Two in One

Alf and I made our semi-annual trek to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival last week. I was craving the fall colors, the rushing creek, and rain, lots of rain. To my disappointment, everything looked dry and dusty, as if it had come out of grandma’s attic for airing, and too much like drought-intolerant California. Even the theaters had the air conditioning on. In October. Shakespeare would have stopped writing and gone to the Black Sheep for more pints.

Ashland’s city leadership is a protective bunch of environmentalists and zoning Pharisees. Over the years they’ve been very careful who builds what and where. They give out building permits sparingly, but lately, it seems to me, they’ve been imbibing at the Black Sheep too many times themselves, and loosened their grip. So there’s a condo boom in town for rich retirees coming from California who want a little bit of city with their Shakespeare setting.

There’s an Ashland we discovered on the other side of the city. It’s on rolling hills with horses and sheep dotting the landscape giving it a pastoral look. Some of the properties have vineyards that wrap around the houses like scarves. The homes are large and impressive affording views of the city and the majestic tree-studded Mt. Ashland, which in winter with its snow hat on must be a glorious sight.

We sawAdo Much Ado About Nothing, a hilarious romp with a lot of word sparing set in today’s society. While I applaud the effort OSF is making to hire actors of different ethnic backgrounds, the actor who played Claudio needed some help. When he first came on stage and delivered his first line he sounded like he had eaten a mouthful of tortillas and he never really swallowed them during the rest of the story. The other play was a Chinese classic that defied clarity. It was two plays in rehearsal on the same stage, which eventually morphed into one love story. It took dogged determination to stay in your seat to the very end because nothing really made a whole lot of sense during the first act. In case you don’t want to see it when it comes to town, it’s called, Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land. It’s been a raging hit in China since forever.

Calvin says, “They forgot to throw a dog into the Chinese mix. Hey, they had everything else including an actor in a wheelchair, why not a dog? He could have howled his way through both stories.”beagle

Top Will

I just returned from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

I’ve been going there for 20 years and I’ve seen a lot of people come and go from the company.

Will is still a staple – barely. He’s hanging on by his thumbs from Juliet’s balcony.

He can’t be fired because he has top billing.

But they’re trying. Cleo

Shakespeare is not a go-to author for most young people.

I admit even in my day I didn’t take Pericles to the beach.

So they’re marginalizing Will and inserting musicals.

This time it was Guys and Dolls.

So what.

But the young loved it.

And that’s what it’s all about.

The next generation.

I’m so sick of hearing this.

It’s as if the world will topple if the young aren’t drawn into the things we love.

I say let them create their own fun and leave Will to hoof it on stage for our sake.

Besides, we’re paying for it, they’re not. They don’t have any money.

Calvin says, “‘The lady doth protest too much, methinks.'”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shakespeare with a Spin

We just returned from the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon where we saw four plays, two of which were from the Shakespeare canon. The Comedy of Errors was ridiculous, The Tempest was great. The other two were modern dramas full of angst and despair, the kind of thing I like because it’s kinda where I live. It also brings out the best in a cast.

Alf and I have been going to Ashland for 27 years now so you can imagine how many plays that translates into – yikes we should be experts, but we’re not. Acting companies muck around with the settings and costumes and even with some of the lines so every play looks and feels different from year to year. We’ve seen Julius Caesar performed in gym outfits, The Taming of the Shrew in a boardwalk setting (right picture), and Romeo and Juliet with a Mexican backdrop.  Screen shot 2013-05-11 at 2.46.42 PM

ErrorsThis year an African-America cast did the Comedy of Errors (left picture) and the director set it in Harlem, so you can imagine the farce and mayhem on stage. The costumes were everything you’d expect to see in a Sunday church setting. Alf loathed it. I enjoyed the spin.

Our biggest adventure was missing out on the Groucho Marx play, The Cocoanuts. All the other plays were at 8 pm and I assumed this one was too, but no it wasn’t, it was a matinee, and we were at the mall shopping while Groucho was yucking it up with the audience. I could have kicked myself. We rushed to the box office, told them our plight, asked to be added to the next performance only to be told it was on the day we were going home. So Groucho came and went without us. “Man does not control his own fate. The women in his life do that for him.” Alf couldn’t agree more.

Calvin says, “All those settings, all those new smells, why don’t you take me with you? I know the hotel takes pets. I checked online.” beagle

 

Bringing Up Kate

We just returned from our annual trek to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.

They’re dumbing down Will. In an effort to appeal to a younger generation, this year they’re serving up The Taming of the Shrew in a boardwalk setting with the cast in 50’s diner costumes and a live band on stage.

Petruchio, wearing Elvis hair and Country-Western garb, struts and swaggers his way into Kate’s life, with the help of her father, and begins to deconstruct her until she’s a pliable and submissive bride.   Screen shot 2013-05-11 at 2.46.42 PM

His tactics? Starvation and sleep deprivation.

Okay, it was the way Will wrote it, so nothing new here.

Underneath the tantrums, Kate sees the shallow lives around her. She’s smart, quick witted, capable. She isn’t going to settle for stupid. But there isn’t a man worthy of her. The suitors that come courting are besotted with Bianca, Kate’s sister, who personifies a beauty as airy as meringue.

In contrast, Kate is a ferocious woman. No doubt prompted by her father’s lack of affection because he too favors his younger daughter. Nobody that comes to woo Bianca is Kate’s type.  She would squash them like bugs. What Kate needs is a man, not a limp fashionista.

Petruchio rises to the challenge. He is confident and determined. He takes Kate to be his wife and disciplines her so she grows up to be the woman she is meant to be.

It’s an interesting story for today’s young audiences who have been brought up on reality TV with all its raw vulgarities and blurring of the sexes.

Traditional values between a man and a woman still play well.

Deep down we resonate with it whether we admit or not.

Calvin said, “I would have used other ways to mature Kate, like licking her face and rubbing my nose in her hair.”  beagle

 

 

 

We’re Too Emotional With Our Feelings

A friend said the other day, “I’m going to spend some quality time in the walk-in fridge at work.”

It wasn’t about the weather. It was about his mood. His emotions needed chilling. They were out of hand. Leaking out and making a mess all over the floor. And this was a restaurant he worked in. Nobody wanted tears with the gazpacho. It messes with the temperature of the soup.

It’s fascinating the ways people handle emotions. So much of it is cultural.

The Japanese hide theirs behind a veneer of formality.

The British remain polite no matter what devastation is occurring.

The French smoke more and talk faster.

The Americans pop pills.

Middle Easterners shout and holler.

The Russians drink more vodka.

And the Mexicans pull out guns and shoot.

Truth is nobody handles his feelings well.

Emotions are difficult to control once they’re out. For example, Romeo and Juliet drank poison; Hamlet died in a sword fight with a poisoned tip; Caesar was stabbed; Ophelia drowned, and MacBeth was beheaded.

And that’s just our fictional relatives.

It’s no wonder people aren’t skilled at expressing their feelings. Their examples are too emotional.

Calvin says, “When I’m emotional, I roll in the foulest smelling grass my nose can find. Then I run to you for a hug.”

Shades of Language

A restaurant. A man and a woman at a table, having dinner and discussing a play they had just seen.

Woman: There aren’t any nuances about, “Take the garbage out.” For a woman that says I love you.

Man: I’m married to you, I understand that.

Woman: This isn’t about us. I live with you. I feel what you’re saying.

Man: We have our language.

Woman: The woman in the play didn’t know what that meant. She was waiting for someone to interpret things.

Man: She didn’t understand without speaking. Body language, looks, it was all there.

Woman: Subtlety evaded her.

Man: You and I live in the sub-text. It’s fun.

Woman: Except when you forget to take out the garbage.

Calvin says, “I don’t need body language. I come running as soon as I hear the clatter of kibble pouring into my bowl.”