Stagestruck: Magic & Mayhem

“If this be magic,” says Shakespeare’s King Leontes, “let it be an art lawful as eating.” On the Valley menu this week are two events that brought that quote to mind. At the Broadside Bookshop tomorrow (Wednesday), the multitalented Andrea Hairston unveils Will Do Magic for Small Change, her latest genre-spanning fantasy novel with a Shakespearean scope and a hoodoo sensibility. And this weekend and next, the multifaceted Silverthorne Theater Company performs a magical, madcap mashup of Shakespeare’s complete works in Greenfield’s Arts Block.

will-do-magicHairston’s new book, from Aqueduct Press, is a sequel/prequel to her previous novel, Redwood and Wildfire. That one followed the title characters, African-American Redwood Phipps and Irish-Seminole Aidan Cooper (Indian name Wildfire), from the Deep South to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. They both appear, now aged elders, in Will Do Magic, which is set in Pittsburgh in the 1980s.

Well, half-set. It also takes place in Dahomey, Paris and Chicago in 1893 (yes, at the World’s Fair). These episodes, alternating with the more contemporary scenes, are presented as sections from a mysterious – and magical – book that chronicles the travels and travails of an otherworldly Wanderer who appears in West Africa at a time of tribal wars and colonial invasion, journeys with a ragtag troupe of entertainers to the Chicago fair, and ultimately appears in a different body in 1987 Pittsburgh.

That book, known as the Chronicles, ends up in the hands of Redwood and Wildfire’s granddaughter, 14-year-old Cinnamon, a “big, dark” black girl with high-flown dreams and low self-esteem. At an audition for a local theater company she meets three other misfits her age: German Klaus and Japanese-American Marie. First in a death-defying car ride through an icy blizzard, then through sharing the secret of the Chronicles, the trio bonds into “a perspicacious and intrepid crew” of “Disastronauts.”

The novel is dense with adventures, bizarre and wondrous characters, and Hairston’s funky-poetic language, as well as her persistent themes: violence, racism, the trials and triumphs of women, the importance of community and the power of art –particularly “theater magic” and the need for storytelling: “Gathering a good story and passing it on is redemption.” But: “To kill a people without spilling blood, steal their stories then feed them self-serving lies.” Hairston’s stories, both her novels and her plays, seek to redeem crumpled humanity through her characters’ fierce determination and craving for community.

She’ll be reading from Will Do Magic…, with original songs by Pan Morrigan based on verses in the book, at Broadside Bookshop, Northampton, Wednesday October 5th at 7 p.m.

Two for One, Forsooth!

“Comedy for the quick of mind and short of time” is the watchword of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, the three fellows who created and first performed The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), an irreverent fast-forward through the entire canon. In this homage à trois, three actors manically summarize, condense, parody and improvise their way through every known work of Shakespeare – all 37 plays plus the poems – in under two hours.

complete_works_1_-_high_res-lgAll the history plays are covered as a football game, with the crown tossed among all those Henrys and Richards (King Lear is disqualified: “Fictional character on the field!”). There’s a hip-hop Othello, the bloody Titus Andronicus as a cooking show, and a multifaceted deconstruction of Hamlet, including the shortest-ever version of Shakespeare’s longest play.

The screwball homage-cum-sendup is a natural for theater companies eager to expand their scope, show their versatility, and/or just have some good clean(ish) fun. Silverthorne Theater Company, the Valley’s newest summer theater, keeps the hot-weather momentum going with an off-season run this weekend and next.

The three actors running this gauntlet are veterans of previous Silverthorne productions. Steve Henderson, a consummate clown, appeared in Molière’s The Miser last summer and in more serious aspect in Aiden’s Gift the year before. Julian Findlay joined him in that one, and he in turn was partnered in Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World with Schuyler Evans, who also starred in The Caucasian Chalk Circle in 2014.

Two-fers: On opening night this Friday, October 7th, one purchased ticket gets you another one free. Other evening performances are October 8 and 14 at 7:30, and the 15th at 2:00. Info and tickets here.

 

If you’d like to be notified of future posts, email StageStruck@crocker.com

Chris Rohmann

Author: Chris Rohmann

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