Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Em's Perspective

Every story has a beginning... (they also have a middle and an end but those aren't important right now.)

Welcome to 5 minutes in. At this point BareShake's had been established for a year when Ben , Caitlin, and their friend Angela put together the companys first production of Romeo and Juliet. Fast Forward a few months, I,Emily, and Reesa came on board to direct and assistant stage manage, respectively,Ben and Caitlin's latest co-written work 41 Degrees North.

While in the process of wrapping up 41 Degree's Norths successful run we started exchanging views on "The Bard."

I shared, that I had seen some of the best shakespeare I've ever seen performed by high school students in the Fall of 2008. At that time, I was studying at "The Conservatory at Shakespeare & Company."

As a part of the conservatory we were able to help out with The Annual Fall Festival produced there. The Annual Fall Festival of Shakespeare is a program where Shakes & Co sends directors into area schools to lead students through "an exploration of a Shakespeare play, culminating in a full scale production."

What was so incredible and so inspiring to me was:

1. High school students not only enjoying, but loving Shakespeare.

2. The support not just from the staff and directors there but from the students themselves. From my high school days, I can't remember a time where you visibly supported another school in anything. Other schools were competition, you had your school pride and all that nonsense... or you were just apathetic. These students not only stayed for each others shows but they fully supported them.

3. Which leads me to the interaction. They would "boo" the villians, "aww" when Romeo and Juliet would kiss, when a shirtless Demetrius came on during Midsummer some girl yelled out "That's my boyfriend"... One of the most inspiring moments was watching Henry V when the young actor was giving the St. Crispin Day speech... All of a sudden these kids in the front rows start raising their arms reaching up towards him, some with fists clenched in camaradie. I went from feeling that these kids are misbehaving to seeing the audience being transformed. We, the audience, were transformed from spectators to members of Henry's army.

I suddenly understood who the groundings in Shakespeare's days clearer and it charged my artistic batteries and changed the way I want to create indefinitely. It's an obvious statement to say that Theater brings people together, but from my studies at Shakespeare & Company and from assisting with their fall festival it became clear to me that Theater is a conversation. No where is this more evident then in Shakespeare's works.

Recently I've been trying to implement this more. This past July, I was working on Hamlet's "Get thee to a nunnery scene" while studying with John Basil at The American Globe in NYC. Ophelia's monologue, after Hamlet's exit, went from what I had seen as a self-indulgent pity speech into an active pleading conversation with the audience defending the man she loves. "Oh woe is me to see what I've seen, see what I see." The second part of that, "see what I see" is her telling the audience to not just see Hamlet in this moment of "madness" but to see him as the whole noble man she's still in love with. Basil also reinforces this message by telling his students, "Only crazy people talk to themselves."

For my part, my desire for this company is purely selfish. I want to be a part of building something great. Great work that connects everyone in the room, audience and actors together, to their common humanity. Under the overwhelming pressures of life we, at least certainly I, can forget that we're not going through it all alone. The type of theater that I hope to be a part of creating is a celebration of the human experience from all our joys to even all our sorrows.

What is an idea, a belief, or a great story without it's ability to connect us to each other?