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Good Men and True

Last Friday night I enjoyed a belated first visit to Hamtramck, Michigan’s Planet Ant Theatre, a small venue that has an ambitious slate of provocative plays. As sometimes happens, I’d wanted to go to this theatre earlier on and didn’t. But it was rewarding to be able to make the time to attend the Opening Night of this particular production.

The publicity materials for the show take care to spell out the basic premise of the play (what if a trio of protagonists from some of Shakespeare’s well-known works meet up in a single story?), but, delightfully, don’t give a sense of the creativity and free spiritedness of the production. The play has received additional press attention in a positive review by John Quinn of Encore Michigan and a feature article running in The Detroit News.

For me personally, the show was a delightful mash-up and reminder of a more creative side of theatre that I sometimes feel sad to not see very often in the professional world. This approach that I speak of is one that is not afraid of taking risks, rolling with the possibilities of a prompt or suggested activity, and being comfortable with the dramatic ambiguity or simply not knowing how a creative exercise might turn out. This was a hallmark of some of my most memorable improvisation and creative discovery based courses over the years, and in some cases, audience attending, such as at San Francisco’s BATS Improv.

In Good Men and True the four actresses (Jaclynn Cherry, Kez Settle, DeAnnah Kleitz-Singleton and Jackie Strez) perform confidently and comfortably as their roles undergo various switchups and moving of layers, literally and figuratively. Their vocal and physical inflections and character choices from the first moment on stage show a strong command of the material and willingness to take risks. I look forward to remembering the fresh and exciting feel of their play – and the associated creative confidence they project with the material – for some time.

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What does Romeo and Juliet mean to you?

(excerpt from an article in progress that will run in the program for The Hilberry Theatre‘s upcoming production of Romeo and Juliet)

Romeo and Juliet. In fair Verona. Two star crossed lovers. In fair Verona where we set our scene. Deny thy father and refuse thy name. Two households both alike in dignity. A plague o’ both your houses! But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Is there a Shakespeare production that has greater iconic impact and resonance? This one occupies a special place in literary minds. But this fascination takes many forms.

Consider film. Older audiences recall, and younger audiences might be familiar with, the 1968 cinematic version by Franco Zefferelli, with Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey portraying the lovers. In the 1990’s, filmgoers were treated to the romance again, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Danes in the leads. Now, in 2014, that once modern portrayal is almost 20 years old and has begun to age. A more recent adaptation, with Douglas Booth and Hallee Steinfeld in the lead roles, was less well received following its choice to not incorporate all of Shakespeare’s traditional dialogue.

The story’s first true home is arguably right here in the theatre, and the play has been seen six times here at the Hilberry. With a play so familiar, we continue to look for ways to tell the story in a fresh and appealing way.

Director Blair Anderson itends for this version intends to be a postmodern approach to the classic, with an increased emphasis on the perspective of Juliet. In conceptualizing the story, Anderson notes that “different generations have different emotional contexts.”

Scenic Designer Tonae Mitsuhashi has fashioned a festival of light for this production, with many lines of string coming into center stage. The costumes will also take on the modern flair.

We hope this production will carry on the lovers’ story to new audiences through our ongoing student matinee series. Such a story can still find relevance in our frenetic modern world and cause audiences to pause to reflect on historical romance and the role of citizens and culture.

The Bonstelle Theatre Kicks Off Its Season With Shakespeare’s ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL

Another Opening Night coming up this evening here at Wayne State.

The WSU Bonstelle and Studio Theatres at Wayne State

William Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well opens the Bonstelle Theatre’s 02 Sydney as Helena2014-15 Season in Midtown, Detroit. Playing October 10th through 19th, 2014, Shakespeare’s classic comedy follows the schemes of a young woman as she strives to win the love of a nobleman.  Tickets for All’s Well That Ends Well range from $10-$20 and are available by calling (313) 577-2960, online at Bonstelle.com, or at the Hilberry Theatre box office at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock Street.

One of Shakespeare’s lesser known comedies, All’s Well That Ends Well is believed to have been written between 1604 and 1605, shortly after King James I took the English throne.  Helena, the low born ward of the Countess of Rousillon, sets her sights on the Countess’ son, Bertram, but he is indifferent to her.  In an attempt to rid himself of her, Bertram agrees to marry Helena only…

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