Saturday, June 25, 2016

More Shakespeare in Central Park

Titania and her fairies exit, stage left.
The fairies, left to right, are Moth, Mustardseed, Cobweb and Peaseblossom

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM is Shakespeare's best comedy, and I'm saying that as someone who came to Shakespeare via AS YOU LIKE IT and have honored MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING as the original romantic comedy. But MIDSUMMER is just about perfect and especially for outdoor productions. Although it doesn't have to be performed in a park to work, one of the best versions of MIDSUMMER that I saw was on the Philadelphia waterfront.

I saw New York Classical Theatre's production Friday night on the north-west section of Central Park, right near The Great Hill, which I finally got to see. It was a pretty good hill. I don't know about great. Although I got a good photo out of it.

Flying a kite on the Great Hill

I didn't stay for the entire show, partly because they didn't have one single staging area but instead kept the audience hopping about every twenty minutes from one location to another and I got tired of it. I really didn't see any good reason for it, and it was quite a large audience so it was a mass exodus every time.

Also I wasn't crazy about how manly this production was. Usually the Fairy Queen's attendants (Moth, Peaseblossom, Mustardseed, Cobweb) are played by women, but in this production some of the guys who played the "rude mechanicals" (Bottom, Snout etc.) doubled as the fairy attendants, although they were more like a pack of irritable, semi-sane homeless men. But it wasn't bad, just different. But what that choice meant was that there were only three female actors in this production. I understand that doubling is cheaper, and these actors were (hopefully) getting paid. But still. The first production of MIDSUMMER I saw had a women playing Puck, which they could have done here, just to be fair with the gender switch-up on the fairies. Although Matt Mundy was excellent as Puck. Pretty much every Puck in a given MIDSUMMER production will be one of the best actors in the show. I'm not sure why that is, but that's been my experience. The interactions between Oberon and Puck are often the highlights of the show, and this production had a neat trick of having Puck from far away "throw" the purple flower to Oberon, who through sleight-of-hand appeared to suddenly have the flower. Very well done.

This production was very musical - the fairy folk sang their lines quite a bit. Which worked OK, I didn't mind that. It was a nice variation.

I was prepared to go with the flow, but then somebody got in my face to tell me I couldn't take pictures. Presumably because this is an Actors Equity production but he didn't bother to tell me that and how could he expect me to know the rules of the AEA? And there was nothing in their web site's "planning your visit" page nor their program that said no photos allowed, and unless you had a program (which I didn't until I asked for one from no-photos-please guy) or know something about the theater company (which I didn't) how would you know this was an Equity production, even if you knew about Equity rules in the first place?

And in any case the rules of the AEA are idiotic when it comes to outdoor productions. This production was in the middle of a public park and not only did it have no clearly-delineated staging area but the staging area itself kept changing. And you could easily take a photo from a little ways off. I have to wonder how far the production stormtroopers were prepared to go. Do they look out for everybody within eyesight who might be taking a photo of the production? And how do they know the offender isn't actually taking a selfie?

You can see in the photo below just how vast the space (at least for one 20-minute segment) was where they were performing.

Oberon and Puck on the tax-payer-funded green

The problem is that the rules against video and photography set down by Actors Equity are from the distant past when taking a photo or video footage was a major undertaking. From a time before everybody had high-quality imaging equipment in their pocket at all times. I mean, so what if somebody takes a picture? It's a freaking FREE production anyway, so they aren't losing anything by someone publicizing their production by (ahem) posting pictures on their blog. It just does not make sense anymore to have such prohibitions and especially for a free outdoor performance in a tax-payer funded park. That's right - I paid for their venue through my taxes, it's appalling that they would begrudge me a few photos.

In any case, I love the top photo on this blog post, taken just as the fairy folk were coming off the "stage."

MIDSUMMER is so popular it's on the verge of over-exposure. I have an idea to write a play about two theater companies who happen to get permission to produce MIDSUMMER in a local park in adjoining locations at the same exact days and times. I think it could be very popular - as a change of pace from yet another production of MIDSUMMER and also, because many people don't understand what is being said much of the time, even for this play. I overheard a woman say she only understood about 70% of what was being said, and this was on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where people pride themselves on their cultural sophistication.

I don't know if I'll call it DUELING MIDSUMMERS or A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S RIOT or what. Not that I should really be planning yet another play which who-knows-when I'll get around to writing. I finally finished a first draft of the latest incarnation of my Marilyn Monroe play, which will probably have a production in the Venus and Adonis festival this winter, but I still have to re-write my Ayn Rand-haunted play DARK MARKET, plus rewrite a play listed in my Doollee entry as THE BENEFICENT POWER OF REVENGE but which I will probably change to FLOWERS FOR MOM. I have to re-write it partly because I can't find a single copy of the script on my computer and may have lost it completely in a hard drive crash; and partly because I have new ideas and it will ultimately be a better play.

And then there's the play inspired by my mom's senior residence plus transvestite (CHESTNUT STATION); PALMYRA NJ based on my adventures with early motherhood and the radical chic; and 12 ANGRY JURORS FROM QUEENS. So five plays I'm trying to finish simultaneously. Do I really need to put one more in the queue? Sigh. I guess I have to.