T’were best done quickly

Theater is where you find it, and certainly, we’ve been surrounded by it here in California during the past 80 days of the recall. No one could write this scenario for stage, but maybe that is to come.

One of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays, Coriolanus, comes to mind as an example of writing about political intrigue. It is filled with sleazy, ambitious people who suffer through political reversals. Part of the reason the play isn’t staged that much with all the Hamlets and Midsummer Night’s Dreams that populate the festivals, is that it’s hard to get a handle on whether it is comedy or tragedy and what it all means.

When it is done, the drama critics note that it is ripe for interpretation. The main character, Coriolanus, has been portrayed as both a tyrant and a hero. Laurence Olivier and Morgan Freeman have played the leading role, and the tone of the performance has ranged from a Marxist ideologue to someone closer to Lt. Col. Oliver North. It all depends on the director and the actor.

And that is one of the great aspects of theater—that the play can re-blossom with a new exposition by actors who layer on their own talents and nuances. Yes, it all starts with the words, but the explanation of what those words mean can elevate or deflate any play.

That interpretation aspect can be seen vividly in our story about the 29 1/2 Hour Playwriting Festival (See “Squeeze play”). The directors and actors have only so many hours to add to, or take away from, a script that took only hours to create.

As the recall election has compacted the time of the campaign and produced many unexpected things, so, too, can the theater experience.