Julie Eccles, an Associate Artist at California Shakespeare Theatre in Orinda, recently spent an evening with us. Julie was appearing as Gertrude in Hamlet this summer, so we invited her to meet us for a couple of hours on one of her nights off. About 30 kids and their parents listened to Julie recount some of the highlights of her career on stage and screen. Julie and Bob Rumsby met at UC Davis in 1982 and appeared in several student productions together, including Romeo and Juliet, The Cherry Orchard, and The Beaux Stratagem. Julie went on to study at London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and spent some time in London before moving back to the Bay Area. During a long career with northern California theatre companies, she has played leading roles in plays by Shakespeare, Shaw, and Noel Coward. In addition to her stage experience, Julie mentioned a televised production of Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude, in which she appeared with Kenneth Branagh, and an audition for Steven Spielberg that led to a small role alongside Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
During the second part of the evening, Julie watched some of our group reprise scenes, speeches, and songs from recent productions of Twelfth Night andMacbeth, as well as a rehearsal of the Marley and Scrooge scene from the upcoming production of A Christmas Carol.Julie herself treated us to a beautiful rendition of Gertrude’s speech from Hamlet describing the drowning of Ophelia. A few days after the meeting, nine of us drove up to Orinda to watch a full performance of Hamlet, and we all agreed that it was a fantastic production and well worth the visit. We look forward to the possibility of working with Julie again next summer and returning to Orinda to see more shows at California Shakespeare Theatre.