Groundlings! What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen, since last I posted on Speak the Speech. I apologize to our regular followers who may, over the past month, have been perplexed by our spotty rate publication. I was sidelined with an injury (getting through a work day on crutches leaves little energy for anything else), and other commitments have forced two of our stalwart contributing editors to withdraw, at least for now. If you’d be interested in joining our crew of regular contributors, let us know. Also let me know: do you prefer to be addressed as Groundlings or Standard-Bearers? I’m torn between the two.
But as winter does its worst to extinguish even memories of spring, there is a consolation: a large number of Shakespeare companies are announcing their forthcoming seasons, and some of 2015’s offerings look truly remarkable. As always, there are also openings to note, and as is my habit, I will be trying to showcase a few unusual offerings. I’m even going to cheat, and include one non-Shakespearean play. That’s right. I’m being downright cheeky. Let’s see what’s waiting in the tiring house.
The Grand Ol’ Operatic Adaptation of Romeo and Juliet
As promised, I like to shake things up and make sure we put the spotlight on adaptations of Shakespeare in opera, dance, and other live performance media. This week, our star-crossed lovers are the traffic of the Long Center for the Performing Arts in Austin, Texas. Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette runs this week (Thursday and Sunday), under the baton of Richard Buckley. Belting out Gounod’s lavishly romantic score are Stephen Costello as Romeo and Joyce El-Khoury as Juliet. Tickets range from a student-friendly $15 all the way up to $200.
In the Square Hits the Gym
Slightly less operatic is New York’s Shakespeare in the Square’s production of Romeo and Juliet. It’s their second indoor show, this time at the Gym at Judson (243 Thompson Street) so I hope they’ll continue with their outdoor productions at least long enough for me to see one. This version of Verona is brought to life by a cast of five (Christopher Dooly, Elise Kibler, Constantine Malahias, Taylor Myers, and Jack De Sanz) under the direction of Dan Hasse. Tickets are $45 or $15 for students, until February 8.
That Other Renaissance Playwright
You were warned. I am betraying the Bard, playing wanton with another playwright. At 2008 meeting of the Shakespeare Association of America (please note: the SAA), during of the launch of the Oxford Complete Works of Thomas Middleton, editor Gary Taylor joked that he hoped the day would come when they could re-name the SAA the S&M Association of America. While that day still seems some way off, Middleton’s plays are attracting attention – and professional productions. One such staging is the Globe’s staging of Middleton and Rowley’s The Changeling in the candle-lit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. Hattie Morahan, best known to audiences as Eleanor in the 2007 Sense and Sensibility stars as Beatrice-Joanna, whose illicit passion will drive her to murder and adultery. I’d list more of her crimes, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise for any newcomers to this wonderfully baroque play, which also stars Trystan Gravelle as the twisted De Flores: torn between lust for Beatrice-Joanna and resentment of her hatred for him, he offers her an unlikely alliance – but at what cost? Runs until March 1, with tickets £10-£60.
Sin City on Puget Sound
When you hear the word “Seattle,” what springs to mind? Starbucks coffee, Microsoft, Pacific fog? Or prostitution, venereal disease, fornication, and execution? Until Sunday, it should clearly be the latter, as the Seattle Shakespeare Company winds down its production of Measure for Measure – or, as the posters style it, Mea$ure for Mea$ure. Desdemona Chang* directs this problem comedy, and the promotional materials are only just safe for work. Stockings and garter belts, here, folks. Cindy Im headlines as Isabella, under moral siege by Bradford Farwell’s Angelo, while David Anthony Lewis schemes and plots as the Duke.
Pericles on the Pacific Coast – and Victorian Lesbian Pickpockets!
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has announced its 80th season – and their ambition to stage all of Shakespeare’s plays over the next ten years. Their first three entries this year will be Much Ado About Nothing, Pericles, and Antony and Cleopatra. Non-Shakespearean offerings include the classic musical Guys and Dolls and the pot-boiling thrills of Fingersmith.
Is this Canada’s Most Racist City?
Yes, the heading for this section is ironic. Any Standard-bearers who watch Canadian news will have seen the Maclean’s story about Canada’s shocking racial divide in, particularly in the prairies, and particularly in Winnipeg; Canada’s growing First Nations communities struggle with poverty and marginalization – and toxic racial prejudice. It’s timely, then, that Saskatoon’s Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan announced that its season will include a Cree-influenced Othello, in conjunction with the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company (SNTC). Parts of the dialogue will be translated into Cree, Manitoba’s Michael Lawrenchuk will take on the title role opposite Joshua Beaudry as Iago and Jennifer Holfeuer as Desdemona.
Saskatoon may seem like a long way to go for two Shakespeare plays (Othello will play in repertory with Much Ado About Nothing – one of my favourites, but I’m oddly less excited about it), but if the current conversation manages to sustain itself until summer, this could be one of the most topical revivals of a Shakespeare play this year. I’ve been to Saskatoon once, and was hugely impressed by its civic culture and the city’s dedication to its performing arts community. Who feels like a road trip?
* Seriously. Her name is Desdemona. How could she not have grown up to direct Shakespeare?