1. My final post from our week in Ontario ...
2. Last night we saw a full-meal-deal production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Festival's main venue, the (uh) Festival Theater. And it was as wonderful in its way as Peter Sellars' more focused version had been in its way. They began in contemporary times (very contemporary times)--a garden wedding and reception for an interracial gay couple (who sat near the stage the entire production). The players were all guests at the reception--and, once the Shakespeare started, they often directed lines and gestures to the newlyweds. (The actors also played with the audience from time to time--breaking character with one another (intentionally) and seeming to have a wonderful time.)
The fairies were all little children (very well rehearsed ones!), and there were some other changes in this play that the director, Chris Abraham, employed to make it more inclusive. Lysander was a young woman; Puck was an older woman; Hermia's father was a deaf actor, and the players used sign language with him while an interpreter spoke the lines. Two men--Jonathan Goad and Evan Buliung--alternate roles each performance: the fairy king (Oberon) and queen (Titania). We saw Goad in the male role on Friday night, and he, as usual (he's a favorite), was luminous. As was Buliung--and very funny. And Stephen Ouimette, another Stratford all-star, was fall-down funny as Nick Bottom (hard to mess that part up!). Also a terrific performance by Mike Shara (Demetrius), perhaps the best comic actor here. Helena (Liisa Repo-Martell) played an eccentric Helena and was especially good at moments of high dudgeon and emotion--which the script often requires her to produce. (We got to see a cream-pie fight, too.)
They employed, as well, some contemporary music (Bruno Mars) and many other images from today--electronic tablets, smart phones.
Perhaps aware of what Peter Sellars was doing, they did put some bite into some of the lines at times--but the overall effect of it was just an overwhelming joy--and hopefulness. Maybe love will work ... this time?
3. This morning, at Balzac's coffee shop, I found myself in line with Robert King, an actor (usually in character parts) I've long enjoyed up here. We chatted (yes, I'm one of those) about my earliest memories of him, in the 2001 Henry VI (they'd condensed the three plays into two). I bought his coffee, shook his hand. Oh, and when I told him I'd enjoyed his work for years, he said, "Write a letter!" (to management, I presume).
5. Alice was tremendous fun--a surprise every few minutes, the greatest of which was the Humpty Dumpty sequence (though Tweedledee and Tweedledum were a hoot, as well); Humpty sat on a wall (remember?) with long artificial arms (operated by two other actors standing beside him)--and when he fell? He was offstage when that happened, but spilling out onto the stage was a giant egg (well, the interior of one), which cast members came, cut up, plopped into giant frying pans, and hurried offstage. Children in the audience loved the production (they are not good at concealing pleasure!)--especially the part where the cast threw masses of (wrapped) jellybeans into the crowd (we got a few!). And a couple of times, specific children in the audience got to pull long ropes that descended from the ceiling and caused things to happen onstage. Felt like a kid again ...
Lots of Stratford favorites were in the cast--and it's fun to see the same folks who deliver the Bard's lines on one day leaping around the stage in outrageous costumes the next.
6. But the next two shows--the final two of the eleven we will have seen by evening tomorrow--veer back into the darkness: King Lear tonight, Antony and Cleopatra tomorrow afternoon ...