Finally, Shakespeare is playing with the big boys. As a businessman, he probably would have welcomed all the attention he still gets. As an artist, he might have been fascinated by the “strange new world” in which theater can be turned into a CGI experience.
There is a burgeoning technology, called weARlive, developed by Technodramatists, a new company that combines technological innovations with drama.
It uses something described as a “face-sync application” and is being premiered by their Technodramatists Performance Laboratory ; weARlive allows one actor to take on many roles through animated creations motion-captured in real time.
Their first production using weARlive is Error: A Comedy Of, in which actress Claire Tyers is the live action model for the avatars of all the characters in the play, based on the Bard’s original.
Note that the emphasis here is not on the technical but on the artistry. Artfully intelligent applications of the new are a tradition in the theater, but the new today is much more surprising than it was in, say ancient Greece when cranes were introduced as the “Deus Ex Machina.”
Be prepared to be astounded and awed at TheaterLab where the latest in technological artistry will be presented by Technodramatists beginning June 6th through June 22nd .
Shakespeare speaks to so many of us on so many levels.
It’s not just that he is required reading in our high schools. Nor is it because the stories he re-animated were already timeless and embedded in human consciousness, and then passed down in our experience of the world.
And it probably is not because his playfulness lends his plays so readily to translate into song. The musical theater is rife with musicals,– Kiss Me Kate, Westside Story, Two Gentlemen of Veronaare just a few–, that sprung from the Bard’s tales.
There are Shakespeare bar crawls, a populist version of the classic style of presentation when the audience famously ate and drank and talked during the performance. Free Shakespeare in the Parks (courtesy of the Public Theatre) and numerous iterations of the Shakespearean playbook. One of these is the current crossed-gender King Lear with the great Glenda Jackson in the title role.
Celebrating Memorial Day with some of Shakespeare’s soldiers in snippets from his plays, New York Shakespeare Exchange‘s Freestyle Lab presents Armor As Strong: Trans Warriors through a Shakespearean Lens, on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 from 7-9pm (doors open to audience at 6:30pm) at the 53rd Street Library Theater. (This event is free. ) The production features a group of actors from New York’s trans/gender non-conforming community performing speeches and short scenes featuring some of Shakespeare’s best known soldiers.
Inspiring new plays is another way for an old fellow like the Bard to stay current. John Minigan has written a sort of play within a play–and a love story– called Breaking the Shakespeare Code, playing for a two week-run, May 23 – June 2, at The Black Box at 440 Studios. After sold-out runs in Chicago and the New York International Fringe Festival, Breaking the Shakespeare Code returns directed by Stephen Brotebeck and starring the original cast Miranda Jonte and Tim Weinert .
“The past is prologue….” It’s a saying that suggests we learn from what has transpired before. At the theater, we certainly try hard to look at history and see where it has gotten us, how we approached our problems, what solutions were on offer. Great thinkers–and dramatists are definitely philosophers in action– have made their suggestions clear.
Shakespeare confronted every manner of political upheaval as well as all the dystopias of the soul. We regularly worship at his altar. This year, The Public Theater puts on a summer in the park season with his Othello and Twelfth Night.
George Bernard Shaw looked at askew the world from a totally original perspective. The Gingold Theatrical Group celebrates his musings in their regular Project Shaw series at Symphony Space and with Shaw Club meetings on Mondays. Manhattan Theater Company and the Roundabout folks have tackled Shaw over the years with productions of Major Barbara and, currently on stage at MTC’s Friedman, Saint Joan.
The roiling and effervescent stories told by James Joyce in Finnegan’s Wake are part of the annual Bloomsday readings, here in New York with one at Bloom’s Tavern and the other at the above mentioned Symphony Space. The Bloom’s Tavern event is coordinated through Origin Theatre Company and includes both celebrities and an Irish breakfast. To be more exacting, it also features a of the Joyce period costume contest.
This is not what might be described as a utopian moment in history. The arts, including theater, of course, have found the need to protest the political climate. Sometimes, their response has been by providing us with dystopian visions of a world gone awry. 1984, for example, is one such production. The recently closed revival of Fucking A by Suzan-Lori Parks is another.
Arden/Everywhere, at the Baruch Performing Arts Center from October 8th to 28th, based on Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It, takes aim at the dangers that face a democracy. Jessica Baumann and her creative team see their work as a “reframing” of the original text. Their story purports to be about exile and banishment and does not want to center on the romance in this pastoral comedy.
In fact, the text for Arden/Everywhere is Shakespeare’s, embellished by references to immigrants and the plight of refugees. To that end, in its opening sequence, every greeting is a parting, and every hug and handshake bodes a separation.
The likeable cast present Shakespeare’s words with great authority and make the plot both clear and easy to follow. The principals, Rosalind (a very charming Helen Cespedes), Orlando (Anthony Cason, Jr.), Oliver (Kambi Gathesha) and Celia (Liba Vayneberg) are outstanding.
In honor of their 20th anniversary, Dzieci Theatre will reinstate its Gypsy-infused production of Macbeth, MAKBETfor a 5-Week run starting on September 6 at Bushwick’s Sure We Can. Our guest reviewer, Mari S. Gold had a chance to see it in October 2015.
Politics and drama are disparaged, especially by those who feel the sting of the tragedies presented.
Sometimes, even if the message is on point, the admixture has an oddly inappropriate tastelessness.
Nonetheless, as I have often said, it is the role of art to clarify matters and comment on our foibles and the errors of our ways.
We are often led astray on the roads of life, so we should be grateful to plays, playwrights and the traditions of our theatrical history for helping to put us back on track.
Here is a plot I propose:
Tamburlaine in triplicate or triptych: played alternately by North Korean President Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin and the US President, with Benjamin Netanyahu coming in as a pinch hitter.
In the movie version of the shenanigans surrounding the recent election– the movie from my youth– the big guy is carted away in cuffs. Also, the good people of Montana go to the homes of every single Jewish family that was targeted by Richard Spencer’s crew to make sure they are protected. This is so because in 1950’s America Americans played by the rules, were patriotic and did the right thing.
June 25th addendum: The toddler in big boy pants whose got DC as his playpen may be onto something. He doesn’t care for poor folks (note to those who helped elect him–be careful what you wish for is a real thing). Is there a reality show called Lifestyles of the Poor and Unknown?
Theatricality is a fraught concept. It can just be dramatic and thought-provoking, or it can be over-the-top, dramatic and thought-provoking. Kristen Childs has written a musical that is theatrical to the nth degree. Bella: An American Tall Talealso gives us a little slice of African-American history mixed in with the fable.
Politics and theater are getting a bad rep. Actually politics and their practitioners have had a reputation for honesty meaning any means that is necessary, aka I’ll lie if I have to, and theater has always been a forum for exposing truths. Ms. Nixon stirred the political pot a tiny bit in her acceptance speech at the 2017 Tony Awards Ceremonies. Now, it is the mixing of politics into theater that has caused quite the controversy (see what is happening with The Public’s Julius Caesar for instance.) It is unwarranted. Art is meant to comment on our realities.
At any rate, one of those realities, Lost and Guided, a play by Irene Kapustina about Syrian refuges in their own words, is on view at Conrad Fischer and The Angle Project, at Under St Marks (94 St. Marks Place, from August 3 through 27th. For tickets, click here.
A similar but perhaps more intitmate project is The Play Company’s Oh My Sweet Land another look at the Syrian refuge crisis. The play is due to launch this fall in private homes and communal spaces where people have been invited to host this multi-sensory experience. Those wishing to participate by providing a venue can do so by filling out the questionnaire here. Nadine Malouf stars, perhaps in your own kitchen, in Oh My Sweet Land, a play developed by Amir Nizar Zuabi with German-Syrian actor Corinne Jaber.
Shakespeare wrote plays reflecting timely events, for his time and all times. This may explain why The Public is in such hot water over their production of Julius Caesar. The brouhaha, perhaps like the staging, is way out of proportion. In Measure for Measure, Shakespeare also explores issues to do with power and justice. Theatre for a New Audience is presenting a new modernized staging by Simon Godwin from June 17th through July 16th. Tickets for this show which will be held at Polansky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn are available at TFANA’s website.
Henrik Ibsen had his own take on both the personal and the political. For instnace, Ibsen’s drama, An Enemy of the People is a play about populism and its discontents.
An Enemy of the Peoplecomes to us from the Wheelhouse Theater Company under the direction of Jeff Wise, at the Gene Frankel Theater, beginning June 9th and running through June 24th is conceived as a meditation on the “tyranny of the majority.”
Following on the success of Ibsen’s feminist tale as revisited by Lucas Hnath in A Doll’s House, Part 2, see the US Premiere of Victoria Benedictsson’s 1887 Swedish original, The Enchantment in a new English translation and adaptation by Tommy Lexen. Ducdame Ensemble introduces us to the woman behind Ibsen’s Nora; Benedictsson, who wrote under the pen name Ernst Ahlgren, was not only Ibsen’s inspiration but also Strindberg’s for Miss Julie. The Enchantment opens at HERE on July 6th, with previews beginning June 28th.
Dystopia is the normal atmosphere of an Ibsen play. It is poignantly a main event in the classic 1984. George Orwell’s novel in which Big Brother government controls its citizens has been turned into a play by the same name. The play by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan was first performed in 2013 at England’s Nottingham Playhoouse. 1984 , a place where mind control involves convincing us that up is down, “freedom is slavery,” is now at Broadway’s newly renovated Hudson Theatre, with an opening on June 22nd, and starring Olivia Wilde and Tom Sturridge.