Saturday, July 21, 2012

Shakespeare Summer

The Central Park, NYC Shakespeare in the Park isn't the only one worth seeing!

A couple of weekends ago I went with my grandson (almost 13) and my daughter and her boyfriend to see the Original Practice Shakespeare company in As You Like It at Irving Park in Portland. My grandson belly laughed through the play, though we were sitting a bit far away to hear as well as we've had liked to.

What they mean by original practice is that each actor carries a roll of paper with his/her cues and lines only. Little or no rehearsal is done and performances are filled with improvisation. The actors perform in a motley assortment of modern dress items and gender blind casting prevails. The prompter is a character in the play. He dresses in a referee's outfit and stops the action at intervals to command an actor to improvise on a subject the prompter chooses.

This makes for an hilarious afternoon. Like Shakespeare's players, these modern actors succeed in conveying the precision and beauty of Shakespeare's language while still providing slapstick amusement for the "groundlings."

Poster designed by Mike Wallace

Last weekend my grandson, partner, and I were treated to a magnificent production of Midsummer Night's Dream. This was performed by Portland Actors Ensemble at Milepost 5 as part of the Post 5 Outdoor Shakespeare Festival. This was a magical production. and one of the best productions I've seen here for a long time. We sat in the courtyard and were transported to Athens (for this production, Georgia, not Greece.) The director and actors delivered a perfect blend of poetry and slapstick and the three of us were enthralled. I have no doubt that Shakespeare would have loved this production. The actors had clearly rehearsed a lot, but all the playful liveliness of an improvisation remained.

 In just a few hours we are going to see this company's production of The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged.) Can't wait! Neither can my grandson, who has been beguiled by the Bard away from his computer into the fresh air.

Shakespeare in the Milepost 5 Courtyard

If you live here in Portlandia, check out the remaining summer performances of these groups and others. If you live elsewhere, see if there's a Shakespeare in the Park near you. Watching Shakespeare outdoors on a summer afternoon is a magical experience.

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