Thursday, January 30, 2014

Seven Ages: Christine Howey

Old Portelaine

Last June, six playwrights and I gathered to discuss the possibility of creating a new play inspired by Jacques' "seven ages of man" speech from Shakespeare's As You Like It for the Great Lakes Theater 2014 free outreach tour.

I laid down a few ground rules, deciding which characters would be available to them, and in what time period it was to be set. These four characters would use each other to tell tales inspired by (but not restricted to) one of each of these ages: infant, schoolboy, lover, soldier, justice, pantaloon and advanced old age.

Assigning each age was no big deal, everyone negotiated and came to an agreement. Area critic, playwright, poet and performer Christine Howey chose "second childhood and mere oblivion" or senescence, as the Bard describes, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Exact Change

Christine is having a good year, and it's not even February. Last weekend she wrapped up a three-week, sold out run of her new solo performance Exact Change at Cleveland Public Theatre. She was recently announced as a 2014 Creative Workforce Fellow, provided by the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture and funded by Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. And of course, she's a playwright for Seven Ages.

Interestingly, we could have booked Exact Change and repackaged that as Seven Ages and had our tour already in the bag. Chronicling as it does the playwright's own experiences from childhood to these later years using verse, video and startling costume changes to evoke a modern Tiresias.

Christine's tale opens our septameron -- beginning where we all conclude -- pitting old Portelaine, a man nearing the end of his days against those who would "cheer him up" or "put a smile on his face". It is a role and responsibility which has struck home to me on numerous recent occasions (including past outreach tours which have visited certain assisted care and nursing facilities) and one which I am still coming to terms with for this piece.

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