With Shakespeare and Company’s Winter Studio Festival of Plays drawing to a belated conclusion, because of a fierce winter storm, and the press announcement of the 2019 season coming up, it seems a particularly opportune time to publish the Podcast of my interview with Artistic Director Allyn Burrows about the highly successful 2018 season.
The plays of August Strindberg that I know tend to reach their greatest intensity in the middle. His plays crave engagement. Energy is all. This was shown deftly, powerfully in Shakespeare and Company’s production of Creditors. Convincing performances were provided by Jonathan Epstein as Gustav, Ryan Winkles as Adolph, and Kristin Wold as Tekla. As Gustav, Mr. Epstein was the mover and shaker. He had been given the difficult task of showing a kind of hidden abuse in the guise of providing instruction in living to the young Adolph, Mr. Winkles.
Shakespeare and Company, a presence in Lenox since its foundation in 1978 by Tina Packer and Kristen Linklater, has undergone some seismic challenges in recent years, and there has at times been some concern about its future, but it continues to soldier on with its richly and solidly matured education programs and performances that seem to only to get better and better. Now, following a brilliant season (2016) and looking forward to what promises to be another equally exciting program this summer, all the upheavals seem basically of academic interest, and I’ll let you wait until someone publishes a history of this company, which wears its laurels so lightly that some, I believe, underestimate just how important it is, not only for the history of Shakespeare performance in this country, but anywhere.
Yet another success for this Company. There was vivid acting. Elizabeth Aspenlieder, as Mary Pickford, is an arresting actress, her voice resonant, her intentions clear. Ms. Aspenlieder enlivens every role she takes. She makes the character happen. There was an exceptional performance from David Joseph in the role of Charlie Chaplin. His work on the role, particularly the physical aspect of the character had a completeness which he imagined carefully and made his own.
A singular departure this year at summer’s end. Hubbard Hall Opera Theatre (of Cambridge, New York), the dream-child of Alexina Jones, has lost its creator and mentor. She goes on to a position with Saratoga Arts. This young women is an intrepid creator. She built a company from nothing, fit it into the seasonal circumstances of Hubbard Hall, and with the help of her husband, Jason Dolmetsch, plodded through hundreds of hours of planning, auditioning, fund-raising. The Company started out in a modest way—a few instruments, mostly local singers. One of the first of these singers, Kara Cornell, turned in a Carmen that was utterly believable. Watching an opera of this sort in a small hall requires detailed specific acting; the grand gestures seem absurd.