skygiants: Beatrice from Much Ado putting up her hand to stop Benedick talking (no more than reason)
In the past two weeks, I have seen two children's musicals. One was New Repertory Theater's The Snow Queen, which jinian has already posted about, and [personal profile] genarti has promised to post about, and [personal profile] littledust has made a number of pointed tweets about, so I'm just going to ... let that unfortunate conglomeration of snow bees, talking flowers and poor directorial judgment sit where it's lying for a while.

INSTEAD I am going to talk about A.R.T.'s The Pirate Princess, the Twelfth Night MUSICAL PIRATE AU, which [personal profile] genarti and I went to see tonight and which was everything we wanted it to be AND MORE! )
skygiants: Beatrice from Much Ado putting up her hand to stop Benedick talking (no more than reason)
In other news I have gotten quite behind on my December meme posts! I was supposed to do most and least favorite adaptations of books for [personal profile] thady on the twelfth, but this whole weekend got eaten by holiday parties, so we'll just pretend that's today.

It's a hard question to answer though! Can I cheat and count Much Ado About Nothing as a book, even though it's a play? Because the Kenneth Branagh/Emma Thompson Much Ado is so near and dear to my heart, and so VERY MUCH my formative Much Ado, that it's really difficult for me to accept any other adaptations -- even though it has flaws! So many flaws! Kenneth Branagh cut out all of Hero's best bits of dialogue, I know, it's an awful thing, and yet! THE WORLD MUST BE PEOPLED.

Also the Christopher Eccleston Revenger's Tragedy, which if we're talking about INCREDIBLY BIZARRE adaptations of early modern theater is my favorite hands down. One of these days I'm going to picspam this DW mercilessly with screenshots from that film, and then maybe you'll all understand. MAYBE.

Oh, OK, one more thing: I haven't actually seen this yet, so it's definitely cheating, but just the fact that there EXISTS an anime adaptation of A Little Princess that's a space opera about Sarah piloting a giant mecha is ... how can I put this? The knowledge of its existence is a balm to my soul.

As for least favorites ... can we also count books adapted into other books? Because ye gods, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. YE GODS. YOU WERE SO TERRIBLE, AND YOU UNLEASHED SO MANY HORRORS.

This is a fun topic, though. I encourage everyone to come rant about least favorite adaptations, should you feel so inclined!
skygiants: Betty from Ugly Betty on her cell phone in front of a cab (betty on the go)
Tonight I dragged [personal profile] nextian with me to see The Winter's Tale: A MUSICAL starring A SIGNIFICANT PERCENTAGE OF NEW YORK, because a.) last year's Tempest Starring A Significant Percentage Of New York WAS AMAZING and b.) tonight is actually my last night for at least a while as a resident of the city, which is really weird, and going to go see the city celebrate itself seemed like an appropriate thing to do.

Anyway, Winter's Tale was not quite as good as last year's Tempest, which was just, like, mind-bogglingly wonderful, but it was still pretty delightful! The ballerinas had significantly less swagger, but on the other hand, a swing band on stilts. Also, still on the other hand, SESAME STREET.

If you were wondering if Sesame Street is just as good live: yes. Yes they are. )

I got like three hours of sleep last night so I'm going to go fall over now, but I'm really, really glad this is how I decided to spend my last night in New York. Tomorrow I move to Boston? TOMORROW I MOVE TO BOSTON. File under: things that I still haven't fully internalized yet.
skygiants: Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing holding up a finger and looking comically sage (explaining the logics)
So tonight I went with an old work friend to go see something called Drunk Shakespeare. All I knew beforehand was that it takes place in a pub. It turns out the premise is that every night a rotating sacrificial lamb of an actor gets EXTREMELY drunk before and throughout the show (as opposed to the rest of the amiable hipster cast, who seem to linger somewhere around genially tipsy.) The sacrificial lamb then has the privilege of, at any point, pausing the show to interject a drunken point of order on whatever directorial insight seems reasonable to them at the time.

Some instances of tonight's directorial gems, delivered a very drunken Lady Macbeth, included:
- instructions that Ross, the messenger, must deliver every one of his speeches in a different communications style (text emoji, Morse Code, etc.). This culminated in probably the only time I will ever see the news of Lady Macduff's death delivered by an actor dressed only in boxers and a bow tie, through the vehicle of interpretative breakdance.
- a demand to swap her leather skirt for Macbeth's trousers.
- a request that the last scene between (living) Banquo and Macbeth be played as a competition between competing Matthew McConaugheys, subject to an audience applause-o-meter for the victor. ("Point of order! Matthew McConaughey would NEVER name his son Fleance." At this point an audience member was gotten to volunteer a name for the son, which gave a very gleeful Macbeth the opportunity to bellow "AND CHANNING TATUM MUST NOT ESCAPE THE FATE OF THAT DARK HOUR!" and then improvise for a while on the theme of how Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum inevitably stand in the way of his career advancement.)

How much of this all is actual drunken improv and how much is pre-planned is I think open to debate (Macbeth's pants fit Lady Macbeth SUSPICIOUSLY WELL, for example), and I really kind of hope at least a few of the eight to ten drinks we saw Lady Macbeth down over the course of the night were secretly water, because otherwise I am sort of nervous that one of these shows may someday end in tragedy. These concerns aside, it was largely a delightful experience. It's so aggressively lowbrow and full of dick jokes and fart jokes. Shakespeare would have LOVED IT.

In other theatrical news, Boston-area folks, the Post-Meridian Radio Players are doing The Trouble With Tribbles again this weekend -- Star Trek TOS with an all-female cast, with the exception of Uhura. I saw this several months ago at Arisia and it was SUPER FUN. Exasperated mom Kirk is the greatest Kirk.
skygiants: a little girl spreads out arms and wings and beams up towards the sky (wings glee)
The playbill that we read described this weekend's musical production of The Tempest in Central Park -- starring Norm Lewis, several gifted professional comedians and singers, 250 or so New Yorkers from various community performance ensembles, and three taxi drivers -- as being inspired by the idea of a "community masque" from 1916 called Caliban by the Yellow Sands, which in turn was inspired by courtly masques of the sixteenth century, which for those unfamiliar mostly involved lots of music, dancing and pageantry strung together by a plot. There was also a lot of very earnest language about theater INVOLVING THE COMMUNITY and people SEEING THEMSELVES REFLECTED ONSTAGE which I will admit moved my heart, because YES.

Anyway, [personal profile] genarti and [personal profile] littledust and I looked at this description, and then we looked at the list of community groups that had been invited to participate, and said, "This is going to be either AMAZING or COMPLETELY INCOHERENT . . . and where the hell are they going to fit in the Taxi Driver's Union?"


I am so sorry that the show only lasted a weekend and so most of you will never get a chance to see it. But I so, so hope that they do as they implied they would and put on more shows like this one, which could have been totally incoherent and instead somehow came together in a glorious explosion of pageantry and joy and celebration of this city that I love and the people who live in it. Sometimes there is actually nothing better than two hundred people having the TIME OF THEIR LIVES onstage getting to showcase all the stuff they do awesomely well.
skygiants: Enjolras from Les Mis shouting revolution-tastically (la resistance lives on)
I've seen two musicals recently! The first was Love's Labour's Lost at Shakespeare in the Park, and it was . . . not good. I mean, Love's Labour's Lost is not really the greatest play anyway - it has too many subplots and the main romance plots are deeply silly and have no emotional impact. This is a thing that you could really improve on in a musical version, if you wanted to. Instead, Love's Labour's Lost takes extra time and depth away from all of its lead characters, plays up the frat-boy aspects without resolving them or making them in any way sympathetic, and throws in valuable bonus features like Random Guy Who Sings A Love Song About Wanting To Eat Cats.

But enough on this, because the other show I saw last week was the recent revival of Pippin and it was AMAZING.

For those of you unfamiliar: Pippin is at least nominally about the adventures of Prince Pippin, son of Charlemagne, as he attempts to flail his way towards a life that is "completely fulfilling."

That is the show-within-a-show. The real show of Pippin is sort of about that, but it's also about performance, and the lure of spectacle -- the self-destructive seduction of the larger-than-life. So the fact that it is staged as a full-color circus filled with acrobats performing humanly impossible feats and choreography that fuses Fosse with Cirque du Soleil is, basically, perfect. (Also perfect is the fact that the actor playing Pippin can in no way keep up with the acrobatics. There's one hilarious moment during one of the songs where a couple of the acrobats are performing a balancing act and invite Pippin up to echo them; Pippin takes a step, hesitates, announces "NOPE!" and bops right back on down. EXACTLY AS IT SHOULD BE.)

Pippin aside, the real lead role in Pippin is the part of the Leading Player - narrator, director, ringmaster - and we can pause here for a moment of appreciation for Patina Miller's everything:

I should mention, by the way, for those who have not heard this story before, that my last experience with Pippin was our middle-school production. This was hilarious in ways that are spoilery for the show, if anybody cares )

I feel like I've already talked a lot about this (it's just so novel for me to actually go see a GOOD musical, rather than one that's lolariously bad!) but a few last points:
- I had forgotten how good the Pippin score is -- not that the songs are so absolutely great in and of themselves, many of them are just kind of cheery 70s pop ballads, but context makes all of them so ironic! IT'S AWESOME
- it took me ages to recognize Terrence Mann as Charlemagne, aka Original Javert and Original Chauvelin, but once I did it was kind of hilarious to watch him get murdered by a bright-eyed revolutionary shouting about tyranny
skygiants: Nellie Bly walking a tightrope among the stars (bravely trotted)
Some exciting things:

1. I have a story appearing in an upcoming anthology! This one is a bit more niche than the other, but I know there at least a few of you for whom the words STEAMPUNK SHAKESPEARE are not entirely devoid of interest, in which case you should check out The Omnibus of Dr. Bill Shakes!

My story is basically a bit of Measure for Measure WITH CYBORGS. It is not much like my previous story Granada's Library, except that it's also an exploration of religion involving a steampunk nun, which is now a niche I feel pretty safe in saying I have down. Other aspiring steampunk nun chroniclers: BACK OFF. THIS IS MY TURF.

However if CYBORG MEASURE FOR MEASURE does not sound appealing -- which I do not blame you in the least if it does not, it's a weird play -- you also have Steampunk King Lear, Much Ado About Nothing, Julius Caesar, and Richard III to look forward to, among many others and also sonnets. They're taking pre-orders for the print run (which will be limited) over here, so if you're interested, speak now! (As an author, I also get a 40% discount on the cover price, which brings the hard copy price down to $12, so if you want to work that angle I am totally willing to facilitate that.)

2. And now switching over to my other career: I'm going to be spending the summer interning at Harvard Film Archive processing one of their collections! This is SUPER EXCITING. However it also requires some logistical wiggling, primarily, uh, a place to stay. I was originally supposed to be taking over my brother's lease in the summer, but he went and rented it out from under me, so hey, Bostonians, if any of you know of someone looking to sublet for the months of June and July, give me a heads-up, because I would very much appreciate any leads! I am a great and undemanding roommate, just ask [personal profile] innerbrat and [profile] rushin_doll. (I am also only interning four days a week, so I will probably be zooming back and forth to NYC many weekends.)
skygiants: (wife of bath)
The other day, [ profile] obopolsk and I, having failed in our attempt to land Shakespeare in the Park tickets, decided to expand our outdoor Shakespeare horizons and go check out New York Classical Theater's Henry V in Battery Park. Going in we knew nothing except that at some point the company planned to herd us all onto a ferry to Governor's Island, and . . . not gonna lie, in 90-some-degree heat, a free boat trip sounded really nice.

It turned out to be one of those productions that runs you around after the actors as they do their scenes in different places, which - it was fun! It was really fun! It was also pretty much what [ profile] obopolsk ended up describing as the "Henry V Greatest Hits Exercise Video."

Parts of Henry V that were not, as far as we could tell, included anywhere in this production:
- the Chorus
- any mention of Falstaff
- the entire subplot about the assassination plot on Henry
- the scene with the French princess and her maid
- actually, any female characters at all except the French princess at the very end
- the subplot where Henry disguises himself to hang out with the troops and gets in a fight

Parts of Henry V that were in fact included in this production, some of which may not have been part of the original play:
- all of Henry's famous speeches, occasionally divorced of context
- every scene in which anyone could possibly find an excuse to speak in an outrrrrageous French accent
- every scene involving Comedy Welsh Nationalism
- the scene where the angry soldier with the glove comes looking for the soldier who got in a fight with him, who was actually the disguised Henry - somewhat inexplicably, since the entire rest of that subplot is no longer included
- a number of helpful speeches exhorting us, the audience, to disembark and set forth upon the shores of France upon this bold and noble enterprise IN A POLITE AND ORDERLY FASHION and with fierce mettle upon our countenance etc. etc.

In short, the entire experience was hugely entertaining and felt quite a lot like being in the middle of a Monty Python skit.
skygiants: Clopin from Notre-Dame de Paris throwing his hands up in the air (clopin says wtfever)
Man, believe it or not, I actually get to post about really really good theater today! That being Theater for a New Audience's production of Merchant of Venice, which [ profile] obopolsk and I went to see via magic-four-dollar-tickets last night.

Merchant is definitely not my favorite play - is there anyone whose favorite play it is? I'm really curious about this, actually; I think it's really interesting, but a near-impossible play to love - but this was the kind of production that reminds you why the problem plays are really, really worth it to stage, and overall just some of the best Shakespeare I've seen in a really long time. The attention to detail in the production was just fantastic. Anti-Semitism obviously still takes the main stage, but the direction and the choices deliberately highlighted a lot of the other issues that many productions try to skim over. Some things that impressed me:

- the setting of the play is modern or near-future, and the entire set of Antonio's friends (including Bassanio, Lorenzo and Gratiano) were played as exactly the kind of smarmy status-obsessed financial district fratboys that you run into everywhere in New York. Seriously, I felt like I went to college with some of these guys.
- Nerissa was played by a black actress, and during all the scenes with the Prince of Morocco, it's Nerissa you're watching - and her silent reaction when Portia tosses off her line about "let all of his complexion choose me so" is pretty gutting
- . . . except for the times when you're watching Balthasar's hilarious silent flirtation with the Prince of Morocco's bodyguard. The dude who played Balthasar was a complete scene-stealer, by the way. He had like two lines in the whole play and my eyes were on him every time he was on stage just to appreciate the glory of his patiently long-suffering face. But anyway, I mention that flirtation especially because . . .
- this was definitely a much more explicitly queer production than I expected! I mean, Merchant of Venice is already a textually slashy play, and this production had the slash ramped up to ELEVEN, and the part that really impressed me is how very deliberately they did that, and without making it a joke - Portia's face when Bassanio kisses Antonio during the trial scene packs almost as much of a punch as Nerissa's during the Prince of Morocco scene. The end definitely does not heteronormatize the play, and resolves nothing.
- on a different note, Jessica's actress did a really amazing job of showing her emotional conflict throughout the whole show. You could see the tension in her whenever she was onstage, and none of her scenes with Launcelot were played for comedy.
- Which isn't to say it wasn't a funny production! I was laughing out loud through a lot of it (and not just at Balthasar, although, may I say again: SCENE-STEALER.) But it was funny in the way Merchant should be funny, where the comedy is always balanced on that uncomfortable knife-edge that might slice into you at any moment.
- Okay, this has nothing to do with any serious issues at all, but just in terms of staging, a bunch of the scenes where someone calls in their buddy or partner or whatever and has a conversation with them and then sends them away again were conducted via cell-phone. This is something I've never seen in a modernized Shakespeare before, which in retrospect I find shocking. Why don't more productions do this? It works so well!
- Relatedly, I would like to buy the costume designer a drink. So many excellent details! The fake moustaches! Bassanio's tie! Lorenzo and Jessica standing around awkwardly in bathrobes during the super awkward final scene!

Ahhhh I was going to segue from here into a booklogging post about some plays I have read recently, but it seems I have spent too long talking about Merchant of Venice so I will end it up here and save that post for later. I did not expect to have so many feelings about this play! But basically, I am pretty sure that this production is going to be the one that any other will have to beat, for me - and if you're in NYC and have a free night over the next week or so, I would definitely suggest it is worth your while to check the production out. (It's here until March 13th! You still have time!)
skygiants: Kurai from Angel Sanctuary, giving the finger, with text 'are you there, God?  It's me, Kurai' (unprodigal)
[ profile] rymenhild asked me for my top five feisty cross-dressed girls, because Rym knows me very well and is aware that I collect cross-dressed girl narratives like some people collect stamps. Which, again, makes these decisions very difficult!

Fabulous cross-dressed girls under the cut! )

All right, flist, your turn! Who is your favorite fictional cross-dressed lady? Bonus points if it's one I have not read or seen (because that means I can go hunt it down and make my collection grow. >:D)
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (double meaning)
Most people, I suspect, do not write their autobiographies when they are twenty-eight years old. But apparently 28-year-old Kenneth Branagh, who was trying to start up a theater company and was extremely cash-strapped, is the exception to this rule! Hence Beginnings. I am okay with this because it means I get to read an autobiography of Kenneth Branagh pre-all of Kenneth Branagh's worst life decisions (ex: Love's Labor's Lost, As You Like It, divorcing Emma Thompson.) Also, Phyllida Law, Emma Thompson's awesome mom, drew the pictures!

Okay, here's an embarrassing confession: Kenneth Branagh was totally one of my first celebrity crushes. Look, I was exposed to Much Ado About Nothing at a young age! These things happen! Older and wiser now, I recognize that there is a certain inherent lulziness of Kenneth Branagh's directing-and-acting style - and by the way, is anyone else extremely disappointed that Kenneth Branagh is not taking the starring role in Thor as well as directing? BECAUSE I AM - but I still cannot help but making eyehearts at Benedick and several other Baby Branagh roles. And the Baby Branagh autobiography was actually pretty charming! My favorite parts were probably when he was accused of acting Richard III like a Dalek, his constant grumping about people telling him he has a cherubic baby face/is destined to play policemen, and all the cameos from BRIAN BLESSED, alternately ragging on Branagh's directing style and expounding on how Claudius JUST WANTS TO GET LAID.

Anyway, so then obviously I had to go rewatch Much Ado About Nothing. And maybe take a few screencaps. And . . . well.


80-odd Much Ado icons under the cut! Mostly of various cast members making lulzy faces )
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (eyebrows of inquiry)
Monday of this week saw me exhausted, cranky, and full of sorrow at having to leave Denver and all the amazing people there. Fortunately I happened to have an unread Georgette Heyer novel out from the library waiting for just such a time!

The Convenient Marriage turned out to be one of my less-favorite Heyers, which does not mean it didn't have me cracking up on the subway several times. The first two chapters are actually pretty brilliant, and go like this:

BEAUTIFUL HEROINE: Oh woe is me! The hero has decided to wed, and I must marry him to help my family out of our financial straights! Now I can never be with my TRUE LOVE.
HEROINE'S LITTLE SISTER: Don't worry! I have a PLAN.

HERO: Beautiful Heroine seems very pretty and I expect we'll be very happy.
HEROINE'S LITTLE SISTER: WHY HELLO THERE! I have come SECRETLY to your house to tell you that ACTUALLY I think it would be way more convenient for everyone if you marry me instead.
HERO: . . .
HEROINE'S LITTLE SISTER: I mean, if you are man enough to deal with my enormous Zachary Quinto eyebrows. And the stammer.
HERO: . . . not that this isn't all kind of adorable, but aren't you like twelve?
HEROINE'S LITTLE SISTER: Seventeen! That is totally legit for a Georgian romance. You can have affairs if you want, too, I actually kind of don't care.
HERO: I . . . okay?

HEROINE'S LITTLE SISTER: So actually I'm the heroine of this novel and my beautiful sister will never appear again, is everyone okay with that?

Alas, after this excellent beginning, the plot pretty much revolves around the hero's GREATEST ENEMY trying to create a Big Misunderstanding between our awkwardly married pair while the heroine frets about her husband's old mistress and gets a gambling problem, which as plots go is kind of annoying. (This is not to say that a heavy-eyebrowed, stammering heroine with a gambling problem is not awesome! But that imagined heroine deserves a better plotline than this one, which is about showing her how headstrong she is and how awesome her kind of jerktastic husband is.)

On the other hand, there are also some plot developments of GLORIOUS SPOILERS )

Also, I was totally rooting for the hero's long-suffering secretary, who was way too sane for this novel, to get together with the heroine's long-suffering middle sister, who was way too exasperated for this novel. I actually think the romance novel about them would have been twice as interesting as this one! And we could have kept all the hilarious side characters. And possibly even the wacky highwayman hijinks.

Speaking of romances that would be twice as interesting as the ones we're actually shown: last night I went to go see a production of As You Like It with [ profile] obopolsk. It was a decent if lengthy production (with gorgeous music - I am actually really excited for that company's Tempest now, coming up next, since I suspect they will do a better job with eerie atmospheric than with straight-up comedy) but I came out of it with a desperate desire to know more about Celia and Oliver and their WACKY SURPRISE ROMANCE. Partly this is because that production's Oliver had amazing comic timing and ended up one of my cast favorites, but also, I mean, look, he is a murderous Unspecial Brother on the road to reform! She is the constantly facepalming villain's daughter who is possibly in love with her cousin! I WANT TO SEE HOW THIS HAPPENS.


skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (Default)

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