The sporadic ramblings of Emily C. A. Snyder - devoted to God, theatre, writing, and much randominity.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

Artistic Director and Co-Founder of TURN TO FLESH PRODUCTIONS. | Author of "Nachtstürm Castle," "Niamh and the Hermit." | Playwright: "Cupid and Psyche," "Math for Actors." | Classical director and educator.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The R&J madness begins

Or better to say, the theatrical sanity returns. (But fear not, those who can't stand theatrical ramblings - there'll be some non-theatre-ish real-lifey stuff at the end.)

  • Went to see the Publick Theatre's hugely expensive (ticketwise) Romeo and Juliet last night out in Cambridge. I got a bit lost getting there - although consequently I found out a lot about Soldier's Field Road and Memorial (Road? Parkway? Strada?) and how they connect, and the several bridges over the Charles River, and maybe five more ways of how to get to Route 90, and six more ways of how to Not Be Terrified When Wholly Lost In The Most Confusing City And Its Environs Ever (hint: it includes having the wildly in/appropriate song "Totally F---ed" happen to come on from the R&J soundtrack and sing really really loudly to it in defiance to the meandering cattle who first laid down our impossible road system).

  • Anywho, being the crazy scholar that I am, I had looked up the sole article I could find reviewing the show, and seen that they'd written that this R&J's central conceit was that of a chess game (color coded families, etc.). My first thought was: "Chess game conceit! That's so brilliant!" My second thought was: "Booooo. Now I can't steal that." But upon seeing the show, and seeing that there was nooooo chess theme (just color coded families in red and blue - pthpthpthpth), my newest thought is: "CHESS! NOTHING BUT CHESS! Yeeeeeeees. I shall do well here." And I've finally got an idea of the set, which has been plaguing me. (The design, not hulking heaps of lumber following me about. Because that would be creepy.)

  • The show itself was...well acted, well spoken, traditional dress, made good use of space, well-lit, well-sorta-miked, unimaginatively but for the most part serviceably directed, mehishly choreographed (dance and fighting - Ryan, you'll be glad to know your fights are WAAAY better), approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes, with a 5 minute hold and 12 minute intermission...and wholly unengaging. The difficulty was, that, although it was competently and even well done, I didn't see ANY of the relationships between the characters. Why was Romeo friends with Mercutio, or Mercutio with Romeo? So who cares when Mercutio dies then? He's just a braggart and rude. Buh-byeeeee! (And Mercutio was one of the better actors!) And who cares when Tybalt dies when we haven't seen any of the Capulets interact with him - so he just ends up looking like a random plot point to wander alone (?!?!??!?!?!?!!?!? - where's his Capulet posse?) onto the stage, cackle evilly a bit and then die. Who cares if Romeo kills him? Why in the world did he want to kill Romeo anyway? It all seemed to arbitrary. And I felt no animosity between the two households. And I felt nooooooo chemistry between Romeo and Juliet. Once again, the director felt that since everyone knows they're supposed to be in love and he has them kiss maybe three times (although, curiously, not in the balcony scene), we're supposed to buy it. Meh. Nope. And if that central relationship isn't believable - well, let's just say the whole play felt about an hour-fifteen too long.

  • I can't let this get away without mentioning some silly blocking. OK, Jules, you'll love this. (Ryan, too, if you're reading. And anyone who remembers the red-and-yellow tights.) So, the boys were all wearing nothing BUT doublet and hose - that is tight tights that were *ahem* unpanted and actually some really nice doublets (the fashion of Mercutio's I would love to steal). My first thought in seeing them was actually of David Bowie in Labyrinth with the embarrassing tight/stretchpants. (Strike a dramatic pose and sing: "I-hi-hi-hi can't live with-ih-ih-in yooooooooooou!") So there's Romeo randomly straddling his dead wife's body (first thought: "SQUACKWARD!") and then he's striking silly poses as he goes on and on and on about how he's going to die and all I can think is of "Dance, Magic, Dance!" Not quite the reaction the director wanted, I fear.


    David Bowie Working for a Paycheck


  • Continuation of silliness. OK, so then he dies half on top of Juliet. She wakes up (in buttshot!) to see the Friar there, she has to sort of move aside Romeo's arm to wipe the sleep from her eyes, and her first question is: "Oh, comfortable Friar - where is my Romeo?" And all I can think is a shrill, screeching: "Asleep my love? What? DEAD, my dove! Oh, Pyramus! Arise!" Bad bad bad choice. I mean, if I was waking up in a crypt and noticed that I had extra arms and legs hanging on me, I wouldn't be doing morning calisthenics and asking inane questions.


    Shakespeare Sends Up His Own R&J


  • Oh, and Paris was this lisping namby-pambyier who came on and then was...I think...beheaded by Romeo who went all crazy on the poor guy. Romeo just kept stabbing him and it was sooooooooooo funny. But I felt bad for the actors, because they were trying so hard, and they had clearly be instructed to do what they did.

  • Some good stuff. The Friar and the Nurse were great. Really great. They were the only ones I felt had relationship with their young charges, and even with each other. But that's the extent of it. They did, together, save the scene where Romeo's weeping on the floor about being banished. (Do boys really cry uncontrollably like that? Is this scene playable without being silly? Or is Shakespeare making R&J into a comedy?) Once again, all I could think of was Dane Cook. (And the poor actor playing Romeo, just lying on the floor in silly tights weeping hysterically.)


    Dane Cook on Crying


  • Um, other good things were the balcony scene was fast and fun and flirty (but they never touched so...why was the scene happening? No chemistry). The leads - especially Romeo - had some good "I'm 15 and have no actual control of my limbs" moments. The set was good and the way they moved into the crypt was very well done. Their tableaus were good, too. Paris pronounced some of his words strangely, like "Marr-EE-age" - sort of putting in every possible syllable - but it worked for a sort of "I'm more upper crust than you" indicator. Also, I counted out a few of his lines that he read like that, and it's justified because it makes the line into perfect pentameter (rather than being a syllable short). There was one point when the Nurse held Juliet like Juliet was still a baby. And there was another point where Juliet turned her back on Paris and said, "I love him" to the Friar significantly. (Boogie! Subtext!)

  • But all in all I was so glad to see the play - even at that exorbitant price - because it reminded me that I really do like theatre - nay, love it - and that Much Ado really was pretty good - and that "Oh, heck, I can do this!" - and that it doesn't matter how big your budget is or how many weekends you run, you may still only pull an audience of 50 (about the size last night!). And that I can now steal the chess idea outright! Bwahahahhahahhahha!

  • So, school. Hum. I've only had one week. I luuuuuuuurve my morning class (T/TH), which is about the craft of teaching. What I find particularly cool is that the professor narrates his own thought process so that we can get an idea of what an instructor is thinking and why he is thinking it. Of course, I also enjoy the many theatre games which are going right into my bag of tricks and will likely find their way into 2008's R&J summer camp! Tra la! My Monday evening class is good - lots and lots and lots of reading - I think quite a bit of how grateful I am to the Steubie-U Honors Program. Grateful for the academic discipline, but even more for the philosophical, theological and analytical knowledge. It is coming in handy in keeping my sanity and seeing through the philosophical inanities inherent in the subject. (The subject says that all of life is performance, hence it's an excuse for "Anything I want to do I can do because I choose to do it." Neitschze's Will to Power, otherwise known as hubris boys and girls! The Snyder family's been discussing nothing else but the fundamentals of the subject for the past two weeks.) And my Thursday night acting class looks like it'll be interesting - it's focused on Augusto Boal and the "Theatre of the Oppressed" - but the techniques are applicable anywhere, I think. And I learned a variation of the mirror game that is really cool and focussing. Guess what'll probably make it into Gaudete next summer?

  • But the weirdest part is this continuing freefall. I am unaccustomed - and have been unaccustomed for the past seven years - to not being in authority of my own actions. Being a teacher for so long, I can see what my own teachers are choosing to do and can guess their reasoning. And when I get nervous (as a student) over the thought of homework or a final exam, I have to remind myself of what my expectations were as a teacher and I calm down a little. But this lack of authority, this lack of foresight (I have the syllabi - the roadmap - but not the prior knowledge), this need for total trust, this living from day to day - this is all quite foreign to me. I am not sure that I care for it. And it's not a power thing - it really isn't - but it's similar to the few times this past year that I've either acted or performed (usually musically). I feel like I have tunnel vision - everything peripherally is blurred - of myself all I can see are my fingers and my feet - I have no idea how or if I fit into the bigger picture or how well or ill or anything. It's like being blind, but worse than blind, for it's a partial vision. That's it: as a teacher and a director, I have VISION. Being under others' authority, I do not - and it's as disconcerting as driving with one's glasses off.

  • The other day in my morning class, my professor mentioned that a) he has never burnt out on theatre or on teaching, although he came close when he tussled with administration and immediately after he said that b) he has no extracurricular activities, but goes to theatre as his hobby and lives and breathes and eats and sleeps theatre. And this, alas, sent me into an uncontrollable fit of giggles because...it's so true. And it made me realize a) that I haven't burnt out on theatre and teaching either, but that for the past six of my seven teaching years, I have been steadily and increasingly beaten down by administrations and b) that perhaps it's just all part of the job to let the job and the life and the being be all one. It was a comfort. But I got a few strange looks for giggling. But I just couldn't help it. I did help myself from dancing about the room, singing: "Tra la! I love the Spring!" at the top of my voice. People should be grateful.

  • So I sang at mass yesterday and felt that, once again, I couldn't get my balance between my chest, mask and head voice and that it was throwing my vowels and dynamics all wonky and boooooooooooo. But then I was down in the nave praying my Magnificat after mass (and crying - I've been crying a lot at mass lately - good crying, though) and Father Jonathan (who's studying the Latin Mass!!!) came by and out of the blue said, "Emily, I was telling Rodger (the organist - aMAZing musician) the other day, that 'Emily really is the best singer we have. Just beautiful every time.'" And that was lovely and Heaven sent. And then Father blessed me in Latin (the showoff ;P) and said that all I had to do was close the door behind me but that the church was locked up. And so I got to stay and sing to Him! Sing in the Spirit in a high-vaulted church. Oooooooooooooooooh, joy. And much much much needed.

  • So, during Much Ado's final gag night, I put down a minefield for Ryan to navigate full of jokes and gags directed at him. Mwahahahhahaha. But last Sunday, the day before my 30th, I felt as though God had put down a similar delightful minefield. Someone I didn't know at the kiss of peace came over and said, "Happy Birthday" to me (turns out he's the husband of someone in the choir). And there was just a series of delightful things. And yes, Dad (who I know reads this), I am sooooo glad that slowly you and I are getting better at being close together. That is the best of all things.

    Anywho, waaaaaaaaaay too long. And miles of readings to go before I sleep.

    Mood: Curieux
    Music: "The Sky is Falling" by Lifehouse from the New Life soundtrack.
    Lyrics: It isn't but it sounds like: "Well it shouldn't be hard to grieve/Shouldn't be this difficult to leave/The sky is falling/And no one knows."

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