Wednesday, November 21, 2007

As Billy Would Say...

I can no other answer make but thanks,
And thanks, and ever thanks. And oft good turns
Are shuffled off with such uncurrent pay.

- Twelfth Night

A bit of a stretch? Maybe, but it doesn't mean I don't mean it when I say...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

England's Finest

What happens when the Bard meets the Beatles?

Only good things...

General Shakespeare News

We GoogleNews search “Shakespeare” so you don’t have to.

The Charlotte Observer has an excerpt from Shakespeare Unbound: Uncoding a Hidden Life by Rene Weis. You can read it here.

The Columbia Spectator reviews Jennifer Lee Carrell’s Interred with Their Bones and compares it to the crappiest book ever written. I know that makes me want to read it. But not really because I'm using sarcasm. But it’s about Shakespeare and mysteriousness so I probably will.

The Washington Shakespeare Theatre Company has a new space: the Sidney Harman Hall. To open the space, they’re presenting two Christopher Marlowe plays in rep – a highly controversial move that says “hey, other people wrote plays too.”
For more about Harman Hall:
Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, November 18th

A bit about the Hall, a bit about Marlowe, a bit about the current productions:
Charles Isherwood, The NY Times, November 15

An article on the Globe Education Initiative embracing new technology from

Originally, I kind of rolled my eyes when I heard the headline for what I’m about to link. I thought, “Geez BBC – didn’t you JUST do this? British people are show-offs.” Then I remembered math and that it was actually 30 years ago. And then I remembered Derek Jacobi (nothing specific, just Derek Jacobi in general) and that made me happy. And then I read about who is involved in this new undertaking and that HBO may take part which means I won’t have to download anything illegally from internet. And then I had something that can only be described as a “Shakesgasm.”*

And now I should probably tell you what I'm talking about.

Sam Leith at the Telgraph UK does not agree with me. But then again, I really like the Henry VIs so what do I know?


*I tried really hard to come up with a word that sound classier than “crappy” but nothing felt as right.
*I need to come up with a better word for that.

Alack, good man!

For Emma's notes on the Lincoln Center Production of Cymbeline go here

For my notes, continue reading:

This review specifically concerns design aspects of the production. Specifically hair and makeup. Specifically hair. Specifically wigs. Specifically Michael Cerveris’ head.

Michael Cerveris is supposed to be bald. Please don't try to argue with what I assume is a combination of genetics and Cerveris' own perceptiveness. He's a hot bald guy. But with a wig ... he's a hot bald guy who has a small furry creature trying to run away from his face. At least that's what it looks like to mine eyes. Because Michael Cerveris and hair do not go together. Remember when he was in Sweeney Todd and he was bald? He was a barber and he was bald - there are so many layers behind that! See what happens when you embrace people not having hair?

To the wig person at Lincoln Center - I want you to know this isn't a criticism of you. The Public Theater (an institution which I absolutely love and tremendously respect) made the same mistake in last season’s King Lear. And I know for a fact that their hair people are awesome. Additionally, all of the other hair work in this show was stellar. In the last scene when Martha Plimpton took her hat off and her long hair came tumbling down - I experienced complete faux-follicle envy. I mean, Martha Plimpton is already a babe but way to magnify it! (Side note: Martha Plimpton, when can we start being best friends?) So chin up, wigger. The show is still in previews. There’s plenty of time before opening. I look forward to discovering how this matter is resolved.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Performance Notes: Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare in the Park, Delacorte Theater
June 9, 2007
Directed: Michael Greif
Featuring: Lauren Ambrose, Oscar Isaac, Camryn Manheim, Christophe Evan Welch

• Set made up of a one inch pool of water, a circumference of walkway, and a grid-iron bridge that could be separated in the middle (balcony scenes)

• Costume vaguely 1930’s, mostly done in browns and white, with black accents. Juliet always in white except confession scene

• Many instances of choices almost being made, but then not followed through on—friar “some will be punished”, one upping with the statues, Mercutio and Romeo

• Commonality of costuming made distinguishing sides at the beginning almost impossible

• Race mirrored on each side

• Tybalt and Benvolio very hard to distinguish at the beginning

• Capulet- uneven, “hang, beg, starve, DIE IN THE STREETS”, transitions far too quick, though brought interesting things to the role

• For the most part, the actors had absolutely no idea of what they were saying or why—“towards school with heavy looks” at a run, “oh why then oh brawling love” a senseless list of words, Apollo/night speech

• Pilgrim speech had no tension, immediate love, balcony scene no tension—Juliet has to maneuver into the marriage contract

• Nurse’s first speech very good

• Set very good, but no real connection to the work and offered no actual vision

• Where were they? Spain? Possible

• Due to transparency of bridge, nice layering of images (ie, Juliet’s body being carried off as Romeo describes his dream)

• Romeo should never straddle Juliet’s corpse, but death pose lovely

• Accidental moment when the two bird flew…very nice

• Rain held off

• Moment when he sees Juliet totally lost

• Ambrose looked very young, but overcompensated for her very low voice by equating youth with shouting and shaking her head

• Discussion of options after Paris bethrothal lovely—nice control, affection lost for the nurse, double meaning felt with the mother

• Poor vocal skills beyond NOT KNOWING WHAT YOU’RE SAYING

• Throwing of oranges in the beginning? Wtf?

• Most props held under the bridge and used throughout to nice effect

• Clowning with mercutio cute

• Fight choreography generally boring and amateurish

Performance Notes: The Taming of the Shrew

Propeller Theatre Company, Old Vic
February 20, 2007
Directed: Ed Hall
Featuring: Dugald Bruce-Lockhart, Simon Scardifield, Jon Trenchard, Tam Williams

* Used induction and at least some parts of A Shrew. Possible rearrangement of text, but hard to tell without text in front of me.

* 80’s vibe. Biondello MJ vibe, Tuxedo shirt, Baptista Miami Vice suit, Hortensio punk, crazy b&w saddle shoe platforms, disco chandelier, red leather on Petruchio

*Set-up: Wedding, Sly passes out before he can marry the bride, bride’s father pissed off and agrees to set Sly up, start the play then Sly joins as Petruchio (at first using script), play ends and Sle is excited he knows how to tame a shrew, but then is reminded it was just a play…seems to realize it was “How to be an Awful person” instead

* Bianca very street smart in suitor juggling. Duet with Hortensio. “The Joy of Sex.”

* Petruchio at the wedding—speedo, cowboy hat, cowboy boot (Texas0, peeing into his hat. Grumio— half pants, hilarious exit

* Longer play went, more realistic and less funny/good natured. Downright cruel by end. Could never get away with it with a real woman, especially the first wedding scene, grabbing Kate by the hair.

* “Jacket,” “Spotlight,” Sly very endearing drunk at the beginning while a spectator (dancing to the music, eating his own boot), almost childlike

* Jack Tarlton = Spiderman. At least twice during play he made huge flying leap over things.

* Incredibly physical piece of work. Almost no time to understand the words, relied instead on tone and pace of speech for humor and broad slapstick

* Had the wives on-stage during the bet so they knew they were being wagered on

* Vincentio eating noodles, looking through the bottle when he was “looking out the window”

* Spanish/Western horns and guitar when Tranio (as Lucentio) appeared

* Clever bit with Grumio playing guitar for Hortensio

*Pre-show used. In character? Hard to tell.

* Two songs used. Wedding song and “Did He Marry her for Money?” Wedding song used to comic effect at beginning, more straight forward during kate’s wedding. Second song used jovially to set the scene at Petruchio’s house by his servants. Second time more sad, sung by Bianca only with Kate, defeated on-stage, trailed off at “to teach her love was…”

* Tailor and haberdasher combined

* Good use of wardrobes at the beginning (first site of Baptista, Kate, Bianca and suitors, the parade to Baptista for the presentation of tutors and “Lucentio”)

* Very violent Vincentio. Biondello—“budge up, love’

* Petruchio addressing audience mostly, open challenge at end of 4.1

Performance Notes: Twelfth Night

Propeller Theatre Company, Old Vic
January 23, 2007
Directed: Ed Hall
Featuring: Tam Williams, Tony Bell, Dugald Bruce-Lockhart, Jason Baughan, Simon Scardifield

* The staging was lots of mirrors along the walls and two mirrored wardrobes that were used for entrances, exits, and sometimes hiding places, which I liked because there’s something about the idea of mirrors reflecting…that fits in with the idea of the play. Mirrors are supposed to show the truth, but even the clearest ones alter an image by flipping it, and the ones used on stage (whether for effect or practical reasons) we not clear, but slightly fun-house-esque. When Viola first views herself as Cesario, the reflection was unclear enough that you can imagine she is a boy (or a boy playing a girl…I’ll talk more about that later).

* Another bit of staging that was effective was using the glass coffin of Olivia’s brother both as a coffin and as part of the barroom revelry, because the play also has this duplicity of melancholy and festival running throughout. It was subtle, but I thought added to it. That same duplicitous nature could also be seen in the predominantly lavender and blue lighting, with only pierces on sunlight appearing to indicate daylight. As far as I remember, the only “fully lit” scene was the box tree scene.

* The parts of Fabian and Feste being combined made sense in this production since they gave Feste the role of being
something like a conductor of the whole show. To have him absent in the box tree scene would have been quite noticeable, and the only real scene where Fabian and Feste cross is when Malvolio’s letter is read at the end. I actually really like having Maria confess to having orchestrated the plot because, in general, I feel the “lower” class of this play have it more together than the nobility, so I liked having her take responsibility for her actions.

* The most obvious Elizabethan convention was, of course, having an all male cast. I thought it worked beautifully with Viola because you believed everyone in the play’s world seeing her as Cesario (since Viola actually was a boy), but you also felt the struggle. In general, I didn’t find it distracting for Maria and Olivia to be men, either. I think one of the reasons it worked was that neither appear until we’ve already had two scenes to immerse ourselves in the world of the play—we had time to suspend disbelief. What I’m really curious is to see is how this convention works in Taming, because that play has no cross-dressing. I don’t know that it will work as well, but we shall see.

Performance Notes: Antony and Cleopatra

Royal Shakespeare Company, Novello Theater
February 6, 2007
Directed: Gregory Doran
Featuring: Patrick Stewart, Harriet Walter, Ken Bones

* Change of location indicated by lighting (Egypt = warm/gold/red, Rome = cold/silver/blues, Sea = dark/jewel tones, Battles = grey/smokey, Monument = candle lit/very dark)

* Stage vaguely Elizabethan. Two trap doors (bottom and top), two doors, three visible levels, no permanent setting

* Costumes of Egypt were simple and white. Costumes of Rome divided between red (Antoney) and bluish purple (Caesar). Red can denote passion, cooler colors = cooler heads? And purple is nobility. Lepidus in white, neutrality. Pompey in black, common villain.

* Scene changes fluid, with instances of change happening around characters from previous scene (the pause after the meeting of the triumvirate, with Antoney and Caesar eyeing each other warily)

* Caesar somewhat prudish- reactions to the drinking party, delivery of lines regarding Egypt’s luxuries, refusal to look at Cleopatra during Act 5. Also incredibly twitchy (very little growth over the play, disappointing) and creepily obsessed with his sister (taking her to bed, incestuous kiss)

* Octavia surprisingly sympathetic, feeling she does care for Antoney in some way and is genuinely pleased to be married to him

* Unclear if Cleopatra plans to betray Antoney when Thidius comes (I think not, but unsure). Very clear she and Seleucus are in cahoots at the end (whispered discussion before Caesar appears, meaningful looks during discussion of withheld treasure)

* Antoney’s death beautiful. Platform coming down from highest level, careful raising of him (don’t remember the lines about his weight), beautiful image of a fallen hero. Lighting gave him a glow.

* Levels used well. Two instances of sitting being important- Antoney faking out Caesar during triumvirate meeting, Pompey making the triumvirate sit on the floor (Caesar cross legged, very school-boy)

* “The time of universal peace is near” dictating to Agrippa. I hate Caesar.

* Show opened with soldiers waiting for Antoney before the lights went down. Antoney shows up, only to giggle over a whip (?) and disappear for shenanigans with Cleo. Let’s the audience in on the sense of impatience and frustrations of the soldiers.

* Cleo’s costumes very simply. In gold at beginning and end, but middle all white shift. Egyptian of equivalent of modern girl in pj’s because her boyfriends out of town (why dress when no one sees?). Took off the wig during discussion of age and left it off till death, nice humane touch. Cleo very aware of her own ridiculousness

* Antoney very merry, very much in denial throughout. More self-destructive through drink than you might pick up in the text.

Performance Notes: Coriolanus

Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal Shakespeare Theater
March 24, 2007
Directed: Gregory Doran
Featuring: William Houston, Janet Suzman, Timothy West

* Visual numbing- red clothes, red walls, red splattered floor. Idea of blood over represented and didn’t keep the eyes interest

* Set of Rome three main doors, could see shadows of people long before the entrances. Otherwise, either a big wall with a window possibility, forming two doors, or emptiness

* High energy of the piece meant most actors had poor diction/enunciation. Difficult to understand

* Coriolanus effeminate and crazy as a loon bird. Costume as a citizen girly and buttoned up, costume as a warrior tribal and fierce

* Volsces in grey

* Citizens sympathetic until the end when their changeable nature is capitalized on and made more comic. Second citizen a woman, another woman and a baby often shown giving a more complete picture of Rome. Soldiers complete whimps, Coriolanus has a point about them

* Coriolanus’ return to Rome described by tribunes though there is no way they saw it as was staged

* Great use of shadows- the army, the party at Aufidius’

* Coriolanus’ death by pulling Aufidius’ sword into him, Aufidius last speeched delivered to an empty stage, cradling a dead Coriolanus in his arms

* Coriolanus and Aufidius quite the pair. Aufidius completely and totally enraptured, embracing and kissing Coriolanus upon C’s exile from Rome. Have the sense C is not quite reciprocal in feelings

* Scene after Coriolanus’ banishment a sense of peace and harmony, people holding white balloons? Not sure they had those in ancient Rome

* Coriolanus lifted up upon his shield after the battle

* Absolutely no sense of humility in the asking for the voices of the crowd

Performance Notes: The Tempest

Royal Shakespeare Company, Novello Theater
March 2, 2007
DIrected: Rupert Goold
Featuring: Patrick Stewart, John Light, Julian Beach, Mariah Gale

* Frozen tundra curious choice for island. Text has mention of trees and creatures, but it’s hard to imagine them living on ice. Gonzalo’s talk of grass? Little forced

* Inuit magic used as Prospero’s charms. Bear costume…unexpected.

* Miranda given awkward characterization. On the one hand, no outside contact makes sense. On the other, speech seems too elegant to match the delivery. Tended to robotic.

* Prospero’s characterization also uneven. Sometimes harsh, sometimes comic, sometimes tender, but no sense of evolution—too sudden

* Ariel robotic android ice creature. Very odd. Black, almost Asian-collared frock coat, not at all congruent with others. Kind of space aged. Long scene changes, slow pacing with the snow lights, hour glass

* Cut the Masque, replaced with the goddess ritual of fire and chanting and walking on their backs with Prospero watching, and then the parade of people…unclear if Ferdinand and Miranda can see these

* John Hopkins better as Sebastian. Aside to black actor when complaining about sending Claribel to Africa added to funny/rude irreverence if character. Cut Gonzalo line about moving the moon would have contributed to that, but oh well

* No sense of urgency in the storm scene, though good setting inside submarine

* Trinculo lower class speech funny, adds to character. Trinculo/Stephano scenes rely more of crass humor (sticking the bottle…yeah…), but not in a way that fits with the rest (more inconsistency)

* Some characters really cold, some not. Ferdinand, Caliban, Prospero, not cold at all, Sebastian and Antonio, very cold.

* Ariel coming out of the seal/manatee/walrus/big dead sea animal way creepy and terrifying with bone bird skeleton and blood, blood, blood brought on by furry hooded goddesses

* “Goddesses” served as spirits with eerie singing with Ariel, some scene changes, marriage ceremony

* Caliban human, half dressed, dreds. Interesting, dance-like movement, not used as much as it could be. controlled with ropes, but sometimes free? Lunges for Miranda, yanked back out of the air by Prospero

* Ferdinand_in love with Miranda or not? Sometimes yes, sometimes just caught up in what’s happening, odd juxtaposition with language of love to have an expression of constant disease

Reviews: King Lear

So Ian McKelllen drops his trousers to play Lear.
The Guardian
Germaine Greer

King Lear/The Seagull
David Benedict

New York Transfer
Lear Stripped Bare
New York Times
Ben Brantley

King Lear
Marilyn Stasio

Performance Notes: King Lear

Royal Shakespeare Company, The Courtyard Theater
March 27, 2007
Directed: Trevor Nunn
Featuring: Ian McKellen, Jonathan Hyde, Frances Barber, Guy William, Ben Meyjes

* Cordelia’s asides cut from the beginning, no clear reasoning as to why she refuses Lear’s demand

* Began with formal procession before declaration, then started with Gloucester/Kent

* Regan’s poisoning on-stage, tied into her fondness for drink which we had seen throughout

* Regan jumping up and down with glee during blinding

* Kept the mock trial scene from the folio, interesting break between past, almost understandable cruelties and horrific, unimaginable ones

* Fool actually hung on-stage, but why did he come back? Gave prophecy as a last speech

* Fool sang a lot of his lines, not just the songs

* Set grand, Russian feeling. Deteriorated throughout, soldiers pulling it down to start at the first conflict, roof falling in during the storm, visual representation of havoc caused by central characters

* Cordelia in white/purple (innocence/nobility), Goneril in black/red, Regan in green. Big, convertible dresses

* Kent’s punishment (the stocks) dealt in the middle of a party, highlights Regan/Cornwall’s cruelty

* Kept the lines about the servants helping Gloucester with egg whites, helps the idea that Regan/Goneril/Edmund are exceptions, not the rule (people in the play’s world still capable of compassion)

* Goneril walked with a cane, but didn’t really seem to need it. More grey than Regan or Cordelia in terms of good v. evil, characterization mirrored Lear’s in ways I couldn’t quite put my finger on

* Set dressing very simple, things moved on and off, very fluid. Tables at the beginning in the ceremony, hovel a type of trap door from the stage, furniture for mock trial scene, military pieces for end

* Fake suicide done so slowly as to not inspire laughter

* Lear’s madness a type of distraction than full blown out insanity

* Goneril grabbed Edmund’s knife from his boot to stab herself

* Fool’s observations not cruel, and more tolerated by Lear than Ian Holm version, kept Folio lines during the egg scene

* Lear actually carried Cordelia out, kept the “look” lines about her breath, “break heart” given to Kent

* Kent’s exit odd…took a pistol…meant to think he offs himself? That was my thouht

Performance Notes: Cymbeline

Lincoln Center, Vivian Beaumont Theater
November 7, 2007
Directed: Mark Lamos
Featuring: Martha Plimpton, Michael Cerveris, Jonathan Cake

* eastern design for britain, reminiscent of tibetan and eastern russian costume/design, with various other asian influences thrown in. lots of frogs used as fasteners, men with fumanchu facial hair and longish hair with braids, clothing fastened on the side. incredibly bright colors (posthumus in purple- royalty. nobility, cymbeline in brown and bluish silver grey, imogen in red/white/pink, queen in bright blue/aqua, cloten in aqua, court in greens/oranges...all very rich)

* costumes and feel of rome much darker, more monochromatic (biochromatic?), blacks and golds, red for war

* set cavernous sries of boxes and frames, elaboratly carved. plays off the box trick, vaguely reminiscent of the casket from snow white (similar themes of evil step mother out to get virtuous step daughter

* show opens with dumb show to illustrate discussion of the two gentlemen (daniel breaker!) cluing us into the situation in britain, very processional, similar to nunn's lear

* ends with prayer circle of peace, jen tepper: "it's like lincoln center is going PEACE AND LOVE GOOD"

* first scene of rome in the bathhouse, roman men half dressed, somewhat salacious (side note: jonathan cake is hot and looks good naked...not all of my notes can be academic!), rise up from the floor and steam (hell? an extreme interpretation, but worth noting at least the possibility)

* posthumus wears costumes from every world we see- britain, rome, wales. ends the play in clothes of wales, the civilized wilderness and home of the lost princes who are the pinnacle of nobility

* imogen wears clothes of britain/wales, wears white immediatly following the bed trick (underlies purity)

* welsh scnic drop bright pastels, vaguely degas feel, contrats rough appearance of the men with a softness and a design recalling culutred western europe

* iachimo half naked again for the bed trick, seems very close to actually assaulting (? a bit strong, better word..) imogen, bed curiously blocked from most of the audience by a canop sheet (thrust stage, i was on a side)

* posthumus' vision done with mardi-gras stilit puppets with a rough, wooden feel...very arts festival. huge, somewhat awkward. looming, as the past? jove (daniel oresekes!) on a huge golden eagle from the ceiling, all shiny and somewhat ridiculous (not the easiest scene in shakespeare to pull off in a non-ludicrous mannor). square of light indicated prison cell, clever trick with the scroll

* only pieces of furniture in the whole play the bed and the box

* dirge for fidele more chanted than sung, odd homosexual/incest vibes from the brothers towards fidele/imogen

* last act played for laughs, cornelius especially...mostly unfunny exept for this part and cloten. audience unresponsive? possibly, but also a production choice

* close of first act washed the stage with stars (fate?) and a western european mural of..gods? angels? somewhat hard to decipher

*michael cervers should never have hair

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Class Notes: A Midsummer Night's Dream

Shakespeare Colloquium: Shakespeare's Metadrama
Professor Richard Horwich
New York University
Fall 2007

Montrose- drive to a festive conclusion subjects women to male control

replace a corrupt society with a new one

marriage alternaives: Amazons, nuns, fairy camp, sisterhood

childhood friends, then boys got in the way

have to overcome fathers in the comedies

Puck mistaken? or on pupose?

marriage itself an obsstacle -> Theseus/Hippolyta

believed mothers did not contribute genetic material (body heat determined sex)

Lysander/Demetrius pretty close together

Hermia makes a case for rational behind love

Helena made into an animal by her dotage/desperation

love as OCD

I.ii: an actor playing an actor imitating another actor's portrayal of a character

play within a play: what is it doing there? undercuts the danger behind losing yourself, a mirror of what could have happened in the woods, forests/woods highly dangerous (both physically and morally), Hermia insists love is heroic and romantic but Pyramus and Thisbe go "but wait!", "this is th silliest stuff that ere I heard" remarks on the story of the lovers

the couples at the end: Hermia/Lysander (actually? in love), Demetrius/Helena (bewitched), Theseus/Hippolyta (tragic ending) = three degrees of potential happiness

"this green plot": pretending a bare stage is a green plot pretending to be a bare stage

allegorical elements: moon and wall

an apology for limited stage craft? or a challenge?

"no bottom to it": bottom is adapted to the comedic world

dislocations in the social relations in the real world, natural relations in the fairy world

almost everythign is "concord from discord"

comedies have scapegoats, tragedies have tragic heros

Theseus puts more stock in the play than the lovers and vice-versa

suspicion of eloquence throughout Shakespeare

Theseus transitions from governor o lover when he overthrows Egeus' wishes

"a good play needs no excuse," setting up thr epilogue as a wink or a joke

wakes us up, brings out the telescope one more time

Class Notes: King Henry IV, pt. I

Shakespeare Colloquium: Shakespeare's Metadrama
Professor Richard Horwich
New York University
Fall 2007

the many roles of Hal: wayward son, robber, king, true heir

special effects of Falsaff's tale

English hierarchy: Royalty (5) -> Lords/Barons (500) -> Knights/gentires (5000) -> commons

RE: Prince Charles: "what has he done? he's spent 50 years waiting for his mother to die"

time in first scene vs. time in second

JoAnne Akalaitis production at the Public- tavern done in modern dress while courtroom scenes were historically acurate, showed how the world of the court passes put the tavern world is timeless

Hotspur- Fortinbras? Rambo vengence? glory? basically fights to fight

honour hides selfishness

Hotspur/Henry/Henry, Henry/Harry/Hal

Hotspur looks down on the middle class, women

Falstaff and hotspur as comics- imitations, fat and skinny

Hotspur considers the messenger an aberration of natural man (Osrick)

any time a character imitates another character or does impressions, it's fundamentally a play within a play

2.4- three parts, all directed, all about playing

Falstaff's joint stool would have been the same as Henry's throne

Vernon's speech: reported because a) can't have a horse on-stage and b) it's clear the importance (also shows hal is being talked about) -> would have been hoisted up and lowered onto the horse in reality

chivalry- the best man really does win (lost in richard's reign)

if they don't wait, they lose (greater glory in death)

the becoming of a hero requires a new name

question of Falstaff's death can only be answered in perfromance

more a coming of age play than a history play

Monday, November 5, 2007

An Evening With Trevor Nunn

November 5, 2007
Kaye Playhouse, Hunter College
New York, New York

Notes taken in the dark, to be re-formatted...probably never...

Geoge Rylance obsessed wih the language, to the point where he would be hunched over the text and the rehearsal would be preceeding behind him.
John Barton also at Cambrdge, greatly admired by Nunn
Peter Hall had a "house" style, but it was based on the language and not authoritative—allowed for creativity
Peter Hall gave him the opportunity to direct his own show, with the condition Nunn use a pre-existing set. Nunn chose to use an all black set used for Hamlet. Did Revenger's Tragedy in black and silver, with Barton trying ton convince him he needed color, but he stuck to his instinct.
Grew a beard because he was so young-looking when he took over the RSC (27) that ushers would ask him to leave the theater, since he didn't have a ticket and it was assumed he was a student who had snuck in.
You have to do a Shakespeare play because it speaks to you—not because you haven't done it in awhile.
Was auditioning people for the RSC and got down to the last two guys in line. Kept begging the caretaker not to kick him out so he could see the auditions (a very funny, untrained one and a flashy theatrical one). Had no roles to offer them, but gave them the option of having walk-ons. The actors? Roger Reese and Ben Kingsley.
Titus is a play about a society falling in on itself and a man trying to uphold what he thinks is left of previous honor.
Used action replay in his Julius Caesar, re-enacting Caesar murder three times with decreasing speed, so that it became a kind of "hypnotic carnage."
Macbeth (Judi Dench, Ian McKellan) at the other place afforded the opportunity to explore a more intimate theater. The play was cut to two hours with no interval, and the audience was shut in, with the feeling of no escape. A heightened sense of evil, of witchcraft, and of belief. Actors surrounded the perimeter during the murder, making sleeping sounds so the audience felt trapped in a sleeping household.
Very nervous when he brought TOTS over, but was pleasently suprised by the audeince picking up on so much. Alls Well was a different story: Frank Rich loved the London production, and convinced them to bring it over. When it made the transfer, however, Rich wrote an article about its problematic elements, saying it was "silver streaked with grey and the audiences didn't come.
Barton really wanted to do a production of All's Well, but Nunn had never read it. When he sat down to, he stopped himself after two scenes because it's so exciting to simply beable to ask "what happens next?"
"A musical is an organism intent on self-destruction." Nunn, to Richard Nelson
Returned to Shakespeare with Timon. Believes it to be a draft, began by stripping it down to its skeleton and found it to be a play about acquiring wealth to gain happiness. Felt it absolutely reflected Thatcher England.
Did Merchant because David Nathan wrote an article accusing Shakespeare of losing his humane touch with this play and hoping ti would never be done again. Nunn's production focused on Shylock's grief, on the idea of people being pushed to a breaking point and being expected to back down and carried the idea of Shylock through the very end. Nathan then wrote an article admitting he was wrong.
Rufus Sewell gave a rendition of Hamlet's advice to the players, to which Nunn replied, "See? That's what i've been trying to tell you for years!" Also, Reese did Sonnet 105, and Reese and Sinead did a bit of Much Ado. Also shown were clips from the McKellan/Dench production of Macbeth and the aforementioned Merchant."
Letter from Helen Mirren, presentatio of medal ("oh wonderful")
RE: Video clip of Stewart- "Is this somebody who is going to say something very compromising?"
Stewart said there's nothing more gratifying than NOT having to do a mid-week matinee