Sunday, March 16, 2008

An Artful Saturday

So Saturday was a full day of theater for me. Catherine and I had a rehearsal in the morning with Nomi Tichman for a play that I'm writing: we're getting it ready for a staged reading on April 28th at Dixon Place. Then the sound and lighting designers for PWP's production of Hector met us at the loft to check out our equipment. I think it probably took poor Ralph longer to pull everything out of the storage area and put it all away again than it did for the designers to pick out the stuff they need—this production is going to be a lean, mean theater machine!

During the afternoon, I went with Nomi and her friend, Lorna, and Catherine to see Dennis Blackwell at the Metropolitan Room, directed by our own ModFab. My hat's off to the guys: it's a beautifully performed, tightly-paced show! Dennis has an amazing voice and sings all of the songs in the set beautifully. What little talk there was between the songs was warm and open: Dennis' natural charm and humor really came across to the audience.  I admired the eclectic song choices for the set: a nice mix of less well-known pieces from musicals and popular songs. When Dennis started in on Sondheim's "Sorry/Grateful" from Company, I realized it had probably been 20 years since I last heard that song!  I know the guys are interested in more opportunities to perform the show, possibly even a tour, and it definitely has a lot of potential for success. I'm looking forward to seeing where they take it from here.

Not surprisingly, a lot of our friends were there, some of whom I hadn't seen in some time. ModFab, of course; Blindsqsuirrel sat at our table with us and it's always good to see and talk with her; FleshPresser with his lovely wife—we all had a great time getting caught up again (hadn't seen them since before their almost-7-year-old was born... and now they have a 2-year-old, too!); and ModFab's MadShag partner, Shannon, whom I adore but barely got to speak to (she's Madrid-bound, so I made a few suggestions of places to visit over lunch). There were also several interesting people I'd never met but thoroughly enjoyed talking with; I hope I'll have an opportunity to see them all again at a future MadShag event.

Catherine, Nomi and I ended the day seeing Kneehigh Theatre's Rapunzel at the New Victory. We'd seen the company's The Bacchae in London, as readers of this blog know, and were really looking forward to seeing another of their productions—we were definitely not disappointed. As in the The Bacchae, the acting was first rate, the actors all played their own instruments (where do you find good actors who also play accordion, mandolin or dulcimer—all of which were used in this production? In Cornwall, obviously...), and the entire evening was swiftly paced and cleverly conceived. The director, Emma Rice, does a first-rate job of making choices that encourage the audience to use its imagination—Rapunzel's tower was a cut out section where the two circular platforms intersected, to which the actors attached ropes from the flies; they then raised the section to create the tower, lowered it as the prince 'climbed' up her hair, then raised it again as he climbed back down. In fact, all of the "theater magic" was done in full view of the audience, which is much more magical to me than the Disney-fied attempts to "make it look like it did in the movie." Topping it all off, the script by Annie Siddons was smart with a very sly sense of humor that frankly surprised me: there may even be more jokes for the adults than there are for the kids. If you have a chance to see their production (it runs here through the 23rd of March), especially if you have children, go: this is theatre for young audiences at it's best.

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