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Crossposted to [livejournal.com profile] bard_in_boston and [livejournal.com profile] weirdjews

An interesting thing I learned at the Actors' Shakespeare Project Conversations about the play:

There are good things and bad things about having a Jew playing Shylock in Merchant of Venice. The bad thing is that religious Jews read texts that they care about with the same care and introspection that they bring to the Torah, which, I believe, is entirely inappropriate for Shakespeare, which was written by a human.

The good thing . . . Jeremiah Kissel is a ba'al koreh for his shul . . . and, a couple weeks ago, found the name "Shylock" in the Torah.

See, we've all assumed that "Shylock" was just a name that Shakespeare made up out of whole cloth. But Kissel was reading Parshat Noach . . . and found, in Genesis 11:12, "When Arpachshad had lived 35 years, he begot Shelah".

In Hebrew, that name is שָׁלַח -- a better transliteration would be "Shelakh". Which would go into English as "Shylock".

Jeremiah Kissel solved one of the ongoing niggling mysteries of Shakesperian scholarship -- where the hell the name "Shylock" comes from. Of course, it raises a NEW niggling mystery, of how the heck Shakespeare was AWARE of this name -- in English translations of the time, the closest I can find is the spelling "Shelah" in the Geniva Bible -- the other translations put it "Sale", which is even farther away.

One mystery potentially solved, an even more interesting mystery opened. That's the way it goes, right?
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Last season, there was a swath of productions of Titus Andronicus, as college troupes saw it, realized it was a fun play which didn't deserve its negative reputation, and decided to perform it themselves. I would be really happy if the same thing happened with King John this season, and the Actors' Shakespeare Project production, playing now until June 8th, demonstrates why.

See, Titus picked up a reputation as being too bloody and over-the-top to be performed, but a couple good productions, including ASP's, showed folks that "bloody and over-the-top" is not actually a BAD thing in a play. This play has a reputation as being so full of deception and plot twists that it can't be followed -- and it doesn't deserve that. Oh, it's chock-full of deception and twists, but that's a good thing. I suppose that, if one was reading the play, one would have trouble following who was backstabbing whom, but when it's performed on stage with a competent cast, the actors are able to take you through with no trouble whatsoever.

Yes, the plot twists and turns, and you never know what's going to happen in the next scene. But, no matter where you go, there you are. It's not hard to keep track of what's going on, even if you can't predict what will happen next.

It's sort of like one of those walking labyrinths, like the one that my parents built in their backyard, or the ones that a number of churches have painted on the floor. It consists of a single twisting path, looping back on itself, but with no deviations. You walk through the path, never knowing quite what the path will be, but nonetheless, never getting lost. There is only one path, and it takes you through it -- no matter how convoluted it looks from the outside.

Hold onto that image, by the way. We'll be coming back to it.
Warning: Class 5 plot twists within )
So -- to conclude: the Actors' Shakespeare Project shows us that a complex plot need not be a confusing plot. Their actors and production team lead us through the labyrinthine paths of King John's many betrayals and twists, letting us feel the emotional impact of each one, but never losing us or confusing us.

Tickets are forty bucks, plus or minus a couple bucks depending on which seat, for adults, thirty to thirty-five for students. But remember, guys: they also may have student rush tickets available just before the show, for just fifteen bucks. I encourage you to go and check it out -- I'd like to see if you in the college companies like the play as much as I do. If so, I'd love to see what you'd do with it if you put it on yourselves.
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Lis and I just got back from seeing the premiere of Cardenio, by Stephen Greenblatt and Charles L. Mee, loosely based on what we know of the play by the same name by Shakespeare. Greenblatt is a well-known Shakespeare scholar, and so we were interested to see what they did with this.

I'll write more later, but I wanted to get a couple things down while I remembered them.

There are three questions to ask about a production like this:
1. Is it fun to watch?
2. Is it a good play?
3. Is it a good pastiche of Shakespeare?

The answers, in this case, are "yes", "meh", and "no".

One thing Lis said on the way home: "I was hoping to see something like Shakespeare's Cardenio, not an episode of Friends."

Although, to be fair, if this HAD been an episode of Friends, it would have been a two-hour season finale special, not just a regular episode.

As far as, "was it good Shakespeare fanfic"? Let's put it this way. On the drive home, Lis was shocked to realize that the play we'd seen observed the Aristotelian unities . . . .

(See, in the Middle Ages, the idea was that all plays should be set in a single location, that the action should take place over the course of no more than a day, and that there should be only one main action with few or no subplots. Shakespeare blew this concept to smithereens, writing plays that sprawled over continents and decades, with two or three intertwining but more-or-less independent subplots, so much so that he entirely re-wrote the rules of what drama could be. So Lis was genuinely disturbed to realize that the entire action we'd seen took place on one terrace, over the course of one day, with really only one main action.)
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So, Lis and I got press tix to a one-woman show about Shakespearian actresses on the American stage from the Civil War to the present, about which I'll write a review in a bit.

The info we got suggested to us that it would be at the Huntington Theater. When we got there, fifteen minutes before curtain, the theater was dark, and, when we looked at the poster for the show, it listed a venue halfway across town.

There were two other rather confused people standing in front of the theater, too. So, since they'd taken the T, we offered them a ride.

The short of it is that I dropped Lis, the bartender from Grafton Street Pub, and the reviewer for the Russian-language newspapers off in time for the show, halfway across town, and I was only a minute late or so after parking the car. I ended up seated in the balcony, rather than with Lis, but it was fine.

So, because of our bad luck in getting bad information about where the show was, we met two nifty people, and got all of us to the show on time.
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The first question about any production of Henry V -- any production going back to the first time that Shakespeare's company put it on after he wrote it -- is "how do you deal with the audacity of trying to put an empire-spanning war, including one of the most dramatic battles in English history, on a stage?"

Shakespeare's answer was to, in effect, "hang a lampshade on it". Do you know that phrase? It means to call attention to the ridiculousness of a concept, to encourage the audience to go along with it. Actually, the time Shakespeare REALLY did this was in Twelfth Night, when, after the "big reveal" of everybody disguised as everybody else and all the other wackiness, one of the characters says, "If this were play'd upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction." In Henry V, he uses a slightly different tack. He simply tells the audience that the task of representing what he's representing is impossible. So we, the audience, will have to fill the rest of it in.

I assume most of you know the speech that opens the play. If you're not familiar with it, you may want to take a quick look at it before I go on.

Now, there are two ways you can go with this: you can take this as a challenge to fight against, and prove that you CAN do more to represent reality, or you can embrace it, and trust your audience to fill in the gaps. Of course, one can debate about what Shakespeare would have done if he could -- if he could, would Shakespeare have done a Cecil B DeMille "cast of thousands"? Would he have preferred to do a Battle of Agincourt with seventy thousand CGI warriors fighting?

It's an interesting question, but "what Shakespeare would have done" is not terribly relevant to the question of how a director wants to present the play.

The Actors' Shakespeare Project, under the direction of Normi Noel, has chosen to embrace the "trust the imagination" school of thought. They present a lean, spare production, in which the forty-some-odd characters in the play are portrayed by five actors: Ken Cheeseman, Paula Langton, Doug Lockwood, Seth Powers, and Molly Schreiber.

The space they use is the basement of the Garage in Harvard Square, the same space they played Titus Andronicus and Love's Labours Lost last season. Those of you who have seen those productions can remember the . . . challenges . . . of the space, not least of which is the big freakin' support post smack dab in the middle of the room.

This production uses a similar layout as they did in Titus, making the support post the center point of the stage, with seating on all four sides around it. This, naturally, means that, no matter where you sit, there WILL be times where you can't see exactly what is happening, or, at least, you can't see the facial expression of characters. Of course, the blocking they use attempts to minimize these problems, but it nonetheless can be frustrating. I know that some people I've talked to were annoyed by this when ASP put on Titus in this space, so be aware that many of the same issues exist.

But they also use this. It is a small space, and an awkward one, and they use that as part of the energy in the play. When Ken Cheeseman asked, ". . . can this cockpit hold/The vasty fields of France?", a ripple of laughter went through the room, as we recognized the simple truth of that. The Prologue worked in a way I've never seen it work before -- because the space was so small, the task of bringing forth this tale so impossible, the idea of presenting the scope of the story so ridiculous, that we, the audience, accepted the task of filling in the gaps with our imaginations.

Who remembers Infocom text adventures? Like Zork and the rest? There was a way in which the best-written ones were more immersive than games written today with photo-realistic graphics and all the rest. There are ways that radio plays are more immersive than television, and books are more immersive than radio.

And storytelling can be the most immersive of all.

That, at least, is the goal of this presentation of Henry V. The role of "Chorus" -- aka, the narrator -- is taken by different cast members at different times. And, for me, those were some of my favorite moments in the play -- when one of the members of the cast comes out, and talks to us, filling in bits of the story that just can't be staged.

Because of the space, because of the energy of the production, I, at least, felt comfortable allowing my mind's eye to fill in all the action sequences. This goes for the fight scenes, too. In previous productions, I've seen the fights done (in movies) with special effects and realism, I've seen impressive fight choreography, and once, I saw the fights done as interpretive dance. That last one was kind of embarrassing to watch.

In this production, the fighting happens offstage. We see people running in, exhausted, wounded, and sick, or victorious and bold, or disheartened, and from that, we know what happened. There is one exception: just before the "Once more into the breach" speech, they use a rather symbolic piece to show the English onstage attacking and being thrown back -- and, to me, that was one of the weakest moments in the play.

One final bit that I want to mention is the final scene, where Henry woos Katherine, the Princess of France, as part of the treaty to make a lasting peace between England and France. In order to have a happy ending (or, rather, as happy an ending as you can honestly have in a history), the play ends with a romance, to end the violence. The concept is that this marriage is, or at least, can be, a marriage of love, as well as one of political expedience, and Molly Schreiber and Seth Powers get only one scene in which to attempt to have two people meet and fall in love.

They nail it. The scene is just adorable. I don't know what else I can say about it. Maybe "KAWAII!!!"

Henry V
Directed by Normi Noel
January 10 – February 3
Downstairs at The Garage
38 JFK Street, Harvard Square
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So, on Saturday, we took our friend Akiva Fox out to lunch, partially to say thank you to him for getting us the tickets, to the Marlowe plays, partially because Mom gave us money to take Akiva out to lunch, and mainly because we wanted to see him.

He's the literary associate for the Shakespeare Theater Company of Washington DC, which is a fantastic job for someone who's only in his twenties. I mean, the pay -- it's a theater job AND an academic job, so you can imagine just how wealthy he is, but it's a job which is winning him the respect of large chunks of both the academic and theater communities, because He's Just That Good. The whole Marlowe symposium that Lis went to -- and, in fact, the whole idea of opening the new theater building of the Shakespeare Theater Company with Marlowe productions -- that's HIS idea and his baby.

So, anyway, Lis and Akiva and I are at lunch, and Lis and Akiva are talking about how they wish someone would just do the legwork and figure out who ELSE was 21 years old and at Corpus Christi College in 1585. See if you can't get a complete list of how many candidates there are, see if you can't find any information about them. See who else might be the subject of the picture that people like to present as the portrait of Marlowe.

I looked at them, and said, "You realize, of course, that the two of you are both as qualified to do this as anyone else on the planet. And, pretty much the other people on the planet who are qualified to do it -- at least one of you is on a first-name basis with all the other people who could."
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If you've seen Shakespeare's Richard II, and you're watching Marlowe's Edward II, it's kind of weird, because Shakespeare's play is running through your mind while you're watching Marlowe's play, and it's like having double vision, so you get dizzy.

Also, Lis and I were talking about how Marlowe sometimes has problems with the payoffs of scenes he sets up -- he'll hang a gun on the wall in Act I, have people refer to it as they're favorite gun in Act II, in Act IV, have someone tell stories about how that was the gun that was used to kill traitors by his father and his father's father, and how an old gypsy had given a prophesy about how it would someday be used to save the country but bring ruin on the person doing it . . . and then never do anything with the gun.

And then there's Doctor Faustus:

"Aha! I have harnessed the very power of Satan! I control the WORLD! They called me MAD at university -- MAD, the called me -- but I will show them all -- I WILL SHOW THEM ALL! I CONTROL THE VERY POWER OF HELL! And NOW I SHALL USE IT to PROVE that they SHOULD HAVE LISTENED to me. Yes. . . yes. . . Mephistopheles: listen to my command: GIVE ME TENURE!!! And maybe a stipend. Um. And can you help me maybe look up some references for my latest paper, and get it in shape to submit it to a journal?"

Actually, knowing some grad students, I'm no longer convinced that that's unrealistic. . . .
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Fairies can travel at Mach 49.

Data and assumptions:

In Act II, Scene 1 of Midsummer Night's Dream, when sent on a mission by Oberon, Puck says that he will "put a girdle round about the earth
In forty minutes."

Now, as a girdle goes around the widest point of a person, we can assume that Puck is saying that he can do an equatorial circumnavigation of the Earth in 40 minutes. The equatorial circumference of the earth is pretty darned close to 24900 miles, or 40075 km. (The polar circumference is 40036, by the way. They attempted to define the kilometer as 1/10000 the distance from the equator to the pole, but some error crept in, and they didn't hit it quite. Still, as an off-the-cuff number to remember, "40000 km circumference" is a fine approximation.)

24900 in 40 min is 37350 mph, which is just about Mach 49. Therefore, fairies can travel at Mach 49 sustained for forty minutes.
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This is probably one of the most intimidating reviews I've ever attempted to write. Robert Brustein is perhaps the most significant name in
American theater criticism in the past several decades. He is the person who, in many ways, codified and defined what a competent theater critic
should know and be, and what a competently-written theater review should include. Lis and I are trying to write things that fit in with some of
his ideas of criticism.

He is also the author of the new play The English Channel, which just had its world premiere at the newly-refurbished and gorgeous C.
Walsh theater at Suffolk University -- and therefore, there is a chance that he'll read this thing.

Um, Prof. Brustein, if you read this, please feel free to criticise our criticism -- we'd actually be very glad of your opinion of our opinions.

The English Channel is an example of the developing subgenre of "Will&Kit" fiction. There are enough examples out there of stories which imagine the relationships between Shakespeare and Marlowe, and their contemporaries, that one can start to notice themes and tropes among them. The stories range from the highfalutin' literary to porn, and even a few which are both.

Brustein's play isn't either extreme, but has elements that would appeal to fans of both types.
Read more... )
In general, The English Channel has a decent but unoriginal plot, four fascinating characters, and amazing language. It very much works as a play, and deserves to be played regularly. And this is a worthy first production of a worthy play.

There are four more productions, next week:

Thursday, September 13: 7:30 pm
Friday, September 14: 7:30 pm
Saturday, September 15 3:00 pm & 7:30 pm

All seats are General Admission. Please note that the content of this play is not recommended for children.
Tickets for the general public are $30 and $15 for students with ID.
Box office: Theatre Mania, 866-811-4111
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So, several years back, at an Arisia, I think it was, Lis went to a panel on Shakespeare. One of the panelists was named Michael Anderson. He's a labor lawyer, and also a huge Shakespeare geek.

He and Lis got to talking, and he gave her a copy of a DVD he had made. See, he and some friends put on a show at Jimmy Tingle's, and they recorded it.

The whole DVD, from one end to the other, is worth watching. But two of the bits just stand out for me. One is the one where the Three Witches in the Scottish Play are portrayed as the stage manager and tech crew.

But the BEST bit is this one.

See, Lis has had the DVD for a while, and got permission from Mr Anderson to put it up on the Web, but it's half an hour long -- far, far too long for YouTube.

And she's finally gotten around to putting it up on Google video, which can handle a 27 minute, 44 second piece.

Sound is necessary -- sight is nice, but not vital. It's Michael Anderson talking about his godson and friends putting on a scene from Richard III. Now, he's one of those people that, when he's telling a story, it's fun to watch him, but if you're blind, you'll still get the story just fine.

Yes, this is worth a half-hour of your time.
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How did I like the play? It was really great seeing [livejournal.com profile] adrian_turtle, [livejournal.com profile] felis_sidus, [livejournal.com profile] rebmommy and Dad, and [livejournal.com profile] temima. That's how I liked the play.

I dunno. I thought this play would work for them, but I felt that the wordplay just fell flat, because of their lack-of-rehearsal style. The verbal volleys actually DO need practice to work well.

And the audience for free Shakespeare in the park usually includes enough kids that they don't seem comfortable delivering most of the dirty jokes well.

And that's most of the jokes.

One of the Dromeos was pretty good.

On the other hand, Lis came up with an idea -- what about doing Comedy of Errors with Groucho as both of the Antipholiuses, and Chico as both of the Dromeos. We haven't figured out what Harpo would do.
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Tomorrow afternoon/evening, at 1700, in Arlington, at Robbins Farm Park (right near the water tower -- you know, the one with the big steep hill that's fantastic for sledding, and from which you can see the Boston fireworks on the Fourth of July), the New England Shakespeare Festival will be putting on The Comedy of Errors.

Now, New England Shakespeare Festival is gimmicky -- their gimmick is that they put on the plays without rehearsal (except for the fights and dances), and trade parts randomly before each performance, so NOBODY knows their lines. They work from attempting to memorize their lines before each scene, and from cue scripts they carry with them.

They CLAIM that this is more authentic to how Shakespeare and his troupe performed, since they had DOZENS of plays in repertory, in rapid rotation, never playing the same thing two days in a row, and, therefore, the actors had to cram, memorize fast, and cheat from rolled-up cue-scripts called "rolls", or "roles" (hence the term "role" in a play).

In reality, I doubt that what they put on really is all that authentic, but it IS a hell of a lot of fun.

In general, they do poorly with the dramatic stuff, but extremely well with the funny bits -- and Comedy of Errors is nothing but funny bits. Of all the plays in the Shakespearian canon, I think that this is the one that plays to their strengths best.

So who wants to go with us? We've talked Mom into going, if she can get out of a phone meeting at 1630, which would probably last until 1800. We think we're meeting [livejournal.com profile] felis_sidus, too. Who else wants to come? Maybe we can get pizza afterward: my favorite pizza place is Nicola's in Arlington Heights -- the pizza joint around the corner from where I grew up.

And after that, Lis and I are going into Harvard Square, to the Brattle, to see Meatballs, a movie which Lis loved as a kid, and which I have never seen. She rather hopes that it's as good as she remembers it to be. . .
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So, Lis and I saw the Industrial Theatre's production of Henry IV today. It'll be playing again tomorrow at 2, next weekend on Saturday and Sunday at 2, where we saw it, on the lawn of the First Parish Church in Taunton Center, then it will be at the Sanders Theater at Harvard on the 27th, and in the state park in Easton on the 28th and 29th.

All shows are free -- just show up.

So, is it worth showing up?

Short answer: sure! It's free!
Read more... )
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So, we left Boston at about 7 pm on Thursday night, arriving in London at about 7 am Friday morning. On about a six-and-a-half hour flight. The numbers do not add up due to rounding. And me forgetting exactly when the plane took off and landed.

I probably got about an hour of sleep on the plane, but we knew that we weren't going to sleep until bedtime London time. As annoying as it is, Lis assured me that the best way to beat jetlag is to just deal with it as an all-but-allnighter the day before, and try to keep to your intended schedule as best you can.

I hate travel, as I've mentioned before, and my skin was crawling by the morning. It took us about an hour to clear customs. And then Lis found a luxury spa thingy in the airport, and we paid £12 (see? British keyboards have a £ key. And a $ key. Hunh. What symbol is missing? @ is somewhere I didn't expect. . . oh, I see. There's an extra key over here by the left shift, which has \ and |) for a shower, which may seem like a lot, but was worth every penny. After I took a long, hot shower, brushed my teeth, and changed my clothes, I felt human, and ready to deal with London. We went to the Tube with our luggage (we travelled all carry-on, largely so that we could get around the city easily before we dropped off our luggage), and got into London about ten or so.

The weather was BEAUTIFUL. I mean, GORGEOUS. About 20, 21 degrees centigrade, 68 or 70 farenheit, blue skies, gentle wind -- I mean, you cannot design weather that I would like better.
Read more... )
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The Actors' Shakespeare Project is finishing off their third season with
an extra, bonus play, a six-person Love's Labour's Lost, a
light, fluffy, and funny play to balance out a season which would
otherwise be entirely about psychotic princes killing their families.

If you include the 2000 Kenneth Branagh movie version, Lis and I have now
seen LLL four times. In those four times, we've seen it done
more-or-less straight once.

This wasn't that time.

(For the record, it was the 2006 Huntington Theater production, reviewed
by Lis
and by me. The
other one was the 2005 ART student-troupe production, which I also reviewed.)

As pure entertainment, it works very well. If you want to laugh and enjoy
yourself for two and a half hours, this is an extremely good way to go
about it. The belly-laughs started within thirty seconds of the actors'
first appearance on the stage. They use physical comedy, including
slapstick, and very clearly let you know what you're in for -- and they
deliver handsomely on that promise of entertainment and humor.

So it works as entertainment. Which makes it worth watching. But how
does it work as a production of Love's Labour's Lost?
More discussion within -- spoilers will abound; if you're planning on seeing it, you may want to wait to read this until after you do. )

About the venue: [livejournal.com profile] imaginary_love_ mentioned that she
had problems with the venue as it was set for Titus.
I'd
like to reassure her that the venue is entirely re-arranged for this
performance, and that I don't think she'd have the same obstructed-view
problems that she had then. The production has very simple set dressing,
and the stage is placed against a wall. While, for Titus,
they used the support pillars of the building as part of the stage (or, at
least, that's how I recall it), in this case, those pillars are simply
things that the risers for seating are built around. Titus
used a very creative and evocative set-dressing, but, as [livejournal.com profile] imaginary_love_ discovered, no matter how good that is, it rarely
comes without some sort of cost; this is much less experimental, a much
more typical setup, with seating on three sides of the stage. It's one of
the ways to set up a room that I consider typical, and consider a
generally solid choice for performing Shakespeare.

We didn't notice any of the problems with heat that she'd had, but, then,
this WAS an evening performance on a pretty nice night.

So, to summarize: first, it's a heck of a lot of fun. Second, doing it
with a six-person cast is not simply a gimmick, but it strengthens the
play by allowing everybody to concentrate on one or two of the stronger
roles in the play, while de-emphasizing the weaker ones. Third, after a
season of murder, psychosis, paranoia, and treachery, the ASP really
deserves to get to do a fun, light play. And finally, you
deserve to see it.

Prices and schedule are available at http://actorsshakespeareproject.org/
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One day parking at the Fan Pier parking lot near South Station: $9
Two round-trips from Boston to New York City on the Lucky Star bus: $60
2 shabu-shabu lunch specials, including bubble tea, in New York's Chinatown: $30
Taxis from Chinatown to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and back again: $20
2 tickets to the "Cheek by Jowl" company's production of Cymbeline: $59 (including handling charge)
Getting to share your life with someone else who thinks this is a good way to spend a Saturday: Priceless
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In response to my Wellesley review of Much Ado, [livejournal.com profile] vvalkyri linked to the Rude Mechanicals' recent Much Ado, also all-female, and also set post-WWII.

Which is a somewhat interesting synchronicity . What is it about World War II that matches with Much Ado? I'm ignoring the coincidence of both being all-female casts, since that's only a choice for the Rude Mechanicals; Wellesley is obviously always single-sex.

For Much Ado to work, you have to have returning soldiers. And you have to have soldiers returning from a heroic, popular, and obviously just war. In American culture, we've really only had one of those in living memory. There have been times since then where our troops have been used in necessary and just causes, but none of them were both large-scale and popular. We haven't had ticker-tape parades for returning troops since the Forties.
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[crossposted to [livejournal.com profile] bard_in_boston

The Shakespeare Society of Wellesley College has been putting on shows since 1886, and this semester, they chose Much Ado about Nothing. Director Alyssa Kwok chose to set her production in a version of post-WWII Paris, albeit one with (appropriately to the play) more Jazz Age glamor and less post-war rebuilding.

In the spirit of being a critic (what's the point of writing theater criticism if you can't be critical?), let me start with the few -- and minor -- quibbles I have with the production.
Not much wrong, a lot that's right )

Remaining shows:

Sunday the 15th at 7 p.m.
Thursday the 19th at 7 p.m.
Friday the 20th at 8 p.m.
Saturday the 21st at 8 p.m.
Sunday the 22th at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m

$5 students, $10 general public. At the Shakespeare Society House at Wellesley College
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People are posting favorite lines and scenes from Shakespeare. Dunno why, but, okay.

So, the background here

Titus Andronicus, Act 4, Scene 2, the second half of it.

Background: the characters are Aaron the Moor, who is Evil But So Damn Cool, and ought to be played by Samuel L Jackson, Chiron and Demetrius, Queen Tamora's more-or-less interchangeable sons, who are also evil but nowhere near as cool, and a nurse carrying a baby.

Queen Tamora was Queen of the Goths, which is when she had these two sons, and, more recently, remarried to the Emperor of Rome, making her the Empress. And, as the scene starts, people have been waiting for her to give birth to the brand new heir to Rome.

Enter a Nurse, with a blackamoor Child in her arms

Nurse
Good morrow, lords:
O, tell me, did you see Aaron the Moor?

AARON
Well, more or less, or ne'er a whit at all,
Here Aaron is; and what with Aaron now?

Nurse
O gentle Aaron, we are all undone!
Now help, or woe betide thee evermore!

AARON
Why, what a caterwauling dost thou keep!
What dost thou wrap and fumble in thine arms?

Nurse
O, that which I would hide from heaven's eye,
Our empress' shame, and stately Rome's disgrace!
She is deliver'd, lords; she is deliver'd.

AARON
To whom?

Nurse
I mean, she is brought a-bed.

AARON
Well, God give her good rest! What hath he sent her?

Nurse
A devil.

AARON
Why, then she is the devil's dam; a joyful issue.

Nurse
A joyless, dismal, black, and sorrowful issue:
Here is the babe, as loathsome as a toad
Amongst the fairest breeders of our clime:
The empress sends it thee, thy stamp, thy seal,
And bids thee christen it with thy dagger's point.

AARON
'Zounds, ye whore! is black so base a hue?
Sweet blowse, you are a beauteous blossom, sure.

DEMETRIUS
Villain, what hast thou done?

AARON
That which thou canst not undo.

CHIRON
Thou hast undone our mother.

AARON
Villain, I have done thy mother.
xiphias: (Default)
The first ballet I ever saw was Nutcracker, when I was three or four years old. As my parents tell me, I sat in rapt attention through the whole first half, and then, when the curtain came down and the lights came up for intermission, I clapped long and hard, then got my coat and said, "That was fun," and got ready to leave. My grandmother and mother looked at each other, and thought about whether to tell me that there was a second half, and they said, "Well, he's done, and he had a good time. That's good enough."

And I'm pretty darned sure that they made the right choice. After all, all the plot happens in the first act -- Act II is a bunch of pretty neat dances, but nothing happens.

I still like Act I better than Act II.

I like ballet okay, but I'm not the ballet fan in the family. That'd be my sister, [livejournal.com profile] sproutntad, and, for that matter, her fiance', too. I like the music, I like the athleticism and artistry of the dance, but my mind starts wandering if I lose track of the plot -- or in parts of ballets that don't have plots. And Lis is even more so.

Which is why we're home right now, even though the second act is probably only now just finishing up. We skipped out at intermission of the Boston Ballet's production of Midsummer Night's Dream. Because all the plot happens in Act I, and Act II is the celebration of the triple wedding.

Oh, also because we're tired and we're not at Boskone. We'll go tomorrow morning.

One of Lis's co-workers had two tickets to the ballet tonight, but his wife was unexpectedly called out of town on a business trip. So he gave her the tickets, figuring, correctly, that as she is a Shakespeare geek, she'd enjoy seeing a Shakespeare ballet. Well, technically, it's a ballet based on a piece of music based on Shakespeare, but close enough.

George Balanchine wrote the ballet in 1962, around Felix Mendelssohn's music written to the play.

So, this was as much an experiment for us as anything else -- we wanted to see if watching a ballet in which Lis was completely familiar with the story would be easier and more enjoyable for her than it usually is. And it was a pretty solid success for us.

We were helped by the facts that it's a darned good ballet, with a lot of humor and fun, and that it's a darned good company, who can play the humor and fun.

I don't know enough about ballet to be able to write a review, especially since we skipped out after the first half. But I know that we loved Puck, and Bottom, and Titania, and Hippolyta, and all four lovers, and Oberon. And the twenty-five kids from the Boston Ballet School who played the bugs and little fairies -- the ballet has a couple dozen roles written for children.

So I guess I'm just writing this to say thanks to Lis's co-worker, and to mention that the ballet was really fun. I could talk about the performances and the costumes and the sets, but I really couldn't say anything intelligent or useful about them, only that "I like them." Which isn't terribly helpful. I could mention that the role of Puck was danced with a lot of humor, mischievousness, the certain amount of menace which is appropriate to Puck, and vast athleticism, that Hippolyta's dancing was explosive and warrior-queen-like, that the children from the Boston Ballet school were adorable and skilled, Helena chasing after Demetrius, Demetrius chasing after Hermia, and, later, Hermia chasing after Lysander while Lysander chases after Helena were all done well and in character, the scene where Puck leads Demetrius and Lysander through the forest as they attempt to find each other and duel was creepy, funny, and effective, and that the Bottom and Titania dance had the entire audience laughing out loud, repeatedly, that the costumes were effective and helped define the characters, and the sets were gorgeous and mysterious. But I can't say anything really insightful. So I'll just say "thanks" to Lis's co-worker and his wife, and leave it at that.

September 2017

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