Archive for the ‘Performance’ Category

Samson Agonistes, Oct 2017 poster

On Monday, Oct 9th at 7:30pm, Improbable Fictions will present a staged reading of John Milton’s Samson Agonistes. The reading will be held in 301 Morgan Hall on UA’s campus. Free and open to the public. Seating is limited: first come, first seated!

The Facebook event.

If you’re interested, you can find our cut of Milton’s closet drama here:

Samson Agonistes, Oct 2017

We’ve adapted the text provided by the John Milton Reading Room at Dartmouth College.

If you missed our staged reading on Sep 21, fear not! You can find the audio from the event here:

Apologies for the background noise at the start. It dies down once the performance begins.

titia5.png

On Thursday, Sep 21 at 7:30pm, at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center, Improbable Fictions will present a staged reading of Titia Andronica, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. Adapted and directed by Erin Hildebrand and Courtney Parker.

Free and open to the public. Sponsored by the Hudson Strode Program in Renaissance Studies at the University of Alabama (english.ua.edu/grad/strode).

For more information about Improbable Fictions, please visit improbablefictions.org.

Cast

TITIA ANDRONICA – MK Foster
MARCUS ANDRONICUS – Will Ramsay
LAVINIA – Emma Leisentritt
LUCIUS – Tyler Sasser
MUTIUS – Joseph Welty
MARTIUS – Deborah Parker
QUINTUS – Lily Davenport
YOUNG LUCIUS – Joseph Welty
SATURNINUS – Charlie Bell
TAMORA – Elizabeth Theriot
DEMETRIUS – Matt Smith
CHIRON – Theodore Nollert
PUBLIUS – Deborah Parker
BASSIANUS – Geoffrey Emerson
AEMILIUS – Deborah Parker
MESSENGER – Lily Davenport
COUNTRY FELLOW – Geoffrey Emerson
GOTH – Joseph Welty

 

IF2017-2018

Fall 2017 casting calls!

If you’re interested in reading for Titia Andronica, please contact Erin Hildebrand (eahildebrand@crimson.ua.edu) and Courtney Parker (caparker4@crimson.ua.edu).

If you’re interested in reading for Samson Agonistes, please contact Nic Helms (nrhelms@ua.edu).

If you’re interested in reading archival World War I materials at the Kentuck Festival of the Arts, please contact Deborah Parker (parkerburch@comcast.net).

Casting calls for Spring 2018 will come in December.

I’m pleased to announce the spring 2017 lineup for Improbable Fictions! We’re organizing a wide variety of events this semester, including workshops on Shakespearean appropriations and two separate staged readings, one of Shakespeare and one of the early modern Spanish playwright Pedro Calderon. For the first four events, we ask that you RSVP to nrhelms@ua.edu to indicate your interest.

  • Sunday, Jan 29th from 7:00 to 9:30pm, a cold reading workshop of Meredith Noseworthy’s What Vicious Loves. 301 Morgan Hall.
  • Tuesday, Feb 7th from 7:00 to 9:30pm, a cold reading workshop of work by Diamond Forde. 301 Morgan Hall.
  • Sunday, Feb 26th from 7:00 to 10:00pm, a staged reading of Meredith Noseworthy’s What Vicious Loves. 205 Gorgas Library.
  • Thursday, Mar 30th from 7:30 to 9:30pm, a staged reading of Perdon Calderon’s Life is a Dream, directed by Deborah Parker (parkerburch@comcast.net). 205 Gorgas Library. Contact Deborah for details.
  • Sunday, April 16th from 7:30 to 9:30pm, a staged reading of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, directed by Annie Levy (aglevy1@ua.edu). 205 Gorgas Library. Contact Annie for details.

Finally, I’d like to note that the Hudson Strode Program in Renaissance Studies is thrilled to be hosting the American Shakespeare Center’s “Hungry Hearts Tour 2017” for two (FREE!) productions at the BAMA Theatre, February 10-11: The Two Gentleman of Verona and Romeo and Juliet.

Both performances begin at 7:30 (with pre-show music beginning at 7:00PM). These shows are free and open to the public. Seats will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

This is a rare opportunity to see a longstanding, professional Shakespeare company perform free of charge (most of the host institutions are charging admission for ASC shows, but we are making them available to students, faculty, and members of the community for free to encourage as broad and large an audience as possible).

We have a dedicated webpage for the ASC shows: http://english.ua.edu/grad/strode/asc

The website includes more information about both performances as well as a brief history of the ASC and its unique, high-energy performance style based on Shakespeare’s original staging conditions.

Strode ASC Poster 2017.png

If you missed September’s Bechdellian Shakespeare, fret not! Here you can find audio and photos of the event, courtesy of Megan McCarter.

6454264538645376453464533645306452964526645256452264521645136451264509645086450564504644986449764433

(crosspost from irrecollections.com)

 

Aside from poor acting, poor design, and poor direction (most versions commit one, two, or all of these sins), most productions appear to misunderstand–and therefore misrepresent–the text. Though a lot of misconception stems from a misrepresentation of Machiavelli himself (preferring the mustache-twirling villain over the historian, linguist,  and political writer), a lot of confusion proceeds from a misunderstanding of the play’s goals: The Mandrake is a test of Latin language, themes, and types. Machiavelli borrows characters, scenes, and beats from Terence and Plautus and reworks them for a contemporary audience. And it’s funny when these moments fall flat; it’s funnier still when Machiavelli calls direct attention to them: we laugh at Siro’s lack of enthusiasm in Callimaco’s plan; we chuckle at Lucrezia’s disenchantment with (literally) everything. These self-aware, awkward, clunky moments are funny in much the same way The Princess Bride’s overblown acting, over-dramatic score, and cliched script are funny.

The Productions

To illustrate, here is Malachi Bogdanov’s production of The Mandrake Root. You can watch all of it if you like. I wouldn’t:

This production fails to humor me. I didn’t smile once during its 1 hour and 14 minute run time, and you likely didn’t either (or at least you shouldn’t have). I wouldn’t waste my time showing this to students.

And my distaste for this film has nothing to do with its Wiseau-esque opening credits or its painfully wooden acting–or even its standardization of Machiavelli’s already standardized characters (as if that was even possible!). My problem is one of intention: The Mandrake Root attempts to play The Mandrake straight; the characters take themselves seriously, undermining the humor that has kept the play alive for almost 500 years. Again, The Mandrake is a testing-ground for existing tropes in Latin comedy–and, better, a testing-ground for Machiavelli.

Machiavelli’s script is self-aware, and The Mandrake is as much a parody of the author as it is a parody of Latin comedy. Stylized, discourse-ish dialogue (vis a vis The Prince) is funny when magnified and tested. Callimaco’s grand speech in 1.1 is repeatedly undermined by Siro’s interjections and disinterest. Nicia’s hyperbolic love for Latin language and culture is undercut by Callimaco’s faux-Latin gobblety-gook. The play repeatedly parodies ‘Machiavellian’ archetypes, and it should be played lightly.

Here is a clip from The Princess Bride:

Though this isn’t a clip from The Mandrake, it illustrates my point well. Wallace Shawn, who translated The Mandrake in 1971, plays the scheming Sicilian Vizini. Note the discourse-like quality of the dialogue–how quickly both Vizini and The Dread Pirate Roberts recite overblown, faux-intellectual dialogue; how the score heightens and dramatizes the scene, despite talking heads; and how incredibly disinterested Buttercup looks, despite the knife at her throat. Though this isn’t a production of The Mandrake, it might as well be; and Shawn brilliantly executes this scene–from his smug grin to his sudden, anticlimactic death. The scene (and the film) is self-aware and lighthearted. It pokes holes in 80s high fantasy by embracing the genre’s tropes and exaggerating them.

This is what The Mandrake should do, and this is why most productions suck.

TL; DR: The Mandrake is a really smart play that’s smart about being dumb, and everyone plays it as a smart play trying to be smart, which is dumb. Don’t be dumb: be smart: be dumb.

We’ve had some good press recently for tonight’s performance of Hamlet. Check out the articles in The Crimson White and The Tuscaloosa News. You don’t want to miss the show! Remember, it’s free and open to the public, and seats are available on a first come first seated basis. There will be a merchandise table in the lobby selling large programs.

Join us!

Revised Hamlet Poster March 1 8.5x11