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Offering a fresh way of helping you keep up with art and entertainment happenings around the Capital District.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My two best theatrical memories of 2011

Next to making a New Year's resolution for the upcoming year, there is not a more futile list than deciding what was best in the year just past. Most of my problem with best lists is that being in the business of reviewing theater and arts for a daily newspaper I find comfort in thinking the offering of my opinion has a purpose - to give direction to someone to either see or avoid an event.

Looking back over the year by making a list is more like saying look what I did and you didn't do.

OK, with that in mind let me share my two best theater experiences of 2011, which because they are out of the region can't be placed on any local best list. (which will appear in this space shortly).

One you might have done, the other - no way.

My absolute best theatrical experience of 2011 was attending the production of "Jerusalem" on Broadway. It featured what might be the most awesome stage performance I've ever seen. Mark Rylance was enormously powerful, touching and flamboyant in the lead role. There is hardly a week that goes by that his portrayal doesn't find its way into my head.

If there is a negative with such a strong performance, it is that we tend to remember the performance rather than the material. Too bad because the material is as large in scope as was Rylance's performance, which totally served the work. It's a trite phrase, but this was a "once in a lifetime" portrayal that I treasure.

The other great experience was attending the opera "Tosca" at Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. sitting in the Presidential Box. Oh yeah! Though an excellent production, this wasn't the best "Tosca" I''d ever seen but the surroundings made it one of the best experiences I've had in 2011.

I tend to be jaded. I've attended so many great art events and met and interviewed so many talented, famous artists I am not easily impressed. This experience impressed me. Sitting in the Presidential Box, sipping champagne and eating chocolates all packaged with the presidential seal made me feel like a giddy kid. It gives you the slightest taste of what life in the really fast lane can be like.

In the interest of full disclosure President Obama was not there. However, the president's social secretary and one of his guests did share the box (it seats eight). We engaged in good discussion about the state of the arts and I was impressed with their ability to speak knowingly of the upstate NY region. At one point we were all trying to remember the name of the former artistic director of Glimmerglass Opera and one of them went to his contact list on his smart phone and pulled it out. As I said - impressive.

There are a number of wonderful times provided by the arts. Some are simple - like sitting on the lawn at SPAC listening to Emmanuel Ax or attending the world premiere of a play in the Berkshires believing it will be a future hit on Broadway. And perhaps, just being part of a crowd listening to a great band in downtown Troy at Rockin' on the River.

Another reason I hate best lists is because there are far too many diverse experiences to list.

Indeed, 2011 was a year of great experiences - but two do stand out. I hope they are matched in 2012.


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