READ this line, read THIS line, read this LINE

A young Ian McKellen works through a line from Merchant of Venice in the RSC’s Playing Shakespeare from a few decades past.

The director seen here, John Barton, was asked to write a book about his robust knowledge of the Bard but promptly refused, stating that it was impossible to talk about Shakespeare without having living, breathing actors available to demonstrate the subtleties and poetry of the text. The result is a party full of some the acting greats taking apart classic texts piece by piece and uncovering centuries worth of subtext in the process.

Welcoming the Unfamiliar & How to Become a Map Maker

“It is a sign of great inner insecurity to be hostile to the unfamiliar.” – Anais Nin

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Have you felt yourself seizing up when presented with something new? A reaction that pushes you to retreat within yourself rather than explore that novelty?

Anais Nin reminds us in her writing that it is very possible to silence such insecurities by opening oneself to unfamiliar terrain.

“When we totally accept a pattern not made by us, not truly our own, we wither and die. People’s conventional structure is often a façade. Under the most rigid conventionality there is often an individual, a human being with original thoughts or inventive fantasy, which he does not dare expose for fear of ridicule, and this is what the writer and artist are willing to do for us. They are guides and map makers to greater sincerity. They are useful, in fact indispensable, to the community. They keep before our eyes the variations which make human beings so interesting.”

Might just be your time to become a cartographer.

The cartographer’s song from the French musical Le Petit Prince. While this is one way to be a map maker, just remember that you have to let yourself out into the world to explore.

Especially it if you plan to map it out for others to navigate on their own one day.

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Do You Take Syrup and Butter with That (Soul)pancake? The Beauty of One Kid’s Pep Talk

“We got work to do. We can cry about it. Or we can dance about it.”

I love that. Out of the mouth of babes…What if we approached every difficult impasse in our lives as an opportunity for a dance party? A chance to shine versus an impossible mountain to climb?

A wonderful reminder that we always have a choice of how we feel, what we do, and how awesome we wish our path to be. And since we’re all on the same team, only way to go from here is onward and upward.

In With the Old, Out Comes the New

As we’ve discussed before, creativity comes with a great deal of getting inspired, borrowing, and sometimes straight out stealing.

But who is to say that a derivative work cannot be equally as satisfying as the original? As long as the pieces are different enough, is it fair to say a certain one is better?

Take for instance the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera  The Mikado. The composers set the opera in Japan, far away from Britain, allowing them to satirize British politics more freely by disguising them as foreign notions.

Opera Australia’s 2011 production of The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan.

In 1939, the classic was adapted into a new piece entitled The Hot Mikado and performed with an all African-American cast. Primed with a lot more sass and a lot more swing, The Hot Mikado became a hit that is still performed to this day.

Now it’s been over 70 years since the original piece was given a facelift. Thus, theatres are still looking for ways to update the show and help it feel as novel and sexy as it was when The Hot Mikado first took the stage.

This recent production does just this by updating the 1940s American setting to a modern one that tips its hat to the original Mikado, complete with the “three little maids” in anime-style schoolgirl outfits. Up to you to decide which version you prefer – but I’d say there’s definitely room for both in the world of live performance.


Watermill Theatre’s production of The Hot Mikado in 2009

Do You Hear the People Sing? Why the Whole World Is Listening Now

In lieu of offering a full fledged review of the recent movie, I would like to offer this trip around the world with 17 Valjeans from international productions. Because if nothing else, well-done movie musicals offer exposure to the medium. And there’s nothing like getting another person addicted to a show that took over the musical world for the better part of two decades.

There’s a reason why the show has clout – just listen to the ending (4:44).

The Most Widely-Known Question in the English Language


From Slings & Arrows, a gem of a show that follows the workings of a fictional Shakespeare festival akin to Stratford’s.

Directors like the fictional Tennant are an actors dream – insightful, brave, and brutally honest. The kind that are able to take usher a well-loved, oft-recited collection of words out of an actor frightened of his own greatness. This shows’ three seasons only get better as they progress and I would highly recommend a watch if you’re in need of a new TV addiction.

How many times have you heard this illustrious speech? What makes it memorable for you?

When All is a Blur of Thoughts and Sound and Choices, Choose Music

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Current recommendations:

I Have Your Heart / Put the Gun Down / Les Plus BeauxJealous of the Moon / An Ending (Ascent)

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There Is No Try, There is Only Do

If she can pull off this ridiculous display of talent and sing live, we should forever reconsider our willingness to put up with lipsynching performances.

Things to be on the lookout for:

1. Inverted splits. May as well start off on a high note.

2. Counter balance holds. Harmony through tension, as the two use each other to pull off full body balance poses.  

3. Belting while crashing into any/everything. Just watch and enjoy.

This is Halloween

Happy Ghouls Day! How are you celebrating this odd and wonderful holiday?

Even if you don’t get the chance to don a costume today, why let that stop you from getting into the Halloween spirit? I’ve collected a few tunes that tend to send chills up my spine.  Let them help you wriggle into the mood as well.

Stars- Dead Hearts: Haunting lyrics and a simple tune that will not leave you alone. Sure to plant itself in your mind for an hour or two.

Marilyn Manson- This is Halloween: His take on the Tim Burton film’s classic tune grates on you in the best possible way. Disturbing, effective.

Nina Simone – I Put a Spell on You: Her sultry voice on this wicked song makes for a truly addicting treat.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs- Heads Will Roll: A perfect pump-up Halloween style song. Angry anthem with some serious bite.

Talking Heads – Psycho Killer: I love the slightly butchered (appropriate) French that peppers this song. Fafafafafafa fafafa far better than a number of other songs playing on the radio.

That’s five to get you started. What other songs get you freaked out / do you freak out to this time of year?

He’s Walken Here

There are few actors more iconic than Mr. Walken. His acting chops have definitely earned a place in my favorites list. But did you know the son of a gun can sing and dance too?

This clip from the 1981 musical movie Pennies From Heaven lets you watch him strut his stuff…and all in one continuous take!

Things are Backwards but Beautiful in Hadestown

You know when you come across an album that shakes things up in the best possible way?
Anaïs Mitchell’s haunting and heartfelt Hadestown was just this kind of discovery.

This 2010 “folk opera” is Mitchell’s thoughtful retelling of the Eurydice and Orpheus myth, told through the lens of a post-apocalyptic distopia. Sad and beautiful like the lovers’ tale itself, the album is a highly-recommended gem.

Almost Like Flying

Freedom is one of those things that we love and crave about being human. Want to take off on adventure? We can. Want to create something beautiful? We jump to it. But how does a person cope when they feel as though their freedom is hampered – by another person, situation, or even by their own body.

In a series entitled ‘Creating the Spectacle!’, a filmmaker offers an innovative take on finding freedom. This is such stuff that dreams are made on, guys.

In this video, the underwater wheelchair enables the occupant, Sue Austin, to go on a gentle, dream like exploration of an exotic underwater world.

“Through unexpected juxtapositions, this work aims to excite and inspire by creating images that transform preconceptions.”

 

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