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Category Archives: drama

The Book of Will

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What a fun play! Written by Lauren Gunderson, The Book of Will at the Northlight Theater till December 17th tells the story of how without the effort of his friends, we wouldn’t have an authentic collection of William Shakespeare’s plays. In 1620 after Will had passed on, his friends were fed up with bad Shakespearean plays. Some were bad versions patched up with garbled versions of the plays made from copyists in the audience who tried to take down everything that was said. Some were just plays written by hacks who tried to copy Shakespeare’s style.

The play begins in a pub near The Globe theater where three of Shakespeare’s friends Richard Burbage, John Heminges, Henry Condell, actors from the King’s Men’s troupe and Condell’s daughter Elizabeth bemoan the horrible fakery that passes for Shakespeare. When Burbage dies suddenly they realize the only chance for passing these masterpiece plays down to posterity is to collect and publish a folio. It’s an expensive undertaking that is complicated by the lack of a full set of originals. A few plays are here, another bunch are with a scrivener, most actors only got their part, not the full play so some had to be carefully put together. No respectable printer wanted to touch the project so Heminges and Condell had to settle for a slimy, greedy cheat.

The play is delightful as it weaves memorable passaged of the Bard’s work throughout the story, which is well paced. The characters include Shakespeare’s wife, daughter and mistress, and Heminges’ and Condell’s wives and and so there is some female influence supporting the impossible project. The Northlight’s set and costumes were perfect. I’m tempted to go again.

What’s great about the Northlight is free parking and every seat has a clear view.

Now I want to visit the Newberry Library and see the First Folio in person.

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The Jungle

Friday I saw a marvelous play adapted from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. Staged by the Oracle Theater, a cast of about a dozen actors brought the meat packing industry and Chicago slums to life. While The Jungle’s most known for exposing the terrors of the food industry, the book and the play both reveal how immigrants were swindled through bad real estate brokers and others trying to make a quick buck.

How on earth would you depict the slaughter of cows in a tiny theater? Or a big one for that matter. The Oracle did this with amazing creativity using large rolls of butcher paper, ink and woodblocks to imprint the cows before the audience. The paper also served as a screen to project the waves of Lake Michigan or a canvas for painting the bars of a prison.

The show offers much more than ingenious stagecraft. Every performer gave a compelling performance which featured lots of singing.

As if a good play isn’t enough, the price is outstanding. The play was free. The Oracle Theater models its finance on public radio where subscribers donate what they can on a monthly basis. If you can’t pay, that’s fine as The Oracle wants everyone to be able to see a good play.

I do hope they succeed and are around for years to come.

Tickets are available at publicaccesstheatre.org. Street parking is readily available.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2014 in drama

 

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The Paradise

Denise at The Paradise

Country girl, Denise Lovette comes to the big city hoping to work for her uncle. His dressmaking business is struggling as the competition from the shining, novel department store The Paradise has captured his old customers. Despite her uncle’s disappointment, Denise takes a job at the only store hiring, The Paradise. Soon she’s in her element, an elegant women’s department headed by Miss Audrey with new colleagues, some friendly and others envious and vengeful. What keeps Denise going is the world of fashion and commerce. She’s a natural marketer. Ideas on boosting sales come to her in torrents.

Moray and Katerine

Moray and Katerine

The Paradise is owned by John Moray, a widower who’s courting Katherine, a wealthy, spoiled banker’s daughter. Moray’s wife died under suspicious circumstances, known only to an equally suspicious character who lurks in the corners of The Paradise noting secrets in his little black book. Moray and Katherine’s rocky relationship is further disrupted by Denise, whose beauty, loyalty, innocence and sales acumen are mighty attractive.

Denise and rival Clara

I highly recommend this series, which you can watch on PBS.org till December 17th. It’ll tide you over till the January premiere of Downton Abbey‘s 5th season. I’m caught up in the store and the complexities of the era. The series begins in 1875 or so and shows the excitement of new businesses popping up along with new opportunities for women in the work world. It also shows the downside, how dedicated craftsmen must fit to survive. It’s a Darwinian competition draped in silk and lace.

I plan to read Emil Zola’s The Ladies’ Paradise as soon as I get back to the states. Evidently, the BBC’s adaptation whitewashes some of the real problems, economic and social, for workers at this time. Since I’m an Upton Sinclair fan, I’ll probably enjoy the darker novel.

Related

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2013 in classic, drama, Masterpiece Theater

 

Goethe’s Faust, Part 1

My online book club’s October pick was Faust, Part 1 by Goethe. While I liked the poetry of the play, I found it made me read too fast. The rhythm pulled me swiftly along, and pages would go by, before I realized I hadn’t remembered what had happened.

Faust is the traditional story of a scholar who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for success in this life. The bargain soon turns out to be horrid. Faust gets to seduce Margaret (sometimes called Gretchen), but she gets pregnant and since she lives in a society that will exact punishment for that transgression, she drowns the baby. Every favor turns out horrible for Faust.

I read that Goethe was influenced in part by the Book of Job. He takes the bet between Satan and God in a different direction, but it’s quite dramatic. The play ventures into that dark realm that’s I’d say next door to the horror genre, a genre I don’t like at all. So I found the play masterfully written, but I didn’t get into the story and doubt I’d return to it. Still it is worth reading.

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2012 in classic, drama, World Lit

 

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My Responses to the Citizen Reader 2011 Survey

1. What is your age (ranges okay) and gender?

45-54, F

2. Please estimate the percentage of both fiction and nonfiction you read, totalling 100% (e.g., “10% fiction and 90% nonfiction,” or “100% fiction, 0% nonfiction”). If the only nonfiction books you read are purely reference works like cookbooks and how-tos, please indicate 100% fiction, but add “and reference NF.”

25% Nonfiction, 75% Fiction

3. How many books do you read per month?

Used to be a few, 4 perhaps, now it’s one play and a fragment. It’s so chaotic here, I have a kind of ADHD thing going on.

4. Name three formats in which you read, from greatest to least (e.g. “print books, audio books, e-books,” where the format you read most often is print books).

print books, print books, print books

5. Name the three primary ways, in any order, in which you find reading materials. You may speak broadly (“blogs” or “personal recommendations”) or specifically (“Bookslut blog” or “my sister’s suggestions”).

General list of classics that resides in my head, my book club, NPR

6. Please list three words that most describe why you read (e.g. “comfort, education, escapism”).

Inspiration, knowledge, stimulation

7. Do you buy or borrow most of your reading material?

borrow

8. Would you say you have less time, more time, or about the same amount of time to read as you have had in the past? If less or more, why (briefly)?

A lot less. As I’ve mentioned above, I’ve moved to a very hectic, ADHD inducing culture. There’s a frantic pace and a constant noise from the construction. I just can’t concentrate.

9. Please list your five favorite “genres,” (nonfiction included) using whatever names you call them by. Please also list your favorite title in each genre.

Classic fiction – Pride and Prejudice tied with The Adventures of Augie March, philosophy – The Enchiridion, humor – Anne Lamott‘s work, travel writing – anthologies, spiritual – currently Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard

10. What was the best book you read in 2011? The worst? (READ in 2011; not necessarily published in 2011.)

Worst – Peer Gynt, I generally put down a book I really don’t like
Best – Hmmm, Brideshead Revisited

And I think we’ll stop there. There’s so much more I want to ask but I’ll wait until next year.

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2011 in American Lit, British Lit, Children's Lit, classic, contemporary, drama

 

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The Man Who Had All the Luck

The Man Who Had All the Luck by Arthur Miller tells the story of David who is cursed with tremendously good luck. It freaks him out. He’s surrounded by friends and relatives who experience set backs. David never does. The universe seems to clear a path for him at every turn. He can’t make sense of this. He feels that fate will eventually catch up with him.

Miller examines how people view fate, whether Americans can avoid the beliefs found in Asia and Europe that there’s a Wheel of Fortune of some kind. This early play foreshadows how the playwright will develop, how he will continue to grapple with luck and a hero’s view of his own success.

from the archives

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2011 in American Lit, drama

 

G. B. Shaw’s Pygmalion

This month’s book club choice is Pygmalion, which I just finished. I think I read this play before. I have seen My Fair Lady and have enjoyed Arms and the Man and St. Joan, both written by Shaw.

This is one of the best plays my book club’s read this year. It’s funny without being too farcical or predictable. I loved that the two main characters both argue strongly and with equal heft. I’d forgotten that Higgins had the habit of swearing and a blind spot about it. The play makes for a fun, smart quick read.

To get some fresh cinematic input on this story, I got Americanizing Shelley from Netflix. It was so amateurish, I had to stop watching after a few minutes. The writing was poor and the production values low.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2011 in British Lit, classic, drama