ShakesFilm: Branagh’s *Love’s Labour’s Lost*

Join us on Sunday, January 31st at 7:00pm for Kenneth Branagh’s 2000 Love’s Labour’s Lost.  I have a feeling this film is worth seeing if only for Branagh’s mustache.  We’re screening the film in Morgan 301, UA campus. Free and open to the public.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0182295/

 

Infinite Monkeys

It might be possible for an infinite number of monkeys, given an infinite amount of time and bananas, to peck out Shakespeare’s Hamlet on a few well-maintained typewriters.  Fortunately, Improbable Fictions does not require an infinite number of actors to stage a reading of Shakespeare’s most produced play.  In point of fact, we need only fourteen actors to complete this probability-defying feat.  If you’re interested in participating in a staged reading of Hamlet in late April (most likely Thursday, April 21), send an email to <nrhelms@crimson.ua.edu>.  Please briefly note your theatre experience (though none is required), your interest in particular roles, and any other skills Improbable Fictions should know about (singing, stage combat, ownership of a black box theatre, etc.).  The subject line of the email should read “Hamlet casting.”

A few good actors really are hard to find (and pin down), especially mid-semester, and thus Improbable Fiction’s shows tend to be cast not by audition but by directorial choice.  If we can find more actors than typewriters…I mean, more actors than roles, then there may be auditions.

Upcoming Events

This semester Improbable Fictions will present two staged readings and an informal film series.  Save those dates!  All events are free and open to the public.

Love’s Labour’s Lost
Thursday, March 10th, 7:30pm
Farrah Hall 214
***
Hamlet
April, date and location TBA
***
ShakesFilm Series
Sunday nights, Morgan 301, 7:00-10:00pm
***
Jan 23: Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
Jan 30: Kenneth Branagh’s Love’s Labour’s Lost
Feb 6: Trevor Nunn’s Twelfth Night
Feb 13: Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing
Feb 20: Pasonlini’s Oedipus the King
Feb 27: Kenneth Branagh’s As You Like It
March 6: Cacoyannis’ Elektra
March 20: Delbert Mann’s 1958 Desire Under the Elms
March 27: Pasonlini’s Medea
April 3: Orson Welles’ Chimes at Midnight
April 10: Robert Wise’s 1949 The Set-Up
April 17: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead

Two Gentlemen of Lebowski: A Pub Reading

Do you like The Big Lebowski?  How about Shakespeare?  And Tuscaloosa’s Downtown Pub?

Join us on Monday, December 6th at 9:00pm at the Downtown Pub to read Adam Bertocci’s Two Gentlemen of Lebowski, a Shakespearean adaptation of the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski.  Expect swirlies, bowling, and lots of ‘abiding’ in true Elizabethan style.

I should note that this is not a performance: the Coen Brothers reserve the adaptation rights to The Big Lebowski, and they’re not granting the stage rights to anyone.  This is a group reading of Bertocci’s play.  Buy a copy from Amazon.com (here) and come to the Pub on the 6th.  We’ll assign parts as we go and dive right into the exploits of Geoffrey ‘The Knave’ Lebowski.

So:

Monday, Dec 6th
9:00pm
The Downtown Pub

Required:

Your presence!
A copy of Bertocci’s Two Gentlemen of Lebowski

The Knave Abideth.

Program notes: King Lear

Thanks to everyone (actors, audience, and crew) who made Wednesday’s reading a success. Program notes below.

Shakespeare’s King Lear is about the inexpressible. What can a child say to an unruly parent? What can a king say once he’s given away his crown? What can we say once we’ve seen “unaccommodated man?” King Lear is an apocalypse of language, the final revelation of the parent who holds the speechless body of his dead child: “Look there! Look there!”

The tragedy of the play lies not in what is said (or unsaid), but in what is heard and seen.  The shock of King Lear 1.1 comes not from the abdication, nor from the love test, nor from Cordelia’s refusal or inability to play the game.  The shock comes from Lear’s reaction to Cordelia’s words: “Let it be so.  Thy truth then be thy dower.”  There is a gap at this moment, a chasm between Cordelia’s words and Lear’s reaction to them, and through that gap spills the Apocalypse: here it is that Lear first calls upon the heavens and the gods, here he first invokes the end of time, here he first conjures up cannibalistic images of the family in the “barbarous Scythian” who eats his own children.  What does Lear hear in Cordelia’s words that leads to this response?  Could she have said anything to avoid it?  Here communication breaks down not on the side of the message but on the side of interpretation.  Propriety is not enough to fill the gap, nor is self-expression.  All the sympathy of Albany, Edgar, Gloucester, Kent, and the Fool is not enough to stop the downward spiral, which continues until Lear holds Cordelia’s corpse in his arms, only moments from his own death: “I might have saved her” (5.2.268).  But how?  Lear leaves us with a question rather than an answer.

At the play’s end, we are left with the “image of that horror,” a parent holding his dead child and looking into her eyes: “Do you see this?  Look on her: look, her lips, / Look there, look there!”  The question is not: what does Lear see?  The question is: what do you see?

~nrhelms~

King Lear: November 17 at the Ferguson Theatre

In 1810, critic Charles Lamb claimed that “Lear is essentially impossible to be represented on a stage” (‘On the Tragedies of Shakespeare’).

We’re taking Lamb’s statement as a challenge.

Shakespeare’s King Lear is about the inexpressible. What can a child say to an unruly parent? What can a king say once he’s given away his crown? What can we say once we’ve seen “unaccommodated man” (KL 3.4.105)? King Lear is an apocalypse of language, the final revelation of the parent who holds the speechless body of his dead child: “Look there! Look there!” (KL 5.3.309). Come. See.

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010
The Ferguson Theatre
7:30 pm (pre-show music at 7:00 pm)

Free admission

(Despite the Georgia State game on Nov 18th, parking on campus will not be an issue.)

Lear…………………………..Steve Burch

Goneril……………………….Deborah Parker

Regan…………………………Amy Handra

Cordelia/Fool……………….Regan Stevens

Albany…………………………David Ainsworth

Cornwall………………………Mark Hughes Cobb

Gloucester……………………Charles Prosser

Edmund……………………….Derrick Williams

Edgar…………………………..Peyton Conley

Kent…………………………….Matt Lewis

Oswald…………………………Wescott Youngson

France/Ensemble…………..Cooper Kennard

Burgundy/Ensemble……….Jerrell Bowden

Drums…………………………..Laurie Arizumi

Director………………………..Nic Helms

Assistant Director…………..Whitney Graham

Much A-did

Thanks to everyone–cast, crew, and audience–for making last night’s staged reading of Much Ado About Nothing a success. So many great moments, from Cee Lo Green to “Kill Claudio” to the “hands of justice!” Be sure to subscribe to this blog for information about future readings.

(King Lear, November 17th!)

Here are Alaina Jobe’s dramaturgical notes from the program. I think they sum up the production and the mission of Improbable Fictions quite well.

“As with most comedies, Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing puts a great deal of emphasis on the power of words: witty words, suspicious words, confusing words, unkind words, and, finally, three little words. Words form the basis of the comedy, and we laugh at the verbal spars between Beatrice and Benedick, Dogberry’s misunderstandings, Don Pedro’s jokes, and the multitude of double entendres that color the play. Benedick and Beatrice’s verbal sparring constructs the witty backbone of Much Ado, forming much of the dramatic tension and giving us some of the best insults in Shakespeare. Their interactions are precursors to many of our contemporary romantic comedies, which are oftentimes verbally driven. Words keep Benedick and Beatrice apart and words unite them— at the end, they have both written sonnets that reveal their true emotions.

“The titles of Shakespearean comedies are oftentimes self-denigrating, to the point that we must consider whether they contain some clue into the overall message of the play, a sly way of saying what the play is about— by virtue of the fact that the title is pointing out that what we see and hear onstage is Much Ado About Nothing, we should scrutinize the contents of the play in order to determine if this is indeed just a lot of talking over what does not even really matter. And if we more carefully examine how words are used in this play, we see that they do not merely make us laugh. They can also wound, plant suspicion, and ask for death. Hero’s honor is held in suspicion based on a rumor. Soon after declaring her love to Benedick, Beatrice quite seriously requests him to “kill Claudio.” We do not know why Don Pedro and Don John are estranged, but Don John’s heated words are notably angry and vindictive and those emotions dictate his subsequent choices.

“Words are powerful. They hurt just as much as they heal. They can indicate love as well as hate. And most importantly, they inform actions. We make decisions based on our words and the words of others. Much Ado shows us this and cautions us to be more careful about we say, and to perhaps think more carefully, if not make a fuss over, what we consider to be nothing more than syllables spoken into air.”

~aejobe~

Oct 7th, 7:30pm: Much Ado About Nothing

The next Improbable Fictions staged reading will be Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, a comedy-sandwich with a tragic condiment.  Beatrice and Benedick are in love with life, and there are only two things that they cannot stand: marriage, and each other.  Which will prove stronger, wooing or wit?  And will the melancholy Don John spoil everyone’s fun?

The showdown begins on Thursday October 7th, 7:30 pm, at the Bama Theatre.  Pre-show music begins at 7:00.

Free admission.  $1 donations for the Bama Theatre Restoration Fund are appreciated.

~ Cast ~

Beatrice……………………………….Stephanie Fitts

Benedick………………………………Mark Hughes Cobb

Hero……………………………………Jean Fuller-Scott

Claudio………………………………..Jerrell Bowden

Leonato……………………………….Steve Burch

Antoni(a)……………………………..Deborah Burch

Don Pedro…………………………….Elliot Moon

Don John………………………………Alex Perkins

Borachio……………………………….Whitney Graham

Conrade………………………………..Keri Epps

Margaret……………………………….Sara-Margaret Cates

Dogberry……………………………….Wescott Youngson

Verges/Friar Francis………………..David Ainsworth

Seacole/Sexton……………………….Dusty McLaughlin

Ursula……………………………………Meredith Wiggins

First Watchman……………………….Paul Burgess

Second Watchman/Messenger……Rachel Adams

Director………………………………….Nicholas Helms

Dramaturg………………………………Alaina Jobe

Stage Manager………………………….Scott Free

The first reading: Twelfth Night

On March 25th, 2010, we held our first staged reading: Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.  You’ll find the cast list and program notes below.  We should have offered special thanks to Lady Gaga, but we didn’t know that her music would save the show.  Laughter was scarce for the first two acts: a death knell for this comedy.  It seemed that Shakespeare was a bit inaccessible for our largely undergraduate audience.  They were uncomfortable.  And dangerously silent.  Shakespeare was “high” culture, something you watch silently and respectfully: something you endure.  So when Mark Hughes Cobb (playing Feste) prepared to walk onstage for act three, he was a bit desperate to finally force a laugh from the crowd.  “How does that Lady Gaga song go?” he asked before leaving the wings.

So it was that Feste began act 3 by humming “Bad Romance.”  The Bama Theatre seemed to crack open with laughter, and the rest of the show went beautifully.  I’m sure that good old Bill was dancing along in his grave.  Laughter.  Spectacle.  Engagement.  That’s culture.

Thanks, Lady Gaga, for inaugurating Improbable Fictions.

The Players

ORSINO, Duke of Illyria…………………………………………….. Nic Helms

VIOLA, in love with the Duke……………………………… Jean Fuller-Scott

OLIVIA, a rich Countess of Illyria…………………………….. Aubrey Dean

SIR TOBY BELCH, Uncle to Olivia………………………. Charles Prosser

SIR ANDREW AGUECHEEK, a Knight…………………. Regan Stevens

MARIA, Olivia’s Woman…………………………………. Marian Mantovani

MALVOLIO, Steward to Olivia………………………………… Nick Shabel

FESTE, a Clown, Servant to Olivia………………….. Mark Hughes Cobb

SEBASTIAN, Brother to Viola……………………………… Coston Perkins

ANTONIO, a Sea Captain………………………………. Wescott Youngson

FABIAN, Servant to Olivia……………………………………….. Steve Burch

A Gentleman, A Sea Captain, An Officer………………… Deborah Parker

Reading Directed and Produced by…………. Nic Helms and Alaina Jobe

Stage Manager………………………………………………………….. Scott Free

If this were played upon on a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.

Shakespearean comedies rely on certain conventions: disguises, jokes, romance, and a plot that involves a great deal of confusion, misunderstandings that must be unraveled and set right by the end of the play. Twelfth Night is no exception, a comedy that is dependent on mistaken identity. Nearly every thread of the play can be traced back to Viola’s decision to disguise herself as the young man, Cesario. As Cesario, she becomes Orsino’s confidante, which leads to her falling in love with him. As Cesario, she woos Olivia on behalf of Orsino, causing Olivia to fall in love with her. Her disguise is the root of Antonio’s confusion, Sir Andrew’s challenge, and Feste’s frustration. The alternate title of the play, What You Will, invites the audience to interpret the events, the characters, and the situations in Twelfth Night as they see fit, either as straight comedy, with a few gags and a madcap plot, or as something deeper, a story of love and loss.

And the play is, of course, both at once, a genuinely funny romp onstage and yet a means of considering the depth and feeling of love. Viola and Sebastian are touchingly reunited, both certain the other was dead. New relationships have blossomed by the end of the play: Olivia and Viola get their men and Sir Toby marries Maria. And yet we cannot help but question the authenticity of the loves that we see, as they are, in some respects, too convenient or perhaps even counterfeit, as untrue as Viola’s disguise. Is this really happily ever after? And what of Malvolio, threatening revenge after the cruel trick that Sir Toby and the others have played on him? Is this a happy ending for Antonio, who is cast off by Sebastian? Taking the play as we will is the challenge of Twelfth Night, which invites us to consider the nature of love in a more critical light, to take note of its many forms and disguises, and ultimately, to decide if what we see onstage is genuine or an improbable fiction.

~ Alaina Jobe ~