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.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Troilus and Cressida, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, NY (July 21, 2010)


    After driving for two hours through the pouring rain (and hail!), we’re about 15 minutes away from the site of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival’s production of Troilus and Cressida. As the rain began to clear, we came to a beautiful bridge across a very narrow part of the Hudson River. The sight was beautiful. The mist was clear and wafty. There was a slight breeze, and the gentle patter of the rain made it all that much more magical. When we passed over it, directly on the opposite side was a pizza parlor/market. The pizza was cooked in a brick oven right in front of us. It was delicious.

                                                             Greeks vs Trojans
     Upon arriving, we saw immediately that this would be no ordinary performance. The ‘playhouse’ was a tent, with seats around it, overlooking a beautiful picturesque mountain scene. West Point rested on the next mountain. The Hudson rippled 500 feet below, and the entire area was enclosed with woods and gardens. There was almost no place outside of the tent that didn’t shimmer with newly fallen rain. The clouds were dark and swirling, but gentle.
                                                             Trojan Brothers
   After the opening statements, a deformed man (and a born Richard III, as his performance emphasized), came out and gave the prologue. He would also play Thersities. As he exited, Troilus was seen wandering out in the open plain, towards the tent. As he came into the white shelter, Pandarus twirled, skipped, and all out barged on stage, in the happiest of happy moods. He was a very traditional Pandar, and portrayed the futile transition from euphoric joy to hateful anger. His final speech lacked the full seriousness, however, as he uttered the words with a slight chuckle. He and Thersities were the only two characters with many of their lines intact; the play itself was heavily cut.

     Cressida, Troilus and Pandarus                                            
   Ajax, Hector, Achilles, Ulysses, Thersities, and Aneas held the play together. Though small character roles, and many very different, they all shared one thing; passion. Whether it was scheming against Achilles, cursing Hector, arguing over Helen, or expressing hatred towards the world, they all did this or that with passion. This gave the rest of the actors the life that they needed.
                                       Nestor, Agamemnon, Menelaus and Ulysses

Despite the beautiful atmosphere, this production of Troilus and Cressida did not do justice to the depth and complexity of Shakespeare’s problematic text. Troilus and Cressida is a dark and serious play. This was almost like a spoof. They had songs interspersed and cut many of the great, philosophical speeches and emotionally intense lines. This made sense because with such a rare and obscure play, it must appeal to a broader audience. Cressida was pretty and sexy. She was full of fire, but she did seem to stumble over her lines, sometimes unsure of the precise meaning of what she was saying. This indecisiveness did work when she pledged herself to Diomedes, seeming to have some dregs of goodness left.

 Troilus was clear, and steady, albeit a little barbaric early, he really pulled it together in the scene with Ulysses.

   Overall, the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival’s Troilus and Cressida was, all in all, a very, though heavily cut, good play to take the family to. While sparing the moral dilemmas, it has its moments and is a perfect way to teach kids that Shakespeare isn’t all comedy and mockery, without coming on to strong!

Photos courtesy of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival

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