BAILEYS HARBOR, Wis. (WFRV) – An event with a “plot” befitting a William Shakespeare play took place Friday night via Zoom.
In the simplest version, what happened is a kind of line-drawn sketch for a tapestry: Actors read scenes from William Shakespeare plays.
Filling in around the lines, the tapestry becomes much more elaborate – centuries in the making to boot.
In part of the event, a play written during a pandemic 400-some years ago is referred to in a contemporary novel involving a pandemic – becoming the inspiration for a Shakespearean theater company to perform in the current COVID-19 pandemic.
That tapestry is akin to the Milky Way for the intellect.
Imagine these elements:
+ The actors and their director are in different locations, in their homes.
+ Audience members are elsewhere, at home.
+ Everybody uses a computer, and all are connected by Zoom – meaning a basic screen with a field of smaller screens.
+ There is no stage with sets and props.
+ A cool thing is the players perform in the normal – in-rhythm – flow of a play, but when one speaks, he or she is shown up close. The acting is in-your-face, so to speak. One’s attention is grabbed, focused. Meantime, other actors in small screens at the top fringe of the computer screen continue to act/react to what the speaker is saying.
+ Director Charles Fraser has rehearsed the players to catch hold of the rhythm and deliver the acting goods with expression, emphasis and energy – on cue with one minor exception.
+ Charles Fraser also sets the table for each scene read/performed – coloring portions of the tapestry. He is the person who initially calls attention to the pandemics-over-time situation.
+ The raison d’etre for the reading is the Emily St. John Mandel novel “Station Eleven” that is part of the 2021 “NEA Big Read: Door County” – a tapestry of its own – that started January 28 and continues to today, Feb. 13. Info: doorcountyreads.org. Door Shakespeare, the professional company that normally performs in summer outdoors in Bjorklunden garden forms a scene in that tapestry with its online reading.
+ “Station Eleven” includes references to William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “King Lear” and “Richard III.”
+ Charles Fraser places the audience in sections of “Station Eleven” where references to a Shakespeare play lie – and how Emily St. John Mandel has employed scenes and situations for her characters. That tapestry is tightly woven.
+ The evolution of the novel forms the basis for Door Shakespeare’s play-reading event. The beast – the complex evening – has structure.
^ “King Lear” Act IV, Scene 6
^ “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Act I, Scene 2
^ “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Act II, Scene 1
^ “Richard III” Act I, Scene 1
^ “King Lear” Act I, Scene 1
Directed by Charles Fraser, the players (alphabetically)
^ Sadé Ayodele – Titania
^ James Carrington – Kent, Puck and Bottom
^ Isabella Dipple – Cordelia
^ Ross Dipple – Gloucester, Richard II and Starveling
^ Amy Ensign (Door Shakespeare’s managing director) – Regan and Quince
^ Heidi Hodges – Gentlewoman and Snug
^ Donna L. Johnson – Goneril, Snout and First Fairy
^ Mark Moede – King Lear and Flute
^ Ryan Zierk – Edgar, Oberon and the King of France
+ Arcing over all is the Door Shakespeare presence. Hosting is producing artistic director Michael Stebbins in homey ways. The hominess is easy because everybody is at home, whether in such places as St. Paul (Charles Fraser) or Los Angeles (Sadé Ayodele) or someplace in Wisconsin (most of the entourage).
+ There’s a talkback afterward. One point of interest is a little debate on the use of green screen/Chroma-Key as plain backdrop – the choice of color chosen by the player – for most of the actors.
+ Overall, on the technical side, the evening shows Door Shakespeare is getting a bit more adept at the “virtual” demands, with the timing between/among players being impressive.
+ Some of the performances are intense – two crazy kings are involved.
+ What’s said is sometimes dense. It IS Shakespeare, and so much can be read into his writings oh, lo, these centuries later. Like a bit of advice from King Lear to Gloucester, blind from having his eyes gouged out: “Get thee glass eyes, and like a scurvy politician, seem to see the things thou dost not.”