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Shakespearean workouts and 12-part harmony

I’ve written in the past about finding various resources for filling my creative reservoir. Oh, I know, I am surrounded by creativity at Capsule on a daily basis. But I still need inspiring experiences to replenish my soul when life takes its toll. (Okay, that may be a little dramatic, but the gray hairs seem a bit more visible these days.)

Feeling the need recently for some culture, I looked to my fair city for some good feather-fluffing entertainment. I set sights on The Guthrie and The Minnesota Orchestra, two of my favorite downtown Minneapolis neighbors.

The Guthrie always offers variety but, I had heard of one very special show just opening, Pericles.

(heavy sigh)

Oh, Shakespeare, why dost thou maketh my head hurt so?

So many words. So many people around me reacting to the quippy, pithy lines that fly right over my head.

Am I going to do this, Pericles? Yes, the lady doth protest too much.

Why is this opening so special? Because it is Joseph Haj’s directorial debut as the Guthrie’s new artistic director. For you, Sir, I enthusiastically accept this cranial workout and will be a better person for it. Indeed, Pericles and Haj did not disappoint.

Patrons wondered what Haj would select as his first production. Just like a rock star carefully selects an opening song to set a mood, or a chef crafts amuse-bouche to whet the appetites of his guests, Haj’s first production choice would set his stage. As part of the performance program, Haj states, “That my first play as artistic director is a work of Shakespeare’s and that it is on our iconic thrust stage – a stage built for classic texts – makes this moment all the more meaningful for me.”

One of Shakespeare’s latest writings, Pericles is categorized within the Romance genre. With a small cast and wonderful stage and lighting effects, we follow the Prince of Tyre’s life journey through love, happiness, great loss, reunion and reconciliation. Yes, there are pirates, good and bad kings, pimps and tragic deaths, but ultimately, a happy ending. Thank goodness. Pericles was a wonderful, challenging and emotional experience.

Feeling good about the cerebral workout of Shakespeare, I looked across town to The Minnesota Orchestra for another dose of inspiration. Again, several choices. I do enjoy the traditional offerings of the orchestra but one specific experience jumped out at me. The touring show, Vocalosity, had one performance on the last day of January. Perfect. Perfect for this Diana Krall wanna-be. And, this just might be the ticket that gets my 14- year old son away from Minecraft for two hours.

Interesting to walk into Orchestra Hall prior to the show and see no instruments of any kind on stage. Set with a minimal number of chairs and a couple scaffold structures, it appeared as if the stage was “in between” shows. But, this was not the case. This stage was set for an “Aca-Perfect” concert experience directed by Deke Sharon, the artistic director of Pitch Perfect. Highlighting the extraordinary talent of an all-star ensemble of diverse young signers, the entire evening was performed without the assistance or backdrop of a single instrument. Well, other than the human voice.

Deke Sharon says, “From gatherings around the fire at the end of a hunt to soaring Gregorian chants enchoing in vaulted cathedrals, to madrigals, barbershop and doo-wop, people have always had an innate desire to create harmony around the greatest music of their time.”

The Vocalosity cast demonstrated an impressive full band sound through 12-part harmony. As I watched the young artists cover the gamut of musical genres including Motown and Rock I felt my heart expand a size or two. I even dabbed a tear in the most tender of moments. Three of the cast members shared personal experiences of how music changed their lives, gave them direction and even set them on the straight-and-narrow.

As I reflect on these two experiences I love that they both carry forward classic art forms. Shakespeare’s early 17th century texts and the purest vocal art form that dates back to the beginning of time. Wonderful to see people of all ages filling our theaters for these enriching experiences. My son enjoyed the beat boxing of Vocalosity. And while he struggled with “the workout” that is Shakespeare, he did admit, “Mom, it was a good experience.”

I would say both of these performances were great experiences. My creative reservoir is filled, for the time being.

What’s next, Minneapolis?

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