Much Ado at the Palm
In the space of just five years, between 1595 and 1600, William Shakespeare perfected the romantic comedy. In short order, he cranked out A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, Twelfth Night – all masterpieces – and one of the greatest of all, Much Ado About Nothing. Much Ado plays for one night only at the Palm this Friday evening under the direction of Angela Watkins, a Telluride School drama teacher. Watkins’ 10 and 11-year-old students, a “particularly smart and talented” group this year, she said, will star.
The play is the 15th annual edition of The 5th Grade Shakespeare Project. Watkins directs Shakespeare every year; two of the six plays she keeps in rotation, Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth are tragedies. You might imagine, given that Much Ado is a comedy, that it would be less complex to tackle than a Shakespeare play with darker themes. Just because the ending of this play is happy, though, doesn’t necessarily make it easier for 10-year-old students. At the center of Much Ado is a pair of bickering, would-be lovers – Benedick and Beatrice – locked in a war of words and wit. “I think the kids understand, because they do this with each other” – the wordplay, the teasing – outside the play, Watkins said. “It’s flirting, but it’s also, who can tell the better joke? Who has the better comeback?”
But there is also another pair of lovers, Hero and Claudio, and the matter of Claudio’s (mistaken) belief that Hero has had an affair on the eve of their wedding. That, Watkins said, is trickier territory – getting her young charges to understand what really happened “and how big of an issue that was back then, and is today. Fifth graders are just becoming aware of sex and love. My daughter’s in the fifth grade, so I’m going, oh, I get it.” A particular joy, Watkins said, has been the wordplay, the malapropisms, and the Shakespearean insults, which her students are delighting in: “They keep researching and looking up new ones.” And kids will be kids: the character Dogberry, for example, has a speech in which he exclaims, “Masters, remember that I am an ass. Though it be not written down, yet forget not that I am an ass.” For students of this age “To say that word on stage in front of a group of parents,” Watkins said, “is thrilling.” What’s more, in the context of the play, it’s okay. Indeed, “I tell them: it’s part of your job.” Much Ado About Nothing plays one night only, 5:30 p.m. this Friday at the Palm. Admission is free.
The Sheridan Arts Foundation and the Telluride Historical Museum recently teamed up to commission a short film entitled 1878-1913 – Historic Landmarks of Telluride. It was made by Telluride TV, and debuts tonight at the Sheridan Opera House.
The film is a 12-minute survey of the buildings in Telluride of historical significance – the ones that earned the town its designation as a National Landmark in 1961. The structures are interesting in and of themselves, but the stories of how they came to be built, and why, is what brings them to life. From the film, for example, you will learn that the original San Miguel County Courthouse, built in 1885, survived for only a year before it was burned down. The second Courthouse, built in 1887, is what survives to this day. You will also learn that the Telluride Historical Museum was once the Miner’s Hospital, where injured miners coalesced until 1965. And that the Popcorn Alley Cribs, located at 121, 123 and 127 E. Pacific Avenue, were buildings for brothels, and that they got their name(s) from the sounds the slamming of their doors made customers ventured in and out. There is a good deal here about the Sheridan Opera House, the last major historic structure to be erected downtown once the town’s mineral-based economy began slowing down around 1913. The Sheridan was originally designed to showcase movies and vaudeville, but has also hosted everything from proms to boxing matches as well as countless concerts and the Telluride Film Festival. The film screens at 5:30, 6 and 6:30 p.m.; admission is free. Watch it online at HYPERLINK "http://www.vimeo.com/85457810" www.vimeo.com/85457810.
If you’re curious to learn more about the history of Telluride and its architecture, pick up the latest volume of Telluride Tales from the Historical Museum, entitled “Celebrating Historic Preservation in Telluride.” You can also find it by visiting telluridemuseum.org/shop and clicking on Regional Books.
Ouray Resident Wins the Drue Heinz Award
Kent Nelson has been named the 2014 winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize, one of the nation’s most prestigious awards for a work of short fiction. Nelson received the award for Spirit Bird: Short Stories; the prize includes a cash award of $15,000 and publication of his manuscript by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Judges for the Drue Heinz read like a Who’s Who of modern literature (Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Penn Warren, Raymond Carver and Joan Didion have all served). This year’s judge was David Guterson, author of Snow Falling on Cedars, who plucked Spirit Bird from a field of 350 entries. “It's a collection set in disparate geographies and touching on disparate lives, but it explores consistently the terrain of loneliness and yearning,” Guterson wrote of Nelson’s short story collection. “One of its more impressive features is the way it artfully balances saying too much with saying too little. These stories open out instead of closing up.” Nelson has said that he “started all these stories with a character in a place and figured out from there where the story might go. This required writing the first page ten or so times, often more, as I made new decisions about the character and what might happen.” The author has lived all over, but keeps coming back to Colorado. “Landscapes get internalized,” he told a reporter at Examiner.com. “I’ve always felt the mountains were home.” Nelson’s short fiction has been included in The Best American Short Stories, The Best of the West, The O. Henry Awards and The Best American Mystery Stories. Spirit Bird will be published this fall.