Ekphrasis is the new MTV: Music Videos from April 7th

I promised you some videos of the piano performances that were presented on April 7th. Here they are, at last!


Which Knight of the Round Table are you?

Clive Davis as Arthur

Clive Davis as Arthur

Suppose that you were to match up King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table with the members of Ekphrasis. Who would be King Arthur? Lancelot? Gawain? Below is a list of the primary knights and some of their characteristics as seen throughout various permutations of the Arthurian legends. I challenge you to put your list, matching the members of our group with the knights, in the comments. I have my list already made, and will post it when I think everybody else is done. Remember, just the knights: Not the ladies or the other characters in the stories. Let me know if you want to add knights from other versions of the story. Let’s go!

King Arthur: The founder and leader of the Order, but not as active as many of his knights. He is more like the still center of the circle than one of the adventuresome knights himself. He is an idealist, dreaming big dreams that either come true for only a brief “once and shining moment,” or that come crashing down around him before they ever come true. He is both noble and tragic. In Charles Williams’ version, it is his sins of pride that take down the kingdom.

Lancelot: King Arthur’s best knight (according to many stories): the most noble, pure, devout, spiritual, holy, honest, and honorable knight. It is only in later stories that his adultery with Guinevere creeps in, and some more recent retellings (for instance, the King Arthur and First Knight filmes) have brought him back to the days before his betrayal of the king. In Charles Williams’ version,

Gawain: King Arthur’s best knight (according to many stories) and nephew: The greatest warrior and gentleman of them all. His loyalty is first to his king and next to his large family of brothers. He is a kind of Renaissance man (to use an anachronistic term) who is good at war, peace, love, and all the gentle arts of the court. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight tells the story of his more human foibles and his deep heroism.The Sword In The Stone-03

Taliessin: The poet and captain of horse in Charles Williams’ version: he is a kind of combination of Druid mage and Christian mystic.

Bors: The married man, the knight who embodies domestic love and happiness. He is one of the three Achievers of the Grail.

Galahad: The pure virgin, the High Prince, the emblem of Christ in the stories. He is one of the three Achievers of the Grail. 

Perceval: The Innocent Fool, the naive boy who wants to be a knight, who commits both crimes and acts of heroism in ignorance. He is one of the three Achievers of the Grail.

Gareth: One of Gawain’s brothers, King Arthur’s nephew, a chivalrous and peace-loving young man with a true heart and a sweet nature. In some versions of the story, he is put through ignominious trials (such as serving in the kitchen) to prove his true worth. He has trouble with ladies, but eventually ends up with a beautiful and true love.

Gaheris: Another of Gawain’s brothers and nephew of King Arthur. In some stories, he serves as Gawain’s squire and proves a good companion to his somewhat choleric brother. In Malory, he beheads his own mother when he catches her in adultery with Lamorack.

Bedivere: Arthur’s first, oldest, and most trustworthy friend. He is the last knight to stay true to Arthur in the end, and is the one to throw the sword Excalibur into the lake at the very last.


Vanessa Redgrave and Richard Harris as Guinevere and Arthur

Kay: In some stories, Arthur’s older brother. Sometimes an excellent knight, sometimes a joker, sometimes a buffoon.

Lamorak: Caught in adultery with Morgause and murdered by her sons (except the peaceful Gareth).

Palomides: The “Saracen” knight: An Arab Moslem who travels to Camelot, converts to Christianity, and joins the Round Table. He is also in love with Isolde in Charles Williams’ version.

Tristan: The famous second fated love (after Lancelot and Guinevere), the lover of Isolde (wife of King Mark) after they drink of a love point she was meant to take with Mark on their wedding day. A true and noble knight, but overshadowed by tragedy.

Dinadan: The comic relief character, the well-balanced clown who speaks truth.

There’s my list! What do you think? Who is whom?

Midsummer Night’s Dream playing now!

logo_2I recently ran a review of Players of the Stage‘s production of Midsummer Night’s Dream over on one of my other blogs, Islands of Joy. Here it is again, with added photos and information. The Artistic Director of the show, Sharon Gerdes, the assistant directors Andrew Stirling MacDonald and Jeff Harvey, and the Costume Designer, Betsy Gahman, are all Ekphrasians. Please consider attending tonight, tomorrow night, or Saturday at Living Hope Church, 330 Schantz Road, Allentown, at 7:00 pm.

(Photos by Andrew Stirling MacDonald)


Lovers and Mechanics

Shakespeare’s funniest and most accessible play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, contains a commentary on itself: the play-within-a-play, Pyramus and Thisbe. As the “Mechanicals” receive their scripts and prepare their parts, the audience gets a rare glimpse into Elizabethan performance practices, with ludicrous and delightful results. The performance of this farce is, famously, both “merry and tragical,” “tedious and brief.”

That play-within-a-play might also be a commentary upon the many young companies that attempt a production of this work. No matter how tedious their performance, Shakespeare’s words carry them along into realms of imagination, and they are bound to be merry. I have never seen a dull Midsummer. Something about it makes it well suited to youthful actors: maybe it’s the well-balanced cast of characters, or the light-hearted language, or the three simultaneously unwinding plots, or the timelessly realistic dilemmas of love. It’s probably all of the above. It’s also the shimmering, multi-colored scintillations of its costumes and implied setting, that allow the cast to dance and sparkle with pure summertime beauty.


Oberon gives Puck the flower

Players of the Stage, Allentown’s homeschoolers theatre company, is in the process of rehearsing Midsummer “most obscenely and courageously” for presentation during the first weekend of May. And “Be certain, nothing truer; ’tis no jest” that these young people scintillate and shine in the light of Shakespeare’s story, bringing it to life yet again and proving that this play can be performed over and over again, by a thousand companies in a hundred countries, and never grow stale.


Puck with Lysander and Demetrius

These young actors (ages eleven to sixteen) are tackling Shakespeare for the first time, under the energetic artistic direction of Sharon Gerdes, in an hour-and-a-quarter adaptation of the play. The diverse multiplicity of roles suites them well. Who is the star of the show? Is it Bottom? Puck? The four Lovers? The Fairy King and Queen? The Duke and Duchess? It is this very egalitarian nature of the story that makes it fit a large cast of student-actors so well: each has a chance to shine while still learning and growing. It is like a good ballet: well choreographed, each individual makes everyone else look good so that the entire ensemble basks in the glory together. That is the case here, with Players of the Stage. The casting is just right, with the strongest actors in those main parts. Puck (both Pucks, as it is double-cast) is a revelation of sheer joy: adorable, energetic, and everywhere throughout the whole play, as a mischief-making force. Watch the young Lovers especially, as they develop    their roles and live into the language: there are some really good moments of textual interpretation when these teens take the words into their minds and make them their own.



Oberon and Titania dance

This is a beautiful production. While there are no sets and props are kept to a minimum, the costumes will dazzle the eyes (much like in Shakespeare’s time). Costume Designer Elizabeth Gahman expanded her visual and technical range with the Fairies and Hipppolyta, vesting them in a fairy-tale mashup of the Elizabethan court and Arabian Nights. They provide a startling contrast to the plain white Grecian garb of the rest of the cast, thus emphasizing the difference between the Mortal Realm and the Kingdom of Fäerie.


“Take pains; be perfect:” Please check out their website, http://www.playersofthestage.org/, for dates and reserve your tickets now!