Sunday, August 08, 2010

The August Country

That would be the Berkshires here in Massachusetts, where year after year a classic repertory theater ("Shakespeare & Co) toils unceasingly to ensure that Great Theater Shall Not Perish From This Earth.
The very dream of John Houseman and Orson Welles to create an entirely American classical repertory has been brought to fruition by Tina Packer and her successors at the S&C call it "The Mercury Theater Mark II".
The thing that I love about Shakespeare & Co is that I can see actors clearly on the rise, ascend from supporting roles to topmost lead status over a relatively short space of time. This is a company with a great eye for talent, they find em' and hand the big shows over to them. Take for example John Douglas Thompson, who has ascended in less than five years to the ranks of playing a definitive Othello and now this summer a magnificent Richard III. These people can cultivate actors of rare ability, I'm very hard pressed to recall a play produced by S&C that I felt was miscast.
That is what gives Shakespeare & COmpany it's institutional strength.
Still and all that, they don't overlook the contributions of their core players, this summer's adaptation of "The Winter's Tale" is a veritable S &C gathering of the Gods including Elizabeth Aspenleider (a woman born to the Shakespearean stage), Jonathan Epstein (one of the best actors currently working live theater in the Commonwealth), Johnny Lee Davenport (AKA "Mister Thunder and Lightning" a big husky regal sounding player blessed with potent comic chops) and Jason Aspey (an artist whose natural dignity makes Robert E. Lee look like Shemp Howard).
These people are all like my old dear friends, I look forward to seeing the every summer, I associate them with mosquitos, humidity, baking heat, sudden downpours and patient genius. I'd watch them read from the Yellow Pages, they are just that good.

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