Shakespeare Times Two

Dear Liza,

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Everyone loves Shakespeare!

Saturday afternoon, after shopping and lunch, we headed off to Laurelhurst Park for… A Comedie of Errors! The afternoon was sunny and hot, and since the stage area was in sun, we sat in the sun, hoping the shade would get to us eventually.

This story of two sets of identical twins, mistaken identities, romantic and financial entanglements was very well done, funny, and surprisingly touching. Two women, (Shakespeare wrote them as men but women work very well), identical twins both named Antipholus, are separated during a shipwreck as infants, one with the mother, one with the father. Their boy servants (also identical twins, both named Dromio) are separated with them.

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Antipholus and her Dromio are arrested

The play begins 30 or so years after the shipwreck, with the twins and their servants as adults. I won’t try to explain it all here, but the play is a raucous, well-written romp guaranteed to entertain lowlifes and high brows alike.

The acting was wonderful! Since Original Practice Shakespeare is a repertoire company, we get to see actors play different parts in different plays. It is fun to see a tragic queen become the Prompter, or a person with a small part in a different play take center stage and steal every scene!

It changes your understanding of acting, casting, and life in general….Even if you are really good at what you do, it doesn’t ALWAYS have to be about YOU.

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Brian Saville Allard as a slimy merchant…..

Since this weekend is the Grand Finale Weekend of “Will Fest”, the last weekend of the OPS season, Saturday evening was also Shakespeare in Laurelhurst…Hamlet!

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       And as the evil King Claudius,                           with Jennifer Lanier as Polonius.

Grandpa Nelson hates the play because the main character is so indecisive, so Grandpa stayed home and Auntie Bridgett and I went over. It was also very good.

Hamlet was cast as a young woman, (played by Lauren Saville Allard) which, in my mind, changed what I expected of her. I had always wanted male Hamlet to get it over with and revenge his father, but of female Hamlet, I wanted  more introspection…so I guess I like female Hamlet better!

This year we have gotten to see my favorite actor, Jennifer Lanier, in all the plays. She was Prospero in The Tempest last year, and Polonius in Hamlet, and Sir Toby Belch Twelfth Night. She is delightful.

We have two more plays of this season, if we are Shakespeare strong enough!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Richard III

Dear Liza,

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The Stage is set

After I got back from my bus and train adventure to visit Terry, I rested up a little before we headed off to Laurelhurst Park for another production of Original Practice Shakespeare. This is the troupe of actors that doesn’t do regular rehearsals, and each actor carries a little scroll with their lines on it. They have an on-stage prompter, dressed in a referee uniform, who keeps everything running smoothly and occasionally stops the actions to ask, “So, Richard, how’s it going?”

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The Prompter

They do it this way for two reasons. First, it is how Shakespeare’s plays were performed while Shakespeare was still writing them. Second, it allows a small group of actors to do 6 different plays a week, because no one has to absolutely memorize a whole play…they always have their lines with them.

Because the actors haven’t rehearsed this play as a group, the performances can be uneven. Our last experience with them, A Midsummer Nights Dream at the top of Mt. Tabor, wasn’t fabulous. The staging was confusing, the costumes didn’t make sense, and the actors were not very prepared. So we were skeptical.

Still, free Shakespeare is something to see when you have the chance, so we went. And we were not disappointed.

This production of the historical tragedy of Richard III, was beautiful, emotional, and so well acted that every line of every character made sense. Brian Burger, who played the evil, scheming Richard, used his soliloquies to bring the audience in on his plans, and sort of made us co-conspirators. We knew what terrible things he was going to do, and we enjoyed watching him do them.

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Evil Richard wooes Lady Ann

The costumes were well chosen and helped define the characters. This troupe does a lot of cross casting, with women playing men’s roles, but they did it so well!

One scene was even more poignant with a woman, Ariel Puls, playing Lord Stanley. She wore a costume that was military, but wore her blonde hair in a pony tail and was clearly a woman. When Richard tells her she may go raise more troops, but she must leave her son with him as a hostage against her treason (which she is indeed planning), a mother’s pain is shown with her whole body. Fortunately, Richard is defeated at the Battle of Bosworth Field before he has a chance to kill the boy.

We cheered for the good guys and booed for Richard, some of us yelling advice to the actors when they seemed to need it.

It was a rousing, fun evening, and we walked home happy and exhausted.

Love,

Grandma Judy

As We Like It

Dear Liza,

On Saturday we did laundry and dishes and such chores around the house, had lunch, and then headed over to Laurelhurst Park for another Shakespeare play, called As You Like It.

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Brothers Oliver and Orlando arguing

This is one of my favorite plays, and one that my momma liked very much, too. It is about people who, because of a big fight in their family, leave their fancy castle and go live in the forest. There, they meet other people and find out that they can be happy wherever they are, as long as they are with the people they love. There is wrestling, and cross-dressing, singing, people falling in love, and lots of puns and jokes.

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The Forest Lord makes a speech

The play was great, but what made the afternoon perfect was the lovely park. On the little rise in a clearing of linden trees, dappled shade keeping us cool, every breeze shook tiny leaves down, we sat on our comfy lawn chairs and loved every minute. Not far away across the grass a wedding party was setting up (more about this later).

This play had a Prompter, who did the usual job of reminding actors of their next line, but also wore a referee’s striped shirt and whenever she felt the need, would blow her whistle.

When the wedding party got loud because of a pinata, she blew her whistle. “We’ve got quite a pinata party happening here behind me, can you repeat that line please?”

When Orlando was confused about who he was falling in love with, she blew it again. “Orlando, how do you feel about this? What’s going on here?”

This made everything fun and friendly, and also cleared up some points of the play that I have never understood….like why the old Duke was in the forest to begin with, or that there are, indeed, two characters named Jacques.

We watched the play to the end and even got to talk to the young actor who played one of the Jacques, then we headed home because Grandpa Nelson and I were having dinner with Gary, who was best man when Grandpa Nelson and I got married, and his wife Carol. We drove to get there because the restaurant, Seasons and Regions, is over on the southwest side of town, on SW Capitol Highway. They serve mostly seafood and it is absolutely delicious.

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The four of us talked for 3 hours, catching up on our jobs, kids, parents, and the trials and joys of life. And of course, I forgot to take pictures! Then we drove home, talked about our day until we were sleepy, and conked out.

Love, Grandma Judy

Accidental Delights

Dear Liza,

Last night, after the weather got cooler and we were all done with work, Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk. We were headed for Colonel Summers Park, but we got distracted.

We saw signs that said “Shakespeare in the Park” with an arrow pointing…not to the park, but to the Lone Fir Cemetery, which I have told you about before. I like watching plays by William Shakespeare, and so we followed the signs. In the middle of the cemetery, we found a small audience sitting in lawn chairs around one of the war memorials, and people performing a play called Troilus and Cressida. There were hardly any sets, just enough to give the idea of “where we were” for the play, which was an army camp.

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Actors in Troilus and Cressida at the Lone Fir Cemetery

There was no lighting, no microphones, and the costumes were very simple. But it was wonderful to see not only the actors, but the audience there, on a warm summer evening under the tall trees in the cemetery, enjoying theater. We watched the show for a while, then quietly left. I made a note to myself to read the play as soon as I get my Shakespeare books unpacked.

Continuing our walk, we followed Belmont Street west and realized we were only a few blocks from Revolution Hall, the former Washington High School that is now being used as offices for different businesses, concerts, and restaurants.

It is a beautifully designed brick building from 1924 and there is a small restaurant on the roof that has a wonderful view of the city. Since it was almost sunset, we decided to go up and enjoy some wine and watch the sun go down. It was pretty crowded up there on the big flat roof, but we found a table to sit at and watch as the glaring sun dipped behind the western hills and turned the whole sky a soft pink.

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Washington High School, now Revolution Hall

 

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The view west from the roof

Grandpa Nelson said we should get home before dark, so we started walking back along Stark Street towards our house. We saw the Penny Market open, a tiny building on an almost dark street. We went inside, got some ice cream and met Tom, the man in charge. He was very friendly and happy to be living in Portland, too. We got home, tired after our more than 2 mile walk, and got into pajamas.

Love,

Grandma Judy