Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Few Stray Thoughts

Faces, Shakespeare and Echoes of RENT

By Russ Bickerstaff
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Echoes Of RENT

It’s been almost a week since I saw RENT for the third time in the same one year period. The Skylight Opera Theatre’s production, like the two others that cam before it since the beginning of last summer tends to latch into my mind and hang on for a bit longer than I’d like. The songs and melodies of Jonathan Larson have a really long half life—more so than anything else I’ve encountered in musical theatre. I’ll wake-up days later and still be hearing parts of certain songs rolling through my head. Having seen the show four times now, I’m very familiar with its effect. I know if I ever do so again to expect a week or so of RENT half-life after opening curtain.

Here are a couple of other things that I’ve noticed:

The Shakespeare Thing

With the Optimist Theatre's opening night of its free outdoor production of The Tempest happening on the same weekend as a particularly viable Shakespeare weekend for out-of-towners at the American Players Theatre, I may find myself seeing three Shakespeare productions in a single weekend midway through next month. (OT’s The Tempest opens on June 18th, That weekend, All’s Well That Ends Well and As You Like It run the 19th and 20th, respectively.

I also know that, what with Shakespearian language being what it is, that much of that playwright in a single weekend tends to alter my word choice for a few days after the fact. And while I’m not exactly speaking Shakespearian English for a couple of days after seeing As You Like It, I do tend to use a different set of words in writing and casual conversation for some time afterwards. The effect is particularly pronounced after to or three shows in a single weekend.

 

Faces

It is said that it takes the human mind about as much time to recognize the face of a loved one as it does to recognize a triangle. Being hardwired as social creatures through untold years of evolution, we are constantly looking for faces. Given a few ambiguous blots on a piece of fabric, we’re just as likely to turn them into a face as anything else.

As fascinating as all this is, being familiar with the work of local stage actors complicates things a bit. I’ll be on the bus and see the face of someone who reminds me of an actor . . . and have difficulty placing the actor who reminds the stranger’s face reminds me of. The faces of actors from local stage, TV and film all share the same space in my head, so I’ll be trying to remember where I’d seen somebody before and get a bit lost in the trivia of it.

Contrary to popular conception, there really isn’t that much difference between the talent of decent professional actors in New York or Hollywood and local actors who don’t get paid. A good performance is a good performance. And trying to remember whether I’d seen a face that looks like the one sitting across the aisle on TV last night, stage last weekend or a movie last month is a lot more difficult than it sounds.

 

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