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SHAKESPEARE UNWRAPPED: Shakespeare's Kings and Queens A Family Drama Niagara University on line
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Oct 3, 2020, 13:44
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Through October 4
Shakespeare Unwrapped: Shakespeare’s Kings and Queens A Family Drama Niagara University Theatre

A couple of weeks ago, I watched my great-niece run around at her third birthday, still not quite able to move completely fluidly and vertically at every step.
She’s in that stage of development moving through life.
In this time of COVID, on-line theater is in that same phase, trying to figure out how to put on a show on screen rather than on a stage like Niagara University’s Clet Hall.
There are two aspects of this visible on the screen with Valerie Doulton’s “Shakespeare Unwrapped: Shakespeare’s Kings and Queens A Family Drama.”
One is that these are prospective stage performers whose gestures and movements are intended for an audience spread across them in a possibly large theater, think gestures visible from the last upper row in Shea’s or on the lawn at Artpark.
As this production shows, that doesn’t work on the small screen.
That’s particularly true for performances which seem to have been captured on an I-Phone which has a relatively short depth of field.
There’s also the audio and that’s something I work with every day.
Often, the words in this production are absolutely not audible.
This all should have been apparent to directors Doulton and Josie DiVincenzo.
As an example, watch Isabel Merkel as Richard in a sequence from “King Richard The Second.”
When Merkel is far away from the camera, her audio isn’t very good but improves sharply when she gets close to the tiny mike on a cell phone (I assume).
There are actually some interesting performances I would like to see turned into full productions in that misty day when performances return to the boards, Clet Hall or the Festival Theater across the Niagara River in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
That includes Zach Gammell’s Hamlet and Caleb Paxton as King Henry V and King Lear or Skylah Fields as Pericles, Prince of Tyre.
In the king/princess sequence from “Henry V,” when the king is wooing Katherine, princess of France who knows she has no real voice in a dynastic marriage, Laura Barcomb is very good at controlling her performance for the small screen.
In a high-level training program like Niagara’s which is eventually sending graduates into a job market leveled by the virus, training for all of the possible performance venues is really important.
Maybe theaters need to work together more.
Certainly, there are theaters with body mikes gathering dust in a storeroom and Alleyway’s recent “Currents: 716” shows what can be done with good cameras and good mikes, along with this same idea of tiny casts and not always close together.
This Niagara production might also have benefitted from using the same color backdrops so what are supposed to be people in the same space won’t obviously not be because of the color variations.
Okay, was this worth doing?
Yes.
What’s needed is better understanding of today’s technology.
I don’t see anyone credited with audio works in the program and that’s essential, potentially helped along by someone with a GoPro.
I bet in Niagara’s athletics operation just down the block, there are some better cameras sitting around.
Think about these apprentice performers with better technical assistance and theater teachers from Niagara could do?
I’m looking forward to “Shakespeare Unwrapped 2.”
Maybe the balcony scene from “Romeo and Juliet”?

A.W.

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