Monday, April 20, 2009

Finding old friends

I thought I had already blogged about a remarkable bit of coincidence that happened last autumn, but I was searching for it so I could refer to it in the post I intended to make today, and it's not there. So I guess today's topic will be tomorrow's, and thus, I'm now starting a three-day series of sorts.

When Siobhan and I lived in Juneau, Alaska, we did some backstage work for the community theatre company Theatre In The Rough. Siobhan was stage manager and usually did sound, while I was brought in to do lights and a bit of help on the production of posters and the like. We were involved in five shows over two seasons, including two Shakespeare, two children's theatre, and one other. (We still have the posters for them up on our wall.) When we moved to Vermont we looked to get into community theatre but we were disappointed to find nothing even close to comparable in artistic value (as we saw it); one abortive attempt to work on a production of 1776 was the beginning and end of it. Frankly, there might be theatre around here we'd want to be involved in, but there's too much else in our lives already and theatre is a huge time-consumer, so we haven't pushed it.

But we still appreciate the theatre and have gone to see productions a number of times. A few years ago, a long weekend getaway in the Berkshires included a visit to Shakespeare & Company which impressed us greatly, so when we learned at least year's Saratoga Arts Fest that their production of Hamlet (my favorite by far of Shakespeare's plays, but oddly enough, one I'd never seen performed on stage) was going on the road, and that their first performance would be in Rutland, we absolutely had to go.

While waiting for the show to start, we read through the program. The actor playing Horatio mentioned in his paragraph working in theatre in Juneau, and we wondered if we had met him, and were working through the names, "what was the name of the guy who played so-and-so..." and finally concluded, could that be the guy who played-- and then the play started, and out came Jake, and we both said, holy cow, that's Jake!

Jake's very first time acting was in the Theatre in the Rough production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which was the first Shakespeare play I'd ever worked on, and only the second play I'd been involved with. He was still in high school at the time. We still have a (pretty poor) videotape of that performance. After we moved away he was just one of many people we expected never to see or hear from again. Skip ahead fifteen years, and apparently, he'd stayed in theatre, and we happened to be at his very first performance ever with Shakespeare & Company, right up in the third row.

During the intermission we tried to get someone to let us say hi, see if he remembered us, but all the stage manager would do is let us send a note back he could see after the show. Understandable; the show must go on, after all. After the show we hung about a bit and were just about giving up when he came out, astounded to see us, of the coincidence that at his second "debut" he should run into people who were involved in his first debut, three thousand miles away. He only had a few minutes before he had to get on the bus but we exchanged myspace contact information and got caught up over the next few days.

Incidentally, the performance of Hamlet was really good. It must be hard for a director to approach something like Hamlet and try to find something new to do while still preserving the artistic integrity of Shakespeare's creation. Some of the changes and the staging weren't what I would have done, but none of it detracted from the production, and some of it cast some interesting new light on the play and the words.

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