Saturday, June 27, 2009

Original Music, Great Musicians from Home and Away

Rumor has it (and very good rumor, from the musicians mouths) that the composer and musicians (including local fav Ross Gallagher) and maybe a few actors will be jamming at Tinder Hearth's open mike on Sunday. 5-8 don't be late - visit to find out more about the venue or just follow direction below - you'll have to translate coming from the Island -

Traveling Directions

From Blue Hill:

Head southwest on Main St/Rt 15/Rt 176 towards Deer Isle. After 5 miles, you’ll reach a “T” intersection. Turn right onto Rt 175/ Rt 176, towards Penobscot. After 3.5 miles, follow Rt 176 when it turns left onto Frank’s Flat Rd. After 1 mile, you’ll reach another “T”
intersection. Welcome to Brooksville! Turn right onto Coastal Rd (Rt 176), and follow this for about 3 miles. You’ll see an elementary school on your left, and then the rd will curve sharply to the left. Tinder Hearth is the first house on the right that is close to the road. It is a white, rambling farm house, with an attached barn, and a blue front door.

From Jennifer via Judith

Friday, June 26, 2009

Most wonderful!

Shakespeare and summer. The two go together like Poe and Halloween, Dickens and Christmas, Austen and any holiday. Perhaps the most famous U.S. production (outside of the Stonington Opera House, that is) takes place in Central Park each summer. You can read one of my favorite critics -- Charles Isherwood -- writing in the NYT about the new Public Theater production of Twelfth Night here. The aptly named Anne Hathaway stars with opera diva Audra McDonald. Gist of Isherwood's review: "All together now: most wonderful!"

Reading about other productions is a good way to get in the right head space for Stonington's A Midsummer Night's Dream. But keep an eye out for features on the local production in both the Ellsworth American and Bangor Daily News.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Community takes on "Dream"

Last night's community read at the Blue Hill Public Library was a blast. Midsummer can be tricky to read sitting alone in your apartment, but it's hilarious to read outloud with friends and neighbors, especially when they share your enthusiasm for language and laughter. Judith Jerome, of the Stonington Opera House, and Bob Burke, a carpenter from Sedgwick, were reading Titania and Oberon -- and got a little close in one scene. I especially liked listening to Veronica Young, assistant director at Penobscot East Resource Center, whose British-inflected accent is a little closer to what I imagine Shakespeare's actors to have sounded like. But everyone added a voice to the night, and it made the play sing. We're doing it again tonight, 7 p.m. We'll pick up after Act 3, scene 1 -- but don't worry about reading the earlier acts. I'll give a synopsis and we'll read until we're done. C'mon and join us.
(Out-of-town visitor Peter Katz, of California, took the photos.)

Mawidge is what brings us together

Here's the love situation in Midsummer: Hipployta is a war bride for Theseus. Hermia has the choice to marry the guy her dad chooses, die or become a nun. Helena finds true love only if her man stays drugged -- an early version of taking lithium, I suppose. And Titania, Queen of the Fairies, is essentially drink-spiked (by her husband, no less) into a night with a guy who has a donkey head. (Not going to explicate that one here.) Except for pandering to Queen Elizabeth, who never married (or rather considered herself betrothed to England), why would Shakespeare make marriage so utterly unappealing?

For one thing, he's working within classical conventions of "lovers." Goes back pretty far -- Ovid's Metamorphoses, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and, big leap, movies such as Princess Bride. One of my favorite scenes from that flick is very Shakespearean actually -- and very much on point for our marriage theme. You can watch it here.

Another way to learn more about marriage Shakespeare style is to listen to an interview I did recently with Stephen Greenblatt, world-class Shakespeare scholar, Harvard professor and author of "Will in the World" and "Cardenio," a "lost" play attributed to the Shake man. (Here's the Greenblatt interview.) Greenblatt told me that "all of Shakespeare's comedies are a little strange -- in fact extremely strange." When I asked him why get married if you're a woman in Shakespeare, he said: "Alicia, if you ask that question too strenuously, no one would get married." People don't get married based on cost-benefit analysis or rationality, he explained. They get married because they are desperately in love.

Wish I'd thought of that.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Why Do We Do It?

In the past 48 hours I've seen people overcome by internal impulses and paralyzed by intellectual pursuits, while others have been torn by instincts in multiple directions and liberated by an artistic aesthetic years in the honing. While I thoroughly believe it takes time to build a company, it is amazing to me that this ensemble, en masse, met just sixteen days ago.

We're getting there. Someone in an earlier post used the word "Whirlwind", and as I looked around rehearsal this afternoon, no other phrase could better capture the apparent dichotomy of forces at work. People spoke words, taught children, experimented with sounds, hoisted weights, jumped around, argued, laughed, and sang ... and all somehow paid attention to the other groups in an effort to create some sum vastly more powerful than the individual ingredients. It was literally order being applied to chaos, or chaos let loose in the midst of order. Perhaps it's an observer's inability to tell the difference that allows and demands we label it as that "magic" that happens en route to an opening..

And that was only inside the theatre; no doubt similar dances were executed in the office, on the phone, and within vehicles running errands around the area. Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when we attempt to do some theatre.

I hope it continues, as this mass of human endeavor, is literally, inspiring. Stonington, more than most places, should know that a high tide floats all boats, and this collective effort asks, better yet, incites me to rise to the occasion. I can only speak for myself, but maybe that's why we do it: what a thrilling challenge.

Will in the World

Exclusive to Shakespeare in Stonington: with renowned Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt, conducted last week by Alicia Anstead. The man in general, and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in particular.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

We've Got Sound

In "A Midsummer Night's Dream:" get out your guides to Greek mythology, and stay tuned for podcast interviews by Alicia Anstead with noted Shakespeare scholars Stephen Greenblatt and "our own" Richard Brucher of the University of Maine at Orono. Music from Beth Ann Cole.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Forest for the Trees, Part 2

Today, we brought the forest in through the trees.

Too few people get to experience the wild creativity that happens BEHIND the scenes in a theater. With a Scenic Designer, Costume Designer, Technical Director, and tech crew all in residence building out the set and costumes for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” there are so many types of creativity buzzing around the Opera House it could make your head whirl. Today, another wet Wednesday, we fetched a large (15’) log from our woods, and had long discussions as to how to rig it to fly onto the set—as well as how to rig it to ride in on my pickup to the Opera House! Meanwhile, we also fetched and delivered a special type of sewing machine, since our costumer, Jennifer Paar, and her two excellent high school interns, Hannah Avis and Lily Felsenthal, are busy making horned helmets for our fairies; papier mache ass-heads for our “Asshead Ballet;” and minotaur tattoos for everyone. Don’t you wish YOU worked at a theater?! (Photo is from an early costume prototype from the production. Volunteers get to have all this fun, too, so email me if you want to spend some time with this creative whirlwind.)


Last summer at a community reading of MACBETH in Stonington, Maine, one of the participants was moved to tears at the end. As a group of citizens sat around a table and read aloud of Macbeth's demise, she was overcome with emotion. Suddenly, she understood that even monsters have a human side. And more penetrating: She felt Macbeth gave her insight into Saddam Hussein. You can imagine the stunning discussion that arose just as spontaneously as her emotion had. People were in awe of her revelation. People disagreed. But it was Shakespeare at his best: Provoking us all these years later to understand the shocking humanity behind greed, ambition, power and tyranny.

So that's an invitation to join us tonight and tomorrow -- 7 p.m. Wed June 24 and Thurs June 25 -- at the Blue Hill Public Library, where regular -- no, extraordinary -- citizens (like you) will gather to read and revel in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. A comedy this time. I'll be there. Actors will be there. But otherwise it's Shakespeare, his words, your voice and our collective imagination.