PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource
PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource
PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource
PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource

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Boulder CO

Closing it out

Posted by on in Boulder CO
It's my last full day in Boulder, and this will be my last post for this blog. It has been an amazing summer, and I've been impressed and touched by the interest in my summer project and in the completion of my Shakespeare canon. But it's time to say goodbye to this season and to all the new friends I've made, and get back to my home and my cats and more familiar routines.

My wife Jannie flew out from the Bay Area last Friday, and has seen both of the shows I'm in; we'll go together this afternoon to see Woody Guthrie, which I know she will love. Tomorrow we'll set off across the mountains for home; we still haven't determined our exact route, but it will probably take us through southwest Colorado and across southern Utah. We've traveled extensively in the Four Corners area in recent years and we always enjoy it greatly.

We closed Henry last night, going out on a high note. There was no performance in the Rippon last night, so many of the company who are in the three outdoor shows, and who had been unable to see Henry before, took in the closing performance. They were a clued-in, responsive audience, closely following the subtleties of the plot and giving us a standing ovation at the end; it put the cap on the feeling of achievement we've experienced, a sense of taking a little-known, seldom-performed work and demonstrating that it can be not only a viable play in performance, but a dynamic and involving evening in the theatre even for those unfamiliar with its history. Personally, I was happy with where Wolsey has taken me as a performer, and felt I had grown as an actor through the process of rehearsing and performing it. You can't ask more than that of a production.

We close Three Musketeers tonight, and then the season wraps up with final performances of the other three plays Friday and Saturday. The company will scatter to the four winds, and each of us will be going on to new projects and fresh challenges. For myself, I start next Tuesday teaching two classes (Shakespeare language and theatre history) at Solano College, and understudying Stoppard's Rock 'n' Roll at ACT. By this time next week, all that will be left of this season is a few pictures and a lot of valued memories, and the distinction of achieving something unusual in the professional theatre. I would like to thank all those readers who have followed my journey, taken notice of what we've accomplished and shared with me my excitement at bringing the circle of my Shakespeare career to its close. I hope it's been of interest to you.
The season will close in two weeks now, and there's a pervasive sense in the company of the end getting nearer. For the largeish group of us doing Henry and Musketeers, in fact, we have only ten days to go; we close those two shows on the twelfth and the thirteenth. Then we'll scatter to our various destinations around the country and the season will be only a memory. There's nothing quite so "over" as a summer festival, a group of people who had never worked before (at least not in that exact configuration) and never will again.

The company is dancing as fast as it can on the edge of the world, to steal some metaphors from other sources. Drinks at the Sink after each evening's show, and get-togethers in the apartments at the Townhouses into the wee hours, are pretty much a nightly occurrence now. No one has daytime rehearsals any more, so except for the few that have day jobs in the area the last vestiges of responsibility have dissipated and all we have to be concerned about are the evening performances (and an occasional weekend matinee). Most of us can sleep in mornings, and into the afternoon if need be. So we're partying diligently and with purpose, trying to hang onto the moment as long as we possibly can.

The challenge for us as performers now comes from the length of time between performances. Many of the shows, this late in the season, may perform as seldom as once a week; we did Henry twice this week, on Thursday and last night (Saturday), but we don't do another show for a full week, until next Saturday. It's not necessarily that we go rusty, or are liable to forget our lines (although it's always a good idea to run through them the day of a show, which I do), but that the tightness, the rhythm, what I've referred to earlier as the "flow" seems to need consecutive performances, or at least two or three close together, to fall into place. Until last night, the best show for me personally had been a couple of Sundays ago, when we did a 7:30 show following a 2:00 matinee. For that evening show we felt well warmed up, comfortable with one another, and ready to enter that special space where we are really playing together. Fortunately, we end the run next Saturday-to-Tuesday with four shows in four days, so we expect to go out on a high note. Sean proposed last night that the cast should get together voluntarily a couple of hours before the performance next weekend, to run lightly through the show together, and I expect most of the actors to show up for that. We have a pretty good esprit de corps and most of us are very committed to giving the best performance we're capable of.

Last night was the fiftieth anniversary of the first CSF performance of (Hamlet) on August 2, 1958. Philip presided over a little ceremony from the stage following the curtain call for Macbeth. I had a feeling of pride that my own participation had stretched back into the Fesival's first decade, and that I'd worked with many of the people responsible for its creation. I was already in a nostalgic mood because Larry Gallegos, who had played Shylock in my first season in 1966, had come to see me in Henry last night; and then who should I see after the ceremony but Ed Stafford, the fight director from those first seasons, who had driven up from his home in La Junta for the weekend. Three or four former actors from the company in the 60's have come to the stage door after seeing shows over the past weeks, and it's always been special, even when my memories of them were a little vague. It pleases me that they remember me fondly and share something of my feeling of closure in my summer project.

Getting High

Posted by on in Boulder CO

My old friend Robert Sicular has been visiting here from California this week, with his friend Tim Orr, seeing the shows and their friends from the Tahoe Shakespeare years. It's been good to hear their input on our performances and to have a jolt of fresh energy in our party scene, now running out of steam a little in the July heat and the routine of nightly performances.

Yesterday being everyone's day off, we got a party together to drive up into Rocky Mountain National Park, about 90 minutes' distance from Boulder, and do some high-altitude hiking. Sean (King Henry), Philip (Artistic Director), Robert, Tim and I all piled into Phil's Subaru-- a tight fit, most of us being six-footers-plus-- and drove through Estes Park and up the old dirt road to the visitor center near the summit. We then found a good trail from Milner Pass, a few miles down the western side of the park, back up to the visitor center, a nice hike of four-plus miles rising from about 10,760' to 11,800'. The cool weather was a real relief after two weeks of temperatures in the nineties in Boulder, and there were still big patches of snow on the ground. But the main pleasure was finally to get up to the high country after weeks of glimpsing the mountains so tantalizingly close, but never having free time enough to get up among them. A particular thrill was to climb up past the tree line and-- pretty abruptly-- find ourselves in the alpine tundra that covers all the mountaintops above eleven-five or so. It was well worth the discomforts of getting there, and an exhilarating experience to share with old and new friends.



The view of the tundra



Sean, Tim, Phil, Robert near the timberline



Rocky Mountain columbine



Indian paintbrush

The Saga of Seth

Posted by on in Boulder CO

I've been meaning to write about Seth.

Seth Maisel is an actor in the company; he's in all three of the outdoor shows. He's one of the two or three best fighters in the company, small and compact (five-foot-five, 180) but fast and very agile. He catches your eye onstage, especially in action sequences, by his shock of sandy hair, his quickness, and his native flamboyance-- he has that watch-this quality that makes him stand out.



Seth as a Cardinal's Guard

As I watched Seth in rehearsals, especially for Three Musketeers-- where he appears in almost all the fights, seven in all-- it occurred to me that he's always fighting (often brilliantly) but seemingly never winning. This has to do with his casting. In Macbeth, he's playing messengers, murderers and kerns-- Gaelic GI's-- and the early battles are mostly a showcase for what ruthlessly efficient killing machines Macbeth and Banquo are, so anyone who gets in their way is likely not going to come off looking too good. Murderers-- not to denigrate their important function in Shakespeare plays, but well, they generally prefer the sneak-up-behind-and-stick-'em tactic to the fair-fight showdown (unless things go wrong, as they sometimes do), and messengers are usually unarmed and can be mauled and manhandled at will, as they often will be if their reports include prophecy-fulfilling mobile forests. (I remember hauling poor Kate Heasley, my Birnam Wood messenger, all over the stage, and I once dropped her more or less on her head. Accidentally. Really.)

Then in Love's Labours, Seth plays Moth, page to Don Armado. This of course is not a play one associates much with stage violence, but Moth does need to "present" baby Hercules in the Pageant of the Nine Worthies, so he gets to tussle with Cerberus ("that three-headed canis," a stuffed puppy-dog) and the (yes, stuffed) snake that tries to bite the young hero in his cradle. Even here, it must be sadly reported, the results for Seth are-- to put it charitably-- mixed.

But it's in Musketeers that his talents for coming off second best in a fight are really on display. And again, it's really not his fault. Seth is cast as Jussac, the captain of the Cardinal's Guard; and anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the Dumas story knows that, just as Richelieu himself serves as a foil for D'Artagnan, the Cardinal's Guard are basically there to lose to the Musketeers. Whether it's a bar fight, a street brawl, an aborted abduction or a raid on a convent, there's Seth in the forefront, attacking valiantly, picking out the most challenging opponents, showing off his dazzling swordplay skills... and getting tripped up, disarmed, befuddled, knocked out or kicked in the family jewels one more time. If it were me, I'm sure I'd have developed a raging complex about it before the summer was half over. But Seth, he just keep comin' back for more.

So I asked Seth to break down the list of all his fights over the three shows so I could run a little statistical analysis. We put together a chart that classifies his combat by play, by what character he is, who he's fighting for and against, the outcome of the fight, and wounds or injuries, if there are any (and there usually are). The results, run through a sophisticated data-analysis program I have devised (mostly involving counting on fingers, and quite a few toes), revealed the following results:

Seth is involved in sixteen episodes of onstage violence.

Of these, ten are clear-cut losses. The outcomes for our hero include (a random selection):

* Being knocked down and hamstrung by the Thane of Glamis

* Thrown face-first to the deck by an angry King McB.

* Chased offstage by Malcolm

* Disarmed, hand cut by ill-advisedly catching an airborne rapier

* Knocked out by a baguette broken over his head

* Head slammed into wall

* Head slammed into table

* Head slammed on stairs

* Fallen on by two other guards (one of whom, Earl, is-- um, large), and then

* Stepped on by them as they run away

* Hip-checked (Duke of Buckingham) to the face

* Double-kicked in groin by Planchet and Athos

* Clotheslined by Athos

* Elbowed in face by Athos

* Slashed in butt by Athos (you really should learn to avoid this guy, Seth)

* (eventually) Run through by Athos...

But wait. We're being unfair to Seth here. He has his moments of glory too-- those brief, shining moments when he rises above the cruel fate of his casting and he triumphs-- if only temporarily. He gets to slash Athos-- once, not fatally. He does very well, on balance, in his contests with the plushies. (You should see him go to work on that snake.) He actually knocks out Old Siward with a shield-bash. And he does a very nice job on the Macduff baby (after its mother has nearly scratched his eyes out) with a battleaxe. Yes, I think we can say that, on balance, he wins that one. Maybe not the most stellar of victories, but-- when you're a kern... well, you take 'em where you can get 'em.

Here's to you, Seth. The season would be a lot less fun without you.

Everything's Open

Posted by on in Boulder CO

Well, we now have five shows up and running. Musketeers opened Saturday night, miraculously with only minor hitches. Director, cast and our redoubtable stage managers Amy and Shannon somehow pulled it all together and we got it on stage in all its raggedy splendor. I'll write more about the show next week; in the meantime, here's a link to four pages of great photographs, a mix of rehearsal and full-dress shots, from our company member Zach Andrews:

http://shinyscale.jalbum.net/musketeers

Henry played three times in the week just past, including a double shot Sunday-- matinee and evening, with a talk-back after the afternoon show-- and many of us, tired as we were, welcomed the opportunity to perform the show back-to-back. It's difficult to generate momentum and "flow" in your performance when several days elapse between shows, though it gets easier as you get more performances under your belt. By the Sunday night show, I was feeling loose and relaxed, more confident in the first scenes of Act I and with a freedom to try some new things-- different emphases, new colors, some fresher line readings-- in the big downfall scene of III, 2. A couple of reviews of Henry came out during the week; they're good, and fair to the show I think, though the Denver Post critic seems to be in some confusion over the play's date of composition-- it was probably written around 1613, ten years too late to curry any significant favor with Elizabeth (who had died, as he correctly notes, in 1603). Here are links to that piece and to the Boulder Daily Camera review as well:

http://www.denverpost.com/theater/ci_9901426

(this one has a fairly good picture of your hard-working correspondent)

http://www.dailycamera.com/news/2008/jul/18/csfs-henry-the-eighth-engrosses/

(and this one even spells my name right.)

 
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