They included multimedia in several performances, film, animation, text, etc. the lighting was part of the story. When Olivia in Twelfth Night fell in love the red lights suffused the whole Elizabethan stage. In Hamlet, soliloquies had green lights and freeze action. Throne of Blood had film, black outs, brilliant lights.
And aside from the contemporary and recent plays, where you expect it, Shakespeare is all about exactly the way we behave today. Nothing has changed, greed, power, land, love, lust, betrayal, its all there, with the poetic dialogue that we have to read over and over after the play in order to pick up all the nuances.
The plays we saw in order were
The play within a play in Hamlet ( where he lets his mother and step father know that he knows they killed his father) was performed to music by Outkast, J-Z, LL Kool J, and Tupac. But the lines were all from Shakespeare. What a tour de force.
Hamlet ( Don Donovan) in a suit with pink rose petals floating all around him was the great promotional image. Here is the tee shirt "What a Piece of Work is Man"
The dialog was an English translation of Kirosawa's clipped Japanese improvisation of the Macbeth story. So it was avant garde. It was intentionally not smoothly flowing, which I didn't get at first. I thought it was an awful lot of layers, Scottish king in English play, adapted by Japanese film director, re adapted by Chinese director for American actors.
But visually it was phenomenal.
The last Macbeth that I saw was a feminist interpretation with the witches doubled in number and becoming a covey around Lady Macbeth. In this version, there was a Forest spirit who seemed to be bisexual, and only "Lady Macbeth", now Lady Asaji played brilliantly by Ako, an actress trained in Japan, who really knew about the Noh theatre that the actions in the play adopted. She bolted the whole play together, as a tiny figure in red in center stage radiating incredible power, apparently backstage as well, in her coaching of the actors on Noh movements
Next day we saw She Loves Me, a fun musical. It felt good to laugh and enjoy good singing. Apparently these Shakespearean actors can also sing.
The stage froze near the last act when the electricity went out in Ashland, just as the lead singer Lisa McCormick had finished a song about vanilla icecream. She sat down on her bed and said to us "want some, I think I am stuck."
Her bed was supposed to whoosh away.
And of course, Shakespeare was so far ahead of his time in all this playing with gender identities.
He has wonderful powerful women in all his plays too.
Prince Hal in
And then the very next morning we had Prince Hal for a back stage tour at 10am after a double bill the day before.
Richard Montoya about this play.
Apparently, I picked the right year to start coming to Ashland. Bill Rauch is from the heart of the LA alternative theater scene, and he is bringing in people, ideas, and vibes from that scene. It is really exciting.
So that was our marathon in Ashland.