Monday, September 22, 2008

exit stage left, in silence

I was spoiled rotten this week-end with tickets to not one, but TWO shows. Luxurious indeed. On Friday night I met up with Amy & Patti to see the Panic Squad perform their improv artistry at Gallery 7. I have been going to see these guys for years and they never disappoint. I still have no idea how they do it. Memorable moments from this year's show included "cheesecake" and "totally going argyle on the guy in the hallway". And Jacob the announcer, he was great. We started the evening at Afterthoughts (you know it's going to be good when it starts with cheesecake). Great conversation and good times ensued.

On Saturday night I headed off to Bard on the Beach to see King Lear with Kendra and Monica.

There's always a line up for Bard and those in the know know that if you don't want to sit in the wings, you have to get their early. We ended up a little farther to the left than our usual center seats, but had a great view none the less. While waiting in line, Monica and I entertained ourselves with an impression of Comedy and Tragedy. (Although looking at the photo now, it's a little more like Comedy and Comedy but still...) Going into the show, I was a little nervous. Lear is not one of my favorite plays. It is very violent and very sad and I seriously debated passing on the chance to go. But Christopher Gaze was playing Lear and you never get to see him in a lead role these days. I decided I didn't want to miss that. Gaze was, of course, amazing, but I can say that I do not need to see Lear performed live ever again.

If you know the story, you are familiar with Gloucester's scene (and if you're not, I'm not going to put you through it here). I had read the scene before but it is something different altogether to have to listen to it, even if you close your eyes and look away. Christopher Weddell certainly earned his wage that night but I found I hadn't the stomach for it. Is it the first time I've exited a Bard on the Beach production where almost everyone was either silent or drying tears. There is such a calculated cruelty to Regan and Goneril that I found only slight relief at their deaths. When Cordelia and Lear met theirs, I had no saddness left for them. My heart was heavy enough.

To be fair it was a masterful production, and brilliantly costumed. I found I prefer swords to guns when it comes to Shakespeare. This production used guns and they're just so abrasive. Swords seem civilized by comparrison. The set was lovely, definietly one of my favorites. I doubt if anything will match the beauty of the white tree set from a summer or two ago.

Earlier in the summer we went to see Twelfth Night and that was one of my favorite performances of all time. It's always easier to like comedy, but this production had whimsy and nuance and laughter. It opened with a genius trick -- an old 1920s style silent film of the scene where Viola is shipwrecked (on a recognizable portion of English Bay which made it even more fun!). They made excellent use of the two tier stage and I remember being so quick to stand up and cheer when it was over.

I wonder sometimes if it's wrong to only pursue the easy art. I do read sad stories as well as happy ones. Perhaps it depends on what you are pursuing art for. If it's art for entertainment purposes, then surely there should be no requirement to allow yourself to be saddened, but if it art for the sake of learning, or for educating the spirit then maybe it can't all be roses. Art is said to ultimately be truth (although I'd argue that to some degree) and if that's so then truth is sad and happy, terrifying and delightful. Saturday night we exited the tents in silence. It was not an enjoyable evening but I wouldn't say it was a wasted one, just one I'd rather not repeat.

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