Since I seem to be writing nothing but theatre reviews lately (…mostly because I’m seeing SO MUCH THEATRE!), I figure it may be time for a reprieve from the “mundane” (or at least routine) around here.
Here is an unexclusive, incomplete list of things that I learned this week.
Thing one: Cyrano De Bergerac is a tragedy… and actually really sad. This would be fine except I saved it to read for when I needed a pick-me-up… suffice to say it’s been a rough week for many reasons (only one of which being the sheer amount of maudlin tragedy I’ve had to choke down this week).
Thing two: Peanut butter, when put in a saucepan, burns really quickly. If you want to melt it to… say… pour over your ice cream, you need to do it low and slow.
Thing three: Early Russian theatre sometimes consisted of “serf theatre”.
The Russian feudal system persevered long after it was abolished in other countries (my mostly uninformed hypothesis about this entails factors such as geographic distance from anywhere that may have been interested in creating a mercantile class, a sure-fire way to abolish feudalism, and the many puns one can create using the word “serf”). Russian landowners, for lack of better things to do, sometimes trained their serfs and created theatre companies with them to perform for said landowners’ amusement. This, for some reason, is both fascinating and wonderful to me. Probably because I’ve never been a Russian peasant.
Thing four: When held in contrast with other nineteenth century pieces and scholarship about said nineteenth century pieces, melodrama actually makes for surprisingly engaging reading. Go go Pixerécourt.
Thing five: I think if Victor Hugo had actually written the playscript to Les Miserables rather than just the novel that it was based on, it would have been markedly more wonderful, decidedly more Spanish, and never would have run on Broadway for a record 6,680 performances. See for evidence: Hernani.
Thing six: If you hope hard enough, despite all natural barriers to the contrary, you can make it be autumn in New England even in July.
Thing seven: You could very feasibly murder people utilizing nineteenth century stage technologies and hide their bodies in places that would never be found, even within the theatre itself. Unfortunately, once I had this thought, actually enacting such things was the only notion on my mind as I flipped through my well-illustrated guide to the nineteenth century French stage. As such, I’m earmarking this idea for a potential future novel; sounds like a great historical detective case to me.
Thing eight: I wasn’t just whistling Dixie when I told people that German would be a useful language to have in my back pocket in the field of theatre history. Just this week I’ve encountered several books and one play (the play, unfairly enough, was Russian in its original language) which entail lengthy/important passages in both French and German that the scholar/translator couldn’t be bothered to render into English. Academic superpowers activate!
Thing nine: For this reason, I will really be screwed when I enter into the land of Japanese theatre.
Thing ten: I’m really grateful to have friends who will push me to tell them about what I read on any given day. Also friends who will go with me to the theatre. Also friends who will pester me via text message until I leave my cave and socialize in the real world. Also friends who will let me call and cry/whine/complain about neoclassicism and why it’s an abomination against art… even if they don’t really understand what neoclassicism is. Also friends who speak Shakespeare to me as a means of comfort. Thank you, friends!
Thing eleven: Restoration comedies are WAY funnier performed than on the page.
Thing twelve: I should probably consider taking a break sometime soon lest I devolve into some sort of Gollum creature mindlessly repeating pertinent names, dates, and phrases that would only make sense in the context of theatre history.