Friday, July 31, 2009
Summer is icumen in! And it has been as exhausting as it has been damp! Nevertheless, life in Summer Shakespeareland continues, and has actually been highly rewarding. It is always a process of compromises, with the weather, with the tight schedule (three weeks is insane!!!), with the facilities, with the experience (or lack thereof) of the company, but it is also a thrilling challenge and so much can be achieved, taught, imagined, striven for, and one should always count the victories and then use the scars as insights for next time.
So this summer was my first time directing Macbeth, at First Folio Theatre in Oak Brook--a play that I know very well, having acted in it five times and choreographed at least another four, published academic papers on and taught. This time I was choreographing and directing--note to self: never do this again on a three week schedule! And I'm pretty pleased with the final product, which manages a few moments of genuine surprise and terror, a few moments of unusual and interpretative staging, a few moments of really true emotion, and a couple of kick-ass fights. I also learnt some new things about the play--always a pleasant bonus--such as how parallel the journeys and the language/imagery of the Macbeths are (they begin the play as the most happily married couple in Shakespeare), how crucial it is to integrate the witches into the play so that they are part of the world, and how important it is to play with the theatricality of terror (making an audience sitting on blankets jump is an art in itself). I also believe I grew and am emboldened as a director of Shakespeare, which is likewise a bonus.
But there is no time to linger on victories--I am now in the thick of rehearsals for Higgins in My Fair Lady for Light Opera Works, which opens Aug 15th, and has been a real challenge in a whole other way. I haven't done a musical for 20 years, and even though my "singing" in this production is a la Harrison (though I do sing quite a bit more than he did), I am finding learning songs like this to be very difficult, a different type of muscle. My admiration goes out to all those who do musical theatre and make it look easy--which is of course the art of all good performance--sprezzatura, to use Castiglione's term--because I am certainly finding it hard work. But that may not be helped by having an exhausted brain. And there is no break in sight!!! AAARgghghH! Happy summer!