Report from Utah: Wooden O Symposium, day two

OK, this may be a short one (at least initially): it’s post midnight, so technically it’s now Wednesday, but I’m still in Tuesday’s wake-cycle. I’m going to try to get some stuff keyed in before: 1) I fall asleep; 2) I forget stuff.

So, Tuesday started with Heather Wolfe of the Folger Library giving a killer presentation on the research she has been working on for the past two years regarding Shakespeare’s coat-of-arms. I don’t want to curse, but daaaaaayum, this was fascinating. I can’t sum it up in just a paragraph, but suffice to say, this is why I love to listen to professionals. People who look at a situation, see a problem, but don’t assume that the solution is somehow linked to what we already know. Outside the box, outside the experience, outside the expectation. Just awesome.

Heather Wolfe from the Folger

Then we resumed presentations. The first two were again on Romeo and Juliet: the concept of bromance in R&J between Romeo and Mercutio; and the promise of promiscuity and the adolescent male. You know how sometimes you look at a concert, and you can see why one’s a headliner and one’s the opening act. I know why I went Monday. I am an opening act. The bromance piece was the headliner–hell, he could have been Springsteen–you know, WITHOUT an opening act, solo. He did statistical analysis (you know he had me right there) on the use of th- and y- pronouns in the dialogues between all the males in the play, and then just Romeo and Mercutio. Just awesome. But then when he brought in meta-textual allusions to the earlier play The Two Gentlemen of Verona, well, my head just about exploded. Remember how I said earlier, I don’t want to curse? Well, in the margin of my notes, next to the meta-text note I have written, in all caps, then with a square around it: F@CK YES. I talked to him after the Q&A, and I’m going to get an interview going with him on this subject…you guys are gonna love it! The second R&J presentation of the day was also very interesting, mixing homosociality, with the concept of “value” in female virginity… very cool stuff. Can’t wait to see it completely fleshed out (the presenter said that the focus just on Romeo isn’t enough and she’s going to bring in more characters).

The second panel of discussions had another R&J one plus a really interesting one on Edwin Boothe. The R&J one discussed the patronage of the Earl of Southhampton and elements of his life (and incidents around it) what ended up as oblique allusions in the play. Fascinating (especially when he began to discuss the comedy in the play, and how contemporary audiences must have felt to have what continued to look like a fun ending to a funny play, get pulled out from under them). The second about Edwin Boothe gave some great background on theatre in Gold Rush-California, then about his tour through Germany. Very cool stuff.

Then a lunch (and now I’m going to bed…)

(and I’m back…)

The lunch allowed for more discussions at our tables, a chance to unwind a bit. Then we were off to catch the matinee of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in USF’s big indoor theater, the Randall L Jones Theater. A solid production, set in the 1920s, it made great use of music and sound. What struck me most was the use of doubling in the cast. I’m used to the Oberon/Theseus and Titania/Hippolyta double-casting, but this went further with many of the mechanicals doubling as fairies, and more importantly Puck/Philostrate. It makes perfect sense…and to have the play open with a puckish, Marlene Dietrich-esque Philostrate alone on stage, making herself a drink with knowing looks to the audience before Theseus and Hippolyta enter the scene was brilliant.

After the matinee, we were given a little downtime (maybe 45 minutes, tops…not a lot, but more than we’d been given at any time before), and then there was a wonderful catered banquet in the basement of the Southern Utah University library. If that sounds unappetizing–or rather an awkward location–be assured it wasn’t: the basement was not only as warmly and richly decorated as the rest of the library, but it also housed the library’s special collection. As we ate dinner, we were joined by some of the cast of Midsummer, with whom we were able to talk and ask questions. Very nice. But not as nice as the special collection, which included a Fourth Folio, an original edition of Midsummer illustrated by Arthur Rackham (the detail and beauty of which just blew my mind), and other Shakespearean goodies.

a blurry pic with Ms. GoodTickleBrain herself, Mya Gosling … when will I learn to take a good selfie???

It also gave me a chance to speak at length with Mya Gosling. I don’t know what to say. Charming? Thoughtful? Eloquent? Yeah, all those. And a kindred Shakespeare-geek Bard-nerd spirit. Another kindred experience was my opportunity to chat a little with the Education Director of the festival, Michael Bahr. If at times I sound a little manic and excited and enthusiastic, I’m no match for his energy and passion for that wonderful intersection of scholarship, Shakespeare, and (more importantly) students. Just great.

the greenshow before As You Like It at USF

After that, it was to the outdoor Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre for As You Like It. I may sounded a little subdued in my discussion of Midsummer before, but I have absolutely no reservations about this production. Period-esque dress, great performances (the Jaques and Touchstone were some of the best I’ve seen), wonderful direction (the fact that it was directed by one of the actors who did a school visit from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival when I was teaching nearly thirty years ago, Robyn Rodriguez…only made this education trip all the more fulfilling). This performance and production was excellent.

Then it was off to the hotel room and an aborted attempt to write this…but now it’s morning and time to prep for the last day (and I should really do some reading for my Master’s class)…

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