Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Ghost of Christmas Present

Three posts are in order on fourteen (14) years of history with A Christmas Carol for Two Actors. At Richmond Shakespeare, we’ve loved theatre of the imagination, storytelling, and the craft and profession of acting. Performing this story of an old miser presented with a last chance at reclamation every year has certainly been a labor of love, and it’s thrilling to see veterans and “newbies” in the audience. The veterans always amaze me; by now they know the piece almost as well as we. I think they partly love watching the reaction of newbies, and the return to a familiar piece--- yielding new insights every year---that makes the trip worthwhile.

Many of you know I began performing the story as a solo show for family and friends in 1996.

In 1998, the first year of this two-actor adaptation, Cynde and I opened the show for a rural bank Christmas party in far southwest Virginia. It was a longer show then; admittedly we were still working out the kinks. I was panicky--- forgetting the ever-present, and ever-vital, “Scrooge glasses” in the dressing room. (Much of the story centers on what he can---and cannot---see.) In fact, apart from a couple of experimental years it’s been the same pair of glasses and has always been the same outer-coat: it was donated by Trustee Rita Mattia.). I don’t know if the character exists without that coat.

 Some weren't---but some of the bankers were a bit tipsy, and for a Christmas party, this longer version (which we weren’t sure would work), was all a bit much.

But it's the nearly disastrous transition Cynde never lets me forget.

Picture a raised platform in a large conference room, wider by far than it was deep. Dinner all around on three sides, and we’d just finished with the Ghost of Christmas Past. The transition language is quite similar, and maybe I didn’t quite have it down just yet:
“Scrooge glanced about him for the ghost, but saw it not, and then, as the last strokes of twelve ceased to vibrate, lifted up his eyes, and beheld-----“

From some early days, with Liffick, '02

Cynde’s voice echoed from behind me “Come in, Ebenezer!! Come in and know me better, man!” (It was her next line, I’d nearly skipped the entirety of Christmas Present.) “A solemn phantom” follows the line above, and the draped and hooded Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, itself as clearly an image of the Grim Reaper, Charon, take your pick, glides into the room and finishes the appearance of Spirits influencing Scrooge.

She'd made a great save, and for once I instantly knew what she meant, switching into
“the room was filled with a ghostly light that seemed to come from the adjoining room…”

We learned quite a bit that night, and apart from the glasses and the near time-travel skip of the here and now, the audience was kind and seemed to enjoy themselves.
Next time: perhaps I’ll describe touring the show to the wild winter of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, or Scrooge in a private Carriage House---in front of a roaring fire, complete with pig on a rotating spit.

Both, however, are stories from Christmases Past, (Click the title label below for older posts on this show) and I’m now thinking very much about Christmas Present. To you and yours, Merry Christmas----we hope you can join us at one of the three final performances, but if not, fond wishes for a happy holiday.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Audition Turnout Challenge!

Hello Friends & Colleagues,
"I feel the need.  The need for Speed!!"   
No, not Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards in Top Gun----nor Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves and Dennis Hopper in...well, Speed.  No, "SPEED" is one of the great clowns in Shakespeare's arsenal, exceeded only by his counterpart in Two Gentlemen of Verona, Launce---with a live dog to steal the scene.

They're the stuff of comic legend.  And we need 'em!

The play bears some of the richest linguistic fruit an actor will speak, and an audience will devour in a year.....
O, how this spring of love resembleth
The uncertain glory of an April day,
Which now shows all the beauty of the sun,
And by and by a cloud takes all away!


What light is light, if Silvia be not seen?
What joy is joy, if Silvia be not by?
Unless it be to think that she is by,
And feed upon the shadow of perfection.
Except I be by Silvia in the night,
There is no music in the nightingale;
Unless I look on Silvia in the day,
There is no day for me to look upon;

In order for director Molly Hood to have a great turnout for this coming weekend's auditions on Two Gentlemen of Verona, our goal is for her to see 125 people; we're on our way, but we could use your help. To reserve a slot, they e-mail or phone 804-232-4000.

May I ask you to please share the
Facebook event?

We need great women in the show, every bit as much as we need men-------However, do please think of 
men, especially, with whom you'd like to work, see on stage, or whom you think would enjoy summer at Agecroft.

Molly has a particularly terrific direction in which to take the show, and it's going to be a real treat for the summer.  Most of you know how exquisite it is to do perform---or see a show as part of the
Richmond Shakespeare Festival at Agecroft Hall.

Finally, please do invite several friends to the audition, tweet it----and ask friends to share it on their walls and/or tweet.  FB has recently made it difficult to invite a large group at a time, so I am asking for you to help.  The aud's are this Sat and Sun, April 9 & 10 during convenient actor hours.  Can't go Sat?  go Sunday 1230-430.    Can't make the weekend?  Join us at callbacks Wed night, April 13.  Do make an appointment.

Full audition notice is below, and of course is on the RS

Thank you,

Grant Mudge
Artistic Director
Richmond Shakespeare

Friday, March 25, 2011

Changing How Young We Teach Shakespeare

We often post advisories about plays: good for all audiences, good for children aged 10 & up, or good for children aged 13 & up, "adult language" advisories, etc.  But it's almost always above age 7.   Children aged five have loved the plays, but we hardly think of them speaking the text.  So too, in Richmond Shakespeare's Education offerings, we often start at 5th grade (age 10), 4th grade (age 9), and occasionally even younger, but over the two+ decades of the company's existence, these age groupings were pretty well set.  

Max Cole may have changed how we think about kids and Shakespeare.  Now it's true, Max's parents are both associate artists with the company, between them they've performed Beatrice, Romeo, Iago, Hamlet, Princess Katherine and this summer Max's Mom will be a daughter of King Lear.  But take a look at Max's work on the Romeo & Juliet prologue and tell us your thoughts.  Here's a link to Mom Sarah's blog about preparing Max to see the show---they talked about its violence and (eek) the kissing---Dad Jeff was Romeo---but Max's own interest and enthusiasm led to learning the prologue.   Heck, he only calls for line twice.  Have a great weekend, and send us your thoughts!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

R&J Acts of Faith Discussion - THIS SAT (2/19/11)

Rev. Donna Holder
For Richmond Shakes' AOF discussion this year, following Saturday evening's show (2/19), we're prvilieged to host Donna Holder, Pastor of Westover Hills UMC, and Dr. Craig Kinsley, professor of Psychology (neurobiology and neurochemistry, among other things!) at UR.  Pastor Holder will focus on the interaction the young lovers have with the church, God, sin and the afterlife----as well as the recent theory likening Juliet to Jesus and Romeo to the Roman Catholic Church. 

Dr. Kinsley will tell us about the areas of the brain that light up when we're thinking about religion or God.  Both fascinate me greatly.

Dr. Criag Kinsley
Finally, I'll likely chime in on Shakespeare's references to fate, fortune and the stars---they're "star-crossed lovers," after all.  And, you'll have a chance to meet and interact with members of the acting company. I hope you'll join us for the production and for this discussion, which is sure to be a lively one.

-Grant Mudge