IN CULTURE, NEWSLETTER, THEATRE / BY GABRIEL DICKSON / ON SEPTEMBER 21, 2011 AT 1:18 AM /
Euripides’ “Hecuba” is coming to Tuscaloosa for one night only on Thursday, Sept. 22 in the Greensboro Room at the Bama Theatre.
The play deals with Queen Hecuba of Troy as a captive of the Greeks after the Trojan War. She is grief-stricken after her sons and husband were killed in the fighting and she had to sacrifice her own daughter, Polyxena, to appease the ghost of Achilles.
“Hecuba” will be performed by Improbable Fictions, a staged Shakespearean reading series at the University started by Nic Helms and Alaina Jobe Pangburn while they were attending graduate school at Alabama in 2008. This season, the works of Shakespeare as well as other works of the ancient Greeks will be featured.
According to Helms, the mention of Shakespeare and theater automatically brings notions of high culture, something only intended for the rich and something performed by professional theatre troupes. Helms and Pangburn founded the group to debunk that myth and to help students understand the work.
“Shakespeare’s plays have endured for four centuries because people reproduce them and add something that incorporates and resonates with locals,” Helms said.
They make use of minimalist effects, bare stage and contemporary costumes to add to the full experience of a play sans distractions, not “huge wigs and poofy dresses.”
Steve Burch, associate professor of theatre and dance and also the man responsible for directing “Hecuba,” said he believes the theatre experience is important for any community.
“It’s an intimate, emotional, intellectual, and physical connection in front of an audience.” Burch said. “It’s connecting to essences in human life.”
Burch also heads The Rude Mechanicals, a local Shakespeare group that specializes in outdoor readings.
Sometimes, however, those essences can drag on and be non-integral to the story. Cuts are often made in relevance to the local audience.
Taken from Crimson White - CW.ua.edu
Posted by apangburn in Shakespeare, The Rude Mechanicals
For their ninth season, The Rude Mechanicals chose to perform Shakespeare’s The Tempest to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the first performance of the play in 1611. There was, of course, no way of knowing that a month before the play was to open, great swaths of Tuscaloosa would be devastated by tempests of another sort.
No performance of such a play at such a time in such a place could avoid being influenced by such events; thankfully, The Rude Mechanicals do not try. They are giving half the proceeds from their post-performance passing of the hat to the disaster relief efforts, and even the pre-show musical numbers blend melancholy with defiance in the face of adversity. One of the songs played opening night was a Mark Hughes Cobb original, “Hot Now,” an ode to love found at the Krispy Kreme formerly at the intersection of 15th and McFarland. AnyTuscaloosa resident who has passed that intersection and realized they can now see the hospital would be hard pressed to not be moved by the choice.
Music is central to the island on which the action of The Tempest takes place; as Caliban (Cobb) states, “Be not afeared, the isle is full of noises, / Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not” (3.2.130-1). The power of the island causes characters to break into song as if inhabiting a musical, and even when characters are not singing, off-stage drums and recorders keep the audience aware that this world is one infused with the mystical power of music.
Director Steve Burch’s gifts often manifest in his ability to wring the most out of limited resources, and his staging of the opening storm displays both the brilliance and the limitations of such an approach. In the foreground stands ... Read the rest of the story...
Posted by apangburn in Literary Adaptation, Vanishing Sights
How do you stage a whale? A shipwreck? An 800 page novel?
You don’t. You stage the pieces and invoke the imagination of the audience. Steve Burch’s adaptation of Moby-Dick does just that: he strips Melville’s 1851 novel down to its bones and then breathes new life into it, a two-hour tapestry of Ahab’s desire. Directed by Seth Panitch, the University of Alabama’s production of Moby-Dick highlights the gaps inherent in any act of storytelling, whether that story is the great American novel or one’s own memories.
The play opens with the ocean waves, a dozen dancers in blue bodysuits swaying to the rhythms of drums and violins. Into this gentle tempest steps an old man leaning on a crutch. “Call me Ishmael,” he says, and the dancers strip him of crutch, coat, and hat, leaving a young man behind. The story begins, carried along by absences and symbols: the dancers’ bodies that serve as wave, wind, the flight of the harpoon, and even the corpse of a whale; a prow, a stern, a few oarlocks, and a backdrop of rigging that form the outline of a ship, variously combined and scattered throughout the play; and a whale’s skeleton that supports a crow’s nest, a bare memorial to Moby-Dick.
Burch retells Melville’s story through a set of interlocking narratives. The first half of the play focuses on the budding friendship between Ishmael (David Bolus) and Queequeg (Michael Luwoye), a friendship that surpasses racial and cultural differences. Bolus and Luwoye have such chemistry that their scenes provide a comic and heartwarming center to the play, a counterpoint to Ahab’s (played by Ted Barton) rage that lets the audience forget, if only for a moment, the downward spiral of the tragedy.. This center cannot hold, however: Ahab draws the second half of the play along in his wake. Barton’s stage presence is formidable, and those that stand against Ahab, appealing to his reason (Starbuck, Amy Handra) or his pity (Pip, Thaddeus Fizpatrick), while they can command the stage in their own right, can never command the course of the play. Ahab will have his heart’s desire, and Barton fills the stage with Ahab’s bellows, nearly conjuring up the sea and the tempest with his Lear-like fury.
Nothing is complete here, neither sea nor ship nor story, and that’s the point. There are gaps: the fragmented scenes held together in Ishmael’s memory; the racial divide between the Christian sailors and the cannibal harpooners; the name “Ahab,” a frightful reputation that precedes the captain and a missing leg that haunts him. Yet Ahab’s desire for vengeance sweeps him forward and we are carried along in his wake, sailors and spectators alike. What holds a man together in the face of a blind universe? Hatred? Friendship? Language? The play tries on each answer in turn, but in the end Ahab is swept underneath the spectre of Moby-Dick, an expanse of white cloth that the dancers stretch across the stage: he is devoured, the ship is scattered, and only Ishmael lives to tell the tale. Yet the final image of the play is not Ishmael’s desperate attempt to make sense of Ahab’s madness or his own loss. It is the sea, swaying gently to its own rhythms. The violins and the drums give way to whalesong, a sound that feels both alien and ethereal after the defiant shouts of Ahab. Unlike Ahab, however, the whalesong is complete. Whole.