Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Richard Joyrich sends greetings from the Rogue Valley

April 2, 2008

Hi Oberoners,

As a precursor to my attendance at the Concordia Conference in Portland, Oregon (which I report on in due time) I am spending a few days here in Ashland (in the Rogue Valley) at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in order to get myself in the "Shakespeare" mood. I arrived here yesterday (Monday) but didn't do anything except check in to my hotel (the Bard's Inn) and go to sleep.

Today, I had lunch with Earl Showerman (who lives near here) and we only spent about 20-percent of the time discussing the Greek influences on Shakespeare. Yes, Earl is about to present another of his series of presentations on this subject later this week at Portland.

Having the rest of the day free until my 8 p.m. theater (more on this later) I went to that famous spot, the Oregon Vortex and House of Mystery. At this spot, due to the strange orientation of the north-south and east-west magnetic forces known as terra lines, strange phenomenon occur, such as people changing their relative heights when they change places, balls rolling uphill, and brooms being able to balance in a tilted manner. Well, that's the story anyway and if you believe that, I can tell you about this guy from Stratford I know who wrote a bunch of plays.

Actually, it's all optical illusion produced by having the "House of Mystery" on an angle opposite to that of the hill it's on. There are several of these mystery spots around the country, including one in the Irish Hills (southwest part) of Michigan (At least there used to be one there, maybe it's been closed down). It was all quite fun to hear the tour guides "explaining" the phenomenon.

Finally, 8 p.m. came and one of the reasons for my being here began. It was a superb production of Coriolanus in the New Theater (they still haven't given it any other name since it was built in 2002). This is a small theater which for this production was done "in the round" (there are many possible seating arrangements that can be done in this versatile theater). It was very well done (although I think I liked the one done in Stratford a few years ago better and it probably wasn't as good as the one seen by Tom and Rosey in Utah with Jamie Newcomb). We can compare notes later.

Well, it's now time for me to say goodnight. I have two plays to see tomorrow. Signing off from the Pacific Northwest,


April 3, 2008

I have finished my second day of theater-going here in Ashland, Oregon. Today I saw two plays. The first was The Clay Cart by Sudraka. This is from the Sanskrit drama tradition of ancient India (written around the Fifth Century). I must confess that I had not even heard of this drama tradition (due to my Western upbringing, I suppose). The production was very good with all kinds of music and dance and beautiful costuming.

The drama is a romantic comedy, but with political aspects as well. The playwright actually makes some fun of the Hindu caste system and at a time when this system was a complete part of Indian culture. This is akin to Elizabethan authors making fun of Protestants and Catholics.In fact, there are some interesting parallels between Shakespeare and Sudraka. The Clay Cart's plot is full of mistaken identities, temporarily stolen objects, "nobles" (Brahmins, some of who do not act very noble), "commoners" (lower castes and untouchables), and the "resurrection" of a woman thought to be dead. The plot could fit in well with the comedies of Shakespeare.

In addition, almost nothing is known of the life of Sudraka, just what was said of his work by others (sound familiar?). Anyway, I'm glad I got to experience this play.The evening play was A Midsummer Night's Dream, which I have probably seen more often than any other play by Shakespeare. I have to admit that I am getting a little tired of it. This particular production was set in Baghdad in the Fifth Century . . . (Oh, wait, that was the PREVIOUS time I saw the play; these productions tend to run together in my mind.)

Actually this current production was probably the craziest one I ever saw. Psychadelic and campy are words that come to mind, as does "What was THAT?" It was quite fun, but still a little hard to take. I can't even tell you what kind of setting it had. Theseus and Hippolyta's court was like something out of The Sopranos, complete with New Jersey accents.

The lovers were dressed rather like we would do today, but kept losing their clothes piece by piece in the woods (with the fairies stealing them) until they were basically just in underwear and nightgowns. The fairies were all men dressed up like something out of Rocky Horror Picture Show, but with tutus in addition to sheer body-stockings and pantyhose. Oberon and Titania were dressed in strange clothes that I guess were to evoke nature and other worldliness.

The rude mechanicals were straight out of the 60s and 70s with bellbottoms and hippie attire. They even came on stage in a real VW minibus which was painted purple with brightly colored flowers all over it. The music was a mixture of oldies, disco, techno, and rap (in which Puck gave his final epilogue speech). The set design included neon stars, bright lights, a disco ball, and strange metallic towers that Oberon and the fairies could climb on.I'll certainly remember this one for a long time (even if I undergo serious psychotherapy).

Well, that's all I can write now. I have to get up early tomorrow to travel on to Portland for the Concordia Conference (which I will report on as well).

Richard Joyrich

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