Another Austin theatre company suffers a mid-performance disaster and responds to it with resourcefulness and pluck, and the Austin Community College Drama Department marks Shakespeare's 437th birth with an all-star "Billy Bash."
The Show Must ...
Last week we reported on the onstage drama that took place when Latifah Taormina cut herself during a performance of Hang Town Fry, how she hung in for 20 minutes before leaving the stage to have the wound tended, and how playwright Adam Sobsey and company salvaged the evening with a blend of home cooking and hospitality. This week, via longtime local theatre lover Connie McMillan, comes news of another Austin theatre company suffering a midperformance disaster and responding to it with resourcefulness and pluck. On Friday (the 13th, you know), Different Stages was in the midst of the first scene of The Devil's Disciple at the Vortex when the neighborhood suffered a massive power outage. Rather than cancel the show, director Norman Blumensaadt and the show's technical crew put candles onstage and took flashlights in hand to light the actors. The electricity stayed off, McMillan says, "but, by gum, the show did go on and was performed with commitment and skill to a grateful and appreciative audience who laughed, clapped, and cheered at the company's ingenuity and resolve. The strong acting and witty dialogue held our attention without the necessity of electronic gadgetry, a refreshing reminder of the power of the human voice and the human face to deliver theatrical art. Kudos to Different Stages."
By the by, five days after her Hang Town Fry mishap, Taormina was back onstage and in fine form. Before a packed room at Central Market Cooking School, she portrayed Cynthia, the seasoned chef who stirs up some poignant memories as she whips up a dish of eggs and oysters, with a peppery vigor. Sobsey's script, like a good meal, is both tasty and nourishing, and the performance left me hungry for another serving.
To William, on His 437th Birthday
Lucky Shakespeare -- dead for 385 years and people still throw him birthday parties! This year, the Bard of Avon will enjoy at least one celebration of his 437th birthday: Austin Community College Drama Department's "Billy Bash," with food, drink, and a wealth of Will's words spoken and sung by some gifted local artists. The affair has been coordinated by Guy Roberts, the actor-director who proved himself a talented interpreter of Shakespearean drama with the State Theater Company productions of The Taming of the Shrew and A Macbeth. Now an assistant professor of drama at ACC, Roberts is adding to that list this week with A Midsummer Night's Dream starring ACC students and guest artists Andrea Osborn, Damian Gillen, and Harvey Guion, and the Billy Bash, for which he's secured the considerable talents of Osborn, Gillen, Guion, Martin Burke, Michael Costello, Don Howell, Helen Merino, Patricia Pearcy, and David Yeakle, ACC Drama Department faculty and students, and the ACC Northridge Singers, under the direction of Richard Watkins. Even yours truly will spew some iambic pentameter in the Bard's honor. With that lineup, local lovers of Shakespeare shouldn't need more incentives to attend, but here's one anyway: A sneak preview of Helen Merino as Hamlet. Yes, the gifted Merino, she of the acclaimed performances in Anton in Show Business and My Children! My Africa!, among others, will play the prince of Denmark for the Austin Shakespeare Festival this fall. When ASF approached Roberts to direct Hamlet, she was his first -- and only -- choice for the title role, and you'll have a chance to see why Monday, April 23, 7:30-9pm, in the Main Theatre, ACC, 12th and Rio Grande. Admission is free, donations suggested. For information, call 223-3339.