Recap Day: October 2017, Still Going
2017-12-24, 10:50 a.m.
The interesting thing about Shakespeare being done in our time is that frequently productions decide to get creative and change various things about the setting or plot or anything else. In this version of Midsummer, the artistic directors decided to set it in “Athens, CA, Bike City USA” and theme it like a version of Davis, California. The main piece of furniture onstage was a giant bike ramp with those words painted on it. According to this article the show had about 25 bikes used in it, which does make me wonder how they fit them all backstage. The character of Puck in particular was riding a new bike or skateboard almost every time he entered. The “rude mechanicals” were wearing clothing with logos on them based off of familiar Davis businesses, such as “Weavers Market” instead of Farmers Market on Bottom’s uniform. Bike wheels that lit up were hanging from the ceiling and lit up whenever a fairy did some magic.
Most of the actors were double cast, with Theseus and Hippolyta also playing Oberon and Titania and most of the “rude mechanicals” playing the fairy servants. The casting of the former seemed pretty fitting since both sets of characters are of higher status and most of the time, the female characters don’t seem terribly impressed with their male mates. Puck and Philostrate were played by the same actor, which was quite the switch for the actor. The actor had to play two very different characters while not getting time for a major change of clothing, so he was going between a very buttoned up look (say, wearing a fancy suit jacket and pants) while still having gold shoes and a T-shirt with a cat eating pizza on it beneath that he’d wear as Puck. Not to mention that Puck had many, many bikes.
Much to my surprise, the actor playing Bottom managed to out-ham Puck, or at least it was a pretty close call as to who was the hammiest. Though Puck possibly gave Bottom a run for his money when at one point he broke out some licorice (in lieu of fresh popcorn, I presume) to nosh on while watching the four Athenian lovers brawl on stage. I felt sorry for the actress playing Snug the joiner/the lion, as she had a perpetual “duh” face of total stupidity on the entire time. If she’s a joiner, I fear she shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near wood tools for fear of her losing some fingers. On the other hand, when she sat down with the audience and had to be reminded that she was on stage, it was pretty hilarious.
There were some random additions to the play I didn’t expect. The actor playing Francis Flute/Thisbe spoke his lines entirely in Spanish. I’m not sure why this was, but it was amusing and it turns out that you don’t really need to know Spanish to figure out what he was saying, especially when playing Thisbe. The actor, along with the other male actor double-cast as a fairy, did an excellent job of looking grimly enduring of Bottom’s shenanigans when they were forced to wait on him. As for the actress playing Starveling, she brought her dog on stage, for no particular reason. I was impressed that the dog was far more well behaved than various Totos and Bruisers I’ve seen on stage, though! There was also an additional scene added into the play in which the mechanicals try calling Bottom’s voice mail and wander around the audience saying things like, “I’m a millennial, I don’t know how to leave voice mail!”
All in all, it was an unusual and delightful production with a lot of surprises I didn’t expect, and was far more interesting than the production I saw of the same play at the Renaissance Faire recently! Yay for innovative twists in storytelling that livened things up!
Things I wrote down about Bill’s stories: they involved skunks somewhere in there. At one point he talked about punching lard at a job (I think it was a fast food restaurant thing) and this leading to people saying “don’t punch the lard.” He got to give a speech at a graduation ceremony once upon a time and he was hoping he would inspire young minds--but as he watched some kid nearly trip onstage, another one yelled, “Don’t punch the lard!” He also told a very complicated (probably fake) story abut a kid named Wallace whose parents met in the Peace Corps and told him that he was born in a strange country--Wallace and Futuna. (Yes, it turns out this exists.) Anyway, the teacher didn’t agree with that. Somehow this leads into the kids having to climb ropes in school. Remember how when you were in school pretty much nobody could do that? Well, Wallace climbs up to the ceiling (here’s how you know it’s not real, folks!) and then proceeds to climb around the rafters once someone yells at him to get down here because he’s in trouble. Would you climb back down? Nope! Not until you admit Wallace and Fortuna is a country, anyway!
Er...I think it made more sense when I was there. I’m trying to recap this about a month later from super sketchy notes. But, oh look, YouTube has it!
Things I wrote down about Willy’s stories: there was the time when someone drove through his living room on Christmas Eve...He also has this puppet moose named Maynard that he uses because he realized that kids related to silly voices and puppets, and it inspired someone to write songs. He calls himself a “serendipitist” (nice name!) and his Harvard-alumni dad wasn’t down with that as a job title. He talked about how his dad wasn’t exactly down with reality and would say things like, “Who has seen the mind?” He also did this thing with squeaking mice and a recorder...
As for the theater kids: once again I found myself envious that they were doing this stuff at a young age. A lot of them had crazy travel stories, such as perennially being stuck next to a woman who would not shut up about North Dakota or a “crazy monkey man” who seemed to be following them everywhere. There were cute cat stories and cute dog stories. I liked one girl’s story, called “PE With The Undead,” because she had class with some super strange girl who liked to pretend she was a vampire or other weird supernatural creatures. (The girl was pretty much all, I assumed she was a special snowflake and went with it...though I don’t think she used that term exactly.) I was also rather astonished by this story about a girl who likes Miranda Sings! and was going to a concert of hers, which nearly didn’t go on because Miranda Sings! gets death threats. WTF, world?
Much to my surprise, they mentioned around the opening on the show and in the program that they were going to have an open mike opportunity for locals to tell their stories. I had No Idea this was a possibility--it wasn’t mentioned in the advertising! Had I but known... I overheard one guy in the audience saying they’d already compiled a list and it was full--I was all, huh, how? I asked at the lunch break and the guy said sure, I’ll add you to the list.
But added complication to this one: I recognized a guy there from Sierra (he won the StorySlam, as I recall), and he has definitely heard my latest, the bird story. What to do, what to do? The last storytelling piece I worked on before that was my jury duty stories, which I performed about two years ago. Suffice it to say that whittled down version of it wasn’t super fresh in the head---it’s something I plan on updating with my third jury duty run. Could I possibly whip up a new 5 minute, 3 story version of this during lunch break? Heck yeah, I could! I decided to add a framing concept of Things I Have Learned During Jury Duty and break it down to the most ridiculous elements of things. Dawn seemed to like it.
In the end, there turned out to be a whopping three tellers. Um, what? The guy in the audience telling a cowboy story, me, and a third lady, I... forget exactly what she said, some story about her mother? But as for mine... it didn’t get a whole lot of laughs. I was kind of puzzled about that until I told Melinda about this later and she said they were probably all confused by all the changes in story and I really need to stick to telling one setting at a time. Good point!
Is this a thing one needs to have at the ready if you go to storytelling festivals? I guess it is?