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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: May ::
Re: Alabama Shakespeare Festival
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1280  Wednesday, 30 May 2001

From:           Joanne Gates <
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Date:           Tuesday, 29 May 2001 14:23:29 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 12.1220 Re: Alabama Shakespeare Festival
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1220 Re: Alabama Shakespeare Festival

For Jack Heller and others:

I saw King John on Saturday and strongly recommend it. In fact, in my 30
plus years of seeing Shakespeare, mostly now at ASF, though in the past
I have seen much on the East coast and in Stratford, Ontario and
England, I can say that they do high quality work.

I have felt especially rewarded by the work they do in the smaller
stage, the Octagon, where King John is performed.  (It's really a
rectangular stage, jutting way out so three of four sides are the
audience, very intimate.) In the past they have done stunning
productions of many of Shakespeare's difficult or less performed plays,
Troilus and Cressida, Measure for Measure (set in Weimar Germany and a
throaty rendition of Kurt Weill's "Moon over Alabama" giving the opening
brothel scene sequence a nice touch) , 2 Henry IV, 1 Henry VI, Winter's
Tale.

Last year they did King Lear there and it was better than the KL of
years back at the Festival, the larger stage.  Their MFA graduates do a
show late July, early August, and this year it is The White Devil.  The
MFAs All's Well of several years back was pronounced by my
Shakespeare-challenged husband as Shakespeare's BEST play (!); their
success with a difficult script made me agree, at least temporarily (I
still haven't justified putting it on my syllabus).  There are some
student works that have not been so successful, perhaps Cymbeline by the
MFAs years ago comes to mind.

And I think anybody who gets a chance to see this King John will not be
disappointed.  (It is not the student show, but done by their regularly
returning equity cast.) Such a strange play, but very satisfying when
done with all its shifting allegiances so enthusiastically embraced. It
is set in time circa 1900-1914 (the last battle uses gas-masks), but
this is hardly a distraction. I was disappointed that the excellent
performances of Constance and Eleanor were not rewarded at the curtain
call, but they have a policy not to require those who leave the play so
early to have to appear. The Bastard was appropriately cocky and
appealing (sorry I do not have my cast list); he played a Petruchio as a
1950s Texan a few years ago; there are other performer's strengths
different viewers will appreciate.

I'm not affiliated, except to hope that you all spend money in Alabama
and help the state education funding crunch.  Oh, I once did a lecture
(1994) for their excellent Othello, also in the Octagon.  I wasn't wild
about this year's main stage Julius Caesar, but it has the requisite
blood and togas.  Unfortunately the festival has done fewer and fewer
Shakespeare as a total percentage of their plays.  What else they do I'm
less qualified to speak on, but my bias is wanting all Shakespeare, and
most Shakespeare Festivals cannot support an all-Shakespeare season.
Next season none of the announced three Shakespeare of 8 0r 9 total are
in the Octagon.

The web site is www.asf.net (dig around for the calendar, as this time
of year they run in repertory) and the local paper's web site
(montgomeryadvertiser.com), just click on theater, will give you more
info.  I'll wait till Jack has used his ticket, but if I get time in
between prepping for a mini-mester class, I will try to post more
specific comments on this King John.

Joanne Gates

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