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News & Notes Productions

The North Pool

By Rajiv Joseph

In this riveting psychological thriller, a high-school vice principal and a Middle Eastern–born transfer student engage in a politically and emotionally charged game of cat and mouse, with dangerous consequences.

FEATURING:

Bruce Avery

Zaya Kolia

DIRECTED BY:

Lana Palmer

Opens January 11 at Potrero Stage in San Francisco.

THE NORTH POOL is presented as part of PlayGround’s Potrero Stage Presenting Program.

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News & Notes

Bread & Butter Theatre presents John Logan’s RED

Bread & Butter Theatre announces its first 2018 production: the Tony Award-winning Red, by John Logan.

Master abstract expressionist Mark Rothko has just landed the biggest commission in the history of modern art, a series of murals for New York’s famed Four Seasons Restaurant. In the two fascinating years that follow, Rothko works feverishly with his young assistant, Ken, in his studio on the Bowery. But when Ken gains the confidence to challenge him, Rothko faces the agonizing possibility that his crowning achievement could also become his undoing. Raw and provocative, RED is a searing portrait of an artist’s ambition and vulnerability as he tries to create a definitive work for an extraordinary setting.

Red was nominated seven Tony Awards, winning the 2010 Tony for Best Play.

Runs March 23-31st at the Phoenix Theatre in San Francisco

Directed by: Lana Palmer

Featuring:

Bruce Avery as Rothko
Nick Moore as Ken

Set design by: Giulio Cesare Perrone

News & Notes

Director’s Notes: Virtue is no horn-maker

Virtue is no horn-maker; and my Rosalind is virtuous.

– Orlando, As You Like It

There is more talk of horns in As You Like It than in any other Shakespeare play. There’s a good reason for that: it’s a pastoral play, from the Latin “pastor,” meaning “shepherd.”

Pastoral writing extends back into the classical period, to Theocritus and his Idylls, bucolic poems set in the country where shepherds meet to discuss the corruption of city life. In As You Like It, that role is filled by Corin, who compares the courtly life advocated by Touchstone with the spare but pure life he claims to live in the forest.

The pastoral form was popular in Shakespeare’s time. London life was changing rapidly, the city was growing and politics mixing with religion in dangerous ways. The notion of leaving that corruption behind and escaping to a simple life was attractive, as evidenced by the popularity of Edmund Spenser’s Shepherd’s Calendar and Christopher Marlowe’s famous poem “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”:

Come live with me and be my love,

And we will all the pleasures prove,

That Valleys, groves, hills, and fields,

Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

 

And we will sit upon the Rocks,

Seeing the Shepherds feed their flocks,

By shallow Rivers to whose falls

Melodious birds sing Madrigals.

(As a side note, Touchstone’s statement to Audrey that “it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room” parodies Marlowe’s “infinite riches in a little room” from Tamburlaine, while also noting that Marlowe was murdered in a tavern brawl over the reckoning of the tab.)
I digress: we have shepherds, and therefore sheep and goats, and therefore horns. But, as Celia says, “there’s more in it.” In this case the “it” is sex and chastity. Touchstone, after he proposes to Audrey, says

A man may, if he were of a fearful heart,
stagger in this attempt: for here we have no temple
but the wood, no assembly but horn-beasts. But what
though? Courage! As horns are odious, they are
necessary. It is said, ‘many a man knows no end of
his goods:’ right; many a man has good horns, and
knows no end of them. Well, that is the dowry of
his wife; ’tis none of his own getting. Horns?
Even so.

The fear that a man’s wife would betray him and become pregnant with another man’s child is a constant theme in early modern literature. The word “cuckold” is derived from the French, and refers to one who has been suborned by the cuckoo bird, some species of which lay their eggs in other bird’s nests and leave them to be brought up and fed by others.

Just how horns get to be associated with cuckoo birds is complex, but, appropriate for this play, it involves deer. In medieval times numerous writers noted that stags fought with their horns to achieve dominance, and once the alpha stag had proven himself, he drove off his competitor and mated with the competitor’s erstwhile companion. Hence, the image of running away with one’s horns drooping low came to symbolize the male whose wife was mating with another man. This too is subject to Touchstone’s commentary, when he says of horns: “the noblest deer hath them as huge as the rascal. Is the single man therefore blessed? No.”

Given the choice, that is, between having sex in a marriage that may lead to cuckoldry and a single life without sex, Touchstone opts for marriage. Of course one hopes for harmony and happiness for him, Audrey, and all the lovers. But this play is too honest to imply that those things are easy, or even probable.

It’s characteristic of Shakespeare that in a play potentially formulaic—all comedies in his era ended with marriages—he explores the shadows cast by the light of love and romance. All the lovers in As You Like It enter their relationships with hope and delight. But, Shakespeare reminds us, life is long, and as the melancholy Jaques says, it ends in “second childishness and mere oblivion, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

That makes it all the more important to celebrate the love and kinship this play highlights at the end, and to “begin these rites/ as we do trust they’ll end : in true delights.”

 

News & Notes Productions

Director’s Notes: As You Like It

As You Like It is one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies.  Written around 1599, it may have been the first play performed at Shakespeare’s playhouse, The Globe.  Jaques quotes the Globe’s motto, “totus mundus agit histrionem,” when he begins his famous “seven ages of man” monologue with “all the world’s a stage.”  It’s easy to imagine him gesturing to the wooden building around him, and to the audience before him, when he first uttered those words in the newly built theater.

Jaques and his speech are only part of this play’s appeal.  Rosalind, played in our production by noted Bay Area actor Melissa Claire, is one of his most revered characters.  Her eloquent wit, her courage, and her agile humor make her a remarkable creation.  In Shakespeare’s original staging she would have been played by a boy.   That this boy plays a woman, Rosalind, was a convention of the stage in Shakespeare’s time and in itself would have been unremarkable.  But Shakespeare’s restless intelligence led him to probe the nature of gender and affection, as the boy playing Rosalind then embodied Rosalind dressing up like a boy, Ganymede, who then “pretends” to be Rosalind for Orlando to woo.  If mathematical terms might help us understand this equation, it goes something like boy=girl=boy=girl.

 

It’s confusing, but delightful, to watch the permutations of behavior and romance that ensue from Rosalind’s hijinks.  In this production we loosely set her and her fellows in late 19th century California, on and around a ranchero that has been usurped from his older brother by Duke Frederick.  Property rights, brothers and their rivalries, and the fracturing and restoring of community are themes we explore in the play, along with the dizzying spectacle of love-at-first-sight.
Performances:
July 22, 23, 29, 30
Oakmont Golf Club, Santa Rosa
August 8, 9
Dance Palace, Point Reyes Station