This week’s podcast delays the kick-off of our The Tempest discussion for something a little more fun: an interview with Angie Hobin, creative producer of Toil and Trouble Burlesque, which will be presenting a burlesque production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the coming weeks in Los Angeles.
[NOTE: what follows is a reprint of a theater review from four years ago for a production of The Tempest…perfect fodder for publication on a too-tired-Monday (look for a movie reivew and an interview podcast to come from yesterday‘s activities)…updates to that post will appear in brackets, bolded and red.]
Last Sunday [September 21, 2014], my wife Lisa and I had the pleasure of catching the South Coast Repertory production of The Tempest in Costa Mesa, CA. Now The Tempest holds a pretty special spot in my heart, as it was the first major Shakespeare I ever saw, a magical production with Anthony Hopkins as Prospero at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles back in 1978; I’ll talk about that show more when we get to that play at the end of this project [check out last week’s post!], but suffice to say it was a seminal moment in my love of Shakespeare.
The Tempest is a tough play to pull off. It deals with magic, and how to convey that on stage? It’s not easy. It often comes off as overly solemn or worse, cheesy. The earlier production began with a piece of stagecraft that set a magical tone (especially to this fifteen year-old) and then used that initial shock to carry the play. This [new] production takes a different tack, however. Prospero is a magician, so why not show magic? Real magic (if that’s not an oxymoron).
Yeah, yeah, I know… this is supposed to be a Shakespeare blog. And no, I’m not going to go deep-end and say Lin-Manuel Miranda is the new Shakespeare, as some are wont to do (let’s wait a decade or three and see what the complete body of work looks like, ok?). But I am going to say a few words about Hamilton, which I caught on Saturday with the family…
It’s August and a Friday, which means a new summer blockbuster is being released… but honestly in all the business of the week, I haven’t a clue as to what’s opening…but that doesn’t matter. I’m here to talk about what does: Independent Shakespeare Company’s production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, running through September 3 in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park…for FREE.
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.
On the final night of our trip, we caught Julius Caesar in the indoor Bowmer Theater. Directed by Shana Cooper, this was a modern-dress production, with an incredible set designed by Sibyl Wickersheimer, a visual representation of decay: what looks to be unfinished staging (the sides of the stage floor exposed, the “stairs” made up of building materials that have been left behind or discarded), gray flats that are partially cracked, broken, falling apart (literally, as one chunk falls off midway through the first act).
Saturday afternoon, we caught Off the Rails, a world premiere at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The play, written by Randy Reinholz, and directed by Bill Rauch, OSF’s Artistic Director, is a reimagining of Measure for Measure set in the American Wild (mid)West of the 1880s, when Native American children were rounded up and moved from their families into government-funded boarding schools, in an effort to remove their heritage and make them “Americans.” The performance we saw, I believe, was the last preview performance before its opening on Sunday, July 30.
Thursday night, we caught a different Falstaff in the outdoor theater’s production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. I don’t know where to begin. Maybe it was that this came after the two heavier histories, but I had an absolute blast. I haven’t laughed this much in a long time. I can’t stop grinning now. My wife says this may be the most entertaining Shakespeare she has ever seen.
OK, as I mentioned yesterday, they’re doing something very interesting with the two parts of Henry the Fourth this year at Ashland. They’re doing both in the smaller, more flexible Thomas Theatre. With the same cast. The same set. Different directors. And because of this, I wanted to wait until I saw both before reviewing them…so today, you get two for the price of one: the two parts of Henry IV, and tomorrow you’ll get The Merry Wives of Windsor.
On Wednesday night, we caught The First Part of Henry IV. Directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz, it’s set modern-dress (I’m guessing this may be a holdover from last year’s Richard II, or it might be a individual choice by Blain-Cruz, which then affected the choices made by Carl Cofield for Part Two. The set is modern and non-representational (save for the throne that sits up in the last row of the audience (in the round)…and this totally feels like a holdover from Richard.
I was going to do a first day overview of the plays we caught at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland yesterday: Shakespeare in Love and The First Part of Henry IV. But I can’t do that with Hal–I’ll explain why in a minute–and so I’ll just discuss Shakespeare in Love.
A couple of weeks back, Lisa and I caught Kingsmen Shakespeare Love’s Labor’s Lost on its final weekend, so I really didn’t get to properly give it a push (or rather give readers a push to go see it). Well, it’s happened again: this time we caught Independent Shakespeare Company’s always FREE production of Measure for Measure this past Thursday. And it closed last night.
I would have loved to write about it for Saturday’s blog (then at least people could still catch one of two remaining performances), but for some reason, I couldn’t wrap my head around the experience (seriously).
Last night, Lisa and I caught Love’s Labor’s Lost by Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival at the start of its closing weekend on the campus of California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California. Now, those of you who have been around since (near) the beginning of this project probably know how I feel a out Love’s Labor’s Lost. Not a huge fan (it ranks down in the lower quarter of my favorite plays). People who’ve been around nearly as long also know how I feel about Kingsmen. A big fan.