registered radical moderate. Sports are big, especially the NFL and baseball. I'm a very optimistic Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Phillies, and Boston Red Sox fan. Faith and American culture are often at odds with each other these days, and I'd like to write about that. And I love comic books.

So why should you read my blog? Well, I'm a writer, so hopefully the style will be above the normal level of your average blog. And I'm pretty darn smart, so the content should be the same. But hopefully you'll read and come back for two reasons: 1) There's no way of knowing what the heck I'm going to write about, and 2) It's going to be fun as all git-out.

So that's all. Happy reading! God bless us, every one!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Style Weekly reviews "Othello"

Left Wanting Moor

Style Weekly
February 15, 2006
By David Timberline

In the production of "Othello" that closes out the inaugural season of Richmond Shakespeare Theatre at Second Presbyterian Church, Master of Play (a.k.a. Director) Andrew Hamm makes at least two inspired choices but also makes one unfortunate mistake.

In the production's opening moments, five actors continuously repeat lines from the play that include the word honest. From this moment on, the audience is attuned to the play's central theme: the perception of sincerity and how it affects our actions. In Hamm's second revelation, he has directed Iago (Robin Pierce), Shakespeare's most despicable villain, as if he were the devil in the Garden of Eden. With his glasses on, Iago is the trusted confidant of the celebrated Moor of Venice, General Othello (Thomas Nowlin). But he takes them off when no one is watching and transforms into a hissing, reptilian schemer focused solely on destroying the paradise his general shares with new-found love Desdemona (Dorothy Pawlowski).

Iago moves players around like pieces on a chessboard (also symbolically employed in the first scene). He uses the weakness of Othello's lieutenant, Cassio (Ted Carter), the anger of Desdemona's spurned suitor, Roderigo (Cynde Liffick), and the generous heart of Desdemona herself to weave a plausible lie that drives Othello into fits of jealousy. These fits quickly take a tragic turn toward the homicidal.

The action hurtles along steadily enough in this 90-minute, intermission-free production, thanks mostly to an exceptional performance by Pierce, with trusty support from Liffick, who also plays Iago's wife, Emilia. However, where Hamm stumbles is in not giving Nowlin anything as inspiring to work from as he has given Pierce. With Othello's quick, devastating journey from the pinnacle of faithful devotion to the pit of jealous despair, Shakespeare is trafficking in heart-rending emotions, and we should feel those in Nowlin's performance. Instead, Nowlin's Othello falls too quickly and conclusively for Iago's ruse and his passion never bubbles over into a rage. A telling point happens at the conclusion of the play when Liffick as Emilia projects more genuine pain at the tragedy that has transpired than Nowlin does.

Pawlowski does a fine job as Desdemona, her attitude toward Othello slowly changing from devotion to bewilderment. Carter makes for a modest but steadfast Cassio, and he has several surprisingly comic moments early on. Relatively barebones technically, the production does employ some very real-looking weaponry, though Hamm thankfully doesn't draw out the play's combat scenes any longer than necessary. While there are implicit racial overtones in "Othello," thanks to the lead character's Moorish complexion, no undue attention is drawn to this fact.

There are a couple of other items that I could fault Hamm for, though: actors fiddling with a CD player on stage to provide background music can be distracting, and Shakespeare starts to feel really long without an intermission. But these items could be easily overlooked if the central tragedy was consistently compelling. This could have been a superb production with just a little more Moor. S

Richmond Shakespeare Theatre's "Othello" will be at Second Presbyterian Church, 5 North Fifth St., through April 8. Tickets are available by calling 232-4000 or at

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Richmond Times-Dispatch: "Minimalist 'Othello,' robust emotions

Minimalist 'Othello,' robust emotions
Shakespeare Theatre offers unusual pick in Acts of Faith Festival

Richmond Times-Dispatch
Feb 4, 2006
By Susan Haubenstock

Ever heard of a five-actor, 90-minute "Othello"? This is a high school student's dream: Lose the minor characters, lose lots of verbiage and pare the Shakespeare tragedy down to its essential elements.

But this is an "Othello" for any Shakespeare lover, because those elements are thrown into high relief with this kind of minimalist production.

Richmond Shakespeare Theatre's current production at Second Presbyterian Church follows the company's practice of using just a few actors in multiple roles, with minimal scenery and costumes (and, in this case, no special lighting), to bring us the emotional meat of the play.

It's a peculiar choice for the company's contribution to the Acts of Faith Festival. There's not much God apparent in "Othello." The story of the Moorish general -- secretly hated by his ensign, Iago, and deceived by Iago into murderous jealousy of his young wife, Desdemona -- includes few exhortations to heaven.

There is much to ponder in the character of Iago, a consciously evil man who identifies with Satan, and there is considerable talk of faith and faithlessness among humans, but little apparent spirituality to link the play to most of the other Acts of Faith Festival offerings.

The usual explanations of Othello's credulous behavior are psychological: He lacks self-confidence, he's touchy about injuries to his pride, he's too quick to believe Iago's lies about Desdemona's infidelity.

But here Master of Play (director) Andrew Hamm forges a link to the Old Testament concept of evil by having gifted actor Robin Pierce play Iago as an embodiment of Satan. He's the snake in the garden, sinuous, sharp-featured and hissing.

Pierce's wonderfully intense performance is the centerpiece of the production. He's constantly called "honest," and Othello believes Iago loves him, but Pierce whips off the mask of his glasses to show the true evil of his nature.

Pierce is well-supported by the rest of the ensemble. The reliable Cynde Liffick plays both Roderigo and Emilia, the latter with special poignancy. Ted Carter's Cassio brings a strong physical presence to the play, enhancing the notion that these are military men.

Dorothy Pawlowski is affecting as Desdemona, who has mistakenly put her faith in her husband. Though she prays to God, it seems she is abandoned. Pawlowski doubles as a whiny Bianca.

And as Othello, Thomas Nowlin gives us a convincing military officer whose self-doubt in his personal life leads to his downfall.

Master of Verse Freddy Kaufman has finely tuned the cast's diction so that the beauty of the language is fully realized, and we can reflect on the mistakes Othello makes in where he places his faith.