The Cabbage Patch: The Rogue Theatre’s Richard III

PurpleCabbageAttempting to stage any work of Shakespeare in a black box is a challenge. Taking on Richard III, one of Shakespeare’s earliest history plays, seems almost an impossibility in a small, intimate space. The complicated plot, the even more complicated genealogy, the epic battle scene, the darkness of the subject matter, and the grandeur of the language all seem much better suited to a sweeping auditorium, or at the very least an 800-seat theatre like Shakespeare’s Globe. The Rogue Theatre tackled this monstrous text, however, and managed to capture the ferocity of Shakespeare’s most evil villain seamlessly using a few key stylistic choices.

First and perhaps most practically, The Rogue chose to publish a pictorial family tree inside the program. Hallelujah! As mentioned, the plot in Richard III is extremely complex. Richard, form the start of the play, goes on a killing spree, murdering so-and-so’s uncle, and so-and-so’s brother. Many of the actors in The Rogue’s company portrayed multiple characters, a necessary evil to the multitudinous and early murders that Richard commits. This became very confusing after watching more than one actor die, and then return as so-and-so’s cousin’s brother’s servant. This is what made the family tree a Godsend. While brooding photos of the many characters connected by marriage lines might seem cheesy to some, the tree was an excellent tool that helped me to catch up a bit during intermission. “Right,” I thought to myself. I knew that actor had died in scene 2… now he’s playing so-and-so’s father-in-law.

Secondly, director Cynthia Meier chose to visually depict all of Richard’s murders, even though most of them are not written as full-fledged scenes in the published play. Rather than making up some overly-dramatized action scene, however, Meier chose a simple, effective, and even darkly humorous strategy to denote each of the deaths. Between scenes, Richard would walk out onstage and place a cabbage on the seat that served as his throne. Then, with an excruciatingly satisfying sound, he would gleefully chop the cabbage in half with a machete. Perfect. Rather than leaving the audience guessing, this cabbage-chopping told us plainly that the target discussed in the previous scene had, in fact, been killed. It is an act that combines primal violence with humor, reflecting Richard’s delighted wickedness. Even better, the actors left the brainy-looking cabbages strewn all around the throne, a striking reminder of the innumerable deaths committed by Richard’s hand.

Thirdly, The Rogue chose a profoundly effective way of underscoring the dark and visceral tone of the play. The set included a lofted platform that housed three taiko drummers, whose rousing music opened the play, served as transition music between scenes, and as accompaniment during dramatic moments. The drums vibrated throughout the space, awakening within the audience the same primal feelings that drive Richard to commit his monstrous and multiple acts of violence. During scenes with Margaret or the ghosts, the drums underscored curses, warnings, and damnations to Richard’s character. The drums were so deeply intrinsic to the telling of the story that the audience discussion that followed the performance focused almost exclusively on the role of the drums. The actors talked about how much the play changed when they rehearsed with the musicians, how much more deeply they were attuned to their characters’ motives. The drums made the play.

In my experience, the caliber of the acting, direction, and design at The Rogue are always stellar. That is why I am not surprised that they were able to carry the weight of Richard III in such a small, intimate space with the help of some key stylistic strategies. I will be back for more next weekend, and can’t wait to enjoy such a fantastic production once more. The Rogue has proven to me that Shakespeare in a black box is not only possible, but can be fantastic in the right hands. This is a play not to be missed, as the only real failure of the production is the missed opportunity to serve really fresh coleslaw at intermission.

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More Information:

Richard III at The Rogue Theatre

Odaiko Sonora: Tucson’s Taiko Company (video below)

Thrifty Thursday: Eco-Friendly Finals

Arizona’s finals officially start next week, but I know that many schools are in that end-of-semester time-crunch. Here are a few tips to surviving finals week and being good to the earth!

1. Print double-sided. Especially if you’re an English major or a grad student like me, you’ll probably have what feels like millions of pages to print over the next couple of weeks. Ask your professors if they are okay with double-sided essays. At some schools, this will also save you money, since printing services often charge per page whether there is text on both sides or not. Other schools (ahem Arizona) will charge a double sided page as 2 pages, but at least you’ll still be eco-friendly!

2. Use online resources. Dropbox, e-mail, skype, and googledocs are all great ways of doing group study sessions and saving drafts of work without having to print them out. Also, encourage your professors to accept online submissions.

3. Cut notecards in half. If you are memorizing a bunch of terms and definitions, you can usually fit them onto half or even a quarter of a notecard.

4. Pack your lunch (or breakfast… or dinner) for those long hours in the library. This will keep you from buying lots of fried, pesticide-ridden snacks at the food court.

5. Invest in a reusable coffee cup. Because you will need to stay awake somehow.

6. Cook an easy meal on Monday and quadruple the recipe. This way, you’ll have a healthy and easy dinner ready for you every night. I cook rice and beans almost every week, and it makes about 4 servings. Again, this will help you to avoid binging on fast food and bags of Hershey kisses.

7. Clean out at the end of the semester and save everything that is usable: paper clips, binder clips, folders, notebooks, and any other office supplies. Don’t throw out that half-filled notebook! The other half will work just fine for another class!

8. Instead of throwing away (landfill!) or burning (CO2!) essays, handouts, and notes, cut them up into smaller rectagles and use them for grocery lists, notecards, phone messages, and scratch paper. You can also flip them over and put them in a 3-ring binder to make a new notebook. This will not work, however, if you print double-sided…

9. Sell your books. This way books are recycled and cheaper for the next group, and you will make some summer margarita money. I recommend selling books to used book stores instead of the University bookstore. College bookstores will buy used books for close to no money and then re-sell them at almost full price. They can do this over and over and over again, so a single book can end up making the school hundreds of times the money they originally bought it for. It’s kind of like they rent textbooks out for almost full price. Used bookstores price their  books much lower than college bookstores, which is a much more ethical (in my opinion) method of resale.

10. Go outside. (Disclaimer: This is mostly a note to myself!) Take a break from writing or studying by going for a walk, lounging in the park, taking a bike ride, or going for a hike. It’s spring! Spending time outdoors will make you feel more optimistic, relaxed, and focused. Don’t spend your precious break time (and your 5-year-old MacBook’s dying battery) watching yet another rerun of “The Office.”

Writing about mimesis, alterity, and natural rivalries in Sam Shepard’s Buried Child feels like:

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Earth Day: Moving Forward

Today marks 1 week since the Boston Marathon bombings, and I think it’s time move forward, still keeping in mind the victims and their families. To all of America, especially those in Boston, MA and West, TX: Have a happy, safe, and hopeful week, starting today!

Yesterday, my roommate noticed this little baby prickly pear sprouting up outside our apartment. The kicker? It’s growing out of a piece of dead cactus that has been rotting there for months. Pretty amazing! Happy Earth Day!

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Baby Cactus

Thrifty Thursday: Goodwill Hunting

In the wake of the Boston bombing, I thought I would begin my “Thrifty Thursday” series with a post that will also serve as a shout-out to Beantown (antecedent to my cheesy pun here). Boston, you are still on my mind.

As I’ve grown more and more financially independent and environmentally conscious, I have become a thrift shopper almost exclusively. It saves me money, is good for the environment, and helps to build a community of traders and recyclers. Macklemore totally stole my thunder with “Thrift Shop,” so I’m going to reclaim it by dedicating Thursday posts to thrift, vintage, secondhand shopping, DIY, recycling, and bartering. Today, I’ve decided to kick off the series with a thrifting staple: Goodwill stores. Below you’ll find tips and tricks to successful shopping, as well as one of my own amazing finds (if I do say so myself)!

Best Things to Shop For:
1. Sports Logo Wear: Goodwill stores usually have college or pro sports logo wear. I’ve found t-shirts, jerseys, hats, and even gently used sweatpants bearing the U of A logo at the 4th Ave Goodwill. They might be a little out of date, but it gets the job done at a fraction of the bookstore prices.

2. Outdoorsy Clothes: Since style doesn’t matter as much when you’re hiking, camping, or working outdoors, you can afford to look a little frumpy or outdated. Good outdoor clothes are also expensive, so it’s great when you can get them at much lower prices. At Goodwill, I’ve found great workpants for when I worked on farms in New Zealand, and lots of fleece for when I went camping in the Grand Canyon.

3. Skirts: While tops, dresses, and pants tend to go through style waves, many skirt styles are timeless, or can be paired with more contemporary pieces for a unique look. Look for solid colors, not prints, and dodge the ’90’s denim, plaid, and pleats that litter the racks. Keep an eye out for pencil skirts, A-lines, and breezy summer sunskirts.

4. Oversize anything: One of my favorite things to shop for at goodwill are giant men’s sweaters, because I can wear them as dresses and pair them with leggings. Large-size cardigans and button-ups are also easy to find, and can always be belted and worn with skinny jeans.

5. Kitchen Supplies: Mugs, cups, pots, pans, utensils, mixing bowls, you name it! Steel is steel, and pyrex is pyrex, so most of the time, Goodwill kitchen items just need a good rinse and they’re usable. I’ve even found unopened, brand new, name-brand appliances there, so Goodwill is a good place to shop if you’re trying to furnish your first home or apartment.

Don’t Shop For:
Jeans. They’re hard enough to find secondhand anywhere, and unless you’re willing to try on every pair in the store, it’s very unlikely you’ll find a stylish pair that fits. I sometimes scan the rack for a color or brand I like, but I rarely find a pair of Goodwill jeans worthy of purchase.

Anything Super Trendy: This spring, you will be hard-pressed to find  crop tops, cutout sleeves, pale lacy dresses, or anything in the color emerald. People are keeping those items to wear or selling them to trendier used clothing stores. I will say, however, that I recently found a black hi-low skirt on a Goodwill rack, so anything is possible!

Underwear: Ew.

Shopping Tips:
Know the best store in your area. In Tucson, the 4th Ave one is best for people my age. Boston‘s best Goodwill is allegedly the Allston one, but I never had much success at Boston Goodwills–there are lots of other thrift stores in the area. In Dayton, I’ve had the most success at the Goodwill on 725 across from the Rec Center.

Check all zippers, buttons, snaps, hems, and seams for imperfections. There have been plenty of Goodwill hauls when I’ve gotten a little overexcited and bought $50.00 worth of stuff, only to find ripped seams and malfunctioning zippers. Now, you will find flaws in some of your pieces, but it all comes down to whether they’re easily mendable or whether you can live with them. Be realistic. Many times, I’ve said to myself, “I’ll just take this to a tailor,” and then never did. 

Don’t buy unless you know you’ll wear it. The prices can be so tempting, and you may find yourself buying something just because it’s cheap. I’ve spent lots of money on items that I bought because they were cheap, but never ended up wearing them. This money adds up! Also, keep in mind that most Goodwill stores don’t accept returns, but will give you store credit.

Get even more discounts with coupons and sale days. Goodwill frequently publishes 40%-50% discount coupons in the Tucson Weekly paper, and also has BIG sale days throughout the year. Stores may be crowded and pickin’s may be slim, but if you find something you like, you’ll pay virtually nothing for it.

My Favorite Goodwill Find:

GAP Daisy Dress, found at 4th Ave Goodwill, Tucson AZ

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Boys’ Day Out

My dad and brother visited Tucson this week, so I spent most of my time watching basketball, eating junk food, and shopping for cowboy hats. On top of that, I watched High Noon for one of my classes and gave my first conference presentation, which focused on gun violence and male social codes in the West. I also started work on a paper that will focus on representations of masculinity in African American novels. Needless to say, my week has been rather, er, male-centric. As a result, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a man in America. To compliment my previous post, here are some works I’ve been dealing with in class or elsewhere that have gotten me thinking about manhood. This is by no means a comprehensive list, just the things that have gotten me thinking in the past few days.

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To Listen:
“The Art Teacher,” Rufus Wainwright
“Go to Sleep,” The Avett Brothers
“Oedipus,” Regina Spektor
“Same Love,” Macklemore
“She Said,” Jake Sorgen
“Str8 Ballin,” 2Pac
“Suit and Tie,” Justin Timberlake

To Read:
Hayavadana, Girish Karnad
A Report to An Academy, Franz Kafka
Paradise, Toni Morrison
The Women of Brewster Place, Gloria Naylor
Gunfighter Nation, Richard Slotkin
West of Everything, Jane Tompkins

To Watch:
High Noon
Emergency, Daniel Beaty’s One-Man Show
Office Space
Mad Men
Joe Calderone at the 2011 VMA’s: