Monday, September 9, 2013

Shakespearean swan song of summer

I've been on kind of a posting-once-a-week kick for the last month or so. I stopped having the excuse of writing about Nazis a while ago, but I imagine I'm just going through a blog funk. I'm hopeful things will pick up soon, but in the meantime, I'll try to post a little more often. Ideally with interesting things, which shouldn't be too hard because fall is one of my favorite seasons, and tends to lend itself to the doing of interesting things. I had a fun weekend of brunching and dinnering and birthday partying that pretty much amounted to seeing everyone I know. But that's not terribly interesting to talk about. Instead, I'll just mention what I did on Friday: a final Shakespeare in the Park appearance.
Normally the Public Theater puts on two Shakespeare plays each year during the summer. I've seen both plays for the last three years because of my inherent cheapness and willingness to stand in long lines for free theater. This year, I yet again saw both productions and was impressed by the traditional version of The Comedy of Errors and kind of underwhelmed by the modernized, musical version of Love's Labours Lost. When I heard they were doing a new production for one weekend only in the fall (this past weekend) that was a musical version of The Tempest, I was intrigued, if a little wary. Still it sounded like a cool production, and I didn't want to break my Shakespeare in the Park streak. Instead of the Public Theater, this was put on by their outreach program Public Works. In addition to professional actors, the program incorporates regular people, dancers, singers, and community groups from all over the city. It's intended to create a theatrical experience that is at once created by and created for the people of the city. Apparently in 1918, there was a community based version of The Tempest done in New York City on which the Public Works modeled their project. I liked the concept, but I wasn't sure how it would all play out.
As luck would have it, it was a gorgeous day on Friday, so a few friends and I figured we would try the standby line. After all, the worst case scenario to not getting tickets was a beautiful day in Central Park which isn't too great a burden. We ended up getting tickets though, which was even luckier because it was one of the coolest productions I've ever seen at Delacourt Theater. Interestingly, I've yet to see a normal production of The Tempest. The only time I've seen it staged previously was when I was studying abroad in South Africa and my friend in the theater department dragged me to their production. I remember it being very  artfully done, and with a lot more nudity than I would have expected, but the entire thing was in Afrikaans, and I lost sight of the plot pretty early on. The Public Works version followed the story, but also treated it as a frame story to allow for some pretty amazing dance and choral performances throughout (as elements of 'magic' on the island). I must say I'm very humbled by how many talented people there was in this city, especially children. There were taiko drummers (especially cool because I have a friend who does that but have never actually seen them perform), Mexican folk dancers, hip hop dancers, a large gospel choir, a gypsy band, ballet dancers, three taxi drivers, a bubble artist, and a sign language interpreter. The acting was pretty good too, but the rest of the people really stole the show. Also, for this production, turning it into a musical with newly written songs really worked. It was everything Love's Labour Lost tried to do but fell short of, in my opinion. The songs really added something instead of just feeling tacked on.

Performances like this one are one of the reasons I almost can make peace with paying as much rent as I do to live here. I don't tend to rhapsodize too much about this city (or maybe I do and I'm just not aware of it), but things like this really are what makes living in a large metropolitan area worth it. Then again, I could pay way less to live in a large metropolitan area like Cleveland or Houston, and I'm sure their public theater is very nice too, so best not to dwell on the rent thing.

Now I'll just have to remember this one for a while. Until next summer, I guess I'm mostly back to having to pay for things like theater. 


  1. Sounds like a really neat event. Yes, you're making all of us out in the hinterland jealous.

    I'm commenting because I want to encourage you to write more often. Also, I just again noticed that funny picture of Dinah in the last post. She is so foreshortened that it looks like some other cat's tiny legs behind her.

  2. Thanks! Comments definitely encourage the writing process. And I love her little feet sticking up--it's why I chose that one of the many other (also adorable) options.