Much Ado About Some Things

April 2014

Events   Literary News
RSC in Henry IV, Part 1 and 2
Mar. 18-Sep. 6; Stratford-upon-Avon, UK: In the first of these Shakespeare plays, Prince Hal  (played by Jasper Britton) sows wild oats with Falstaff and friends. In the second, Hal assumes the kingship with a redeeming firmness of purpose. For details, click here.

Arden Theatre in Three Sisters
Mar. 20-April 20: Chicago, Il: Watch Arden Theatre Company perform a new translation of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters. Middle-class Olga, Masha, and Irina, mired down by provincial life, have their hopes raised, then dashed by a confluence of unfortunate circumstances. Click here for details.

Marston’s Malcontent at Globe
Apr. 3-19; London, UK: Young players (aged 12 to 16) perform John Marston's The Malcontent at Shakespeare's Globe, recalling the play's original performance by boy actors in seventeenth-century London. See a banished duke (in disguse) expose the corruption at court as he angles to regain his dukedom. Click here for more info.

Midsummer Puppetry at SMC
Apr. 3-19; Santa Monica, CA: South Africa's Handspring Puppet Company and the UK's Bristol Old Vic bring a creative rendition of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream to the Broad Stage. Laugh at the antics of young lovers, amateur actors, and forest fairies. For details, click here.

The Figaro Plays at Princeton U
Apr. 9-May 3; Princeton, NJ: McCarter Theatre Center stages Stephen Wadsworth’s new translations of Pierre Beaumarchais’s The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro. With a little help from his friends, wily Figaro outfoxes first a doctor, then a count. For more info, see article on the right. Click here for performance details.

Ibsen's Enemy at UCLA
Apr. 10-13; Los Angeles, CA: UCLA's James Bridges Theater features LA Theatre Works in a live recording of a new adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People. A doctor, who discovers contaminated water in his town's public baths, refuses to be silenced. For details, click here.

Miracle Worker at U St. Thomas
Apr. 10-26; Houston, TX: UST Drama performs William Gibson's adaptation of the Helen Keller autobiography, featuring the volatile relationship between a lonely teacher and her blind-mute student. Click here for details.

OSF’s Flight into Fantasy
Apr. 16-Nov. 1; Ashland, OR: Oregon Shakespeare Festival debuts Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wringle in Time, in which 14-year-old Meg Murray, her young brother, and a friend travel across time and space to rescue the Murray’s scientifically minded father. Click here for more info.

Hamlet Sequel at U Cincinnati
Apr. 17-19; Cincinnati, OH: University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music presents Qui Nguyen's Living Dead in Denmark. Set five years after the end of Shakespeare's Hamlet,the play features a trio of female characters from various tragedies: a resurrected Ophelia, Juliet, and Lady Macbeth. All three aim to save Denmark from a zombie horde. For more details, click here.

The Crucible at Ithaca College
Apr. 22-27; Ithaca, NY: Ithaca College stages Arthur Miller's drama about the Salem-witch trials; the play parallels the McCarthy era witch hunt of suspected communists in 1950s America.  As in the 1950s, the Salem trials (1692) destroy upstanding citizens in a frenzy of fear and false accusations that ruins lives. For more info, click here.

Bard's B-day in Denver Schools
Apr. 25; Denver, CO: Roughly 5,000 students perform Shakespeare's scenes and sonnets at the Denver Performing Arts Complex in the city's 30th annual public-schools Bard fest. Click here for more details.

U Georgia's Single-Poem Prize
May 15 deadline; Athens GA: The University of Georgia welcomes submissions of a previously unpublished poem, written in English, to its Loraine Williams Poetry Prize contest. Enter to win $1,000 and publication in the Georgia Review. Click here for additional details.

  Birth of the Daphne Award: Homage to Overlooked Genius
Do literary-award favorites hold fast over time? They often don’t, according to Jessa Crispin, editor-in-chief of the highly respected Bookslut (a monthly webzine and daily blog). In her estimation, many winners of the past are forgettable and, in retrospect, mediocre. ”It takes decades for the reader to catch up to a genius book” and “years away from hype, publicity teams, and favouritism to see that some books just aren’t that good” (Crispin in Guardian, 30 January 2014). Out of this conundrum comes the birth of a new competition: the Daphne Award (alludes to Greek mythology, in which Daphne = laurel). Enlightened by hindsight, the contest (beginning with 1963) looks back fifty years and holds a redo. The categories under consideration are fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and children’s literature. In retrospect, we see that 1963 was awash with great works, including James Baldwin’s essay The Fire Next Time, Primo Levi’s memoir The Reawakening, and Sylvia Plath’s autobiographical novel The Bell Jar. Poetry included Anna Akhmatova’s Requiem; children’s books, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. The contest's shortlist was announced February 21 at a literary salon that, in keeping with the theme, featured a playful 1960s menu (deviled eggs, Bundt cake, and whiskey). Here for your review are the shortlisted titles for fiction:

HOPSCOTCH by Julio Cortazar
When his mistress disappears, an Argentine writer leaves France for Buenos Aires and joins an old friend, finding work in a circus and a mental asylum.
THE BELL JAR by Sylvia Plath
A college graduate in 1950s America suffers a mental breakdown in the face of her dismal options.
THE GRIFTERS by Jim Thompson
A Los Angeles conman, who attempts to live the “straight” life, stashes away money that becomes his undoing.
THE CLOWN by Heinrich Boll
An acclaimed clown in post-WWII West Germany serves as society's social conscience. Refusing to marry his girlfriend in a Catholic Church, he prompts her to leave.
ICE PALACE by Tarjei Vesaa
Two Norwegian girls spend a life-changing evening together, and when one disappears into an ice palace, the other’s world shatters.
DREAMBOOK FOR OUR TIME by Tadeusz Konwicki
A Polish young man recovers from a suicide attempt to narrate his post-WWII memories.
Ryuji, a Japanese sailor, gives up his dreams of glory at sea for a woman whose 13-year-old son belongs to a highly philosophical but brutally cruel gang of boys.

Cortazar and his 1963 masterpiece.

"New" Tale of Terror by a Young Samuel Beckett
News Flash April 17, Faber & Faber releases Echo's Bones, a formerly unpublished, 1934 story by Samuel Beckett. A blend of fairytale, gothic dream, and classical myth, the work features Belacqua Shuah returning from the grave. Rejected by Beckett's original editor, the story is valued in retrospect.

Princeton's Figaro Plays: Comedy with a Revolutionary Edge
At the start of The Barber of Seville, Figaro is a roving barber and guitar player. At the end of a second play, The Marriage of Figaro, he's the steward of a count's castle, accompanied by the wife of his dreams and his long-lost parents. This is the stuff fairytales are made of; only it's late-1700s French comedy with a bitingly realistic edge, featuring wily servants, spirited females, and revolutionary themes for the day (personal liberty, social equality). Now showing at Princeton's McCarter Theatre, the plays follow servant and master from a pre-Revolutionary stratified society, through an era of social upheaval, into a new order. Their dramatic issues grow out of real-life revolutions (French, American), in which playwright Pierre Beaumarchais (also a watchmaker, gun smuggler, spy) was thoroughly immersed. Directing his own, new translations of The Figaro Plays, Stephen Wadsworth sticks as faithfully as possible to the originals. How hard a task is this? Well, it's aided by period costumes, a devoted company, and the theatre's receipt of a $425,000 grant (from the Mellon Foundation) for this and one other production. More help comes from new bits of dialogue. When the noblewoman Rosine calls Figaro "Monsieur," he observes how unusual it is for a servant to be addressed so respectfully. Well, "it's unusual to respect a servant," she replies, their new interchange clarifying a point likely to have otherwise been lost on many today.

In Barber, Figaro (played by Adam Green) engineers events so that the love-stricken Count Almaviva (Neal Bledsoe) marries cloistered Rosine (Naomi O'Connell) against the will of her guardian, Dr. Bartolo (Derek Smith). In Marriage, Figaro, now the Count's valet, is about to marry the Countess's maid, vivacious Suzanne (Maggie Lacey). But danger threatens. The Count aims to exercise the (historically unsubstantiated) right of a nobleman to be the first to sleep with his serving woman. Intrigues ensue to avert the danger, involving disguise, jealousy, politics. Politicians, quips Figaro, "appear always deeply concerned for the good of the state yet have no other end but self." Little wonder that Marriage was banned by Louis XVI in 1782! For a behind-the-scenes look at today's revival, click below.

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