Monday, October 26, 2009

Five Hours Down, Five Hours Back

Truffaldino (Mark Bedard) and his master, Florindo (Elijah Alexander) in Servant of Two Masters

We spent the weekend in one of our favorite places, doing some of our favorite things. Playgoing, eating at interesting restaurants, browsing old bookstores, talking with actors, and enjoying the pool and hot tub at a nice hotel. As soon as school was over on Friday, we sped down to Ashland, to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Through afternoon traffic and steep, curvy mountain roads made slippery with rain, we doggedly drove, determined to make it in time for the evening entertainment. We needn't have worried; we made it with 6 minutes to spare. All the comfort of an old familiar setting, with old familiar activities...but a few new twists.

One twist was that we were in the New Theatre. Professor X and I had attended a few plays there since it opened in 2002. There was an amazing production of MacBeth that year, done in the round with a pool of "blood" in the center of the stage. As the action progressed, and knives were dipped into the "blood" and actors were smeared with "blood," things got stickier and stickier. Very memorable. We attended a post-play talk where they revealed the secret ingredient of stage blood - karo syrup. I only learned today that there was enormous drama surrounding the production when I went in search of photos to share with you and found a review of the show here. We thought it was a fantastic show.

We also saw a great political show the following year, Mothers Against by David Edgar. It was done with a totally different floor plan; imagine the theatre as a giant rectangle, with seating on the two long sides only, stage in the middle. So we knew there were many possible ways to arrange the audience. The kids had never been to the New Theatre. When we attended the first play, I told them that it would be interesting to see how it might be reconfigured the following evening for the other play. They thought I was nuts. But when we entered the next night, they were forced to admit I knew what I was talking about. If you look at the floor plans on the website, you'll see what I mean. There's a ton of work that goes into changing the entire set and seating between plays. And it happens in a few hours, because the play we saw the first night was done again as a matinee the next day, with the second play performed that evening.

Despite our frequent theatre trips, it was the first time we'd seen All's Well that Ends Well. Wonderful production. At first, I was a little taken aback seeing so many new actors in leading roles. I was reassured when some old favorites - James Edmondson, Dee Maaske, and G. Valmont Thomas, (he'd played MacBeth in 2002) showed up. Veteran actor Armando Durán absolutely delighted as a clown. I was really impressed by the comic talents of the newer women, Kate Mulligan and Emily Sophia Knapp. And we all enjoyed the lead,

Helena (Kjerstine Rose Anderson) and marveled at her athleticism, especially when she swung upside down from a tree.

Servant of Two Masters was our introduction to commedia dell’arte. OSF’s world premiere adaptation of a 250-year-old romp, with original songs, was outrageous fun for the four of us. I'll share more about that tomorrow. Need to clean house in preparation for NaNoWriMo.


lisleman said...

I only remember going once to a play "done in the round". It made me feel closer to the action. The play was about a Japanese emperor but I forget the name of it. I prefer musicals but have seen other plays/shows too.
My nephew played MacBeth in High School. He was good.

Barry said...

The staging of MacBeth looks very interesting, I wish I'd seen it.

We often go to Stratford here in Ontario but could make it this summer.

Maybe next year.

phd in yogurtry said...

Like being in two different theatres!

Lisa said...

So cool! I really want to go see theater in the round.

Fantastic Forrest said...

lisleman - the Chicago area has some wonderful theatres. When I was at Loyola, we went to zillions of plays there.

Barry - I am keeping my fingers crossed that you make it to Stratford next year and for many after as well.

phD - sure is!

Lisa - say it with me: Destination for road trip associated with Pacific NW Blog Camp Summer 2010!!

Miss Healthypants said...

I only saw one Shakespeare play once--it was "Othello," performed in an outdoor theater-in-the-round...and it was fan-freaking-tastic! :) I truly loved it.

I can't believe I haven't been back to see a Shakespeare play since then. Must put it on my list... :)

Emm said...

Wow! It sounds like there was more drama going on about the theatre than all of the performances combined!! John McBeth shot dead by his wife's lover? Indeed.

We were meant to go see Blood Brothers this weekend until the reality of not actually having money dawned upon me!