Good Press

April 29, 2012 at 12:03 am (Asides, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , )

I’ve seen a lot of good press lately for Shakespeare in the Washington Post. Yes, he is still generating lots of coverage! Today, I saw a review of a new production, a very nice travel piece, and… even a Shakespeare-related op-ed!

The new production is the Folger’s Taming of the Shrew, which I saw in rehearsal last month (I plan to blog about my awesome visit to the Folger… coming soon!). The play looks like such fun and I’m glad it’s attracting attention even before it opens.

The travel piece is about the Blackfriars Theatre at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia. I just posted a couple weeks ago about seeing their traveling version of The Winter’s Tale, and I posted back a couple years ago about my trip to the wonderful Blackfriars in Staunton. If you’re anywhere near Virginia at any time and you like Shakespeare a teeny bit, GO THERE! Go to Staunton and see a play at the Blackfriars. Just Do It.

But I have to say, the piece I enjoyed most was Post blogger Alexandra Petri’s op-ed Shakespeare, A Man for All Seasons, which originally appeared on her blog ComPost as a birthday wish to the Bard. It’s a fun discussion of Shakespeare’s relevance in today’s uber-connected world. I love this line: “These are not plays we read and see together as a generation or a country. They’re works we enjoy as a species. Shakespeare offers a roadmap to the human. And he does it in verse.” Yes, he does.

Great job, Washington Post!

© All Content, Copyright 2012 by Blog Author, Or What You Will. All Rights Reserved.

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Happy Birthday, Will!

April 23, 2012 at 12:01 am (Asides) (, )

Happy Birthday wishes to the Bard! He doesn’t look a day under 448, does he?

I planned to celebrate at the Folger Shakespeare Library which scheduled an open house with jugglers and music yesterday. But after weeks of warm, dry weather, Washington DC has turned cold and wet and I didn’t want to drag the kids downtown in the mess. I am working on final projects for my classes, but when I have time, I will post about my very memorable close encounter with a First Folio at the Folger a couple weeks ago!

In the meantime, you might check out other Shakespeare bloggers’ bday wishes. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has collected messages from bloggers around the world at (appropriately) www.happybirthdayshakespeare.com.

And check out Twitter… they’re using the hashtag #happybirthdayshakespeare.

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Shakespeare in Words and Music

April 20, 2012 at 6:00 pm (Asides, Film Adaptations) (, , )

I’ll watch nearly anything having to do with Shakespeare, but I couldn’t watch this. Just simply unwatchable. I got it on Netflix and thought it sounded like an interesting idea. From the Kultur website:

There is a strong and indelible bond between Shakespeare and music. Many of his plays contain songs and ballads (for which the author often supplied the texts) while incidental music was often added by celebrated composers for specific productions of his plays.

This DVD presents six half-hour programs that contains certain spoken texts (from his plays or poetry) and linked musical excerpts within a given theme. The programs are centered on vocal excerpts but also contain instrumental and chamber-music pieces, directly derived from and inspired by the works of William Shakespeare.

The six episodes are centered on the following themes: Restoration Rules, Operatic Love, Foreign Masters, Ophelia’s Story, Broadway Bound and The English Renaissance. Sounds interesting, right?

Wrong. There are annoyingly bad actors jumping around doing a painful job with their lines and not doing much to explain why certain lines were selected or how they link to the ensuing music. The music is fine, but I had no understanding of how it related to Shakespeare. Much of it is sung in foreign languages with no translation or it’s instrumental with no explanation.

I could not even get into the Broadway Bound episode with music from West Side Story. It was sung by an opera singer which just annoyed me more. I kept thinking why not get West Side Story on Netflix and actually enjoy the song and dance?

Awful video. Avoid.

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Almost Heaven, McLean, Virginia

April 7, 2012 at 7:35 pm (Live Performances, Shakespeare's Plays, The Winter's Tale) (, , , , )

There are things about McLean that might not be heavenly… like congestion around Tysons Corner and the never-ending construction on the Beltway. But, today McLean was gorgeous. Spring is springing in full, flowers and bright green everywhere on a sparkly, clear day, and the American Shakespeare Center wrapped up its Almost Blasphemy Tour at the Alden Theatre in McLean.

It was a little nostalgic for me, as almost 25 years ago, when I first moved to the Washington DC area, I lived in the basement of a friend’s parents’ house in McLean and I cocktail waitressed at a lounge around the block from the Alden. McLean has changed a bit from those days and now the Alden is nestled into a lovely neighborhood of big, beautiful homes.

The America Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia, is amazing — performing with original staging practices in a replica of Shakespeare’s Blackfriars Playhouse recreated in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I had the pleasure of seeing All’s Well That Ends Well performed at Blackfriars’ a couple years ago. It’s on my shortlist of places to return to, but Staunton is about 3 hours from my house, and the logistics have not worked out. McLean, depending on traffic (which didn’t exist today) is less than a half hour.

So, I was excited that the stars aligned and I had a free Saturday afternoon to join other members of the DC-area Shakespeare Explorers Meetup group and see the ASC perform The Winter’s Tale for a matinée at the Alden.

Eugene Douglas as Leontes in The Winter's Tale. Photo by Tommy Thompson.

Although the Alden is not the same experience as the incredible Blackfriars, it is a very nice and intimate venue. The ASC set the stage simply, with little in the way of set other than a curtained backdrop. Like in Staunton, they have a fun pre-show with the actors playing music and selling raffle tickets for swag (they do the same at intermission). The songs are acoustic and very enjoyable renditions of classic rock and pop songs. I heard some Joni Mitchell, Righteous Brothers, and even some Guns N’ Roses. Some (maybe all?) of the songs went with the storyline… “Sweet Child of Mine” and “Bring Back that Lovin’ Feeling” definitely apply to The Winter’s Tale!

The theater was (unfortunately) not filled, and the actors encouraged audience members to move closer to the stage and to fill the seats onstage. As at Blackfriars, seats for a few brave audience members are set right on the stage and these folks became active (sometimes very hilarious) members of the show. One particularly funny interaction was when a minstrel came out playing and set his hat out for tips. One audience member tossed a few coins in. The musician nudged the hat down to the next guy. Instead of putting money in the hat, he reached in and took out the change! More hilarity ensued. Very funny.

I’m not a stage-sitter. I like to sit back and watch, and it was a great show. Even though I ordered tickets yesterday, I had seats in the third row and a great view. The ASC touring actors are wonderful and the show was really enjoyable. The current tour ends tonight with A Midsummer Night’s Dream in McLean, but I will be sure to keep my eye out for next season. If you can’t make it out to Staunton, you should try to catch the ASC on tour next year, too!

Stephanie Holladay Earl as Hermione in The Winter's Tale. Photo by Tommy Thompson.

A teaser, because I am so excited: My next post involves my visit yesterday with the Shakespearean Holy Grail. Yes, I had a very close encounter with a First Folio at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Stay tuned!

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