Amid the coronavirus restrictions, we are feeling a deep loss of live theatre. We love the interaction, intimacy, and audience participation in laughing, cheering, and crying. Peg has been reading and streaming movies and shows online. This all helps, but leaves a little longing.
Last week, Peg mentioned she loved a series called Slings & Arrows, which concerns the lives and productions of a theatre in New Burbage (Montreal?). I finally took the time to watch an episode and was immediately hooked. In this Shakespearian send up there is even a ghost. The previous managing artistic director comes back to haunt and advise the new director, a long time friend and rival. This series can be seen on Acorn and copies of the programs can be purchased on disk – imdb.com/title/tt0387779/
In the opening credits I saw the name Bob Martin as Executive Producer. I first encountered that name when Peg and I saw The Drowsy Chaperone at Tacoma Musical Playhouse. Jon Douglas Rake, the Managing Artistic Director at TMP played the character “The Man in the Chair, originated by Bob Martin. The production included tap dancing, a convoluted improbable story line, an nth degree Lothario, fun songs, lots of laughs, and . . . did I mention tap dancing? We’ve seen the same show at Seattle Musical Theatre and once again at TMP. The grandson of one of our best friend couples played Adolpho, the self-important and over-the-top Lothario in his high school play. How could I then not fall in love with Slings & Arrows?
Martin began his career as a comedian, an actor, and director at The Second City in Toronto in 1996.
In case you are unaware, theatres struggle even in the best of times. This series showcases a very successful theatre, which is still always on the brink of disaster. “The actors and the crew of the New Burbage Festival are trying hard to keep their heads above water. The troubled Shakespearean festival had been slowly commercializing its performances, but the sudden death of the artistic director (he’s run over by a ham truck as he lays drunk in the street, but never fear — his character stays around in ghost form, haunting his successor and the festival) requires some changes. The new man on the job clashes with old rivals, is forced to take the crew in hand, and fends off the festival manager, who wants to make the festival over into Shakespeareville, all while trying to pull together the festival’s latest production of “Hamlet.” – Wikipedia
Slings & Arrows has a great pedigree, created and written by former The Kids in the Hall member Mark McKinney, playwright/actress Susan Coyne, and Bob Martin. All three write each show and appear from time to time in the series, too.
My favorite episode so far involved the new managing artistic director who is supposed to teach a class of business managers about some boring element of management. The class has no idea what they are supposed to learn, and the director has no idea what or how to teach them. Instead he teaches them about acting and being involved with themselves and others. He takes a manager and works with him on a scene from Hamlet. The man changes from a gormless manager to a caring leader. Bob Martin played the manager.
Peg and I have adored live local theatre for nearly fifty years. The South Puget Sound region has excellent production companies. We enjoy seeing their latest presentations and love their involvement with each other and the community. When the coronavirus restrictions are lifted, please, check out our local theatres and revel in the entertainment. Until then, you can watch Slings & Arrows, laugh, and delight in theatre behind the scenes!