Wednesday, February 13, 2008

To write or not to write

So, here's the moral dilemma. Three of your favorite bloggers -- Jessica Lipnack, John Halamka, and I -- were invited to attend tonight's performance of Julius Caeser at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, MA, and then blog about it. This is part of an experiment by ART to link into social media and other outlets to expand the experience of the actual stage performance. We were given free tickets and were told we could write anything we want.

Even before the performance, I felt a bit awkward. Truthfully, I have not gone to the ART in years because I gave up several years ago after attending many shows that I thought were pretty awful. But, I figured this would be fun and, hey, maybe it was time to give the company another chance. Nonetheless, I expressed concern: What if I didn't like the show? Was I somehow obliged to say nice things because I had been given a free ticket?

We were assured otherwise. No obligations. No conditions.

Well, let's just say that I was disappointed. The show had poor pacing. And, as we would say in music, it had no dynamic variation.

But the writing was really spectacular. This fellow Shakespeare deserves a lot of credit.

There was one segment in particular that made me and the person behind me gasp as we heard it. It is Act III, Scene 1, right after Caesar is murdered. After Brutus suggests that they bathe their hands in Caesar's blood, Cassius says:

Stoop then, and wash. How many ages hence

Shall this lofty scene be acted over,

In state unborn and accents yet unknown.

I think we gasped because we were reminded of how many times political aggression and murder are undertaken by people couching their actions in terms of bringing liberty to the population, but who really are driven by the same desire for power as their predecessors. Shakespeare's theme from hundreds of years ago has been replayed over and over again through the centuries, even to our own time. Thanks to the ART for the vivid reminder.

6 comments:

amusings_bnl said...

I am incredibly jealous.
My daughter and I would have loved to have gone ... for 2 reasons. first -- she is studying Julius Caesar later this academic year. Second -- she is an actress in Rebel Shakespeare Company in Salem MA. third -- she is going to london in april to perform at Stratford for the Birthday Celebrations of the Bard.

And finally -- i'm a shakespeare junkie... and would have loved to have seen, written about, enjoyed...

sigh.

nasov said...

Sometimes I think it's impossible for modern actors of any time to play Caesar. The speeches were not famous when Shakespeare wrote them, of course, so he did not intend for us to have that moment of anticipation or even melodrama -- and therefore did not intend for directors to go in the opposite direction out of creativity. I think actors and director should read Caesar's diaries from the Gallic wars to see the man in his own voice before presenting this play.

No expert here, just a fan. BTW, you should accept the tickets as a reviewer would (?) but not the dinner.

Paul Levy said...

Thanks. (I didn't have the dinner.)

jessica lipnack said...

amusing_bnl - nice dog. You have plenty of time to see Julius. Show runs until March 16.

Great point from nasov about Shakespeare's intentions but ... who talked to Shakespeare about this? :)

Bardiac said...

And, of course, there you were, watching the lofty scene being acted over, in a state unborn when Shakespeare wrote the words, in an accent he'd probably find incomprehensible.

Pretty cool metatheatricality, eh?

Paul Levy said...

Yes, you have it exactly!