Friday, November 9, 2018

Now is the Winter of Our Discontent.

Our lessons continued this morning with 3 intensive workshops. Embedded stage directions are found within the dialogue, ie, "I will strike you with my sword" indicates the need for a sword prop, and "thou must arise now" indicating movement.  There were no directors or stage directions given by Shakespeare.  Actors (and today's directors) must find all movement, props, proximity within the dialogue.  

Direct Address examined how and/or when the actor engaged the audience.  Blackfriars Theater uses a thrust stage, which is one that projects into the audience.  They also leave the lights on throughout the production.  All of this acts to engage the audience with the players, the players with the audience, and the audience with each other.  At the discretion of the actor, he/she may directly address the audience with dialogue, gesture or touching.  

The final, and best, workshop was a study and discussion of Richard III, the play we saw this evening.  We've seen this play several times so have a somewhat basic grasp of the plot and characters.  What benefited me from the discussion was the final take away of, "don't try to figure constantly how one character is related to another.  Just enjoy the scene, the drama happening between and among the characters.  

For the most part I have enjoyed the workshops, the people in our group and the performances.  The knowledge and experience within the group is wildly varied and that makes for a tough workshop that can satisfy all people at all times.  So, truly, we weren't that discontented.

This afternoon was free, and we went to the Woodrow Wilson birth home and the Presidential Museum. At the Wilson house where we were negatively impressed with his enhancement of legalized segregation in the Federal Offices. He was initially opposed to women's voting rights.  Not a stellar man. 

Richard III was a bit of a surprise in that it was played with comedic relief, which we thought was overdone at times particularly the murder of Clarence scene.  The audience was involved in several scenes (Direct Address).  All in all a delightful night and week.   No additional pictures today.  It was raining, and I was negligent. 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Verse and Rhetoric, Protest and Play

Staunton, VA MoveOn Rally

I feel like I'm back in Mrs. Netabel Rice's Senior English class.  Two workshops today focused first on verse and next on rhetoric.  Verse is fairly easy to grasp and to find in Will's plays.  It's either prose which uses rhetoric or verse with meter.  Our task was to see how actors decide to perform the lines by examining the meter and with regard to stress on words.  We're all very familiar with today's political and proselytizing rhetoric.   As a playwright, Will used rhetoric to help the audience to understand the character, and used it to provide the actor with cues on how to behave physically or vocally when delivering the lines.

This afternoon our workshop was on tonight's play, The Man of Mode, a restoration comedy..  The teacher, Aubrey, is a former English teacher, and it shows.  She's very dramatic, very organized and very good at engaging us all.  We got the general plot and character list of the play as well as an overview of the comedic structure.  

At 5pm we walked to the Courthouse to participate in a national event organized by MoveOn to protest Trump's firing of Sessions.  I have no respect for nor like of Sessions.  His over reach into states' rights is the worst of any AG ever.  However, I more than my opposition to Sessions is my opposition to Trump's move to begin the first steps toward firing Mueller.  Remember the Saturday Night Massacre.  There was a group of about 60-80 people there with appropriate signs, the best of which was "lock him up".  Although the crowd was not huge, the woman who organized it has vision, determination, and persistence in protecting and maintaining our Democracy.  Channel 3 appeared for a quick filming.  We had more positive honking from passing cars than I anticipated.  One of the participants said it was difficult in the area to oppose Trump.  She cries often.  

We got word that tonight's performance had been cancelled.  We can't remember ever having a theatrical performance cancelled.  It's bazaar.  Perhaps tomorrow will tell why.  Tacos at The Bistro were excellent.

Pictures at flickr.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Much Ado About Everything

Wayne Musing in the Blackfriars Theater
We have begun our immersion into all things Shakespeare.  We had two classroom sessions today.  The morning session dealt with the way in which Shakespeare's (from now on to be referred to as Will) plays moved from his hand, the foul, to a scribe who would neatly recopy, the fair copy, to the quarto, a printed edition. This illustrates all the opportunities available to somewhat change a word or intent of Will's. Our presenter, Sarah, spent time explaining how the actors of Will's time would often perform 3 or 4 different plays a week.  They had to have all that language and its intent in their heads. She illustrated how the actors listened for the cues to know when to speak. We learned how each actor was given small scroll ROLLS to hold and refer to as they acted.  Hence, roll became the actor's role. Each roll only contained an individual actor's lines with the cue above each of their lines.  The cue was the last 2 or three words of another actor.  We also had a tour of back stage, which is very tiny.  The theater is built on the same footage and design as the theaters of Will's era.  

Afternoon's class was on As You Like It, the play we saw this evening.  The teacher, Aubrey, did a great job of breaking down the plot and all the characters.  We each took a character role and spoke a short line. Aubrey explained that characters relationship to the other characters.  Yes, the play is that complicated and even silly.

We took advantage of some free time this afternoon to visit the Trinity Episcopal Church, which has 12 Tiffany Windows.  Everything is so beautiful with the fall leaves both to walk through and observe on the trees.  Inside the church we were fortunate to hear someone practicing on the organ.  

Tonight's performance of As You Like It was delightful and easily followed thanks to our workshops.  All the actors also play a variety of musical instruments.  They gave a 20 minute concert prior to the show.  This play has the most musical interludes of any of the Shakespeare plays. 
Pictures available at fickr

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Staunton? No, Stanton

Well, it's spelled Staunton...but you better pronounce it Stanton.  Named for Lady Rebecca Staunton, the pronunciation follows her lead.  We are here to join with the Road Scholar Shakespeare program.  We had another beautiful drive today through the Shenandoah Valley.  Staunton is the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson and home to the American Shakespeare Company.  Founded in 1747, there are 6 adjacent historic districts in Staunton. Architectural styles are mixed, much of it attributed to TJ Collins who designed or remodeled some 200 buildings.  

Our hotel, Stonewall Jackson, is adjacent to the Blackfriars Playhouse, where we will see two Shakespeare plays and one restoration play. Tonight we met all the participants over dinner.  As usual, the Road Scholar crew is interesting and interested, very well traveled, and older than normal. Tomorrow the day begins early with a lecture on Shakespeare's Globe and a tour of the playhouse. 

Stonewall Jackson Hotel

Monday, November 5, 2018

We Meet With the Obamas


The National Portrait Gallery with the Obama Portraits

This morning we walked down to the National Portrait Gallery with the main objective of seeing the Obama portraits and meet up with Adam.  Michelle (yes, I call her Michelle) has been moved to the 3rd floor because her popularity overwhelmed the space with new acquisitions.  She has her own special guard of whom I asked, "what are the best comments you remember?"  She said that more than comments what touched her were people who came in and immediately began to cry.  She doesn't know how to comfort them. My photos do not capture the colors.   The President's portrait is much more chromatic than the reproductions show.  Perhaps his aura is simply too strong to be contained.  Wayne said it looked almost back lit.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture, (a far, far too long name that can't even become an acronym) was our next visit.  We had lunch there.  They have regional cafeteria style choices.  We all went for creole with gumbo and shrimp and grits. It was very good.  The museum is packed with artifacts and information more than one could ever absorb in one visit.  It is 3 stories with each floor covering a period from slavery's beginnings to Civil Rights.  Oprah has her own special exhibition area.  Do you think she gave some money? Adam was surprised at how much I remembered and lived through in the Jim Crow era.  We enjoyed spending time with him, a too seldom activity

Tonight was dinner at the Founding Farmers, the latest hot spot in town with farm to table cuisine.  Our waiter, Curtis, was tres beau.  And the food was tres delicieux.  Atmosphere was conducive to good times.  Pictures at Flickr.