Shakespeare Theatre Company and the Sidney Harman Hall. Is it worth $72.00?

I had commented in a earlier post about paying $72.00 for a play. Well last Sunday My wife and I finally made it to Sidney Harman Hall for the first time to check out the Shakespeare Theatre Company of Washington DC.

Now’ you might be asking, if I love Shakespeare so much why hadn’t I been to the  Sidney Harman Hall yet? Well’ I’d been hesitant in the past to checkout a play there for the simple fact of cost. $72.00 seemed like a lot of money, even though that may be cheap by New York standards. But lets face it, there are several plays every year in the DC area that cost any where from $10.00 to $40.00, with at least 2 or 3 productions that are free. So not being what I would call a “Theater Person” myself, (I really don’t have a desire to see any other plays other than Shakespeare) that $72.00 was gonna be really hard to let go of. But’ then the opportunity finally came. Because of the Blizzard of 2010 the STC was doing Henry V (one of my favorites) for $25.00, and I just couldn’t pass up this chance.

The Sidney Harman Hall Experience
So I went on-line, selected my tickets, and made my purchases at STC’s web site. Uncertain as to how good the seats were, I decided to call the box office and was cheerfully greeted by a pleasant woman in no time. She explained where the seats were located that I had just purchased, and suggested a different set of seats which turned out to be wonderful.

Getting to the Sidney Harman Hall was easy enough, I live within walking distance of a Metro, and the Sidney Harman Hall is in the visual line of sight from our destination stop at the Verizon Center Metro. To easy!

The theater itself was very well laid out, we sat in the front row of the upper level mezzanine with a really nice view of all the action. As for the stage, it was surprisingly low, just about a foot high. But this turns out to be really nice since they use stadium seating, the first 3 or 4 rows won’t give you permanent neck problems from having to stare straight up for 3 hours. The acoustics were perfect also, at no time did we have to strain to hear what was being said on the stage. The seats, cushy and comfortable. We were able to lean back and still see all of the stage without any obstructions.

But $72.00! was it worth it?
The long and the short of it is yes. Now let me explain why.
Most of the plays I have seen were using “original staging practices”, which means the lights stay on, the costuming and staging may be minimal, the players generally play multiple parts, and there’s generally some sort of audience interaction. And by audience interaction this could include a bawd sitting on your lap for half a scene (taunting your wife), to you being pulled onto the stage by Sir John Falstaff as he recruits rouges and wretches to be cannon fodder in his dismal platoon! These plays my friend are generally a lot of fun.

So how was The Shakespeare Theatre  Company different? They had complete theatrical stage lighting, full booming surround sound, amazing costumes that looked like they would cost a princely fortune. Suits of armor descending from the roof to the awaiting rank of soldiers below. A battlement in the background for a King to descend by ropes, or a soldier to climb up using hand holds. In essence it was a theatrical event, and a spectacle to see. It felt lavish, and looked quite expensive to produce.

Will I go back again?
Yes, most definitely. There are just some plays that would be incredible to see here, and I can’t wait to do just that. My wife and I missed some of the intimacy of the “original staging practices”, but this is meant to be different,  and honestly the grandeur was just amazing. I can’t afford to do it often, but I will do it again.

Link: http://www.shakespearetheatre.org
link: The Sidney Harman Hall House Managers Extraordinaire

Mondo Andronicus: “All the Depravity and Violence, and None of the ‘Blah Blah Blah’ ”(As they say on their web site)

Update 03/09/10: Review from opening night

Mondo Andronicus presented by the  Molotov Theatre

Titus Andronicus is famous for being  a fairly brutal play. Of course there’s the many different ways  that Titus Andronicus has been portrayed over the years. There’s the artsy versions of this play with pretty red ribbons, symbolizing the blood that represents the woe and angst of poor, poor Lavinia. But I get the impression that “Mondo Andronicus” is not that type of play… At all… In the least bit! “Mondo Andronicus” sounds like it’ll be a gore hounds dream!

Now’ I’ve read this play, seen this play live, and watched it on DVD, and I can tell you this play was written by a young playwright out to make a name for himself. If Shakespeare wrote for Hollywood today, Titus Andronicus would be his Texas Chainsaw Massacre, except Shakespeare’s play is actually more brutal. Titus Andronicus a is sordid tale of rape, gore and unrepentant violence! To the point where several famous critics could not believe Shakespeare could have written such a play as this.

Now I personally have always enjoyed reading and watching horror movies, so none of this offends me. And I’ll be there to see how they’ll pull it off when it opens. So add this to your calendar of ye be brave, but consider yourself warned, this will not be a country stroll through fair Verona.

Mondo Anronicus:  “All the Depravity and Violence, and None of the ‘Blah Blah Blah’”
Presented by The Molotov Theatre Group.

March 6, 2010 – April 3, 2010
Wednesdays through Sundays at 8 PM

You can read more about Titus Andronicus and the evils of  Aaron the Moor here on MarylandShakespeare.com

You can find the opening night review here: Review from opening night

Sidney Harman Hall and the House Managers Extraordinaire

Carol and Kelsey - House Managers

Carol and Kelsey - House Managers

My wife and I finally got to the Sidney Harman Hall  for the first time to watch The Shakespeare Theatre Company perform Henry V.  So’  Sometime within the next couple of days I’ll have a wonderfully deep and insightful review of my impressions of the Sidney Harmon Hall, and how much we enjoyed seeing the play.

But for now I just want to give a shout out to Carol and Kelsy, the House Managers extraordinaire at the Sidney Harman Hall. Who not only convinced me that I really (REALLY!)  needed the Shakespeare bust  they were holding in this picture. They also explained that in doing so I’d also be helping a worthy cause, since part of the proceeds go to keeping Shakespeare alive in the Washington DC Area. So how could I resist, I now have a second Shakespeare bust in my living room.

You can catch our write up about the  Sidney Harman Hall by clicking  Here .

DVD: Romeo and Juliet Directed by Franco Zeffirelli 1968 – Just in Time for Valentines Day

Romeo and Juliet Directed by Franco Zeffirelli 1968

Before I go into the review I want to say that for me, a great Shakespeare movie is not required to be word for word perfect. Throne of Blood, a masterful retelling of Macbeth by Akira Kurosawa, is one of my all time favorite movies Shakespearean or not,  and it’s not even in English.

As far as Romeo and Juliet go, I’d just seen the Maryland Shakespeare Festival do a really nice job with this play which I thoroughly enjoyed. So I had fairly high expectations going into Franco Zeffirelli’s version based on its reputation and reviews I’d seen on IMDB.com.

First I want to say, the costumes and Italian setting were some of the best I’d ever seen, and the score was stunning. And though I may sound harsh below, this movie has stayed with me since seeing it, and may demand a second viewing.

Now as far as the movie itself? I hate to say it, but other then Olivia Hussey as Juliet and Pat Heywood as the Nurse, (And sometimes Milo O’Shea as the Friar), I thought the acting was stiff and completely unbelievable. Every time Romeo entered the screen I could almost hear Franco Zeffirelli telling him “Okay’ bring your eyebrows together and look pensive. Now do it again. More with the eyebrows’ more pensive. Again. Again. CUT!”

And then there’s Mercutio, who’s suppose to be the dirty joke telling 16(?) year old, slightly older friend that goads Romeo to get in trouble, but will always be there when needed. But no, Zeffirelli’s Mercutio was just plain annoying and spastic with no personality. Also they edited out his best (dirty) lines in essence nurturing him. And jumping back to Romeo with his Waxy pensive looks, you know how they wore those hose stockings in the Middle Ages? Well’ Every time the orchestrated musical score would start to soar (Beautifully mind you), and Romeo would give his pensive dreamy look wearing what looked like ballet tights, I swear I thought they were going to break out into a ballet with Romeo pirouetting across the screen.

When you read the play, you will find Romeo is a flighty, hormone driven 14 year old boy. How do we know this? Well right from the start of the play we learn that Juliet was NOT the love of his life, it was Rosaline. Yes’ Rosaline, who we learn from Romeo’s lips is “The all-seeing sun, ne’er saw her match since first the world begun.” So in reality Romeo is fickle. Romeo has the wandering eye. Romeo is acting like a 14 year old, and looking to fall in love… Again. Yet Zeffrelli adds Rosaline to the story with a couple throw away lines pronounced by the Friar in the middle of the movie. Now what about Mercutio’s role in Romeos romances in the play as compared to the movie? He’s the big brother there to both tease and teach. He’s the cool guy with the heart of gold.

“I conjure thee by Rosaline’s bright eyes,
By her high forehead and her scarlet lip,
By her fine foot,
straight leg and quivering thigh
And the demesnes (regions) that there adjacent lie”. – Mercutio

Then there’s Olivia Hussy’s Juliet. She made the movie, even if there were times she laid it on a bit thick. Still’ She came across in every scene as beautiful, innocent, and honest. The first time she sees Romeo at the dance Olivia Hussy’s eyes glowed with honest emotion, you could believe she was truly experiencing love at first site. Still, Zeffirelli managed to cut some of Juliet’s best lines. When she’s about to drink the drought that the Friar has given her to put her into a death like sleep, what does she say in Zeffirelli’s version? “Love give me strength…Gulp”. Very short and to the point. Shakespeare gave her some amazing lines here, and instead Zeffirelli give’s us the Reader’s Digest version (Gulp).

Here’s what Juliet is really thinking when she sips the potion:

What if it be a poison, which the friar
Subtly hath minister’d to have me dead,
Lest in this marriage he should be dishonour’d,
Because he married me before to Romeo?
I fear it is: and yet, methinks, it should not,
For he hath still been tried a holy man.
How if, when I am laid into the tomb,
I wake before the time that Romeo
Come to redeem me? there’s a fearful point!
Shall I not, then, be stifled in the vault,
To whose foul mouth no healthsome air breathes in,
And there die strangled ere my Romeo comes?
Or, if I live, is it not very like,
The horrible conceit of death and night,
Together with the terror of the place,–
As in a vault, an ancient receptacle,
Where, for these many hundred years, the bones
Of all my buried ancestors are packed:
Where bloody Tybalt, yet but green in earth,
Lies festering in his shroud; where, as they say,
At some hours in the night spirits resort;–
Alack, alack, is it not like that I,
So early waking, what with loathsome smells,
And shrieks like mandrakes’ torn out of the earth,
That living mortals, hearing them, run mad:–
O, if I wake, shall I not be distraught,
Environed with all these hideous fears?
And madly play with my forefather’s joints?
And pluck the mangled Tybalt from his shroud?
And, in this rage, with some great kinsman’s bone,
As with a club, dash out my desperate brains?
O, look! methinks I see my cousin’s ghost
Seeking out Romeo, that did spit his body
Upon a rapier’s point: stay, Tybalt, stay!
Romeo, I come! this do I drink to thee.

My backyard in Silver Spring Maryland this morning

In winter with warm tears I’ll melt the snow
And keep eternal spring-time on thy face.

Titus Andonicus

3 Shakespeare related goals this week

Okay I had 3 Shakespeare related goals this week:

One, was to watch Romeo and Juliet on DVD after finally seeing it live, but NOOooo. I lost electricity for 48 hours over the weekend and didn’t get the chance yet (Not to mention the temperature dropped to 41 degrees before the heat came back on).

Two,  I was  hoping to catch the Chesapeake Shakespeare Pub Night, but now it Looks like we are getting another foot of snow tomorrow, and they JUST plowed my roads 3 days AFTER the last snow storm.

And finally, number three. This weekend I am looking forward to maybe seeing “The Comedy of Errors”  by the The Shakespeare Factory. But  Considering all the days this week I spent ice bound inside my house, I have a lot of things on my list to get done this weekend, and getting to a play may not be one of them.

Which of course reminds me of what a very wise man once told me, “You can plan a camping trip, but cha’ can’t plan the weather”.

Capulet’s Tragedy from Romeo and Juliet (After finally seeing and reading the play)

Earth-treading stars that make dark heaven light” – Capulet

I haven’t seen the movie since High School, and never read the play, so I was glad to hear that the Maryland Shakespeare Festival were putting on Romeo and Juliet… I knew the basic plot as most people do (There’s a family feud. A boy and girl fall in love. Boy and girl die. The end.), but other than what we “Think” we know from the 1 minute synopses, I was completely engaged in the subplots and motivations… What surprised me most about this play was my reactions to Juliet’s father who in the play is simply known as “Capulet”. From what I thought I knew about this play, I expected total hatred and venom between the family’s, but in reality that is not completely true.

PROLOGUE
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

Though there may be an old grudge between the Capulet’s and the Montague’s, after the opening scenes and the Princes speech, Capulet seems to have completely buried the hatchet and put away his animosity.

TYBALT
Tis he, that villain Romeo.

CAPULET
Content thee, gentle coz, let him alone;
He bears him like a portly gentleman;
And, to say truth, Verona brags of him
To be a virtuous and well-govern’d youth:
I would not for the wealth of all the town
Here in my house do him disparagement:
Therefore be patient, take no note of him:
It is my will, the which if thou respect,
Show a fair presence and put off these frowns,
And ill-beseeming semblance for a feast.

After seeing, and then reading the play, I find these words make this play all the more tragic. Juliet’s father not only has zero animosity towards Romeo, but shows him due respect. Which is more they can be said for how he treats his own house hold, berating his wife, nurse, and anyone else who contradicts him. But I can’t help but think, that it wouldn’t take much persuasion to convince Capulet to allow Juliet to marry Romeo. I’m sure the Prince would push the union, even if only to heal the family’s feud and bring peace to the town.

And thus’  even is the tragedy all the more.

In my opinion this  was a fantastic play to read. If you’d like a good example of what this play has to offer,  read the poetic interchange between Romeo and Juliet at the ball.  I was dazzled by  the way the words seem to dance and flow across the page keeping time with the music that you could almost hear.

I also have to say of the 20 or so plays I have read, this and Richard II are the two I enjoyed reading the most.  But that’s  because I had such low expectations for both going in  (Hamlet and Macbeth being the high water mark). Now that I have seen this play live, and then read it.  I’m now looking forward to watching Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet on DVD this weekend. Once I do that, I’ll let you know what I think.

CAPULET
Death is my son-in-law, Death is my heir;
My daughter he hath wedded: I will die,
And leave him all; life, living, all is Death’s.

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