And in the wood, where often you and I
Upon faint primrose-beds were wont to lie,
Emptying our bosoms of their counsel sweet,
There my Lysander and myself shall meet
— Hermia, A Midsummer Night’s Dream 1.1
Walking into the Armory Theatre last night, home of Portland Center Stage, everything except for the play was unknown. I had not yet seen an Anonymous Theatre Company production, which in earlier years was by special invite. A regular fixture in the Portland theatre calendar, their one-night-a-year productions advertise only the director(s) and the play title, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The cast isn’t known to us, or even to one another. Last night, the night of the show, was the first they saw the stage, said these words in public, formed these relationships within the world of the play. The actors were come in amongst us, having taken their seats in the audience to wait out their cue—one even so long as act five. In a play about unexpected transformations, the added level of secrecy and coordinated reveals left me wondering to what extent I rely on the affect of surprise to buoy me through a theatrical experience.
¶ Over the past month or so, I’ve been fortunate to sit-in on the process of developing Charise Castro Smith’s Feathers & Teeth for Artist Repertory Theatre here in Portland. The “Fresh Eyes” program, part of the theatre’s Table|Room|Stage initiative, invites respondents from diverse backgrounds to join rehearsals at all the different stages of development—from first-day design pitches to the champaign toast in the green room on opening night—and then to share their observations in a series of blog posts. Another local Shakespearean, Dr. Daniel Pollack-Pelzner (Linfield College), shared his posts for their recent Paula Vogel play, A Civil War Christmas, with me and I couldn’t resist.
¶ My current book project is on the repertory system and the ways in which it structured the Elizabethan theatre industry as well as the playgoing experience. Watching those companies that continue to use the system—even in its much-changed form—is immensely helpful at these early stages in the project. (Which might be to say, at this stage of re-conceiving the doctoral dissertation as a monograph.) All the better, I got to share the experience with Anthony Hudson (a.k.a. Carla Rossi), a powerhouse drag artists specializing in clown and/as horror. Not only did I get to observe practitioners in process, but I got to chat and get feedback from another observing practitioner! Here’s what we saw:
¶ I can’t thank Luan Schooler enough for the lovely opportunity, as well as the production team who were so incredibly welcoming and forthcoming with any questions that I had. Feathers & Teeth runs through 2 April. Grab tickets here while they last!