OSF

We made our annual pilgrimage to Ashland to visit the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. This is the last year that the kids aren’t allowed to come to any shows. (we thought about sneaking them in, but they’re really, really five) The older kids are actually able to see just about everything, though when we got to the intermission of Timon of Athens, I turned to my mother and said “I am so glad we don’t have any kids here today.” That was a tricky show. (but more on that later) Five shows this year, because my family spoils me and lots of people took turns putting kids to bed. And it was glorious, as ever, and like being at home. We even got to see Misner&Smith with the kids! I was very sad to miss The River Bride earlier in the season, and it was sad being in Ashland without Catherine Coulson. But what a crop of shows this year. And we’re already trying to work out when we need to come up for next year (when the kids get to see Beauty and the Beast!)

 

Leave a comment

Filed under OSF, Uncategorized

Comedy of Errors

Things I learned from this year’s Comedy of Errors, set in Harlem:

  1. Our identical twins need a pair of bond servant identical twins.
  2. My father and husband both need cream-colored suits with grey stripes.
  3. The Charleston is a whole lot of fun.
  4. Rodney Gardiner (Dromio) is spectacularly fun to watch perform.

(On second thought perhaps that means our identical twins need to *be* a pair of bond servant identical twins.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Theatre, Uncategorized

The Great Society — Sadly relevant

Last week we saw The Great Society at Ashland.

I have nothing useful to say about Ferguson. But I am devastated to see the police violence and riots that happened in the 1960s happening again and again. We should be past this by now.

Leave a comment

Filed under Me, Theatre

The Great Society

We arrived in Ashland yesterday after driving through a tour of fire trucks and fire helicopters on I-5. The first play on the menu was Robert Schenkkan’s The Great Society.

I have been a fan of Schenkkan since seeing both nights of The Kentucky Cycle at Zeitgeist Stage Company and Way Theatre Artists in Boston in 2007.

We saw All the Way here two years ago and I was blown away: I went in expecting something a bit dry and difficult to follow, and found a play that was epic, funny, tragic, and well-referenced.

Years ago I was in Austin and visited the LBJ museum as a respite from the heat. I was surprised by the evenhandedness with which the museum treated the controversies Johnson’s time in office. Similarly, Shenkkan clearly loves LBJ, but writes about him (in both plays), as Jack Willis performs him, warts (and lies and machinations) and all.

The Great Society opened last week, with many of the same actors in the cast. I don’t know how Shenkkan manages to weave together the stories he has pulled. How does one choose what stays in and what gets cut (at 3 hours, down from 3 1/2 when they printed the program; there’s clearly been a lot of cutting)? How does one create a history full of details that never gets slow? (I will admit to some amazing naps during some of Shakespeare’s histories.) I’ll have to see if I can take some quality time with the production book while we’re up here to try to get a glimpse of the process that led to this play:  OSF keeps 3-ring binders in the Members Lounge for each of the current productions.

I could watch Jack Willis all day: he is larger than life as LBJ.  Kenajuan Bentley manages to inhabit Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr without it being a caricature, though we were reminded again and again (especially in the treatment of the assassination, which, admittedly would have been nearly impossible to show on stage) that this isn’t his play.

It would be nice to be able to come see the show again at the end of the season. The script, though it flows beautifully, is still a little raw in the actors’ mouths, and the precise use of multimedia which was so impressive in All the Way is a little uneven in this production.

I was lucky enough to get to watch this with my dad, who lived through the events, watching along on TV as a teenager, reading the Chronicle, and then from the vantage of UC Berkeley in the midst of some of the later protests.

 

Win Goodbody wrote a beautiful detailed review at Portland Theater Scene.

Leave a comment

Filed under Theatre, Uncategorized

Guest Post: Andrea Humez — The magic of illusion

I just saw Circle Mirror Transformation at the Huntington Theatre. There are various things I could say about it, were I writing a review, but the thing that really struck me was the last couple of minutes. (Spoilers ahead.) The play takes place in an acting class, and at the end, two characters are told to roleplay meeting each other 10 years later. They start talking, downstage, and the lights gradually tighten on them, as the actors slowly shift from being the characters pretending to being the actual 10-years-later versions of the characters. It was a wonderful bit of stage sleigh-of-hand, because the transition was absolutely smooth and…well, I suppose the fact that I started noticing the technical elements that were going into the illusion means that they could have been subtler, but it was pretty darned subtle. One element that I didn’t notice until almost the end of the scene was a costume tweak. One of the characters was a high-school girl, and part of the transition that happened in the scene was that her voice and mannerisms gradually transitioned from teenagerish to adult. At the point when she was clearly all the way into the adult-version of the character — but not before — I registered the fact that her hair was styled differently than it had been throughout the rest of the show, and various small costume elements were also contributing to the more mature look. The interesting thing here is that it was the shift in her mannerisms that made me aware of the visual elements, rather than the other way around.

This description, of course, captures nothing of the actual moment on stage, which was all about the visual and the implicit. But it was a really neat effect, and the sort of tech-acting synergy we often aim at and seldom achieve

1 Comment

Filed under Guest Post, Theatre

Ashland, 2010

In Ashland again, year 23 (my dad’s guest post has the history). Sometimes it gets hard to get ramped up. There have been years in the past when I’ve tried to read all the plays before we come (at least, those for which ones could get scripts), and the rest of the family have been watching movies to get ready: three-year-old C can tell you the plot of Twelfth Night), but this year, between working at a startup and getting married and some last minute shuffling I arrived not quite sure what we were going to be seeing, much less what order it would be in.

I arrived wondering whether the fact that I’m less excited about coming to Ashland was about the plays, or about me and where I am right now, (more about that in the next few posts) but also wanting to see *everything*, and already sad about having missed both Well and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Leave a comment

Filed under Theatre

Oedipus El Rey

Last weekend we saw Luis Alfaro’s Oedipus El Rey at the Magic. It was amazing. If you get the chance, either at the Magic (it’s open through this weekend) or elsewhere (there are a couple of other productions in the works), I highly recommend it.

As you might guess, it’s a retelling of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. But this is a vision of Oedipus Rex transplanted and translated into a very specific now. Unlike many retellings it manages to both be a faithful reflection of the Oedipus story (as it exists in my brain) and true to its transplanted identity in southern California.

It shares with Sophocles the issues of Jocasta as plot piece/Jocasta as character, but in the second half she really comes into her own.

The coro blends seamlessly from prisoners, to townspeople, to seers, with a minimalist setting that nonetheless tells you exactly where you are. When Tireseas entered, I couldn’t breathe. The imagery of this enormous space and him entering from outside was incredible. And the repetition of the vision at the end, with entirely different emotional content was devastating.

Stunning theatre, and I’m so glad I went.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized