Working In The Theatre: Reimagining Shakespeare


[Unintelligible Speaking] Alright, you guys ready? “Come, bring us. Bring us where he is.”>Yeah.
>Is that perfect? Do you want to test it? We were curious if we could do the things we cared about if we could
approach character in a rhythmic way if we could create a complete world where
design and acting style and physicality all work together and could we do that
with this existing script but make it feel like it was an original Pig-Iron work?>Malvolio is a [unintelligible] Ramsey. Am I not of sanguinius? Am I not a verblood? I just want to remind you that the songs are…
it’s not a real song, I don’t think, is that how you guys think of it?
>[Overlapping]>Maybe the first line is farewell dear heart for I
must needs begun as a line and then the rest is like making up a song to sing.>Twelfth Night is one of the only times that we started with a script.
We work with a company of performer creators. People who are trained to improvise and
generate script on stage and then we collaborate with writers and designers
to create we call it total works of theater so the design the acting style
and the writing all arrive at the same time. Normally in a Pig-Iron process we would have a playwright in the room with us
and the ensemble and the playwright and the director would all be working
together to kind of weave together what we’re making. In this production
obviously the playwright is absent or dead. We can’t ask him questions we can’t
ask him to adjust a joke that we don’t understand. I would love people to come to this work as if they were coming to a new play.
So that’s been the dare for us here, it’s not really possible, people have very
strong feelings and people definitely know their Shakespeare but for me this
Shakespeare production is for people who have said “That’s really- I don’t think
that’s for me.” Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him Horatio a
fellow of Infinite Jest of most excellent fancy
if born round is back a thousand times. And now how abhorred in my imagination
it is my Gorge Rises at it. Here hung those lips I’ve kissed I know not how oft. Where be your jibes now? Your gambols, your songs, your flashes of
merriment that we’ll want to set a table on a roar? When you normally come into a
theater you know where you’re gonna be and you know where the actors are gonna
be and you have your program and you sit down and there’s a sort of traditional
or a process that you know if you go to the theater. Some people come and sit
down and think they’re in for a long night of something that might be tedious
and sometimes Shakespeare can be tedious I think if it’s if the text isn’t
the most important thing that was considered in the rehearsal room. I direct the plays and I’m also in the
plays the idea is that these shows are very stripped down we do it with four
actors doing both shows and we try to focus on the text and the storytelling.
So it’s a very bare set very minimal props minimal costumes
and we have a strong focus on the relationship between us and the audience. I always try to think about the audience from the very beginning of the rehearsal
process in terms of how the story is going to affect them, how they’re going
to hear the story, how it’s going to be clearest for them and also really try to
include them in a way that makes them feel like they’re experiencing it as
much as we the characters are experiencing it. We share the roles too.
So sometimes one of our- Ted might be playing Gertrude in one moment and then
in another moment Andres is back to play to playing Gertrude or Andres might play
Polonius in a moment but then it gets back to Ted that sort of thing so there
so a lot of the roles get shared around the stage. They’re constantly being told
by the audience that Hamlet and Joan are really really clear to them that they
get the story that the language is clear that the text seems very studied and in
our bodies and I like to hear that “Beautified Ophelia.” That’s an ill phrase. A vile phrase. Beautified is a vile phrase but
you’re still here. These in her excellent white bosom>Came this from Hamlet to her?
>Madam…>I wanted to shift the room around the
actual space around and shift the audience around from act to act and
Hamlet because I like the journey that it allows the audience to take.>It gives
them the feeling that we’re having while doing the play. [ACTING] Oh God! Weary stale flat
and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world. Fie on it. Fie tis an
unweeded garden that grows to see things rank and gross in nature possess it
merely that it should come to this? But two months dead. Nay not so much. Not too. So excellent to king it was to this. Hyperion to a satyr so loving to my
mother that he might not beteem the winds of heaven visit her face too
roughly heaven and earth must I remember what she would hang on him as if
increase of appetite had grown by what it fed on and yet within a month- UGH! Let me think on it. [Singing] Sometimes people ask me, “Well what’s your
approach to Shakespeare?” I guess I call it the neuroscientific approach.
What I’m really talking about is some of the contemporary research in neuroscience
about communication and language and about how much communication and
understanding happens outside of syntax>What’s interesting about this particular
version of Twelfth Night is I think we used all we brought out all of the tools
that we were normally used to make an original piece and we applied them to
the Shakespeare plays we tend to create characters physically from a physical
basis and those tend to be kind of larger-than-life characters. For this
particular piece we explored a lot of the intersections between the way a body
looks when it’s drunk and the way that a body looks when it’s in love and then
sort of the cross-section of those two modes made for a lot of the
characterizations that that you see in in our 12th Night.>That’s pretty close. You know what you’re doing there?
>Yeah just a little less. It is the hip thing.>It’s pretty small. It’s like
to play people deep it has the energy to pull but you’re really just doing a
counterbalance and letting the left shoulder kind of reach and…
>We have a specific language around breath and imagination and gaze and how the
performer is using space, all of those things together become the basis of an
Acting State and a style Even though we’re older now, that’s what makes us
still a physical theater company. Even though not all of our work is physical
in the sense of acrobatic at this point. [NARRATING] We pride ourselves on doing things that
other people won’t do, that are unusual. Taking risks and also having a pretty
good sense of humor about it I’m always influenced by companies that
have considered the text first, I think. Over concept or setting or any of that
stuff. We’ve done Hamlet a hundred times and I find something new every single
time. It’s why it’s such a great play. You have to keep going back to the
text and letting that be the thing that we service in the rehearsal room.
Stuff about this at first we were working on it just making sure it was clear so your
Polonius and you’re talking to Rinaldo and you’re telling him to go and spy on
your son and then you’re also telling him exactly how to say it, “This is
how you should talk to your various informants they have,” fine and
and making that very clear. [NARRATING] I’ll pick a soliloquy that’s on my mind and
just go back into it and we and remind myself of the line breaks of how
how he wrote it where the just go back in and look at it and just absorb it
again and I get something every single time even after having said it hundreds
of times, it’s amazing to me. What’s wonderful
about it is that it resonates with a modern audience when you look at the
relationship that Hamlet has with his mother with his girlfriend these are
still things these are still relationships that we get. The only way
you can do it justice is to keep going back to the text because that’s- it’s
there it’s been there for 400 years and it’ll be there when we’re all gone and
someone else will be doing it a hundred years from now I’m sure of it so it’s
better than all of us. We added a wedding at the end of act 4
between Mariah and Toby which is absolutely not in the play. It’s the
moment in the play where the most space gets used and it gets super chaotic. To me it’s the most exciting use of the raucous drunken wild music and the use
of the band. For any modern audience I think watching a Shakespeare play is a
little bit like adjusting to another language almost like watching a foreign
film or something. Our approach was musical. If we can make the music of it
funny it doesn’t matter that the words are out of date, sometimes. You know if
you were coming to see the show and only spoke Danish that you would understand
from a lot of non-physical cues of what was going on. The play without words that
would be our version of Twelfth Night would be these these two dueling bands
and one would be this rich guy Orsino who wanted a band to play the saddest
music in the world and the other band would be Toby’s band which wanted to
have the biggest drunken party in the world so that was kind of the pig-iron
version that we wondered if we could marry to the original text and from
there we moved to this Balkan music composed by Rosie Lander beer who’s not
from Serbia but who has a lot of Balkan influences in her compositions. I hold Shakespeare in really high regard
but I think that the religious feeling that’s built up around Shakespeare as
the pinnacle I think is a shame. This world that we’ve created is a
you know it’s one third Shakespeare and one third Brooklyn and one third Amir
Custer Itza magic realist Yugoslavia of the 90s. I have rebelled against so much of the
text work that informed so many contemporary American productions of
Shakespeare where people are focused on “I just have to get the text really clear
and I have to pronounce the text very clear,” and instead my focus has been
on all of the other sounds breaths somatic experience which allow people to
understand each other and allow the actors to play together.
>There’s something about ratio that sort of the way it kind of cradles Hamlet you
know a nurtures and throughout… [NARRATING] Doing Hamlet so many times has just-
it keeps making me a better better actor. There’s so much that you just walk out
and get to live onstage, you don’t have to fill in any blanks really.
Hamlet loses a lot of relationships throughout the play because people disappoint him
and he cuts them off that’s something that’s happened to me in my life and it
resonates with me really deeply in the play. Learning something as that
character as he does when he comes back from England and so many things have
settled inside of him that’s an amazing journey to take. You have to come in
every night and go from the beginning of that and make sure you’re in a place to
be at the beginning of that and not know so many things and be grappling with so
many things. I don’t know I want that I want to do
this particular thing again. For me when the day starts and I know I’m gonna go
that night and do Hamlet it’s a bit of a torturous day, there’s always this heavy
anticipation that at night I have to go do that. My relationship to it is
is on shakier ground I don’t enjoy it all of the time
I enjoy maybe one in three or four of the shows where I feel like I’m really
confident with it and that I’m immersed in it and I can get out of my head and
now have no expectations for myself and not worry about the expectations that
the audience has. I don’t know maybe we put- I put too much expectation on it
myself. [ACTING] My father’s brother. But no more like my father that I to hercules
within a month ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears have left the flushing
in her galled eyes. She married. Oh, most wicked speed to post with such… dexterity. To incestuous sheets. It is not nor it
cannot come to good but break my heart. For I must hold my tongue. I feel really proud of the fact that
this Twelfth Night when people say “Oh it feels like you guys made the piece
yourselves.” That’s one of the things I really like to hear the most is that we
we kind of brought the piece to us as much as we also had to go towards the
the text that already exists. Karyam in 2014 with these concerns these
questions these obsessions in the time I’m living in right now
and how can this play that’s so old somehow also relate to those things? If I take a director and a group of actors and designers and they start considering
a play that particular group is going to be unique because of those
individuals and so I think then if you took another group and they considered
the same play you’re gonna get something completely different out of it just
because of the personalities and the people that are involved and how it hits
them. That’s where the new stuff comes out because of of who’s considering it
who’s putting the play on, I think. There are times where people want
something new and then there are times where people want to somehow reflect the
age they’re living in in a pre-existing script. There’s a way in which you you in
the moment that you’re living in go and you meet the play and you have a
conversation.

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