Sunday, August 25, 2013


Last time I finished off talking about The Tenth Muse, so this time I'll start with The Heart of Robin Hood.

Left to right: Little John, Marian (in disguise), Robin and Will Scarlet.

I loved it.

I should note that I've loved the Robin Hood stories since I was quite small. My dad used to read them to me and I grew up playing Robin Hood in various parks and my backyard, pretending to be him or Marian, reading the stories, and watching the Errol Flynn movie about 20 times.

Yup, that's the one.

So I was already a fan.

Truth be told, I was a little nervous going into the play. What if it wasn't good?

But my worries were totally unfounded, because it was fantastic!

The play starts off with Robin and his men as bloodthirsty cutthroats who haven't quite figured the whole "giving to the poor" thing, but still have a generous reputation. Marian and her servant Pierre try to join them, since Marian really doesn't want to marry Prince John (such a creeper) and might have to anyway, but when she discovers Robin's true nature she decides to set herself up in opposition to him as "Martin of Sherwood," who really DOES do the giving to the poor thing.

Meanwhile, Prince John raises taxes to fund his own private army and take over the country and two children get involved after their father refuses to pay...

The thing I really loved was that this play had some really funny moments but was also very scary. The danger to Marian and the children was very real, and it had some heartbreaking moments. But it balanced that with good humor and great acting.

The set was pretty awesome too. It was in the Elizabethan theatre, which is outdoors, and they were actually using the same set for three forest-themed plays: Cymbeline, Midsummer Night's Dream, and Robin Hood. 

Lastly, we saw My Fair Lady.

It was a good musical, and they staged it well, but something about the story just didn't sit right with me. In case you don't know, My Fair Lady is about a speech therapist who makes a bet with his friend that he can pass off a Cockney flower-seller as a lady via speech lessons. The speech therapist was a little too much of a jerk for me to sympathize with, but it was still a good musical.

The staging looked a little weird initially--two pianos in the middle of the stage?--but they pulled it off really well.

Fun fact: There's this song called "On The Street Where You Live," sung by somebody who's just fallen in love with the main character, Eliza Doolittle.

(For context, she's just been to the horse races. Under the instructions to discuss only the weather and people's health, she made a few drastic faux pas, such as mentioning her Cockney father's gin addiction [it was about his health...])

The guy in the play totally overacted this. It was hysterical! He was running around and lying down on the stage while singing.

My dad told me that that number was actually written just as a filler, because the horse-race sequence was pretty elaborate and the stagehands needed time to change the set! It was written just so the guy could stand in front of the curtain and sing while they moved stuff around behind him.

Yay for fun facts!

My favorite character in My Fair Lady was probably Eliza's reprobate dad. He's completely morally bankrupt, but he freely admits it, and he's also really funny.

Probably my favorite song in the entire thing.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Greetings from Ashland, Oregon, where the smoke from the nearby fires has finally abated! (Mostly.) (It had to wait until right before we went home...)

We drove up over Sunday and Monday, stopping overnight at Dad's brother's house. That was fun because I got to see my aunt, uncle and cousin who I very rarely see. Then we arrived on Monday night, with our first play set for Tuesday afternoon.

I don't know if you've ever been to Ashland. It's a very beautiful town. I'm not sure if I'd want to live here full-time, but I love visiting. There's a great green garden called Lithia Park, where the ducks roam freely and the river rushes over rocks and boulders. I love walking through it, and occasionally hauling my cello out to try and make a little money. (A few years ago I got $30 in an hour. No such luck this year--$3 in just under two hours.)

And the plays! The real reason my family comes up is for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. We saw one play per day this week, and all of them were wonderful.

Play 1: The Taming of the Shrew in the Angus Bowmer theatre.

The Angus Bowmer is a big indoor theatre. It's very versatile, set-wise. This year I saw three plays in it, each with a radically different set.

Taming was set in a sort of late-1950s New Jersey amusement pier. The music was rockabilly, and the clothes were often ridiculous. The language was thoroughly Shakespearean, but that was about it for the Bard.

Taming is always a hard play to pull off these days, so I've heard (this was the first time I've seen it). OSF did it really well.

Taming was set in a sort of late-1950s New Jersey amusement pier. The music was rockabilly, and the clothes were often ridiculous. The language was thoroughly Shakespearean, but that was about it for the Bard.

Warning: Spoilers.

Basically,  there’s this girl called Bianca who has two suitors. She’s not allowed to get married until her older sister, Katherine, does. The problem is that Katherine is a “shrew”—she’s not very pleasant to be around. She’s a total wildgirl who tortures her sister and scares off any prospective suitors. I liked her.

 A new guy called Lucientio comes to town (in this case Padua) and falls head-over-heels for Bianca (this is in addition to her two suitors). Then Petrucio, who was a tough, tattooed biker dude in this version, arrives looking for a rich wife. One of Bianca’s suitors convinces him to go after Katherine. Petrucio and Katherine, who he calls Kate, don’t exactly hit it off, but they’re certainly a match for each other—no one else would have either one of them.

A lot of other stuff involving Bianca and her suitors happens too, but I’m going to focus on Petrucio and Kate.

The thing that theatres have a hard time with these days is that after Petrucio and Kate get married, Petrucio uses some harsh wife-taming techniques including starvation and sleep deprivation. He finally gets her to agree with him that the moon is the sun. The thing I liked about this version is that even though Petrucio’s messing with Kate, getting her to agree with whatever he says, you can tell from the actors’ body language that she’s messing with him right back.

There’s a tricky bit at the end where Kate has a speech about how women should be obedient to their husbands. OSF softened that with body language again: There was this moment when Kate whistles and makes a “Get your butt over here or else” motion at Petrucio, the kind of thing you do to call a dog.

This play definitely wasn’t my favorite, but I did like it.

Play 2: The 10th Muse, also in the Angus Bowmer.

This one was fantastic. It's a world premier, so you probably haven't seen it. It's about this girl, Jesusa, in Mexico in 1715. She's been sent from one convent to another, to care for a sick sister (Sor Isabel, who in addition to gradually losing her sight is a bit of a rebel nun…). Arriving simultaneously are her roomates: Tomasita, an Indian of the lowest caste who will be working in the kitchens, and Manuella, a noblewoman who will be staying at the convent for several months.
The girls “enjoy the convivial chef, Sor Filomena, and try to stay clear of both the irritable Sor Rufina and the fearsome Mother Superior” (a quote from the playbill).

The girls are situated in an old storeroom, filled with useless junk and some rather useful objects as well.

Also in the room is an old wardrobe. When the girls finally get it open, they discover that it’s full of papers. Stories, love poems, plays, all forgotten—or were they hidden?

Jesusa, Tomasita and Manuella begin to act out a play in the evenings for their own amusement.  Then Sor Isabel (remember her? Rebel nun?) catches them at it. She recognizes the papers as being the work of the famous Sor Juana In├Ęz de la Cruz, who lived in the convent and died twenty years before. Sor Isabel thought they had been burned…

And I'll leave you hanging there. Go see the play if you get the chance!

Plays 3 and 4 coming soon, along with other exciting tales!