Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Rain It Raineth

It's the end of our two weeks of Shakespeare camp, and today was the scheduled first performance, outside in Big Bird Park, as part of the summer arts in the NorthWoods.

Except it rained really hard around 4:30, and then let up for a bit, but threatened further. So we moved to the alternate indoor venue, a cinderblock and linoleum room about one third the size of my junior high school's auditorium, with a tiny stage at one end, and folding chairs.

Having no more work to do with the production after yesterday morning, I'd gone out to dinner with some friends before the show, and was a little surprised to see that the room was almost full up; I folded out some more chairs, and we ended up in the second to last row from the back.

Picture this, if you will: there's a hubbub, and no houselights to speak of. The room gets stuffy quickly, and it's rainily humid. There's a toddler standing on the chair two rows in front of me and four seats over, making a good bit of noise, and a row in front of him, and right in front of me, a crying baby. It's every stereotype you can think of for a bad community theater experience.

I couldn't hear a thing when the play began. The toddler was entertaining himself loudly, responding every time the baby cried. The audience was restless.

Orsino whined about being in love, but it was hard to hear and harder to make out. Viola chatted with the Captain, and I could sort of hear her. The natives were restless.

Sir Toby joked around with Maria, and the toddler complained.

And then somehow, Sir Andrew pulled the audience in. It was amazing. He goofed his way to accost Maria, and the audience got it, and laughed at just the right moments.

It was like when you're watching The Music Man and the band is suddenly very good in people's imaginations, except the actors pulled the whole play off. It's like they were actually listening to each other, and paying attention, and responded to the audience.

I'm always surprised when these students put on these performances, because they never quite hit things in rehearsal, but hit them close enough to work in performance, and the audience wants them to succeed, so pulls for them. (Yes, there were blown lines, and a few awkward pauses, but really, they did so much better than they had in any rehearsal, and it actually worked as a play! And that's the test.)

But dang, what a goofy play.



  1. Anonymous10:41 PM

    Sounds like it was a lot of fun (and that moment in The Music Man is priceless).

  2. I love it when people start getting Shakespeare's jokes. Sir Andrew is a good role, I would think, for a teenage actor -- open to lots of hamming. So yea, kids.
    My best experience was when I was doing my diss research, and was reading early 17th c court records all day. One of my archive colleagues (reading much the same stuff) and I went to see Merry Wives. I swear we got the jokes a second before everyone else -- it was just an extension of what we were reading all day! I always sort of wondered whether other people laughed because Tim and I were rolling in the aisles. It was really weird.

  3. Sometimes a student performance can turn an audience on in a way that no amount of professional polish can manage. My first live Shakespeare was a school production of 'Twelfth Night' and I was totally hooked for life.

  4. Okay - so I was thinking about taking my 3-year-old to Midsummer Night's Dream. Not anymore. :) The only advantage we'd have is that the theater is outdoors, easy to exit, and it never rains here in the summer. If he started acting up, we'd just take off. But still... I think I'm convinced that I should just save myself the headache and not go.

  5. that's wonderful, that the kids pulled it off! yay!

    my daughter was in midsummer night's dream in 8th grade. the drama class wasn't very big, so lots of costume changes for actors playing different roles. [i was the costumer and in charge of keeping order backstage.] the rehearsals kind of stunk. but the kids were over the moon when they pulled off the performances!

    fie, i suspect the kiderlets would not have been so distracting in the original outdoor venue.