Artist Oliver Herring at the Seattle Public Library

On Saturday June 28, The Seattle Public Library downtown hosts an all day group performance of TASK by Oliver Herring. Co-sponsored by the Frye Art Museum, On the Boards, and the Tacoma Art Museum, the piece revolves around spontaneous interactions between a group of volunteer local performers working to complete “tasks” assigned first by the artist, then by their fellow performers.

Performance art is just one aspect to the work of the New York artist. He was first noted for his ethereal sculptures knitted from Mylar, then moved on to work in video, photography and live performances mostly unscripted and often performed by strangers. Seattleites had an opportunity to view some of his previous work in 2005 at his show Continue reading “Artist Oliver Herring at the Seattle Public Library”

Ghost Singer as Author

Book cover of As I read a recent Seattle Times review of the traveling production, My Fair Lady, the name Marni Nixon “jumped out” at me. The former Seattlite was playing the non-singing role of Higgins’ mother. What a surprise, she’s still active, I thought. A long time admirer of hers, I wondered what would it be like to dub the singing for famous actresses and never be acknowledged? I then turned to Google and learned that she had been in Seattle in 2006 for signings and a concert related to her book, I Could Have Sung All Night. How did I miss that!

As co-author with Stephen Cole, she has written an engaging account of her childhood, her working relationships with composers and conductors like Bernstein and Stravinsky, her three marriages, and especially her dubbing, Continue reading “Ghost Singer as Author”

Who was Shakespeare?

image-of-shakespeares-head-in-text-courtesy-of-yelnocWhile the academic world is solidly behind William Shakespeare of Stratford, such notables as Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, Derek Jacobi, Walt Whitman and Orson Welles have questioned whether he could have written the works credited to him. Among those who suspect that Shakespeare of Stratford was not the author of the plays and sonnets, the candidates who have been put forth as the real Shakespeare include Sir Frances Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, and Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, among others.
There are a number of Oxford titles, either to be praised or condemned, depending on one’s leanings; I suggest two titles Continue reading “Who was Shakespeare?”

Comedy from Canada

Slings & ArrowsAre you constantly annoyed by what’s on commercial television and find you have watched all the hot HBO series from beginning to end? Try Slings & Arrows, a three season comedy from Canada available on DVD. The story takes place behind the scenes of the fictional New Burbage Festival, a theatre troupe modeled loosely on the real life Stratford Festival, in Stratford Ontario. The Canadian actors and writers offer a subtly different voice from the US or British shows I’m used to and the episodes are chock full of behind the scenes back-biting and shenanigans delivered with pure Shakespearian flair.

The first season begins when the festival falls on difficult times with the untimely demise of its artistic director Oliver Welles. In a pinch they bring in the notorious Geoffrey Tennant, formerly an actor with the production, best remembered for his mental breakdown while on stage seven years earlier playing Hamlet. Tennant must cope with the notoriously difficult play, the foibles of his cast of actors, a sponsor run rampant AND the ghost of Oliver. No need to be Shakespeare literate to enjoy the production – the fine acting brings the playscript to life right before your eyes.

Bard Bio

As a lifelong Shakespeare fan, I’ve known of the various debates about which of his plays came first, whether Shakespeare was indeed Shakespeare (and not, say, Francis Bacon), whether he loved his wife, how educated he was, and so on with the minutiae.  I admit I haven’t much cared, preferring to focus my attention on the sublimity of his plays and poetry instead.

shakespeare.jpgAlong comes Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson, a writer generally known for his travelogues.  What caught my attention most about this short, engaging book was Bryson’s ability to sum up all the threads of an argument and then not take sides.  There is so little actual information about Shakespeare’s life that it is tempting to speculate wildly about who he was, and many people have, but Bryson invites us to revel in not knowing.

Along the way you learn about everything from the political-religious conflicts of the day and their possible effect on Shakespeare’s career to the wild diet of the average Englishman (both noble and commoner), as well as Shakespeare’s likely education as a country boy and his unparalleled contributions to English literature and our language itself.

This book was so interesting I felt like watching at least a few of the Bard’s plays.