We attended a performance of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Gondolier, a light opera. We'd never heard of it before, but were well-entertained. Good acting, gorgeous costuming. The operatic twist at the end caught us by surprise. We did not leave whistling any of the rather unmemorable songs, however.
It was a wonderful show tonight, capped by a post-show talkback where Lepage revealed himself to be funny, self-deprecating, thoughtful, energetic (after a 130 minute solo show) and still excited to be doing what he does.
Best part is he revealed that he and Ariane Mnoushkine's Théâtre du Soleil are collaborating on an upcoming project that is partly set in Vancouver.
Well, after almost a year of sporadic employment, I'm working on another show. It's a remount and I'm replacing the lead actress with only two weeks of rehearsals, so I've come into the project with most of my lines memorised. It's an extrememly taxing show: the parents of a bullied teenager who committed suicide invite the parents of the boy who is accused of the bullying to their house for dinner. It's supposed to be a sort of Truth and Reconciliation hearing, but it all goes terribly wrong. Very well-written play, very affecting, but I come back from work feeling like I'm shredded newspaper; my voice is rough from all the sobbing I have to do.
My sisters and I will be converging on the Berkshires for 5 days this summer as my niece has been hired to do costumes for the summer theater in Stockbridge. This is the single most expensive air ticket I've ever bought, but fortunately, we have ctreated a Family Fun Account using funds left by our parents to make things like this happen.
BRAVO LIZZY!!!! I wish we could come and see you perform. I'm sure you'll be brilliant. Do keep us posted!!
(Kimby, what a really lovely gesture for you and yours. It will be something special. The Berkshires that time of year are glorious and you will be blown away by Stockton. I've been a few times and yearn to go back someday)
Thanks everyone, for the the support. I was a little worried going in that I would be rusty. But at the first readthrough, all of a sudden I sighed deeply and started breathing oxygen again, which is what my work is to me.
It is very similar to God of Carnage (the title in English translation, K), except the stakes are much higher because of the suicide. And the play also includes the bully, who comes for dinner with his parents. It's a hot Canadian play, partly based on the death of a Canadian politician's son who was bullied to suicide because he was gay.
Depending on the quality of the writing, perfoming a role like this can either be cathartic and cleansing, or a real f---fest. Luckily, this play is so well written that I can go home at night, feeling like I've been drained of my blood, but oddly at peace. Thea only thing I'm not looking forward to is the two show days - one at 4 and another at 8.
You get to a certain age and it seems like every role offered is a mother, and I seem to specialise in "dead babies" that require me to mourn and cry and wail. I've done about 6 of the in the past 10 years. Ironically, I have no children.
Tonight I saw a very impressive French production of the British play Orphans by Dennis Kelly. This is a 3-character play which starts with a married couple having a nice dinner at home when the brother of the wife walks in covered in blood. What happened? Well, it's not his blood, it's from a guy in the street who had been attacked. The brother tried to help but the victim got up and ran away. Call the police? Not the best option because the brother has had problems in the past and they would immediately suspect him... The trouble is, the story keeps changing little by little as the evening progresses. The brother is completely incoherent, and I must say that the actor who portrayed him was brilliant, because it can't be easy to blurt out nonstop 3 or 4 trains of thought without taking a breath. This was of course quite funny, but people laughed less and less as the story progressed, and although it seems obvious that the brother is "the problem" it becomes less obvious when you hear some of the things that the husband and wife say.
Since I am often just as (or even more) interested in set design and direction when I go to see a play, this was particularly fascinating. The audience surrounded the actors on all four sides and the set was the skeleton of an apartment with just 2x4s indicating the walls and rooms, leaving all of the space in full view. And of course an audience on every side means that the action and actors have to move around constantly so that everybody gets their share without it appearing to be contrived. Since I have been to quite a few plays like this, it took me just a split second to choose my side after seeing how the dinner table was set up and where the lighting control desk had been located. And so I think I got the best view even though there was no "bad" side.
There is a tradition of modern wordless comedy in France -- and also in Great Britain if one thinks of Mr. Bean or Benny Hill -- and every now and then there is a truly spectacular example of it. In France, it probably goes back to Jacques Tati but there have been numerous French and Belgian ensembles specialising in the genre over the years. One of the absolute best of recent years was Les Deschiens of which I saw a number of spectacles. The actors are by no means wordless for their entire careers, because one of the principal 'Deschiens' was the Belgian actress Yolande Moreau who went on to win two French Academy Awards as best actress over the years.
Tonight I went to see Bigre, a wordless play concerning three people living in adjacent former servants' rooms under the roof of a building in Paris. They are tiny and do not at all conform to current legislation for minimum size for a dwelling, but there are still hundreds of people living in such illegal rooms in Paris. Of course, one of the sources of the comedy is hearing what goes on in the next room and also the consequences of knocking on a wall or opening a window. As usual, I was most fascinated by the set design, which used every conceivable trick for new surprises every minute. As with every burlesque play, most of the laughs were silly, so it was all the more impressive when things suddenly turned serious. Another amazing surprise was after the end of the play. During the enthusiastic applause and a few curtain calls, the play suddenly continued for another 5 minutes with a new surprise ending that went far beyond anything that had happened earlier.
This video excerpt does not at all do justice to the play, but it gives you an idea of the set. The room on the left is occupied by an ultra high tech motorcyclist. His apartment is white and completely empty but things are always popping out of the wall or other places by remote control. And he sings karaoke in weird languages. The central room is occupied by a sad sack bumbler (and author of the play) living in messy squalor. The room on the right is a cheap girlie place where a rather dumb girl with a soft heart lives.
The theatre is one of the smaller of the 'main' private theatres of Paris and is all alone in a corner of the city rather than being in the theatre district. It has just 400 seats, but it was full tonight in spite of the football games. One of the reasons is of course the quality of the play and also the fact that the theatre season is ending so there are fewer spectacles from which to choose, so people are flocking to it. Another reason is because the private theatre association in Paris sells the remaining tickets for just 10 euros ten minutes before the play starts to anybody under the age of 26. And while the average age around me appeared to be 70, about 25% of the remaining seats were suddenly filled by young people before the play started.
Frankly, some of the old people were quite shocked by what they saw and even averted their eyes from time to time. This didn't surprise me at all because I had been eavesdropping on all of the conversations around me for 20 minutes or so, and it was clear that they were all from a totally different planet.
I've just read that the NYC production of The Curious Incident will be ending September 4. This interesting New York Times article features the puppys used over the run of the play and what happened to each of them once they had outgrown their part.
The trip to the Berkshires has come and gone, and a good time was had by all (all 10 of us, including my costume technologist niece). We saw three productions:in three different theatres, all run by Berkshire Theatre Group: Fiorello, a musical revived from the 50's about NYC Mayor LaGuardia set in the early 20th century. It is being moved off-Broadway when it finishes its Stockbridge run at the Unicorn Theater. The second show was a matinee and final preview of a new drama starring Judd Hirsch, called The Stone Witch, very well done with an audio-video screen equipped set to die for. At the Fitzpatrick Main Stage, a classy old theater in Stockbridge. And that night, we saw Little Shop of Horrors, with not a puppet for the plant, but a totally over-the-top drag queen as the plant, played by a man, and perfectly voiced by a woman off-stage. Outrageously good! On our non-theater day, we visited a Chihuly glass exhibit at the Schantz Gallery, and spent a couple hours at the Norman Rockwell Museum and Studio.
I think I would enjoy Book of Mormon Htmb - will have to look if it is on in the UK.
In last few months I've seen two musicals .... "Jackie" - which will not mean anything to most on here unless you were a UK teenager in UK in 70s ... loved it especially as I was with 4 of my friends of the same age / mindset. Lots of laughs and reminiscence
Most recently I went to see "The Commitments" slightly disappointed - music/ singing etc was great but the film and book are far more entertaining.
I unexpectedly attended a free performance of Titus Andronicus today. I had forgotten how bloody it was -- three hands and four heads cut off, a tongue cut out and two princes ground up and served for dinner, various rapes. The actors wore contemporary clothes but the extra touch that I liked was that the royalty wore dead animal fur wraps around their shoulders so that we would not forget what kind of people they are.
I went to see the play Erich Von Stroheim this week. The title has nothing to do with the play, which is about a love triangle involving "Her," "One," and the "Other." Her is played by Emmanuelle Béart (Mission Impossible and all of those French movies in a foreign language). She has two men for her needs -- One is a porn star and the Other seems to be a sort of household toy boy who performs the play 100% naked 100% of the time. Frankly, it was a bit too abstract to be fully appreciated, in spite of being directed by one of France's top theatrical directors, Stanislas Nordey.
However, I was quite happy to go to the Théâtre du Rond Point on the Champs Elysées, one of the nicest theatres in Paris. It was built in 1855 as the "Panorama des Champs Elysées" to display great battle scenes of the Empire on huge paintings. At the end of the 19th century, it became an indoor skating rink and actually remained in operation for about 80 years.
In 1981, it was "awarded" to the Barrault-Renaud theatre company, which had been camping out in a temporary structure inside the abandoned Orsay train station for the previous 10 years. Actually, the theatrical structure inside the Théâtre du Rond Point is the same one that was inside the Orsay.
After a year of anticipation, I finally got to see Hamilton and it lived up to and even surpassed to my expectations. I was thrilled as soon as I glimpsed the brilliant set design. At first, when I scanned the program, I was disappointed to see that the two leads were understudies, but my concerns were immediately alleviated when the pay begun. The actor who played Hamilton was boyishly endearing and the actor who played Aaron Burr was captivating. Thomas Jefferson, even though I dislike him (both the character and the real-life figure), commanded the stage and was a worthy foil to Hamilton. Eliza Hamilton had an exquisite voice. Her closing song at the end was so poignant. The choreography, lighting, and costumes were all terrific. I wish I could have seen the original cast, but I was very happy with the cast I saw and would love to see them again.
I went to see a play called Õ Gilgamesh, about the Mesopotamian king who may have existed, or maybe not. Anyway, it was performed by 3 young actors - one man and two women - rather confusingly since the roles interchanged and each of them was Gilgamesh at one time or another. There were also some impressive acrobatics, not sure why. But in any case, the three actors were completely convinced by what they were doing, and their performances were admirable. I read one review of the play which said charitably "it is better to set the bar too high and fail rather than not set it at all." Well, I went to see it for 2 reasons -- I had seem some of the young actors in various films and wanted to get a better look at their acting and, perhaps more important, I had a free ticket. There is a website here that proposes free tickets every week to all sorts of things, and I noticed the play on their latest email. Well, it's not completely free because there is a 2 euro service charge for the reservation, but I definitely got my money's worth.
Yesterday I went to see the short play La Révolte by Villiers de l'Isle Adam. It dates from 1868 but this production was set in modern times. It's about a married couple; the husband is a successful businessman and his wife works as his accountant. She is the person responsible for his success. She announces that she is leaving him for all sorts of valid reasons having to do with the fact that he is a total bourgeois jerk and has disregarded her for years. She takes off her wedding ring, dumps the accounting files on the floor and walks out. He has been telling her that she is 'crazy' and 'hysterical' and that she can't live without him but then he passes out in shock once he is alone.
Later, she returns, puts on her wedding ring and goes back to work. It makes you want to slap the shit out of both of the characters.
Apparently it was a very shocking play at the time because it denounced all of the triumphant bourgeois values of the mid 19th century. I can also be noted that Karl Marx had just published Das Kapital the previous year.
I felt that the play has held up very well -- perhaps too well -- because all of the wife's complaints and her ultimate (but temporary?) submission seemed just as valid in 2017 as they were in 1868, which would tend to indicate that society has progressed a lot less that we would have hoped.
Yesterday I went to see La main de Leïla by Aïda Asgharzadeh and Kamel Isker, who also star in the play. Once again it gave proof of how theatre can excite the imagination and give you even more intense emotions than a movie, even with a very simple set and only a few actors. In this play, there are just 3 people on stage, even though they play about 30 different roles, both men and women. It takes place in Sidi Fares, a town near Algiers. The year is 1987 and Samir, who inherited about 200 films when the local cinema closed down upon independence in 1962, tells and partially acts out all of the love scenes that have been removed by censors, from Casablanca to Gone with the Wind. He charges his all male audience 1 dinar in a garage that he calls the 'Haram Cinéma'. One night a young woman sneaks in disguised as a man. Leïla is the daughter of Colonel Bensaada and although they fall in love, their relationship is doomed since Samir is nothing and Leïla's father will choose a much higher placed husband for her. They meet at night on rooftops with hanging laundry, on the bus, waiting for the water delivery... Samir lives with his grandmother who speaks in Franco-Berber gibberish. This other role is played by the other actor, who also at one point plays an extremely distinguished professor who talks like a Parisian, a policeman and all sorts of other roles, and I have to admit that his range of accents was spectacular. Samir's best friend (played by the actress) tries to sneak on a boat to France but is swindled out of all of his money. Leïla's best friend, played by actor who plays Samir, is in an arranged marriage but is very pleased with her wedding dress... Samir finally works up the courage to ask the colonel permission to marry his daughter and is rejected immediately.