National Theatre Live: “The Tempest” starring Roger Allam (Game of Thrones)

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Viserys (Harry Lloyd) laughs w/ Illyrio (Roger Allam) on HBO’s “Game of Thrones”

Recently, my mom (a fellow fan of Shakespeare) and I saw a filmed version of The Tempest (from the remade Globe Theatre) at Landmark Bethesda Row.  The role of Prospero was played by Roger Allam, who some of you know as Illyrio Mopatis from HBO’s Game of Thrones.  Illyrio is a wealthy and powerful Magister in Pentos; he is a dealer in spices, gemstones, dragonbone, etc.  For a time, he served as custodian of the exiled Targaryen children and seeks to return them to the Iron Throne.  Illyrio also arranged the marriage between the Dothraki leader, Khal Drogo, and the teenaged Danerys Targaryen.

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I’ve seen Prospero played as a benign schoolmaster, colonial overlord and Faustian necromancer.  But Roger Allam brings something new to the party by suggesting that Prospero is first and foremost a father: what we see, in this riveting performance of Shakespeare’s usurped protagonist, is a man torn between possessive concern for his adored Miranda and recognition that she is an agent of reconciliation with his enemies.  -Michael Billington (The Guardian)

The Tempest, in essence, is a small story-  the exiled Duke of Milan, Prospero, and his teen daughter, Miranda, are living on a secluded island peopled by magical spirits (including Ariel) and the son of a “witch” (Caliban).  Propero carries a wand and wears a cloak when he’s performing magic in this version of the play.    

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 Magic is created through simple means, such as a shower of petals descending from the sky or Stephen Warbeck’s music emanating from every corner of the building. Herrin sometimes slows the pace to maximise the laughs, but he gets good performances from Jessie Buckley and Joshua James as the enraptured lovers, Colin Morgan as a nimble Ariel and James Garnon as a Caliban who burps and spits in the groundlings’ faces.  -Michael Billington (The Guardian)

This play contains some of The Bard’s most-quoted lines, including “Oh, what brave new world with such people in it!”  Miranda exclaims this when she first sees the men from Milan up close.  Until then, she’d only seen her betrothed- Ferdinand, who’s used for comedy in this production (youthful earnestness with wide eyes).  Ariel is not feminized, as is often done- he’s handsome, limber (does some acrobatics), and slyly funny.    

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Meet Singer/Songwriter Kip Moore- An Unique Voice in Country Music

Kip Moore- why didn’t I hear his fabulous voice earlier!?  (I’ve gotten behind on the country music scene! ) He co-wrote two tracks on Thompson Square’s self-titled debut album which was released in February 2011: All the Way and Let’s Fight, the latter of which was their debut single.  Moore (now aged 34) hit Nashville in 2004.  He was born in Tifton, GA (near the Florida line) to a golf pro father and a creative/musical mother (who played the organ in church).  He was the youngest boy in large family. “You had to make your own fun, for sure. I had a lot of time for daydreaming. It was a great town, but I dreamed about getting out. I do enjoy going back now.”

Beer Money

He [his father] would play a lot of Jackson Browne, Willie Nelson, Bob Seger, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen.  As early as I can remember, I always gravitated toward lyrics. Even when I hadn’t lived enough to understand them, they still shaped me. -Moore on his early musical influences

Crazy One More Time

Moore isn’t flashy, but the subtle frame he creates for his blue-collar portraits make the images seem that much more real. It also suggests he’s confident in his songs and his performance. Which he ought to be.  -Tom Rowland (Billboard Country Monitor)

Dirt Road (Official Music Video)

For years, I have been searching for the missing link between blue-collar rock and country music. This year, I think I have heard it. His name is Kip Moore. There is fiery, urgent intensity in his voice. His lyrics vibrate with conviction and true grit. The melodies have gripping, heart-in-throat passion… This man just might be the hillbilly Springsteen.  -Journalist/historian Robert K. Oermann (Music Row)

Heart’s Desire

I didn’t know a whole lot about the world of songwriting.  I just did it for my own enjoyment.

Hey Pretty Girl (Official Music Video)

I am drawn to the real-life experiences between a woman and a man. I try to sing about the way it is, but yet at the same time, what you can hope for between a couple. I don’t intend to paint a picture of what it’s really not. 

Something Bout A Truck

Young Love (Official Music Video)

National Theatre Live: “A Streetcar Named Desire” starring Gillian Anderson

streetcar-posterThere’s no one Hamlet, there’s no one… Lady Macbeth, there’s no one Blanche DuBois.  -Michael Kahn, artistic director (Shakespeare Theatre Company, DC)

Gillian Anderson is one of several middle-aged actresses (she’s American) who have gone “across the pond” to work in the UK, France, etc; another example is Kristin Scott Thomas (who has lately been acting in her adopted second language- French).  I’m sure that many of my regular readers know of Anderson (now 46 y.o.) from The House of Mirth and Bleak House.  While mainstream Hollywood ignores women over 40, even beautiful and talented ones, the stage is another case.  There are more roles in the theater, many have argued, including that of Tennessee Williams’ sensitive, troubled, and ultimately tragic- Blanche DuBois. 

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I’ve wanted to do Streetcar for many years.  It’s kind of the next thing I needed to do before I aged myself out of the role.  I had a conversation with [director] Benedict Andrews, and he was interested.  It was a matter of finding a theater.”  -Gillian Anderson

Last month, I saw a filmed version of A Streetcar Named Desire (from London’s Young Vic Theatre) at Landmark Bethesda Row with a small audience.  Many people don’t know about these screenings, but I learned about it via an email newsletter from Landmark.  (I’m a big fan of the movie version; you can read my review here.)  I was surprised to see that Stanley would be played by Ben Foster, the star of one of my all-time favorite films, Liberty Heights.  (Recently, Foster made news with his engagement to actress Robin Wright.)

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The play takes a bit of time to get going (as expected), but Anderson is superb throughout.  She knows how to play the different sides of the character: alcohol-dependent, literary, sensitive, witty, etc.  Stella escaped from Belle Reve (the family home) into the brutish arms of Stanley.  Blanche is the one that had to deal with its “ruin” and their dying parents.  (Williams grew up in a highly dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father, repressed/hysterical mother, and younger sister who eventually was put in a mental asylum.  He came out in his mid- 20s and began a healthy relationship with his male partner in his 30s.) 

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Blanche DuBois, the fallen Southern belle, has been a character so rich and so complex that bringing her to life is one of acting’s greatest challenges.  Playing her is like climbing Mount Everest, both physically and emotionally demanding.  Actresses talk of losing their voice, suffering bouts of depression or having anxiety attacks while playing the part.  Yet they covet the role.  -Lynn Neary (NPR)

I especially liked the scenes between Blanche and Stella (played by Vanessa Kirby), the little sister who “sells her out” in the end.  Kirby is tall and stunning, yet vulnerable, resembling Michelle Monaghan to a high degree.

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Character actor Corey Johnson (you’ve seen him somewhere before) does a fine job as Mitch, Blanche’s awkward/hesitant suitor.  Both Mitch and Blanche, though opposites in many ways, have lost someone they loved as very young people.  Yes, this play is quite heavy, but it’s definitely worth a look or two!