Poems and a Pulitzer

Two Long Beach performing companies offer virtual theatre-related experiences.

The+Helen+Borgers+Theatre+at+4250+Atlantic+Ave.%2C+home+of+the+Long+Beach+Shakespeare+Company

Anita W. Harris | Signal Tribune

The Helen Borgers Theatre at 4250 Atlantic Ave., home of the Long Beach Shakespeare Company

Though Long Beach theatres remain closed during the current pandemic, there are some glimmers in the darkness.

The Long Beach Shakespeare Company (LBSC) is offering an online sonnet workshop this Thursday at 6pm. And two Long Beach Opera (LBO) singers from the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Central Park Five will perform live virtually this Thursday at 4pm, making Thursday a potential double-header for artistic immersion.

Shakespeare’s sonnets
The Long Beach Shakespeare Company (LBSC) is offering a Thursday workshop series with Artistic Director Brando Cutts on William Shakespeare’s sonnets. The next workshop will be this Thursday, May 7 at 6pm, and take place online via Zoom.

The workshops offer a live interaction with Cutts explaining the poems for about 30 minutes– including their relevance to the current coronavirus crisis– followed by time for attendees to ask questions.

LBSC asks for a $10 donation to participate in the event by Wednesday at 7pm to allow the company time to process the request and send a Zoom link for the participant to attend the workshop on Thursday.

“Every week I’ll be talking about different sonnets and how they apply to how people are feeling today,” Cutts told the Signal Tribune.

He added that Shakespeare’s sonnets express ideas about love at a human level, such as hidden or frustrating love, and some sonnets are outright mushy.

“All the sonnets show a different aspect on how love is,” Cutts said.

At last week’s workshop with about 10 participants, Cutts discussed Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29, which is about isolation and frustration, he said.

“[Shakespeare] talks a lot about being isolated and about feelings of loneliness, and wishing he could change things,” Cutts said. “Then in the last two lines, he says, ‘None of that matters because I’m with you– as long as with I’m with the person I love, I’m content to be patient.’”

This week’s workshop will focus on sonnets within Shakespeare’s plays, which are playful and funny, connecting to how people have been interacting with each other on social-media sites such as Tik Tok and Instagram during isolation, Cutts said.

“That’s what the sonnets in the plays show– that kind of goofy, silly type of love, where it’s not stodgy and it’s not serious,” he said. “Every time a sonnet is used in a play, it has some sort of clever or comedic effect.”

The workshop will use visual aids and images, almost like a classroom, and may be appropriate for high schoolers or even middle schoolers, Cutts said, adding that it’s also a good happy-hour activity to bring a drink to.

“The sonnets provide messages of love to get us through coronavirus,” Cutts said. “There’s a sonnet for everyone.”

Donations will help fund future productions, LBSC’s Producer Dana Leach told the Signal Tribune.

“We are hoping to have [Oscar Wilde’s] A Woman of No Importance open in June with limited seating for social distancing,” Leach said. “The cast is working hard with Zoom rehearsals and blocking using diagrams and models.”

She and designer Tim Leach are painting the set at LBSC’s home, the Helen Borgers Theatre at 4250 Atlantic Ave. in Bixby Knolls.

“Costuming is a bit of a challenge […] since we don’t do late-Victorian very often,” Leach said.

She noted that LBSC’s mascot, Hamlet the pig, who frequently makes an appearance during production intermissions, is missing his public, too.

“A theatre is a sad place when it is dark,” Leach said. “Tim and I are doing our best to keep the ghosts at bay by playing music and having lots of laughs and fun while getting the theatre ready to come back to life.”

Pulitzer performance
The Long Beach Opera (LBO) announced that Anthony Davis, composer of LBO’s world-premiere production of The Central Park Five, won the Pulitzer Prize for music earlier this week.
Two opera singers from The Central Park Five– Cedric Berry and Ashley Faatoalia– will perform live this Thursday, May 7 at 4pm on LBO’s Official Facebook, here.

Staged at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro last summer, the opera tells the true story of five African-American and Latino youth falsely accused of rape, set to Davis’s jazz-inflected score.

[See related article: Theatre review: Long Beach Opera’s The Central Park Five]

“[The Central Park Five is] a courageous operatic work marked by powerful vocal writing and sensitive orchestration that skillfully transforms a notorious example of contemporary injustice into something empathetic and hopeful,” Dana Canedy, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, announced May 4.

Jennifer Rivera, LBO’s executive director and CEO, said in a May 5 press release that the news brings happiness in a difficult time and affirms LBO’s commitment to supporting artists.

“LBO is so proud to have been the company responsible for bringing this work to life,” Rivera said. “[We are] utterly delighted that composer Anthony Davis has been so deservedly acknowledged for his groundbreaking work.”

LBO had to postpone its March production of The Lighthouse at Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific and has canceled Billy the Kid, which was supposed to have been staged this week at the Sunnyside Cemetery in Long Beach, as well as Frida in June, all due to COVID-19 restrictions.

However, the company launched a series of daily live shows this week on its Facebook page with performances, conversations and interviews by LBO artists, including the two Central Park Five performers this Thursday.

Like LBSC, LBO says it depends on patron and donor support, especially without productions to bring in ticket sales.

“Although we are choosing to remain a creative, vital force, we are by no means out of the proverbial woods,” Rivera said. “There is so much to do in order to build up all that was lost by the unexpected and deeply challenging situation created by this pandemic.”