And now for the latest installment in the increasingly incorrectly titled series:
Tuesday's Artists I Love
Shelby and Shannon. (And by extension, Sound and Fury, although I haven't seen them perform yet as a troupe.)
So one day last winter I got a bad hankering for the Renaissance Faire experience. Mead, turkey legs, jousting . . . I'm sure you know what that craving feels like. Pamela and I went to Scarborough Faire twice in our youth and had an absolute blast (although the second trip involved me replacing the starter in our '78 Mustang II in a downpour). I Googled "Renaissance Faire" and "Los Angeles" and found The Renaissance Pleasure Faire at the picturesque Santa Fe Dam Recreational Facility.
Pamela and I made the jaunt out last Sunday (4/9/06) and had a goode olde tyme! It fills me with shivers of delight to reflect on how marvelous the whole Ren Faire scene is. I would like to be a part of that scene as a performer, but it occurs to me like any other venue, it helps to have at least a toe in the the scene. In other words, I don't know how likely it is a long-established Ren Faire is going to book "Sir Andrew and his Marvelous Punch and Judy Extravaganza!" for its worldwide debut. Maybe I'm wrong. Faire folk seem pretty easy going.
Anyway . . . We're on our way out (Pam had her pole class that night) but I don't want to leave just yet. I see this feisty dude yelling "Come see the best show in the Shire! Pyramus and Thisby, for your viewing enjoyment . . ." or something like that. I says to Pam "Hey, do you want to catch one last show before we head out?" She asks what show, I tell her it's "Pyramus and Thisby" and she says "Oh yeah. I wanted to see how they handle Shakespeare." We buy a cookie and take an aisle seat.
I have seen and participated in plenty of outdoor performances, many of them not that good. Amusement parks, Ren Faires, Zoos . . . these are not ideal venues. The environment is loud and chaotic. The audiences attach no value to the performances (they are essentially free performances), and so feel free to come and go during the shows. There are few things worse than a transient audience. Add to this scenario struggling artists who are perhaps a bit tired of doing the same shtick over and over and over, and you have a recipe for crappy theatre.
Ah . . . but every now and again something miraculous happens: An audience arrives eager audit, and the performers arrive eager to perform. Both sides of the equation are there to have a good time, and thus a good time is had by all! This was certainly the case on Sunday (although I believe that Shelby and Shannon could drag a good time out of the surliest of audiences.)
And so it was that our noble tespians preseted THE TRAGEDY OF PYRAMUS AND THISBY, the play-within-a-play from A Midsummer Night's Dream. Two star-crossed lovers speak back and forth through a hole in a wall, schedule a clandestine meeting, and wind up committing suicide. He thinks she was eaten by a lion, and so stabs himself. She finds his lifeless form and follows him to an untimely and tragic demise. (Stupid Shakespearean star-crossed set, skewering selves and slinging sentience southward to Styx.)
The performance was very energetic and engaging. The humor was bawdy and dirty in places, but in a good, old-fashioned "Looney Toons" kind of way (i.e. I'm certain the kids and the adults were laughing for different reasons at times.) Shelby and Shannon really involved the audience in the performance, which is so important. (Pamela was even enlisted to play the wall!) Our thespians were quite professional and pretty freaking polished for this style of theatre.
The larger group of which they are a part, Sound and Fury, is previewing Sherlock Holmes and the Saline Solution in L.A. this weekend. Pamela and I are planning on being there.
If you're in the area, you should be, too!