Staunton, VA Archives

June 26, 2008



The Blackfriars Playhouse is home to the American Shakespeare Center, and where our group from UVa will be seeing three plays in repertory this week: King Lear, Twelfth Night, and Measure For Measure. The theater is modeled on the the indoor theater used by the King's Men--Shakespeare's acting company (the larger Globe was used in summer months) and is an intimate and charming facility.

This afternoon we met with thirteen actors from the ASC company and went through an audition exercise to cast King Lear. We'll see tonight how close our choices were to the actual production.

June 27, 2008

If Music Be The Food Of Love, Play On


The enjoyable performance of Twelfth Night just finished up and I am now at a nearby restaurant in Staunton for the cast party (tonight was opening night for this play). It was cool to see the same group of actors scrambled around in parts very different from what they portrayed in Lear last night. The same troupe will put on Measure For Measure tomorrow.

I saw two other versions of Twelfth Night staged: a student production in the Paul Mellon Arts Center at Choate in either 1988 or 1989, if memory serves, and then an all-star cast (Michelle Pfeiffer, Jeff Goldblum, John Amos, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, et al.) in Central Park in a Public Theater production when I was a Klingenstein Summer Fellow at Columbia. (You can read Frank Rich's New York Times review of the latter show here.)

July 17, 2009

3G Free Zone

I drove over to Staunton from Charlottesville. Neither of these places has 3G coverage on the AT&T network. I guess I'm not all that surprised that Staunton, nestled in the Shenandoah valley, doesn't merit such coverage, but you'd think Charlottesville would receive the superior wireless network band. Now that my iPhone is on the Edge network when out of Wi-Fi range, I am reminded how much slower my first-generation iPhone was before I upgraded last month.

July 18, 2009

Sweet Spot In Kindle Pricing


I had pre-ordered the forthcoming book The Defector, the next in the Gabriel Allon series of spy novels from Daniel Silva, but since it would come out next Tuesday during my week in D.C., I thought I'd have it downloaded to the Kindle so I could dig into it right away. So I cancelled my order for the hard copy. The problem is right now the e-book costs just a dollar less than the traditional format--almost $15. My hope is that the price will drop to $9.99 when the book is released and I will download it then.

And That's The Way It Is


R.I.P. Walter Cronkite. This man WAS television news in my household when I was a kid. I can't remember the television in our home being tuned to anything else in the dinner hour. The obits all seem to agree his style was avuncular, and that's just the word. Back then CBS News was the leading light in broadcast journalism--the house that Murrow built--and Cronkite its high priest. Polls determined he was the most trusted man in America and he was a pillar of stability for the country through troubled times (i.e. assassinations, Vietnam, Watergate).

The Morning Report


I've received three issues of the International Herald Tribune on my Kindle now, and I must admit reading a paper this way is growing on me. I can't imagine not being able to spread out with the various sections of, say, the Sunday New York Times. And missing the ads is not entirely a positive thing (one discovers upcoming concerts and shows, new books, and such that way, after all). But for about 25ยข an issue, electronic delivery is a cheap way to get the IHT. And it will be MUCH cheaper than what I'd have to pay for an issue at the newsstand when I am in Europe next month. (Though because Amazon's Whispernet doesn't work outside the U.S., I'll have to sync the Kindle with my laptop each morning over an Internet connection in order to download the latest edition.)

Blackfriars I: Much Ado


After being introduced to the American Shakespeare Center last summer during my program at UVa, I returned to the Blackfriars Playhouse this year to catch a trio of Shakespeare productions. This first of these, a matinee of Much Ado About Nothing, was an enjoyable romp. The philosophy of this company is "we do it with the lights on," which means the indoor theater lighting replicates what existed in Jacobean times, when the actors could see the audience, rather than having a lighted stage and a darkened house. So there is lots of interplay with playgoers seated near the stage (and no one is very far from it in this venue!). The ASC this incorporates a lot of improvisational bits, which are especially effective in the comedies.

Blackfriars II: Merry Wives


The Merry Wives Of Windsor has been described as the Shakespearean equivalent of a situation comedy. In it we see Sir John Falstaff of the Henry IV plays as the comic centerpiece of the action. Some critics dismiss the Falstaff of this work as having nothing to do with the magnificent creation inhabiting the taverns of Eastcheap in the history plays. That seems a bit snobbish to me. This is certainly another angle on Falstaff. As one observer noted, the Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part II is arguably not the same man we saw onscreen in its antecedent film. At any rate, there was much merriment indeed, especially in the antics of Master Ford and Doctor Caius, who milked their roles for laughs.



iTunes dropped the prices on Seasons 1 and 2 of the Dr. Who spinoff Torchwood by about 33%, so I purchased the HD versions, which will be good to watch back home on the Samsung flat screen. I can also take them with me to England.

July 19, 2009

Cinderella Story?


59-year-old Tom Watson nearly had his storybook ending, coming tantalizingly close to a sixth British Open title. I was following the end of the tournament and the leaders were heading for a playoff after 18 as I was heading into the theater. It's intermission now, and I've learned Watson's bid for late-career glory fell just short. But it's still a Cinderella story: this guy at nearly 60 was a factor contending for this major title all four days. Bravo!

July 17, 2010

Othello At The ASC


Othello at its best is hard-hitting stuff and I enjoyed the ASC's take on the tragedy. Good casting, of course, is the key: a deliciously manipulative Iago and a Moorish general who can be both an imposing leader and a gullible jealous husband are essential and the folks at Blackfriars were convincing.

The Taming Of The Shrew At The ASC


I love the approach to Shakespeare that the ASC takes: lightning-quick pacing, judicious cuts to keep the action to roughly two hours of stage time, lots of interaction with the audience, and appropriate injections of humor wherever possible. So this company has turned me around a bit on The Taming Of The Shrew. I've only seen this performed once before--two years ago in Stratford-upon-Avon--and if you asked me before today which of The Bard's plays was my least favorite, this one would be at least in the top three. But today I came to appreciate the work a lot more.

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