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Our summer season opened over the weekend with Macbeth-- a show I'm not involved with, and which actually started rehearsals two weeks before those of us only in Henry and Three Musketeers even arrived in town. The season is set up (with an incredibly complex, overlapping, intercut rehearsal schedule, which I thank my lucky stars I don't have to be the one to organize) so that the five shows tech and dress and then open on five consecutive weekends.
It's a good production, with a striking set, an eerie musical score and fine, violent fights, choreographed by Geoff Kent, who also is playing Macduff and has his hands full with the many, many fights in Three Musketeers. The two lead actors, Phil Sneed (our Artistic Director) and Karen Slack, are giving clear, intense performances, and the supporting cast is strong. The text, to my taste, is more heavily cut than it needs to be. Whole scenes have apparently been thought to be superfluous (the Bleeding Captain, the scene between Ross, the Old Man and Macduff, and the dialogue between Lennox and the unnamed Lord, as well as some of the Witches material which is generally considered spurious), and though none of those scenes actively advances the plot, I've always felt that they enhanced the general atmosphere of the play as well as clarifying the through-lines of several supporting characters. The play is short in any case; even an uncut version should come in at well under three hours. I've always felt it was one of the functions of a Shakespeare festival (given its particular emphasis on the works of a single author) to give the fullest possible account of a play, consistent with the constraints of time and its audience's capacity to stay engaged. But that's my own opinion, and I'm probably in the minority on this one. (The Denver Post's review can be read at http://www.denverpost.com/theater/ci_9693832 .)
The set for Macbeth, Mary Rippon Theatre
An interesting sidelight on my previous post (and yet another instance of the serendipity that seems to surround this whole experience for me) came yesterday when my fellow-actor Gary Wright lent me a book he'd been reading, and which I'd expressed interest in: Laurence Gonzales' Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies and Why. I've always had a keen interest of stories of human survival in extremis, like Scott, Shackleton, Cabeza de Vaca and the Donner Party, but this book is something more: it talks a great deal about physiology and brain chemistry and the role they play in the decisions that may mean life or death for people caught in extreme circumstances. In the course of his analysis, Gonzales references studies into the workings of the brain that have an obvious application to what I wrote a few days ago, on my own perceptions of how memory functions. (My sister Consuelo has also posted to this blog with some personal observations in support; see comments on "First Runthrough", 6/23.) Here's what Gonzales has to say:
When you learn something complex... at first you must think through each move. That is called explicit learning, and it's stored in explicit memory, the kind that allows you to remember a recipe for lasagna. But as you gain more experience, you begin to do the task less consciously. You develop flow, touch, timing-- a feel for it. It becomes second nature, a thing of beauty. That's known as implicit learning. The two neurological systems of explicit and implicit learning are quite separate. (p.67)
Elsewhere (p. 73), he draws a distinction between limited-capacity "working memory" and long-term memory, which seems very close to the dichotomy I was describing. I recommend the book to anyone who finds this phenomenon pretty fascinating, as I do.