Thursday, December 8, 2016
Saturday, November 5, 2016
Harvest Tales & Midnight Revels: Stories For The Waning Of The Year was published in 1998 by Bald Mountain Books.
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Sundancing: Hanging Out And Listening In At America’s Most Important Film Festival was published in 2000 by Spike Books.
Friday, September 30, 2016
The edition I read was the Samuel French publication, the play revised to the original two acts, and includes a note by David Rabe at the end.
Monday, September 26, 2016
William Shakespeare’s Tragedy Of The Sith’s Revenge: Star Wars Part The Third by Ian Doescher (2015) Book Review
The prologue is delivered by the Chorus as a sonnet. As in other books in the series, lines are given to characters that don’t speak in the films. For example, in this book, the vulture droids speak. And of course, there are many references to the works of Shakespeare. Anakin Skywalker turns to Julius Caesar when speaking with Dooku: “Cowards die many times before their deaths;/The Jedi never taste of death but once” (pages 23-24). Of course, in Act II scene ii Caesar says, “The valiant,” not “The Jedi.” Later Anakin has a little play on the title of All’s Well That Ends Well when he says, “Methinks all’s well – that might have ended worse” (p. 27). He also quotes Romeo: “I have more care to stay than will to go” (p. 39).
Anakin turns to Titus Andronicus as well: “If I did tell my sorrows to the stones,/Who, though they cannot answer my distress,/Yet in some sort are better than the Council,/For that they will not intercept my tale:/When I do weep, they humbly at my feet/Receive my tears and seem to weep with me;/And, were they but attired in grave weeds,/Coruscant could afford none like to these./A stone is soft as wax, the Jedi harder,/A stone is silent and offendeth not,/Whilst Jedi by decrees doom me to shame” (p. 57). Of course these lines are slightly different than the original speech by Titus in Act III Scene i: “Therefore I tell my sorrows to the stones,/Who, though they cannot answer my distress,/Yet in some sort they are better than the tribunes,/For that they will not intercept my tale./When I do weep, they humbly at my feet/Receive my tears, and seem to weep with me;/And, were they but attired in grave weeds,/Rome could afford no tribune like to these./A stone is as soft wax, tribunes more hard than stones;/A stone is silent, and offendeth not,/And tribunes with their tongues doom men to death.”
Palpatine, interestingly, takes the role of Hamlet when he instructs the players to perform a certain piece for Anakin. He says to Player 1, “I heard thee speak me a speech once, but ‘twas/Ne’er acted; or, if ‘twas, not above once” (p. 64). Player 1 plays the role of Oedipus as a Tusken Raider. Then Anakin use Hamlet’s words about being played “as one would play a pipe” (p. 67). The story of Darth Plagueis is performed by the players, an interesting choice. Anakin turns to Hamlet again when talking to Padme: “I have of late – but wherefore I know not – /Lost all my mirth” (p. 78). And once Anakin becomes Darth Vader, he quotes from Act IV Scene iii of Timon Of Athens: “the moon’s an arrant thief,/And her pale fire she snatches from the sun” (p. 104). Vader also turns to Othello when he goes to the Jedi temple to dispatch the young Jedi: “I would not kill your unprepared spirits;/No, heav’n forfend! I would not kill your souls” (p. 116). The first youngling responds with Desdemona’s line, “Talk you of killing?” Vader also quotes King Lear: “I am a man more sinn’d against than sinning” (p. 143), before returning once again to Hamlet: “Aye, there’s the rub” (p. 143). Vader also refers to Macduff’s line toward the end of Macbeth when he says, “But from that home, that mother, was I ta’en,/Untimely ripp’d from her beloved arms.”
Ian Doescher adds a scene in which two Jedi discuss the mysterious Order 66, which was missing from the written codes. This is a nice bit of foreshadowing, which of course is interesting, because it’s unlikely that anyone who reads this isn’t already familiar with the Star Wars films. And for that reason, the foreshadowing becomes rather humorous.
In addition to Shakespeare, this book makes some other playful references. For example, Mace says, “Prithee, listen not to how the black/Snake moaneth unto thee” (p. 100). Black Snake Moan stars Samuel L. Jackson, the actor who plays Mace in the Star Wars films. Mace then says, “A time to kill hath, in its time, arriv’d.” (A Time To Kill is another film starring Samuel L. Jackson.)
William Shakespeare’s Tragedy Of The Sith’s Revenge: Star Wars Part The Third was published in 2015 by Quirk Books.
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
William Shakespeare’s The Clone Army Attacketh: Star Wars Part The Second by Ian Doescher (2015) Book Review
The prologue is delivered by the Chorus as a sonnet, and its first line contains a reference to Macbeth: “All hurly-burly goes the galaxy” (p. 7). In the first scene of Macbeth, the second witch says, “When the hurlyburly’s done.” Padme’s first line is the first line from The Merchant Of Venice (in that play, spoken by Antonio): “In sooth, I know not why I am so sad” (p. 10). This book jokes lightly with the fact that in the film Anakin was played by a different actor than in The Phantom Menace while Padme was played again by Natalie Portman (with only three years between films): “Though I feel I have ag’d but little since/I last did see him, back on small Naboo,/The change in him doth tell of many years/That evidently fill’d the interim” (p. 18).
As in The Phantom Of Menace, here Jar Jar Binks, when left alone, speaks with eloquence, his clown speech a sort of disguise. “I chose, aye, long ago, to play this role/And I shall play the part unto the end./What would they say if Jar Jar suddenly/Spoke as they do, or show’d an aspect wise?/Why, they would think me mad e’en as I spoke/More sanely than I ever did before” (p. 22). And later Jar Jar even refers to Hamlet’s speech to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: “They would play me as though I were a pipe,/With stops and whistles made for their employ” (p. 113). As in earlier volumes of this series, characters who did not speak in the films are given speeches here, such as Zam Wesell’s probe droid. Also, the Reek, Acklay and Nexu speak, acting as the three witches from Macbeth (the Acklay has the “hurlyburly’s done” line).
This book contains plenty of direct references to Shakespeare’s works. Palpatine, in an aside, says, “What fools these Jedi be!” (p. 39), which is a play on Puck’s “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And Rumor later refers to Puck when he says “to my puckish will shall he be bent” (p. 62).
The love story between Anakin and Padme (one of the film’s weaknesses) makes use of The Taming Of The Shrew. Anakin says, “Come, come, thou wasp: thine hidden secret shout” (p. 72). Padme responds, “If I be waspish, best beware my sting.” Anakin says, “My remedy is, then, to pluck it out.” This, of course, refers to the famous wooing scene of the play. (Anakin will return to Shrew later when he says, “He that knows better how to tame a beast,/Now let him speak; ‘tis charity to show.”) The Anakin and Padme love story makes references to other plays as well, including The Two Gentlemen Of Verona, when Anakin says “What light is light, if Padme be not seen?/What joy is joy, if Padme be not by?” (p. 74). (In the play, Valentine says, “What light is light, if Silvia be not seen?/What joy is joy ,if Silvia be not by?”) Anakin also quotes Love’s Labour’s Lost, saying, “They are the books, the arts, the academes,/That show, contain, and nourish all the world” (p. 75), words spoken by Berowne in Act IV. Anakin also borrows a line from Lysander from A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “The course of true love never did run smooth” (p. 77). Padme gets into the game too, using the words of Rosalind from As You Like It: “I pray thee, do not fall in love with me,/For I am falser than vows made in wine” (p. 78), though actually Rosalind says, “I pray you, do not fall in love with me.” She also quotes Viola from Twelfth Night: “O, time! Thou must untangle this, not I;/It is too hard a knot for me t’untie” (p. 79).
At Shmi’s death, Anakin borrows much of Macbeth’s famous speech, saying, “My mother, O! She should have died hereafter,/There would have been a time for such a word./Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow/Creeps in this petty pace from day to day/To the last syllable of recorded time,/And all our yesterdays have lighted fools/The way to dusty death. On, on, lightsaber!” (p. 101). Of course, Macbeth says, “Out, out, brief candle,” not “On, on lightsaber.” And Owen, upon learning of Shmi’s death, sings a funeral dirge that might remind you of Ophelia’s first song of Act IV. Anakin soon quotes from Othello, mentioning “the green-eyed monster, jealousy” (p. 106). And then from Hamlet, “they did make love to this employment” (p. 106).
C-3PO also refers to Hamlet when he says, “O, what a piece of work’s humanity –/How infinite in faculty! In form/And moving, how express and admirable!” (p. 121). C-3PO then acts the part of Mercutio from Romeo And Juliet, saying, “Aye, ask for me/Tomorrow, you shall find me a scrap droid!” (p. 123). (Mercutio says, “ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man.”) C-3PO even acts as Bottom from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, saying: “Have they all stolen hence, left me asleep?/R2, I’ve had a most rare vision, yea:/I’ve had a dream, past wit of droid to say/What dream it was: aye, I were but an akk,/If I did go about t’expound this dream./Methought I was – yet no droid can tell what./Methought I was – and too, methought I had – /But I am a patched fool, if I/Will offer to say what methought I had./The eyes of droids have never heard, the ears/Of droids have never seen, droids’ circuitry/Not able been to sense, nor programming/Conceive, nor e’en droids’ core to make report,/What my dream was. I’ll speak no more of it” (p. 143). And, if you hadn’t caught wind of the reference, R2 adds, “It seems the droid hath bottom’d out his sense” (p. 143).
Even the stage directions bring to mind certain plays, as Doescher writes, “Obi-Wan hides behind an arras” (p. 95), making us think of poor Polonius. Ian Doescher adds a scene between two Jedi, a scene in which he plays with the idea of these stories being told at some point in the future in a “galaxy far, far away” (p. 110). Doescher mixes in other, non-Shakespearian references as well. For example, he has C-3PO say, “We’re not in Tatooine,/Not anymore: O, there’s no place like home!” That’s obviously a reference to The Wizard Of Oz. And at one point Obi-Wan Kenobi actually refers to a popular Kenny Rogers song: “’Tis good to know when holding maketh sense,/’Tis better yet to know when one should fold,/’Tis best to know when one should walk away,/Yet now the time hath come for me to run!” And if you might have not have caught the reference yet, he adds, “I’ll join the others – yea, no gambler I!” (p. 133).
William Shakespeare’s The Clone Army Attacketh: Star Wars Part The Second was published in 2015 by Quirk Books.
Monday, September 12, 2016
The next reference is to All’s Well That Ends Well. Jean Kilbourne writes, “Writer and cartoonist Mark O’Donnell suggests that someday there will be tie-ins in literature as well, such as ‘All’s Well That Ends With Pepsi,’ ‘The Old Man, Coppertone and the Sea,’ and ‘Nausea, and Periodic Discomfort Relief’” (p. 61). A little later Kilbourne writes, “And an ad for shoes says, ‘If you feel the need to be smarter and more articulate, read the complete works of Shakespeare. If you like who you are, here are your shoes’” (p. 65). Then: “‘Deny yourself an obvious love affair?’ asks an Audi ad, featuring a picture of the car. ‘Didn’t you read Romeo & Juliet?’” (p. 98). Yes, Shakespeare is mentioned in several advertising campaigns. Kilbourne writes: “A 1997 Lexus campaign, introduced just before Halloween, looks like an ad for a slasher film. In one version, the car emerges, as if from flames, from a forest of bare, blackened trees against an orange sky. The copy, in the script of witchcraft and alluding to Shakespeare’s Macbeth, says: ‘Distant thunder, cold as stone,/a V8 screams down from its throne./One by one, each car succumbs./Something wicked/This way comes’” (p. 105). It is interesting that the witch’s line “Something wicked this way comes” is presented as two lines in the ad. The book contains another reference to Macbeth: “Alas, the parody ‘Absolut Impotence’ comes closer to the real relationship between alcohol and sex. Perhaps Shakespeare put it best when he said that drink ‘provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance’” (p. 249). That is a reference to the Porter’s speech. In the notes at the end of the book, Kilbourne writes: “‘Perhaps Shakespeare put it best’: Shakespeare, W. Macbeth. Act 2, Scene 3” (p. 329). The book also contains a reference to The Tempest: “O brave new world, where Addiction is Freedom and Conformity is Rebellion” (p. 310).
There are even a couple of Shakespeare references in the bibliography. The first: “Mohl, B. (1999, January 13). Lend them your ear, and your call is free. Boston Globe, A1, A10” (p. 343). “Lend them your ear” is of course a reference to the beginning of Antony’s famous speech from Julius Caesar. The second is another reference to Reviving Ophelia: “Pipher, M. (1994). Reviving Ophelia: saving the selves of adolescent girls. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons” (p. 345).
By the way, unrelated to Shakespeare, but related to another passion of mine, Mary Pipher, in the foreword, writes: “As songwriter Glen Brown wrote, we are all living in ‘one big town’” (p. 13). She meant, of course, Greg Brown, who has a song (and an album) titled “One Big Town,” and a line from that song goes, “One big town/We're living in one big town.” You’d think as this book was previously published under another title, that by now she would have corrected that. Oh well. If you get a chance to see Greg Brown in concert, you should definitely check him out.
Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes The Way We Think And Feel was published in 1999. The edition I read was the Touchstone Edition from 2000.
Sunday, August 28, 2016
The last name is first mentioned by Jack Lane, the person who makes the accusation against Susanna: “Oh Susanna Shakespeare…how you did shake!” (p. 26). And just before that, Jack refers to Shakespeare: “The time you ran from your father’s to the river singing all the way” (p. 26). Rafe Smith, the man Susanna is accused of having relations with, at one point refers to Susanna as “the poet’s daughter” (p. 37). And when Susanna is questioned, Barnabus Goche refers to Shakespeare’s work in a negative way: “He says you are not easily detected in your amours because you inherit from your father the art of dissembling. He is of the theatre, is he not?” (p. 71). He then continues, “He acts… so he dissembles” (p. 71).
Susanna mentions Shakespeare’s lack of activity, when talking about him seeing his granddaughter: “Father does so little now. You know how he dotes on the sight of her. Whatever light went out in him she kindles it again” (p. 30). And soon after that, Susanna mentions Shakespeare’s illness: “He won’t admit he’s ill. Take careful note of how he seems today” (p. 31). And then Susanna mentions her greatest fears: “One is that my father may die…and we’ll be helpless to prevent it” (p. 33). Hester confirms Shakespeare’s illness: “Oh he’s very ill. So much so I cried for an hour” (p. 39). Susanna speaks to her husband, John Hall, about it: “I’m not sure… a fever of some kind that comes and goes… he won’t talk to me about it in case I tell you… and he won’t let mother send for you. I tried to get Hester to question him while she was there but he realised right away” (p. 42). And by the end, Shakespeare is coming to see John Hall, as Susanna says: “It’s father… he’s agreed to be brought over to us. We’ve got the room ready” (p. 79). John asks, “Your father… did he have the tincture for the ulcers?” (p. 80). And that’s when Susanna admits to thinking her father had gonorrhea: “It’s what I thought he had then, yes” (p. 80). John replies, “You must know… he’s far beyond that now” (p. 80). He then rails against himself, “For suddenly here’s the father of my own wife desperate for cure and here am I… helpless!” (p. 80). At the end, Susanna says, of her father: “He was a liar, too. Must have lied to my mother every time he came home. Yet when he was with us… we were so warm” (p. 81).
New Place is also referred to a couple of times in this play. Susanna says to Hester, “No… I’ll do it… for I wouldn’t want you late at New Place” (p. 30). Later Hester says, “Because an hour before I had gone round to bring back milk from the evening milking to New Place” (p. 76).
By the way, the book mentions that this play “was first produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company at The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon, England on May 8, 1996” (p. 3), with David Tennant and Joseph Fiennes in the cast. The book was published in 1999.
Friday, August 26, 2016
Approximately thirty minutes before the start of the show, oceans sounds begin playing through the speakers at the sides of the stage. This was actually quite soothing, and it helped me focus on something other than the two silly girls next to me who used the word “like” more than all other words combined. (I’m considering purchasing a little hotel desk bell and hitting it every time someone like that says “like,” just for a bit of fun.) Then at 7:10 p.m., a member of the company came out in a yellow raincoat, yellow rain hat and rubber boots to make some brief announcements. And then the play was off and running.
There is some modern dress used in this production, particularly in the opening scene on the boat, in which the boat crew is wearing that yellow rain gear. The boat’s captain (or Master, as identified in the text) enters in a somewhat modern captain’s outfit, while deliberately cheesy music plays on the speaker, making us think of The Love Boat. There is also the use of a megaphone (later, Ariel will use it when saying “Thou liest” to Caliban). Sebastian, Antonio, Gonzalo and the rest, however, are in period costumes, all of bright red fabrics. The cast does an excellent job with this scene, their movements really making me feel I was on a tossing vessel.
In the second scene, Prospero (Thom Rivera) enters first from upstage, with Miranda (Erika Soto) entering behind him once he has moved downstage. Both are barefoot. Prospero’s magic garment is a sleeveless robe whose pattern and colors bring to mind the ocean. This production does some interesting things with this scene. First, several spirits dressed in black are introduced, and they bring out a chair for Miranda to sit upon, even lifting her at one point, as if she were floating upon the sea. Also, when Prospero says, “thy false uncle,” he sees his brother, who steps onto the stage from within the audience. So it is Prospero that becomes distracted, not Miranda, and so though his next line “Dost thou attend me” is still directed at Miranda, it is a way of shaking off his own distraction. This is such a great touch. And then when he mentions Gonzalo, Gonzalo appears upstage. Gonzalo then hands him a book on Prospero’s line about his books. Miranda’s “Would I might/But ever see that man” then has another significance, as she can’t see him there onstage. By the way, Erika Soto is absolutely adorable as Miranda, possessing the right youthful energy and outlook.
As is usually done, Ariel is here played by a woman (Kalean Ung), though dressed in trousers, a vest and old flight goggles and hat, giving the character a somewhat gender-free vibe. In the text, Ariel is clearly male, but here the more fluid gender makes the relationship between Prospero and Ariel more interesting. Ariel also has wings. I love the excitement and pride Ariel has when the describing the work she has done for Prospero. Then Ariel is able to change tones greatly and give a strong reading of “Is there more toil?”
Caliban (Sean Pritchett) enters from within the caves far off to the side of the audience. (The Independent Shakespeare Company has its stage by the site of the old zoo in Griffith Park, and this is the first time I can recall the cast making use of those caves. It is a really wonderful touch.) Caliban’s eyes are of two different colors; he wears a sort of neck brace (showing that Prospero has perhaps taken some care of him) and one shoe (which you might imagine was once Prospero’s). Miranda’s words to him do quiet and still Caliban, at least for a moment, which is nice, showing that Caliban in some way does like her, has perhaps allowed himself to be tamed by her (though has mixed feelings about this).
When Ariel sings for Ferdinand (Evan Lewis Smith), she is backed by a band of spirits playing accordion and percussion. During this, Prospero and Miranda stand upstage left, with Miranda facing away from the action and the audience, clearly under Prospero’s spell, while Prospero watches all. When Prospero wakes Miranda to look onto Ferdinand, Ferdinand walks slowly out into the audience before turning to see Miranda. After Prospero disarms Ferdinand, he hands the sword to Ariel, which shows just how much he trusts that spirit.
The second act begins with Alonso (Joseph Culliton) calling out Ferdinand’s name before Gonzalo (Lester Purry) begins his speech. William Elsman is funny as Sebastian when poking fun at Gonzalo. And Faqir Hassan is excellent as Antonio, when working to convince Sebastian to murder Alonso. Sebastian and Antonio put their swords away, so Gonzalo’s “Let’s draw our weapons” prompts them to take them out again, rather than the line being directed at himself and Alonso, another nice touch.
Trinculo (Lorenzo Gonzalez) enters from the audience. He is very much the clown in this production, even sporting a red nose. The majority of modern references in this production come from him and from Stephano. For example, Trinculo delivers “sing i’ th’ wind” to the tune of “Singing In The Rain.” On “Legg’d like a man,” Trinculo touches Caliban’s leg. His hand then drifts toward Caliban’s crotch on “and,” but Caliban’s slaps his hand away, leading Trinculo to finish the line, “his fins like arms.” So there are strong and humorous sexual suggestions aimed at Caliban from Trinculo. Stephano (David Melville) wears a red bowler and carries a walking stick. His nose is red too, but from drink. It’s interesting because of the costume choice to clothe that entire party in red, for it makes Trinculo and Stephano even more red, thus even more a part of the group, though they are separated from the rest for most of the play. When Caliban sings his farewell to his old master, he is backed by the spirits in black on percussion.
Some of the silliness with Trinculo falls a little flat, such as the play on him holding up three fingers and then four when saying “there’s but five upon this isle.” But most of what Trinculo and Stephano do is quite funny and effective. I love that at the end of Act III Scene ii, Stephano follows Ariel upstage right, while Caliban tries to lead him downstage left; this of course being when he says he’ll follow the monster, another wonderful touch. There are more modern references and jokes during the wardrobe rack bit.
This production includes the pageant scene, with Iris, Ceres and Juno singing, each in a bright dress. Ariel also joins in their song. Juno hands Miranda her flowers, a sweet touch. Another fantastic moment is when Ariel delivers the “were I human” line to Prospero. It’s a great moment between the two characters, and we see the change in Prospero’s demeanor. I also really like the ceremony with which Ariel removes Prospero’s magic garment and replaces it with his red robe (to match the others, signifying his return to the normal state of relations). Ferdinand and Miranda are wheeled in on a chest while playing chess, rather than being revealed upstage. Ariel is given a proper exit in this production, and after being set free, runs happily straight out into the audience. The epilogue is included.
There is one intermission, coming at the end of the first scene of Act III. Leading into that intermission, Stephano enters from the audience, asking for wine, and joking with an audience member who had brought wine. Stephano, Trinculo and Caliban then go on stage to mention the concessions and so on. The intermission lasts approximately fifteen minutes. The show ends just before 10 p.m. This production of The Tempest was directed by Matthew Earnest, and runs this weekend and next weekend (actually, Wednesday through Sunday), with the last performance being on September 4th. The show is free, but donations are accepted and encouraged.
Monday, August 15, 2016
The Homecoming was first published in 1965. The Faber And Faber edition that I read was published in 1991.
There is another possible Shakespeare reference in the piece titled, “All Men Are Whores: An Inquiry.” Mamet writes, “We are the stuff that rocks are made of” (p. 196), which is possibly a play on Prospero’s line “We are such stuff/As dreams are made on” from The Tempest.
Goldberg Street: Short Plays And Monologues was published in 1985 by Grove Press.
Sunday, August 7, 2016
Cymbeline, which means they’re carrying pieces for two different sets in their truck. The actors help construct the set for each performance.
This production begins with the first line of Act I Scene iii, “There is no composition in these news/That gives them credit.” It then adds a brief (and silent) wedding scene between Othello and Desdemona before going back to Scene i. Othello (Phillip C. Curry) is significantly older than Desdemona (Melissa Booey) in this production. Like a few decades older. So there is the interesting (and unspoken) dynamic that she is perhaps seeking a new father figure, replacing her father, which could give her actual father, Brabantio, more cause to be disturbed and upset by this marriage. Of course, Chris Nelson, who plays Brabantio, seems too young for the role, so that possible direction for exploration into the relationship is partially lost.
Curry has a strong voice, full of pride, and you get the sense that it is that very characteristic, his pride, which leads to Othello’s being misguided by Iago. When Brabantio cries out, “My daughter,” and someone asks if she is dead, and he replies, “Ay, to me,” Othello, standing stage left, actually laughs. It’s an interesting touch, and it sets him apart even further. And when Iago goes to fetch Desdemona, Othello delivers his lengthy speech to the audience, only occasionally addressing the other characters on stage. In addressing us, he seems to further separate himself from those around him, as his pride makes him feel he doesn’t need their acceptance or understanding. He can be threatening too, with a violence bubbling just below the surface, as when he grabs Iago by the wrist on “Be sure of it!”
It is Iago, however, who dominates the play. Patrick Vest is excellent as Iago. His costume is dominated by blacks and reds, which might be obvious for a villain, but which works. His relationship to, and manipulation of Roderigo is established early and clearly. Roderigo (Dorian Tayler) is a pitiable character, but you grow to have some sympathy for him, partly because of Tayler’s remarkable performance. The second time Iago tells Roderigo to put money in his purse, he actually takes Roderigo’s purse, and before the third time he tells him, he looks into the purse and is clearly disappointed by the little he sees inside. It’s a nice touch, and Vest does a great job with the speech at the end of the scene. Tayler is really good in the scene where he determines to get his jewels back from Desdemona.
In Act II Scene i, Cassio kisses Emilia on each cheek and then briefly on the lips, giving fuel to Iago’s own jealousy and suspicions. And interestingly, when Iago speaks of Cassio touching Desdemona’s hand, everyone else on stage slows their motions. It’s a strong effect, and what is interesting is that it puts us more in Iago’s state of mind, in a way aligning us with the villain, almost making us like him. The effect is used again when Iago speaks to Roderigo. The two take center stage while the others move to the sides of the stage and slow their motions. Later, Iago’s stabbing of Roderigo is done in slow motion.
Bryson Allman does a good job as Cassio, even playing him drunk fairly well (something that is not all that easy). Othello turns his back on Cassio on “But never more be officer of mine.” Melissa Booey is also quite good as Desdemona. She is particularly great as she speaks to Othello on Cassio’s behalf. And there are a few nice (and needed) moments of warmth between Othello and Desdemona in that scene. Also impressive is Olivia Schlueter-Corey as Emilia. The moment where she picks up the handkerchief is wonderful. Seeing it fall, she automatically picks it up to give it back to Desdemona as she follows her and Othello out, but then stops, while facing upstage. Even though she is facing away from us, we can read her thoughts through her body language, even before she turns to us to deliver her speech. It’s a really good moment. And then she is playful with Iago regarding the handkerchief, which is nice. Because otherwise it can be easy for an audience to turn on her. There are always moments when we can’t help but wonder why she doesn’t say something about the handkerchief earlier. Schlueter-Corey really shines in the scene with Desdemona at the end of the fourth act. She pauses before “But I do think it is their husbands’ faults,” which is great. And her delivery of “or say they strike us” is pointed, which again is excellent. This speech is the moment when her character really opens up, and we’re able to see the real Emilia.
Emilia is with Desdemona at the beginning of Act V Scene ii, while Desdemona sleeps, a nice touch. She then of course exits before Othello enters to deliver his famous “It is the cause” speech. Othello uses Desdemona’s pillow to suffocate her. Interestingly, when he says he took by the throat the circumcised dog, he grabs Iago by the throat. But of course the blade is for himself.
There are quite a few cuts in the play. Othello’s herald is cut, as are the musicians and clown from the beginning of Act III. The Clown is also cut from the beginning of Act III Scene iv. And there are various other cuts. The company makes good use of the space, often entering and exiting through the audience. Two microphones at the front of the stage pick up the actors’ voices, for those toward the back of the audience. And at times music plays over the speakers during a scene. Ocean sound effects are played over the speakers during the scene in which they talk about the sea battle at the beginning of Act II.
Othello was directed by Stephanie Coltrin. The production includes one twenty-minute intermission, coming at the end of Act III Scene iii. There are still a few more chances to catch this show, with performances scheduled for Seal Beach, Manhattan Beach, Laguna Niguel and San Pedro. Visit the Shakespeare By The Sea website for details.
Saturday, August 6, 2016
Quotable Hollywood: The Lowdown From America’s Film Capital was published in 2001.
Before the performance, recorded music plays over speakers, while company members go through the crowd, selling raffle tickets to help pay for the summer season. Because, though the performances are free to attend, they are certainly not free to put on. They also have T-shirts, sweatshirts and concessions for sale. Promptly at 7 p.m., announcements are made regarding the production, the company and what folks can do to spread the word, and the play begins right afterward.
Interestingly, this production begins with the entire company on stage, and rather than the two Gentlemen of the text, the first scene has one, who speaks directly to the audience, functioning almost like a chorus. And as the abduction of Cymbeline’s two sons is mentioned, the actors playing the sons exit upstage. It’s a way to get an audience who might be unfamiliar with the play quickly up to speed with the relationships, and with who is who. And from there the production moves to the rest of the scene with the Queen, Imogen and Posthumus.
The stage has one main playing level, and then several other levels around it, and the company makes great use of the space, creating some wonderful stage images. For example, in this scene at one point Imogen and Posthumus are down center facing each other, while the Queen re-enters above center. It’s brief, but this image says a lot. Imogen and Posthumus are closer to the audience, and it is with them that the audience will relate. The Queen is above them, in a position of power, and also looks down upon them, illustrating how she manipulates and affects their situation.
By the way, the cast is quite good. Particularly impressive is Stacy Snyder as Imogen. When Cymbeline banishes Posthumus and tells Imogen she would have made the throne a seat for baseness, she replies, “No; I rather added a lustre to it.” Stacy’s delivery of that line is excellent, and with that line you see she is really trying to convince the king of the truth of it, rather than responding to anger with anger. And later when speaking to Pisanio of Posthumus, she has a delicious, youthful excitement. And in the scene with Iachimo, she gives each line of “What ho, Pisanio!” a different feeling, a different meaning. The first, she is nervous; the second is spoken with more anger; and then in another scene when she speaks that line, the concern is more for Pisanio than for herself. Newcomer Christopher Dietrick (this is his first season with the company) turns in a really good performance as Posthumus. He is particularly excellent in the scene when he awaits word about the results of the wager.
Andria Kozica does a wonderful job as the Queen. I especially like the nice moments she finds to show that even she is disappointed with Cloten (Bryson Allman). I also appreciate that she doesn’t overdo or oversell those moments. There is, of course, some silly business between the two. For example, when Cloten says, “I have not seen these two days,” he holds up three fingers, and the Queen pushes one finger down. By the way, I love the exchange then between Cloten and Pisanio, and the delightful and sudden changes in attitude that Cloten displays (as on “Let’s see ‘t”).
This production includes some comic swordplay between Cloten and Posthumus, showing us Cloten drawing on Posthumus and thus eliminating Pisanio’s lines describing the event. Cloten also bites his thumb at Posthumus, a nice reference to another of Shakespeare’s plays. That is combined with the second scene, and Cloten’s reading of “Would there had been some hurt done” is really funny. Also done really well is the scene where Posthumus makes the wager with Iachimo (Dorian Tayler). When Iachimo says, “Your ring may be stolen too,” he returns the ring to Posthumus, doing a little sleight-of-hand, which is a nice touch and a great indication of the possible future danger regarding this character. There is also lots of comic business in the sword fight between Cloten and Guiderius (Iyan Evans, in his first season with the company). There are some good moments between Imogen and Pisanio. When Pisanio says he’ll send Posthumus some sign of Imogen’s death, he cuts his own hand with his dagger and wets a cloth with his own blood. And on “And fit you to your manhood,” he gives Imogen a dagger.
There is a bit of re-ordering of scenes, with Belarius, Guiderius and Arviragus being introduced much earlier than in the text. Act III Scene iii is moved to Act I, just before Scene vi. And after the scene with Imogen and Iachimo at the end of the first act, this production goes straight to Act II Scene ii, in which Iachimo comes out of the trunk. Oddly, Imogen sleeps on top of the trunk, and Iachimo slides out from a trap door in the front. It’s a little unclear whether the trunk is functioning both as Imogen’s regular bed and as the trunk, or if Imogen decides to sleep on Iachimo’s trunk rather than her bed. It’s one of the production’s only awkward moments. The beginning of Act II Scene iii is cut (the bit with the musicians). Act V Scene iv is cut.
This production is directed by Cylan Brown, and is done in period costume. There is one intermission, coming at the end of Act III Scene ii. By the way, during the intermission a girl filmed audience members reciting lines from Shakespeare. Apparently, these will be put together in some fashion on the web site. A young boy near me read some of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech, but he needs to take a cold reading class, for he never looked up from the page. If you missed the performance in South Pasadena, you still have a few more chances to catch the show. Cymbeline will be performed in Aliso Viejo, Beverly Hills, Manhattan Beach, Irvine and Rancho Palos Verdes, before wrapping up back in San Pedro. Check the Shakespeare By The Sea web site for details. And bring a sweatshirt - it gets cool at night.
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Celebrity Crimes: The Dark Side Of The Limelight was published in 2007.
Sunday, July 24, 2016
The Entertainer was first published in 1957 by Faber and Faber Limited. The first production was directed by Tony Richardson and starred Laurence Olivier as Archie Rice.
Friday, July 22, 2016
At 7:10 p.m., musicians came out to take their positions upstage right. Electric guitar, bass and drums. Certainly not the usual instruments to accompany a Shakespeare performance. They were followed by the company, and after a brief mention of the sponsors, the play began. However, it didn’t begin with Richard’s famous opening lines. Rather, it began with a speech, which became a song, about “Two great houses,” Lancaster and York, delivered as a spoken word to a rock beat. There was then a short fight, followed by the crowning of King Edward, and that led directly to Richard The Third’s “Now is the winter of our discontent.” Interestingly, other characters are still on stage for this, and Richard gestures to Edward on “this sun of York.” And the other characters even chuckle at his “pleasing of a lute” line. They do then exit so that he is alone for the rest of the speech.
Richard is played by David Melville, one of the founders of the company. One of David’s main strengths is comedy, and so he finds much comedy in the role. The limp, as you might expect, is exaggerated, with David often pointing his toes inward. But it’s his way of delivering a line that draws the audience’s laughter. And there is much humor to this character, although there were some lines that drew a laugh that perhaps shouldn’t have. An example is his line to Lady Anne, “More wonderful when angels are so angry.”
There is some re-ordering of scenes, and actually some lines from the fifth act of The Third Part Of King Henry The Sixth, like “See how my sword weeps for the poor king’s death.” And I think at least one line is taken from Colley Cibber’s adaptation of Richard The Third: “You shake, my lord, and look affrighted.” We get part of Scene iii, with Margaret, before we get Scene ii with Anne. Margaret delivers her “Hear me, you wrangling pirates” line from within the audience, then steps onto the stage. This production has a much younger Margaret than usual, so Richard’s “wither’d hag” line has a different feel. She is presented as a very strong character, and for her big speech she takes center stage, with Richard moving down left just in front of the audience.
The funeral procession with King Henry the Sixth’s corpse comes from within the audience. This scene is such a difficult one for anyone playing Lady Anne, but Mary Goodchild does an excellent job with it. Richard’s “Your bed-chamber” is said with a bite, and no sweetness, an interesting choice. And then his “Your beauty was the cause of that effect” shocks her, a nice moment. He kneels and takes her hand, firmly grasping it, so she has trouble getting away. After Lady Anne spits on Richard, Richard wipes the spit from his face, then on “so sweet a place” he puts his fingers in his mouth, as to taste her spit. That’s great, though he is sort of facing away from her, making the action a little less strong. Twice Anne lifts the sword as if to strike Richard, and both times is stopped by his compliments. Finally she drops the sword and somewhat reluctantly finds some comfort in Richard’s arms. Again, this is such a difficult scene to do convincingly, and Goodchild really makes it work. Then after her exit, Richard has his “Was ever woman in this humour woo’d” speech. He takes some joy and pleasure in the speech, which is wonderful.
Another brief scene is taken from Colley Cibber’s version of Richard The Third, with Lady Anne saying, “When, when shall I have rest?” She then says, “Let me have music to compose my thoughts.” And we get a song, on guitar and vocals, with Catesby and Lady Anne singing, “Are not women truly then merely shadows of their men,” a line not from Shakespeare (or even Cibber’s version of Shakespeare), but Ben Jonson.
There are several musical cues throughout the performance, usually in the brief moments between scenes, but sometimes during the scenes and sometimes even when actors are speaking. It’s interesting having a more modern rock sound, while for the most part the actors are in period dress. The main exceptions are the two princes, one of whom wears a baseball cap (backwards) and Converse high-tops, carrying a teddy bear; the other wears an argyle sweater. It seems a bit odd, with nearly everyone else in period costume. Both princes are played by female actors, as is Catesby.
The stage is fairly simple, with just one level. As far as I can recall, this is the first of their summer productions that I’ve seen to not include a balcony or some upper level. So in Act III Scene vii, when Richard appears between two bishops, he stands upstage center (rather than at the balcony, as is usually done), while Buckingham and the Mayor move down right. In that scene, Buckingham and the Mayor lead the audience in a chant of “Richard.” Richard then goes into the crowd to shake hands and kiss babies, poking fun at modern politics, and leading into the intermission. (A prop baby was given to the woman next to me before the show specifically so that Richard would be sure to have a baby to kiss.) As they went into the intermission, there were several jokes about the current presidential race, including the promise of a wall to be built around England to keep out the Scots, a wall the Scots will pay for. The intermission was approximately twenty-five minutes.
The second act of this production begins with the fourth act. Anne says “corpse” instead of “corse” in the line “as I follow’d Henry’s corse.” There are more musical cues in the second act, as when Richard enters to sit upon the throne. Interestingly, David doesn’t really pause before the word “daughter” in the line “You have a daughter call’d Elizabeth,” so doesn’t go for the humor there. By the way, that scene between Richard and Queen Elizabeth is excellent. Aisha Kabia is particularly good as Elizabeth when telling Richard how to woo her daughter. But both she and David are fantastic throughout the scene, which is riveting.
Stage smoke is used for the entrances of the ghosts that haunt Richard’s sleep. David is excellent in this scene, especially after he wakes, kneeling, with the ghosts behind him. Evan Lewis Smith is likewise excellent as Richmond as he delivers his oration to the soldiers, in this case delivering the speech to the audience, which works to excite the crowd. He is captivating as he delivers this speech. Richard delivers his first “A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!” from deep within the audience. Oddly, it got a laugh from the audience, but that might be due simply to the line’s familiarity to those who rarely read or see Shakespeare. The battle is set to rock music, and at one point Richard grabs the electric guitar and hits Richmond with it. If I could change one thing about this production, it would be to remove that bit of stage business. It feels seriously out of place. What’s worse is that because of that, the guitar remains on stage for Richard’s death, which weakens the scene.
This is the final week for Richard The Third, so make an effort to get to Griffith Park this weekend. Next week they begin The Tempest.
Then, in the chapter titled “Misuses Of Prophecy And Prophets,” there is an entire section on Macbeth. Cheetham writes, “Macbeth is a classic example of one of the most frequent misuses of prophecy, that of trying to force it instead of just letting it happen” (p. 134). Cheetham then goes into detail about how both Macbeth and Banquo react to the witches’ prophecies. “Soon enough Macbeth murders the king, to make one of the prophecies come true” (p. 135). Regarding Macbeth’s later encounter with the witches and the vision of the kings, Cheetham writes: “From then until his death Macbeth believes in prophecy, becoming almost its passive agent, and demonstrating another misuse of prophecy, that of wrongful interpretation, in the way most favorable to himself. When the second and third prophetic sayings come true, in a sense unfavorable to him, Macbeth’s courage fails, and he is killed by Macduff. It is overstating the obvious that at least 50 percent of a prophecy’s content lies in belief by its subject” (pages 135-136). Cheetham then writes: “It seems to me that the principle of symmetry demands that someone trying to ensure that a favorable prophecy should come to pass, will in fact help to ensure that it fails. That was Macbeth’s error” (p. 136). In the next chapter, Cheetham returns to Macbeth: “There are certain grounds on which almost any prophecy may be regarded as undesirable. It may paralyze action or distort judgment leading to wrong or foolish conduct, as happened to Macbeth” (p. 144).
There is also a reference to Hamlet: “My own personal experience does not lead me to reject a large measure of free choice and free will. Chaucer’s ‘all that’s preordained needs must be’ is too extreme. I prefer Hamlet’s ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy’” (p. 145).
The Further Prophecies Of Nostradamus: 1985 And Beyond was published in 1985. It is a Perigee Book, published by The Putnam Publishing Group. The edition I read is the hardcover Book Club Edition.
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
There is also a reference to Romeo And Juliet. Jim reveals he’s engaged and says that he hasn’t told the people at the warehouse yet. He adds: “You know how they are. They call you Romeo and stuff like that” (p. 111).
The Glass Menagerie was originally published in 1945. The edition I read is the New Classics edition, which was first published in 1949, then reset in 1970. The copy I read was from the fifteenth printing.
Sunday, July 17, 2016
Friday, July 15, 2016
The Awakening was originally published in 1899. The edition I read is a hardcover book club edition published by Nelson Doubleday, Inc.