Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Empress Has No Clothes

Since Sunday, I've been on an artist retreat at Belvoir Terrace in Lenox, which is a lovely little town in the Berkshires in the northwestern part of the state.  I was invited to participate with theatre women from New York, Massachusetts and Nebraska via my former theatre professor Juanita Rice.  This was to be a week to soak up the ambiance of the area, visit museums and historic places and for me, work on some scripts that need a bit of tweaking.  The Berkshires have traditionally been a place for the rich from New York and Boston to "summer" and this is evidenced by Belvoir Terrace and the other grand estates in the area. 

Theatre professor Judith Hart had been teaching workshops for young girls in junior high and high school.  She wanted to share this experience with other theatre friends and was generous enough to invite a newcomer to the group because of our mutual friend Juanita.  There was also a chamber music workshop for adults going on at the same time. 

I've had the most marvelous time with the seven other women who accepted me into their circle of long standing friendship and I am most grateful for that.  They are all funny, smart and talented and I've been enriched by meeting them. 

Since the musicians perform for each other in the evenings, Judy wanted us  to "give back" to our little community so we presented some short performances featuring women artists of the area such as writers Edith Wharton, Emily Dickinson and actress Fanny Kemble.  Although we had to follow a fabulous pianist, the musicians appreciated our little performances.

This evening we went to see Red Hot Patriot, a one-woman show about Texas journalist Molly Ivins, who was all about calling a spade a spade.  This was produced by Shakespeare & Co and starred company founder Tina Packard.  To say I was excited to see this show was an understatement.  I have loved Molly Ivins columns skewering the high and the mighty in politics for many years.

This is why it's so lamentable to put on my theatre critic's hat (I was theatre critic for KGNR and KXPR radio stations in Sacramento in late 80s and early 90s) and give the show a lukewarm review.  You don't know me Ms. Packard for I am one of the "little people" and you are the grande dame of Shakespeare and Company.  But it's the little people who can speak the truth with impunity, rather like Ivins did.

While Packard has the "look" for Ivins, she tried to do the show in a Texas accent and failed.  Large sections of the show became "veddy" British in accent and Shakespearean in tone and inflection. The script didn't give us Ivins' best that is easily available in her columns and books, but seemed to take the best parts of her obit instead.  The wall projections could have been used to greater advantage visually to punch both the jokes, the story line and more illustrate the Texas lifestyle that made Ivins what she was as a writer.

But when one is directing a long-time theatre star, what director could say the empress has no clothes? 

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