Two shows happening in Franklin County this weekend (c’mon Hampshire, it’s not that far) – one an actual happening, the other a comedy about politics that we could wish were actually happening.
The comedy, opening at Silverthorne Theater Company on Friday for a two-week run, is The Taming, loosely inspired by Shakespeare’s misogynistic comedy about that Shrew. The premise is deceptively nutty: two political operatives on opposite sides of the Red/Blue divide, trapped in a hotel room with a Miss America contestant. But it’s a sly notion that skewers both ends of the political spectrum while upending both its Shakespearean model and a few of our own smug preconceptions.
Patricia (Petruchio, if you’re tracking the original), a Republican Senator’s powerhouse aide – played here by Stephanie Carlson – is mirrored by Bianca (Tracy Einstein), an angry left-wing blogger. Patricia lives by the watchword “What would Condoleeza do?” and Bianca lives by her iphone, conducting progressive “tru-sades” in the Twittersphere. Between the two antagonists stands Katherine (Tahmie Der), a cute-as-pie Miss Georgia, who’s also got a degree in constitutional law and whose ambition isn’t only to wear the Miss America sash, but to repair America’s broken politics.
Lauren Gunderson’s audacious play mixes slapstick and history – a serious comedy that packages its message in zingers. The setting darts between two hotel rooms, one in today’s Atlantic City during the Miss America pageant, the other in 1787 Philadelphia during the fractious drafting of the U.S. Constitution. There we meet George Washington and James Madison (“the great American nerd”), together with their wives, shrewish Martha and tipsy Dolly, plus Charles Pinckney, representing the Southern extortionists who kept slavery in the document.
In a program note, director Mary Corinne Miller acknowledges that “the current political landscape isn’t very funny,” but finds hope that the play’s raucous humor and its “three fiercely intelligent, quick-witted and powerful women” can encourage us, “at least temporarily, to put aside our differences and begin to imagine our own version of a ‘more perfect union.’ ”
Oct. 21-23, 27-29, Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center, Greenfield. tickets & info here.
Back in the day, happenings were the happenin’ thing: loose-jointed revels with music, art, performance and groovy surprises. Lately the tradition has been revived as “an evolving community tradition” at the Shea Theater, where the second annual installment happens this weekend.
This year’s theme, incorporating live music, dance, theater, sculpture, painting and film, is Storytelling. It’s said to promise “a collision of evocative art forms, with a ‘choose your own adventure’ structure that creates a uniquely powerful immersive experience where the lines between witness and participant are disrupted and dissolved.”
Participants are invited into “a strange and mysterious tale – a whimsical myth in which the magic of music brings stories to life as Valley artists collectively create multi-sensory installations for guests to explore.”
The festival also includes a Marketplace in the theater space, featuring vendors working across varied mediums.
The event is co-directed by Sam Perry, K Adler, Joshua Ruder and Rebecca Schrader and co-produced by Eggtooth Productions and Cloudgaze Productions. Participants are cautioned that the adventure includes stairs and dimly lit spaces, though “audiences may also experience art and encounters from the (accessible) main level of the theater.”
Full event on Oct. 21, Shea Theater, Turners Falls. Tickets & info here. Oct. 22, free, installations only.
A Happening photos from 2021 event
In the Valley Advocate’s present bi-monthly publication schedule, Stagestruck will continue to be a regular feature, with additional posts online. Write me at Stagestruck@crocker.com if you’d like to receive notices when new pieces appear.
Note: The weekly Pioneer Valley Theatre News has comprehensive listings of what’s on and coming up in the Valley and beyond. You can check it out and subscribe (free) here.