It’s been a whirlwind week. By the end of the week, I will have seen six different plays. The week began last Sunday night when I attended the Ovation Awards, where about a thousand more or less inebriated but completely zealous theatre artists raised the roof of the San Gabriel Playhouse in celebration of the LA community’s theatrical triumphs. LA’s theatrical royalty gathered. It was great fun. The photo to the right shows the three guest designers, nominated for Ovations, all of whom are working at USC on Cat Among The Pigeons.
Monday night I attended the first dress rehearsal for Cat Among The Pigeons. This week will end with our seeing the last performance before striking the show.
Tuesday night, which was also election night, or as I refer to it, The Night of the Long Knives, took us to the Broad Stage in Santa Monica to see the touring production of “King Lear”, a condensed 8 actor ensemble version of the play visiting from London’s Old Globe. The players changed costumes a vista within the neutral wooden framework of Jonathan Fensom’s set. All sound was actor generated, from the music, created on three different accordions and a concertina, and a guitar to the thunder created from shaken tin sheets. The actors, who started the evening schmoozing with the audience before being called to the stage for the opening number, were varied in age and ability. Joseph Marcell as Lear had amazing stamina and the vocal power for the role, but much of the dialogue seemed unheard between characters, his delivery a bit overblown to my ear. The audience enthusiastically responded to the show; my standing ovation motivated more by my restless leg syndrome than by my real appreciation. I couldn’t get up fast enough. How’s that for ingratitude. Nevertheless, I was pleased to see the company perform.
Wednesday’s fare was the national touring production of “Pippin” at the Pantages Theatre. Truly entertaining, this production marked a full circle in my theatrical life. As a 12-year-old, the first Broadway show I saw in New York was “Pippin,” with John Rubinstein playing Pippin opposite Ben Vereen’s Leading Player. Since that time, we have worked with John both at USC and at the Interact Theatre Company. John is now playing Charles, the King, in the current tour.
After the show, he graciously greeted us and several other USC colleagues like visiting royalty when we tramped backstage. Even after bounding about the stage for two hours, his zest and generosity in greeting us was pretty amazing and inspiring. We were so happy for his current success and his clear enjoyment of it.
Thursday night we stayed home, having dinner with Chris.
Friday afternoon, I attended a speech at Bovard Auditorium by William Jefferson Clinton. I have never had the privilege of hearing or seeing in person a US President, so I was thrilled to be able to attend his speech on Friday. He spoke with hope about the next twenty years; about the power of technology to do good work in health care and education and research, and noted that much good was accomplished in the last 6 years of his presidency in spite of the Republican Senate. Made me feel a bit better about Tuesday’s election.
That night, we attended “Painting in Red” a world premiere play by Luis Alfaro based on Calderon de la Barca’s El pintor de su deshonra, at the Greenway Court Theatre, a production of Playwright’s Arena, Jon Lawrence Rivera’s Los Angeles based playwriting theatre collective. The play shows great promise, dealing as Luis’ plays seem to, with historic high stakes events, transmogrified into more familiar territory. Two of this play’s characters, Joe and Elisa, San Fernando Valley denizens, initially enthralled with Granada Hills for its “spanish” roots, now yearn for the dirty immediacy of downtown LA; their speeches were seasoned with references to and nostalgia for the foods we can eat downtown and in it’s environs. Anyone who knows and loves Luis can identify with the cadence of his character of Rodney’s sardonic wit, or Elisa’s appreciation of the bao in a bag that she later admits to have smelled way before Olivia gave it to her.
Today, Saturday, we went to the work light rehearsals for two of the three MFA Year 3 Acting students Rep plays in a rehearsal room at USC. “The Servant of Two Masters,” by William Goldoni, in a translation by Sylvie Drake, and “Blood Match” by Oliver Mayer, after Federico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding. A company of 9 actors, a total of 5 hours of text between the two plays, and an astonishing array of talent. I love these worklight rehearsals. They are, as MFA Acting program director David Bridel said in his intro to the first run through, a celebration of the rehearsal process. In the room, in addition to the MFA 3rd years, were the MFA 2nd years, and the MFA 1st years. There were also returning alumni from the earlier years. The diverse faces of the students at all stages in the program beamed as they laughed and took enjoyment and pride in the work of their fellow students. You could see them thinking about the rep process in their futures, the wonder of their own potential learning. I loved seeing their stamina and energy, their physical strengths of voice and movement, the comedy and commedia dell’arte and their mastery of the texts, which are complex and vital to the clear conveyance of the stories in both plays. It was exhausting even sitting there in the room. I can’t imagine what they were feeling like afterwards.
So, all in all, an excellent week of theatre. Fit for a couple of kings and a President.