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Lost in 2020: The epic Shakespeare, and the planned theater

I wrote several versions of this story. First, it should be a description of the ambitious stage project of a small theater company, and then a story about the discontinued project and the company’s planned reorganization due to the pandemic. Now, this is the irony of a small theater, which shuts down the coronavirus.

On a bright but cold Saturday afternoon in February, I hopped on the train to Alexandria, Virginia, outside Washington. I was visiting the Brave Spirit Theater and showed the first part of the bold attempt: In 18 months, I performed eight historical plays of Shakespeare (from “Richard II”

; to “Richard III”. Four Steps), which ended in a marathon performance of eight works.

I saw the first two plays of the series there, starting with a stage performance of “Richard II”. In the car at the train station, I peeped into the quiet suburbs of Alexandria-brick houses with wrap-around porches and American flags hanging on the door-until I reached the theater, which guided the fantasy of the small town in the fairy tale theater. The space is a converted church building with light yellow columns in the front, bright turquoise decorations around the windows, and red accents throughout the room.

Charlene V. Smith (Charlene V. Smith) co-founded Brave Spirits in 2011. She told me that the idea of ​​this project took place in 2008, when she saw the Royal Shakespeare Company in London’s history A marathon was performed. Brave Spirit claims to have made history because it is “the first professional theater company in the United States to produce and perform the entire series of two Shakespeare historical dramas.”

In a corner of the hall, a few feet away from where we were sitting was a blackboard. Four calendar months are clearly drawn in a completely symmetrical box, namely January, February, March, and April, and the performance schedule of the first quartet is color-coded, which the company named ” The shadow of the king”: Richard bright red, first Henry clover green, second Henry yellow, and finally Henry a crisp royal purple.

In the humble but well-done work, “Brave Souls” crowned and killed Richard II, and his successor Henry Bolingbrook, also known as Henry IV, was appointed as the new king. After the audience left, the actors milled in the entire space and chatted in the kitchen, which was twice the box office. “Is your head upstairs?” I heard someone calling from the hall. The company sold several worn shirts and black T-shirts in grey spellings with the words “Richard&Henry&Henry&Henry&Richard” on them. (I bought one for every Shakespeare nerd.)

That night, I saw “Henry IV, Part One” and every seat was full. Older couples and families as well as a few teenagers laughed at each other and waved. Everyone is a local. I left the train the next morning, still full of energy in that little church.

I wrote this article, but before the pandemic, the pandemic shut down performing arts across the country, and the story of “Brave Soul” changed. Like many other theaters, it was forced to shorten the historical project, and DC Metro Theatre Arts predicts that this will be “one of the must-see attractions in the 2021 season.” Originally scheduled from April 19th to 20th, it was an important weekend for the company, when all the dramas in the first four parts will be staged, and finally the top half of “Henry V” will end.

On March 12, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency. Soon after, the White House issued an announcement declaring Covid-19 a national emergency. The brave soul decided to cancel the marathon weekend, but the last performance was out-the first performance of “Henry V”.

“At that time,” Smith said when he checked in with her again in late April, “people put so much in, everyone is like:’We need to open “Henry V”. We need to open the show tomorrow. Bren Dan Edward Kennedy (Brendan Edward Kennedy) reported that after the show, he began to sing the wartime ballad “We Will Meet Again” in the dressing room. (“We will meet again/Don’t know where/Don’t know when .”) He sang to me briefly on the phone.

After “Henry V” (Henry V), the theater is deadlocked: costumes are still on shelves, props are stored in trash cans and stored in the auditorium. As for the tools of war-swords and spears-Smith kept them in his home in McLean, Virginia.

The theater fought a battle in spring and summer. The annual fundraising activities received more than $7,000, and usually $3,000, which brought hope to the actors and staff. (Smith told me that the company’s annual budget was about $50,000, but in the first historical project season, its budget tripled to about $150,000.)

For several weeks, the actors have been reading the script online and plan to conduct more virtual rehearsals in the fall until they hope that they will complete the second half of the project in the second half of January 2021.

That should have been my new story: a story about a small theater that can bear the consequences despite the consequences-grasping the stakes and scope of the risk, but ultimately still hope and resilience.

At this point, you already know that this is not the story I want to tell now. It has been 10 months since my first visit to Virginia, and it has been 9 months since the lockdown began. On November 21, “Brave Soul” announced its closure: “Because of its inability to plan for future performances, “Brave Soul” cannot recover its finances from the loss of Shakespeare’s history,” the press release said, with the last two words in bold. Body display through loudspeaker.

“Brave Spirits” (Brave Spirits) has produced more than 20 scripts, employs more than 300 artists, and is usually known for quietly subversive interpretations of classic works from a feminist perspective. But the company announced that it has a gift: a recording of a drama in the historical project, which they hope will be released in the second half of 2021. What is hard to think of is that it reminds us once again that the coronavirus destroyed everything in World War I. Months.

The fact that the brave spirit lost this battle would be very sad if it were not so thorough and satirical Shakespeare. This spring, in a follow-up call with Kennedy, I asked the actors how to attack King Henry V’s famous St. Crispin’s Memorial Day speech.

The speech is usually said to be boasting and fireworks. King Henry V was no longer a naive, mischievous Prince Hal, he became an outstanding leader and inspired his men to perform great feats. Kennedy said they handled the scene slightly differently-the glorious moment was still deadly, and the soldiers fully understood the cost of the war.

Kennedy told me that he and Smith had imagined the bleak logic of the soldiers: “‘Let us walk on the glorious path and make them suffer so much that people will discuss this issue for hundreds of years. They will remember us. All of the names, this will make us heroes in history.'” Kennedy realized the similarities – just like the soldiers of St. Cristiano, he and his actors realized during the performance that “this may be us The possibility of doing this last time.”

The ending of “Brave Soul” is not the story I want to end. However, this small theater in Virginia has persisted until it ceases to exist. It is just one of many theaters that will not be possible until 2020. This is a shame, not only the shutdown itself, but also the fact that it is preventable: the government’s poor response to this pandemic, coupled with our country’s general refusal to provide due value and subsidies to artworks, this It is guaranteed that some theaters cannot survive.

I think back to the day in February, when I interviewed the actors, they celebrated their colleagues’ birthday with pizza and cakes and held a round of “Happy Birthday” in the lobby of the theater.

I packed my things as quickly as possible and didn’t want to disturb, but they happily forgot about me. Their conversation and laughter filled the space, a safe haven for an independent world and a community of artists. No matter how short it is, I feel it. But this is what I can offer: an image of a king on stage, a church-like theater in Virginia, and a pizza party after the show. Now that “Brave Souls” is closed, this is what I have, and I hope it is enough.

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