A superbard weekend

Injury. Slip of the tongue. Two rogue alarms. Unextinguished fire. Extreme heat.

Sounds Shakespearean, right? But the show must – you know – go on. And it did.

I was given the gift of Shakespeare. But not just by any troupe – it was the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) hosted by Lincoln Center, and in residence at the Park Avenue Armory this summer.

Only a company in existence as long as, and as fine-tuned as, the RSC would have been able to withstand the punches the theater gods threw at them on Saturday and still deliver wonderful performances.

Matinee performance / 13 august 2011:  Romeo & Juliet

  • Upon opening the Playbill, the dreaded insert falls out: At this performance, the role of Romeo will be played by… crap, the understudy. Ugggh! Performance begins, actor good, get past it.
  • Actress playing Juliet blows “A rose by any other name” line by voicing “A rose by any other word…” Must get that out of my head.
  • In both the second and third acts, during Romeo’s & Friar Laurence’s scenes, an alarm goes off. Enter stage manager, stop performance, house lights up, wait. Actors re-enter, repeat the scenes. The second time the alarm sounds draws chuckles from everyone. Same resolution.
  • Just before Romeo swallows the poison – prop failure: enter stage manager, remove the torch which will not extinguish. Actor collects himself, then does Romeo’s death scene.

Talk about having a superbad day.

In spite of the fact that this gang was having such a tough day, I liked Rupert Goold’s production. Its young lovers, costumed in modern grungy-garb, are forever trapped by old-world traditions (cast/set were in stylized Elizabethan costume). It was a production brimming with youthful, combustible energy.

Evening performance / 13 august 2011: Julius Caesar

Enter theater-within-the-armory – get handed fan… crap, AC not working. It was a sensory performance for both actors and audience, and that added texture to Lucy Bailey’s spare, yet super feral production. No alarms or noticeable prop failures here.

Friends, Romans, countrymen lend me your eyes and ears

Who could resist that? Two cool videos explain the hows and whys of bringing the RSC to the US.

  • The creation of a 965-seat version of Stratford-upon-Avon’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre was specifically designed as a freestanding structure to fit within the armory’s main hall.
  • The road to bringing the RSC to NYC.
Photo illustration: © Janet Giampietro / Based on an image of William Shakespeare which is in public domain.

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