Saturday, August 31, 2013

“Mary, Queen Of Scots”

Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth I and Vanessa Redgrave as Mary, Queen Of Scots in the 1971 film, “Mary, Queen Of Scots”. The film has no connection to Schiller’s “Mary Stuart”.

When it was released, “Mary, Queen Of Scots” was not a critical or commercial success. Reviewers noted that the direction of Charles Jarrott was impersonal and characterless, and that the excellence of the acting was unable to offset the blandness of the direction.

The film is not distinguished, but it is essential viewing because of Redgrave’s performance. Her Mary is intelligent, impetuous, impassioned, regal—and dangerous. Redgrave’s is a commanding, luminescent performance; the actress’s Mary Stuart stands with her Isadora Duncan as her finest film work.

As for the Elizabeth I of Jackson . . . Jackson is, as always, Jackson: she chews up the scenery and spits it out, often directly at the camera.

I have not seen Redgrave onstage, and my parents have not seen Redgrave onstage.

I have not seen Jackson onstage, either, but my parents have seen Jackson onstage.

My parents contend that one performance of Jackson, in particular, sticks in their minds—and proves the actress’s supreme stature.

It was some gruesome play—one of those “How Dreadful Life Is In The Midlands” plays that populated the British stage from the mid-1950s until the mid-1980s, when the genre finally (and thankfully) died out—yet Jackson single-handedly was able to elevate the material into something endurable, even worthwhile.

According to my parents, Jackson was riveting, and magical; she gave the illusion of keeping a thousand emotions afloat, with another thousand in reserve capable of being summoned at will. It was a complex, multi-dimensional, masterful performance.

My parents further relate that the quality of Jackson’s performance in that long-forgotten play stood in high relief to the performance of a fellow cast member that also possessed an exalted reputation: Jessica Tandy.

Apparently Tandy, quite skilled in her own right, came across as one-dimensional and limited when playing on the same stage as Jackson. My parents say Tandy virtually disappeared alongside her far-more-talented colleague: Jackson was metaphysical; Tandy was from the soaps.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sunk Without A Trace

Friedrich Schiller was a philosopher—a philosopher who happened, on occasion, to write dramas.

Schiller was deeply concerned with aesthetics (in its pure definition), and Schiller was a profound observer of realpolitik. Schiller knew on a personal basis, or corresponded with, virtually all the great minds of his time—and he discussed with those persons virtually all the great issues of the day, and incorporated much of this discourse into his plays.

Schiller’s dramas are de facto treatises on aesthetics and realpolitik—a circumstance that makes Schiller’s dramas very hard to present today, as audiences no longer are interested in hearing such matters addressed in the theater.

In 2013, the real Schiller may be encountered only on the printed page. When Schiller’s dramas are staged, they are so heavily cut and so heavily adapted that they are in effect the work of another author.

This regrettable practice is especially prevalent in English-speaking countries, where Schiller plays are both cut to the bone and dumbed-down, leaving the plots intact while removing all philosophical richness and all elevated language and thought.

On our second day at The Stratford Festival, we attended an evening performance of Schiller’s “Mary Stuart”. Roughly ninety minutes of Schiller’s text had been excised from the staging. I do not understand, given the lethal amputations, why The Stratford Festival even bothered with the remaining segments. Surely everyone—audiences, actors, members of the stage crew, groundskeepers—would have been happier with screenings of the 1971 Charles Jarrott film, “Mary, Queen Of Scots”, with Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson. The film is not very distinguished, but at least the performances are colorful . . .

Which is more than may be said of the Stratford performances, which were dull, plodding and unsubtle.

Lack of color, however, was an issue of relative unimportance at Stratford, since it was the lack of competence that was the far more serious concern. I cannot recall the last time I saw so many actors on the same stage playing material so far above their heads.

The actress portraying Elizabeth I had been Madame Arcati in the previous day’s “Blithe Spirit”. Poor as had been her Madame Arcati, this woman’s Elizabeth I was worse.

But not worse than the Mary Stuart of the actress onstage alongside her, who was impossibly—even laughably—bad. It was all we could do to keep from giggling and snickering whenever she had a speech.

The three male leads—Burleigh, Leicester and Shrewsbury—were no better, although we were able to observe that Brian Dennehy, in the role of Shrewsbury, is one giant of a man, upwards of 6’5”, I would guess. From his screen appearances, I had somehow assumed—wrongly—that Dennehy was short.

It was left to the supporting cast to offer a performance or two of merit. Finest of all was the young actor playing Mortimer, who managed to be passionate, poetic and winning in his appearances. He came close to stealing the show. His name is Ian Lake.

Unacceptable as was the acting company, the true villainy in this “Mary Stuart” production did not come from the persons onstage. The true villainy came from the director, Antoni Cimolino, who first selected a corrupt adaptation of “Mary Stuart” and then staged it with breathtaking ineptitude.

The Peter Oswald adaptation was used, the same adaptation used by Donmar Warehouse a few years back in a production that was to end up on Broadway. Oswald’s adaptation is hackwork, compiled with scissors and scotch tape. It has three immediate strikes against it: it renders Schiller’s original unrecognizable; it is not “playable”; and it eliminates Schiller’s themes. I am bewildered that any self-respecting theater company would touch the Oswald adaptation with a ten-foot pole.

Trying to stage the thing on Stratford’s awkward runway thrust stage, Cimolino was utterly at sea. He had not a clue what to do. We found it amusing to watch the actors as they clumsily but dutifully moved about the stage, trying to give the illusion that their movements had some purpose—when everyone in the theater understood that the constant shifting of people around the giant platform, forming first one clump here and then another clump there, was to allow everyone in the theater an opportunity to witness at least one scene close at hand. Several times during the performance, we were beside ourselves, watching the preposterous maneuvers being played out before our eyes.

Amid all this foolishness, Schiller and “Mary Stuart” had no chance whatsoever.

Both sank without a trace.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Stratford’s Studio Theatre

The Stratford Festival’s Studio Theatre, the newest and smallest of Stratford’s four theaters.

The Studio Theatre opened in 2002. It seats 260 patrons.

It was at the Studio Theatre that we saw John Murrell’s “Taking Shakespeare”.

Not Festival Fare

On our second day at The Stratford Festival, we attended a matinee performance of a new play, “Taking Shakespeare”, by Canadian playwright John Murrell. In a four-decade career, Murrell has never seen his work win advocacy outside Canada.

“Taking Shakespeare” is a two-hour, two-character play whose duo themes are the nature of education and the continued relevance of the works of William Shakespeare.

The plot is simple. An aging professor of literature at a small, third-rate college is asked to offer private instruction to a college student in peril of flunking a freshman course in Shakespeare. Tension is added to the scenario by the circumstance that the college student’s mother is a dean at the college—and by the circumstance that the college is considering terminating the employment of the aging professor of literature, who no longer gets along with her students or her peers.

“Taking Shakespeare” has been written before—a thousand times by a thousand playwrights in a thousand languages. Murrell brings nothing new to the overused premise; Murrell offers no unfamiliar twists to freshen the stale formula.

The Stratford Festival commissioned the play for actress Martha Henry, who first appeared at Stratford in 1962. Over the last fifty-one years, Henry has played all the classic roles at Stratford; it was exhausting merely to skim the list of Henry’s Stratford credits in the program booklet.

Henry is a fine actress. She easily held my attention all afternoon. Whether Henry is a great actress, I cannot say. Any actress might have played the part in “Taking Shakespeare”—the part demands no virtuosity and no range—and succeeded as well as Henry.

The young actor playing the student in need of tutoring overdid the overwhelmed college freshman bit in the early scenes. Only once the script moved beyond the student’s laundry-list recitations of popular culture—all designed to show the audience that young persons respond only to junk—was the actor free to begin to offer a genuine performance.

There is nothing wrong with small-scale, unchallenging plays if well-staged and well-acted. “Taking Shakespeare” provided a pleasant afternoon pastime . . . but nothing beyond that.

Whatever the play’s merits (and I believe they are few), the play certainly is not festival fare.


It was at last year’s Shaw Festival that we first heard people talk about Martha Henry.

Henry had been the director of Henrik Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” at the 2012 Shaw Festival, but Henry had not appeared onstage last year in Niagara-On-The-Lake.

Several Canadians told us last summer that Henry was Canada’s finest actress. We were, in consequence, keen to see her in action.

Having now seen Henry onstage, I cannot say we were disappointed—yet I cannot say we were particularly impressed.

Henry’s career has been almost exclusively a Canadian one. For eighteen months, in 1971 and 1972, Henry was a member of the short-lived Repertory Theatre Of Lincoln Center—but otherwise Henry has not worked in New York. As for London, I can locate no West End, NT or RSC credits for her.

Oddly, Henry was born and raised in Michigan. Henry attended Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh at the very time Carnegie-Mellon’s acting program was the finest in North America. And yet Henry has never had a U.S. career; since the 1950s, Henry has lived and worked in Canada.

I asked my parents how Henry compared to the great actresses they have seen onstage. My mother and father responded, instantaneously and simultaneously: “Jessica Tandy”.

My parents’ response was both a great compliment and a not-so-great compliment. My parents have stated, for years, that they have seen many, many exceptional actresses, but only three genuinely great ones: Constance Cummings, Rosemary Harris and Irene Worth. My parents, I know, have never considered Jessica Tandy to be among the very finest actresses they have seen; when recalling memorable performers, my parents always rattle off thirty or so names before “Jessica Tandy” pops up.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Runway Thrust

Three of four theaters in use at The Stratford Festival utilize thrust stages. “Measure For Measure” was presented in the mid-size theater with a thrust stage (housed in a former sport club), a space that accommodates 496 patrons.

The mid-size theater has a very unique design: it utilizes what is called a “runway thrust”, similar to what is used for fashion shows in Milan and Paris.

Entering the theater, I thought the playing space absurd—but “Measure For Measure” director Martha Henry proved me wrong. Henry, having performed on that runway thrust herself for forty years, knew how to handle the space. In fact, Henry made better use of this unique performing configuration than the Stratford Festival’s Artistic Director, whose work we were to experience in the same theater the following evening.

I was amazed at the visual variety Henry and her designers were able to introduce on a runway thrust. Elaborate props and an elaborate lighting scheme, and the constant redefinition of playing space, gave the illusion that something of visual interest was always occurring.

Shakespeare set “Measure For Measure” in Vienna, and Henry kept Shakespeare’s setting—but Henry changed the period of the play, moving the action forward to 1949. Placing “Measure For Measure” in the immediate post-war period did the play no harm—one of Shakespeare’s themes is the use of subterfuge and deception by a populace under duress—and Henry’s choice probably made the play more accessible to contemporary audiences.

The program booklet made frequent reference to a “signature” Stratford Festival production of “Measure For Measure” in 1975, a production in which Henry apparently had been a sensation as Isabella.

We were to see Henry as actress the following afternoon, in a new play written for her.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

“Some Rise By Sin, And Some By Virtue Fall”

On our first day at The Stratford Festival, we attended an evening performance of William Shakespeare’s “Measure For Measure”. It was my first exposure to “Measure For Measure”; the play is very seldom staged in the United States.

I was riveted by the onstage proceedings for three hours; my attention never waned. Scene by scene, I could hardly wait to see what would happen next. However, my fascination may have had more to do with an encounter with new material than with the production itself.

The plot of “Measure For Measure” is very complicated, filled with comedy, cruelty, deception, intrigue—and death. The audience laughs at the wickedness of the characters one moment, and is appalled by the wickedness of the characters the next. There is a great deal of low comedy in “Measure For Measure”, yet there is a great deal of tragedy, too, despite the contrived and unconvincing “happy” ending, surely the weakest part of the play (and probably the reason for the play’s relative neglect). I suspect it may be near-impossible for a director to capture the right tone of the work.

In some ways, the production was unquestionably a success.

First, the production was beautifully designed—indeed, it was the only design success of the eight Stratford productions we attended. The stage design, the costume design, the lighting design: all were exceptional. Moreover, the production had its own unique “look”, a quality I believe to be a prerequisite of successful stage design.

Second, the story was very lucidly presented—which cannot have been easy, given the contorted plot provided by Shakespeare. As pure traffic cop, the director did a fine job with the plot strands, keeping everything moving and heading in the right direction, the main artery always flowing, yet with ample opportunity for ingress and egress from secondary pathways.

Third, the character acting, by and large, was vivid and colorful. “Measure For Measure” requires an enormous cast of actors, most in small roles, and much of the character acting in the Stratford “Measure For Measure” was exceptional, even memorable.

Other aspects of the production were less admirable.

Accents were all over the place. Primary cast members were very uneven. Comic scenes, as a general rule, were overplayed; tragic scenes, as a general rule, were underplayed.

And then there was that matter of tone . . .

The production, simply put, lacked a clear and consistent tone. It was as if the company were performing two Shakespeare plays at once, alternating scenes from a Shakespeare comedy with scenes from a Shakespeare tragedy.

The director was Martha Henry, one of Canada’s most acclaimed stage actresses. Henry enjoys a near-legendary stature in Canada, a stature akin to that enjoyed by Julie Harris or Rosemary Harris in the U.S.

Last summer, we had seen Henry’s production of Henrik Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” at The Shaw Festival. In that production, the idealism of Ibsen’s characters had been removed, a stratagem that had sharply constricted the depth and range and appeal of the play.

I believe something similar was at work in Henry’s “Measure For Measure”: an accentuation of the negative.

The nobility of Isabella failed to register, which turned her into a hectoring, indecisive bore. The finer qualities of the Duke were de-emphasized, which gave him a far more disreputable rub than Shakespeare surely intended. Angelo, Claudio and Lucio were fundamentally portrayed as sleazes, rendering their characters far less complex (and far less sympathetic) than the text warranted.

At the end of the play, when multiple marriages are arranged, the viewer is not supposed to mutter to himself, “I cannot believe ANYONE would agree to marry ANY of these individuals”—yet such was precisely my thought as the final nuptial merry-go-round was played out onstage.

It is possible there is no one alive capable of directing “Measure For Measure” to a high standard. It is a rich, fascinating play, but it remains a play that does not cohere—and the final scene seems tacked on from a lesser author’s work. I suspect even Tyrone Guthrie, were he alive, would find “Measure For Measure” beyond his talents.

The Stratford Festival gave the material a good shot—so good, in fact, that “Measure For Measure” was the sole Stratford production we attended that I wish I had been able to see a second time.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Avon Theatre, Stratford

The Avon Theatre, Stratford, where we saw The Stratford Festival’s production of Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit”.

The Avon Theatre is the only traditional proscenium theater used by The Stratford Festival.

The theater opened in 1901 as a vaudeville house. Upon the death of vaudeville, it became a movie house.

The theater was acquired by The Stratford Festival in 1963, and given its current name (the theater had operated under at least three other names during its first six decades of existence).

In 2002, the theater was extensively remodeled, and given a new—and very displeasing—exterior (the original façade, in late Victorian style, had been constructed of red brick).

The Avon Theatre seats 1090 patrons, and is roughly the size of a Broadway drama house.

A Send-Up Of Margaret Atwood

On our first day at The Stratford Festival, we attended a matinee performance of Noel Coward’s Blitz-era comedy, “Blithe Spirit”.

I believe “Blithe Spirit” is revived too often. The three central characters—the jaundiced author, his second wife and the ghost of his first wife summoned unexpectedly during a séance—are neither interesting nor amusing. All the fun in the play comes from the medium, Madame Arcati, whose first séance causes the disastrous appearance of the ghost of the first wife. It is in watching Madame Arcati, as she tries to set things straight through further séances, all equally disastrous, that the viewer finds whatever amusement may be found in “Blithe Spirit”.

The role of Madame Arcati is a coveted one for an actress “of a certain age”. The widest range of interpretation is possible: Madame Arcati may be played as highly intelligent or as totally obtuse; as conniving or as guileless; as a charming, irresistible old lady or as a no-nonsense, take-charge busybody; as a dangerous charlatan or as a thorough professional who believes passionately in the value of her skills and services; as a woman crazy as a coot or as the most sane person in the play. I have never seen an actress fail in the part.

At The Stratford Festival, the actress playing Madame Arcati portrayed the character as pure ditz, as someone perpetually out-to-lunch. I thought the portrayal lacked color, and shade, and charm.

However, at the first intermission, my mother, who had been laughing throughout the entire first act, explained: “She’s doing a deliberate send-up of Margaret Atwood.”

And my mother was right. The hair, the clothes, the mannerisms, the odd cadences, the loopy delivery of lines, the overwhelming aura of abject daffiness: all were modeled upon Margaret Atwood. What we were witnessing was a Margaret Atwood impersonation—and it was not a flattering one.

Why the director, Brian Bedford, had wanted or allowed a send-up of Margaret Atwood, I do not know—perhaps he believed Madame Arcati as Margaret Atwood was a witty stroke of genius—but, once we were in on the joke, we were able to enjoy the deliciousness of it. Nonetheless, “Blithe Spirit” does not exist in order to mock Margaret Atwood; presenting the play in such a manner reduced it to a one-dimensional, unending inside joke.

The audience laughed itself silly all afternoon. It was as if the audience, largely Canadian, had entered the theater primed to enjoy a skewering of one of its more bizarre countryman.


We were to see the actress playing Madame Arcati the following evening, playing Elizabeth I in Schiller’s “Mary Stuart”. The actress has a long and distinguished history of Canadian stage credits, but there are no New York or London credits on her resume.

The rest of the cast members, a couple of small roles aside, were very unimpressive. The production, if transferred to Broadway or the West End, would close within a week.

The actor playing Doctor Bradman has appeared at The Guthrie (but not in a production I attended). The actress playing Mrs. Bradman had been part of the acting company at last year’s Shaw Festival, where we had seen her in two productions. Joshua and I had seen the actress playing Sara once before, on Broadway in 2011, in Bedford’s production of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance Of Being Earnest”.


Josh and I had last seen “Blithe Spirit” in 2010, in a very poor production by Boston’s Lyric Stage Company. My brother had last seen “Blithe Spirit” in a West End production in 2005, when he and I saw British television actress Stephanie Cole appear in the role of Madame Arcati. My parents last saw “Blithe Spirit” in the early 1980s.


“Blithe Spirit” was staged in the Avon Theatre, the only Stratford Festival theater that features a traditional proscenium. The other three theaters used by The Stratford Festival have thrust stages.

“Blithe Spirit” was the only play we were to see all week in a traditional proscenium theater. Everything else we attended was at a theater with a thrust stage.

Two other Stratford Festival productions were staged at the Avon Theatre: the musical, “Tommy”; and Shakespeare’s “Othello”. We had no interest in “Tommy”. Since we were to see three other Shakespeare plays in short succession, we had decided to give a fourth, “Othello”, a pass.


A British stage designer had been called in for “Blithe Spirit”. I have seen his work before; he is not very good.

The same designer had designed Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead”, which we had seen in the West End in 2011; Ronald Harwood’s “Taking Sides” and Somerset Maugham’s “The Circle”, both of which we had seen at Chichester Festival Theatre in 2008; Harwood’s “The Dresser”, which my brother and I had seen in the West End in 2005; and the production of “Blithe Spirit” my brother and I had attended in the West End in 2005.


We were very disappointed in the design standard we witnessed at The Stratford Festival.

The design standard on Broadway is higher. The design standard at The Guthrie is higher. The design standard at The Shaw Festival is higher.

Everything we saw last summer at The Shaw Festival—and we saw everything on the bill—was designed to the very highest standard.

Nothing we saw this summer at The Stratford Festival was, from a design perspective, impressive in the least.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Hans Knappertsbusch At The 1941 Salzburg Festival

Conductor Hans Knappertsbusch in conversation with Hermann Wiedemann during a rehearsal of Richard Strauss’s “Der Rosencavalier” (Wiedemann was to sing the role of Faninal) at the 1941 Salzburg Festival.

The official history of the Salzburg Festival portrays the 1941 season as a grim one:

Audiences consisted mainly of soldiers, whether on leave or recovering from wounds, and workers from German and Italian munitions factories. The Festival functioned as a sort of psychological weapon of domestic warfare and manipulation: as catastrophe loomed ever larger on the horizon, the people’s morale had to be shored up and their worries dispelled.

The official history’s characterization of the period is wrong. It is worse than inaccurate, worse than revisionist, worse than foolish—it is completely fictive.

In August 1941, German forces were proceeding from triumph to triumph in North Africa and throughout Russia. Germany’s advances seemed unstoppable; the high-water mark of German conquest had yet to be achieved. The mood of the populace of the Reich was euphoric. Only in December 1941, with America’s entry into the war and the onset of winter weather halting advances on The Eastern Front, did the public mood in the Reich become restrained.

The 1941 Salzburg Festival in no way reflected wartime conditions or wartime austerity. The Festival that year introduced two new Mozart productions, both conducted by Karl Böhm, to mark the 150th anniversary of the composer’s death: “Le nozze di Figaro” and “Die Zauberflöte”. They were joined by a revival of another Mozart opera, “Don Giovanni”.

A sign that war privations were far, far into the future: the Salzburg Festival was to introduce yet another new production of “Le nozze di Figaro” (directed by Walter Felsenstein) in 1942, the second such new production in two seasons; and the Salzburg Festival was to introduce yet another new production of “Die Zauberflöte” in 1943, the second such new production in three seasons. Lavish expenditures for new productions of the same works, in close succession, do not bespeak a nation yet imperiled by—or even aware of—looming catastrophe.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Eugen Jochum In 1941

Eugen Jochum in 1941.

The photograph may be dated from its appearance in Amsterdam newspapers in November 1941, the month of Jochum’s first appearance with the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam.

The Concertgebouw, during Germany’s occupation of The Netherlands, was forced to engage numerous German conductors. Jochum was but one of many German musicians the Amsterdam orchestra was obliged to accept under pressure.

Jochum’s reception in Amsterdam, however, was markedly different from the receptions accorded other German conductors. Jochum was welcomed by musicians and audiences alike, and Jochum quickly developed a special bond with the orchestra. The bond proved so durable that Jochum was the only German conductor invited to return to Amsterdam after the war ended.

Jochum continued to conduct the Concertgebouw for the rest of his life. One of Jochum’s final concerts, in December 1986, three months before his death, occurred in Amsterdam—forty-five years and one month after his first Amsterdam appearance.

The occasion marked Jochum’s 400th concert with the Concertgebouw.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Krauss, Orff, Hartmann And Kugler

Clemens Krauss, Carl Orff, Rudolf Hartmann and Josef Kugler in Munich in 1939, while the premiere of Orff’s opera, “Der Mond”, was in preparation.

Krauss and Orff are known to all.

Hartmann was Chief Of Productions at the Bavarian State Opera from 1938 to 1944, overlapping the period in which Krauss was Chief Conductor at the theater. Hartmann returned to lead the company as Intendant from 1953 to 1967. After retiring from the theater, Hartmann authored a well-respected book on the staging of Richard Strauss operas; more than thirty years after its initial publication, the book remains in print—and is essential reading for opera aficionados. In 2003, my brother and I attended, purely by chance, a splendid exhibition devoted to Hartmann in one of Munich’s many museums. The exhibition occurred fifteen years after Hartmann’s death, fifty years after Hartmann first took the helm of the Bavarian State Opera, and sixty-five years after Hartmann first became associated with the company. Hartmann was a learned, accomplished, fascinating man. Persons of his quality no longer lead theaters, within Germany or elsewhere.

In 1939, Kugler was Chorus Master at the Bavarian State Opera. Kugler continued in the post for many years—he was still Chorus Master when Eugen Jochum made his celebrated Orff recordings in Munich in the 1950s.

“You Might As Well Use Everything Available”

“You might as well use everything available. You’ll never hear the piece again.”—Thomas Beecham to William Walton, during the latter’s composition of “Belshazzar’s Feast”.

Beecham’s remarks were in response to a question posed by Walton. The young composer had asked the wizened conductor whether it was advisable to score “Belshazzar’s Feast” for an enlarged brass section.

Happily, Beecham’s prognostication about the work’s long-term prospects—Beecham was all too aware that most new works are heard once, and never again—has proved inaccurate.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Today’s Matinee At 2:00

William Shakespeare’s “Romeo And Juliet”.

Photograph courtesy of The Stratford Festival.

Tonight At 8:00

A stage adaptation, by Peter Raby, of Alexandre Dumas’s “The Three Musketeers”.

Photograph courtesy of The Stratford Festival.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Today’s Matinee At 2:00

This afternoon’s matinee will be William Shakespeare’s “The Merchant Of Venice”.

The production has not yet had an official opening. As a consequence, The Stratford Festival has not yet released photographs of the production.

The production must be a troubled one. The Stratford Festival “Merchant Of Venice” was originally scheduled to open in July, but the opening was considerably postponed. Unless further delayed, the production is now scheduled to open in another week—and a mid-August opening is very late for a major Stratford Festival production (Stratford Festival productions generally begin opening in April and generally conclude opening in July).

We will, in effect, be attending a preview performance this afternoon, not exactly what we had anticipated when we had acquired our (full-price) tickets back in June—and tickets for Stratford Festival performances are by no means inexpensive.

We have had bad luck with “The Merchant Of Venice”.

We last saw “The Merchant Of Venice” five years ago this month in the other Stratford—Stratford-Upon-Avon—in a Royal Shakespeare Company production. The 2008 RSC “Merchant Of Venice” had been inept if not dismal. The entire performance, we had considered walking out.

We hope not to encounter something similar this afternoon.

Tonight At 8:00

The Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick-Joseph Stein musical, “Fiddler On The Roof”.

Photograph courtesy of The Stratford Festival.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Today’s Matinee At 2:00

“Taking Shakespeare”, a new play by Canadian playwright John Murrell.

Photograph courtesy of The Stratford Festival.

Tonight At 8:00

Friedrich Schiller’s “Mary Stuart”.

Photograph courtesy of The Stratford Festival.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Today’s Matinee At 2:00

Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit”.

Photograph courtesy of The Stratford Festival.

Tonight At 8:00

William Shakespeare’s “Measure For Measure”.

Photograph courtesy of The Stratford Festival.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Aftermath Of The July 1943 Bombings Of Hamburg

The aftermath of the July 1943 bombings of Hamburg.

Work crews—almost certainly comprised of Prisoners Of War from America and Russia—search the rubble on Berg Street after the July 1943 bombings.

Berg Street was more than five miles from the areas in which firestorms developed.

Had Berg Street been caught up in the firestorms, the damage, as seen in the photograph, would have been far, far worse.