Arts and Entertainment

STANDING ROOM ONLY

There’s a sure-fire way to distinguish between the two major modes of classic Elizabethan drama. I learned it at college. It’s one of the few things I retained, mostly because the dramatic definition sidesteps the sort of obfuscating academic hogwash they usually peddle in literary departments around the country.

The other thing I remember learning at school, by the way, is that the space shuttle Challenger exploded because of a compound statistical error that began as an apparently negligible miscalculation in the measured distance between polymer heat tiles. Or was it clay heat tiles?

Anyway, in an English class I signed up for on the later plays of William Shakespeare, the professor revealed a simple formula by which to tell the difference between a tragedy and a comedy. There are no deviations from this formula, she said. It always works. At this point, I angled my pen against the notebook, prepared to scribble down every word of her lengthy, obtuse and indisputably important definition.

“At the end of a tragic play, everyone dies,” she said. “At the end of a comic play, everyone gets married.”

I still find this brilliant, though I’m not sure how it might apply to “Princess Finds a Way,” the modern drama being performed this Friday and Saturday by co-curricular drama students from Coupeville Middle School. The storyline, which involves a little cross-dressing, sounds more like Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Ernest” than anything Shakespeare ever penned.

Written by Rosanne Manfredi, the play centers on one Princess Megan, whose father, the King, is holding a royal contest to determine who will marry Megan and thereby assume control of the kingdom. The princess, a strong-willed and eminently imaginative girl, enters the contest as a man in order to wrest control of her own destiny. Chaos ensues, of course, replete with a conniving pretender to the throne and a young prince with whom Megan may or may not be falling in love.

“Princess Finds a Way” will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 8-9, at the Performing Arts Center in Coupeville (just west off Hwy 20). There is no admission charge, though it is an audience participation event, so come prepared to take part. For more information, call CMS drama advisor Patte Shanholzer at 678-0746.

Hep cats will want to be in Langley on Friday night for the all-island concert sponsored by Whidbey Island Dixieland Jazz Society, which will feature performances by middle and high school bands from Oak Harbor, Coupeville and South Whidbey. The students will play classic numbers by Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Glenn Miller (one hopes they also play some of that “other” jazz by legends like Miles Davis and John Coltrane). Proceeds from the concert will be distributed as scholarships for high school seniors around the island; in the last decade, more than $42,000 in scholarships have been awarded. The show starts at 7:30 at South Whidbey High School Auditorium; tickets are $5; call Jerry Jones at 679-2066.

On Monday at noon, talented mezzo soprano Ute Freund of Oak Harbor will be performing at Seattle’s all-purpose Town Hall (8th & Seneca) in a free solo concert. Opera lovers, as well as those who support local talents, won’t want to miss this rare opportunity to hear some classy music. Accompanied by Johanna Mastenbrook on piano, Freund will sing selected arias from works by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Strauss and others.

“I’m Herbert,” a one act play by Robert Anderson, will be staged free-of-charge this Friday at 6 p.m.at Oak Harbor Retirement Community on SW Kimball Drive. The play, performed by island-based actors Jan Mitri and Darrel Berg, is about two old people reminiscing about their past – always a good thing. Old people can be really smart and funny. Call activities director Judy Hogan at 279-0933 for more info.

And here’s something a little further from home but utterly worth the drive: legendary New Orleans blues and soul crooner Dr. John (the guy who wrote “Right Place, Wrong Time”) will be laying down some funky voodoo Creole grooves at Mount Vernon’s Lincoln Theater for two shows (4:30 and 7:30 p.m.) this Sunday. Tickets (from $25 to $45) are reserved seating only, so call 1-877-754-6284 right away!

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