Archive for the ‘Staged Reading’ Category

Milton’s Paradise Regained!

Posted: October 9, 2019 by nrhelms in Announcements, Staged Reading
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On Wednesday, October 16th in 30 ten Hoor Hall, Improbable Fictions presents a staged reading of John Milton’s Paradise Regained.

7:30 pm show start, free and open to the public.

Sponsored by the Hudson Strode Program in Renaissance Studies, UA Dept. of English.

For more information, please visit improbablefictions.org and strode.english.ua.edu/.

Paradise Regained poster, final, Gustav Dore

Twelfth Night ramblin’

Posted: October 9, 2019 by nrhelms in Program Notes, ShakesFilm, Staged Reading
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In Trevor Nunn’s 1996 “Twelfth Night,” possibly the best, or at least among the top, film adaptations of this comedy, Toby Stephens plays Orsino as a languid, distant melancholic.

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So it took me a number of double-takes to recognize the same actor — now fiery red-headed, apparently his natural coloring — 20 years later, as bloody, devious Capt. Flint from the lush pirate epic “Black Sails,” a “Games of Thrones”-ish (heavily peopled, disturbingly graphic, reliant much like “Vikings” on period detail, lavishing bucks building actual working ships for ramming and wrecking) production, set in the Bahamas but filmed in South Africa.

It ran four years on Starz, 2014-2017, and you can get it on disc. I found the Blu rays worth the extra dollars; it’s a vivid, beautiful mess.

Stephens works heavily in theater, especially for the Royal Shakespeare Company, as did his parents — more on them in a bit — but he’s been in movies such as Sally Potter’s 1992 “Orlando,” from the Virginia Woolf novel, and Tilda Swinton’s breakthrough role; as the villain in the 2002 Bond movie “Die Another Day,” Gustav Graves; in a 2000 adaptation of “The Great Gatsby,” as Jay Gatz: and on TV series and miniseries such as the 2006 “Jane Eyre,” playing Rochester. He’s currently John Robinson on the new “Lost in Space” series.

Stephens burned through “Black Sails” as Flint, a former naval officer leaving more than one twisted tale in his wake, a sort-of prequel to “Treasure Island” that mixes Robert Louis Stevenson’s characters (such as Flint, Long John Silver, and Billy Bones) with real-world pirates such as Anne Bonny, Edward “Blackbeard” Teach, “Calico Jack” Rackham (who created the skull-and-crossbones Jolly Roger flag) and Israel Hands, one of the few who was both historical figure and “Treasure Island” character.

It’s a bloody fine time, if you can abide graphic realism in your sax and violins.

Wonderfully atmospheric music by Bear McCreary, who also composed/composes for “Battlestar Galactica,” “The Walking Dead,” “Outlander” (if you listen, you can hear the “Outlander” theme, “Skye Boat Song,” playing in a bar in “Black Sails”) and others.

McCreary’s one of the rare proteges taken on by film and theater legend Elmer Bernstein, composer for “The Magnificent Seven,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Great Escape,” “The Ten Commandments,” “Hud,” “Ghostbusters,” “Animal House”… on and on. Though he was NOT related to Leonard Bernstein; just pals, distinguished from one another in their field as Bernstein West and Bernstein East, because while both composed for theater and film, Elmer leaned more LA while Leonard worked more in NYC. Also pronounced differently: Elmer BERN-steen, and Leonard BERN-stine.

Now back to our regularly scheduled Brit-theatrical deep-dive.

Because he carries his father’s name, I didn’t know until imdbing, the day after the Improbable Fictions’ latest staged reading of “Twelfth Night,” that Toby Stephens is the son of Dame Maggie Smith.

The Dame Maggie Smith.

That Dame Maggie Smith. Violet Crawley, Minerva McGonagall, Miss Jean Brodie, and various goddesses, matriarchs and acid-tongued ladies of stage and screen for the past 60 years.

Stephens’ older brother, Smith’s other son, Chris Larkin, has one of those character-actor faces you’ll likely recognize, having been in “Master and Commander,” “Valkyrie,” “Jane Eyre,” and numerous others. Larkin also co-starred on “Black Sails” (as Captain Berringer), as did Stephens’ wife, Anna-Louise Plowman (as Mrs. Hudson), who you might remember from “Stargate SG-1,” or an Eccleston “Doctor Who” episode, or….The “Black Sails” actor who played Anne Bonny was born Lady Clara Elizabeth Iris Paget, daughter of the Marquess of Anglesey.

Aside from being born near-royalty himself as Maggie Smith’s son, Toby Stephens is also step-son to Patricia Quinn, who was the fourth wife of another RSC giant, Sir Robert Stephens, once thought to be the next Laurence Olivier, though heavy drinking dropped him into the gutter.

But after remarrying and sobering up (at least somewhat), then came a somewhat on-the-nose comeback: Robert Stephens won the ’93 Olivier Award for his Falstaff. The RSC also invited him back to play Lear and Julius Caesar. Stephens was knighted early in ’95; deceased in late ’95.

While still married, Stephens and Smith starred in the 1967 film of “Much Ado About Nothing,” as Benedick and Beatrice, built around a stage adaptation directed by Franco Zeffirelli, who you might know from every other Shakespeare film ever, but especially the beloved 1968 “Romeo and Juliet,” for which Stephens played The Prince, and Olivier (uncredited) narrated and played Lord Montague. Zeffirelli directed Larkin in a 1996 “Jane Eyre,” though not brother Stephens in the 2006 “Jane Eyre.”

The elder Stephens worked with Kenneth Branagh (who directed and starred in the 1993 “Much Ado” movie opposite HIS then-wife, Emma Thompson) on the 1989 film “Henry V,” as “Auncient” Pistol, while Smith of course worked with Branagh in the Harry Potter movies.

But then everyone’s worked with Branagh, the English Kevin Bacon.

Both Stephens and Smith worked with Olivier in productions of “Othello,” as Iago and Desdemona … though separately.

Oh yeah, and Stephens’ aforementioned fourth wife, Patricia Quinn? You’ll recognize her as Magenta from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Those are her lips at the beginning, mouthing “Science Fiction, Double Feature,” though the voice belongs to her old friend Richard O’Brien, aka Riff Raff, who wrote the musical “RHPS”‘s based on. Quinn’s nephew is the drummer for Snow Patrol.

My new favorite Toby Stephens quote: “Actors don’t listen to each other. You’re so obsessed with what you’re saying or doing that the other person could be talking in Swahili and you wouldn’t know.”

There’s really no point to all this meandering, except that theatrical life can be far more incestuous, twisted and intriguing than just about anyone’s, with the possible exception of perhaps actual royalty.

~Mark Hughes Cobb

And thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges!

12 Night poster

Image: A Beach, perhaps the one Viola finds herself shipwrecked upon. Event details below.

On Wednesday, Oct 2, Improbable Fictions will present Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the first staged reading we performed back in 2010. An excellent way to start out our ELEVENTH season! The details:

Last night’s event was wonderfully acted and followed by a compelling discussion of the walls between us (physical and cultural). Here is a list of the scenes that were performed and some photos of the event, courtesy of MK Foster.

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We’re hoping to soon be able to offer IF’s performances in a high quality audio format, and “Early Modern Strangers” will be our first foray into that space. We’ll keep you informed as we know more.

We have an exciting slate of Strode-sponsored programs coming up this spring, compiled by program director and Hudson Strode Professor Michelle Dowd– please take note of these events and mark your calendars accordingly!   Thanks to the abundance of early modern performances and films on offer this semester, Improbable Fictions is temporarily shifting focus away from Shakespeare and toward less bardolized early modern playwrights: Margaret Cavendish, John Lyly, and Margherita Costa.
 
Sponsored Performances:
We are sponsoring three fantastic performances this spring in conjunction with EN667, The Shakespeare in Performance Practicum.  All three events are free and open to all members of the UA community.  A poster for the ASC shows is attached.  More details to follow!
  • American Shakespeare Center touring company performance of The Comedy of Errors, Friday, February 15, 7:30PM (pre-show music begins at 7:00PM).  Brock Recital Hall, Samford University, Birmingham. 
  • American Shakespeare Center touring company performance of The Winter’s Tale, Saturday, February 16, 7:30PM (pre-show music begins at 7:00PM).  Brock Recital Hall, Samford University, Birmingham. 
  • Resurgens Theatre Company touring performance of The Changeling, Tuesday, February 26, 7:30PM.  Allen Bales Theater, UA.
asc hand of time tour poster
Guest Speakers: 
We are excited to welcome the following guest speakers this spring.  All events are free and open to the public:
  • Brent Griffin, Artistic Director of the Resurgens Theater Company.  Tuesday, February 26.  Title TBA.  5PM in the Allen Bales Theatre (UA).
  • Wendy Wall (Northwestern University).  Thursday, March 28.  Title TBA.  5PM in 301 Morgan Hall.
Strode Film Series:
Please also check out the Strode Film Series schedule for the spring.  Note that some events will be held at the Bama theater, and others will be held on campus.  All shows are free and open to the public.  For more information, please visit the Film Series’ website: http://shakespearefilmseries.ua.edu/
  • Monday, January 28: Globe Production of The Duchess of Malfi.  Morgan 301, 7:30PM.
  • Monday, February 11. Warm Bodies.  Bama Theatre, 7:30PM.
  • Monday, March 25: Kozintsev’s King Lear.  Morgan 301, 7:30PM.
  • Monday, April 15:  Shakespeare in Love.  Bama Theatre, 7:30PM. 
Improbable Fictions:
Improbable Fictions is hosting several events this spring. The first three are for small groups and thus aren’t appropriate as a broad extra credit opportunity for students, but the last performance will be perfect for 200 level English courses and the like. If you’d like to participate or just come listen to the first three, please RSVP.
  • Wed, Jan 16, 6:30pm in 301 Morgan Hall, a cold reading of Margaret Cavendish’s The Convent of Pleasure, dramaturged by Chris Koester (cwkoester@ua.edu).
  • Wed, Feb 6, 6:30pm in 301 Morgan Hall, a cold reading of John Lyly’s Gallathea, dramaturged by Mark Hulse (mchulse@crimson.ua.edu). 
  • Wed, Mar 6, time TBA at the Strode House, a cold reading of Margherita Costa’s burlesque “ridiculous comedy” entitled The Buffoons (1641), translated by Jessica Goethals. The reading will be dramaturged by Deborah Parker (parkerburch@comcast.net). 
  • Wed, Apr 3, 7:30pm at the Tuscaloosa Cultural Arts Center (http://cac.tuscarts.org/contactus.php), a selection of staged readings we’re calling “Early Modern Strangers,” inspired by Shakespeare’s “The Stranger’s Case” from Sir Thomas More (check out Sir Ian McKellen’s reading). The event will include  respondents and a Q&A about immigration and crossing borders in the early modern period. Dramaturged by Nic Helms and Cordelia Ross (nrhelms@ua.edu, caross4@ua.edu).
We’ve still got room for participants for all shows, so feel free to reach out to Nic Helms (nrhelms@ua.edu) or any of our directors if you’re interested!
 
Please mark your calendars for these events, and stay tuned for additional announcements and updates!!!
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And, if you aren’t doing so already, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter: “Hudson Strode Program in Renaissance Studies” (FB); @hudstrode (Twitter); and @improbfictions (Twitter).

Othello tonight!

Posted: October 17, 2018 by nrhelms in Shakespeare, Staged Reading
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Othello_Poster

Othello_playbill

Medieval Medley

Posted: September 19, 2018 by nrhelms in Audio, Performance, Staged Reading
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Last week’s Medieval Medley was a delight! We packed out Gorgas 205 with an audience of nearly eighty. I can’t decide whether my favorite moment was Steve Burch spouting ‘LATIN!’ or Mark Cobb making out with pots and pans. If you missed the event (or would like to relive it), check out the media below: the program, production photos, and audio from the event. (Listen with care: the audio quality is not the best.)

 

 

IF Fall 2018, Medieval Medley final

Medieval Medley Program