Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Stratford Sundries, 2016-3

Stratford (Ont.) City Hall
August 1, 2016 (evening)
1. Last night, after supper at our favorite little supper place (the York Street Kitchen—a place nearly as small as our own wee kitchen at home) we rested a bit, then a short walk down to the Studio Theatre, where we saw a brand-new production (on its first preview performance, too!) of The Aeneid, a re-imagined version of the epic story of Aeneas’ escape from the fires of Troy, his adventures and losses and gains, his visit to the underworld, his founding of what would become Rome. (Thank you, Dr. Charles F. McKinley, for assigning this in Masterpieces of World Literature I, Hiram College, early 1960s.)

Studio Theatre
But in this version there are many different characters, telephones, immigration officials, wealthy people enjoying island resort holidays, and so on. And Aeneas is leading not the survivors of Troy but those driven by war from an unnamed homeland. Refugees. And generally unwanted immigrants.

The adapter of the story (Olivier Kemeid) is very explicit at times—naming names of peoples on the move (oh, there are a lot these days, aren’t there?)—and showing with a startling harshness the conditions of frightened human beings on the run, of the smug temporizing of those who are settled and secure and who have the power—and the means—to help. But generally don’t.

There is no romanticizing here, either. There are “bad guys” on both sides of the fences, the walls. And the fighting Aeneas does is far from heroic—well, only insofar as survival is heroism. Which, of course, it often is.

Aeneas was played by a Stratford regular (the talented Gareth Potter), but most of the others were fairly new arrivals on the scene—and there was talent everywhere, with many in the cast playing multiple parts. I especially liked Seamer Usmani (Achates)--power, power, power.

Cast members played the parts of the ocean, of waves, of office furniture (!), of demons and others in the underworld, and other things, and, as a result, the production was very physically demanding for the (mostly) young cast. Lots of perspiration and heavy breathing by curtain-and-bows (though the Studio employs no curtains).

I liked, too, the rainbow colors of the cast—a reminder that expulsion and immigration are not limited to a single band of that rainbow but exist all across its hues.

I did feel the show was somewhat over-long and that a pair of scissors would have been useful during the early readings of the script.

2. I made a mistake in yesterday’s post (actually, mistakeS): We will see the conclusion of Breath of Kings this afternoon (not yesterday evening), and that production (Breath) compresses four, not three, plays into two. Yesterday it was Richard II and Henry IV, Part One; today, it’s Henry IV, Part Two and Henry V. These four collectively are sometimes called The Henriad.

And tonight, it’s A Chorus Line—quite a change from medieval kings, from the greatest poetry that ever flowed from a human being.

3. This morning—our usual: Coffee Culture for breakfast, chat, reading; Balzac’s Coffee (for more chat and reading and sipping), then back to the room for a little rest and lunch (fruit-and-yogurt parfaits, a sourdough muffin from home) before walking back down to the Tom Patterson Theatre to watch the fates of kings, of Falstaff, of geopolitics, of … us.

6 p.m.

1. This afternoon we saw, as I said, the conclusion of The Breath of Kings: Redemption (the first part is subtitled Rebellion), and it was also very, very strong. We see the death of Henry IV, the ascension of Henry V, the fall of Falstaff (and his offstage death), the Battle of Agincourt, Henry's quick courtship of the French princess Katherine, who in the production also played her brother, the Dauphin! While she was onstage, she tore off the man's costume, and the woman's fell into place (jaw-droppingly cool!). Henry V, played by the young actor Araya Mengesha did fine--and can only get better with age and experience--quite a task, playing in the two parts of Henry IV + Henry V in a 24-hour period!

Henry V at Agincourt,
delivering the St. Crispin's Day speech--
link to that famous speech

In the round ("oval," as I noted yesterday), the stage had a platform over its entire surface, pieces of which they'd lift off from time to time to suggest a grave, a basement, or (near the end, at Agincourt) the disarray of war (many big pieces were scattered about by the end).

Soon, we'll be heading down to the Festival Theatre (the "big" venue) for the first time this year--about a mile's walk each way--to see A Chorus Line, the first time either of us has seen this production. I'm sure we'll dance and high kick all the way back to our room ...

2. Out on the street today, an older man (apparently much older than I) stopped us. I wondered: Am I going to hear an Ides-of-March warning now? But no: He told us a joke:

Wife to Husband: Do you know what I just saw on the television?

Husband to Wife: Dust?

The Soothsayer cackled and moved on.

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