Growing up in small towns in the 1960s, there was not much opportunity to see live theatre, let alone Shakespeare ... high school productions tended to be no more complicated than George Bernard Shaw's Arm's and the Man , and in the pre-internet or video store days, studying Shakespeare meant you had to settle for reading the plays. Of course, there was Hamlet on
Gilligan's Island, but that just didn't cut it when you were trying to write a term paper!
One of the key reasons I wanted to move to Minneapolis, aside from gainful employment, was the chance to see live theater. Especially Shakespeare! And fortunately my new home had some fabulous stuff at the Guthrie Theater.
Now, I lay no claim to having seen ALL of the samples in the first video ... I didn't see my first play there until 1973, and didn't relocate there for another 5 years or so. My own experiences as a ticketholder didn't really get going until about 1980, and my ushering career there wasn't until the late 1990s.
Fortunately, through youtube, you can see a small hint of the early days with the following clip of the late, great George Grizzard from 1963:
Dang, I wish I could have seen that first year! The mother of a friend of mind actually volunteered backstage for some of the early productions. The family story they like to tell was of Richard III ... backstage the hands were not paying close attention at one point, because they thought the scene going on would not be a problem. Meanwhile, the actor onstage had drawn a complete blank, and was muttering "line, dammit, LINE." Friend's mother says she muttered back "a Horse, dammit, a HORSE."
The first Hamlet I saw at the Guthrie is pictured in the video ... Zeljko Ivanek and Julianne Moore! The particular production was not my favorite, but Julianne was luminous as Ophelia. Another production of Hamlet I saw at the Guthrie was with a touring production of the Royal National Shakespeare company, with Simon Russell Beale.
That was an "interesting" production, as Beale was much older than the character he was portraying, and madness was conveyed by his wearing a bathrobe and wandering around the stage in stocking feet. I quite enjoyed the production overall--one thing that really stood out to me was Polonius ... portrayed as vain, but not a buffoon--gave a very interesting spin to his role. As an usher, the show was more problematic, as the company absolutely forbad late seating...which meant I always prayed I'd be a ticket taker and not have to deal with it. :) One of the performances, I was a indeed a ticket taker. That day, the weather had been beautiful, but a huge rainstorm blew out of no where; a man with a shaved head with water pouring into his eyes approached my ticket line and said, in a very British accent, "My. Gawd." I recognized him as Horatio, so I let him in without scolding him for not having a ticket.
Another memorable production was of Julius Ceasar ... one night when I was ushering, one of the actors passed me in the hall, sighing "well I wonder what will fall on us tonight?' Turns out, the very complicated set ... shown in the videos below, nearly fell over between acts the night before. Ides of March, I guess:
This interview is a little strange, but you can see the finished set a little better:
One of my bookclub friends was telling me that the night she attended she sat near some people who commented that there were just too many cliches in the script.
And how can I leave out one of my favorite comedies! The production of Midsummer Night's Dream was fabulous ... as an usher, it was cool to watch the fairies come out to the lobby, and get attached to wires so that they could fly out over the audience and onto the stage. As a patron, I thought I would break a rib laughing so hard, especially when the mechanicals came out to perform Pyramus...with the Masterpiece Theatre theme played on an accordion (this is Minnesota, after all).
Before I open the floor up to you, here is another fabulous production of Midsummer, in two parts: