FROM SHREW TO CHICAGO by Barbara Biddison
Sounds like a song, "From Shrew to Chicago zisboombah." Well, after the past few days I feel like clapping and singing a happy song. First a trip to see a granddaughter in her first play. And our first time away from home in two years. Then back home to head for the Deane and a Saturday performance of SHREW in the Coolidge Theatre. Theatre-in-the round is something I have grown to appreciate. For one thing, as an audience member I feel like I am right there in the middle of the action. And, in this case, I thought that director Clare Ritter had blocked the movement of the actors so I could see them all from where I sat. And I could hear them too. And I could watch them interact with each other. It is a much more "immediate" audience experience. There's nothing like being involved with characters that came initially from Shakespeare's pen and have been cleverly embellished by a modern director. And there's nothing like an encircled playing area that includes the audience in it all.
I also was interested in the more modern treatment of language in SHREW. I've seen and heard a lot of Shakespeare, at least since I was about 17. I can understand the language as he wrote it, and I get the story, but I am well aware that some others are not so fortunate. SHREW removed that barrier and gave us words that all could understand, and, in addition, the actors were good at projecting and having movement emphasize thought! I would hope that audience members, previously convinced that they could not understand Shakespeare, would now be ready to head for Stratford, Ontario, and see professional actors present Shakespeare.
Then, unable to go for more than a day without theatre we headed for CHICAGO. Well, not the actual city, the musical by that name. This very ambitious choice of the " teen edition" was admirably produced by the Cowanesque Valley Drama Club.under the direction of Dave Wert. (He's back! After a few years in the Marines and then at a totally different kind of school, he's back.) And, oh my, what a high school production this was. There was an on-stage orchestra, in front of which the action took place. There was a lot of action. These high school actors, the leads and the ensemble, were rehearsed to perfection. They sang, they danced, and they performed intricate movements together for a couple hours. If a dozen of them were to pick up their chair and put it down with an audible tap, they executed this movement with confidence and absolute unity. Oh what a treat it was to see these high school students perform like this and obviously have a great time knowing how good they were. Theatre is alive and well in rural northern Pennsylvania.