alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Michael Anderson (of A Bloody Deed fame) is masterminding a new show going up next month: A Palpable Hit: Shakespeare's Best Fight Scenes. I haven't seen it yet, but it looks to be a humdinger. Check it out: http://www.apalpablehit.com/
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
I saw this on a friend's Tumblr, and felt it was worth sharing.  But I don't really understand how Tumblr works, so am copy-pasting here.

I’ve read a lot of scholarly articles on Much Ado About Nothing that dismiss Don John as a terrible villain, or criticise Shakespeare for the lack of finesse in constructing him, but honestly, I’ve always felt like that’s the point.

Don John is no sly, silver-tongued Iago – he is crude, brash and malicious. He makes statements like “I am a plain-dealing villain,” goes about attended by idiot henchmen, and takes advice and inspiration for his plots from others around him.

But even so, this weak caricature of a villain nearly brings ruin upon all of Messina.

How?

Because, even before he had made plans to trick Claudio into thinking Hero was unfaithful, the culture of Messina had already done most of the work for him. Don John is not the true villain of this play; he is merely an agent. The real villain of Much Ado About Nothing is the culture of misogyny in Messina.

From the moment Benedick and the soldiers return to Messina, they engage in lewd sexual banter and joke about horns, adultery and cuckoldry. Leonato’s first instinct upon greeting them is to make such a joke, for when Don Pedro politely inquires if Hero is his daughter the old gentleman immediately quips, “Her mother hath many times told me so.” This banter speaks volumes about the underlying misogyny and anxieties about female sexuality that the men share, and it works to create an atmosphere that is ripe for Hero’s shocking rejection.

Thus, all Don John has to do is suggest to Claudio that Hero is unfaithful, offer him a sliver of proof, and the prince and Claudio, made susceptible by popular myths of female inconstancy, find the rest of the proof themselves. Claudio starts to see certain cues as evidence of Hero’s guilt where before they were badges of honour. He declares, “Her blush is guiltiness, not modesty.” And so Hero, by the simple machinations of a cardboard cutout villain, is publicly disgraced, left for dead, and threatened with death by her own father, showcasing how quickly those seemingly harmless jokes about women can escalate to actual violence.

What’s more, this culture of misogyny is what keeps Benedick and Beatrice apart. These two dorks start the play madly in love with each other, but their shared fear of horns and cuckoldry divides them. Beatrice is also repelled by Benedick’s attitude as a self-confessed “tyrant” to her sex, and patriarchal culture has convinced her that no marriage could ever be happy, and no man faithful. Both of them (but especially Benedick) must thus overcome and abandon patriarchal values and the culture of misogyny they are entrenched in. Again, the culture of Messina is the antagonist, not Don John.

Beatrice has the advantage of being resentful and rebellious towards patriarchal culture from the very beginning, and so it is Benedick’s conquering of his sexist attitude that becomes the axis on which the rest of the play turns. He starts off entrenched in a culture of toxic masculinity, but once he acknowledges his love for Beatrice, and after he sees Hero disgraced and left for dead, he becomes sickened by the views he once held. Beatrice flies into a rage at her cousin’s treatment, and in no uncertain terms rails against misogyny and the patriarchy and the culture that nearly killed Hero. She wishes she “were a man for his [Claudio’s] sake,” telling us that, were she a man, she would use her position of privilege and power to protect women rather than abuse them. Her next wish, “that I had any friend would be a man for my sake” is a challenge to Benedick to do what she, as a woman, cannot: defend her cousin with action, not words, and publicly oppose the culture of misogyny in Messina.

This makes her initial request, “Kill Claudio,” less a demand that Benedick murder his friend and more a plea that he break with the toxic culture of male camaraderie. And Benedick agrees. In the midst of a play saturated with jokes about women’s volubility and defined by the rejection of a supposedly unfaithful woman, he then makes the monumental decision to trust Beatrice. He listens to her when she grieves and finally asks her a single question: “Think you, in your soul that Count Claudio hath wronged Hero?” When she replies in the affirmative, her word is all the proof he needs to part with the prince and challenge his best friend.

When he meets with Don Pedro and Claudio, they are keen for him to validate their treatment of Hero with his witticisms, plainly desiring to hear the japes about cuckoldry he had trotted out at the start of the play. But with Hero almost “done to death by slanderous tongues,” Benedick knows tongues are as deadly as swords in Messina, and so leaves his wit in his scabbard. He challenges Claudio and informs the prince he intends to discontinue his company, officially cutting his ties with their little boys’ club.

Speaking to Margaret shortly after, Benedick claims he has “a most manly wit… it will not hurt a woman.” He no longer uses his tongue to scorn or denigrate women. Instead, he uses it to delight them, turning his efforts to poetry and song, and courting Beatrice with the jokes and witticisms he once reserved for his male friends. Shakespeare uses Beatrice to convince Benedick, and by extension the audience, of the shortcomings of masculine culture and shows us that true valour comes from men using their strength to protect women rather than hurt them: for this alone may Benedick call his wit “manly.”

Through their love, Benedick and Beatrice conquer the true villain of the play: misogyny. Don John, who is merely the agent, is instead undone by Dogberry and his idiot watchmen, who discover the plot and bring the truth to light. With all put right, the end of the play provides the denouement where Benedick, having proved his valour and cast off misogyny, is at last free to marry the woman he adores. He makes a speech where he mocks the old views about women and marriage he held, gaily advises the prince the marry, and tells Claudio “love my cousin,” the implication being that the only way Claudio and Hero will live happy is if Claudio follows Benedick’s example, throws off misogyny and loves and trusts his new wife as Benedick does Beatrice.

Much Ado About Nothing, quite simply, mocks the hypocrisy of patriarchal society at every turn. It questions why men should demand chastity in women when they display none themselves, and why women are thought of as sexually insatiable when experience generally showed the opposite. The play’s accompanying song Sigh No More is even about the unfaithfulness of men. The lyrics declare “Men were deceivers ever… to one thing constant never,” and the men of Much Ado tend to live up to this, being generally lusty and faithless while the women are constant and faithful. Shakespeare disproves common myths about female inconstancy by making Hero the blameless victim of men’s obsession with female chastity, a scapegoat onto whom all their repressed fears are projected. And Don John, the active agent of the culture of misogyny, is a bastard, living proof of men’s infidelity and unfaithfulness.

So yes, Don John is a terrible villain – but that’s precisely the point. His weak characterisation feeds neatly into the play’s subversive agenda. For what could this bitter, scheming man have accomplished had the culture of misogyny not predisposed Don Pedro and Claudio to suspect unfaithfulness? What power did he have over Benedick and Beatrice, and how did he serve as their antagonist?

Don John is not the true villain. Misogyny is. Hero’s shocking rejection and near-death proves how dangerous misogyny is, and how easily violent words lead to violent actions. Meanwhile, the witty, sparkling lovers journey together to overcome their internalised prejudices, and provide vivid proof of what happiness a marriage based on trust and true equality can bring.

Much Ado About Nothing is play about a battle of the sexes – and only once the two sides call a truce and join forces to overcome the real villain, misogyny, may the happy ending be achieved.

(source link: http://penfairy.tumblr.com/post/133400268109/misogyny-in-much-ado-about-nothing)
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
I said some of this in conversation recently, and thought the analogy worth expanding upon.

He produced a great deal of work in genres and formats that were widely considered to be lowbrow, disposable entertainment for the lower classes. Most of his work wasn't

collected during his lifetime. Shortly *after* his death, some of his literary disciples started getting his work collected and reprinted, marking the start of the genre and form being seen as (at least *capable* of being) "literature".

Some of his political attitudes are not in fashion today, which some readers can't get past. And he had stylistic quirks (including a fondness for long words) that are easily parodied (and arguably became self-parody in his own lesser works).

Of his prodigious output, about the top 5% consists of enduring classics, works that influenced *everything* that came after them in their "home" genres, and had considerable influence even outside those genres. The next, say, 10% of his output was also very good, though not quite *as* enduring as the first-rank material. After that, the work ranges from "good" down to "wretched".

Although only the cream of his work is widely influential, devout fanboys of his work (starting with his first reprinters) have been completists, including everything they could get their hands on, indiscriminately. This has inadvertently led to a dilution of his mass appeal. People often hear great things about his work, but are then exposed to (sometimes quite large) pieces of his work that is not at all impressive. This is, IMO, why so many people are willing to say, "I'm not a fan of his stuff", even if they generally like the genre he helped make respectable. I believe they *would* be fans of his if they read his best works, and avoided the vast sea of mediocrity around it.

[Of course, countless arguments could be made about *which*, exactly, the best works are. But if you compiled a list of many people's opinions, I don't think many people would put works in the top tier that anyone else thought weren't at least second-tier.]

I once had a conversation in which I drew a few comparisons between Shakespeare and Neil Gaiman. While there's still some validity there, when I look at the *whole* of the description above, the name Jack Kirby leaps out at me as the Shakespeare of superhero comics.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Just caught the latest ASP production at The Strand, only a few miles from my house. It wasn't a perfect production, but it was *damn* good. It's more or less in-the-round; a traditionally-shaped theater, but with a large number of auditorium seats actually *on* the stage. As is often the case with ASP, the set design was fairly minimal, and the costuming was modern, but both did their jobs just fine.

Bad points: One actor blanked on his lines in an early scene, and had to ad lib a bit to get back on course. Friar Lawrence was played with a *heavy* Spanish accent, damaging both the meter and my ability to understand what he was saying.

Good points:
* R & J were both young, pretty, and *totally* sold being in love (and comfort with the language). It's the one thing the show absolutely requires, and everything else is gravy.
* Excellent violence design, mostly knife fights, but in a variety of different styles.
* Excellent supporting performances by the Nurse, Mercutio, Tybalt, and a kick-ass female "Benvolia".
* Having "Benvolia" and Mercutio be lovers was really nifty. They didn't change any actual text to do that, just a few scenes suddenly had rather different connotations than usual.
* They actually managed to make Romeo's death scene more horrifying and heartbreaking than any other version I've seen. spoilers )

The show just opened, and runs through November 3rd. Highly recommended.

Pericles

Apr. 29th, 2013 09:40 am
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
[livejournal.com profile] kestrell, [livejournal.com profile] teenybuffalo and I went to the ASP's Pericles yesterday. It was a good production of a challenging show. The cast of characters is large, as are the number of settings, and it's difficult to keep them all distinguished, but I thought they did very well. They set it in 1700s Acadia, which had plenty of resonance with the recurring themes of a maritime lifestyle and exile. The play includes a lot of music, in this case mostly folk music that either was from or about maritime life of the 1700s, and was both well chosen and performed.

For those not familiar with Pericles, it bears some structural similarity to Winter's Tale. There's a king who loses his wife and child (though Pericles is merely unfortunate, rather than a jerk like Leontes), a skip in time for the child to grow to ingenue age, and a heart-rending conclusion when all are happily reunited after they thought themselves forever bereft. It's not Will's best poetry, but the plotting and characterization is quite good. More stuff *happens* in this show than in any two average plays. It's got a certain Grimm quality, featuring both an incestuous evil king and, later (and unrelated), an evil stepmother/queen who sends a servant out to kill her step-daughter. There are many narrowly averted murders and rapes. But the good characters all come to a good end, and at least some of the evil ones are punished.

Recommended.
alexxkay: (Default)
I'm in the middle of reading a book [livejournal.com profile] kestrell got me for Xmas, _Shakespeare and Amateur Performance: A Cultural History_, by Michael Dobson. Recommended for those who, like many of my friends, have an interest in the subject.

While it is thoroughly researched and footnoted, the jargon is rare and authorial tone is light. The author occasionally lets his inner ham out to play, as in the following delightful sentence, discussing a man from Geneva who spent many years in England, performing amateur plays in French, then on returning home, produced a bunch of amateur Shakespeare performances in English:
A combination of Nick Bottom and the Scarlet Pimpernel, Lullin clearly knew all about the potential cultural cachet to be gained from being the right kind of foreigner in the right wrong place at the right time: as the old maxim has it, 'when in Rome, do as the Greeks do'.
alexxkay: (Default)
"IT HARROWS ME WITH FEAR AND WONDER": HORROR AND HAUNTING IN EARLY MODERN REVENGE TRAGEDY, by Sarah Monette.

I've stopped describing myself as a "Shakespeare fan", and now use the term "Early Modern Theatre". Sure, Shakespeare is at his best was better than anyone else, but there's so much other great stuff out there. And even if you mostly focus on Will, reading his contemporaries gives valuable perspective on Will's works.

This thesis has a lot of Shakespearean commentary, but also touches on many other plays, describing the ways the traditions of horror evolve, and finishing up with a discussion of how these themes manifest in modern drama. I found it fascinating, and quite readable. There is some use of academic jargon, but not so much as to obfuscate what she's talking about.

The section on The Revenger's Tragedy shed some interesting light on some aspects of the play, but I don't think it has any direct application to our current production. Conversely, if I ever do get around to directing Hamlet, I expect the ideas herein will prove very useful indeed.

Highly Recommended to those with an interest in Early Modern Theatre.

ETA: And I nearly forgot. The bibliography includes reference to another article I want to read, on the basis of clever title alone: "ABATTOIR AND COSTELLO: CARNIVAL, THE REVENGER'S TRAGEDY AND THE MENTAL LANDSCAPE OF REVENGE".
alexxkay: (Default)
Yesterday, [livejournal.com profile] kestrell and I saw the Actors' Shakeseare Project "Twelfth Night" at the Boston Center for the Arts. An above-average production, with particularly excellent performances for Viola and Feste. Also a really succesful impressionistic set design, evoking ocean waves, and literally using elements like water, sand, and dark reflections. Illyria is an extension of the sea, just as unpredictable.

There were two poor directorial choices that I feel strongly enough to call mistakes, but luckily they were not enough to kill the overall. enjoyment of the show, which I do recommend.

Firstly, having cast the twins as actors who were, though vaguely similar, clearly *not* twins (not, in itself a terrible problem), they decided to 'fix' things in a way that added to the confusion, rather than clarifying matters. Most of Sebastian's early scenes are 'shadowed' by Olivia, with the two of them talking simultaneously. To quote a puzzled Olivia, "What's your metaphor?"

Secondly, in the final scene, they let Malvolio be sympathetic. This sort of thing has ruined other productions I have seen, but at least here it was restricted to the final scene. Yes, modern sensibilities have some issues with the sort of maltreatment that Malvolio receives. But foregrounding that does damage to the story. The way to handle him (and Caliban, and Shylock, and so on) is to make it clear how much he in fact *does* deserve the treatment he gets, which the text will quite easily support. In this case, Malvolio at least had been sufficiently obnoxious through the rest of the play, even if they faltered at the last.

In chatting with Kes, I had an insight into one of the qualities present in all the best Shakespeare (and perhaps all good fiction): the audience can laugh at the characters. No matter how seriously the characters take *themselves*, one must be able to appreciate the levels at which their striving (like all human striving) is absurd. In acting mediums, that responsibility often lies with the actors and directors. The text of Twelfth Night *allows* you to play Orsino's love for Olivia, and Oliva's love for Cesario, as deep, meaningful, and tragic -- I've seen it done. But when you do that, your storytelling is confined to a single note, dull and flat. I'd be interested in hearing any counterexamples, if y'all can think of any.
alexxkay: (Default)
The venue is depressingly squalid, the production values are almost non-existent, and the material is certainly not Shakespeare's best. But it turns out that none of that is actually required for theatrical magic to happen. The show was really excellent, despite, or perhaps to some extent because of, its limitations.

lots of details and spoilers below )The production reminded me rather of my all-time-favorite Shakespeare performance, by a group called "Actors from the London Stage", which did similarly small-cast, low-production-values, highly-successful productions.

Perhaps the highest praise I can give this show comes not from myself, a sophisticated long-time Shakespeare geek. There was a small boy in the audience, perhaps ten years old, who remained rapt with attention throughout the whole 2 1/2 hours. *That* says good theater.

Highly Recommended.

http://www.actorsshakespeareproject.org/season7/winter_festival.html
alexxkay: (Default)
Just got an email from Michael Anderson:
Hi all--

On short notice, I got a call asking me to do a story (A Bloody Deed, from Free-Style Shakespeare) tomorrow afternoon (Saturday) as the warm-up to The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

OUTDOORS AT CHRISTIAN HERTER PARK (Home of The Publick Theatre) 1175A Soldiers Field Road, Brighton, MA, Saturday 1 PM. $15

The Complete Works show is hilarious. http://www.orfeogroup.org/productions/completeworks.html
alexxkay: (Default)
The performance went pretty well, and was well-received by the audience. Some excitement during the Harfleur battle, though, as CHip went way off his choreography and clocked me in the head with a sword. Good thing I was wearing an absorbent red velvet hat, as scalp wounds do bleed prodigiously. Li Kung Lo made an emergency backstage visit to patch me up, and the show went on, with most of the audience hopefully thinking it was just a blood pack. My performance was not the best it has been, but was pretty darn good under the circumstances. I must say that the lines in the latter half of the play about 'blood' and 'wounds' really had extra resonance for me.

Here's hoping tomorrow's performance goes smoother!
alexxkay: (Default)

Why Shakespeare and Baseball Are Spoken in the Same Language from Michael Anderson on Vimeo.
A spoken word piece on Shakespeare, the formation of language, and impressing British girls with baseball chatter.

Michael Anderson at the Connecticut Storytelling Festival, April 25, 2009

Video and audio are a little rough, in part because I smash the lapel mic repeatedly during the piece. I rationalize this as a cyber-punk statement against bourgeois production values!
alexxkay: (Default)

Why Shakespeare and Baseball Are Spoken in the Same Language from Michael Anderson on Vimeo.
A spoken word piece on Shakespeare, the formation of language, and impressing British girls with baseball chatter.

Michael Anderson at the Connecticut Storytelling Festival, April 25, 2009

Video and audio are a little rough, in part because I smash the lapel mic repeatedly during the piece. I rationalize this as a cyber-punk statement against bourgeois production values!
alexxkay: (Default)
I was talking more with [livejournal.com profile] kestrell about possible sources for the "witches all have stuffed alligators hanging from the ceiling" trope. She opined that many such odd notions have their origin in Shakespeare, which seemed worth following up on.

A quick google of "alligator shakespeare" produced the information that Shakespeare is credited with first *use* of the word alligator, at least in more-or-less its modern form! And then I looked up that first use, and found...

Romeo & Juliet, V.i
I do remember an Appothacarie,
And here abouts a dwells which late I noted,
In tattred weeds with ouerwhelming browes,
Culling of simples, meager were his lookes,
Sharpe miserie had worne him to the bones:
And in his needie shop a tortoyes hung,
An allegater stuft
, and other skins
Of ill shapte fishes, and about his shelues,
A beggerly account of emptie boxes,
Greene earthen pots, bladders and mustie seedes,
Remnants of packthred, and old cakes of Roses
Were thinly scattered, to make vp a shew.
Noting this penury, to my selfe I said,
An if a man did need a poyson now,
Whose sale is present death in Mantua,
Here liues a Catiffe wretch would sell it him.
Now, in its original context, Romeo is clearly saying, "This guy's shop was so run-down, pathetic, and shabby, that I figured he was desperately poor, and thus would be willing to sell me poison." But one can easily see how the folk process could twist that into, "This is guy is evil, and will thus sell me poison," and from there to, "Romeo can tell this guy is evil *because* of the kinds of things hanging in his shop; they must be the sort of things evil poisoners (i.e. witches) always have."

I'd still be interested in tracking down, if possible, the intermediate steps that first made (or popularized) those memetic mutations. But I am confident that that's the primal source, and basic evolution of the notion.
alexxkay: (Default)
I was talking more with [livejournal.com profile] kestrell about possible sources for the "witches all have stuffed alligators hanging from the ceiling" trope. She opined that many such odd notions have their origin in Shakespeare, which seemed worth following up on.

A quick google of "alligator shakespeare" produced the information that Shakespeare is credited with first *use* of the word alligator, at least in more-or-less its modern form! And then I looked up that first use, and found...

Romeo & Juliet, V.i
I do remember an Appothacarie,
And here abouts a dwells which late I noted,
In tattred weeds with ouerwhelming browes,
Culling of simples, meager were his lookes,
Sharpe miserie had worne him to the bones:
And in his needie shop a tortoyes hung,
An allegater stuft
, and other skins
Of ill shapte fishes, and about his shelues,
A beggerly account of emptie boxes,
Greene earthen pots, bladders and mustie seedes,
Remnants of packthred, and old cakes of Roses
Were thinly scattered, to make vp a shew.
Noting this penury, to my selfe I said,
An if a man did need a poyson now,
Whose sale is present death in Mantua,
Here liues a Catiffe wretch would sell it him.
Now, in its original context, Romeo is clearly saying, "This guy's shop was so run-down, pathetic, and shabby, that I figured he was desperately poor, and thus would be willing to sell me poison." But one can easily see how the folk process could twist that into, "This is guy is evil, and will thus sell me poison," and from there to, "Romeo can tell this guy is evil *because* of the kinds of things hanging in his shop; they must be the sort of things evil poisoners (i.e. witches) always have."

I'd still be interested in tracking down, if possible, the intermediate steps that first made (or popularized) those memetic mutations. But I am confident that that's the primal source, and basic evolution of the notion.
alexxkay: (Default)
When I was first studying theater in high school, one important lesson I learned was not to look bored. Even if you are playing a background character who isn't specifically involved in the foreground action, stay focused on that action. If you don't, and let your attention wander, the audience will take a cue from you, and also not pay as much attention to the main action as they should.

Currently, during the 'Salic Law' speech, we background folks are being directed to act bored. This worries me, as it clearly goes against my early training. It's traditional to play this scene for laughs, but I am dubious about this. Canterbury actually has a well-reasoned and developed argument (if allowed to get his whole speech out without cuts). Henry is (at least on the surface level) explicitly very interested in the matter. Are the rest of us really meant to be bored with it?

On the other hand, I'm not sure that this direction is wrong, either. Look at The Tempest; I.2 in both plays is actually pretty similar -- a big chunk of background exposition. In Tempest, the on-stage listening character is explicitly bored, to the point of falling asleep. What is Shakespeare doing in these scenes?

Each of these scenes establishes the moral justification for all the actions that will follow. But does most of the audience *need* moral justifications? Prospero's tricks, and Harry's war, are inherently entertaining stagecraft, even if the audience doesn't have full understanding of their context.

I'm interested in hearing other people's opinions on this matter.
alexxkay: (Default)
When I was first studying theater in high school, one important lesson I learned was not to look bored. Even if you are playing a background character who isn't specifically involved in the foreground action, stay focused on that action. If you don't, and let your attention wander, the audience will take a cue from you, and also not pay as much attention to the main action as they should.

Currently, during the 'Salic Law' speech, we background folks are being directed to act bored. This worries me, as it clearly goes against my early training. It's traditional to play this scene for laughs, but I am dubious about this. Canterbury actually has a well-reasoned and developed argument (if allowed to get his whole speech out without cuts). Henry is (at least on the surface level) explicitly very interested in the matter. Are the rest of us really meant to be bored with it?

On the other hand, I'm not sure that this direction is wrong, either. Look at The Tempest; I.2 in both plays is actually pretty similar -- a big chunk of background exposition. In Tempest, the on-stage listening character is explicitly bored, to the point of falling asleep. What is Shakespeare doing in these scenes?

Each of these scenes establishes the moral justification for all the actions that will follow. But does most of the audience *need* moral justifications? Prospero's tricks, and Harry's war, are inherently entertaining stagecraft, even if the audience doesn't have full understanding of their context.

I'm interested in hearing other people's opinions on this matter.
alexxkay: (Default)
Warning: This post may only make sense to the subset of people who are familar with the works of both Shakespeare and Steven Brust.

I'm currently in rehearsal for a local production of Henry V, playing (among others) the part of the Duke of Exeter, Henry's uncle. In Act II, scene 4, I get sent as ambassador to the French, to (in some readings of the play) make one final attempt at brokering a peace before open warfare breaks out.

But that's not how we're interpreting the scene, oh no. In our version, Exeter is doing his best to anger the French and get them to (continue to) think of Henry as an unruly child, as opposed to a valiant opponent. So Exeter insults the French court in every way possible, stopping *just* short of provoking them to kill him.

I've lately been re-reading Steven Brust's Khaavren Romances, and so while we were working on the scene, I felt myself channeling a Dzur hero. "Ha! There's barely 10-to-1 odds against me in this room; bring it ON!"
alexxkay: (Default)
Warning: This post may only make sense to the subset of people who are familar with the works of both Shakespeare and Steven Brust.

I'm currently in rehearsal for a local production of Henry V, playing (among others) the part of the Duke of Exeter, Henry's uncle. In Act II, scene 4, I get sent as ambassador to the French, to (in some readings of the play) make one final attempt at brokering a peace before open warfare breaks out.

But that's not how we're interpreting the scene, oh no. In our version, Exeter is doing his best to anger the French and get them to (continue to) think of Henry as an unruly child, as opposed to a valiant opponent. So Exeter insults the French court in every way possible, stopping *just* short of provoking them to kill him.

I've lately been re-reading Steven Brust's Khaavren Romances, and so while we were working on the scene, I felt myself channeling a Dzur hero. "Ha! There's barely 10-to-1 odds against me in this room; bring it ON!"
alexxkay: (Default)
At Boskone, I was part of a staged reading of Jo Walton's "Tam Lin", a delightfully convoluted fanfic mixture of William Shakespeare, Bujold's Barrayar, and Pamela Dean's novel version. It's both an adaptation of the ballad and a sorta-kinda a sequel to A Midsummer Night's Dream.

I played Robin Goodfellow, who is not quite as Puck-ish in this play as formerly (though he still has a great deal of silly business, including an infamous scene of ladders and flirtation). Though Janet-saving-Thomas is in some sense the central plot, Puck's growing world-weariness ends up being the critical element that brings the play to a (mostly) happy ending. Hence, I got to exercise my hamminess in both comical and tragical modes, and had a blast.

The play was co-directed by CHip and Davey, and also featured Jane Yolen as the Fairy Queen, [livejournal.com profile] negothick as the village wench who Robin falls in love with, and Michael/Christian as Thomas, among others.

The audience appeared to have a blast as well. Lots of laughs, thunderous applause at the end, and lots of direct personal praise. The author seemed amazed and pleased that I had managed to convey both the comedy and seriousness of the character as needed; I, in turn, thanked her for giving me such wonderful speeches to work with. Davey reminded me afterwards that the role had previously been performed by Mike Ford, and in tones which suggested that she thought I was a worthy successor, in at least this small way.

Now, on to [livejournal.com profile] herooftheage's production of Henry V, in which I will be playing Exeter, Fluellen, and probably miscellaneous bit parts. Early rehearsals are promising, and suggest it will be a really good show by the time we go live in June.

Interesting observation on Shakespearean writing: One of the hardest parts of working on Tam Lin was figuring out where to breathe. Robin has lots of very long, intricate sentences, which really do contain a single (if complex) thought, so ought not to be broken up by pauses. So I worked hard at putting in half-breaths unobtrusively where I could, which took a lot of experimentation. Fluellen in H5 also has lots of long sentences that clearly should not be broken up by pauses. But in our very first read-through, without any preparation, I was able to read them straight through with no difficulty at all. Fluellen's speech patterns include a lot of apparently-random interjections -- yet they are not nearly as random as they seem; they naturally enforce partial breaths on the person saying the line, at just the moments when he needs to do so. Yet another example of Shakespeare's subtle brilliance.

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Alexx Kay

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