I went to see the student production of The Tempest last night, and I was pleased and proud. They pulled the show together, and it worked. Mostly it worked really well.
Seriously, for any company to go from having parts and a script to putting on performances in two weeks is fast; and these students not only performed, but did costuming, and built their set and props. Their hard work showed in all sorts of ways.
The four Ariels were far more effective than I would have imagined possible, and the harpy bit which had me worried earlier in the week was way cool. The young woman who'd had the most trouble sounded like she understood what she was saying and got the meaning across convincingly. The other young woman who'd had trouble getting out one phrase nailed it! I was so happy for them.
Playing Prospero as a woman worked well enough; the production didn't play much with her motherliness or femaleness, but the actor who played the part was clearly very strong and did a great job in the role.
When I see theater and such, I realize how strong my preferences are, and how equally strong, or even stronger my dislikes are. Basically, I've come to accept that I'm a plot person. If something doesn't advance the plot, I want it to be short at least. That goes especially for ballet-ish dance bits. (I think they were in the show because the director makes sure that everyone who tries out gets to participate, and some of them have taken dance classes and such. I love that everyone gets to participate!)
(Though I manage to enjoy absolutely silly dance stuff in old Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies. Still, I could have done without many of the more ballet-ish sequences in An American in Paris, for example. I recognize the skill and artistry involved to some extent, but I want to get on with the plot more.)
My other huge dislike is having American actors do bad fake British accents because they're playing SHAKESPEARE!!!!! Seriously, it sounds just stupid, and yet so many students seem to think that's the way to play Shakespeare.
On the very first day I met with our students, I rather strongly suggested that using their natural accents would sound more, you know, natural. Basically, I told the several actors who were trying to do British accents to drop them, and they pretty much did. Except one of the roles was played by an actor who'd been absent for the first week (when I was doing my thing), and yes, he played the role with a bad imitation of a modern British accent. And yes, he sounded all wrong and out of place amongst the Northwoods accents of the rest of the cast. Worse, I think he influenced another actor to veer back into using a fake accent, too (since she'd dropped it while I saw/heard in the first week, but had it again last night).
I talked to most of the cast after the performance, and they sounded pleased and tired. And most of them mentioned that they were looking forward to doing more Shakespeare next year. This is only the second year doing Shakespeare, and I have a feeling if the program continues, we're going to end up in a couple years with some local high school students who have a real feel for reading and acting Shakespeare.
The director told me that one of the students who'd participated last summer had another Shakespeare experience during the school year when he was required to read Romeo and Juliet. He'd told the director that he'd really noticed that he understood the play lots more easily than his classmates, and thought doing the summer program had helped him with reading more than he'd realized before. Beyond the great fun and experience of working with a group of people to accomplish something positive, learning something rocks!
I suggested the play to a number of friends, so we'd gone out for dinner ahead of time, and then to the play. I was happy to see that they all seemed to enjoy it.
Now I'm heading out of town for a couple of days!