`Forty and a bittock`

From across the pond an idea for keeping theatrical creation alive despite social distancing comes this way via Folger bulletin. Door Shakespeare — from 1995 performing in the fascinating Garden of Björklunden, a wide peninsula estate located on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan, ended up being hoovered by the net too. How that happened, is what makes it peculiar in the details.

Brainstorming on the above, artistic director Michael Stebbins and managing director Amy Ensign came up with a rather unique approach to their virtual production. First and foremost opting for a quite neglected Shakespeare-inspired play — J.M. Barrie’s Rosalind, furthermore for the use of Zoom as rehearsal environment rather than a `live` performance `stage`. 

The aim being to produce a `filmed` version of a `new` production — as for in `old `productions available online from other companies around the world, some other adjustments had to be made. So that actors could perform in their individual homes, but rehearsing and performing on, and with, the `same` set, props and costumes, `as if` sharing one `common space`.

That is how set designer Jody Sekas built three identical fireplaces and mantles, — which director himself delivered at each actor’s place with a U-Haul cargo, and props, — three pairs for each item, from teapot, to tablecloths, framed photos, steins with flowers, candles and bases, and also two pairs of pocket photo holders, plus one knapsack for `Charles` via Amazon.

Each actor used his or her iPhone to record, improvised as `light designer` manipulating table or floor lamps, while partners or spouses lent a hand — literally, `doubling` actors in passing objects. FaceTime was used to show how the shots were framed, while Zoom to record the scenes in real time. Eventually, Ryan Schabach, self-taught film-maker, edited the sequences — `shot` from different angles, together. 

The final product is neither a film, nor a theatrical experience but a quite memorable mirabilia of this specific time of distance which calls for art to be, `despite`. Something quite similar to what Shakespeares’s heroine of Arden is called to accomplish in order to just `be`, — in (as a character per the original), and off (as an actress per Barrie’s script) stage.

Shakespeare Rosalind’s `labour` to educate Orlando in the matters of love in order to enter marriage on her own terms demands quite a journey into the `green` space of transformation — the forest. Barrie’s `Rosalind`, — Mrs Page, `Beatrice` (of all names), also has to sacrifice quite a lot in order to serve art, whilst be true to herself. Forever 29, `despite` her (longed for?) middle-age. 

CHARLES: My dear, I want to be your Orlando to the end. Do you hear me?
MRS. PAGE: Yes.
CHARLES. I will take you out of that hurly-burly and accompany you into the delicious twilight of middle-age.










`We’re no-when…`

Disjointed times call for disjointed measures. Disarticulated in its best recognitions, this `beauty` joints me back to `Shakespeare AF` at sunrise via headphones. David Visick`s Waiting for Hamlet — winner of the Windsor Fringe Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing in 2018, is now available as a `radio theatre` encounter on Soundcloud

Due to be touring around the kingdom up to Edimburgh, `locked down` for the notorious reasons, this production preferred the aural dimension to the visual one to reach its audience. Hence, built up a net of efforts on the distance between actors — a couple of `hug-you-I-would`, Nicholas Collett, as Yorick, and Tim Marriott, as the King, and sound engineer/director Trevor Datson

Dead, interacting into an absurdist inspired Limbo on paper, mirroring duvets-made sound booths in real life, the fool, in a mournful, yet jolly manner is bound to discourage his `lost-in-majesty` companion `to go out`, or `back`, to instruct his son, Hamlet. The conversation is mesmerising, if this can be said of ears with no eyes participating to the theatrical adventure.

Yet, this is where the `beauty` stands. And the `why` of an audio-only alternative in these strange days. In Visick`s words, their venture meant to: `Let [people] create their own magic`. Imagination activating a personalised scenario. Sealed eyes, headspace on task to: `Build their own sets and backdrops, dress and age the characters and direct their gestures and facial expressions`. 

Too much of screen these days, in work time, so that entertainment could use some detox and go another way. Welcome to this reviewer, the script does what it is meant to do. Guide `by voices` into a realm of `visualisation of the story`. Help to get lost arising a `unique personal interpretation`, which somehow anticipates a strong desire `to see`, later, in the times to come. 

Some minor amends needed to adapt it for a `non-stage` (waiting for a space to become available and filled in), Visick`s writing captures for its deep understanding of `Hamlet`, in a dense yet limber 45 minutes, `comedy` rooted prompting and questioning about a number of matters, in and out the Shakespearean lines. Renaissance flutes and drums welcome the `listener` and the dialogue nails immediately. 

That`s right. `Dramaturgical` in expression, `philosophical` in essence, it is the tale of a `meta-hierarchical` friendship liaising opposite hats bearers. A jester `speaking the Truth` to a king in denial. A `wise`, patient, yet sharp tone of voice, he discloses reasons beyond `actions` — Gertrude’s for instance. As a professional in `acting`, though, he cannot but give up, and train the ghost, setting up the first `act`.

This is a battle of words, no one left alone, followed through an unearthly breeze — fatefully power side winning. Flutes and drums metamorphose into rock sounds in the end, tearing the thin curtain isolating the `no-where` from the `some-where`, leading from the `no-when` of a Time free zone to the `some-when` of the quite possibly…