It's almost Valentine's Day and all you people who are coupled up are feeling the annual need to rub our single noses in it. Playhouse Tulsa is getting in on the act too, not only doing a romantic comedy in Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park, but pairing it with Shakespeare's brutal look at obsession and betrayal that we like to call Othello. Even the plays are getting in on the action. Yeesh, I need a date.
Just how these two plays come to coexist in PH's '12-'13 season is kind of an accident. Barefoot was in the plans for this season, but Othello wasn't. It got there as a matter of PH's reputation for having done Shakespearean works in past seasons as student matinees.
"I had teachers calling me and asking me if we were going to do a student matinee of a Shakespeare this year," said Courtneay Sanders, who serves as co-artistic director for PH alongside Chris Crawford. "Chris was already working on this version. We talked about it and decided to do it."
What Crawford ended up doing was adapting Othello for a smaller cast. Sanders was quick to point out that it is not a rewrite of Shakespeare. I mean, not even Baz Luhrman had the stones to rewrite Willy's words.
"It's an adaptation," Sanders said. "The only thing he did was condense the characters into six actors. He didn't rewrite any of the language. It's the same text, so I wouldn't even say he condensed it. The way it's adapted, it accommodates six actors. The structure of the play is there and intact."
Truth be told, there was a little cutting, but ask anyone who's ever seen a Hamlet that was less than five hours long, and they'll tell you that cutting Shakespeare is almost a necessity in our Ritalin world. Besides, Crawford didn't cut all that much.
"I think he ended up cutting one role of an uncle who walks in at the very end of the play, but all of the central characters are there," Sanders said. Which is a good thing, because what's Othello without, you know, Othello? Just Desdemona and that jackass Iago. No one wants to see that.
A relatively new twist to PH's performances this year is something they're calling Smash performances, which this year will bring sign language for the hearing impaired to the stage for select shows.
"Smash performances are performances that benefit local charities and organizations," Sanders said. "We did a Smash performance of A Charlie Brown Christmas for the Little Lighthouse. Because it's a school for special needs students, we had an interpreter. That led us to think about having an interpreter for other shows."
"We started talking about incorporating interpretation for all our performances. That's something we're doing this season and added a special performance on Saturday the 16th with the interpreter," Sanders said.
One might wonder just exactly how this staging-two-plays-at-once thing might work.
"It was taxing," Sanders said.
While there are 12 actors involved in the Barefoot-Othello productions, only Sanders and Crawford are in both shows. This makes things a little easier on the others, and harder on Sanders and Crawford as actors, but also as rehearsal schedulers.
"We rehearsed Barefoot on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday afternoons, and we did Othello Tuesdays and Thursdays and Saturday nights, and a few Sundays," she said. "There were times when we were rehearsing seven days a week. It was a lot, but it's what we enjoy doing, so it makes it all worth it."
Then there's the idea of learning lines for two shows (and I specifically didn't say "learning two roles," because in Crawford's six-man version of Othello, Sanders plays multiple roles).
"It was taxing, but Shakespeare is not difficult to memorize because of the scansion," she said.
Right. The scansion. I was totally thinking that would make it easier.
"We've been in rehearsal since the beginning of January, and I've known since last fall that I was going to do Barefoot, so I was already looking at those lines. And I'm one of the smaller roles in Othello. It didn't feel like too much work. It was a lot of fun," she added.
What may stand out as the most difficult thing is that between the student matinees - which are all sold out - and the public performances, there will be three straight days where Sanders and Crawford perform Othello in the morning and Barefoot in the Park in the evening.
And there ain't a lot of common elements between these two shows, and I don't just mean the language.
"This is a huge set," Sanders said of the Barefoot set. "It's a full apartment for Barefoot, so we'll be dropping the grand drape and doing Othello on the stage apron. We'll have 10 feet of space to do that one."
For this version of Othello, there won't be anyone in tights, and no castle walls surrounding the action. Rather, the set is what Sanders calls "theatrical."
"We've got a couple of platforms, four chairs, and two tables," Sanders said. "We're not carrying around rapiers and wearing tights. It's not done in the traditional Elizabethan style. The dress is modern, and the set is suggestive. You won't see walls. It's not a realistic set."
The shows don't share a set, and they can't really share costumes either ("Barefoot takes place in 1963, and our Othello is modern. They're two completely different shows."), so this really is two completely different theatrical productions living side-by-side, sharing only Sanders and Crawford.
Holy crap, this is a huge undertaking.
Barefoot in the Park runs Feb. 8-9 and 14-16 at 7:30pm and Feb. 10 at 2pm. Othello plays Feb. 13 at 7:30pm and again on Feb. 16 at 2pm. Both shows are presented in the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's John H. Williams Theatre, 110 E. 2nd St. Tickets are available through tulsapac.com or by phone at 918-596-7111.
One of Tulsa's most accomplished chamber music ensembles presents a Valentine's Day concert and dinner at the Philbrook on, of all days, Valentine's Day.
Attempting to take a look at three different kinds of love, Tulsa Camerata will present a string quartet based on a platonic relationship between composer Leos Janaek, and a young woman, said relationship spanning more than 700 letters' worth. Remember when you wrote letters? Me either. A piano trio written by Carter Pann -- who will be on hand to talk about the piece after the show -- and performed by guest pianist Avguste Antonov reveals Pann's love for his nephew, and finally, Arnold Schoenberg's Transfigured Night will close the evening. This string sextet stems from inspiration from Richard Dehmel's poem about love and the transformative power it carries with it.
Transfigured Night bows Thursday, Feb. 14 at 7:30pm in the Patti Johnson Wilson Hall at Philbrook Museum of Art located at 2727 South Rockford Road. General admission tickets are $20 and available through TC's website at tulsacamerata.org.
It's not Steam Punk
Continuing in the chamber music vein is the Tesla Quartet, made up of what looks like 12-year-olds. However, since the group formed five years ago at Julliard, they've got to be at least in their teens.
They're actually all adults, but I'm just getting old, so everyone looks like a whippersnapper.
Anyway, Chamber Music Tulsa brings this stunningly gifted quartet to town for a grueling schedule of performances and workshops.
The group will hold workshops at the Barthelmes Music Conservatory and at Edison High School (even though Thomas Alva himself couldn't carry the quartet's namesake's jock), but there will be plenty of public performances, as well.
Free performances are Wednesday, Feb. 13 at noon at the downtown public library, again at 4:30pm at the downtown transit terminal, and Saturday, Feb. 16 at 11am at Harwelden Mansion. This is more of an open rehearsal than a concert, and will feature Carter Pann, he of the Tulsa Camerata piece, because while he's in town, we may as well make him work for it.
More formal concerts will be held Saturday night in the PAC's Westby Pavilion and Sunday at 3pm in the Williams Theatre. Tickets and more information are available either through chambermusictulsa.org or myticketoffice.com.
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