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THEATER REVIEW: ‘As You Like It’

AsYouLikeIt.JPG

UPDATE 7/3: A condensed version of this review appears in today’s 7 section. Plus: Wet Towel, who kicked off an energetic debate about the review among Beehive readers, sees the show and offers his opinion. Read what he thinks in the comments section.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: Community-theater Shakespeare can be a hit or a miss. The current production of “As You Like It,” which opens the Woodward Shakespeare Festival’s fifth summer season, belongs in the miss column.

I don’t have anything against director Michael Peterson’s wacky concept for the show — which involves setting Shakespeare’s frothy pastoral comedy in the late 1960s on the southern California coast during the “Summer of Love.” Nor is the purist in me much bothered by Peterson’s liberties with the script, which includes rather cheekily inserting “surfer dude” into the Shakespearean lexicon.

In fact, I kind of like Peterson’s rationale for getting all hippie-groovy on us. In the play, Shakespeare lathers attention on the “simple” countryside, giving us sort of a “noble savage” approach to the superiority of nature, and I like the way that Peterson sees laidback beach culture on one end of a spectrum and uptight L.A. culture on the other.

But the acting in this “As You Like It” is very uneven. And though the direction might seem brisk — at least the words seem to motor by at a healthy clip — in the end it comes across as unshaped and aimless.

Set designer Jarred Clowes actually gives us a real beach. (Well, it’s at least a healthy stretch of shoreline in front of the stage involving a dump-truck load of sand, and that’s impressive.) The most memorable set piece is a thatched-roof bar called Big Willie’s, which is the heart of “Arden Beach” (transformed from the Forest of Arden). Throughout the show, of course, are mod outfits (costumes by Jennifer Hurd-Peterson) ranging from mini-skirts to cut-off jean shorts, and such expected Summer of Love accoutrements as peace necklaces and hand-rolled cigarettes.

All this is atmospheric enough, but it’s hard as an audience member to get caught up in what should be the giddy, fantastical frenzy of the play. The two strongest lead performers, Gabriela Lawson as Rosalind and Lisi Drioane as Celia (pictured), come closest to drawing us into this entrancing world. Their characters shed the trappings of respectability as they escape from under the thumb of their imposing parental figure, Judge Frederick (a nicely played Jeff Meacham), and leave home behind for lust and adventure in the no-holds-barred playland of the forest, um beach.

“As You Like It” is chock full of all sorts of Shakespearean comic devices, including cross-dressing lovers, mistaken identities and oodles of couples itching to be married. As this production moves along, however, it gets weighed down by the complexity of the material. What should be light becomes heavy. Billy Whitehurst, as the alpha-male lover, Orlando, has an endearing grin, and at Friday night’s performance last opening weekend he worked hard to own a large and complex role, but he struggles to find the range and depth of his character and connect with the lyricism of the text.

Others had similar struggles connecting with the text, including Chris Livermore as Silvius, Mitchell Perez as Jaques, Charles West as “Judge” Senior, Pat Smith as Adam and Alissa Cummings as Audrey. Each performer in the show certainly has some high points to share with the audience, and I don’t want to deny their dedication. And there is potential in the setting and direction. But even at a community-theater level, this production left much to be desired.

Responses to "THEATER REVIEW: ‘As You Like It’"

wet towel says:

WELL, looks like the New York Times has spoken.
(…did the Petersons dog do it’s business in your geraniums again?)

-seriously,
somebody burn this before the poor kids read it and all throw themselves in front of trains.

‘…come ‘closest’ to drawing us into this entrancing world…’

‘…struggles connectng with the text…’

Donald, it’s frackin’ shakespeare
on openning night
on a well over hundred degree day…
in friggin’
FRESNO.
-anyone who says they’re ‘connecting’ with this under those conditions is either lying or stoned.

That’s it!
(that’s it.)

The curse has been lifted.
I’m goin’ to this thing.
(And if there’s anyone in this town who’s at risk of going into convulsions over Shakespeare @ Woodward, it’s me…)

And if it’s half as good as I think it’s going to be?
I’m going to send you a big tube of salve, because obviously you got a mean case of suit-rash and are just hating life.

(seriously Donald… I’ve YET to make it to anything at the Saroyan where the sound does not SUCK by anything remotely resembling decent accoustical standards,
–and every performance you gush like Judy friggin’ Garland made a personal apperance in your living room…)

-and you fry these kids on openning night?

You know what?
If it’s HALF as bad as you say it is?
I’m still going to applaud’em for the effort, just to spite you.

Anonymous says:

While I usually disagree with Mr. Munro’s reviews of local theatre, I have to say that I think the points he makes in this review are EXTREMELY accurate. I think the word “inconsistentâ€� is the best–and perhaps one of the kindest–possible descriptors for this production. The costumes appear to encompass many different decades. The sound system is atrocious. The bugs in the park are the size of golf balls. And the peacocks are a little more than distracting. (Not that the peacock’s are WSF’s fault. I just felt they needed to be addressed) However, I think these are the least of the production’s problems.

Acting is what makes or breaks a Shakespeare play. Especially in community theatre. And it is a cold, hard fact that many of the actors in “As You Like It� appear to be reciting, rather than performing, their lines (don’t even get me started on the scansion, which appears to have been completely ignored.) That’s not to say that all of the performers are terrible. As Donald noted, each cast member has at least one shining moment in the production. You can clearly see that a great deal of love was injected by the actors and designers into this production. The problem is that Peterson’s listless direction has eliminated the beauty, fluidity, and accessibility of the verse. I doubt that many of these “kids� knew what they were saying. Injecting “surfer dude� into the verse does not make Bard’s poetry anymore accessible. It just makes it lame. Audience understanding is the responsibility of the aforementioned director and his cast. Nearly every production I’ve seen at WSF seems to have ignored this fact. Many of these performers are trained actors, people! (By the by, most of the actors appear to be middle aged rather than children. Just something I noticed.) That said, I take no pleasure in making my next criticism….

The main problem with the show (with regards to acting) lies in Gabriela Lawson’s portrayal of Rosalind. Having seen various Woodward Shakespeare Festival productions with Ms. Lawson, I can safely say that this woman has approximately one character under her belt. Her Olivia, Lady Macbeth, and Rosalind are roughly the same woman-over-enunciated, excessively loud-mouthed, vain, and unrealistic. That’s not to say Ms. Lawson isn’t talented—as a matter of fact, even in the worst of productions, she appears to be a vivacious and energetic performer. However, her Rosalind is so broadly played that she lacks any semblance of realism and instead resembles a commedia character in a play that is otherwise realistic. It is very difficult to find humor in a character that seems to think everything is funny. It is also damn near impossible for an Average Joe audience member to connect with a caricature—especially one who speaks in verse. Similar problems are seen with Billy Whitehurst’s Orlando, though one does have to admit he has a certain goofball charm.

The reason I post this excessively long comment is not to degrade the performers or to “throw stones,â€� but rather, because I feel that community theatre in Fresno should be taken more seriously. It is easy to say “good jobâ€� when you don’t mean it. It is easy to blame the problems with those “kidâ€� actors on the heat. It is easy to say that Donald is just being nitpicky. But that doesn’t do anybody any good. Local theatre will only get better if it is constantly criticized and reevaluated. Mr. Munro is just doing his job to facilitate that. I hope that one day people will regard Fresno as a theatre town—and if we as a community pat continually pat each other on the back for simply putting on show (even if its free)—that’s never going to happen. Free theatre isn’t an excuse for bad theatre. Come to think of it, it is actually a reason for the theatre to be even better. This festival is, I’m sure, the first exposure many Fresnans have to outdoor, performed Shakespeare. If the play doesn’t hold their attention (and it certainly didn’t hold mine) they may reject the Bard’s work as “boringâ€� and dismiss future opportunities with local or even professional theatre. I feel sorry for them. They will blame William Shakespeare for his seemingly monotonous, archaic plays and wonder what all the fuss is about. They will, quite simply, never know the joy that theatre lovers feel when viewing a great production of “Othelloâ€� or “Twelfth Nightâ€� or even “Hamlet.â€� And that, my friends, is the true tragedy….

Mike says:

I’d agree with the statements above…Donald move to New York if you wanna pull that type of critique.

Mike Oz says:

So I read your comment before reading the review and you make it sound like Donald told these people to give up acting and go work at Arby’s.

To me — someone with zero connection to the people, the organizations involved or the play in question — it seems like a fair review. There was positive and negative.

Jay Parks says:

I don’t expect too many people to share this view, but I think one thing that would help theatre in the Valley progress is if more people had the courage to sign their names to their opinions. For me, reading 750+ words of anonymous criticism is about as useful as someone saying, “good job” when they don’t really mean it.

Solitaire says:

Not having seen the play as of yet, I have to again stand up as an actor and protect the reviewer. Again, I haven’t seen the play yet so I don’t know if this is a “fair” review or not. (what is fair anyway?!?) But Donald writes about what he sees and how he sees it. You can either agree or disagree with it. Is it constructive for the actors in the play? Sometimes. Although, the motto is: If you believe your good press, you have to believe your bad press. All an actor can do is go out there and ‘play the play.’

Reviews are as subjective as each individual audience members taste. One production cannot please everyone, and there will always be fault found somewhere. But it’s the quirks in those faults that make a production memorable.

So, before you bash the reviewer, note the opinion given and then go out to the production and make your own. We should count ourselves lucky to have a professional reviewer like Donald here in the Valley, especially since he would do well in New York as a reviewer. Thank you Donald for all the hard work and support of local theater you do.

Oh and wet towel, I know your adverse reaction to the WSF and I think you should go see the play, but not to spite Donald. Go because the WSF should be a theater company that this community supports.

adam says:

Would you prefer he offer a dishonest critique? Would you call that a Fresno critique?

wet towel says:

…so, Mike, so what you’re saying is you saw the show Thursday or this past weekend?
What is your opinion of the show, Mike.
(Being unnattached and all… I’d like to know.)

Mike Oz says:

No, I have not seen it. I mean I’m totally detached … I had zero knowledge of the play or this performance.

My point was that from reading your comment before Donald’s review (oh, the glory of the Beehive’s backend), I thought Donald’s review was going to be much more vicious. You acted like his words would be scarring people for life. When I say the review is “fair” — I mean it seems balanced in presenting the good, the bad and how things could be improved.

stephen says:

I saw the show on opening night and while I don’t particularly disagree with Mr. Munro, I was disturbed by Mr. Munro’s lack of support in his review. If you felt that Peterson’s direction was “unshaped and aimless,” please tell us why. Please give us some details to support your point of view. Otherwise your opinons are just that, and you are paid to be a critic. Part of a critic’s job is to help educate his/her audience. Your lobbing out opinions like grenades helps no one.

wet towel says:

Okay, so having not seen the thing, you’re saying Donalds assessment was fair and good.

Okay…

How ’bout you go see it,
and
I go see it,
(people in general go see it.)
-and we can,
(with some actual credible experience?)

agree or disagree with the Donalds findings, unkay?
(I really WOULD like your opinion,
seriously, after you’ve seen it, (as) you’re unbiased.

Because, unless we actually go see this thing?
We really don’t know, how good (or) how bad it is, do we?

JORDAN ROBERTS (does anyone want my address to send hatemail?) says:

A) The heat is a non issue, these actors have been rehearsing for weeks in this weather, and its Fresno, we all know what’s coming, i find it hard to believe that anyone was shocked into mediocrity by the heat…
B) It is the actors job to connect with us, because Shakespeare’s words are, at time, hard to understand. If the actors don’t know what they are saying, the audience will have no idea either.
C) You can’t say that the company stumbled BECAUSE they were doing Shakespeare. if it is so hard to do, DONT DO IT.
D) I HAVE seen the show, and i DO agree with Donald… although i don’t think i would have been as nice. You guys really don’t appreciate how nice he was. I don’t see how else he could have posted a negative review.
E) Actors need to get used to this. If you want to continue acting, in any capacity, you need to be able to take criticism. Some of my shows were panned by Donald. Hell, in the last one he called me bland and unsure of my character. Did i go and “jump in front of a train?” NO. I reacted like an adult and took my medicine.
F) This is only one man’s opinion. When Donald LIKES a show at WSF no one has any qualms, but heaven forbid he should ever DISlike a show. What you need to do to diffuse Donald’s review is to watch the show, and then break down his arguments. Say why you liked it. Prove that everything was indeed fine and dandy. Don’t go posting things before you’ve seen them.
G) And what’s with this anonymous thing? Who cares? This is the internet not a UN quorum. I don’t think anyone NEEDS to put a name to their critique, it doesn’t help in any fashion, except to give WSF’ers a name to add to their curses. I have added my name to my post, if it makes anyone feel any better.
H) After having been a little negative, i’ll go out on a limb and talk about what i LIKED about the show: The set was the best thing i have ever seen this company put on. The actor portraying Jacques ( and the name is pronounced Jay-Kwees, not the French Jacques (check the scansion and the rhyme, shakespeare lets you know how to pronounce it, if you dig)) was very capable. I understood him, and he was continually making choices. I also liked David Manning as a flamboyant upper-cruster, and Marcos Hammer actually provided some really nice comic spice to a very small role.
I) And having said all that, i must re-iterate: I agree with EVERYTHING Donald said, and there is no use retyping a thousand negative words.

This is America, and we’re all adults… please grow up.

dave houshutler says:

While I agree with Jay Parks that people should sign their reviews, I have to thank Anonymous for making me laugh. Having seen a lot of theatre in Fresno, I have to agree with his/her points, particularly about Ms. Lawson whose interpretation of Rosalind is virtually identical to her interpretation of Olivia from last year’s TWELFTH NIGHT, which was virtually identical to her interpretation of Lady Macbeth, etc.

Bethany says:

I agree that Gabriella Lawson has a love-it-or-hate-it style of acting, but the only similarities I’ve seen in her various Shakespeare characters are that she is high-energy and plays “to the last row”, which I think is important in an outdoor stage. She’s not doing a movie. Her Rosalind was one of the only things in this play that I thought was interesting, and I didn’t see any similarities in her fun-loving, playful Rosalind and her evil, manipulative Lady M. If you hate her acting so much, just think of how (not) exciting the play would have been without it.

I'm anonymous too! says:

“In a play that is otherwise realistic.” … you mean when the Goddess Hymen descends from the skies and tells everyone to get married? You mean how Rosalind’s FATHER AND THE MAN WHO LOVES HER don’t recognize her because she’s wearing a hat? You mean how Orlando rescues his brother from a poisonous snake AND a lion? and fights the lion and wins?

It’s a ridiculous play. It’s a ridiculous character. She played it ridiculously. I thought it was funny.

Solitaire says:

Here Here Jay!!!

wet towel says:

Things to do today:
1. ‘…Kind of Agree with Steph Mintz.’
2. ‘…See if Exorcist can fit me in…’

I’ve not seen the show yet.
(I don’t have an opinion about something I’ve not seen yet,
not sure how anyone can, exactly, but hey, this is Fresno.)

What bothers me about Donalds critique style?
WHAT is he saying?

It’s not that I agree or disagree with his findings, (because I’ve not been there myself,)

Just… how the hell is an actor (or anyone) supposed to understand what:
‘…he worked hard to own a large and complex role, but he struggles to find the range and depth of his character and connect with the lyricism of the text.
-Others had similar struggles connecting with the text…’
MEANS with NO examples and empiracle-intangibles firmly rooted in the ether?

What are we, wine tasting here?
‘…I sense shoelace, stoplight, and a hint of,,, can it be… Perth Amboy? BRAVO…’

(And trust me: I’m far from the camp of ‘If it’s in Fresno it HAS to be okay…’ (please.)

I think the review took a lot of shots (that very definitely DID) come across as criticism with nothing to show ‘why.’
-And that completely overshadowed what ‘good’ was said.

And no… this would not fly in NY, –not even ‘Jersey, –not even South Jersey.

(Again) without blowing sunshine up derierres for the sake of ‘the only shakespeare in town,’
a lot of this came across as the King in ‘Amadeus’ saying
‘…there’s too many notes…’
(Okay, Sire, which ones would you like to see removed or replaced?)

This is NOT an invitation to be mean,
I don’t want to know HOW bad things were, (what…we’re shooting community players now?)

-I just think the genunine effort needs to be recognized,
(where) there are flaws?, they be
(dare I say) encouraged to ‘tighten up’ a bit?,

-and perhaps some sense of ‘respect’ for the patient expressed.

We can start, perhaps, with leaving out such hamfisted summations (on openning night) as:
‘…But even at a community-theater level, this production left much to be desired…’

whatever anyone’s opinion, favorable or unfavorable, it is our obligation to take it all in and learn from it that we may continually seek and strive to improve our craft, thus making us better able to serve our art and better able to touch our audience.

as such, to the cast and crew of “as you like it”: take it all in, use what you can, set aside what you cannot for another time, continue to explore, develop and grow in an ongoing effort to give every audience the finest show that you possible can.

in short…VLB!!!

Donald Munro says:

Towel,

First of all, I appreciate your passion for the subject. You’ve certainly sparked a lively discussion on the Beehive. For reasons I can’t quite fathom, you seem to be reading into this review a degree of vitriol that most other people don’t appear to be perceiving.

I’m not sure where you got the idea that Woodward Shakespeare Festival is a youth activity. You make it sound as if I’m beating up on a bunch of high school kids putting on a show. The cast of “As You Like It” has a wide range of ages, including a couple of silver-haired gents, but none of them qualify as “kids.” The company is no slapdash effort, either. It’s become a major player in the Fresno theater scene and has a budget in excess of $90,000 a season. Yet you dismiss a production held outside during the summer by writing that anyone “who says they’re ‘connecting’” with the play under those conditions “is either lying or stoned.” (For the record, I thought the temperature was very pleasant the night I saw the show.)

In terms of your last comment, I’m not going to sit here and parse various excerpts of my review with you. (I do find it genuinely hilarious for you, of all people, to be doling out writing tips about clarity.) I think long and hard about the way I phrase negative critiques of amateur productions and actors. Do I stray too far at times toward gentle euphemisms rather than emphatic (and specific) punches? Perhaps. But there are many factors to consider when writing a review, including how much time I’m able to devote to a subject, the amount of space I want to fill (if I wrote a long paragraph about each character in a large play such as this the resulting review would be nearly book length and I’d lose most readers), how well known the play is, the amount of other advance material about the production already published in The Bee (in this case a full interview with the director), and, frankly, how blunt I want to be. I make a judgment call every time I write a sentence. In an ideal world, I’d have days to write a gloriously in-depth review that would serve as Shakespeare lesson and theater critique and finely etched literary work and acting primer all rolled into one. Sorry, but I rarely have that luxury.

But enough chatter. After all this, Towel, I’m just tickled that you’ll be making the trek to Woodward Park to see the show. It’ll do you good to get away from your computer for a couple of hours.

Andy Teague says:

I have to agree with stephen that Mr. Munro’s review doesn’t offer much to help me understand why this production “left much to be desired.” To be fair, he did offer some criticism of Whitehurst, but as wet towel points out, how do those phrases help the actor or audience understand what went wrong? More than anything, I wish Monro would explain more about the play and what it should be — in his opinion of course. Most audience members don’t know the play and regardless of what a critic thinks, they will want to know what it’s about. “Frothy comedy” is not enough, nor is it even accurate. But I’ll leave the towel to explain why. Please Donald, help the audience understand what a play or musical or installation or musical event is about before giving your opinion.

wet towel says:

…(heh-heh-heh-heh) …how sweet.

Like I said, when even Mintz and I start making sense to each other?
-somethin’s burnin.’

Wheat says:

Well well well… lots of hate going on around here, eh? Ok well I would like to put in my two cents as well. First lets talk about this show. To be perfectly honest, I liked it. Out of a scale of 1-5, its around a 4.2 for me. I have seen Shakespeare done in many ways. Traditional, contemporary, and even in future but this one really caught my attention. I thought that out of a population of (God knows how many) in the world who understand Shakespeare? Only about 40% of them. Now lets just cut that down to people in Fresno shall we… oh I say maybe only 14% or more actually understand what hes writing about. Now in this play they changed words not only to help us but that for the fact that you could not call the Shepard a Shepard but a fisher. Now as far as “surfer dude” that was just a bit of fun for the audience and it worked, they laughed and enjoyed it. Now going on about the play. The first part was rough and shocking and had many funny parts that no one really got(except for the fight scene), that was because the audience didnt understand what they were joking about Because it was mostly kept within the same language. The second part was wild and crazy with many memorable scenes because the words were either changed so the audience could understand or that it was fun and full of excitment.

Now lets break things down just a bit more to the characters and their acting abilities. I felt that all of them brought there own style and flare to the production. True, people such as Billy Whitehurst were have trouble connecting with lines, yet I had heard this was the first time the Actor has done a Shakespeare play, BRAVO man!! I know I couldnt have done such and if any man could, I would like to see you try to pull it off with such a colorful way as Billy did. There is room for improvment, do not get me wrong, but I believe he did a wonderful job for his first time. Gabriela, man what a woman! True her style is, some what, reptative yet her looks and the way she brings the Characters alive is what shocks me. I truly did not see any real change in character when she was a man to a woman (Or Vaisa versa) yet her actions made her seem far from lady like when she was a male. I wish to see more of a change in the next show( Richard III) but she has my heart no matter what. As for others such as Chris Livermore, Mitchell Perez, Charles West, Pat Smith and Alissa Cummings that you stated before they are the perfect abductations of those roles that I have seen YET! Adams goofy look and crazy high voice made me laugh everytime I saw him. I want more!!! Mitchell Perez with his groovy dark look of the american poet and a dark comedian, He pulled it off just perfectly. Charles West, aw the old judge, now true I would have liked to see just a bit more acting wise from him yet he did give me a sense of just being the nerdy of the three at the bar. And the Lovely Ms. Alissa Cummings, oh her high voice and dippsy look on her face seemed to just make my heart flutter. Oh she had the perfect immitation of a Blonde Sterotype and was not blonde herself. All the actors and actresses in the second act brought a sort of cartoon look to the stage. The stage with its bright colors and wonderful look.

Finally I want to take this time to talk about one last thing. The Critic. The Actors worst Friend! You see a Critic must make harsh words. Yet he does not look to what the audience thinks. He only looks to himself. He has seen many of plays and looks at Shakespeare as a serious thing. Seeing it out on context makes him uneasy and does not help his judgment. As a person who can see from both sides of the spectrum, The Critic did his job and now Im doing mine. I do not say the Critic is correct yet I do not say he should have put out a nice review. Though he should have gone into detail as I have, to inform you all of what a wonderful job they did (and to those actors reading it, the wonderful job you did). The actors have done there job by making me think this play was about having fun and not about being serious. I look to plays to escape from my daily routine(As Im sure most of you do) and I search for those that will take me to a place far from where I am now. This play did just that. Great job guys and I hope to see you soon.

PS
To the lovers in the second part, Great job! Shakespeare has a weird way of making things magically work out in the end and you all pulled it off great. Especially Silvius and Pheobe who never liked each other until that very moment(Well and the part where you two stare into each others eyes, very cute). Silvius, great facial reactions and dumbfound look you had. Pheobe, cute smile and wonderful attitude!

Wheat says:

Exactly what I had wrote in, Andy Teague. I guess my first post didnt make it, yet I suppose that my second will be of the same sucsess as that one. Hopefully people will see what I have to say.

On a side note Donald is doing his job. Yet as I have seen threw the years Critics dont like change. Transformers for instants got bad reviews and people were told it was a bad movie yet now it may be one of the highest money making films of the season. As You Like It may be exactly the same way. People who dont like it, dont like it for one reason and thats Change. Yet I think this Play represents what we all want in a play. Comedy, laughter, fun, and most of all a Change to Shakespeares (No offence) dull comedy. Personally if it wasnt for actors like Chris Livermore as Silvius, Mitchell Perez as Jaques, and Pat Smith as Adam, I would have been bored by the show. These three inparticular had much to offer the show in the second Part with there wonderful facial and vocal acting.

Stephen says:

Shoot, I’m going to have to start using my last name on these posts.

The ‘other’ stephen (small ‘s’) isn’t Mintz.

I’m Mintz.

I haven’t seen the show yet, nor have I hopped into this convo yet.

T’was another surfer dude named stephen, dudes…

Jordan Roberts (does anyone want my address to send hatemail?) says:

okay, okay… OKAY…
if you have to change Shakespeare’s words so that the audience can understand them.. then you SHOULDN’T be doing Shakespeare. Shakespeare is NOT boring. It takes work, HARD work (on the actors and directors parts) to scan the poetry and translate some of the archaic language. But if the actor does this, and has a full, 100 percent knowledge of what they are saying and what they are feeling at any given moment, the audience will follow suit. TRUST ME. Saying that Shakespeare is inaccessible is a poor excuse for changing the text, and for forgiving poor performances. There are actors in this show that did the work, and it SHOWS. Jacques, Marcos Hammer, David Manning, and Gabby Lawson KNEW what they were saying, and folks, that’s half the battle. Now i may not have agreed with some of their choices, but at least i wasn’t bored to sleep every time they talked.

(oh, and why do the other people not get hounded about putting names of THEIR posts?? Wheat, Wet Towel… etc etc… yes i have a negative opinion but if i am brave enough to put a name to my opinions, i humbly ask the same of the opposition)
Shakespeare has a reputation for being difficult to perform. It takes a lot of hard work. But if you don’t want to be criticized for not speaking clearly or failing to get the audience to connect, stick with Neil Simon plays. If you can’t put in the work then you just should leave Shakespeare alone.

It would be much akin to me running for president; i don’t have the qualifications or the know-how to do it, but if i wanted to, i could. Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you should.

wet towel says:

…dear god…
all those immunizations for nothing…
;)

wet towel says:

(Jordan:
My name is Eric Field
(most people who read my stuff know it’s me,
I don’t hide behind the name,
it’s just a moniker…
(actually a bit of an honor bestowed on from a friend, it’s sort of close to my heart.)
Be happy to sit down and talk with ya in person, it’s no big deal,
(just make sure there’s coffee around, my schedule is a bear.)

(Wheat:
Friggin’ A dude… -that was EXCELLENT.

This is all good.

Real discussion about understanding the arts, and folks gettin’ all worked up over some decent lit on the stage…
(I like it.)

A couple of notes on ‘As you like it.’

Yep, it’s Shakespeare.
But No…
it’s not the Shakespeare you’d expect.
(People need to know that going in, I think.)

(I’ve been doing some research on this buggar… seems folks think it was intended to be titled
‘As YOU like it,’ (vs) -’as Shakespeare did.’)

Apparently it’s one of the most obvious ‘written for the audience’ plays he’s done, –and it was kind of meant to be a bit of irony, satire, set up and farce…

-Like Operas?, where they’re not SUPPOSE to make rational sense?
I have a feeling the Bard was definitely messing with everybody with this one…
(Pretty ballsy move for Peterson and Cast to tackle, as the thing is damnnear hallucinagenic…)
-which may explain those hand-rolled ‘cigarrettes’ Munroe was talking about.)
(I think that needs to be known.)

And Gabbi as a guy? HAH…–THAT’s a trip indeed.

I’ll let you know what I think down the road,
–and by all means, folks,
-GO SEE THIS… (it’s FREE for crying out loud,) and then bark at whatever squirrells come across your lawn (or whatever moons you.)

Art was meant to be mulled over and discussed.

(Even HIGH art,,,
-Which Shakespeare prolly would have been pretty pissed if he knew how we’d ostentatiously pedestal it and make it all ostentatious…
(or somthin’.)

Wheat says:

Ok Jordan, your getting a little to uptight about this whole thing. Maybe you should just relax and cool down. My name is TJ Wheat. I put Wheat as my name because that is what others know me as. Obviously that doesnt apply here but still.

Now as for Shakespeare, True if you portray Shakespeare correctly you can do it no matter what comes your way. Yet I have been in the Theater Arts and have seen many upon many of plays and one thing that has always remained relivant to all is to have fun and enjoy it. When the Actors have fun, the audience will have fun. Now I do not know if you are familiar with WSF but they put on two shows, usually a comedy and a drama. Its sometimes different but still that not my point. My point is that everyone, Im sure, has seen the original version performed many upon many of times. This twist is what makes it fun for everyone. People dont want to see the same old show over and over again with the same set and same designs. They want something new, something different and that brings people in.

Now dont get me wrong there were qwite a few wacky things going on in the text, but you needed that. Its sort of made sense to have it because keeping the old style would only confuse the audiance.

Now as for your comment on “Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you should.
“. This may seem a bit childish but did you ever see the movie Ratatouille? It was a Disney Pixar film and if you havent seen it, do so. You used almost the exact same lines that the mouse used and the turn on that is this,”If you have the heart to do it, then dont let it stop you.” These wonderful actors pulled me into there world, they had fun, everyone had fun. But there are Critcs and as I said before, they are your worst friend. You need them as much as they need you, and Mr. Munro knew that as well as anyone, Im sure.

My whole reason of responding to this was to let others know what the Audience thinks and not just one mans opinion. One man who has seen show, after show, after show and Im sure he prefures the tradition ways rather than the new ways judging by his review.

Magnus says:

As an actor, I’d like to add that getting a negative review is better than not getting one at all. The review seemed very fair. It didnt’ seem like anyone or anything was being attacked. Also, this is just one opinion of one person. I’d much rather a critic point out one of my flaws instead of not mentioning me at all. As actors, we are used to this kind of critism, if not worse. It is how we grow… or realize that acting is not for us.
Secondly, to whoever said that Shakespeare’s comedy is boring, you’ve yet to see it done right. Shakespeare is timeless because he wrote about timeless issues. The words and themes of his work are over 400 years old but are still relavant and alive today.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival company did Shakespeare proud today in their presentation at Summer Arts. It was definitely done right there.

ed says:

jordan roberts,
just because you put your name in a box on the internet doesn’t mean you are who you say you are, which is part of why people don’t get hounded for not putting their name.

also, the beehive has become an online community and many of the commenters on this thread comment on other threads, so they are just as established by their nom de plume as they would be by another other name (e.g. wet towel).

as to your point about changing shakespeare, i’m slightly confused. you say that if you have to change shakespeare to do it, you shouldn’t do it. (i get that part.) then you say, “scan the poetry and translate some of the archaic language.” doesn’t translating imply making a change from the original? if i translate a sentence from french to english i’ve got to use different words. how do we translate shakespeare but not change it?

Jordan Roberts says:

ok.
When i said “scan the lines” i don’t mean look for things to re-interpret. And maybe this is where we are all getting a little caught up. Shakespearean text is in iambic pentameter. It is as type of poetry. 10 syllables per line of text, that come in iambs(sets of two syllables). In order for the poetry to make sense, you have to stress certain syllables and leave others unstressed. It started to put a rhythm to how you say the lines. When done correctly, it SOUNDS like the characters are speaking poetry, because they are. (hardly anyone did this in this particular production, or if they did, it didn’t come across) and when i said “translating archaic texts” i meant that Shakespeare, at times, uses words that for various reasons (the modern world doesn’t understand the context, or maybe we just stopped using the word, and sometimes Shakespeare even invented words) we don’t understand. As an actor it is your job to look those words up and come to a fuller understanding of what you are saying. This doesn’t mean that you can switch and swap words at will. Shakespeare wrote a play, it has survived hundreds of years on it’s own merits, why should we lowly Fresnans take it upon ourselves to change hundred-years old texts?? Because WE think the audience won’t get it? It’s the same thing as deciding to put on a John Patrick Shanley play and deciding to change the script. At the very least you are interrupting the original artists original intent.

People perform Shakespeare nowadays because we LOVE Shakespeare. I don’t need a production to spell it out for me, it negates a lot of the fun of the original language, and the beauty of it as well. It is POETRY and when you futz with the script it mars the POETRY. And if you are going to screw up the POETRY, why do Shakespeare in the first place?

I think Magnus is completely right. I challenge anyone here to go and watch a Shakespeare at Ashlan or Cal Shakes, or Shakespeare Santa Cruz. These are reputable companies that put on CLEAR, RELATABLE, and ENJOYABLE Shakespeare.

Solitaire says:

Jordan, your opinion is one opinion. Sure you can have the Shakespeare purists and then you can have those that allow for adaptations to the script and still see it a true to Shakespeare’s original work. Did you read Gabi’s interview on the WSF website? She’s a stickler for staying true to the text (not only has she said this in the interview, but we had conversations about it when doing 12th Night together). And an actor it’s acceptible to have both views on the subject, it’s SUBJECTIVE to each individual. I remember the past few WSF reviews and your comments to those and it seems you’re on a soapbox trying to win people to your side. It’s ok. We hear you. Don’t take it so personally.

Oh and I go by Solitaire because that’s the name Marcel gave me during the Rogue Festival. I’m Renee Newlove and anyone that comments on the BeeHive regularly know it’s me.

Wet Towel says:

Jordan, I totally get what you are saying about the structure of poetry, and that the lines are ‘lyric.’

There is something that you allude to, that needs to be further explored and understood.

(Not being hard-core Shakespearian?
This may not be the most thorough understandng, but here goes.)

First:
-Shakespeares stuff changed and adapted even while he was doing it.
(It’s like playing jazz, you play to the room, you play to the set, –and you play how you are feeling that night.)

–Does it mean that, when everybody else is going into ‘misty’ you go into ‘lady-be-good?’ No.

Obviously there is a trail to follow, and the play is to be focussed,
–but Shakespeare changed stuff all the time, it’s actually kind of rare (these days) that people do a complete ‘unabridged’ version of most of his works, (as you said) you really have to re-work the things, sometimes for length alone.

Also?
if you’re going to reach a modern audience,
-there has to be touchstones and coloquials
(that the locals will get)
-along with the stuff that is a ‘no-touch.’

2. Keeping that in mind?
(and this is relatively new to me,)

Shakespeare done in ‘different’ settngs of time is apparently more common than not…
So somebody’s ALWAYS diddlin’ with the Bard, somewhere, (and) this is one play apparently that was designed as one big ‘diddle’ back at anyone doing or watchng it…

-So you have Romeo and Juliette done in Facist Italy, (and/or) done on Venice Beach,
–and it works.
(To me? testamony of the strength of the orig. writings, as most stuff just falls apart out of context.)

Sometimes the reworking is more just a setting adaptation,
-only with ‘pure’ lines and script that has everybody speaking it straight,
–only they’re riding in a low-rider MonteCarlo.

–Others?
The lines, names, EVERYTHING is modernized (or contextualized to the era)
–and you kind of need to be told what it is you’re seeing, (West Side Story, (or) ‘Oh Brother Where Art Thou.’) —yeah, I know OBWAT was not Shakespeare… (put down the gun.)

I think, what little I know about Shakespeare? (who may have been as much of a composite character as Rembrandt Van Rijn,)

–Would have wanted his/their stuff to be done in a purist sense… (okay, fine, that’s respectful… we don’t throw out our Beatles, Hendrix, and Benny Goodman records just because somebody now is playing their catalogue.)

-But I think he/they would have wanted the works to be really digested, messed with, and brought INTO their audience’s world.

-In fact, (as controversial as it sounds) that is a real arguement…
Theatre or the arts is like a meal,
-and you have to tear it apart and digest it,
-and then use it to fuel.
(I’ll spare the unpleasantries of what happens to the bolus.)

3. The whole statement
‘…go see Shakespeare done (here or there)
–you’ll see it done RIGHT…’
Is kind of a tricky one to make.
(And can come across as dismissive of WSF’s efforts…
(not a smart thing to do, you know there are lawyers in this town who like amature theatre, right??? I’m just sayn’ over here.)

-Is it ‘done right’
-because it’s purist?
(hmmm, purist to what?)

-Is it done ‘right’ because the actors are highly trained professionals? (and/or) have a ton of milage and study on them?
(hmmm, you gonna find that locally?
I mean, we have some really good actors here in the Valley,,,,but…)

I think another facet (which needs to be said,) is that the company itself (WSF)
for as much as it is presenting (quite respectfully,) ‘the lines of the ‘gods,’

IS

a company meant to bring in and find and present talent that is local,
see them grow and progress in that talent, (AND) put on a quality performance to anybody
-for free…

Now, does ‘because it’s free’ and ‘amature’
mean that it can suck and nobody say anything?
No…
-and nobody here is saying that.

-But these folks (some more than others, as is the rest of the country at the moment)
ALL have ‘day jobs,’
and
are doing this for the true sense of the word ‘amature,’
–which is ‘for the love of.’

I say none of this as some sort of ‘backhanded’ compliment,
–but there has to be a context remembered (and respected)
that is not suddenly to be ignored because ‘they get 90,000.00 in grants,’ as was so oddly interjected.

Finally:

The only thing perfect?
is dead (or constructed of nostalgia,)
–NEITHER of which you’re going to find in the present day.

Though it is to be done with the
‘…highest level of excellence by those who attempt it,’ (even if it’s being sold for free,)
–even THAT standard is something that has to be greatly open to interpretation…

Personally,
that folks take a shot at this sort of thing year after year, and do a pretty decent job,
in THIS town?
-That’s excellent.

That it makes available an ‘unknown,’ who may not even really seriously think of theatre
–and allows them to study, attempt, reveal, and shine?
-Totally excellent.

That it dares to bring the ‘now hallowed’ Bard to the unwashed,
-who will walk away (no matter what) with a taste for wit, society, and culture (past yogurt?)
-In the land where Cage Fighting is the new standard of quality entertainment?
-’Excellent’ surpassing stellar accolades of Wayne and Garth.

Just, please,
as the ladies grace the stage tonight, (or men… we are equal opportunity barbarians here in the ‘no)

Nobody yell ‘schwing! major tent-pole action!’
(not even you, Steph, which ever one you are these days…)

Party on.

stephen says:

thank you wet towel for your ruminations, they are more interesting than the production.

jordan, AS YOU LIKE IT is written in iambic pentameter MOST of the time — about 70% according to scholars who have nothing better to do that count up lines. the point is not to stress or unstress the correct syllables as much as it is to help the audience UNDERSTANDING WHAT THE HELL THE WRITER IS SAYING. if the actors can do that, it’s all good. obviously you didnt think the actors did that. coolio. i didnt get a lot of it, but i didn’t really care. i liked the bold concept and groovy costumes. but i’m a heathen living in fresneck, what do i know?

Wheat says:

Bravo Towel, Bravo
I Agree with much of what you have said.

Jordan the only problem that you are hitting with your examples of the other festivals is this. They are professional actors, getting paid for these shows. I can tell you know after working on sets and for other shows that I get paid for or for classes I’ve been in. People who get paid to do shows, rarely like each other. Verbal fights break out and they just dont get along. I did one amateur protuction(If thats what we want to call WSF as well) and everyone who wanted to be there, stayed and if you didnt like someone or your job was just in the way, you left. No one forced you to do anything there. These kids on stage put in time, sweat, blood and tears(Ok maybe not to much of those last two) to make this there best show and I saw that.
Now it doesnt seem to make sense to argue with you on the style of the play because you are obviously furm on your belief that it should not be changed. So why agrue to something that wont move(Towel, I advise you to do the same. Just drop it, bro). But one tiny thing about what you said. Shakespeare did not write all his plays in Imabic Pentameter. Only his upper class citizens talked like that. Others would talk in blank verse. I know that for a fact and I know that I could hear it from Gabi and Lisi and some from Billy, Other than that I really didnt pay attention.

Magnus,
I believe I am the one who said that it may have been boring. I dont believe I used those words but I did say something along the lines that it would be harder for some to understand. You have to realize that when Shakespeare wrote this(which in sure you are) that comedies were for the lower class to understand easier. But now adays we cant really truly understand the text anymore unless we studied why, and how Shakespeare thought this was funny. Like I said before though;I dont know exactly how many, but it is true that less than half of the population understands Shakespeare, narrow that down to people in Fresno and you probably only have about 14% or more. Now I still must go back to one thing I stated before. let me ask you a serious question and I want a good honest answer. If you went to go see a Shakespeare play and you have seen it once every week for 20 years, would you or would you not get bored of seeing the same scene, the same dialouge and the same text every single day?
If so this play does exactly what some people are looking for. Maybe some of them have seen the play before and were not impressed by the first few times they saw As You Like It in its traditional form. This just gives us something new to see and feel.

Now one last thing I have to complement you on is that you are eactly right. The Critic gave out a fair review. Nothing can change this yet he does give out tips or idea or anything for them to work on or get better at so it makes others get uneasy. I believe my job for this was to let others know that this play to the audience was hillarious and thats what we got from the play. I took abour 5 other friends of mine, one of which who knew what Shakespeare was really talking about, and threw the whole show we all loved it. Donald has his opinion and we 6 who went had ours and we loved it.

Jay Parks says:

Just for the record: about 50% of AYLI is written in prose. The other 50% is mostly blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter).

Michael Peterson (Director of AYLI) says:

I’ve TRIED my BEST to STAY aBOVE the FRAY,
but CANnot HOLD my TONGUE so I must SPEAK.
to JORdan ROBerts, WHO thinks SHE doth KNOW
the BEST of WAYS for SHAKEspeare TO be DONE,
if THIS is WHAT you THINK you WANT to HEAR,
may I sugGEST you DIrect ONE yourSELF?
the FEStiVAL is ALways IN a NEED
for TALenTED conTRIBuTORS, you KNOW,
but IF you THINK that THIS would REALly FLY,
i CAN”T iMAgine HOW, and WONder WHY?

WSF fan says:

To Wet Towel,

A question. Have you actually ever been to a Woodward Shakespeare production?

hotpantspikachu says:

Okay, so Michael Peterson’s comment is a wee bit childish (have we really stooped to the level of calling men “she” as an insult? REALLY? that’s about as clever as calling someone the “P” word) and yet BRILLIANT (the use of iambic insults is so ingenious I laughed for a good thirty seconds)

I also think we should all lay off Mr. Roberts. There’s absolutely no point in villianizing someone for having an opinion, even if its one you don’t necessarily agree with. His opinions, if nothing else, are challenging us as a community to question the way we do our Shakespeare. That’s NEVER a bad thing. Especially in a town like Fresno. This is turning into a witch hunt and it is completely unecessary.

Magnus says:

Hey Wheat!
Thanks for the intelligent post directed towards me! To answer your question of “If you went to go see a Shakespeare play and you have seen it once every week for 20 years, would you or would you not get bored of seeing the same scene, the same dialouge and the same text every single day?” I can honestly say that I would not get bored.

To see an actor play a part truthfully and fully is something unlike any other. Yes, the words are the same, but everytime, it is a little bit different. A little nuance here, a little one there that keeps you hooked. Stephanie Beatriz, an actress for the OSF, told us that she watched the last scene of Othello every night when she was off stage, and that every night, she had hope that what she knew was going to happen wasn’t going to happen because Othello would realize that Desdemona loved him and it was pure love.

When done right, a piece is never stale. Ever. A personal example would be of my good friend Marcos Hammer. There’s a monologue that he does very well and I’ve seen it countless times from him during various events, but I never tire of seeing it because every time there is a freshness and newness about it because he’s found a way to connect to it so well and play it so truthfully and honestly. An actors job is to make every time the first time.

Good work never gets old. Ever. If you don’t believe me, come see some of my work multiple times ;) Just kidding. Thank you for the intelligent and non-belligerent hostile post though. I appreciate it. I hope I was able to answer your question. I apologize for this being such a long post!

Claire says:

A little over two decades ago ( yikes!) I saw a highly modernized version of Taming Of The Shrew.
I’d never seen Shakespeare and all I’d ever read was a sonnet or two ( at that age it was a big ‘yawn’).
Well, thank God for someone bringing the language down to my ‘level’. They got me hook, line, and sinker. For me, it wasn’t about seeing the same thing over and being bored, it was about needing to be captured.

I don’t expect ( or even want) all of my Shakespeare changed/mutilated/watered down (where ever you happen to stand on the issue). Yet, I certainly appreciate that at some point there is some young kid sitting in the audience ready to take a nap who suddenly perks up and realizes that this is good stuff.

I dare say, that I tend to be a purist ( don’t get me started on music!). but I don’t think William was.
He wrote for the working class… why should we exclude those less learned ( in the language) because they have not had their collective ear educated? He certainly didn’t.

Should we change it all the time? Gads no! I, though, appreciate those who wish to enlighten a new generation to that which they thought ‘boring’.

wet towel says:

Saw this tonight… it was great.

(even liked the peacocks, –who have the ability to break up and add to a scene in the darndest of ways,(they get freaked out at the action scenes, which is quite sporting of them, actually.)

If you’re a ‘bug wuss’ -wipe on some ‘off’ but I think I was bothered by a total of three (3) mosquitos, and I don’t even think they were thirsty.

House was about 2/3 full – some empty chairs were still to be found, and a lot of folks sat on blankets.

(Kudos to the Fire Twirlers for using the openning track from ‘Triplets of Belleville.’)

I’m actually going to see this show a time or two more.

After watching it then?
I think I’ll write on it, maybe here, maybe not…

What I can say is:

-All the lines I heard tonight?
Really worked well ‘lyrically,’ there was no compromise to them in any poetic sense whatsoever, they were shootin’ the straight stuff and having fun, (which ain’t easy.)

-I caught only one ‘stumble’ but the actor played it off beautifully.

-Insertions of the coloquialisms and period correct phrases were not only timely, but very funny and well sculpted.

-The characters were quite believable (and again, when funny? were hysterical.

-(if) there was an unevenness?
I’d have to really chalk it up to how the play was built (by the author)
-as it is (agreeably) quite formulaic (but again, was designed to be so) with a lot of twists and turns put in to basically flip the play itself. (and) some of the characters are ‘fully developed’ –others meant only to ‘frame’ the main stories, –then pulled in for the ‘big close,’ (merely a story-telling technique, -worked with quite well…
This is (sort of) a very intricate Shakespeare ‘pop’ Still difficult, but meant to be a lot of fun, (and it is.)

-There is a LOT on gender bending and very good points made about the perceptions of men, women, why folks fall in love with each other (as well as what and who a person really ‘is’ in there gender identity and sexuality that came through loud and clear…
(how that was missed in the orig. review (especially considering it’s pertainance here in the valley regarding ‘relationships and marriage,’ is beyond me…
but I found it wonderfully timely (without) being preachy or heavy handed.

-The set is a total eyepopper and way cool.

-the costumes are AMAZING (it’s like watchng a tree full of parrots (comment based upon plumage (not) line delivery.) Jennifer Hurd-Peterson has found yet another way to seduce and amaze an audience…

This was actually a very well thought out, well crafted, and well executed (and pretty diffcult, considering some of the references) and does a good job of setting an otherwise (very) European ‘ancient’ piece on a beach/wharf in the late 60′s.

In short?
This thing works,
Michael and the cast and crew have done it.
–and is totally worth your time.

(and to answer the question:
‘have I ever been to a WSF production?

–lets just say I drove 3000 miles to attend a show, and never quite left…
So yeah… (despite the inferrance)
I do a lot of stuff besides write on a computer, and am familiar with quite a few local (and not so local) performance venues, artists, (etc.) from more angles than I care to divulge, (and more than some of them want me to…)

I don’t always write about this sort of thing, but when I do? I do so from the perspective of having (actually) been there,
(a person is not informed and is only fronting (if) they’ve not had the experience, right…)

I also happen to really like the ‘new’ more intimate setting, and feel that the audience really connects with the real nuance of the work, (and with the actors,)
–rather than getting swept up in this huge ‘spectacle,’ (which was cool too, I mean the initial WSF was no mean feat…
-this just felt more ‘real and personal’)

And, as I knew it would?
WSF has managed (yet again) to bring an ancient text to new life, (in some wonderfully personalized ways,)
and show some excellent talent (all the way around.)

Between this and Jag/Dick Trois? (and the peacocks…can’t leave out the peacocks,)
Fresno is in for a good summer.

Go see this, it works, it’s good.

wet towel says:

…jordan’s not a girl?
I thought…
(man, this play’s had a bigger impact on me than I thought…)

PS: Gabi? Most def. IS a girl (holy toledo.)

Michael Peterson (Director of AYLI) says:

Sorry Jordan, dude,

I meant no sexist insult with the “she”…
It must be Idol stars that blinded me.
I simply meant meant to show I know the way
to make a line whch has something to say
and fits the style you seem to advocate
that’s now passe and gone of late.

My point is really that many of your comments regarding the usage of iambic pentameter in Shakespeare’s work seemed to imply that I either didn’t understand it. or had failed to properly emphasize it. Quite the opposite is the case. I chose intentionally, with the exception of the poem recitations in the play, to have the actors de-emphasize metrical enunciation. I believe that over emphasis of such, as I tried to sarcastically illustrate above, leads to a very old fashioned style of performance quality which did not fit my modern interpretation and setting of the play. In short, it sounds the way it does because I wanted it that way, not because I didn’t know how to it “properly.”

Ginger says:

Theatre comes and goes in Fresno..reviews are written, and mostly receive little fanfare..
It’s interesting how many experts jump out of the woodwork to pass judgement on WSF..
And the surprising number of “experts”…Wonder where they all are during auditions, or submissions to direct…
I’ve seen all WSF productions. Some were good, some not, some had moments ..reviews are what they are…and come with the territory. We put it out there…
But as a long-time theatre educator, and director of Shakespeare, I applaud the hard-working cast & crew for offering Fresno something more. I respect Michael Peterson, a teacher by day, for giving his talent, time and dedication to theatre…and to the many actors who spend countless hours in rehearsal…Some are experienced, some not…it comes with the territory.
I will see AS YOU LIKE IT next week…..then I’ll have some comments.

James Klingman says:

Saw the show and have to agree with the critic. by any standard, it was pretty awful. i didn’t understand what the actors were saying because i don’t think they knew what they were saying. the leads chewed the scenery like problem puppies and grew tiresome really quickly. i’m glad someone is doing shakespeare in town. i just wish it was done better than this.

Lila Reed says:

I am having a hard time with the notion that aundience members not understanding what the actors are saying is because the actors themselves did not know what they were saying.

-Is it possible that you did not understand it because you either were not really listening or maybe you just have a hard time with the language yourself?
If the issues is that you, as an audience member were not engaged then say that, rather than accusing the actors of not understanding what they were saying.
I can almost guarantee that after five plus weeks of rehearsal those actors KNOW what they are saying. Perhaps their ability to make YOU understand is what is lacking in their performance. Or maybe it is just not as funny as they want it to be. I know sitting through ruminations on the Goddesses Nature and Fortune or the seven acts of life doesn’t really tickle my funny bone.

Danielle says:

Lila- Sometimes when actors perform Shakespeare and aren’t trained properly or have a director helping them “translate” it, the actors might be interpreting the words differently than what they actually mean. Even rehearsing for seven weeks you could be rehearsing the wrong interpretation or just plain not know the entire time and think just saying the words will get the message across properly. I’m not saying that’s the case with this show, I haven’t seen it so I couldn’t know that.
I just know that it’s a common problem with Shakespeare productions.
It also is very possible for an audience to not understand because they tune out or something, which is why I think it’s the actors job to be 100% clear with what they are saying and how they are saying to try to prevent that as much as possible.

wet towel says:

…I’m just trying to figure out the circumstance of the criticism and how it applies to this show.

1.)’…i didn’t understand what the actors were saying because
i don’t think they knew what they were saying.
2.)… the leads chewed the scenery like problem puppies and grew tiresome really quickly…’

1.
When I caught the show?,
(when I watch any show actually,)
I not only watch the story on the stage, but I also catch the audience responses (what works, what doesn’t work, etc.)

-Though the audience was reacting (with laughter) to the physical actions in the story, (which were quite funny,)
-They also reacted to the storylines as they were delivered
(and) were responding to the method of delivery (metre/back-and-forth build) as well.

-The actors? also were ‘working with’ the audience,
in a performance ‘conversation’ that HAS to happen where the actors are working with and givng the audience time to respond, recover, and aren’t just standing up there reciting phonebook.

(The audience would/could not have been responding so strongly IF they didn’t ‘get’ the lines, and again the audience response was quite definite.)
-This is even easier to verify in the smaller setting, –as in the ampitheatre, folks were just reacting to the spectacle (due to) size and distance.

2.
‘leads chewing scenery.’
(?)

–okay, it was a flashy set, but there was literally not a whole lot of interraction (with) it,
–as it’s Shakespeare and SO line-heavy by design.
(Which brings us back to the fact that,
–even in a ‘lighter’ Shakespeare piece?,
-the actors need to work (both)
the poetry -and- the audience
to keep the audience involved, the story going (and) work off each other…

-ALL of which was happening,
as the audience was ‘into it’ and responding where they should.

I just don’t understand that assessment, nor how t could be true.

Jordan Roberts says:

I’ve been thinking about this predicament for a long time. It hasn’t managed to get itself out of my head, and i even went and saw the show one more time, just to make sure i knew where i stood. Having taken a while to closely examine my actions, and those of the other posters, i will bow out with these final thoughts:

A) the second time around the show was much more energetic. The players i knew were talented the first go round ( Mitchel Perez, Gabi Lawson, Marcos Hammer, and David Manning) stepped it up. When these actors were on stage i found myself paying attention and at least watching them to see what they were going to do next. And while the rest of the cast had also taken a step forward in energy, i still felt like the language wasn’t being served as much as it could have. I found my attention wavering, a lot.
B) Perhaps I should have been a bit kinder in my initial postings. (perhaps some other folks could have been kinder as well, on BOTH sides)
C) We all have our opinions. I will not be able to sway Towel to my thinking any more than he will be able to sway me. I believe this blog is simply a means to react to the show… I think we have been reacting (a great deal) to each other, and that isn’t the point. A review of theatre is to let the actors know what the reviewer (an audience member) thought of the show. I am just as entitles to my opinion as Towel or Wheat is to theirs.
D) I am coming from a VERY unique perspective on this company. I recently graduated with a BA in theatre arts and WAS involved with the company for a summer. I understand a lot of people talk the talk without walking the walk. I have walked the walk.
E) I am very opinionated. And sometimes i look back on the things i have said and realize that they were rude, or interpreted in a way i didn’t mean them to. For that,

I APOLOGIZE.

F) Don’t take this last as a pity me statement (i don’t mean it to be): But i don’t think i want to post here any more. It is getting to the point where one can’t express a negative review of any kind without facing backlash about it. Could it be that i am just a negative nelly? (perhaps) Or could it mean that the company needs to look into itself and change a few things? Certainly no one here believes that these guys are infallible? When we can’t accept criticism, there’s something wrong.

LASTLY: To the cast, if i have offended any of you personally, i apologize. To Donald, i apologize for making a fracas on your blog; alas i should have known better.

-Jordan Roberts (and yes, i do have a girls name, but, i checked this afternoon, and i am definitely a dude.)

Joseph Viviano says:

I have to agree with Mr. Munro and James. Chewing scenery is a great description because of the wild arm movements and cartoon like mugging that was going on. I know they were doing their best and their wild gesticulations did help the audience understand what they were saying, but it just seemed way too forced and phony and dumb to me. The “glen” is a lovely spot, but this company seems to be getting worse as the years roll on. I’ll keep going, but it makes me sad.

Stephanie says:

If one negative review causes so much controversy, what is the point of having a critic at all? If they aren’t allowed to say anything bad about anything going on in town, we may as well just have each performing arts organization submit its own review.

While I understand that it is important to encourage the community to support the arts (God knows we need all of the support we can get), it is equally important to create some sort of standard to which performers can aspire. As a performer, I have learned that the best performances sometimes come from the harshest critiques.

I find the rest of Mr. Munro’s reviews more credible now that I have actually read one where he wasn’t entirely positive about the production.

Fresno theater will never reach new heights unless someone is holding the productions accountable. Otherwise we end up in a Guffman-esque “Red, White, and Blaine” situation.

Nick Haas says:

Blimprov Performs Pre-Show for AYLI July 9th! Come check it out!

Guess who says:

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion… even if they aren’t willing to give you their name.

To WSF staff or board members who reject criticism from anonymous people: do you know the names of everyone in your audiences?
Of course you don’t…. and THOSE are the people whose opinions matter most.

Guess again says:

Maybe they know what they’re saying, they just don’t know how to say it.

Salient222 says:

I have seen many Woodward Shakespeare productions. This one was less than average. I am not impressed that Wet Towel called it “great.” After the fuss he stirred up before seeing the show, how could he think anything else?

I went back and read Wet Towel’s original post and laughed at this line:

“–anyone who says they’re ‘connecting’ with this under those conditions is either lying or stoned.”

Sure sounds like he connected when he saw the show. Which was it. Lying or stoned?

wet towel says:

(shocker: not Harry Potter Ticket oriented)

Caught show for a second time (Thurs. 9th.)

Truthfully? a good thing has gotten even better.

(How can I say this?
Theatre is not like a movie…
the cast and crew grow more ‘used’ to each other, and the characters take on more life,
and interract differently, as the run goes on…)

-A movie?
-captured once (like a studio album) and that’s what you get to plumb if you go back more than once…

Plays?
have a life of their own, and you can literally see a different play each time you go, as the interraction will change (sometimes slightly, sometimes greatly,)
and, with something as rich as the Bards work, –there’s plenty there to see change color right in front of you.)

Tonights performance was tighter, you can tell that the characters have been playing off each other for a bit.

The audience was full (they had to bring out extra chairs,) and the lawn was pretty well populated too.

What I noticed was how the characters came in ‘fuller’ and how lush the lines were.
In fact?
NONE of the characters were one demensional, (not that they were before, but they certainly all had ‘filled out’ quite a bit this time,
–and the sub-plots really ‘came in’ and darted around and became more vivid.
(The whole production is really finding a nice voice.)

Again, this being theatre? the Life of the characters with each other will become more full as the run goes on.

I’m sure there were hiccups and some nervousness in the cast here and there (these are human beings we’re speaking of,) in the initial performances, –but I really didn’t see it in the show last Thursday, and I see none of that now.

Interestingly? The crowd (as before) really enjoyed the verse…
there were people there who knew the lines, knew the story, and were clearly finding touchstones in the work.. and that brought it all the more to life.

(Michael Peterson)
–the ‘period correct’ drop ins ALSO worked very well, as when they came up?
folks expected ‘Shakespearean’
–but not expect coloquialisms to ’69, (and) seemed to really to get a kick out of their insertions… –they worked beautifully.

(Finally) it was nice to see a VERY full house,
–yet the performance so intimate that we could all feel ‘in on’ the show, (and still respond to each other (and the lines) –as an audience on it’s seat who’s participating is soooo key in something like this…)

For a show that had been so criticized (unjustly) out of the gate, I was kind of worried.

Nothing to worry about… Folks are going, folks are having a good time, and this thing is fun.

Not sure what roles ‘Gabi’ has run the house in before, –but she’s totally rockin’ it in this.

Recommend it even more.

Lars Thorson says:

Congrats to Michael and the cast of AYLI. I saw the show last weekend and was impressed with the vitality of the cast and daring inspiration of the concept. I agree with Ginger’s earlier post that those who complain about shows should try to do it themselves. I directed last summer’s TWELFTH NIGHT for WSF and it was a very difficult thing to find actors who were willing to work in the heat for no money. It is a daunting enterprise. While my production may not have lived up to the standards of the esteemed bloggers or even Mr. Munro, every person whom I spoke with enjoyed the production. There were plenty of criticisms and personal views, but people generally had a good time. I would bet that if you polled audiences leaving AYLI, 95% would say that they also had a good time. Hang in there WSF. Don’t worry about the bloggers, pay attention to the audience. On to RIII!

Ginger Latimer says:

Saw the show last night, and was entertained. As I’ve come to expect, a mixed bag of actors…. a few that really stepped up were Jacques, Touchstone, Rosalind & Celia..pacing of show picked up considerably after intermission…Cudos to Amy Bolton for her 60′s revue at wedding…lots of growth in sound and lighting..I remember past seasons with mics popping,lights not adequate…the set still can go beyond the plywood facade…Mike Peterson made some interesting choices, and many of them worked…The crowd had a good time…laughed frequently…
WSf is striving for better Shakespeare..but that will take time and effort…education..table work…and committment..There are some amazing actors out there…I’ve had the pleasure of working with many…somehow they need to audition for WSF…

Sabrina says:

Saw the show last Thursday and was surprisingly impressed after reading Donald Munro’s review. Being new to Fresno, first lesson learned…do not let Mr. Munro’s reviews be a gauge to determine whether or not to attend a performance!!!

While there were varying levels of strength in terms of actors, I found the ensemble pulled off an entertaining performance! The text was delivered well, with a few exceptions and the story line flowed.

I enjoyed the comedic performance of Patrick Smith as Adam, Brianne Vogt as Phebe seemed to have a really good handle on her text, Lisi Drioane as Celia performed with a level of energy that helped the audience remain engaged on these warm summer Fresno evenings. I was slightly confused by Mitchell Perez’s performance as I thought Jaques was to be “melancholy”…but again delivered a strong performance in terms of text. Finally I was exceptionally impressed with Gabriela Lawson’s performance as Rosalind. Her performance was captivating, full of energy and her command of the text was delivered in the most believable manner. I felt that her caliber of performance is what carried the show that I saw.

I am excited to see other Woodward Shakespeare Festival performances. Looking forward to seeing Richard !!