Spiritual Hamlet

hamlet with ghost
Grantham Coleman as Hamlet and Michael Genet as The Ghost in Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, directed by Barry Edelstein, running Aug. 6 – Sept. 22, 2017. Photo by Jim Cox.

A giant gold suit of armor guards The Old Globe’s stage in a spiritual Hamlet.

The most compelling scene is between Hamlet and his father as The Ghost. Michael Genet strides through the mist on a golden platform in an ether, LED-lit suit of armor toward Grantham Coleman as Hamlet. In slow motion, the stairs and landing spin around as a ghostly Genet chases a shocked Coleman.

There isn’t a lot of time to get to this pivotal moment. The play in full-length is four hours. The Old Globe has cut it to a well-paced three hours. And yet Genet and Coleman are captivating. The father and son moment brings the audience closer to God.

When Genet as the father says he has been killed and attacked by a snake in the garden a Biblical reference comes to mind. In this case, the snake is the uncle, King Claudius, played by Cornell Womack. The father represents God the Father. Genet then says his bride, the seeming-virtuous Queen, has been taken from him. Another Biblical reference comes to mind, as God’s people are the unfaithful Bride. The Father is God, Hamlet is Christ, the Bride is God’s people, and the murderous, usurping king is the serpent. Hamlet must save the Bride or free her from Evil.

Quite possibly Shakespeare was inspired by pre-Christian history of Danish Prince Horvendile married to Queen Geruth, who had a son named Hamlet. Prince Horvendile was murdered by his brother Fengon. The true story is more gruesome and detailed than the play. Shakespeare then intertwined the Danish royals’ story with a bent on Biblical stories.

The Tudor costumes are inspired by Queen Elizabeth I and her ruff collars. The stunning Opal Alladin as Queen Gertrude wears the opulent gowns well. An anonymous donor sponsors costume designer Cait O’Connor. The costumes are the first enticement to the show.

Scenic Designer, Tim Mackabee, creates a world of lavish industrialism. It’s like he brings a little bit of Broadway with him. He uses metal pipes, elbows, and maybe particleboard to create two stories of stairs, rails, and walls. By spray-painting them gold, the props complement the over-the-top costumes.

hamlet sword fight
Jonny Orsini as Laertes duels Grantham Coleman as Hamlet. Cornell Womack as King Claudius and Opal Alladin as Queen Gertrude sit surrounded by cast in background. Photo by Jim Cox.

Director Barry Edelstein’s Hamlet is the best version you’ll find in SoCal keeping true to a more self-preserving Hamlet rather than a madman.

Balboa Park is getting busier every year. I would suggest eating at the 2014 Zagat awarded and one of four top Japanese restaurants in San Diego, Azuki Sushi. The sushi is the moistest I’ve tasted. The miso soup is salty with generous amounts of seaweed and tofu. The Shiitake roll is marked as vegetarian with a piece of shitake on top treated like bacon and tender asparagus in the middle. The avocado and cucumber roll is narrow the way it should be. Make a reservation for this seemingly hole-in-the-wall.

Park free on the street or in the five dollar parking lots near the restaurant then walk on Laurel Street to The Old Globe in Balboa Park. Cross Sixth Street and saunter the Cabrillo Bridge. You might be able to wear heels since this is a flat route. The Old Globe does offer valet parking for $14. But if you don’t want to deal with traffic in the park then the walk along the bridge is enjoyable. It’s been hot and humid this week. (The rest of the summer has been the coolest we’ve had in SoCal.) Since this is San Diego I did see a woman dressed in shorts and a T-shirt. I wouldn’t go that far, but do dress comfortably.

(Welcome Texas. We are seeing lots of Texas license plates due to the flooding there.)

Hamlet by William Shakespeare directed by Barry Edelstein runs August 6 – September 22, 2017 at the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre.

The Old Globe, 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego, CA 92101. Box Office (619) 234-5623.

Copyright 2017

The Grand Tour

Pageant Entry
Entrance to Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Arts. The Ball On Shipboard, c. 1874 and Waiting For The Train, c. 1871-1873 James Tissot. Photo by M.C.

Pageant of the Masters

In the past, Pageant of the Masters themes have been movies, art connected to a mystery, American life, and partners in art. This year, The Grand Tour, celebrates a unique time in the 18th century in Britain where elite young men traveled throughout Europe to see great masterpieces of art once they completed their formal education.

The Honorable Henry Fane with Inigo Jones and Charles Blair by artist Sir Joshua Reynolds is the “living picture” that opens the show. Two painted men sit at a table. An actor as Charles Blair, stands near the other men then walks out of the painting, taking the audience on a journey to Paris, Venice, Naples, Florence, and Rome. Traveling by boat, train, horse and buggy could prove dangerous. There is a side trip through Scotland’s rugged terrane where Charles Blair is lifted by cot. In a letter we hear how terrified he was. Can you imagine being a teenage boy traveling through Europe with your tutor for two to three years in those days? Sometimes they ate and slept in the same room with flees. Poor royals.

Pageant Program
Emma Hart, Lady Hamilton As Circe, 1782, George Romney, Oil on Canvas, Program Cover. Photo by M.C.

The painting of Emma Hart (not her real name) on the program cover is part of a large segment in the Pageant. They say Emma was a model for an artist. In those days, a model was considered no more than a prostitute. (In doing some research, she was treated like an object.) She also became known for her ‘attitudes,’ which were poses for a small live audience. (Again, I think men were just gawking at her.) I would say she was a young girl of a blacksmith, trying to make a life for herself, and ended up used by men. She hung with the wrong crowd in all walks of life. Hon. Charles Greville tried to make some money off her commissioned portraits by George Romney. Greville fancied another woman, who was rich, and sent Emma to his uncle. Emma married Greville’s uncle, who was in his sixties. Then Admiral Horatio Nelson saw her in one of her performances and fell in love with her. Once Emma’s husband died, she married Nelson. He died leaving her to fend for herself. Sadly, she ended up gray, fat, and poor as a paper reports then died at forty-nine. Watching the show, I couldn’t help but think her story would make a great romance novel, but would need a better ending.

Act Two celebrates Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Tour. I didn’t realize he performed for Queen Victoria with Native American’s. Annie Oakley is spotlighted. Also the Jazz era in Paris has a large segment. If you sit stage right in the Loge area you will see Louise Armstrong, 2000 in bronze by Blaine Kern Artists and Encore: Duke Ellington Memorial, 2012 Stainless Steel by Zachary Oxman. You aren’t missing much on the hill. There are Native Americans pretending to be angry and Buffalo Bill, but not an art piece. So this time would be a good time to sit up close if you want to see the performers breath and blink. Plus, Buffalo Bill rides in front of the first row with a beautiful fawn horse. 

Festival of Arts

Festival of Arts is part of your ticket to the Pageant. For the 85th anniversary the grounds and facilities have been renovated, but still have the same feeling and layout. There is new, low concrete weaving throughout the exhibit where people sit with a bring-your-own picnic. Sometimes you can catch a concert included with both events. Many of the same artists are there every year, which adds to the community feel. The photography of Norway is beautiful. The jewelry can be from beautiful to imaginative. Some of the necklaces have moving parts like the inside of a watch.

Sawdust Art & Craft Festival

Adler Mermaid Necklace
Mermaid necklace by Lorraine Adler. Photo by M.C.

All the events are about half a mile from the beach. The influence of the ocean makes it easy to find lots of mermaid art, particularly at the Sawdust Festival. I bought a blonde mermaid necklace by artist Lorraine Adler who creates lovely watercolors and jewelry. The necklaces have a print of her original watercolors. Adler says, “[I] started painting mermaids last year when a redhead came into my Sawdust booth, said she loved my work, and wanted me to paint a redheaded mermaid for her. It was the start of something big and so much fun creating these personalities.”

The Sawdust is my favorite art festival. The lighting is beautiful at night, looking up at the surrounding brush. The food is great too. Tacos Durrell has a spicy, tofu taco. Enjoy the live music while you eat.

All the events are chill. You can eat and drink everywhere. Though the smell of the vinegary wine during the Pageant isn’t so great. (Maybe bring your own.) You can take your children. I saw ages maybe 6 to 96. There was a little dog there! At least take the kiddos to Sawdust. I went to Sawdust as a child and still have fond memories of walking on wood chips and looking at colorful art in natural lighting.

Pageant of the Masters runs nightly through August 31, 2017 and Sawdust is open until September 3, 2017. Both are walking distance from each other. Get there before 5:30 p.m. to get good parking for $15.

Festival of Arts • Pageant of the Masters • 650 Laguna Canyon Rd • Laguna Beach CA 92651 • 1-800-487-3378

Copyright 2017 Melissa Crismon