Sunday, October 23, 2016

Seattle Shakespeare Company's "Medea"

(Medea by Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys (painted 1866-68))

The Seattle Shakespeare Company's production of Euripides' play "Medea" is brilliantly done. It takes up the story of Jason and Medea, 10 years after her help was crucial to him in obtaining the Golden Fleece. In the interim, she bore him two sons. But now Jason is planning to abandon Media for Glauce, the daughter of King Cleon.

This production is, as befits the material, a cry of raw pain and anger. It opens with the Nurse explaining Jason's betrayal of Medea. In another room seen only in shadow, Medea is clearly raging and destroying everything she can get her hands on. By the end of the play she HAS destroyed everything important to her in order to get revenge upon Jason. Although, to be fair it has to be pointed out that it was really the feckless Jason who began the destruction and Medea who followed through with its rather obvious consequences.

This being the first Greek play I have seen, the role played by the Chorus was very interesting. I was rather surprised at the extent to which the Chorus interacted with the play but it offered support for Medea's planned revenge...right up to the point where she decided to murder her two children. At that point, like a conscience she ought to listen to, they begin to try to reason with her and suggest that she not take her revenge to the point of killing innocents. But their efforts are to no avail: Medea follows through with her plans and leaves the stage a charnel house.

If you enjoy seeing a really good, cathartic tragedy, this is the play for you! I'm looking forward to being an usher for next weekend's performance so I can see it again...

Production Team

Kelly Kitchens (Director)
Donald Byrd (Choreographer)
Andrea Bryn Bush (Set Designer)
Chelsea Cook (Costume Designer)
Kent Cubbage (Lighting Designer)
Shenandoah Davis (Composer)
Robin Macartney (Props Designer)
Nina Trotto (Stage Manager).

Cast (in alphabetical order)

John Bianchi (Servant)
Maya Burton (Chorus)
Peter Crook (Kreon)
Yadira Duarte (Nurse)
Sunam Ellis (Chorus)
Sylvester F. Kamara (Jason)
Chelsea LeValley (Chorus)
Kevin McKeon (Aigeus)
Matt Sherrill (Tutor)
Alexandra Tavares (Medea)
Kathryn Van Meter (Chorus)
Lucy Weber (Chorus)
Dedra D. Woods (Chorus)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Seattle Shakespeare production of A Winter's Tale

The Seattle area is settling cozily into Autumn now. Fans of the Seattle Seahawks are getting excited about watching  big men in spandex hold meetings and occasionally chase an inflated leather ball. Others of us are much more interested in the start of another brilliant Seattle Shakespeare season. And this one hit the ground running with its production of The Winter's Tale!

Last month, I attended a Preview showing of the play. Managing Director John Bradshaw, after asking the audience to turn off their cell phones (I remember one going off during Richard II two years ago...and wondering whether the callee was one of the heads in a bag delivered to Bolingbroke later), noted that Preview showings are fresh productions and the cast occasionally have missteps. If there were any in this performance, I definitely missed them. This performance was akin to other Seattle Shakespeare productions I have seen in recent years: homey and comfortable, yet with a stratospheric level of excellence!

For those not familiar with it, The Winter's Tale is the story of a king who destroys his family through a clearly insane jealousy and ultimately largely regains it. Like other late Shakespeare plays (Pericles, Cymbeline, The Tempest), this one contains tragic elements of disaster and ruined lives but culminates in an ending which shows that even when life appears bleak, there can be hope. That's why these late plays are among my favorites

Like much of the Bard's work, this play uses multiple comparable plot lines to emphasize the points being made. While not as insane and lethal as Leontes, his alienated friend Polixines nearly makes a a similarly fatal error in trying to force his will on his son and the princess who he thinks is a common shepherdess.

One other intriguing thing about this play is that Leontes' emotional arc almost seemed like a reverse of the character Othello's in that play. Othello starts off happy, calm and collected, is gradually worked to a fever pitch of jealousy, commits the atrocity of murdering his wife and then discovers that he was duped into doing so and almost calmly takes his own life. In A Winter's Tale, the king starts out calm and then explodes into a jealous rage for no reason at all. He then spends some 16 years trying to atone for his crimes and in a surprise ending, is reunited with the queen he had thought long dead. Perhaps in an intentional choice, the actor portraying Leontes was the same actor who played Iago in Seattle Shakespeare's production of Othello, last year.

Another striking thing about this play (aside from its epic stage direction "Exit pursued by a bear") is how the heroism of ordinary folks serves to counteract the dangerous excesses of rulers making bad choices. For a playwright so invested in royalty and maintaining the natural hierarchical order of things, the actions of Camillo and Paulina in this play are a refreshing reminder that power does not automatically bring wisdom...

This production was delightful and I am very glad to have seen it.

Production Team

Sheila Daniels (Director)
Tommer Peterson (Set Designer)
Kelly McDonald (Costume Designer)
Reed Nakayama (Lighting Designer)
Harry Todd Jamieson (Sound Designer)
Marc Kenison (Choreographer)
Rafael Molina (Composer)
Robin Macartney (Props Designer)
Miranda Pratt (Stage Manager).


Mark Fullerton (Old Shepherd)
Rachel Guyer-Mafune (Dorcas/Lady)
Spencer Hamp (Clown)
Reginald Andre Jackson (Polixenes)
Jonelle Jordan (Mopsa/Emilia)
Brenda Joyner (Hermione)
Darragh Kennan (Leontes)
Finn Kennan (Mamillius)
Denny Le (ensemble)
George Mount (Antigonus)
Galen Joseph Osier (Camillo)
Rudy Roushdi (Florizel)
MJ Sieber (Autolycus)
Jasmine Jean Sim (Perdita)
Amy Thone (Paulina)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Using the R.cache package

# RStudio instance #1 - the cache saving test piece
# Load R.cache library, set working and cache directories
setCacheRootPath(path="C:\\Data Study\\Class 5 Reproducible Research\\Week 4")
setwd("C:\\Data Study\\Class 5 Reproducible Research\\Assignment 2")

# Load a large data file that takes a while to load
data1 <- ata="" bzfile="" div="" read.csv="" tormdata.csv.bz2="">

# Cache the loaded data object using key ABC
# Creates file d125f08eb1bf24d4c1e2b38b35d3362b.Rcache (389,576 KB)
key <- div="" list="">
> nrow(data1)
[1] 902297
> ncol(data1)

                   # RStudio instance #2 (separate UI, process) - the cache reading test piece
                   # Load R.cache library, set working and cache directories
                   setCacheRootPath(path="C:\\Data Study\\Class 5 Reproducible Research\\Week 4")
                   setwd("C:\\Data Study\\Class 5 Reproducible Research\\Assignment 2")

                   # Load the large cached data object - much faster than original load!
                   key <- b="" list="">
                   dataX <- b="" key="" loadcache="">
                    > nrow(dataX)
                    [1] 902297
                    > ncol(dataX)
                    [1] 37

# Cache the datamod() function  itself
# Creates file f4971f5a1be44fc8fddb87235d45aaaa.Rcache (2 KB)
key <- div="" list="">

                   # Load the datamod() function 
                   key <- b="" list="">
                   dataX <- b="" key="" loadcache="">
                   > dataX(4)
                   [1] 12

# Cache the result of a datamod function call
# Creates file 1b2526c00d8ed8a42700fc0fb39c1b1b.Rcache (1 KB)
key <- div="" list="">

                   # Load the datamod() function return value 
                   key <- b="" list="">
                   dataX <- b="" key="" loadcache="">
                   > dataX
                   [1] 18

# Small sample function
datamod <- div="" function="" myarg="">
  myarg * 3

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Ray Carter: In Memorium

My friend Ray Carter died last night.

I actually felt a little guilty typing that. We hadn't seen each other in a few years but he was somebody who I liked a LOT...we worked together on a cool project a bit over a decade ago. And I'm damn sorry to see him gone. Ray had been fighting cancer for some time and his prognosis suddenly became VERY bad last week. I had hoped to take some movies to him today and join him at his life celebration next weekend. Sadly, those opportunities are now gone and instead there are only happy memories of having known him.

I first met Ray in 1999 or 2000, when I was trying to get a political group for pro-gun Democrats off the ground. I don't remember how we met but the Pink Pistols movement (Motto: pick on someone your own caliber") was starting then. I guess someone introduced us because the bizarre politics in this country have the Democratic "leadership" hating gun owners and taking gay folks for granted....while Republicans often do the exact opposite.

Still, the success of the Pink Pistols and their intention of taking responsibility for their own safety was refreshing. They are still around and doing well today. Our local Seattle area group named itself CeaseFear with the intention of twitting the state's anti-gun group, CeaseFire. I remember being at a hearing in Olympia and one of CeaseFire's minions giving a startled doubletake at the sound of our name. That alone was worth the price of admission.

I think it was Ray himself who coined the name CeaseFear. Most of our creative ideas and a great deal of the energy behind the organization came from him. Ray had been an early organizer for Seattle Pride events and saw no conflict between that and his self defense and gun rights activism. Would that more voters out there had the insight to see that!

During the time that CeaseFear was most active, our activities were concentrated on having shooting events that were LGBT-friendly, a few safety classes, political outreach at Pride events and offering testimony in Olympia. The orientation for safety minions like myself was to join a tour of gay bars in Seattle's Capitol Hill area, the intention being to make sure we were comfortable and friendly with LGBT folks. Actually, it was a blast and the camaraderie in our organization was excellent...again, thanks to Ray.

After a few years, a lot of us found ourselves focusing on staying employed in one economic downturn after another. I was connected to Ray on Facebook and we stayed in touch that way. I occasionally saw him at the Second Amendment Foundation table at gun shows...SAF and local NRA leaders gave our organization tremendous support and Ray ended up working there.  And now, unfortunately, he's gone. Ray was a wonderful person and we don't get to see people of his quality and intelligence nearly often enough. We WILL miss Ray Carter!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Volunteering with Seattle Shakespeare

Last weekend, I went to see the brilliant Seattle Shakespeare production of Romeo and Juliet (comments posted here). Today, I took the day off of work and volunteered as an usher at one of their matinees, thereby 1) evading work for a day and 2) getting to see Romeo and Juliet a second time just by helping out a little. What a GREAT day!

I arrived at Seattle Center a bit early, not knowing what the experience would be like. From the beginning, the signs boded well for an enjoyable experience:

Walking into the theater and not as a member of the audience felt very different. OK, this may sound strange but the theater felt...pregnant. Full of possibility.

Now I'll make another comment that may sound strange. The actors reminded me of computer programmers. Not from some sense of deep geekiness or because I heard some cast members discussing SQL queries during intermission but because of their laser-like focus while watching off stage, waiting for their next scene. Much like developers focus in on their monitors as they work, I could see the actors watching everything happening on stage intently. It was awesome and I felt a sudden kinship with them. (Maybe their occasional distracting audience members are like the people who like to wander by developers and interrupt, asking why they're so quiet)

From the beginning, I wondered what I would be asked to do. Would I be taking tickets? Helping to move stuff around?

No. They asked me to guard the weapons.

Today's matinee was for a number of local schools and there was some concern that some of the high school boys would suddenly grab a rapier and start playing with it during the beginning, end or intermission. Granted, asking me to watch the swords was a bit like using a fox to guard a hen house. But I want to make this a recurring volunteer gig and so I kept the high schoolers and even my own self from playing with the swords.

After the play, we ushers made a few passes through the seats to tidy things up. I found myself strangely sad that the day was over. I may have been the lowest minion around but I felt a little bit like I had helped make something awesome happen.

One last note: Romeo and Juliet's run ends in three days. If you have the option, I can't recommend seeing this play highly enough!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Just for fun...word frequency in Romeo and Juliet

Every once in a while, just for fun, I run a word frequency count on a Shakespeare play. The results probably don't mean a whole lot but they do give kind of an interesting look at what language is used most in the play.

Here are some of the top words used in Romeo and Juliet and how often they appear (including stage directions):

     romeo       Count:   294
     you       Count:   291
     thou       Count:   276
     me       Count:   264
     not       Count:   258
     with       Count:   251
     juliet       Count:   176
     thy       Count:   167
     what       Count:   164
     will       Count:   147
     nurse       Count:   143
     thee       Count:   139
     love       Count:   135
     capulet       Count:   133
     shall       Count:   110
     lady       Count:   105
     come       Count:   97
     friar       Count:   97
     ill       Count:   84
     mercutio       Count:   83
     now       Count:   82
     good       Count:   82
     benvolio       Count:   80
     death       Count:   69
     well       Count:   68
     night       Count:   68
     tybalt       Count:   67
     we       Count:   66
     man       Count:   64
     there       Count:   64
     hath       Count:   63
     our       Count:   60
     paris       Count:   59
     their       Count:   47
     give       Count:   47
     yet       Count:   47
     doth       Count:   47
     dead       Count:   47
     let       Count:   45
     tell       Count:   45
     fair       Count:   43
     day       Count:   42
     take       Count:   41
     montague       Count:   41
     first       Count:   33
     prince       Count:   33
     sweet       Count:   33
     gone       Count:   33

A Dream of Romeo and Juliet

We've been attending Seattle Shakespeare Company's more regularly over the past couple years and continually grow more impressed with the accomplishment of their productions. Yesterday's play was Romeo and Juliet and, once again, we are VERY impressed.

One tactic that Seattle Shakespeare has used in several plays now is to do something unexpected that takes audience members off guard and immediately immerses them in the world of the play. For example, last Fall's Comedy of Errors had an aerialist swinging on the pendulum of a giant clock. Romeo and Juliet was framed within scenes of people trapped without their will or understanding on a stage and forced to act out parts they did not choose. There is a hint that everything that happens is a dream or an illusion...including time and its demands. It worked extraordinarily well, changing the audience from intentional viewers of an artistic production on a rainy Saturday afternoon into "observers" of "real people" trying to act on a bewildering and violent world they wake up in and make their story a romance...not a tragedy.

Memes are all the rage on the Internet these days and there is one that scoffs at the notion that Romeo and Juliet is really a love story. The thing to consider is, if circumstances had been different it COULD have been the beginning of an excellent love story. IF Romeo and Juliet were not members of families literally at war with one another. IF duels to the death were not commonplace. IF there had been just a little more time...

Granted, there are obstacles to overcome. Romeo is impetuous and a bit fickle: he starts the play mooning over another woman (or maybe he was originally promised a part in As You Like It). While older than Juliet, he is clearly very young himself. He does show promise of integrity and priorities more far reaching than bloodshed in the streets...given time, he would undoubtedly have been quite a character. I thought that Riley Neldam ably captured this ambiguous state and promise.

The character of Juliet was played by Anastasia Higham. She carried out this first starring role in a production perfectly. A year ago, I saw her playing various roles in the Seattle Shakespeare touring production of Macb....the Scottish play. To see her go in just a year from being little Fleance (anachronistically playing with a toy airplane) to an exquisite young woman experiencing love for the first time in dire circumstances was something special.

But we all know, the love story between Romeo and Juliet isn't taking place in the Forest of Arden. It is taking place in a society rent by strife and violence, strife and violence that are largely personified in the person of Tybalt. Tybalt is the character whose hatred of the Montagues shows itself in a constant desire to fight and kill them. Alan Rickman took a turn as Tybalt in the 1978 BBC production of Romeo and Juliet and his Tybalt was fairly urbane, seeking a fight with Romeo by trying to avoid engaging Mercutio.

Treavor Boykin's Tybalt was something very different and ferocious. This image from the Seattle Shakespeare site of him attacking  Andrew Lee Creech's Benvolio captures this incredibly well. These two characters and Trevor Young Marston's pitch perfect Mercutio play a huge part in creating the world of strife in which the play takes place, the violence and the fatalistic acceptance of that violence that it ultimately leads to. Only Benvolio and Romeo among the young men seem interested in finding more to life than carousing and killing.

I enjoyed every bit of this performance, both the traditional aspects and the new insights and emphases found by its director, Vanessa Miller. Among the new faces, seeing familiar faces like Mike Dooly (Lord Capulet) and George Mount (playing the Prince, the Chorus and Fate) made the experience familiar, as well as new and thought provoking.

If you haven't seen this production of Romeo and Juliet yet, you have one more week in which to do so. I am volunteering as an usher this week and excited at having an opportunity to see this play one more time!

Treavor Boykin (Tybalt)
Andrew Lee Creech (Benvolio)
Mike Dooly (Lord Capulet)
Chris Ensweiler (Friar Laurence)
Morgan Grody (Servant)
Anastasia Higham (Juliet)
Justin Huertas (Dream/Death/Apothecary)
Trevor Young Marston (Mercutio)
Claire Marx (Lady Montague)
Carolyn Marie Monroe (Lady Capulet)
George Mount (Prince/Chorus/Fate)
Riley Neldam (Romeo)
Jason Salazar (Ensemble)
Kerry Skalsky (Lord Montague)
Jordan Iosua Taylor (Paris)
Kathryn Van Meter (Nurse)
Elizabeth Wu (Ensemble).

Production Team

Vanessa Miller (Director)
Craig Wollam (Set Designer)
Kelly McDonald (Costume Designer)
Tim Wratten (Lighting Designer)
Robertson Witmer (Sound Designer)
Justin Huertas (Composer)
Crystal Dawn Munkers (Assistant Director/Choreographer)
Geof Alm (Fight Choreographer)
Robin Macartney (Props Designer)
Tori Thompson (Stage Manager)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Michael Almereyda's Cymbeline

All of my friends who I've talked to about this movie who are fellow Shakespeare geeks have panned it. I will explain a bit here about why I actually enjoyed this movie and will watch it again...

When evaluating a movie or play, I think a crucial to define the category under which it's being evaluated. For example, evaluating Ian McKellen's Macbeth as a situation comedy would not rate it very highly. There were very few laughs. And evaluating Viggo Mortensen in "A History of Violence" as a musical extravaganza would similarly rate it poorly. This despite the fact that both were excellent, all around.

So how should this version of Cymbeline be rated? As a straightforward Shakespearean production, it would not score very highly. As a Shakespeare geek, applying that measurement was my first thought. Under that categorization, for example, Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing" was superb. Not that I'm biased, being a total Joss fan boy... :)

But while I was watching this version of Cymbeline, I found myself enjoying it. I wasn't *loving* it but I enjoyed the experience and I know I'll watch it again. Then it occurred to me that I enjoyed it because it did what so few Hollywood movies do these days: it took some big chances and tried to do something memorable. It hired some very talented people (Ed Harris, Milla Jovovich, Anton Yelchin; NOT Ethan Hawke. I'm reserving judgement on the lovely Dakota Johnson) and took on the huge challenge of setting one of Shakespeare's most complex plot lines in a modern setting. Cymbeline is a very thoughtful fairy tale play and thoughtful isn't something we see a lot of in Hollywood. It tried to do something big and succeeded modestly, in my opinion.

So given that categorization, I would recommend taking a look at this movie.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Art of April 23

For lovers of literature and culture, April will always have a special significance. By tradition, that is the day on which William Shakespeare was born in 1564 (we know he was baptized 3 days later) and also the day on which he died in 1616.

The 400th anniversary of these milestones were bound to be celebrated with vigor and enthusiasm and such, indeed, was the case. Special events in England reached a crescendo, with special shows and broadcasts highlighting the notable performances of eminent actors. In the US, the Folger Library has sent several of the posthumously published 1623 First Folio to all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Bard fever is in the air and millions have joined a worldwide cultural celebration.

But there have been many quiet personal celebrations as well. Here are notes about a couple such celebrations.

On April 23, 1964, this envelope was used to send a letter home to Denmark (thought not to Elsinore Castle) from a visitor to Stratford-upon-Avon. The envelope and stamps were designed by the British Post, highlighting some iconic scenes and characters from Shakespeare's stories. But I find it intriguing to wonder who the visitor was that paused in his trip to Shakespeare's home to send this letter home to a family member or a friend.

52  years later to the day, exactly 400 years after Shakespeare died, this happened. The tattoo was inspired by the Hamlet statue at the Gower Memorial in Stratford-upon-Avon. This is not my Shakespeare tattoo. This is the BEGINNING of my Shakespeare tattoo...

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Shakespeare's First Folio Visits Seattle

Tradition has it that William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England on April 23. 1564. During the course of his life, he wrote nearly 40 plays and co-wrote some number of others. He died on April 23, 1616. Yet for a man who lived 400 years ago, his impact on the world has been astonishing. He contributed dozens of common expressions to contemporary speech (e.g., jealousy as the "green eyed monster") and created a number of the most memorable characters in the Western Canon. Some even credit him with creating a model of human consciousness by examining the rich inner lives of his characters.

Yet there were times when these rich cultural treasures could have been lost forever. At the time of his death, only about half his plays had been collected together. Two of his contemporaries, John Heminges and Henry Condell, succeeded in getting the First Folio of Shakespeare's work published in 1623, restoring some nearly lost classics such as Macbeth and As You Like It. Later, legislation enacted by the Puritans crippled theatrical performance from 1642-1660. The Great London Fire of 1666 destroyed nearly half of all editions of the Third Folio.

Our extreme good fortune in having the work of Shakespeare available to us is why the world is celebrating the 400th anniversary of his passing, this year. One of the exceptional things happening this year is that the Folger Shakespeare Library, in cooperation with the Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Library Association, is sending some of the 82 First Folios in its collection out on a nationwide tour. This tour includes all 50 states in the United States, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Seattle's turn started on March 21 and runs through April 17. Today was our day to visit the First Folio, at the Seattle Public Library..

The terrific thing about this exhibit is that, while it celebrates the First Folio, it was really about a lot more than that one (AMAZING) nearly 400 year old book. OK, I'll look at the First Folio first but there are more cool things to come.

These are the best pictures I got of the First Folio. Obviously, we didn't get to physically touch it but it was open to one of the most well known passages in world literature, Hamlet's "To be or not to be" speech. Even being that close to it physically was like communing with the world of Elizabethan England in some inexplicable way. This IS one of the most famous and important books in the world.

However, Seattle was exceptionally fortunate in that we also had a copy of the Third Folio from the Pigott Collection on exhibit. Moreover, while the First Folio drew a crowd that had a constant stream of people walking in a queue past it, the Third Folio was not looked at quite so much...I got to linger there a bit. The Third Folio was open to As You Like it, specifically Jacques' "All the world's a stage" speech.

Seeing the Third Folio also was quite an unexpected bonus. It is nearly as rare as the First Folio, in that nearly half its printed run was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666.

We didn't get to physically touch the Third Folio, either, strangely. But the Seattle Library clearly anticipated this frustration by having a number of Folio copies that you could actually flip through. They were quite gorgeous...I think I'll have to add one to my Shakespeare shelves, some day.


There was also an exhibit which highlighted the rich tradition of Shakespeare play performances in Seattle. I've been a fan of the current Seattle Shakespeare company for years, now. It was fascinating to find out how far the area's tradition of performance goes back.

The library has also been hosting a series of performances and lectures to accompany this exhibit.

And there were mementos and kid activities accompanying the exhibit, too.

I really have to congratulate the Seattle Library and its people for doing such a phenomenal job with this exhibit. The exhibit itself was BRILLIANT and the people tracking tickets at its entrance were very friendly, helpful and enthusiastic.

The First Folio's visit to Seattle ends two weeks from today and online tickets were going fast. If you have the time, I seriously recommend try to go...some drop-in admission openings ARE available. Information here.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

As You LOVE It!

Today, I was fortunate enough to see one of the best Shakespeare play productions that I've seen. It was a close thing because there was over an an hour's drive involved, not to mention other complications. But it was SO worth it!

We arrived at the Pickford Film Center in Bellingham with some trepidation, as there were some traffic signals unpowered for a few blocks. Sure enough, when we got to the theater, all the lights were out and a couple dozen polite Shakespeare fans were talking with the film center operators, who were obviously stressed about getting the film started before it shredded the day's schedule. Fortunately, the power came on and we were able to see this crackling version of As You Like It.

Honestly, I wasn't sure what to expect. The stage design was brilliant here, as it was when the National Theater had Benedict Cumberbatch play Hamlet. But that play was a little disappointing because while Cumberbatch is excellent, I felt like a couple crucial roles were weakly cast (Horatio and Polonius).

However, this play showed that that casting may have been a fluke. The casting for this production was actually astounding. Every SINGLE actor in this play brought excellence to their role and seemed passionate about acting heir heart out. Every actor.

For example, Leon Annor played the role of Charles the Wrestler. It is a role where the character only appears in a couple of scenes but it was still a standout performance.

As for the major roles: WOW! The role of Orlando is regarded as a bit of a numpty much of the time but Joe Bannister invested the role with a humanity, an enthusiasm tempered by a less than pleasant upbringing, that frankly surprised me. He did an excellent job,

Rosalind and Celia's actors, Rosalie Craig and Patsy Ferran respectively, were exquisite. Two multi-faceted, devoted friends, very bright, open to love and utterly gorgeous. Frankly, I find myself utterly smitten with both these performers. Paul Chahidi's Jacques and Mark Benton's Touchstone were also excellent. There is not a single performer here who I would not seek to congratulate. Hell, the actors playing the sheep invested their performances with a surprising humor.

Enough gushing...what does this performance have going for it? Well, the play itself is a favorite because it is a comedy, a fun romp that touches on serious themes but never leaves you worried that something seriously bad is going to befall someone. There is affection and nurturing aplenty...gender roles become very fluid because not only does Rosalind pretend to be a man through much of the play but male roles also involve a nurturing quality. And Shakespeare's right insights shine through: Jacques' 7 ages of men speech and Rosalind's epilogue are classics! (see below)

If you have a chance to see this performance or own the DVD eventually, SEE IT. You'll love it.

Jacques speech:

    All the world's a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players:
    They have their exits and their entrances;
    And one man in his time plays many parts,
    His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
    Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
    And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
    And shining morning face, creeping like snail
    Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
    Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
    Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
    Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
    Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
    Seeking the bubble reputation
    Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
    In fair round belly with good capon lined,
    With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
    Full of wise saws and modern instances;
    And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
    Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
    With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
    His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
    For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
    Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
    And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
    That ends this strange eventful history,
    Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
    Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Rosalind's epilogue:

   It is not the fashion to see the lady the epilogue;
    but it is no more unhandsome than to see the lord
    the prologue. If it be true that good wine needs
    no bush, 'tis true that a good play needs no
    epilogue; yet to good wine they do use good bushes,
    and good plays prove the better by the help of good
    epilogues. What a case am I in then, that am
    neither a good epilogue nor cannot insinuate with
    you in the behalf of a good play! I am not
    furnished like a beggar, therefore to beg will not
    become me: my way is to conjure you; and I'll begin
    with the women. I charge you, O women, for the love
    you bear to men, to like as much of this play as
    please you: and I charge you, O men, for the love
    you bear to women--as I perceive by your simpering,
    none of you hates them--that between you and the
    women the play may please. If I were a woman I
    would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleased
    me, complexions that liked me and breaths that I
    defied not: and, I am sure, as many as have good
    beards or good faces or sweet breaths will, for my
    kind offer, when I make curtsy, bid me farewell.