Oh Heavens! I just logged in and saw that I’ve only done one post in the last year. Where did the time go? What have I been doing? I love theatre, and I go see plays every week. I always have some thoughts about them when they’re over, though it appears that I haven’t been logging in too many of them. But I was inspired by a play that I saw tonight, and as I left I decided that I would go home and write a gonzo blog post. So I walked into my apartment, sat down (in the chair where I am now) and I won’t get up until I’m done. It’s time to share the love:
I just went to a theatre in downtown San Francisco called the boxcar. It’s in a dark alley of one of the last gritty blocks left in downtown San Francisco. This micro-neighborhood seems to have missed all the gentrification that’s happened since I moved here twenty years ago. I don’t know if that’s why I didn’t visit the Boxcar till this month. But they finally got my attention by doing not one but two modern plays featuring characters created by Shakespeare. The first one, which was only done on four nights, was called “Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet.)” I’d never seen anything quite like it. The main character gets to step into two Shakespeare plays, prevent tragedies, and then find out what happens instead.
I quickly became caught up in what was going on. It actually wasn’t about Desdemona and Juliet so much as it was about the modern woman stuck in grad school somewhere who went back and met them. She was, it seemed, learning about herself; not changing Shakespeare’s stories, but her own. And that was a really interesting idea. And a great production! This was a fully staged performance that was put together just to be done when the main show was dark, which meant I saw it on a Monday night. When it was over I was amazed at what I had seen, the hard work that had gone into it, and how I lucky I was to have gotten the chance to experience it.
Tonight I saw the main show, still running in the same space, which was just called “Desdemona.” There was what might have been a subtitle that asked the question, “What if Desdemona really was a whore?” I’m not sure if that is an actual part of the name of the play. I’ll do the research later. This is my gut reaction to what I saw, and I dug it. “Desdemona” was kind of like Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead,” in that it is a look at some scenes that were missing from another play. The play in this case would be “Othello,” though the Moor himself did not appear. (For a moment he could be heard slapping his wife offstage.)
There was just Emelia, Desdemona and Bianca and a story about what they might have been really like. How did they end up in the situation that they were in? Why did they behave the way they did? In this play their fates didn’t change, but who they might have been did. “Othello” is not one of my favorite plays but now I’m looking forward to seeing it again from the perspective of these three women.
I was once again impressed by the efforts of a great cast and everyone else involved in putting on the show. I’m not sure what all this means. The boxcar theatre itself is small, but the talent in it is gigantic. And the alley the theatre is on isn’t really that dark. It’s got streetlights and there’s a lot of traffic going by and it’s easy to get to. I’ll be going back there again. There’s a lot there to be discovered – and that, perhaps, is what both of these plays were about.
PS – “Goodnight Desdemona…” was the second play I’ve seen recently that featured ukulele playing, and it sounded wonderful. If this is the beginning of a trend, that’s fine with me.