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

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

Mondo Andronicus and the Grand Guignol: A Blood Splattering Opening Night.

The Grand Guignol

Saturday I saw the opening night performance of Mondo Andronicus  by The Molotov Theatre Group. Before I give a review of the play, let me explain a little bit about what Mondo Andronicus is.

What they have done is taken Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare’s most shocking and violent play, and performed it in the style of a Grand Guignol. The Grand Guignol is defined in the “literary Dictionary” as:

Grand Guignol [grahn gween‐yol], a popular French form of melodrama featuring bloody murders, rapes, and other sensational outrages, presented in lurid and gruesome detail…The term is now often applied to horror movies…”

I think this explanation is most appropriate, since it defines Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus to a tee. As a matter of fact if you look up Grand Guignol in Wikipedia it even mentions Titus Andronicus in the very first paragraph.

I’d seen Titus performed at the Blackfriars by the American Shakespeare Center during the fall 2009 season, and found the play, even as performed by the ASC, somewhat shocking. After which I read the play, and then found myself ruminating on the Evils in Shakespeare’s plays by focusing on  Aaron the Moor from Titus in one of my blog posts.

The Playbill Cafe

The play takes place in the small 60 person theater at the Playbill Cafe in Washington D.C. Dark goth metal was playing over the sound system as I found my seat. The crowd filing in after me appeared to be from every walk of life, including the “Mom and Pop” next door neighbor type, to some theater people I’d recognized from other Shakespearean productions. I sat in the second row by the aisle, and started talking to some people around me. Someone joked, that if I was lucky someone would sit in front of me so I wouldn’t get splatter with too much blood.

Mondo Andronicus

Then the lights went down, and a new dark chorus of music spilled from the speakers. Titus played by the “Goremeister” Alex Zavistovich appeared on stage and the play commenced. I don’t want to give away the details of the performance. That’s for you to see, if you’re brave enough. I will say that the acting was amazingly better than I thought it would be. I expected “Shock Theater” camp, and what I got was a very serious and professional production of Titus. They had condensed Titus down to 60 minutes to its barest core, stripping out much of the text to focus on the emotional darkness within the play. It was raw, it was brutal, and it was severe.

Being as close to the stage as I was, I could see the sweat on an actors face. So when I tell you that JaBen Early, who played Aaron, contorted his face to look diabolical, I mean he looked like pure evil. And Jenny Donovan, who looked so beautiful as Lavinia in the beginning, showed the definition of utter despair in the hoplessness she displayed in her eyes towards the end.  All I could imagine was they must have had an acting coach that focused exclusively on presenting our darkest horrors though facial expression.

Each moment of savagery and brutality were presented in a twisted and realistic manner, using stagecraft to make these acts of violence appear as real as possible. Blood flowed freely, and in one disgusting act, I felt the drops of splattered blood on my face, (a few drops mind you, don’t worry, no one was drenched).

So’ after reading this review, I’ll let you decide if this play is recommended for you or not. Mondo Andronicus  is a play that focuses on the darkness of the human soul, and takes the literal text of Titus Andronicus to it’s most extreme, realistic, and brutal interpretation.

Mondo Andronicus, now thru April 3. See their website for details: The Molotov Theatre Group

Fun Facts about Mondo Andronicus, opening this weekend.

Alex from the Molotov Theater and I had sent a few emails back and forth, so I told him If he  sent me any fun facts about the performance I would post it. So here it is:

Fun Fact Number #236: In Mondo Andronicus…  (there’s) an average of one heinous piece of physical violence every four minutes.

What can I say, we support all types of Shakespeare here at Maryland Shakespeare. Particularly the smaller company’s.

Link: http://www.molotovtheatre.org/current.html

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

The Theatre at 1409 Playbill Cafe
1409 14th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005

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

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

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