Caspar Institute logoitinerary   < 21 September to Ashland   23 September to Chico >

Shakespeare 22 September 2022

2501 :

Noble coffee for breakfast, and not the first time I have posted an image like this. We're not coffeee fanatics, but we know what we like, and nobody does it better. Three choices of coffee in the cappuccino, and two choices of 'milk' (including real milk.) Yummy fresh pastries. Congenial staff and ambiance. Sitting outdoors in the mottled sun, not a cloud in the sky, Ashland's diverse people parading by: perfect.

A few steps away we visited a favorite hardware store; the same lady at the cash register; I mumbled a vague description of what we needed (last time, a night light, this time an immersion heater) and before I finish she has one in her hand.

Home again.



Work for awhile on these pages, and before we know it, time to meet our friends at . . .

2502 :
<p>Tonkatsu Ramen, extra egg, pork, toasted onions</p>

Tonkatsu Ramen, extra egg, pork, toasted onions

. . . Hiro Ramen, a new visit for us, and a good one. We're lunching sparingly, because this is an eat, eat, play, eat day – kinda the Ashland Experience for us, whose at-home restaurant palette is pretty limited. Oh, dear, all the new restaurants we don't get to try out!

Having recently seen Ramen Heads we were eager to try something other than what comes out of a package, and Rochelle found this one in Ashland. The broth was mild, deep; the ingredients bathing in it were hearty and delicious – looked just like the movie (although I'm betting 'the real thing' in Japan is an order of magnitude more nuanced and delicious!) Our friends liked it too; we passed a lovely lunch discussing The Tempest, that we'd all seen the night before. I was surprised that they shared our perception that much of the dialogue was hard (or impossible) to understand – the Brando syndrome? the amplification, and an unhealthy interaction between some actors' voices and enunciation? Would we encounter the same indoors with King John?

Stay tuned . . .

2503 :

Once again, no pictures allowed except OSF's, and a piss-poor representation they offer! This complicated, politically dense play, seldom performed mostly because its wordiness, name changes, and shifting alliances make it hard for audiences to follow. I'm thinking I got maybe 60%, but Rochelle bet I got less. We had done some homework, but hadn't read the play, nor ever seen it before . . . and yet, once again, it was a thrilling experience, just being in the theater (less than half full!) with the passionate performance and the rapt and striving audience.

Stark set: two tall semi-transparent screens on rollers that were moved about to shape the space, and onto which magical imagery was projected.

2504 :

There's a war (between the French and the English, who else?) going on, the first battle sketched by two fighters in a square puddle of light, taking turns 'killing' each other, the fighting very stylized and gentle; their images, from above, projected onto the screens, first singly, then two, four, eight, too many . . . while the royals from both sides look on from just outside the wings: a brilliant commentary on the way warfare aggrandizes wealth and power while spilling the blood of the people. 

In the second battle scene, squares of light were projected on the floor, the actors – this time the nobles – moved to 'kill' each other, and the action was projected on the screens, again from above, and again multiplying meaningfully (and meaninglessly) just as in warfare.

The other theme, expressed by the play's noblest character (we know this because he delivered the final soliloquy), the Bastard (son of Richard Coeur-de-Lion) is commodity, the common but unforgivable practice of using people as trade goods when negotiating peace and alignment – here, the marriage 'of convenience' between a prince and princess whose lives are entangled with people from both warring sides. (See the Bastard's great soliloquy, below.)

Also engaged and damaged (of course) by the senseless warfare: the people of Angiers, represented by Hubert who, although a 'mere' commoner, is probably for most of the audience the most sympathetic character. And poor gentle Arthur, the pawn in a denial of true succession (there's another gnarly concept!) and his poor  mother Constance.

And, lest we forget, the most dishonest, slippery, mendacious, manipulative character in the play is the Papal Legate Pandolf, who constantly polished his ring before it was being kissed by the nobles. This play hits all Shakespeare's high spots, and maybe, as such, is just a bit too much for us the audience.

2505 :

OSF made a big deal of the 'non-binary' cast, and we feared the bastardization of the result . . . needlessly. OSF's preoccupation with gender politics is, in my view, a major distraction and impediment for many potential audience members to the enjoyment of the play. (More below) But in this, the most noticeable effect of the cast's shared identification was the fact that it made it possible for (what were presumable) women to act and speak as men: aggressively, loudly, impertinently, regally – what was in Shakespeare's time an utter sausage fest and until recently even here in Ashland a relative sausage fest being absent, the toxicity of TMT (Too Much Testosterone) was complete missing, even with the shouting and swordplay.

I am happy to report that none of Shakespeare's pronouns were injured in the production; the purity of the language was, far as I could tell, preserved. Unamplified (I think) in the smaller, more intimate Bowmar theater, there were long passage of too many words too quickly spoken, and, again, a bit of failed enunciation, apparently a lost thespian art.


We noted with thanks that about half the actors in the Playbill chose not to declare their preferred pronouns. We have previously lamented this perversion of the Great Language (to no effect) but it seems to be a stalking horse of wokeness the artistic direction of OSF has been pursuing for awhile. Two unfull houses suggest to us two things – the core OSF audience is aging out, and the effort to sever the younglings from their devices and get engaged in live theater is futile, and that making OSF 'the home of non-binary actors' is simply not in the right place (Oregon). Maybe it would play better in LA? NYC? even Seattle. But it isn't filling houses here.

At the same time, points to the younglings that were filling many of the seats, likely on student or rush tickets, who, though reluctant to put their phones down when the house lights went down, were rapt and appreciative, and when they could pull their noses out of their phones, were having interesting, even challenging discussions about the matters presented. 

And were quick to rise with us at the end in the OSF audience tradition of a Standing O for every performance. For King John, a play I expected to be a mitzvah, I was among the first to stand: a stirring, deeply appealing way to spend two and a half hours. For me at least. 

2506 :
Mad world! mad kings! mad composition!
John, to stop Arthur's title in the whole,
Hath willingly departed with a part,
And France, whose armour conscience buckled on,
Whom zeal and charity brought to the field
As God's own soldier, rounded in the ear
With that same purpose-changer, that sly devil,
That broker, that still breaks the pate of faith,
That daily break-vow, he that wins of all,
Of kings, of beggars, old men, young men, maids,
Who, having no external thing to lose
But the word 'maid,' cheats the poor maid of that,
That smooth-faced gentleman, tickling Commodity,
Commodity, the bias of the world,
The world, who of itself is peised well,
Made to run even upon even ground,
Till this advantage, this vile-drawing bias,
This sway of motion, this Commodity,
Makes it take head from all indifferency,
From all direction, purpose, course, intent:
And this same bias, this Commodity,
This bawd, this broker, this all-changing word,
Clapp'd on the outward eye of fickle France,
Hath drawn him from his own determined aid,
From a resolved and honourable war,
To a most base and vile-concluded peace.
And why rail I on this Commodity?
But for because he hath not woo'd me yet:
Not that I have the power to clutch my hand,
When his fair angels would salute my palm;
But for my hand, as unattempted yet,
Like a poor beggar, raileth on the rich.
Well, whiles I am a beggar, I will rail
And say there is no sin but to be rich;
And being rich, my virtue then shall be
To say there is no vice but beggary.
Since kings break faith upon commodity,
Gain, be my lord, for I will worship thee.
King John II i 561
2508 :

Dinner at an old favorite, Cucina Biazzi, an old school Italian place where we shared a four course menu, antipasti, pasta (rissoto), grilled prawns, salad, and warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. Lovely place, great ambiance, sprightly server. We walked home remarking that, as when we ate extremely well in France, we felt replete but never too full. 

Unfortunately the light was so 'romantic' that I took no usable pictures. 

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