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Photo: BBC
An aerial performer rehearses on stage at Shakespeare’s Rose, a pop-up theater in York, England.

You’ve heard of pop-up libraries, pop-up gift stores, and pop-up restaurants. Now here comes a pop-up Shakespeare theater in York, England.

Ian Youngs writes at the BBC, “Shakespeare’s Rose, which [opened in April] and has cost £3m, is Europe’s first ‘pop-up’ Shakespearean theatre. …

“The temporary theatre has been built in a car park in 28 days to a circular design, similar to those erected on Bankside in Shakespeare’s day.

“It will stage four of his plays with a cast including [TV actor] Alexander Vlahos, who will play Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, and Catesby in Richard III.

“As well as the audience members standing in the centre, a further 660 will watch from seats on three levels around the edge.

“Shakespeare and his contemporaries would recognise the design and ‘tricks’ like trapdoors and flying, which have hardly changed over the past 400 years, according to [producer James] Cundall.

” ‘They’d find everything they had in their theatre — they just probably wouldn’t recognise [Layher] scaffolding,’ he says. ‘Each length [of scaffolding] is probably about the same size as a standard oak beam, so that’s how Shakespeare’s oak became German scaffolding. …

“There was an actual Rose theatre in London in the Bard’s time, which was recreated for the 1999 film Shakespeare in Love. …

“Professor Judith Buchanan of the University of York, who has advised on the pop-up theatre, said: ‘Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre is not a historical reconstruction of the early modern Rose playhouse on Bankside, nor of any other early modern playhouse. It is an approximate and suggestive architectural allusion to the idea of the early modern playhouse.’

“The creators of the York theatre will hope that their venue doesn’t replicate some other aspects of the original Rose — which had to be closed occasionally due to riots or the plague, and which had one cast member who killed the other in a duel.”

Read more at the BBC, here, and at the Independent, here.

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Photo: Arden Theatre Company
Staff of the Arden Theatre Company in 1995 celebrating their recently purchased home. The building is at 2nd and Arch, in the Old City neighborhood.

I always enjoy stories about the arts sparking neighborhood revitalization. John Timpane, of the Philadelphia Inquirer, recently covered one from the City of Brotherly Love.

“There’s a lot of turnover in the theater world, many an entrance and exit, so the Arden Theatre Company’s 30th anniversary this season is a testament to clear vision, luck, a lot of work, and even more talent.

“But this story embraces more than a theater – it’s about a neighborhood, Old City, that in part revitalized around the Arden, and how an arts venue plays a potent role in such transformations.

“It began with two 1980s theater buddies at Northwestern University near Chicago. ‘Aaron Posner and I talked all the time about starting a theater,’ says Arden cofounder and producing artistic director Terrence J. Nolen. …

“Cofounder Amy Murphy, who met Nolen when both were at Upper Darby Summer Stage, says … ‘When Terry said, “Let’s do this,” I thought, “Sure, I can go down for a few weeks and help out.” Right. We were 24, young, and dumb enough to do it.’ …

“Arden opened in 1988 with a Kurt Vonnegut adaptation. …

“Is there an Arden philosophy? ‘Our first commitment is to Philly actors,’ Nolen says. ‘When we first opened and started getting great reviews, people said, “Where did you get these actors?” We said, “They’re from here.” ‘

“You can feel that loyalty among grads of the Arden Professional Apprentice Program. … Raelle Myrick-Hodges is founder of Azuka Theatre and a busy theater professional. And she’ll direct an adaptation of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye at the F. Otto Haas Stage March 1-April 1. She says, ‘I began as an apprentice at the Arden 24 years ago, and I’m so grateful I went there instead of to a grad school.’ …

“[Former Arden apprentice Scott] Greer says Arden’s 1995 arrival helped revitalize the ’hood: ‘When they got the space in Old City, they were a big part of changing that neighborhood. There was hardly anything there, and they started bringing in subscribers eight nights a week.’

“Ellen Yin, proprietor of Fork at 306 Market St., … said the Arden presence ‘helped build a clientele for the earlier 5:30-8 p.m. dining hours, which are crucial.’ She and several other restaurant owners regularly have partnerships with the theater. …

” ‘Blown away’ is a term Murphy uses for the whole Arden story. ‘All the people we know, all the good work we’ve done because of it,’ she says. ‘I’m very grateful. All of us are, and I think we always will be.’ ”

More here.

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Photo: The Stage
Open Access Smart Capture’s glasses enable deaf theatergoers in Britain to read live captioning during a performance.

Earlier this month I posted about how the Vienna State Opera provides captions in six languages.

Today’s entry is on making dramatic productions more accessible to the deaf by means of glasses that churn out captions.

Georgia Snow writes at the Stage, “The National Theatre has unveiled new technology that will enable deaf audiences to see captions for performances in front of their eyes using special glasses, … removing the need for captioning screens in the auditorium.

“Developed by the NT with its innovation partner, consultancy firm Accenture, Open Access Smart Capture is being introduced during a year-long pilot.

“If it is a success, the result would be ‘transformational,’ [NT director Rufus] Norris said. …

“The glasses boast 97% accuracy in the timing of the captions, and can also facilitate audio description, for audiences with restricted vision. …

“The project is one of two new initiatives being introduced by the NT around accessibility, the second being an online video database showcasing deaf and disabled actors. …

“It is part of a drive to tackle the under-representation of disabled actors working in the profession, Norris said. …

“He added that ProFile also hopes to remove some of the barriers for deaf and disabled performers, for whom travelling to auditions and meetings can be difficult and expensive.” More at the Stage, here.

If nothing the else, the glasses will be fun. A few years ago, I got to see that for myself using Google Glass. An executive where I worked was having summer interns play around with programming the glasses to test the possibilities for the Fed. That didn’t go anywhere, but it was definitely fun.

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Photo: American Theatre
A scene from “Mentiras Piadosas,” by the troupe Los ImproDucktivos. That’s the audience watching from behind the Venetian blinds.

Theater people keep thinking up new ways to create work that moves you in an immediate and intimate way and that attracts new audiences. We’ve written about theater in taxis in Iran and dramatic productions conducted one-on-one, among other experiments.

Now from Spain comes micro theater, 10-minute plays that allow you to stand in the same room with the actors.

Felicity Hughes writes at American Theatre, “On a rainy Thursday night in Madrid the bar of Micro Teatro Por Dinero is packed with a young crowd of theatregoers waiting to catch a short performance in one of the five tiny rooms in the venue’s basement. When our number is called, we’re led into a small dark room where the audience sits pressed up against each other sardine fashion on tiny stools.

A door is flung open, immediately breaking the fourth wall as a distressed young man stumbles in and sits down on my knee in floods of tears.

“ ‘Never before has there been a theatre so close, so intimate, and so open — there are no preconceptions, no limits, no censure,’ says Miguel Alcantud, the inventor of micro teatro, an abbreviated form of theatre. …

“The concept has since become so popular that the Micro Teatro Por Dinero franchise has been sold to venues in 15 different cities around the globe, including Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Lima, Lebanon, even Miami. …

“ ‘The cost of putting on a show is very small, and we change the program every month,’ Alcantud continues. ‘We don’t mind if the piece works or doesn’t work, because we’re always putting something new on. The commercial success of a single show doesn’t matter so much.’ …

“ ‘You feel as if you’re breathing alongside the public and they’re breathing with you,’ says [Juan Carlos Pabón, a Venezuelan actor]. ‘We’re dealing with a lot of emotion inside a scene and a lot of attention. There’s not as much artifice, so it’s a tough discipline; the public are really concentrating on you, and notice the good along with the not so good.’ ” More here.

The director in Miami says audiences seem to prefer comedies to dramas. I can see why. If you are going to be that up close and personal with strangers, you probably want keep things light.

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On the other hand, your living room could be a perfectly good performance venue. In fact, the Guardian calls your living room the “hottest new arts venue.”

The newspaper’s Darryn King writes, “On a recent Friday night in Manhattan, around 20 people and one terrier gathered in the living room of an Upper East Side apartment to listen to a string quartet perform Beethoven, Ravel and Tchaikovsky.

“The guests sampled cheese and wine – several had brought bottles to share – and asked strangers: ‘Is this your first time?’ …

“There are similar events to this performance, organised by Boston-based chamber music concert community Groupmuse, happening in New York, San Francisco and four other cities every week: intimate shows taking place in living rooms of all shapes, sizes and levels of cleanliness, a paradoxically homely and exciting alternative to traditional theatres, concert venues and comedy clubs.

“And it isn’t limited to classical music. Thanks to a range of organisations putting on events in the home, there’s a good chance that, if you were so inclined, you could enjoy standup comedy, live theatre and rock gigs in the comfort of someone else’s residence tonight. Welcome to the latest and greatest nontraditional venue invigorating the city’s live performance scene: the humble living room.

“A lot of folks seek out live music to feel like they are actively contributing to and sharing in something larger than themselves – not just standing by, observing the experience,” says Groupmuse founder Sam Bodkin. “Living rooms are just the best way to do that.”…

“The New Place Players, a troupe of Shakespearean performers-for-hire, have also been busy immersing audiences. The group has staged their productions of Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in homes all over the city, while also putting on regular supper-and-show performances in the sumptuous living room of the historic Casa Duse residence in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

“The productions are a harmonious blend of music, lighting, theatre, food and drink, amounting to a communal atmosphere that harks back to the experience of catching a theatre performance in Elizabethan times.” More here.

Photo: Groupmuse
A Groupmuse gig.

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The Concord Players brought a one-hour version of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” to the lawn of the library yesterday.

The Prospero was perhaps too young, considering that “The Tempest” is an aging Shakespeare’s valedictory, and there was some awkward overacting, but gee whiz, they had to shout to be heard outdoors. So, good for them to work so hard to give the public free theater in summer!

Several sea nymphs doubled as ushers and were lovely to behold.

concord-library-lawn-show

The-Tempest-sea-nymph

prospero-miranda-umbrella

jay-newlon-ariel-tempest

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John sent me a good New Yorker story about “the Arslanköy Women’s Theatre Group, an all-female theatre group, based in rural Turkey, which is writing and performing plays.

“Ümmiye Koçak, who is now in her mid-fifties, was a forty-four-year-old farmworker with a primary-school education when she caught the theatre bug from a school play that a local school principal, Hüseyin Arslanköylü, had staged the previous year,” writes Elif Batuman.

“Ümmiye had never seen a play before, and it seeped into her thoughts. For a long time, she had been puzzling over the situation of village women and the many roles they had to play. In the fields, they worked like men; in villas, they became housekeepers; at home, they were wives and mothers.

“In 2000, with other women from her village, Arslanköy, she formed the Arslanköy Women’s Theatre Group. The group met every night at the school, after the women had worked ten- or twelve-hour days on farms. Their first production, a contemporary Turkish play called ‘Stone Almonds,’ sold out a theatre in the provincial capital of Mersin, and was written up in the national press.” Continued here.

Still more at the New Yorker blog, here.

I’m wondering about the mysterious figure at the left here. Hamlet’s father? But he doesn’t show up after people die, or does he? It was always a somewhat confusing play. As my father used to say, quoting I know not who: “The king dies, the queen dies, Ham dies — I calls it a helluva play!”

Photograph: New Yorker magazine
“Hamlet” performed in a mountain location near Arslanköy at dawn.

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