GIF: Background from the performance of “Lee Squared: An Evening with Liberace and Miss Peggy Lee” at the Cotuit Center for the Arts in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
In addition to screening outstanding independent films, my local art cinema (and yours) screens performances from: National Theater Live, Metropolitan Opera, and Bolshoi Ballet. Live performances of music, dance, and stage plays can be found in local centers for the arts and in theaters near you. If you can find one such place, you can find many more. Cotuit Center for the Arts and Monomoy Theater are two of dozens I found within a 45-minute radius of home by searching online and through word of mouth.
The energy of live performance is muted on film. And the technical issues are different. To know this, you need look no further than the credits that roll at the end of a film, compared to the list of names in any program for a live performance.
If you think back to the first time you played with dolls or puppets, or dressed up and put on a show with friends, or gave a recital in front of a live audience, you will recall some of the technical issues you encountered, and maybe even some of the stage fright that contributed a special energy to your performances. I spent several years live on stage as a singer, mildly terrified before each performance. And at times, I worked behind the scenes in amateur stage productions as a make up artist; less scary for me than for the actors, but there was high energy all around.
It’s human to connect with performers, to empathize with them, and to learn from what we see and hear in live performances. Of several stage plays I watched this year, I learned the most from a production of DOÑA ROSITA THE SPINSTER by Federico García Lorca, directed by David Kaplan, performed by a troupe from Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas at the Tennessee Williams Festival, September 27-30, 2018, in Provincetown, Massachusetts. The venue for DOÑA ROSITA was a warehouse converted into a temporary theater space.
Photo: The Wharf House, Provincetown Marina at noon on the dark, windy day of the opening performance of DOÑA ROSITA THE SPINSTER, September 27, 2018.
As I walked toward the Wharf House on the gloomy, windy afternoon of the opening performance of , I noticed some of the cast members layering on their costumes in the open air next to cars parked along the pier. Wardrobe was coming out of the back of an SUV. No dressing rooms. No mirrors. No frills. Just outdoor parking and port-a-potties.
Flowered beach towels and flowered sheets, in keeping with the theme of flowers in the play, covered the windows of the warehouse. The stage was rustic, a simple platform with steps on and off in two locations (and maybe others out of sight of my front row seat). Clotheslines with layers of floral-printed opaque and plain translucent cloth hung across the center of the stage, creating onstage and offstage spaces for actors depending on how the opaque and translucent layers were folded over the clotheslines.
Photo: Wharf House stage where DOÑA ROSITA THE SPINSTER was performed.
Two musicians played; an acoustic guitarist seated at ground level next to the steps at the left-front corner of the stage; and a harpist seated at ground level on the righthand side of the stage several feet away from the center point.
The front edge of the stage was decorated with pots of artificial flowers, which were used during the performance to signify passage of time and other aspects of the story. Set decoration was choreographed and took place in full view of the audience. Music, voiceovers, and dialogue kept the audience focused on the play.
Although, much of the poignancy and poetry of the author’s work was lost in student performances, overall, the production captured a sense of the work, and I was impressed by how much the Texas Tech troupe took on, and how well they did in their opening performance of DOÑA ROSITA. Kudos to the director for making some poetry of his own through innovative staging. His ideas are what I took away.