You all know I enjoy theatre. I’ve posted about the shows I attend often enough. But during a pandemic…ugh. I want to support them and all, but to watch it on my TV is not even close to what I do it for. I’m so proud of Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Portland Center Stage for continuing to produce material and provide it to us in our homes. Still. I just haven’t got on board for a full dramatic production on my screen. I have not watched a single play.
Until this performance of Paradise Lost.
Maybe I won’t buy tickets to support a whole theatre project, but I apparently will support specific people. Two of them in this case. I have an actor friend who I met in college. His name is Sheldon Best and I think his work is outstanding, and he’s also a super sweet, amazingly generous and kind person. The other actor, Daniel José Molina, is not a friend but someone I spotted at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Daniel’s work mesmerized me, and I’ve been a fan ever since. I follow them both on Instagram. One day, Sheldon posted a little blurb about this upcoming performance and I checked it out, and I was all, “Holy Moly! BOTH of them are in it!” I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited. So I bought tickets.
Red Bull Theatre is actually offering the performance for free, but is asking for donations, which of course I agree with. The performance of Part I was on April 12, and Part II was last night. The live version was on the two Mondays, where I could stream the performance on my TV and then interact with other viewers on my phone. Like so many of our video experiences these days, there was a running commentary scrolling away during the entire performance, so I got to exclaim “out loud” in that way, when I wanted to react. Yo, if you look right now, Part II is still on YouTube for a couple days.
The actors introduced themselves in the beginning, and were Zooming in from all around the country, which was pretty cool. I soon discovered that the backgrounds were used to set the scene, just like background are used on stage. With greenery you see above to represent the Garden of Eden, a black and red jagged background to show Hell, and my favourite of all was the top of a gold escalator surrounded by clouds that represented Heaven.
Oh. I should mention the story itself, if you haven’t guessed the gist of it by now. The poet John Milton wrote the epic Paradise Lost in 1667. It’s a detailed look at what the heck God was up to when she created things, her relationship with Jesus, the first humans, with Lucifer and all the angels. It’s Milton’s attempts to explain and justify it all, missing, perhaps, the hubris that he felt he was the man to provide an explanation on God’s behalf. There was some annoying “delicate female” stuff in there, but Gisela Chipe did a great job of making the role powerful and dignified despite the script’s tired stereotypes. It was billed as a “reading” and not a play, so there wasn’t much moving around, most of the story relied on voices and faces, and subtle clothing and hair changes.
There were some glitches, but you guys, we forgive the glitches now, don’t we? One of the bad angels didn’t unmute at first, Satan had a random sunbeam creep across his face as the hour progressed, a couple of the actors stared at the screen to interact with each other instead of staring at the camera – who can blame them, it’s what they’re trained to do! Two years ago I would have thought this was too distracting and the picture quality too bad and the weirdness of people in different states acting as though they are together would have been too much to deal with. But last night, I was delighted to watch Part II.
It was a fun show and while nothing like the real thing, it did feel good to be experiencing acting again. Funny the things we assume we can’t pick up from a screen, that it turns out we can pick up after all.
One last thing before I go, since we’re on the topic of The Arts. Long ago I posted about a freezing cold day in Baltimore. I included my photos like always. Earlier this year, the artist Marc Andre Robinson wanted to submit a particular sculpture for a publication called TOHO Journal, but had no photos of it. He went online and searched his own work and …viola! He found my blog post. I received a message from him in the comments of a post and we connected. I checked around a little to see if he was really who he said he was, then sent off two original sized images of the sculpture so he could use them in his submission. His work was accepted and the beautiful, published book came out a couple months ago. As a thank you, Marc made sure I got one, which I recently received.