CORRECTION: Maureen Frank is a Facilitator, not a co-founder of MPL. John Byrne and Cristina White founded MPL in May 2015
Today, the world celebrates the 456th birthday of William Shakespeare—poet, playwright, and inventor of catchy phrases. Perhaps you’ve caught yourself using some of his creations over the past few weeks: “Brave new world,” “Beggar all description,” “Catch a cold,” “Forever and a day,” “In a pickle,” “A plague on both your houses.”
Even the phrase “household words” can be traced back to the Bard. But these and countless other expressions aren’t the only signs that Shakespeare lives on in the hearts and minds of this community.
At The Majestic Theatre, which has been a Corvallis hub for arts and culture for over 100 years, Shakespeare is very much alive. Their online community theatre initiative, Majesticpiece Theatre, is presenting Shakespeare’s Cymbeline this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on Facebook Live.
Tune in this weekend if you want to celebrate the Bard’s b-day from home, support local theatre, and catch up on this late romance that you probably didn’t learn about in school. And be sure to mark your calendars for next month’s online performance of Twelfth Night.
Of course, The Majestic has had to cancel or postpone the majority of its spring events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One production that remains on the books is William Shakespeare’s Wars of the Roses, which will be the opening show of the Majestic’s 2020-21 season. Director Rachel Kohler means to take this condensed adaptation of four of Shakespeare’s history plays into exciting new territory, describing the production as a cross between classical theatre and an Iron Maiden concert.
As the COVID-19 crisis has advanced, Kohler says she’s been thinking a lot about Shakespeare. “He lived through some serious plagues, which were very common in this period. Theatres were shut down for all of 1593, when he was just getting his theatre career in London off the ground. So he spent the year writing erotic poetry instead.”
As if we needed any more proof that Shakespeare was chock full of good ideas.
Another local group that’s been adjusting to a world of closed theaters is the Majestic Playwright Lab. Usually meeting once a month, the lab is a place for playwrights to present, share, and discuss their new plays with other playwrights, actors, directors, and interested community members.
Co-founder Maureen Frank says that the group has been unable to convene as of late because the structure of the workshop does not lend itself well to online meetings. In the meantime, she has been offering prompts to encourage members to stay active. Some of the themes of these prompts include second chances, do-overs, and waking up to new and unforeseen opportunities.
Judging by the rumors that Shakespeare composed King Lear while under quarantine, this could be a fruitful time for our local playwrights.
As a playwright herself, MPL co-founder Cristina White considers Shakespeare to be one of her primary teachers, her biggest takeaways being “the importance of richly-developed characters, and the possibilities of conveying both power and beauty in the language of plays.”
Bravo to the folks at The Majestic Theatre for continuing to channel Shakespeare’s inventive spirit, as we all “hover through the fog and filthy air” that is the COVID-19 pandemic.
By JD Brookbank