Thursday, May 26, 2016

All the world's a stage

I sit in the movie theater and see the adds for Fathom Events, the classic movies that will show for a day or two. I say to myself, “Oh, that looks interesting,” and then I go home and forget what days they were showing. I’ve done this forever. I’m not even sure what “Fathom” is.

Eventually, though, I signed up to receive emails and discovered there are whole lots of Fathom Events that I never knew existed. Monday night, Robin, Julie, and I saw The Shakespeare Show in honor of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. (I didn’t know he died on the same day as his birthday.)
It was put on by the Royal Shakespeare Company and was hosted by Dr. Who and Donna. (That was the real draw for me – David Tennant.) There were extraordinary bits of Shakespeare’s words, of course, but there was also music, ballet, even hip-hop, comedy, and film – all inspired by Shakespeare. I didn’t know Duke Ellington wrote a whole album (Such Sweet Thunder) after being enthralled by Shakespeare. I’d never heard Cole Porter’s “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” … sung by two tough guys.

It was two glorious hours of artists doing their art. They were so very, very good. Clearly the hit of the evening for me was Ian McKellen in Sir Thomas More confronting a mob that was opposing immigration and rejecting the strangers arriving in their land. Or was it the most exquisite ballet I’ve ever seen, the one between Othello and Desdemona? No, I think it was Macbeth’s three witches … done in Zulu from South Africa (Umabatha) and as Japanese theater in Japan. Miraculously, they worked cross-culturally; they were Shakespeare, but they were also African and Japanese.
Oh, there were so many takes on “to be or not to be.” Every time something new happened, I’d think, “Oh, remember this so you can tell Tim,” and then something else would captivate me.

I don’t write theater reviews. I don’t blog about seeing a great movie, reading a great book, or finding a new series even though those happen a lot, maybe even more, in the leisure of my Third Third. Those experiences don’t count as New Things; they’re the continuing facts of my life. But this was something else. There must have been twenty separate vignettes or performances, all of them flawlessly done. What a tribute! In recognizing Shakespeare’s contributions, they were showcasing what artistry there is in adapting his work, performing his work, making it fresh and new.

There were only about twenty people in the audience so it looks mostly undiscovered. But this is the exciting part: they’re doing National Theatre Live in which they bring London’s stage performances to the screen. Julie’s already bought her tickets for October and November, the Benedict Cumberbatch performances. I’m starting with the one in June.

Sometimes, in my quest for New Things to make sure I don’t get stale, I have to hunt them down. I have to extend myself, search it out, expend some energy. Other times, it might be right around the corner – a hidden secret – and I miss the clues. This one may have been right around the corner, but for an evening, I was in Stratford-upon-Avon.


  1. Thanks. I was not aware of this. I have gone to "Live at the Met," which seems to be the same sort of thing for opera. Next up is "Tosca," on June 22.

  2. I saw Frankenstein when they showed it a couple of years ago. Don't miss it.

    1. Ah, that explains why they call these upcoming ones the "encore series."


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