November 18th, 2006

Egrets Reading

The Bard and Bollywood

Last night, I saw the most wonderful performance of The Taming of the Shrew. It was produced by The Hannon Theatre Company of Loyola High School. Both of my sons are Loyola graduates and my daughter is a former company member of Hannon Theatre.

Hannon Theatre puts on one of The Bard's plays every three years. Walt Wolfe, the director, schedules productions such that the fall play is on a three year rotation between a Shakespeare play, an American play, and a European play. The spring play is always a musical. If students stay with Hannon for three years, they ultimately graduate with a good grounding in theatre.

Wolfe favors thematic Shakespeare which I also dearly love. In the past ten years, I've seen eighteen Hannon Theatre productions and five of them were thematic Shakespeare plays - A Midsummer's Dream played in three time zones, Two Gentlemen from Verona in a Venice Beach setting, a musical version of Macbeth billed as Motown Macbeth complete with the Supremes as the Three Muses, Romeo and Juliet set in World War II New Orleans during Mardi Gras, and now The Taming of the Shrew set in India, Bollywood-style with the cast breaking out spontaneously into dance, lip-synching to Hindi Bollywood songs like "Kajra Re" from Bundy aur Babli or "Chori Chori" from Khel.

The show was marvelous, ranking way up there on my all-time list of favorite Hannon Theatre productions, and is certainly my absolute favorite of the five Shakespeare plays I've seen there. Melvin Robert, a former classmate of my son Sean, did an absolutely fantastic job with the choreography. My favorite dance was the stick dance prior to the marriage of Petruchio and Kate. The kids all performed with great physical humor, intonation, facial expressions, etc. There wasn't a weak cast member in the production, everyone was perfectly cast in their roles. I was particularly taken with the actors playing Hortensio, Grumia, Biondella, Petruchio, and Kate. The costumes, set, lighting, etc. were professional in quality.

This play was so entertaining that the two elementary school age children sitting in the row in front of me doubled over with laughter during some of the scenes. How wonderful is that to see young children enjoying Shakespeare so much?

If you live in Los Angeles and have high school age children interested in theatre - Hannon Theatre is something worth considering. If you have a son, he needs to be a Loyola student, but if you have a daughter, the female cast members are drawn from various other schools in the area. In my experience, the program is well worth the effort it takes to get your daughter to rehearsals, etc.

Speaking of Shakespeare, after almost thirty years of wanting to see this rarely performed play due to a paper I wrote during my USC days, I have tickets to Coriolanus on June 22, 2007 at the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City, Utah. I'm planning to see it with my daughter on the way to Yellowstone next summer...