Shakespearean Vocabulary, part 2

Time to clear up some more potentially confusing "Shakespearean" words!

Just to clarify, "pate" rhymes with "gate", and is definitely not pronounced like "pâté".

Be sure to check out part 1, and, if you have any potentially confusing Shakespeare words or terms you'd like explained via the medium of stick figure, leave a note in the comments!

Review of "The Diary of Anne Frank" at the Stratford Festival

I wrap up part one of my Stratford Festival reviews today. (Part two has to wait until I see the rest of the season later this summer.) 

The Diary of Anne Frank is a very atypical play for me to go see, in that it is (a) contemporary, (b) based on real events, and (c) definitely not a comedy. I don't tend to enjoy contemporary drama that takes itself seriously (such as Miller or Williams) because, by and large, I really don't enjoy watching people with issues be terrible to each other. I enjoy Shakespeare plays about people with issues being terrible to each other because the distance of time and place and culture somehow dulls the edge.  But contemporary family dramas involving overwrought parent-child relationships? No. Not really my cup of tea. I'd rather, you know, have fun instead.

When my family couldn't fit Anne Frank into our annual Stratford binge, I  wasn't terribly sad about it, but something niggled at the back of my mind. "I really ought to see this," I thought. So when the Stratford Festival generously offered to provide me with a pair of tickets, I decided to take the plunge. (I hasten to note that my review is not influenced by the acceptance of said free tickets - if I didn't like the show I would have just never mentioned I had seen it in the first place.)

I really can't speak highly enough of director Jillian Keiley's decision to break the fourth wall right at the start by having the actors directly address the audience as themselves, not as their characters. As someone who is pathologically self-analytical in a theatrical situation, I tend to wall up when I feel a production is trying TOO HARD to elicit a particular emotion from me. By having the actors disarmingly introduce themselves and the characters they played, Keiley was very sneakily able to circumvent this tendency of mine.

You go into a production of Anne Frank expecting it to be sad, and it is invariably sad. It is to this cast's credit that this production was not uniformly colored with sadness and fear and poignancy, but instead had all the shades of emotion one would expect in a real teenaged girl's life: humor, laughter, frustration, brattiness, rebelliousness, annoyance, love, etc. 

Was this fun? No. But not everything has to be fun all the time, and I'm glad I saw it.

If Shakespeare had written... Jurassic World

If you haven't seen Jurassic World, this comic probably won't make a lot of sense. Sorry.

If you have seen Jurassic World, this comic probably still won't make a lot of sense. Sorry.

SPOILERS. 

While there are many things wrong with Jurassic World, I think Indominus Rex's story is positively Shakespearean. Held captive for her entire life, murders her sister, escapes and attempts to seize control of island, convinces those dedicated to hunting her down to join forces with her against a common enemy, ultimately betrayed by those she trusts and dragged to a watery doom...

Jurassic World - the dinosaur's version of a Shakespearean history play. 

Review of "Hamlet" at the Stratford Festival

Last week I reviewed Pericles, the first Shakespeare play of my Stratford Festival season. Today I'm turning my attention towards their production of Hamlet. 

As I've mentioned before, I'm not a particularly critical person and am not always good at analyzing or articulating my reaction to a show. At the intermission of Hamlet I was wondering vaguely what was wrong with me, as the show I had seen was doing everything right (as far as I could tell) and yet somehow was not pulling me in. I still don't know why that was, but I do know that the second act redeemed all that.

Confession: I've had an actor-crush on Jonathan Goad ever since I saw him as Hotspur in Henry IV, part 1 at the Stratford Festival many years ago. Like all Hotspurs, he had a manic energy and dangerous edge, but he also had the charisma and competency that many Hotspurs seem to lack - all qualities that he also brought to his Hamlet.

Again, as is usual at Stratford, the supporting cast members were all uniformly excellent. I particularly enjoyed Geraint Wyn Davies's Claudius, whose brief moments of villainous plotting were all the more alarming for how charming and reasonable he seemed most of the time, and for Adrienne Gould's mad scene as Ophelia, which definitely ranks as one of the more unsettling ones that I've seen.

When you inject this much energy into a production, it is sometimes possible for things to get lost in the hustle and bustle. It is to director Antoni Cimolino's credit that this Hamlet, despite being physically lively and fast-paced, is also accessible, comprehensible, and, most importantly, entertaining.

Review of "Pericles" at the Stratford Festival

OK, I'm trying something a bit different today... a review! I love going to the theatre, but I've never written actual reviews of the productions I've seen. Mostly this is because I am a terrible reviewer. I'm fairly easy to please and without any of the critical discretion of more seasoned reviewers. I'm also very soft-hearted, so if I didn't enjoy a production I am more likely to pretend I never saw it in the first place rather than say anything negative about it. But let's give it a try! The guinea pig I have selected is the first show that I saw at the Stratford Festival this season.... Pericles!

Now, the gentleman I was sitting next to might just be overly full of joie de vivre, but to have someone who, at the beginning of the show asked me "is the language in this play the sort of Shakespeare language you have to translate constantly in your head?", turn around at the end and say "That was terrific, everyone should see this!" is quite a positive testimonial. Especially because this was Pericles. And, let's face it, Pericles is nowhere near one of Shakespeare's more accessible plays. 

The only other time I've seen Pericles was again at the Stratford Festival, about twelve years ago. That was a decent production too, but this one was definitely cleaner, much easier to follow, and more stylistically cohesive. As I always say, I'm fairly frivolous and can get quite impatient with directorial Concepts (with a capital C) but in this case the Victorian concept definitely served the play, as opposed to being imposed upon it. I particularly enjoyed the double-casting (which I enjoy anyways, but which actively enriched the production in this case.)

I really don't need to say that the acting and the language-speaking were superb, because that's almost always the case at Stratford. Special mention to Deborah Hay, whose gigantic brimming limpid eyes in the already emotionally-fraught reunion scene managed to sneak through the chinks in my fairly robust emotional armor. 

Pericles isn't performed all that often, so, if you can, take an opportunity to see this production. (If you're on the other side of the continent, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is also mounting a production this season, and so you should totally see that one and then tell me how it is.)

Kids Read Comics Convention

I've been plastering this all over social media, but forgot to re-mention it here! This week, June 20-21, is the Kids Read Comics Convention in Michigan! Specifically, it's at the Ann Arbor District Library. I will be there both Saturday and Sunday, from 12pm to 6:00pm, selling a variety of Good Tickle Brain merchandise, including t-shirts! Here's a sneak peek and some of the stuff I'll be presenting:

If you're in the Southeastern Michigan area, stop by and say hello! I'm a very nice person and would love to chat with you, so don't be shy. If you're NOT in the Southeastern Michigan area, don't worry! In a couple weeks (hopefully, tech gods and my own limited intellect permitting) I will be launching my online store and you'll be able to order shirts and other merchandise there.

Hope to see some of you there!

Timon Who?

I was looking through my archives and I noticed that one play in particular never seems to feature in my comics.

If pressed, I'd probably say that my least favorite Shakespeare play is Timon of Athens. It's not a really fair judgement, as I've only seen it once, a number of years ago, and haven't revisited it since. At the time I remember thinking it was a miserable play. Of course... that's kind of the point. It's like complaining about Romeo and Juliet being "a bit of a downer". 

Nowadays it seems like Timon is the hipster of the Shakespearean canon. "I liked Timon of Athens before it was cool", I can almost hear people say. "Duuuuude, Timon is, like, a brilliant critique of our corrupt, emotionally-bankrupt and overly-materialistic society, man. It's deep." That may very well be the case. It's also not much fun.

I probably need to give Timon another chance. Have an opinion on Timon? Leave a note for me in the comments!

The Ohio Light Opera 2015 Season... in 3 Panels!

This blog/comic might be predominately devoted to Shakespeare, but, as a general theatre lover, I would be remiss if I didn't address one of the highlights of my year: my annual family trip to the Ohio Light Opera, whose season kicks off this Saturday. 

As I've mentioned before, operetta was a formative part of my theatrical upbringing. Sadly, operetta and early, pre-Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals have largely faded from American stages. Fortunately, places like OLO make it their mission to keep these otherwise obscure and unjustly ignored plays alive. 

Here is their current season, condensed into three panel plays. And by the way... if you think Shakespeare's comedies have stupid plots, you have never seen a comic operetta. I have been going to OLO for almost 30 years now, and it is always ridiculously, stupidly fun. (Here are my round-ups of last year's productions.)

An early American musical with music and lyrics by Cole Porter, who is one of my favorites. I read the plot for this and it is SO INCREDIBLY STUPID. This isn't a bad thing. In my experience, the stupider the raw material, the more hysterical the OLO performance of it is. 

Not my favorite Lerner and Loewe musical, although it's popular with many people. It's got some nice songs in it, though, and the preponderance of gratuitously fake Scottish accents is always amusing. 

Music by Kurt Weill and lyrics by Ogden Nash? I'm intrigued.... This will be my first Kurt Weill musical. Also, the plot? It's ridiculously stupid. CAN'T WAIT.

By composer Franz Lehar. I love me some Lehar (most famous for The Merry Widow). This is classic overwrought operetta fare - a true romance selflessly sacrificed by a young maid who only wants the best for her man, etc. etc. Great music, though. 

Music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin! That's always a good thing. Like many early American musicals, the plot for this is.... wait for it.... totally stupid. This is a recurring theme with comic operetta and early musicals, but, as I said, it's not a bad thing. The stupider the better, I say.

Gilbert and Sullivan! My first theatrical love! I might have large passages of Shakespeare memorized, but I can almost literally sing through any entire G&S operetta (with the exception of the Act I choruses, which always involve lots of people singing different words very loudly all at the same time, and thus are harder to pick up by ear.) Yeomen is the only G&S operetta that ends on a bit of a downer, but the music is gorgeous. 

I love all the G&S operettas, but I'm particularly fond of Ruddigore, possibly because it has freaking picture gallery ghosts who come down from their frames and very politely torture people. It's great. 

Anyways, that's my round-up of the Ohio Light Opera! I will be going there for the last week of their season in August, where I can catch all the shows at once. If you're in the Midwest area and enjoy truly mindless entertainment with truly great music, I highly recommended checking them out. A lot of these shows you literally will never see anywhere else.