Monday, August 20, 2012

Day Seven Hundred and Seventy-Eight

Well, guess what - I didn't learn French!  I did, however, go to a Shakespeare play, which takes care of Item #31.

Unfortunately, taking pictures (with or without flash) was strictly forbidden during the play.  They didn't actually come out and SAY that they would send one of Henry V's guards out into the audience to confiscate your camera and then pound it into smithereens with their heavy boots, but that was the general spirit of it, so I just took this one shot before it got too dark.

I saw Henry V, part of the 2012 Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon.  I had seen the Kenneth Branagh movie a couple of times, and that helped as far as having a general idea of the plot.  The costumes and sets were an interesting mix of World War I and period costuming, with a couple of amazing backdrops (black and white with an abstract feel) inspired by photographs of the Viet Nam war.

One of my favorite aspects of this performance was the casting of Howie Seago as the Duke of Exeter.  Mr. Seago is deaf, and he and the directors and cast did a fabulous job of making the unexpected (a deaf Shakespearean actor? how?) not only possible, but profoundly effective.  Seago's cues (the lines immediately preceding his) were signed to him by an ASL interpreter, who was in costume as a soldier and present on stage throughout the show.  When the other characters were speaking directly to Exeter, they signed to him as well as spoke.  Seago signed his own lines, which were voiced by his interpreter or picked up by other characters - this was surprisingly understandable, once you realized that he was indeed "speaking" even though the words were coming in another actor's voice.

One of Exeter's longest lines is an extended castigation of a traitor, and this was captured with an extremely funny twist on the system they had been using up to that point.  Exeter began his rant, and his interpreter began to speak.  He paused mid-line, gestured firmly for the interpreter not to speak, and then continued his line entirely in ASL with no interpretation.  The thing is, between his excellent use of body language, the terrified traitor's body language, and the rather dramatic gestures of the signs for threats of bodily harm (particularly the bit where he threatened the traitor with beheading), words were entirely unnecessary.

I hadn't been to Ashland to see a Shakespeare play since a class trip in college, and I'm sorry I waited so many years to do it again!  I'll definitely plan on doing this again soon.  There's just nothing quite like Shakespeare performed live!