Archive for the ‘Theatre’ Category

Thoughts on “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”

June 29, 2022

The next Shakespeare play that I read was “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”.  Another comedy, this one features, well, two gentlemen from Verona, Valentine and Proteus.  Valentine is heading off to the city for some adventure and politicking, but Proteus can’t go because he’s wooing Julia.  At first, she doesn’t care for him, but ultimately does come to love him after the advice of her servant.  However, Proteus ends up being sent to the city anyway through so machinations, and once there finds out that despite his mocking Proteus for falling in love, Valentine has fallen in love with Silvia, but her father has promised her to someone else.  Proteus then falls in love with Silvia as well and rats out Valentine who was trying to elope with her, which gets Valentine exiled from the city, and he falls in with some outlaws.  Proteus’ attempts to woo Silvia get him nowhere, and she eventually arranges to run off to find Valentine.  Julia, distraught from not hearing from Proteus, dresses as a man and goes to the city and finds out that Proteus is wooing Sylvia.  Sylvia and her escort happen to get captured by the very outlaws that Valentine leads, and Proteus and company arrive to save her at right about that time.  They get everything straightened out, and Valentine is set to marry Sylvia and Proteus is set to marry Julia, which is where the play ends.

I suppose the ultimate comment on how much I liked this comedy is that before writing this post I made sure that I looked to see if this play was really supposed to be a comedy.  The plot isn’t really conducive to humour, at least not for me.  I don’t find a friend trying to betray his friend so that he can woo a woman while forgetting about the woman he has already wooed and won particularly funny, and this is only made worse by the fact that at the end we are supposed to, I think, be happy for Julia that she manages to win him back.  I’m just not really interested in laughing at someone that unsympathetic, especially since neither he nor Valentine nor Sylvia nor Julia are really comic characters.  I’d make any one of them the straight person in any comedy, and the play focuses on them and has them play off of each other and other, more minor characters, none of which are all that comic characters either.  So we don’t have normal characters playing off and getting frustrated by the oddities and idiocies of the people around them, or of the plot, and so it really comes across as a more straight plot with some comedy scenes and lines thrown in to make it a comedy.

That being said, Shakespeare’s gift for banter and dialogue is still on display here, but what I noticed in this play is that the only difference between his banter in the early comedies and his banter in the early tragedies is that he uses more puns in the comedies.  Otherwise, the cadence and structure of the banter seems to be pretty much identical.  You would think that I’d appreciate that given that in general I like puns, but the dialogue doesn’t really seem to settle on being either the mean-spirited punning banter of two rivals or the fun-spirited punning banter of people legitimately misunderstanding each other, and the cases where it does the former only make the overall play seem less comic than it could have been.  As such, the play pretty much aligns with my impressions of his first comedy, “The Comedy of Errors”:  well-written, but I don’t find it funny.

Next up is “Love’s Labour’s Lost”, so we’ll see what my impressions of that are after I read it.

Thoughts on “The Comedy of Errors”

June 22, 2022

So after going through a series of related dramas, I get to the first comedy.  Now, I wasn’t certain how I’d feel about the comedies.  I seem to recall somewhat enjoying “The Taming of the Shrew”, but my most memorable exposure to that one came from watching a somewhat modernized performance of it which added some elements that would make it more palatable to a more modern audience (granted, that performance was almost forty years ago, so “modern” has to be relative here).  And this concern ties into my first and overarching comment on the play:  I didn’t find it funny.

The main plot here is a somewhat classic twin story.  A family is split up by a shipwreck while the twin boys are infants, with the mother and one son ending up in one city and the father and other son ending up in another.  The play opens with the father coming to the other city searching for his other son but getting condemned to death because merchants from his city are not allowed in the other city and have to pay a huge fine or else be put to death if they are caught there.  At about the same time, that son himself goes into the city to do some business with his servant and is mistaken for the other son, and at this point hilarity is supposed to ensue.

The first issue I had with this, I think, is that it relies very heavily not just on the sons being twins, but on their servants being twins as well so that the sons and other people would not just mistake the sons for each other but also their servants for each other.  This is, of course, contrived, but in general in comedies we will forgive a bit of contrivance if it’s funny.  However, the problem I had with it is that I didn’t realize that the servants were twins and that there were two different servants, and so the discussions they had with their masters were more confusing than funny, especially since I didn’t get at first that people were confusing the servants for each other as well.  Thus, most of their lines seemed far more like insolence or stupidity than actual confusion, which didn’t actually endear the servants to me.

The second issue is that for most of the play I didn’t get that the sons were twins either.  Once I figured that out, I started enjoying the play more, but I didn’t figure it out from the text itself, but from reading the names and noting that one of them seemed to change.  Soon after, the play revealed that, but it was a bit too late for my enjoyment and I can’t imagine that a general audience would have noted it, or if it was made obvious it would have been revealed too early and the audience would have thought the others stupid for not getting it.  Ultimately, then, for me the big issue is that the big plot element that was supposed to make the comedy work wasn’t revealed early enough for me.  That being said, I didn’t really find the play any funnier once that was made clear.  I just enjoyed it more because it started to make more sense.

Shakespeare has a gift for banter in his dialogue, and that carries on here.  The back-and-forth between the characters really does seem to flow well and is pretty entertaining to follow.  Again, the big issue for me was that while I found the banter entertaining, I didn’t find it particularly funny, at least in part because often it’s banter between a servant and a master and however that works out it sounds like someone is being stupid or being mean, and I’m not that fond of that sort of humour.  Thus, I found it entertaining once I figured out what was going on, but didn’t find it particularly funny.

The next play up is “Two Gentlemen From Verona”, another comedy.  Let’s see if that one can get a laugh out of me.

Thoughts on “Titus Andronicus”

June 14, 2022

This play is not a continuation of the previous two, as it heads to Rome to tell the story of a hero of Rome who the Senate offers to make Emperor because of his successes against the Goths, which he turns down.  However, he does consent to choose who the next Emperor should be, and that along with having to kill the eldest son of the captured Goth queen sets in motion a chain of events that ultimately leads to his downfall and the downfall of his entire family.  And while that might look like a set-up for a comedy, that downfall is so brutal that there is absolutely nothing funny about it, and in fact the ending is downright depressing, for the most part.

Yet that might be the issue with the play as it stands.  The events are tragic, but the play is not a tragedy.  For the play to be a real tragedy, it would need to be the case that, in some way, it either could not have been avoided once it started or else it could have been avoided but the personalities involved mean that it was going to end up that way.  But all this play has is people trying to revenge slights against them, but the play also doesn’t play it out like a cycle of revenge that once begun was going to end badly for everyone.  The motives for revenge are more or less reasonable and here Shakespeare mixes in ideas of lust or love that actually do seem to spawn the events but come out of nowhere and so seem like contrivances to make the tragic things happen.

And this only carries on to the character that is arguably the main antagonist, Aaron, a Goth who spurs people on to their heinous actions and has an affair with the Goth queen — married to the new Emperor — causing her to have what is obviously his child instead of the Emperor’s (Aaron is black and the Emperor is … not) causing a couple more murders as he tries to save the life of the child.  The big problem with him is that he is explicitly doing all of this “For the Evulz”, which means that he has no plan and no real goal other than causing trouble and doing terrible things.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing to do, as you can align with Wade Wilson from “Deadpool” and have him argue that he doesn’t take the [craps], he just disturbs them.  But the problem here is that the play neither explores this aspect of him to make it more prominent — as some kind of Master of Chaos, for example — nor does it give him any actual goals.  So he comes across as a contrivance, a character who is there to facilitate the bad things happening but does so for no reason.  If he had been legitimately interested in the Goth queen and wanted to advance the causes of her and her children then his actions would have made sense, but he explicitly denies having that as a goal and doesn’t seem to be helping them all that much anyway.  This puts him in sharp contrast to the less competent antagonists of the previous three plays who, nevertheless, have clear and comprehensible goals and motives.  Aaron seems to be smarter than them, but that itself works against the character since he seems to be created to be smart enough to make the plans that facilitate the tragic events but isn’t given enough depth to have an actual reason for doing that, meaning that he comes across as a character that was invented to move the plot along, hoping that we wouldn’t notice that he really doesn’t have any reason to do so and so that he’s just a contrivance engine for the plot.

That being said, again Shakepeare’s dialogue and writing and style carry the play.  The speeches and the like work well and aren’t at all boring, so the play is still an entertaining read.  That being said, this play works out to be tragic but not a proper tragedy, which makes it less enjoyable than I at least remember the better tragedies being.  However, I believe that the next one up is the first of the comedies — being entitled “The Comedy of Errors” — so I’ll get to see if his early comedies work better for me than his early tragedies/dramas.

Thoughts on “King Richard the Third”

June 7, 2022

Continuing my reading and thoughts on the complete works of Shakespeare, the next one in the collection is “King Richard the Third”.  This is actually a continuation/sequel to “King Henry the Sixth”, which I was wondering about when I finished reading that one, as it ends with Richard — who had put into a place a number of machinations and schemes to gain power — declaring that he was going to be king and rule in place of his brother, who was in power at the end of that work.  This play is about him putting those plans into action and, as the title spoils, ultimately becoming king and, as per the previous work, quickly losing it.

The big issue in this play is that while the speeches and dialogue work really well, the overall plot and structure are lacking.  The big problem here is that Richard is not a particularly good plotter, so a play focusing on how his plots ultimately win him the throne and how he squanders that isn’t all that interesting.  For the most part, everyone knows that he’s ultimately incredibly treacherous and yet they go along with him anyway.  This leads to some of the best banter, but when one pays attention to that banter it doesn’t make sense.  For example, one early conversation is between him and the queen of the previous regime, as he’s trying to convince her to marry him because it will give him some kind of advantage (that is never really revealed).  Since he killed her previous husband, she hates him, and since he’s known to be treacherous, she doesn’t trust him.  And yet his big convincing move is to declare that he only did that for the love of her, which he had never expressed at all in the past and not before that point in the conversation, and yet by the end of the conversation she seems to be at least considering the offer, and she ultimately does marry him … at which point he quickly has her killed and tries the exact same pitch to another new widow that he was responsible for making a widow, and the results seem to be the same before he himself is toppled before he could presumably marry the new woman and kill her for advantage.

It would be a different matter if he had positioned himself such that even those who didn’t trust him felt that they need him to gain position, even if they were planning to set him aside as soon as they could, but through his machinations he managed to betray and toss them aside first.  Then he could be seen as someone who was clever enough to at least overcome a reputation for being treacherous and even use it to his advantage.  But that’s not what happens.  Everyone he enters into alliances with pretty much flat-out says that he’s not to be trusted and yet they go along with him anyway, and he invariably betrays him just as he planned all along and in general they don’t even seem to have any plans in place to prepare for his inevitable betrayal.  It makes them look stupid instead of making him look clever.

And the way he loses at the end isn’t any better.  One of the main causes of his downfall is that he promised Buckingham something for supporting him, which he ultimately doesn’t give Buckingham who then defects to his enemies.  But this comes from a conversation where Buckingham simply brings it up and Richard talks about utterly meaningless things and completely ignores him.  Normally, what someone in Richard’s position would do is put Buckingham off with it not being the right time due to instability or such, and if Buckingham’s defection was necessary Richard would grant that to someone else because that would bring him greater power now, believing that Buckingham was no longer necessary, which would make the important role Buckingham’s defection would play in his ultimate downfall ironic.  However, as noted, all he does is ignore him and refuse to talk about it at all and in fact even refuse to talk sense at that point for no real reason.  Again, it makes him look stupid as opposed to someone clever undone by his treacherous nature.

I wondered when starting this project if there might be an issue reading the plays versus seeing them performed, and in this case I think that might be true.  The dialogue and banter is in general really interesting, and I can imagine that it would be easy to be swept along by the dialogue — if properly performed — and so not stop to think about what is actually being said and what it all means.  Reading it, I had far more time to think about what was being said and so to note that it didn’t make a lot of sense, for all of its stylistic virtues.  But ultimately, considered carefully, Richard the Third not being a terribly good plotter and everyone else seeming awfully stupid for going along with him hurts the play and any tragic value it might have had.

Still, as noted, it’s fairly good stylistically and could work well if performed properly.  This is probably a play that would suffer more from Fridge Logic than while someone was actually watching it.  Again, this is not one of Shakespeare’s more famous plays and he doesn’t seem to have his antagonists down as well as he will later in Macbeth and Hamlet, but once that improves his tragedies will really start to work as tragedies.

Thoughts on “King Henry the Sixth”

May 18, 2022

So, after finishing the complete collection of H.P. Lovecraft, I started working on the complete works of William Shakespeare.  And when I started doing that, I had an unwelcome surprise.  While reading Lovecraft, I was generally able to get through something like 90 pages or so in an hour and half time period, and so could usually finish a novella or a collection for short stories in a session, usually while I was doing laundry.  When I turned to Shakespeare, I figured that I could maintain that pace and since there were around 1000 pages in the collection that it would take me about two or three months to get through.  Each play is about 30 pages in the work and so I figured I could get through about two or three plays in a session, which would work out well.  However, when I sat down to read the first part of “King Henry the Sixth” I was surprised to note that it took me about an hour and a half to read that one play.  If I have a reading pace of 30 pages a session — and the sessions are once a week — that means it would take me eight or nine months to get through it.  Fortunately, that’s a time set aside to do that sort of reading and it’s not like I’m going to stop doing laundry any time soon and so lose that time slot, but I was probably not going to want to go for eight months without talking about how that one major project was going.

Hence, this post.  I decided that what I would do is instead of talking about my overall impressions of the works I’d talk about each individual play.  Now, I know that for ages people have been analyzing Shakespeare’s plays for themes and how it all fits together and, well, for pretty everything you can analyze them for wrt literary content.  I’m not going to do that, at least not to that detail.  Instead, I’m going to talk about my general impressions of the works, which may include some comments on the themes but will mostly focus on how it’s striking me as a work that I’m just sitting down and taking the time to read out.  Also, someone might object that since they were meant to be acted out simply reading them won’t have the same impact as watching them would.  Putting aside the fact that in my formal studies of the works we pretty much just read them, it’s also not possible to actually watch all of Shakespeare’s works anyway.  Not all of them are put on all the time, even if they were regularly staging his plays anywhere near to me.  This is the best I can do if I want to experience all of them in some way.

Anyway, “King Henry the Sixth” is presented in three parts, which basically means that it’s presented as three separate plays for the most part, with the length of each part aligning with the typical length of one of his plays.  It follows, well, the reign of King Henry the Sixth, touching on historical events like the battles in France with Joan of Arc and a number of rebellions and insurrections in England itself.

The first thing I noted about the plays is that I had a remarkably easy time reading them.  I was a bit worried that the language would be a bit of a struggle but even though some of the words were ones that I wasn’t familiar with — often deliberately so, to make the cadences and rhymes work better — I was able to follow the conversations and understand what was going on and what each character was trying to do.  So the language was more approachable than I expected it to be, at least in this place.

I did, however, notice a bit of English bias in this work, at least, mostly wrt France and especially wrt Joan of Arc.  It may be the case that most of us have become a bit biased towards Joan of Arc from the cultural works that reference her, but in general it seems reasonable that she had some military success which is why she gained fame in the first place and the fame that she fell from at the end of her life.  However, in this play she’s fairly unimpressive and dismissed by pretty much everyone, although Shakespeare does present her as being skilled in fighting, although he also has other women later fight as well so again that’s not all that impressive.  Since everything is told from the perspective of the English you could argue that it more reflects the feelings of the people at the time and not what Shakespeare himself wanted to get across, and since many of those people are rather poor tacticians a lot of the time that’s not unreasonable, but the dialogue does not suggest anything like that but even when she’s among people who wouldn’t be biased he still leaves that impression.  So that stood out to me, although it probably wouldn’t have to his original audience.

I also noticed that in this play there are lots of plots in play to gain power, but pretty much all of them fail miserably in a remarkably short period of time, making it look like the plotters are utterly incompetent.  We don’t have someone in a strong position gained from plotting like Claudius in Hamlet, nor someone who executes a plot and has it all unravel like Macbeth, but instead we have characters spawn a plot against, for example, the Protector of the Realm to imprison and then kill him but as soon as he is killed another noble immediately accuses them of murder and they get imprisoned and probably executed.  We have characters trying to attack a much larger army in the field on the grounds that it worked against the French, who predictably lose badly.  But then the victors of that battle are soon overtaken by another force, and so on and so forth.  Someone spawns an insurrection as a distraction to weaken the realm and justify his using force that fizzles out right before he returns, but he manages to take over anyway.  Even the losses in France in the first part seem to follow from the English leaders being cowardly and incompetent, preferring to in-fight over dealing with their enemies.  This may well have been the point, but it doesn’t make for very impressive antagonists.

If there is any theme to this, I believe that it’s about over how Henry was weak and inconstant and so unprepared to rule, and that that indecisiveness is what ultimately cost him his throne.  He decries the charges against the Protector but allows him to be arrested anyway, which leads to the Protector’s death and the start of the serious infighting.  He asks to be heard but isn’t at all convincing, and can’t be because he doesn’t seem to understand what the actual issues are.  He decides to try to make peace by making the Duke of York his heir and so they would inherit the kingship after his death, but his ambitious wife — who was involved in the conspiracy against the Protector — won’t accept his disinheriting their son, which spawns the conflict that causes him to lose all in the end.  Ultimately, then, it seems that Henry’s weakness and being influenced by others ultimately led to his downfall, and he placed his trust in the wrong people.

Putting aside that most of the antagonists are either incompetent, nasty, or both, I found this three part work fairly good.  I didn’t like or sympathize with most of the characters, but the progression through what I presume are historical events works well enough, and things move quickly enough that I don’t really have the time to focus on which characters I do and don’t like.  I don’t think these are among the more famous Shakespeare plays, but the dialogue and scenes are done well enough that we can see why Shakespeare’s plays have stood the test of time.

Colorblind casting

July 31, 2020

So, Jerry Coyne has a post up talking about an article in the NY Times about colorblind casting, which I can’t read because I can’t get free articles and there’s no way I’m subscribing to them, since I don’t even subscribe to newspapers in my own country and so prefer to get my news from more reliable sources, like innuendo and small children. Anyway, all I can do is rely on Jerry Coyne’s references to the article, but for the most part I don’t want to get into her — Maya Phillips — views on why it’s wrong, but instead simply want to focus on my own thoughts on the matter and when it’s a good thing and when it isn’t. Let’s start with the definition, at least summarized by Coyne:

“Colorblind casting” is defined in this New York Times piece by culture critic Maya Phillips as “performers [inhabiting] characters of racial backgrounds that [differ] from their own.”

So let me dispense with the extreme ends that could end up as strawmen. On the one end, we have cases where the script has a loose idea of what race a character is or should be, but when casting don’t find themselves limited to that race because the race of the character doesn’t actually have any bearing on the plot. They may have conceived of the character as being a certain race and even mentioned it in the script, but none of that is important to the plot or characterization and so they are open to the best actor for that role no matter what their race. One typical example might be someone who read for a character where race was a more important factor but who didn’t get in, but in the auditions seemed to have a voice or cadence that really fit the other character, so the powers-that-be decided to give the role to that actor and change the race of the character to fit the actor. This is obviously perfectly acceptable and might even be something that they should do: even if they have an idea of what race the person seems most like to them, open it up to all races and let the best actor win, and then adjust the race accordingly.

On the other end, we’d have the case where a character has a set, defined race in-universe and key plot and characterization points depend on them being that race, and those points cannot be changed. If the character is going to be referred to in-universe as being of a certain race, then I think it completely obvious that casting an actor of a different race for that part isn’t going to work, unless you’re going to try some kind of subversion (like the notes in the original article about “Hamilton” making some of the Founding Fathers black). You can try those sorts of things, but you have to be prepared for it to fall flat. So, no, in general you aren’t going to cast an actor that is at least obviously not of that race (races that are at least superficially similar can work if done properly). This should be uncontroversial.

Or perhaps not:

I’ve never had a problem with people of any race or gender playing anyone, as the whole point of entertainment is to suspend disbelief. Unfortunately, as I already noted, “colorblind casting” used to be “colorblind” just for whites, so that we had whites playing Asians or Arabs (i.e., Alec Guinness in Lawerence of Arabia). This reduces the opportunity for talented actors of color to play roles; it was a form of discrimination.

Now, this really sounds like saying that anyone can play anyone of any race and gender at any time, which is ludicrous. He does soften it later to more closely align with the obvious case I outline above:

One other exception: when race is really important in a role, then one should cast appropriately. For example, Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockinbird must surely have to be black, for blackness is essential to his role. Likewise, it would be bizarre to cast a black person play, say, David Duke, for in that case it would be very hard to suspend disbelief!

But then he also adds this:

What a can of worms she’s opened here! An act of minstrelsy! Does that mean that blacks playing the Founding Fathers in Hamilton are minstrels? Does this mean, as Bill implies in his piece below, that any non-Jew playing Shylock in Shakespeare is an “act of minstrelsy”?

Well, this section focuses more on “cultural”, but for Jews racially that would fit into my notion of “close enough” above but black people playing people who are defined in-universe as white fits exactly into the sort of thing that I consider obviously wrong and something that we cannot suspend disbelief over. I can see why in “To Kill a Mockingbird” it would obviously be a problem — the work itself makes key plot points out of the race of the character — but don’t necessarily see why casting a black person to play David Duke would be more a violation of suspension of disbelief than doing that for a character that the work constantly refers to them as white or Asian. Coyne here seems to be conflating the two cases above, but ignoring that in the first case above it’s not a white actor playing a black character or a black actor playing a white character, but instead is the writers changing the race of the character to match the race of the actor. So the character changes from a nominally white character to a nominally black character, for example. This, then, wouldn’t be a case of actors playing characters of any race, and so while it’s acceptable, it’s also not what’s happening.

In short, the obvious case is the case where the character is clearly identified as having a certain race. In such a case, you can’t put an actor of a different race in that role unless you are trying to subvert or parody something.

Okay, so what about the less obvious cases? These are all cases where the character originates outside the work itself and where it originated the character has a specific race. Let’s start with the example of historical figures, like Alec Guinness for Lawrence of Arabia. The issue here is that generally the goal for any biopic is to cast actors for at least the main roles that resemble the characters they’re playing as much as possible, because the audience has often seen pictures of them and know what they look like, and if they look too different they won’t be able to suspend disbelief. As noted in the comments, one of the reasons for casting Guinness in the role is that he physically resembled Lawrence of Arabia. But if you swap the race out, there will generally be an obvious disconnect there, and this will be greater the greater the physical difference in races is (again, coming back to the “close enough” angle mentioned above). So, in general, you don’t want to have real, known people played by someone of a different race, because it will be jarring, especially for the primary characters. So you don’t do it unless you want to subvert something (which, as noted above, was indeed the point for “Hamilton”). And you have to be prepared for your subversion to fall flat and the audience to be turned off by the change. Otherwise, you want to keep the races the same.

Okay, so what about the case where the character comes from another media — a book, a comic, a previous TV show, a previous movie, etc, etc — and is being adapted to the screen or as a play. Can you cast actors of different races than the ones that were in the original work? The issue here is that making changes to a work in an adaptation for no reason can annoy the original audience, who are the audience that you are at least counting on to make your work a success. If they dislike it and stay away, then all you’re doing is appealing to the new audience who don’t know the original work and so don’t consider it to be any different from any other new work out there. So do you risk annoying the original audience to cast an actor in a role that originally had a different race? Often, and if done well, there’s no real problem with it. If done poorly, though, it can really kill a work. Remakes often get more forgiveness than adaptations (although Starbuck in the remake of Battlestar Galactica was a prime case where at least the initial introduction was handled badly), but again here it’s going to come down to how important the race of the character was to the character, but with the added criteria of the reason given for making the change. A behind-the-scenes comment that they intended to keep the character as that race but the actor blew them away is likely to be better received than a claim that they needed “diversity”. Fans of a work don’t want to see changes made to it by an adaptation for no reason, but are open to some changes if it makes sense and/or works.

So, the answer about “colorblind” casting is essentially this: you can do it if the characters are written mostly colorblind, but be very careful if they aren’t. And this should pretty much cover off all the objections and defenses of colorblind casting.

And Canada’s Dorothy is …

November 6, 2012

… Danielle Wade.

I actually managed to get the final order right, with Danielle winning it, Stephanie being the runner-up, and AJ finishing third.

While I still think that Danielle had the weakest voice, I think that when she sang on her own instead of with the other girls you didn’t notice, and also that she had a stronger vocal performance this week. I hadn’t seen her performance of “Hey, Big Spender!” that was voted her best performance (she did that one, I presume, before I started watching) but she did it well and again highlighted how she acts performances. And she also had some very good lines in the discussions around her performance and coron … er, ruby-slippering?

Daryn: So, if you become Dorothy, how would you react?
Danielle: [something like a nervous and giddy twitter]
Daryn: Well said.
Danielle: Thank you.

And also, when she had won:

Danielle: This is the first time I’ve ever auditioned for anything. I hope all of them go as well!

All that needs to be said about Stephanie, I think, is that the song chosen as her best performance was “Hello, Buenos Aires” … a performance that resulted in her being in the bottom two that week. It was absolutely a breakout performance, but somehow Canada didn’t warm to it … although they saved her the next week.

Now, while trying to find something to watch I’ve tuned in to “Next Top Model” for the past few weeks, and there’s one thing that I noticed about last night and the whole competition when compared to it: AJ and Stephanie, watching Danielle sing after winning, seemed genuinely happy for her. Sure, they could be acting … but these are the two that I thought weren’t that great as actresses, so it seems unlikely. And for the most part, it seemed like all of the competitors on “Over the Rainbow” were happy and sad for each other, without all of the sniping and backbiting that you see on “Next Top Model”. They never seemed to suggest that someone else should go home. Watching the performances, they generally seemed sad as opposed to happy when someone went home. There seemed to be less, at least, of a sorting out of who their competition was and arguing over that. Good performances were applauded, and they were appropriately respectful when people were at risk or going home. They seemed to, well, like each other, which is clearly not what happens on “Next Top Model”.

I could say that it’s cultural, and that’s likely part of it. But the real reason for this, I think, is that while almost all of the girls were convinced that they could be Dorothy — except for poor Colleen, due to the judges commenting that they weren’t sure that she could — none of them thought that they ought to be Dorothy. Even Danielle, the front-runner, was reminded that she couldn’t let up and due to her inexperience had to feel that the others might well have an inside track. That feeling of being capable but not necessarily deserving it, I think, led to them all thinking that if they didn’t make it, one of the others really did deserve it, which led to less direct competition and more of a “I have to do my best, and we’ll see if it’s good enough” attitude than a “I’m the best, and so I can only be cheated out of my victory” attitude. It was nice to see, and much more entertaining that what we see on “Next Top Model”, because I can actually like the girls and want one, or more, of them to win.

Of course, now that “Over the Rainbow” is over I’ll be able to avoid watching “Next Top Model”, which is a good thing.

Anyway, congratulations Danielle and you deserved it … about as much as the other two did [grin].

Over the Rainbow Performance Nov 4 …

November 4, 2012

So, I just finished watching the final performance episode of “Over the Rainbow”, and thought I’d get my comments down now because I’ll be out for a good chunk of the day tomorrow.

AJ was up first, singing “Memory” from Cats, a song that I’d heard a little of before. She was definitely trying for a more subdued performance than she normally gives, but unfortunately she looked a little stiff early on. However, when it came time for her to pull out the dramatic gestures, she really delivered, as usual.

Danielle was next, singing I think “Never Say Goodbye” from Sunset Boulevard, which I hadn’t really heard before. As usual, she just nailed it in terms of acting and voice work. For all of the episodes I’ve watched, Danielle has consistently just done what had to be done.

Finally, Stephanie sang, a song from a production that hadn’t been done much if at all in North America called “The Woman in White”, and the song was I think “I Believe in My Heart”. It was a really good song for her and demonstrated that she has an absolutely lovely voice and the looks to go along with it … but she still didn’t move much. AJ and Danielle incorporated a lot more movement into their songs, even though their songs were of a similar tone to hers.

The performances were book-ended by round-robinish group songs featuring songs from “The Wizard of Oz”, and to me a few things became clear:

Danielle has the weakest voice of the three … but she also acts far better with her voice than the other two.

Stephanie has the strongest voice of the three. It really is effortless.

AJ fits a bit into the middle. She’s not as strong an actress as Danielle in all facets, but she’s better than Stephanie is. She also doesn’t have as strong a voice as Stephanie, but it’s stronger than Danielle’s.

For me, acting is the key, and so if I was given the choice I’d probably choose Danielle. The only argument against that is that it might be easier to teach acting than to give Danielle a stronger voice, at which point Stephanie is the better choice. So, my final ranking is:

1) Danielle.
2) Stephanie.
3) AJ.

Now, with it being a popular vote, the most talented person may not be the winner, and I agree with the judges that basically any one of them could perform the role well. So I shall watch with interest who Canada decides is the best Dorothy.

Review: The Glace Bay Miners’ Museum

November 4, 2012

So, yesterday I went to see a production of “The Glace Bay Miners’ Museum” at the National Arts Centre. I went to see almost the last production of its run there, and so this review won’t help anyone deciding if they might want to go see it. But it will let me outline some deeper examinations of works like it just like I do for TV shows and books. I’m not going to talk too much about the specifics, and so will try to avoid any spoilers. The sad thing is that I probably won’t need them.

Despite the name, the museum itself is just a vague frame around the play, supposedly setting things up for us to accept the narrator, Margaret MacNeil. As such, the play is essentially about the life of this woman, and its myriad joys and far more commen trials and tragedies. To that end, the actress playing her has to carry the load of the play, and Francine Deschepper does a credible job. She’s a strong enough actress to catch and keep my attention, but isn’t quite strong enough to compel it. And that’s not a problem if the surrounding cast of characters is strong enough, because it allows me to drift my attention from the lead to them and then back again when required. Unfortunately, while the actors handle their roles credibly enough the characters they play aren’t developed enough to carry that sort of load. We really only see things through Margaret’s eyes, and to be honest her character is a bit shallow and uninteresting. What’s most interesting about her are the things that happen around her and to her, but that effect is muted by the fact that most of that comes from other people — her brother, her mother, her husband-to-be — and they get limited time and development for us to really care about them.

A strong plot or strong comedy could carry us through this … except that, for the most part, everything the play does is precisely what you’d expect for a play of this sort. There are a lot of attempts at comedy in the play, and I found myself chuckling at a couple of them, but for the most part I could see them coming a mile away, and the same thing can be said of the plot. And when I couldn’t see it coming, it seemed to be rather, well, dumb. I only didn’t see it coming because I couldn’t think of anyone actually trying to do that, and so most of the time those ones fell flat. For the most part, then, this is a standard “woman living in troubled times” story, right down to the tragedies and triumphs.

Now, there’s nothing really wrong with that. You can do the same sort of stories that everyone has done and have it be entertaining, or meaningful. But in general when you do this you do something different to make it standout. Usually, that involves the characters; you end up seeing the same story through the eyes of different people than you’d normally see it, and so it’s interesting. But this play strikes me as not really establishing the characters to that level, because it focuses too much on Margaret and her life and not much on the life of the others outside of her house except when it relates to her and her tragedies. As such, I’m having the same reaction to it that I had to “The Stone Angel”, which is mostly not caring about her life. Now, I did find the play more interesting than “The Stone Angel”, but for the most part I think it relies too much on you being able to immediately understand and accept the background of the play of life in the mines in that sort of community. If you can relate to Margaret and her family, you’ll likely like the characters immediately and enjoy watching their lives, perhaps even with a sense of nostalgia if you’ve been in that sort of area or situation. If you can’t, then the play doesn’t really give you any reason to develop that, and you’ll find yourself not really all that interested in their lives, and mostly feeling like you’re watching this because it’s mildly entertaining and it’ll kill some time until your next event.

If I had attended this play mostly just to see the play as opposed to as an excuse to go downtown for the day, I’d have felt that it wasn’t worth my time and money. As it was, it was entertaining enough that I don’t regret seeing it but basically have to react to it with a resounding and heartfelt “Meh”.