CSC’s Pub Night Last Night: Shakespeare in Love, or for the Love of Shakespeare

Members of the Chesapeake Shakespeare staff with guest.

The  Chesapeake Shakespeare Company held their Pub Night at Bertucci’s restaurant in Columbia Maryland last night, and if you weren’t there you missed out on a great time. As the 25 or so people showed up, I could tell this was going to be interesting and fun, by the steady flow of handshakes that went out to each new person as they walked into the room. The setting was very intimate, being a small side dining room, where you had the comfortableness of facing the person in front of you, as opposed to going to a lecture hall for a discussion where your staring at the back of someone’s head.

At around 7:30 Jenny Leopold (Associate Director at CSC) started the evening with a brief introduction about the topic for the night, “Shakespeare in Love”, and then opened the floor. Now I’ve been to quite a few talk back’s and lectures after a play where the Actors and Director’s do a Q&A. These talk back’s are very informative, but the information is usually passed along in only one direction, from the artist to the audience.  But the pub night was surprisingly different as everyone had a chance to take the floor. The thoughts and idea’s flowed freely in all directions, one person’s conception, seemed to become the next person’s inspiration.

Patrick Kilpatrick in the CSC production of Hamlet - June 9th

The conversation drifted easily down the various avenues touching on “Love” in Shakespeare’s writing. From romantic love,  to brotherly love. From the  love of power, to the love of a child.  Many of these points emphasized with live readings from the plays and sonnets, from both the CSC staff, and anyone else who had something to share.

“Shakespeare in Love” turned out to be a fun and interesting theme to examine.  I have to admit I haven’t seen the movie “Shakespeare in Love”, and was relieved that it didn’t come up all night (with me being unprepared and all). But instead, I’m glad to say, it turned out to be a group of like-minded people enjoying dinner together, not only discussing Shakespeare in Love, but sharing their Love of Shakespeare.

http://www.chesapeakeshakespeare.com

Much ado about Nothing and Hamlet – Starting June 9th, 2010


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)

PUB NIGHT: Tomorrow (03/10) Hosted by The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company

Eduard von Grützner’s Portrait of Falstaff

The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company will be hosting a “Pub Night” in Columbia Maryland.  Which according to their web site:

“Pub Nights are informal discussion groups where we sit around a local establishment and discuss some aspect of Shakespeare or classical theatre. Led by CSC members and attended by both company members and members of the general public”

The theme is “Shakespeare in Love”. I know Shakespeare is considered one of  the greatest romantic writers of all times, but “Shakespeare in Love”, makes me think of his comedies such as Much Ado about Nothing, or the Taming of the Shrew, which are amazingly hilarious takes on the lighter side of love. Here’s how I had discribed one of my favorite comedies, Twelfth Night:

” Everyone’s in love with someone, but that someone’s in love with someone else. And if you happen to be a woman dressed as a man, that get’s really confusing.”

Of course there’s the famously romantic side of Shakespeare found in the Sonnets, and plays like  Romeo and Juliet where our lovers meet, dance, and fall in love, prompting me to write:

” 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 have yet to go to a Pub Night as hosted by The Chesapeake Shakespeare company, so I’m definitely looking forward to checking it out tomorrow.

Here’s the link with more information: http://chesapeakeshakespeare.com/pubnights.html

SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE
Hosted by CSC Associate Director Jenny Leopold
March 10, 2010 7:30 PM
Bertucci’s in Columbia, MD

“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

Mondo Andronicus: Opening Night is this Weekend March 6th in DC

By the pricking of my thumb, something wicked this way comes”, and it’s not Macbeth. Mondo Andronicus which I posted about earlier last month opens this Saturday March 6th. Check out their site for details… Once again this is not for the faint of heart.

Link: The Molotov Group: Mondo Andronicus

Learning Shakespeare: A layman’s Guide

I’ve had someone ask me how I got into Shakespeare, and what I do to understand a play as far as character, plot, and understanding Shakespeare’s use of language. I thought I’d just type up a short little something on the subject, but it had started to grow into something more then I intended. The more I thought about it, the more I came to believe  it deserved it’s own page, so it can grow and change with my own personal experience, as well as with others suggestions.

Here are the first two steps out of the four I use for studying a play:

Link: Learning Shakespeare: A Layman’s Guide

American Shakespeare Center Faces Budget Cuts

Link: VCA faces huge budget cuts

“On Feb. 21, the Virginia House of Delegates’ Appropriations Committee voted, 15-7, to cut state funding for the Virginia Commission for the Arts (VCA) by 50 percent in 2010-11 and to eliminate the agency altogether as of July 1, 2011.”

This is really bad news for the American Shakespeare Center considering they received $96,000 last year, which is about 15% of their budget. And they are hoping to get that same amount this year.

Now I may not be the brightest bulb on the tree, so correct me if I’m wrong. But I think $96,000 is probably nothing compared to how much money the Blackfriars, and the American Shakespeare Center bring into Staunton each year, in tourist and taxes.  I’d never have even heard of Staunton if it wasn’t for the Blackfriars. To me it would have been just another small college town. But now after going to the Blackfriars several times a year over the past few years, I’ve come to love the town of Staunton. We usually will arrive on Friday night at the Microtel, and catch a play on Saturday or Sunday. The rest of the time is spent shopping in the town, or hiking around the outlying areas.

I know it seems like an easy thing to eliminate the arts any time there’s a state budget crunch, but I really do believe it will end up costing the community in the long run.

If your heading up to Staunton any time soon, here’s an blog I posted a while ago with some tips:  Staunton VA, and the American Shakespeare Center. One of the best hidden spots in the world.

March 16th – Who is King Henry V and Why is He on Trial?

Updated: March 18th

Mock Trial: Judgment at Agincourt at the Sidney Harman Hall in DC:
Presided by Supreme Court Justice Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The most high and Honorable King Henry shall soon be tried for crimes of war by:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, presiding
Justice Samuel Alito
Chief Judge Paul Michel
Judge Janice Rogers Brown
Judge Merrick Garland
Judge Brett Kavanaugh
Judge David Tatel

So who is King Henry the Fifth?
If you went to the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton Va. for the Fall Season of 2009, you might have caught their excellent version of Henry IV part 1, which introduced us to young Prince Hal (Henry). Hal is the son of King Henry IV, and the kings main disappointment in life. Hal, who is next in line to be king, is a selfish fun-loving rouge, hanging around with the lowest class of thieves, robbers and other common folks. But Hal has a plan, it appears there’s not a move or action in his life for which he has not calculated. And soon in Henry IV Part 1 Hal lets us in on his thoughts:

So, when this loose behavior I throw off
And pay the debt I never promised,
By how much better than my word I am,
By so much shall I falsify men’s hopes;
And like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation, glittering o’er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.
I’ll so offend, to make offence a skill;
Redeeming time when men think least I will
. – Prince Henry

The lower he sinks in the eyes of men, the higher and more majestically will he appear, as he soars to greatness, and overcomes the baseness of his supposed nature. At the end of this play, Prince Henry  proves his metal, performs great deeds, and achieves redemption in the eyes of his father.

Where the play Henry IV introduces us to Prince Henry (Hal), the play Henry V is about Prince Henry who is now the King. And as King, his advisers have discovered, and shown the king, that he has a legitimate claim to rule all of France. After a display of these proofs King Henry makes a decision to embark from England and take France by storm, though the odds be overwhelming.

So by ship Henry and his army are very soon on the shores of France, and the battles commence. King Henry shows himself to be a very heroic and just commander. Showing great mercies to his surrendered enemy’s at Harfleur, and demanding that his troops while in France show all due respect to the French citizenry. Informing his troops NOTHING shall be taken that is not paid for on pain of death.

So King Henry cuts a path through France, following and respecting the rule of war giving mercy when he can. Until Agincourt.

King Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt, by John Gilbert

The Kings men are battered and tired, the odds are 5 men to 1 against them, and one of Henry’s men comes in and tells a tale of friendship and death that brings tears to Henry’s eyes. Then an alarm sounds, and Henry, most likely feeling Victory or Defeat hanging by a thread gives the order:

But, hark! what new alarum is this same?
The French have reinforced their scatter’d men:
Then every soldier kill his prisoners:
Give the word through. –
King Henry

And here is the point, “Then every soldier kill his prisoners”. Was Henry wrong to give this order? Even if overwhelmed himself, did he have the right to kill those combatants that have surrendered themselves to his mercy?

That is the question that this court has been convened to answer

Mock Trial: Judgment at Agincourt

Tuesday, March 16, 2010
5:30 p.m. Dinner
7:30 p.m. Argument

Update: March 18 – The results of the trial are in, click here

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

The Shakespeare Factory Players: The Comedy of Errors. I would see this twice!

The Shakespeare Factory Players: The Comedy of Errors.

Why did I wait to see this show so late in their season. I’d have loved to have seen this performance a second time, just because of the ear to ear smile I left out of the theater with. Part of what made this such fun is that The Shakespeare Factory Players use “original staging practices”. This means the lights stay on, minimal sets are used, they play multiple parts, and they interact with the audience. Which is how Shakespeare would have done it back in the day’s of yore. This is my favorite type of theater, particularly with Shakespeare’s comedies as I am so fond of saying, “Shakespeare didn’t set out to write some high art to be viewed at a distance in some museum. He was writing “Three’s Company” for the masses.”

Which is what I felt about this performance. They completely played it up for the masses. This was the funnest version of The Comedy of Errors I have seen to date.  A big part of that was the fact that the actors all seemed to be enjoying themselves way to much, and looked like they had a lot of fun being up there.  They had an infectious humor that started on the stage and spread out to the audience. The slapstick was well timed, and they definitely didn’t shy away from the bawdiness. They also came off the stage, interacted with the audience, and pulled us into their own improbable world, letting us escape our own for those 2 plus hours.

Now mind you The Shakespeare Factory is not a huge theater company. They’re a small company doing something they obviously love. And a growing company that can use all the help they can get. So’ do yourself a favor, and go check them out and have some fun yourself. Remember, just showing up will help to keep Shakespeare alive in our area. And if you can donate a little more to The Shakespeare Factory, you’d be helping all of us out in the end.

So please free to visit them at: http://theshakespearefactory.com/

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