Monkeys are smart. Though they haven't created cars or trains or weapon, they are educated through simplicity. They flourish on what they have, and if something doesn't work, they don't give up, but they evolve to overcome it. Like monkeys, Shakespeare had no thesaurus, no dictionary, no laptop and no editor. But when he came to a spot where he was at loss for words, he made up his own words. Through practice, perseverance and certainly trial and error, he created works that will last forever.

I am a 13 year old kid who is trying to read and attend live performances of all 37 Shakespeare plays (plus 3 possible collaborations) in 2 years. This is a record of my experiences.

I am now a 19 year old college freshmen at Northwestern University, pursuing a degree in Theatre. The spark of love for Shakespeare that began this blog has grown into a roaring fire. That fire burns a little bit brighter each day. This is where it all began.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Leadership Repertory

6 and 7

Richard II, Henry V: Shakespeare Theater Company
The Leadership Repertory
Sydney Harman Hall, Washington D.C.

These productions were unique because of Michael Hayden, who played both Richard and Henry, alternating night to night. It was a spectacular feat, as he did not only memorize the plays, but he also acted exceptionally well. The two plays, taken as a whole, were less impressive, as most of the parts were less strongly cast than the title figures, conveying their characters with actions instead of their words. Though it is said that actions speak louder than words, when performing some of the greatest texts of all time, projection is essential. There was little projection and many slurred their words, though there were a fair number of exceptions. It played to their disadvantages that the set was bare, so they had to really sell it with their words. David Muse directed Henry and Michael Kahn directed Richard. Muse did not make use of the active plot, where he used almost no props, and didn't have anyone run around the stage. Kahn, though Richard is a less active play, had Richard and Bolingbroke stride around the stage. These "leadership" plays got a lot of hype in DC, as it is a political center, and although in Henry, Shakespeare shows the great glory of a successfull leader and politician, Richard torments the mind of many, displaying the pains of failure.

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                                                         Henry V

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Richard II and Bushy
Michael Hayden (King Richard II/King Henry V)

Hayden was better as Richard, as he portrayed the slimy, cowardly qualities and the brave hatred equally well. But although he was very good at becoming slightly insane, he lacked the texture that a certain predecessor (Derek Jacobi) had. Richard discovers himself, unwrapping his layers like a Christmas gift, and being pushed farther and farther each time. But there are many ways to play the part and some may view Jacobi as ’temperamental’. As Henry he was more like an action hero, which is the role, but still isn’t as powerful or expansive. Henry is like one lane, where as Richard is the whole alley, and any one person may choose his lane. Compare to Branagh Henry V?
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Henry Bolingbroke and Richard
Derek Lee Weeden (Northumberland/Exeter)

He was a very powerful low-voiced kind of actor. He was stereotypical, but this didn’t take away from his performance, it just made it, well, stereotypical. His booming lies resounded throughout the hall. His big frame and large shoulders made him all the more terrifying in battle, where he was king of the field in Henry V. He may have been the most solid character in the entire play.
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From left. Soldier, Henry, Exeter

Tom Story (Aumerle/Dauphin)

As Aumerle, he was good at appearing like a front runner. He was always shifting like a Chameleon. It gave him a very slimy air, which coupled by his bull’s eye depiction of true cowardice, was very effective. He almost over did it as he was pardoned by Henry IV, where he hugged his mother and almost cried into her arms. But he really shone as Dauphin, always the first to brag and talk trash, but the last to truly act on his words.

Darren Matthias (Mobray/Pistol)

He was good as Mobray, because though it is a small part, he has great lines. He said them with such passion you actually believed him. But he was fantastic as pistol, sharp and ruthless, but kind and loving underneath. He was a very good pistol because he looked scruffy but wasn’t really when closely looked upon.

Scott Whitehurst (Green/Michael Williams)

Though he had small parts, he played them well. Once an arrogant lord playing king of the hill, next an obedient soldier, shy in the presence of a king. What made him so good was the contrast between his two characters. I hope he the chance to play more lengthy roles in the future.

Patrick Vaill (Gloucester’s servant/Boy)

One speech, one chance, one brilliant performance. Though having only 25 lines or so, he was extremely effective when he talked about leaving Pistol and company and faring for himself. He showed how hard it was growing up with thieves, getting no education and no training, and then having to find a way to get through life without committing a crime of some sort. This is a real dilemma.
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The Cast from left: Michael Williams, Exeter, Henry, York

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Bridge Project

[4] Dillane walked on stage to signal the start of BAM theatre’s The Tempest, on March 10, 2010, like it was nothing extraordinary. He just strolled on as if he did this every day. As he donned his magic apparel, he began to circle a sand pit in the center of the stage.

As he walked, the men on the ship began to appear, and simulated a tempest, which Ariel (Christian Camerago) seemed to instigate. From that point on, the audience was hurled into the world of Prospero, and no one looked back.

The set was minimal. It had a couple of little things, like a camouflaged hole in the sand pit (which facilitated a coup de theatre [Thee-atre] when Caliban’s hand shot up through it to make his entrance) and a shallow pool of water in the back.

This really brought out the genius of the direction. There were too many great things about this play for me to explain all of them, so I am going to go through all the characters, compare them to their As You Like It counterparts, rate their performances, and then wrap things up.

Stephen Dillane, Prospero: Amazing. Simply amazing. So much better than his Jaques, you would not know that the two were the same actor. It wasn’t just Prospero’s casual style, or his powerful words, but it was his body language that really set the bar. His reactions and actions were so devoted, so meaning full, that you really believed what he was saying. He kept the character at a slow pace throughout the play, which gave the audience time to ponder the beautiful language and the hidden meanings. The only place he really stepped out of character was the epilogue, where he threw his book into the water without a shred of remorse and spoke the words too quickly, and with no real rhythm.

Christian Camarago, Ariel: White face paint, a black suite, and a heck of a performance. I don’t know if he was just playing a role better suited to him, or if he was extra pumped up on that particular night, or if he just made a bad first impression. But regardless, he showed everyone there how Ariel should be done. He dawned metal wings and terrorized the stage, he snuck around with a rattle and tricked other actors. He begged for freedom, he tormented Caliban. But whatever he did, he did it well. He was miles ahead of his Orlando. He spoke his lines with power, he owned the island. His physical attributes made him a much more authoritative figure. He didn’t play Ariel, he was Ariel.

Ron Cephas Jones, Caliban: He played the part somewhat happily. This can be taken one of a million ways, but I’ll name the two most prominent; he A. broke the boundaries set by the character, and it did not work out, or B. he showed that Caliban actually believed that Stephano was a god. Yes, he did break the barrier, but yes again, he also showed that Caliban believed Stephano. He was like a child. When the music of Ariel began to play, he danced to it. That is not the same, futile, cliché Caliban. It showed that Caliban really wanted to help and aid his god, and was all the more tricked. But when the trick was over, he wasn’t heart broken, but he went off searching for the god that would not be fake. He was much more effective than Charles the Wrestler.


Juliet Rylance, Miranda and Edward Bennett, Ferdinand: She was actually the only person in the play who was stronger in As You Like It. She was a fantastic Rosalind, but her Miranda faltered a bit. She has a raspy voice, and she did not get the chance to physically act the way she did in As You Like It so she was relying on her ability to annunciate and speak well, and she just didn’t have it. He was pretty good, better than Oliver. He spoke his lines with a lot of passion and bravado, but he didn’t have very much chemistry with Miranda, although that is a falter on both parts.

Thanks to Matthew Yeager at BAM for help with the photos!