For Guylty…”Friendship is a light in dark times”

I am sure that most of you are already aware that Guylty’s father died last week after a sudden and unexpected illness.  The obituary for her father appeared in their local paper yesterday, and it asks mourners not to send tangible expressions of sympathy to the family.  The desired beneficiary of any memorials is a Heimatverein via a German bank account.

Since this will be a bit difficult for people outside of the EU to participate in, Servetus and I talked it over and we thought that a donation to one of Richard Armitage’s Just Giving charities on behalf of fans might be in order (similar to the one that was organized in memory of Servetus’ mom last summer).  I have set up a new PayPal account to collect donations which will then be donated at the Just Giving site.

This post is not meant as a pressure to donate;   We know that heartfelt expressions of sympathy are the most meaningful, and very many of you have left notes of sympathy already. But if you feel so moved, we wanted to let you know about this opportunity to donate.   Guylty is really a bright light of the fandom; she has bolstered so many of us time and again, both knowingly and unknowingly; and our hope is to extend the sign from all over the world of how much we sympathize with her.

As far as the transactional details, we have a couple of different options

1.  CDoart has volunteered to coordinate donations to the Heimaterverein  HERE

2.  To donate to via PayPal click HERE

  • it is possible to donate via PayPal without a PayPal account.  Shoot me an email, and I’ll send you the info.

3. All PayPal donations will be kept completely confidential, but if you would prefer to remain wholly anonymous, you can donate  directly to Just Giving without providing your name.  Click HERE for Richard Armitage’s Just Giving Pages.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

I’ll leave you with a song by one of Guylty’s favorite artists…

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What a Wonderful World…Spread the Love Update

What a great week of reports coming in from The Crucible previews in London…people are enjoying the play tremendously and those who have met Richard Armitage at the stage door have mentioned many times how happy and sweet he’s been.  There’s another word to describe him…. it just slipped my mind…wait, it will come to me…um frightening?  No, that’s not it.   Oh, I remember now – KIND.  We all have our frightening moments, but Richard Armitage has shown over and over again that he has a tremendous capacity for kindness despite being absolutely terrifying!   And so do you all!   You make it a wonderful world…cue gratuitous Louis Armstrong…

The SpReAd the Love campaign celebrates the kindness each and every one of us does in both in our local communities and just in general.  So far this year we’ve collected reports of 344 kindnesses ranging from monetary gifts and in kind donations of food, clothing, furniture, toiletries, etc., to simple kindnesses like holding a door or helping out a friend.  Our last campaign was specifically directed at extending kindness to children in crisis in honor of Richard Armitage’s role as Chop in the forthcoming film Urban and the Shed Crew during which we collected 144 kindness reports which were matched by a dollar for kindness donations to one of Richard Armitage’s Just Giving Charities

stl just giving 3

It doesn’t end there…the same anonymous donor has agreed to underwrite a new speed round of kindness collection.  July 9th is the opening night for regular performances of The Crucible at the Old Vic Theater in London.  I’m shamelessly pasting in Jazzbaby’s fantastic description…you can find it here

kindness challenge 3

So there you have it.  Thirteen days before July 9th…that’s less than four kindnesses per day throughout all of ArmitageWorld – easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy!!  Here, I’ll get us started by giving a shout out to the gentleman with the lovely smile who held open the door for me at the gas station this morning…my day’s a little brighter because of his kindness.  So 47 left anddddd…..GO!

Richard Armitage, The Crucible and Dramatic Impact

From The Old Vic

From The Old Vic

I’ve been wanting to talk about the connections between Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and Greek tragedy (and they are legion) but I very often shy away from blogging about the hard core literary side of the classical tradition.  It’s not that I’m not interested in it, but that in the past, I’ve felt out of my depth in such conversations with colleagues. Part of it has to do with the specific path of study of Classical Archaeologists versus that of Classicists.  I’ve studied both ancient Greek and Latin, being required to exhibit proficiency in both.  However, while my classicist colleagues went on to hone their language skills, I was learning to triangulate a point in three dimensions with a plumb bob (prior to GPS locating) to accurately map field discoveries.   I’ve read a large amount of Greek literature both in Greek and in translation, but when the Classicists moved on to in depth critical analysis of Greek dramas, I was learning about the physical forces that make buildings stand up (and fall down) and the difference between the Severe and Hellenistic styles in Greek sculpture, vase painting and architecture.

You see the thing is, Classical Archaeology is a field that is really a composite of information incorporated from several different disciplines.   We study methods and theory of field archaeology to be able to excavate source material, and while I know that there are archaeologists who work primarily in the excavation (in the US for instance, there are contract archaeologists who work for governmental and private agencies to undertake “rescue” excavations to salvage materials that are in the path of destruction, usually from some kind of construction project.) Classical Archaeologists must also complete graduate level work in art history, classical civilization, ancient and modern languages, history, anthropology and a host of other subjects depending on what their special area of interest is – ask me how those ceramic classes went sometime!  Essentially, in the face of everything that has to be crammed into the schedule, something’s got to give, and for me, it was literature, drama, especially tragedy, included.

Up until now, I’d kind of bought into the notion that I really wasn’t well versed enough to comment in any depth about classical tragedy, but as I was re-reading The Crucible over the past week or so, I’ve realized that’s crap.  As reports pour in from the first two preview performances, I’ve been struck by how strong the impact on the audience has been…especially from people who had no prior knowledge of the play.  These reports really resonated with me, because it strikes me that this is exactly what drama should do….it should make an impact.  Commenting about drama need not be confined to critically picking apart the text or even the specifics of performances, but also can include a discussion of the reaction it produces in an individual.  One doesn’t need an advanced degree to do this, just the desire to look closely at the play and ask why it causes the reactions it does.

A University of South Dakota production of Medea Source

A University of South Dakota production of Medea
Source

Ancient Greek theater had its origins in religious ritual, eventually evolving and attaching itself to the worship of the god Dionysus, especially in Athens.  As such, Greek tragedy was not written for an erudite audience, but for the οἱ πολλοί (hoi polloi) – the masses.  These masses, whose education varied from wholly illiterate to Platonic scholarship, would all have been well versed in the mythological landscape in which tragedies were set.  No spoiler alerts were required…everyone in the theater knew that Oedipus would blind himself and Pentheus would lose his head.  The Classical Greeks went to the theater to see how an individual playwright would spin an ancient story in a new and interesting way.  How an old tale could be written to produce a new response.

In essence, that’s what the classical playwrights were trying to do…to take these well known myths and evoke a visceral response in the audience by focusing on themes and concepts that were ideologically important or conversely, frightening to the Greeks.  For the audience, no special knowledge of dramatic theory was necessary…one only need be human.  In a sense, every audience member judges the success of a performance, but for the Greeks this took a literal turn.

Tragedies were written and produced in a competition that was a part of the festival devoted to Dionysus.  Playwrights competed for a spot in the festival, and the three finalists each submitted three tragedies and a satyr play which were performed and judged.  The ten judges were drawn by lot from a pool of eligible candidates within each of the ten tribes of Athens and represented a mix of ordinary citizens, whose primary connection to the theater was as spectators, and those with a more professional interest.  At the end of performances, each of the ten judges would write their three winners in order of preference on a tablet.  The ten tablets were placed into a container, and then five were chosen at random to prevent bribery and bias.  The votes on these five tablets were tallied to determine the winners.

The assessment of the success of modern dramatic performance has changed considerably from its ancient antecedent.  While audience impression is still important to the commercial success of a production, a great deal of emphasis is now placed on the opinions of professional theater critics.  I suppose that this in part due to a kind of unspoken, yet pervasive, idea that the hoi polloi are not equipped to judge what constitutes “good theater.”  I’m not trying to suggest an overthrow of the system, but I think that this is an attitude that can be misleading at best, and snobbishly exclusionary at worst.  The motivations of modern theatrical performance are not so very different than they ever were – to shock, to amaze, to entertain, to question – namely, to evoke a reaction from the audience.

One of the elements of the preview performances of The Crucible that has been buzzing around Armitageworld is the portion of Act 2 where Richard Armitage is shirtless on stage as John Proctor.  I was kind of disappointed to see that some commenters pooh poohed all the excitement this caused.  Seriously?!  To this I would say, take a look at the original text and stage directions of The Crucible – I defy you to find this element there.  This scene was deliberately crafted by the director Yael Farber and played by the cast specifically to evoke such a visceral, human reaction…no different than cringing in horror at Proctor’s tortured condition in the final act or weeping at his ultimate fate.  It’s an evocative part of a new retelling of an old story.

Drool on...you're only human! From the Old Vic

Drool on…you’re only human!
From the Old Vic

That post on the connections between The Crucible and Greek tragedy is coming shortly 🙂

Pea, Avocado and Chartreuse…Richard Armitage and The Crucible

I was doing really well coming to terms with the fact that I would not be seeing Richard Armitage perform as John Proctor at the Old Vic this summer.  I was only a sort of pale pea green with envy.  Until two days ago, and then this happened:

Awww, c'mon!  Really?!

Awww, c’mon! Really?! Source

I started running the logistics.  I have a valid passport and an excellent rolling suitcase (interestingly enough, it’s green).  I could probably scrape up the cost of admission, so what’s left?  Oh, that’s right…there’s that little matter of transatlantic airfare and accommodations in a moderately pricey global capital.  My husband just laughed at my increasingly avocado tinged skin.  “What’s the big deal?” he says… “it’s not like The Crucible is hot or something.”  Oh really?  Is that so?

Nope, nothin' hot here...

Nope, nothin’ hot here… Source

I’ve always been kind of amused by the contemporary notion that sex was completely taboo in the 17th – 19th centuries…that sexual expression is a product of the modern world.  Yeah, not really.  Puritan society was having plenty of sex, it was just legally confined to the context of marriage.  The fact that Puritan law made adultery a capital offense is certainly suggestive that adultery existed.  Adultery has always existed, and so have sanctions against it.  One of the things I find most interesting about studying the activities of the human animal is no matter what the time period or the culture, the harder authority tries to crack down on something, the more enticing it becomes to humans.

There has been a lot of discussion about The Crucible being parallel to the “witch hunt” socio-political context of the McCarthy hearings, and that is certainly interesting, but I’m also very intrigued by the sexual politics of the play.  Arthur Miller adjusted the age of the Abigail Williams character to allow for an adulterous affair between her and John Proctor, an affair that fuels much of the conflict.   His guilt over the affair and her desire to continue it, to the point of implicating his wife as a witch to get her out of the way, creates an enormous sexual tension that runs behind the “witch” trials in the play.  I doubt I’m the first person to note Miller’s allusion to the renewed sexual repression of the 1950’s America after a period of loosening social and sexual mores in the interwar period (1920’s-30’s).  If the images from rehearsal are anything to go by, this production promises to deliver the goods on a variety of levels.

but I'm not bitter...

but I’m not bitter…much.

In all seriousness…to all who are going to see the play, have a fabulous time!  (and for the love of all that’s holy, throw me some crumbs and let me know the details when you regain the power of speech!!)

DReAmcasting Richard Armitage…

Last night, I was chatting with a couple Armitageworld friends about various and sundry happenings.  A conversation about “Banana-gate” over in Hiddlesphere led to a conversation about Anne Rice’s (writing as A.N. Roquelaure) Sleeping Beauty series.

sleeping beauty

This transitioned into a discussion of Ms. Rice and her multiple mentions of Richard Armitage as a member of her dream cast for any future film iterations of The Vampire Chronicles (she has mentioned RA as being suited for both the characters of Lestat and Louis…I’m not sure about Lestat, but broody Louis is right up the Armitage character tree.)

On the topic of Anne Rice, it came out that at least two of us were very big fans of another of her novels,

the mummy

Can you guess who’s piercing blue eye I’d like to see peeping out of Ramses’ wrappings on a movie poster?

It is a fantastic story…set in Edwardian England and Egypt.  It’s a veritible case study in human folly as it twines together themes of greed, lust, wrath, envy…I haven’t read it for a while, but I’m sure that I can find all seven.  With talks of a third film version drawn from the vamp corpus, I expressed my longstanding desire to see The Mummy come to the screen.

Let the dReAmcasting begin!

Julie Stratford – the female protagonist of the story…

We like Natalie Portman…she embodies a sort of deceptive fragility that encloses some serious acting chops.

Julie’s urbane but increasing desperate cousin Henry Stratford?

Left:  Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Source) Right:  Aidan Turner (Source)

Left: Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Source) Right: Aidan Turner (Source)

I’m leaning toward Rhys Meyers for the boozy Henry.

Here as Capt. James Nicholls in War Horse (my cap)

Here as Capt. James Nicholls in War Horse (my cap)

We were in agreement that Tom Hiddleston would be great as Julie Stratford’s fiance Alex Savarell, Viscount Summerfield…all pleading eyes and genial charm!

Who then could play Alex’s father – Lord Eliot Rutherford – attractive to Julie despite being a contemporary of her father’s?  Hmmm, fiftyish, British, lordly, sexy

rf

The Fiennes has it…does he ever!

Ralph Fiennes is perfect for the sexy, but cardiac impaired Elliot Savarell, Earl of Rutherford.

One actor came immediately to mind to play the female antagonist of the story…Cleopatra (yes, that Cleopatra.)  Beautiful, brilliant, but dangerously damaged…who can, and has done that?

She does dangerous and damaged really, REALLY well! Source

She does dangerous and damaged really, REALLY well!
Source

Who else but Angelina Jolie? (she’s also the PERFECT age for the role!)

There are several other minor roles, but that pretty much covers all of the major characters with one exception…the title role of course.  I imagine that you have a pretty good idea of who we immediately hit on to play The Mummy – Ramses the Damned…a tall, strikingly handsome man with piercing blue eyes…

From The Old Vic

From The Old Vic

Well, duh!  Of course we picked Richard Armitage.  I like him a lot for this role….a whole lot.  Ramses is a conflicted character…an immortal with a lust for life, but a huge amount of angst about his past.

 

the mummy

If you haven’t read The Mummy, I encourage you to do so…and get back to me with your casting suggestions…I think we have a winner here!  So there you have it…in the immortal words of Jazzbaby:

This could be the single sexiest movie ever.”

 

The Mirror Has (at least) Two Faces: Richard Armitage and Janus

One of my very favorite things about Richard Armitage as an actor, is his ability to subtly manipulate the expression on his face.  I’m not talking about the kind of exaggerated contortions that are a trademark of Jim Carrey, but rather the combination of several small, but potent elements that allow him to convey emotion, mood or temperament through expression alone.

Need I say more? Source

Need I say more?
Source

Case in point:  The promotional image for Old Vic production of The Crucible.  The sum of subtle individual expressions produces a kind of subdued ferocity. While reminiscent of characters like Guy of Gisborne and Thorin Oakenshield, this expression is a far cry from the genial and friendly expression that Richard Armitage has sported in all kinds of promotional and fan photos recently. For example:

At CinemaCon Source

At CinemaCon
Source

Or

At WonderCon Source

Richard Armitage, WonderCon, April 19, 2014. Photographed by Gage Skidmore. Source

The contrast is striking.  It’s almost as if he has two different faces – rather like the Roman god Janus.

Janus coin from early Republican Rome Source

Janus coin from early Republican Rome
Source

Janus was one of the most ancient gods in the Roman Pantheon…so ancient that by the first century AD, the Romans themselves had lost track of his earliest origins and functions.  What is known is that as a deity, Janus was primarily associated with doors (januae), beginnings and transitions.  The two faced images of Janus are well suited to the duality of the concept of beginnings and changes…a face for each part of the equation.

Students always find Janus’ protection of doors kind of curious.  Why would doors require a dedicated deity they wonder?  Doors held tremendous importance to the Romans…they were the barrier that separated the sacred space inside the house from the dangers that were rampant outside.  By the tail end Roman Republic (late 1st century BC) this was a largely figurative concept.  In the early days of Roman culture though, when Rome was an isolated cluster of villages populated by farmers and shepherds and surrounded by wilderness, the dangers of the outdoors were very real.  Janus was only one of the protectors of the door.

doors janus

At its earliest, Roman religion was most likely an animistic tradition.  That is, they believed that everything, either animate or inanimate was imbued with spirit…with anima.  Eventually, many of these anima were personified as deities:  Cardea watched over the hinges, Limentius the threshold.   Janus was not only associated with the door, but was vital because he watched over the trip through the door.  One face guarded the inside space, the other was a Roman’s eyes to the outside..protecting the transition from sacred to profane.

I'm not sure I'll ever tire of watching for new "faces" to emerge...but I'm positive that I'll take the guy on the left to guard my door!

I’m not sure I’ll ever tire of watching for new “faces” to emerge…but I’m positive that I’ll take the guy on the left to guard my door!