|Bard Beauties: The play is indeed the thing for these Shakespearean-inspired dolls.|
Alan Cumming portrayed every role in “Macbeth.” The native of Scotland put his personal stamp on “the Scottish play.” He shared the stage with a very eerie baby doll.
One of the best things about living near New York City is the fact that theater is there for the watching. I can’t say “for the enjoying,” because (quite truthfully) some of the productions that end up on the Great White Way are anything but great. They’re often mediocre, or sometimes worse than that. Off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway often have much more risky fare, and many times will offer up the most imaginative and satisfying evenings.
Recently I took a chance and went to see a newly mounted version of “Macbeth.” The Shakespeare tragedy is several centuries old, but this new interpretation seemed potentially dicey because the whole play was acted out by one single performer. Yes, that is actually what did happen: Scottish actor Alan Cumming assumed every role in the show, and embodied each character through changing his voice, shifting his posture, or in one bathtub scene altering how he had his bath towel strategically wrapped around his waist.
I like Alan Cumming a whole lot. He and Liza Minnelli have –hands down—the best duet ever of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” I was lucky enough to see him in the stage revival of “Cabaret,” and he’s able to play all kinds of aberrant personalities. Obviously, “Macbeth” gave him a personal field day as he portrayed a man who lets his vanity trump his better nature, a manipulative woman who is cold of heart and really cold-blooded, plus various crones, witches, noblemen, kings, and children.
The setting of this scaled-down “Macbeth” is a mental institution, so we, the audience, are left to wonder if he is reliving these events in his head, has memorized this text and has been driven mad by it, or has committed his own unforgivable crimes and is seizing the Shakespearean tragedy to compensate and to navigate his lost ways. Pretty heady stuff!
By himself for almost two hours, Cumming does have a bit of support from an inanimate secondary actor: an eerie, very sturdy baby doll clad in a dirty and stained gown. The baby doll, which reminded me of the equally sinister character in “Toy Story 3,” plays the role of Malcolm, the assumed heir to the throne. Cumming talks for the doll, moves the doll’s arms and head, and carries it about so it looks regal and threatening. Sometimes filled with rage, he’ll throw the baby doll and—wow!—the doll never shows signs of becoming dismembered or decapitated. That’s one sturdy toy!
When the Tony nominations were announced last month, poor Alan didn’t garner a nod. I felt bad for him, and bad for the baby doll, too. I’ve seen a lot of shows that have been populated by casts of seemingly uncountable numbers, and they’ve not made such a lasting and lurid impression.
There’s something frightening about a grown man, with blood on his hands and on his torso, whose only friend is a mute, plastic plaything. And there’s something even more chilling and memorable when the lone man on the stage is espousing some of the greatest speeches ever written. His “sound and fury” signified something, and his accomplice on the stage held sway over the crowd by not speaking a syllable.
As a doll enthusiast, I already know how much power a doll can have in a person’s life. Eight times a week now, theatergoers are getting to witness this firsthand.
Bravo, Alan Cumming. Bravo, your silent, nonspeaking, nonblinking partner. You might not have earned a Tony, but you’re certainly deserving of a DOLLS Award of Excellence: best one-of-a-kind performance by an actor in a vignette.
If you’re not able to catch him in this limited performance—it’s a limited-edition show—you can still grab a Bard-and-doll experience with a host of Shakespeare-inspired dolls. Over the years, many individual artists, companies, manufacturers, and unexpected sources have released dolls that are based upon the playwright’s most famous creations.
Naturally, the star-crossed lovers of “Romeo and Juliet” have been fashioned as beautifully garbed dolls. The ill-fated Ophelia and her swain Hamlet have also been transformed into doll forms.
The array of creations that owe a debt to the Elizabethan poet and dramatist is incalculable. There are fairy queens and fairies fashioned after “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” as well as spirits and magicians who hail from “The Tempest.”
For this blog, I’ve showcased some of the designs that caught my fancy. There are confused princes, maudlin teens, suicidal maidens, and weak-willed husbands with overly persuasive wives. Why, Mr. Shakespeare, himself, even takes a bow.
I love that the world of doll artistry permits collectors to pursue their literary favorites while also appreciating the talents and artistry of today’s creative men and women. It’s the best of both worlds: timely designs of timeless characters. These Shakespeare dolls are indeed such stuff as dreams are made on.
The Jones Publishing Lifetime Achievement Award is bestowed upon one recipient per year. This award was created in 2002 in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the teddy bear, with the first recipient being Steiff, a German-based plush toy company known for its high quality and prices.
The Lifetime Achievement recipient must be or have been involved in some aspect of the doll and/or teddy bear field for a minimum of 25 years. The recipient may be an individual, partnership, corporation, company, author, artist, marketer, historian or any other industry professional. Lifetime Achievement Award nominations may be made by previous recipients or members of the LAA committee.
To qualify as a nominee, entrants must meet the following criteria:
The Lifetime Achievement Award has been presented to the following individuals and companies since its inception:
2003 Hildegard Gunzel
2004 Alexander Doll Company
2005 R. John Wright
2006 Wendy Lawton
2007 Virginia Turner
2008 Toy Shoppe
2009 no award presented
2010 Helen Kish
2011 no award presented
2012 Maggie Iacono
2013 Heidi Plusczok
2014 Jack Johnston
August 8, 2014 - Blackall Associates Inc. is proud to announce the winner of its Summer Heat Photo Contest. The contest drew entries from around the world. Masterpiece Doll collectors sent in a special photo showing how their Masterpiece Dolls were enjoying the summer heat.
You haven’t seen a toy show until you’ve seen this one. Six buildings! Over six hundred exhibitors! Exclusively toys and dolls and children’s playthings on display everywhere! This is the show everyone always says they intend to visit, and now is the time to do just that. Collectors say the Chicago Toy Show really is the largest in the entire world. They are correct. Collectors say they find toys at this show that are never seen anywhere else. Correct again.
19 April 2014 – 5 October 2014
A special exhibition will take place at the Toy Worlds Museum Basle to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Japanese-Swiss diplomacy and friendship.