Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"The play's the thing / Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king"

This old photograph shows my grandmother, Helen Chandler Adams Ingham, with her fellow actors in the 1942 cast of Heidi at the Players Club in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. The Players Club of Swarthmore was founded in November 1911 and has a storied history; it is still going strong today, and it is currently advertising its summer children's theater production of Freckleface Strawberry: The Musical. Its 2017-18 season is set to include Chicago, The Little Mermaid and Little Shop of Horrors, among other productions.

A funny thing about this photo, other than the live goat, is that I couldn't immediately identify my grandmother. She would have been about 23 years old at the time. After some thorough study and process of elimination, I am now 99.5% sure I have spotted her. She's the lady on the far left, fairly close to the goat, in the cropped segment of the photo shown below.

I don't know which character from Heidi that would have been. It looks like she was playing someone a bit older than she actually was. Beembom had range!

The bigger photograph at the top of the post is more enjoyable if you click on it, zoom in and check out all the faces and costumes of 75 years ago.

One of the reasons I wanted to share this photo is because it's been quite the summer of theater for the family.

Ashar (right) made his Shakespearean stage debut by playing, in excellent fashion, the role of Trinculo in a local summer-camp production of The Tempest. It's a bit of a comic-relief role, perfect for him, and he was perfect in it.

The play was staged in a barn, and Trinculo has a long speech upon his first entrance, of which this is an excerpt:
I do now let loose
my opinion; hold it no longer: this is no fish,
but an islander, that hath lately suffered by a
Alas, the storm is come again! my best way is to
creep under his gaberdine; there is no other
shelter hereabouts: misery acquaints a man with
strange bed-fellows. I will here shroud till the
dregs of the storm be past.
At his first performance, almost precisely on cue, an actual thunderclap sounded above the barn at the point in the speech where [Thunder] is noted in the script. It was, to use a non-Shakespearean term, amazeballs.

Our Summer of Theater has also included attending local performances of Antigone and The Taming of the Shrew. For this autumn, to follow up on his role as Trinculo, Ashar is trying out for small roles in both Antony and Cleopatra and a stage adaptation of Frankenstein.

And, to keep up the momentum, I have also put together a list of Shakespeare or Shakespeare-inspired movies that I believe Ashar would enjoying watching. We're looking forward to these:

  • Hamlet (1996)
  • Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (1990)
  • Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
  • 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) [basically The Taming of the Shrew]
  • Forbidden Planet (1956) [inspired by The Tempest]
  • Ran (1985) [King Lear, set in medieval Japan]
  • West Side Story (1961) [a musical version of Romeo and Juliet]
What's your favorite Shakespeare movie? Share it in the comments.

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