April Calendar of Plays – All’s Well and R&J, Hamlet and Midsummer. Happy BDay Willy S.

Well It’s already April and the Spring Season is kicking in.  The birds are singing, the sun is shining, and some of my favorite plays are about to kick off.  So what have we got new for this month?

The top pick for the Month will be:

A Midsummer Nights Dream & Shakespeare Birthday Celebration!!!: Maryland Shakespeare Festival - A “BARE BARD” for one weekend only – April 24 &25th. The Bare Bards are always a lot of fun, and rumor has it,  they have some very special plans lined up For Shakespeare’s Birthday.

Also This Month:

Hamlet: Baltimore Shakespeare Festival – Apr 12 thru 27

Romeo and Juliet: American Shakespeare Center / Blackfriers - April 8 thru June 19

All’s Well that Ends Well: American Shakespeare Center / Blackfriers – April 9 thru June 19

A Midsummer Nights Dream: Montgomery County Players: April 16th thru May 2nd

Hamlet: (DC) Folger Elizabethan Theatre – Apr 21 thru Jun 6.

I’ve yet to see a play at the Folgers, so I’m excited to get a chance to catch Hamlet there. But’  what’s more thrilling then seeing Hamlet? Seeing TWO Hamlets! Considering I haven’t had a chance to see the “Baltimore Shakespeare Festival” either, I may just convince myself that there’s no such thing as to much Hamlet.

If you hear of anything else going on in our area let me know, I’ll get it on the calendar.

LAST CHANCE!: Mondo Andronicus and Henry VI are closing this weekend!

The Blackfriars Theater in Staunton VA- Henry VI part 2

This is the last weekend for two Shakespearean plays that are on two completely different spectrum’s from each other:

Mondo Andronicus performed by The Molotov Theatre Group, See my review here

Henry VI part 2 performed by the American Shakespeare Center at the BlackFriars

I had already reviewed Mondo (Titus) Andronicus. In short realistic blood,  gore, and violence,  if you like horror movies, you’ll love this. So I’ll just say a quick word about Henry VI at the Blackfriars.

I just finally got around to seeing it last weekend,  I haven’t had time to write it up, and now it’s closing this weekend. Truthfully I’ve been enjoying  Shakespeare’s History plays more then you can imagine, and this one’s no exception. I really don’t think the Histories get their due. Henry VI part 2 has enough court intrigue, subplots and action to keep you riveted to your seat. Not to mention the famous quote, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” And even though it’s “Part two”, it is a complete stand alone story. Henry VI is the ongoing tale about the son of Henry V (Now at Sidney Harman Hall), the passions of men and their desire for power. It also includes one of the nastiest noble woman this side of Macbeth.

Both the plays listed above are entertaining, Mondo is definitely  for adults only, but since I like the old 70 style grindhouse movies, that is not a bad thing. As a matter of fact I may take up an offer to go see it a second time this Friday. And Henry VI is the ASC doing what the ACS does best, great Shakespeare! So depending on your mood, both are fun choices… But don’t wait to long, this weekend is it.

The Playbill in Washington DC - Mondo Andronicus

REVIEW: Maryland Shakespeare Festivals Love’s Labour’s Lost

This weekend the Maryland Shakespeare Festival put on another one of their experimental and absolutely unique Bare Bards. The actors performing in the play are providing their services for free. And show up from around the country simply for the training and a chance to help the producer in her research in Shakespeare studies.

A Bare Bard is: “Part of MSF’s performance research, Bare Bard is great theater with out the frills! Actors from across the country come to Frederick to tell timeless stories in our Elizabethan Play house.. costumes, fights, music… It’s all there BUT… like in Shakespeare’s day, there is NO director, No lights and very little rehearsal! It’s all in the language, and with just 1 day… This is where ‘whose line is it’ meets ‘To be or Not to Be’ “ – Becky Kemper

Pretty much, the actors show up on Friday knowing their lines, do a performance Saturday and Sunday, and that’s it, no more shows.

I’ve been to countless Bare Bard’s and have yet to be disappointed, and Sunday’s Love’s Labor’s Lost was no exception. The Play was held at the All Saints Episcopal Church in Frederick MD, where the hall was transformed into an Elizabethan theater for the day, with the stage area projected into the hall and people sitting on all 3 sides.  Actually “Stage Area” might be to limiting a term considering the entire hall is used by the actors, and the audience becomes part of the play. With the performers at times talking directly to the audience, sitting in the audience, or at one point a lovelorn actor groveling at the foot of an understanding audience member.

From the moment the play started, so did the laughter, and I knew this was going to be a good one. All the actors seem to glow with energy and enthusiasm, making it hard to believe they had only been together for 2 days by this point. In particular I’d like to point out a new comer to the “Bare Bards” Quinn Franzen in the role of Berowne, who stood out right from the beginning. He displayed a jovial sense of confidence and believability that connected with the audience immediately.We can only hope this will be only the first of many appearances with the MSF.

Another person that stood out was Yvonne Cone who played the comic roll of Moth, as she bounced and beamed her enthusiasm to all who caught her eye. I don’t know if  I’d seen her before, but she made a lasting impression and  seemed like she was having way to much fun out there.

Of course there’s all the rest of the cast that deserves great praise for the work they put in; if it seems like I’m gushing, it’s simply because I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. There were regular’s like John Bellamo as Don Armado who somehow was able to get one of the biggest laughs of the night simply by holding up a key (to a Honda mind you – Trust me you had to be there). or David Dowell as a very flamboyant, and very funny Boyet.

I do want to point out one more actress from Sundays performance, and that would be Shannon Parks who played Jaquenetta in this production. Whether playing Lady Macbeth, or a lowly Milk Maid she always displays an honesty in her roles that connects easily with the audiences. She can put a  twinkle in her eye and a warmth in her smile that will draw you in completely. Or in case of Lady Macbeth she’s able to take that twinkle and warmth, and turn it into frozen ice within the chilling turn of a page.

I had sat next to a very pleasant woman, who’s name I really wish I could remember, who had never seen Shakespeare outside of the larger venue hall’s. So it was a treat for me to experience the play through her eyes, and her laughter. She afterward told me she never knew Shakespeare could be this fun. All I can say is that Shakespeare did not write his plays to be viewed in a stoic museum setting, they were written for the the masses, standing in a mud pit, who paid a penny to see a play, and darn well expected to get their monies worth!

03/31/10: Addendum: I got an email from a very wonderful person I met at the play who reminded me:

you didn’t mention the actors threatening each other with silk shrubs, which had me in stitches.  ;-)

Yes’ A Honda key and 2 silk shrubs… You really really had to to be there to understand.

FREE this Saturday: Shakespeare and Galileo in Williamsburg VA.

Just got this one to pass on. Looks like some fun educational theater is going on in Williamsburg Virgina. But make your plans quick, it’s happening tomorrow. Here’s what they say on thier website:

Shakespeare and Galileo
Listen in on a hypothetical meeting between two brilliant individuals – William Shakespeare and Galileo Galilei – as they explore the relationship between art and science.

This live theatrical performance is presented by the The Carpenter Science Theatre Company, which brings science to life at the Science Museum of Virginia. Professional actors, directors, playwrights, designers and technicians combine their expertise to educate and entertain all ages with wonderful performances.

Free, no reservations needed

Saturday, March 27
11 a.m.
Kitzinger Community Room
James City County Library
7770 Croaker Road, Norge This program is made possible through a grant from the Friends of Williamsburg Regional

Link: http://www.wrl.org/programs/page9/page9.html

Shakespeare this Weekend: 6 seperate plays including a MSF Bare Bard with a talkback

Yep it’s only Thursday, but I’m getting tuned up for my weekend trip to Staunton Virgina to see Henry VI at the Blackfriars Playhouse. This is going to be a tough weekend to leave since there’s couple of events here in Maryland I really wanted to go to. But having purchased my tickets, and made hotel reservations a month ago, I’m outta here.

First we start with my Hot Pick for the week

Love’s Labor’s Lost: Maryland Shakespeare Festival’s Bare Bard (MD) – This is the one that I’m regretting not seeing, but strongly encourage you to check it out. This play will only run for two days, this Saturday, and Sunday, then that’s it… Done! After the Sunday Performance there will, as per usual be a talk-back, where the Actors and Director, discuss the play and take questions from the audience.

Mondo (Titus) Andronicu: Molotov Theatre Group – (DC): This is not for children. But if you have a strong stomach, and can’t help but peek as you drive by a car accident, then this might be for you. To get an idea of what your in for, imagine if the family from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre decided to perform Shakespeare’s most brutal tragedy at the local playhouse, but with professional actors. Now you have a clue. (Warning: If they lock the door behind you when you enter the abattoir,  I mean the theater, don’t be surprised). You can find my review Mondo Andronicus here.

Henry VI, Part 2 – Blackfriars Playhouse Staunton, VA: This is where I’ll be going this weekend. The “American Shakespeare Center” is doing all of the Shakespeare Histories, so I want to make sure to catch them all. Not to mention the fact that Staunton is one of my favorite places to go when I need to recharge my batteries.

Twelfth Night – Blackfriars Playhouse Staunton, VA: I saw the American Shakespeare Center perform this comedy a few seasons ago with an amazing amount of  energy and playfulness. I can say from experience that this is another good bet for the weekend. Especially if you want to take someone out to see their first Shakespeare play.

Henry V: Shakespeare Theater Company (DC) : I saw this version back in February, and can highly recommend it. This was my first time at the Sydney Harman Hall, and here is want I had to say about it.

Richard II: Shakespeare Theater Company (DC): This is one of my favorite plays to read, but considered one of the harder plays to perform. The reviews are outstanding for this version, and should not be passed up.

Happy 100th Birthday to the director of two of the best Shakepearean adaptations you may not have seen.

Happy Birthday Akira Kurosawa!… You may not have heard of him, but the movies you’ve come to love have his signatures all over them. Remember the “Magnificent Seven” with Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen and a host of other famous actor? This is a remake of Kurosaw’s “Seven Samurai“. Clint Eastwoods “A Fistful of Dollars“, was a remake of ” Yojimbo. A little movie called “Star Wars”? George Luca is the first to say that R2D2 and C-3PO are heavily influenced from characters in “The Hidden Fortress “. I can keep going on, but you get the idea, let’s suffice it to say;  in 1989, he was awarded the Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement “for cinematic accomplishments that have inspired, delighted, enriched and entertained worldwide audiences and influenced filmmakers throughout the world”.

So for Akira Kurosawa’s birthday I would like to suggest two incredible (In my opinion) Shakespearean adaptations. They are in Japanese with sub-titles, and set in feudal Japan, but don’t hold that against them, that just makes these films appear all the more mystical:

Ran (Netflix) (IMDB) - The King Lear adaptation Roger Ebert said ” Ran is a great, glorious achievement. Kurosawa often must have associated himself with the old lord as he tried to put this film together, but in the end he has triumphed”

Throne of Blood (Netflix) (IMDB) - The Macbeth adaptation which is one of my all time favorite movies, that captures the essence and shadows of Shakespeare’s tragedy better then any other version.

Local Blog of the Week: Or What You Will

I just thought I would pass on a local Blog that I have been reading for the past couple weeks called “Or What You Will“.  A mother of two who has not read any Shakespeare for the past 20 years has decided to jump back in to read all his plays. Looking at her blog I can say I have really enjoyed her enthusiasm and obvious love for the text.

She has of late been going through Romeo and Juliet, detailing various aspects of the play from Mercutio’s role and other character analysis to what DVD versions you might want to watch, or stay away from.

I always enjoyed the “scholarly” analysis of a play mind you, but I’m really getting into seeing her layman’s take. It feels more like a communal learning process, one person sharing their newly found insights, and reaching out to others for their thoughts in the process.

Link: Or What Your Will

Shakespeares Birthday is Next Month: And theres always plenty going on. But where?

Last April there were quite a few happenings to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday in our area. There was cake and music,  lectures and dramatic readings,  and generally fun stuff for the whole family, most of it free. The only bad thing about all these events going on, was the fact I didn’t hear about them till AFTER they happened!

The problem is that most of these events weren’t really advertised. And the ones that were, you had to hunt all over the internet to find. So consider the calendar at Maryland Shakespeare as a free public service. This year I’m gonna start looking early for the event’s so they can get t posted. If you know of any events let me know and I’ll get them on the calendar for everyone else.

(The “Shakespeare Calendar” is located towards top right of this web page)

Learning Shakespeare: A Layman’s Guide – 4) Listen to the audio drama

Okay…

I’ve just added a new section to the Layman’s Guide covering Audio Dramas, particularly by Arkangel Productions. I’ve had some good input on this guide and have made some changes. So let me know what you think, cause the internet is my editor

Keep in mind, it’s still not complete.

“at every step I feel a deeper and deeper understanding. I know I could take a Shakespeare class first and learn everything they think I should know. But this way I’m learning by listening and watching, and thus able to form my own opinions. I remember reading that the Winter’s Tale is considered one of Shakespeare’s lesser works. Really? I love that play. I’m glad I read that opinion after seeing the play.” – The layman’s Guide.

Thanks

Link:  Learning Shakespeare: A Layman’s Guide

“Learning Shakespeare: A Layman’s Guide” updated with “Step 3) Watch the DVD”

Wow, creating  this “Laymans Guide” is taking more time then I thought it would. I had started Step 3 two days ago, had it typed up for the most part, then lost half of it and had to start over again.

I love watching Shakespeare on DVD, the section “Step 3″ describes the methods I use to track down the best versions to watch. I hope you find it helpful.

Heres the link: Learning Shakespeare: A Layman’s Guide

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