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I saw Kenneth Branagh as Judd in Another Country about a month into its original run. I've seen many of his productions whether he's been director, actor, or both. One of the things which strikes me is his casting. Sometimes he takes risks that don't work out; I'd count Keanu Reeves as Don John in Much Ado About Nothing as one of those, but bless them both for trying it.

The May-June production at the Garrick Theatre will be Romeo and Juliet. I did not get to see the production Branagh directed and starred in with Samantha Bond as his Juliet. The Mercutio was, from what I've been able to tell, a RADA classmate of his, so Romeo and Mercutio were of an age.

Most of the productions I've seen, Mercutio's usually a little bit older than Romeo, say five years-ish.

Derek Jacobi will be playing Mercutio in the new production. (Richard Madden who plays Prince Kit in the live-action Cinderella is playing Romeo and in Cinderella Jacobi plays his father the King.) Since Jacobi has played Branagh's father at least once, and Branagh joked about being old enough to be the father to his actors in Cinderella, this is a very interesting casting choice.

Part of me can feel the hair on my neck rising just thinking about the Mercutio/Tybalt fight, especially if Tybalt is kept about Juliet's age.

Damn, I wish I had enough money to see this live.
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This past weekend I went to New York to see A View from the Bridge (link goes to New York Times review). I'll be seeing it again in February with [livejournal.com profile] elainasaunt, but bought this ticket when it looked like we wouldn't be able to meet up. The production is overwhelming, stunning. Nicola Walker is fierce and loving as Beatrice. As for Mark Strong, there are really no words.

I spent the bulk of the weekend watering my roots. I went to the Guggenheim on Friday, after a brief walk in Central Park (and may I say how wonderful it is to say that I "took a walk" even if it is merely a brief one?). I found that very little of the collection was on view as the rotunda had been given over to a special exhibition, but the Kandinsky's were marvelous. The building itself is stunning, but it really is a terrible place to hang art and have people look at it.

The Met was Saturday. The one thing I really miss in DC is classical sculpture. I glutted myself on Greek and Roman sculpture and then visited the Egyptians. I also saw some lovely Japanese Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, the Rodins, and some of the Impressionists. The building isn't easy to navigate on a cane, the elevators aren't always placed optimally, and I got off one elevator to be faced with four steps down to the gallery. I have no idea what someone in a wheelchair would do.

Sunday, I went to the Frick Collection. I was positive that I'd been on some past visit to New York, but, no, the collection was new to me. It was lovely. I found that I could tell a Van Eyck at ten paces as well as Holbein, Memling, Gainsborough, El Greco (he's easy), Constable, and Romney. I didn't do well with Van Dyck however.

It was Turner, though, that brought the oddest experience. There were three in one room and another near the little gallery with Sevres porcelain. That was a small seascape which didn't immediately leap out and announce it was a Turner. Two were to the left as I went into the long room from the oval room, one of Dieppe Harbor and one of Calais. They were both astonishing and easily marked as Turner's even from a distance. There was a third Turner facing them, again, easily distinguished as a Turner. The painting drew me and I found myself in tears standing in front of it. I have been awed and touched by art, but this experience was totally new to me. I can't explain it. The painting turns out to have been a Rhein landing in Koln, but I don't have a real link to that city -- other than having my passport pickpocketed there many years ago.

Cologne: The Arrival of a Packet-Boat: Evening

The entire collection was a fascinating view into the tastes of two people. I want to go back again.

eta: There are very few fully documented Vermeers. One was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum 20 years ago. Three are in the National Gallery of Art here in the District. Several are in the Rijksmuseum or Mauritshuis, and the Queen of England owns at least one, per Tim's Vermeer. The Frick Collection also had three Vermeers, which is one more than the British National Gallery has.

I hope everyone else had lovely New Years to start 2016 off right.
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It was on April 3 and it was a great day, well worth taking the time off. There were several fascinating talks, but the two pieces which gripped me by the throat and held me were The DC Youth Poetry Slam Team and singer-songwriter Be Steadwell. Steadwell's song had me in tears, and I do not cry easily at theater.

I wish these had been up sooner. More will be added, probably in separate posts.
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Last night, I dragged [livejournal.com profile] neotoma to Shakespeare Theatre to see Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge. I admit, I'm not a huge fan of Miller. Who I am a huge (rabid?) fan of is Mark Strong who was playing Eddie.

The production was directed by Ivo van Hove who, with his production designer, stripped the play to its bare bones. It also stripped it to its bare feet. Shoes are only worn twice: once by Catherine, the 17 year old who is trying to impress a boy, and the lawyer who narrates wears them until he becomes a character in the play. Among other things, this facilitates characters entering quietly without the other characters seeing them; it also emphasizes the domesticity of this particular tragedy.

Filmed plays can be a problem. I'm enjoying the NTLive productions, but I always feel a slight distance. The greatest actors I've seen live (Alan Cumming in his one-man MacBeth, Kenneth Branagh in just about anything, Derek Jacobi as Cyrano de Bergerac, Vanessa Redgrave in just about anything, Tom Wilkinson in An Enemy of the People) are able to make a nearly physical connection with the audience. The audience dynamic becomes part of the experience and on some nights creates a wave of emotion (remember, I'm an NF. I'm big on the feels.) which sweep through and leave the inner person bare -- even if just for a moment. I can recognize how bloody good Cumberbatch was in Frankenstein, but I can't grab the connection the same way.

This particular filmed play made an interesting choice, not one I've seen with the other NTLive productions. In several instances, rather than having the camera focus on the character or characters speaking, the camera focused on the character affected by either the actions or the dialogue. In many cases, that character was Eddie, but it wasn't exclusively him (it was a star turn, but not because of the camera work). This made it far more like the way I tend to watch plays. The speaker is important, but the person spoken to -- or overhearing the dialogue -- can be the person whose reaction matters to the overall scheme of the play. By making this focus choice, I felt at several points like I could almost touch the connection I craved.

Nicola Walker -- an actress I've found bland when I've seen her in TV series -- was excellent. Her character can come across as either shrewish or beaten down, but Walker gave her presence and warmth. Michael Gould played the lawyer, Alfieri, and, other than an occasionally wandering accent (Brooklyn by way of Golders Green), provided quiet insight and commentary on the action, even when he wasn't speaking. The two brothers from Sicily, Emun Elliot (Marco) and Luke Norris (Rudolpho), could have underplayed a little more; each at different times came across a little over the top. The weakest actor for me was Phoebe Fox who played Catherine, partially due to wandering accent, partially because she lacked the sense of presence the other actors had.

Mark Strong won this year's Olivier Award for Best Actor. He used stillness beautifully. (Legend has it that Noel Coward once told a young Method actor "Don't just do something: stand there.") It pulled the audience toward him and made Eddie more sympathetic in spite of the flaws which make him the tragic protagonist. Eddie is definitely a character who doesn't know himself, doesn't comprehend his own emotions or motivations, and through that ignorance brings down hell.

This was wonderful.
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[Error: unknown template qotd]I live in Washington, DC which means there's no way anyone can see everything in 24 hours. The key thing is to ask what they want, or know their personalities well enough, to focus on a particular area.

The one thing I would do is make certain we saw the Mall at night whether on foot, by bus, or in a cab. The buildings are beautiful at night, and it's the one thing I remember my parents doing for guests in my childhood. Of course, in those days you could get closer to the Lincoln Memorial at night in a car.

If they leave the decision up to me, we'll spend most of our day at either several of the museums (with lunch at the Museum of the American Indian -- Mititsam is delicious and has several vegetarian options) or going through the Capitol and the Library of Congress (with possibly the Supreme Court added in).

Whenever possible, I'd include a theatrical performance, either the Shakespeare Theatre, Synetic Theater, or something at the Kennedy Center -- usually dance if it's my choice.
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The NTLive Frankenstein is being reshown on Halloween. I already have tickets for me, a work friend, and her teenaged daughter (Friend says I'm the daughter's real mother, she just carried her, because daughter and I have such similar outlooks.) I'm doing a happy dance in my seat.

I don't know which actor is playing which role and I really, really wish they were showing both versions.
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Earlier on the day I got my diagnosis, I bought season tickets for this year's contemporary dance season at the Kennedy Center. My first ticket was in mid-September, but I was still recovering from the surgery and there were horrible thunderstorms, so I made the decision to miss it. Based on the review in The Washington Post the next day, it was probably wise. People left early because the work was so bleak.

Hubbard Street Dance is a small company which presented four pieces. None of the music, with the exception of the shortest piece, was particularly memorable. The dancers were marvelous, but the choreographic vocabulary seemed very limited for the first two pieces (Little mortal jump and Fluence). In fact, for these two, the stage was grey, the floor was grey, and the costumes were grey. There were some interesting visual effects in the first one -- a soloist leaping forward and disappearing over the edge of the stage as another dancer leapt up onto a wall at the back of the stage created the illusion of continuous movement, for instance. There was a pas-de-deux that began with the dancers being stuck to velcro walls, too.

Fluence explored romance including a male/male pas-de-deux that was gentle and touching.

The third piece, PACOPEPELUTO, a seven minute series of solos (with a couple of peek-in moments from the other soloists), used flesh-toned (and, yes, I mean toned to the color of the dancer's skin) dance belts as the only costumes which surprised the teenagers to my right. They thought they were seeing nudity at first and were very titillated. The music for this one was 50s pop songs sung by Dean Martin.

All of the pieces had a great deal of energy; the series of solos was witty and fun.

The final piece, Casi-Casa, was originally choreographed for a group in Havana, Cuba. Hubbard Street, according to the program, made changes to it and added some incidental material. This piece had color in the costumes, though, with two exceptions, the colors were very subdued. The overall intent seemed to be a commentary on modern life beginning with a man watching and interacting with a television. The props were minimal, but used to good effect, especially the "vacuum cleaners" used by the women in one section. This segment combined Irish step dancing, references to Scottish sword dances, and the daily drudgery of cleaning with the implication that the women were professional cleaners.

I think it was a mistake to have the short, funny piece before this one. One segment was a pas-de-deux about a break-up. There were titters of laughter in places, and a big laugh from much of the audience when the woman opens the oven and slams down the item she's been cooking. It's a baby (a doll, of course), but she walks off and the man is left in anguish. Had the funny item not been immediately before, I think the audience would have paid more attention to the emotional tone.

I loved the dancing. The dancers moved beautifully, but I was very aware that there was only one person of color in the group, Jessica Tong, whose movement drew my eye even when she was not the intended focus.
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Two Yuletides ago, I wrote A Cold Spring Evening in Southwark. In it, I had Shakespeare claiming to have co-written Arden of Fabersham one of the long disputed plays. Now, in fairness, I had him co-write it with Kit Marlowe, but I'm still chuckling gleefully over an Observer article which says Arden of Faversham will be included in a new book co-edited by the The Royal Shakespeare Company as a collaboration between Shakespeare and Thomas Kyd.

So, the one disputed play I have long thought to be a Shakespeare play (I read Arden when I was in college), is being considered -- all right, only by some people and in a really limited sense -- part of canon. I am vindicated! *giggle*


Oct. 12th, 2013 09:38 am
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Went to see Velocity DC with [livejournal.com profile] neotoma last night. It was a terrific smorgasbord of samples (or maybe I should use tapas as an example since I enjoyed the flamenco so much) from lots of small local dance companies. The first piece, using black light and suspension harnesses, was a terrific opener. While they revised the stage, a local hand-dance group came out and performed. Hand-dance is the DC equivalent to West Coast Swing, East Coast Swing, or Ceroc. They even showed us variations like birding and skating which were fun to see. The "pre-professional" group at the end were very high energy and quite beautiful dancers. In between, there were only a couple of dances that didn't grab me and make me smile.

We ate at Ping-Pong first. So I guess the analogy above should have been dim-sum.
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I didn't do as much as I'd hoped.

Missed the Empire State Building )


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