Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Night I Fell in Love with Shakespeare

   I was eight years old when I experienced my first Shakespeare production.  My mother covered theatre and the arts for a small newspaper in Boulder, CO at the time, and she took me and my older sister to the opening night of a production of Romeo and Juliet.  I have a vivid remembrance of that night and the production we saw.  The show was set in modern day, 1984, and the rivalry was between two punk gangs, complete with torn up denim jackets and colorful mohawks. 
    They set intermission just after Mercutio and Tybalt are killed and Romeo is banished, and I remember sitting on my mother's lap in the theatre lobby, sobbing and sobbing onto her shoulder.  She told me we hadn't even reached the saddest part yet, and explained what the 2nd half entailed.  She asked me if I wanted to leave and I said no, I wanted to see the rest.  I wonder now if my mother was being judged by anyone witnessing my despair - if any of the other mothers who left their kids at home that night passed us by and shook their heads thinking, "I would NEVER bring a child so young to see Romeo and Juliet!  What is that woman thinking?"  Well, without consulting her on this before writing this blog post, I can probably guess what she was thinking.  She was thinking I was ready to experience art of this caliber and intensity; she was thinking that I was ready to learn a thing or two about the human condition; she was thinking that Shakespeare would introduce me to a world view I hadn't seen yet; she was thinking it would change me somehow.  I don't mean that she actually sat down before hand and weighed the pros and cons of taking me to the theatre that night and that these were her intellectual conclusions in these specific terms.  But this belief about art was so ingrained in my mother's thinking as I was growing up - when we visited art museums and saw violent depictions of historical events or nude portraits, when we went to the opera, and when we saw theatre - that I doubt it even crossed her mind to question taking an eight-year-old to a Shakespeare tragedy in which many character die horrible, violent deaths.  If anyone would have questioned her on why she would do such a thing, I believe she would have said in complete earnestness, "Why ever not?"  My mom always had a way of giving me complete artistic transparency. When it came to art, she never hid anything from me or thought I was too young to experience it. 
    Little did she know on that night in 1984 what this production of Romeo and Juliet would actually do for me and the depth to which it would sink into my being.  Yes, I cried for those characters out of sadness, but I remember so much more than just the crying.  I remember something brand new and wholly thrilling awakening inside me, like a curtain being drawn back from an open window and showing me a brand new magical world - a world in which art could make me FEEL.  This was the first time art took me out of myself and made me feel something so deep and visceral; this was the first time I truly felt the pain of another person as if it were my own pain.
    I may have turned out to be the same person I am today if I hadn't had that exact experience at that exact age, when I was in the active process of learning to become a compassionate, empathetic person, but I'm not so sure.  That experience was the flame that lit the fire.  That was the night that set me directly in front of my future - a future grounded in Shakespeare.  Here's what the last 30 years of living inside Shakespeare has done for me:
  • Shakespeare's plays have taught me to see all sides of an issue because he so clearly presents each side of whatever issues his characters are grappling with.
  • Shakespeare has taught me to see myself in everyone because he so masterfully shows us what it means to be human, so that we see ourselves reflected in his characters - from the kings and queens, to the soldiers and servants.
  • Shakespeare's plays have taught me to see light and meaning in even the darkest places, because his darkest places are never devoid of light and meaning.
  • Shakespeare's plays have taught me to see how seductive evil can be, and the consequences of being seduced, because his characters are often seduced by, but never recover from, evil.
    My mother may not have known on that night in 1984 that she was showing me my future, but she knew that children need to be exposed to great art in all its forms, in all its genres.  Art teaches us critical thinking, creative problem solving, empathy, and that there are whole universes outside ourselves.  Children need to be given every opportunity to learn compassion and to learn that there are creative solutions to every problem.  Children need to be given every opportunity for awakening. Children need art.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Pick a Show, Hold Auditions


I accidentally helped start a theatre company.  I’ve thought about it off and on over the years, but always brushed it aside as an impossible dream, a daunting task, a not going to happen scenario.  And yet, here I am introducing to you a new member of the greater Denver theatre family, The Foothills Theatre Company.  Born to the Littleton community in the Fall of 2013, it is here to entertain audiences, engage minds, and involve local artists.  It is here to offer great theatre to our neighborhoods, and bring talent out from hiding and onto the stage.  So how exactly was it an accident?  Well, I kind of stumbled over it when Regina Smith, Arts Department Specialist for Foothills Parks and Recreation District, left it lying around for me to trip over.   
          Smith and her good friend, Amalie Millhone, conceptualized the Foothills Theatre Company and decided to dive in.  With Smith's BA in theatre, plus all of her experience running a large arts department for a major organization, and Millhone's MA in theatre, they were ready to start something new and exciting.  "I kept saying, there are all these people who are just like me, who for whatever reason, stopped doing art and they need an outlet," says Millhone.  "They've got other lives and they've got jobs and they've got kids, and they're being practical, and I want to give those people a venue to be that impractical person they used to be or always dreamed of being."
         Millhone and Smith were students at Louisiana State University when they met and they worked on many shows together there.  They knew they worked well with each other, but they weren't sure how to begin putting together this new venture.  That's when they asked for my advice.  "We needed help," says Millhone.  "Theatre is a big thing, it takes more than two people."  I already worked for Smith as an acting teacher in her arts program, and I've been directing summer shows at the Arvada Center  and various other venues for many years.  "The two of us are actors. We didn't know how to put things together behind the scenes," says Smith of herself and Millhone. "So we contacted you because of your experience with directing and putting together productions.  We just said 'What do we need to do to get this started? How do we get our name out there?' And your advice to us was, 'Pick a show and hold auditions.'" And there it was.  I was involved, just like that.  I could take it or leave it, I could walk around it or step over it.  But I didn’t.  I tripped.  Once I tripped and fell, I couldn’t get back up.  I was in for good.
            Along with choosing a first show, we had to decide what we wanted our company to be about.  "We want to give people in this area a chance to perform, whether they've never performed before, or whether they retired from performing to have a family or a 'real' job, we want to give those people an opportunity to come back to the stage," says Smith.  "We want to offer really quality performances for people in our community to experience." 
            But why now?  When so many other well established theatre companies have closed in the last decade, what makes us so sure that we can make this happen?  "One of the benefits of being part of the larger organization of Foothills Parks and Recreation, is that we have the support of the district.  We have performance space that we can use right here in the rec center, we have rehearsal space, and we also have grant funding that we're already receiving from SCFD, and there are other grant opportunities as a part of Foothills," Smith says.  "So we have a little more flexibility than some of the other stand alone theatre companies.”
            "The economy wasn't my concern," says Millhone. "But what was?  An outlet for frustrations because of the economy." 
            We decided to take the “something for everyone” approach with our first show, and we settled on three one-act plays.  Blind Date, Inc, by Gerald P. Murphy, Trifles by Susan Glaspell, and Oh Night Divine - a short piece of mine.  All of these plays could be secured for little or no royalties - a bonus for a baby company with no money - and together they share the common theme of exploring human relationships in various forms.  The show title became Trifles and Other Plays. The three of us established our roles as well - I would direct, Millhone would be our stage manager/assistant director, and Smith would be our producer.           

         So what makes us think that out company will not only succeed, but stand out from the others in this area?  "I look at theatre right now and I see us doing the same old shows over and over because we're so desperate to put butts in the seats," says Millhone.  "I am so tired of seeing stuff that's tired.  You don't see people taking chances on anything.  I want a place where we showcase new work that is good.  It's out there. We have to be brave enough to put it on, and figure out how to do it economically."  
         Smith agrees.   "We want to make theatre accessible to everyone," she says.  “We're focused on collaboration and community involvement.  This is giving everyone an opportunity to share their work or their craft with this community.  We're really looking to highlight the local talent that we have," Smith adds.  
           My accidental role in this company is proving to be a very happy accident.  Foothills Theatre Company isn’t just about three women who wanted a theatre company – it’s about three women who want to bring the arts to our little ‘burb, and we want you to come with us.  Send us your script, come out and see a show, audition for us.  And don’t watch your step – just let yourself trip and fall in. 

The Foothills Theatre Company offers acting classes for children and adults.  You can see our class listings online at ifoothills.org .  For more information about the Foothills Theatre Company, or to submit headshots, resumes, or scripts, please contact Regina Smith at 303-409-2612 or email reginas@fhprd.org

Sunday, March 4, 2012

An excerpt from Outrageous Fortune by Rebecca Salomonsson

HAMLET:  Soft you now, the fair Ophelia.—Nymph, in thy orisons

Be all my sins remembered.

Hamlet’s Fatal Flaw steps out of the shadows and stops him.

HFF:  Hold on there, cowboy.  Where do you think you’re going?

HAMLET:  What—who the devil are you and what do you mean by interrupting this pivotal scene in the play?

HFF:  I’m your Fatal Flaw, and I just think you should pause a moment and consider what you’re about to do.

HAMLET:  What exactly is my Fatal Flaw?

HFF:  Heck if I know.

HAMLET:  You don’t know what you are?

HFF:  Not really.  Some scholars say that your Fatal Flaw is your indecisiveness, your inability to act.  If you would just murder Claudius when you have the chance, you might save yourself from your own death, what with the poison and the treachery and all that unpleasant business.  But I don’t really think that’s your problem.

HAMLET:  You don’t, huh?  And what do you think is my problem?

HFF:  What isn’t your problem, really?

HAMLET:  You’ve got some nerve, you know?  What say you get out of my way and let me deal with Ophelia?

HFF:  See, there’s one problem right there.  You and Ophelia.  She’s such a sweet girl, and you know you love her, and yet I, your Fatal Flaw, drive you to curse her and abuse her.

HAMLET:  She betrays me.

HFF:  She doesn’t betray you.  Her father and Claudius put her up to it, and whether or not she even knows about it entirely depends on the director’s choice.

HAMLET:  She rejects me. 

HFF:  Me, me, me – it’s all about you, isn’t it? Maybe I am Ego.  That could be your Fatal Flaw.  All you care about is yourself. 

HAMLET:  And avenging my father’s death.  Now if you’ll excuse me…

HFF:  Maybe I’m Existentialism.  That’s what that whole “To be or not to be” speech is about, right? What’s life really mean? Why don’t we just end it all?  You over think everything. (Hamlet walks toward Ophelia.)  Wait!  I’m having an identity crisis here! I need you to help me figure out what exactly causes your undoing.  The other Fatal Flaws are making fun of me!

HAMLET:  Good luck with that.

He turns to Ophelia and Hamlet’s Fatal Flaw stays to watch the scene. Ophelia looks up from her book and stands to meet Hamlet.

OPHELIA:  Good my lord, How does your Honor for this many a day?

HAMLET:  I humbly thank you, well.

OPHELIA:  My lord, I have remembrances of yours that I have long├ęd long to redeliver.  I pray you now, receive them.

HAMLET:  No, not I.  I never gave you aught.

OPHELIA:  My honored lord, you know right well you did, and with them words of so sweet breath composed as made the things more rich.  Their perfume lost, take these again, for to the noble mind rich gifts wax poor when lovers prove unkind.  There, my lord.

HAMLET:  Haha, are you honest?

OPHELIA:  My lord?

HAMLET:  Are you fair?

OPHELIA:  What means your lordship?

HAMLET:  That if you be honest and fair, your honesty should admit no discourse to your beauty.

OPHELIA:  Wait a minute, we need to stop for a minute.

HAMLET:  Stop?  You can’t just stop in the middle of our scene. What is it with all these interruptions today?  You’re messing with my chi.

OPHELIA:  Your chi?

HAMLET:  That’s right, my chi.  My life force, my balance.

OPHELIA:  Wow.  Okay, well, sorry about that, but we have to have a talk.  I can’t do this anymore.  I can’t let you treat me this way.

HAMLET:  What are you talking about?

OPHELIA:  I’m talking about the way you treat me.  You rant and rave at me, you physically and verbally abuse me.  It’s wrong.  Did you know I’m in therapy because of you?

HAMLET:  It’s not my fault.  It’s his fault. (Points to HFF)

OPHELIA:  Who is that?

HAMLET:  My Fatal Flaw.

OPHELIA:  What is your Fatal Flaw, anyway?

HAMLET:  We can’t put a finger on it.

OPHELIA:  Whatever.  Don’t use him as a scape goat.  You’re responsible for your own actions.

HAMLET:  No, I’m really not.  In the first place, I’m written this way.  I can’t change my etymological make-up.  And yes, I’m completely at the mercy of my Fatal Flaw.

OPHELIA:  You can’t even identify your Fatal Flaw, so how can you be at the mercy of it?

HAMLET:  Ask him.

HFF:  It’s true.  I have him completely in my power.

OPHELIA:  Shut up.  This is a private conversation.

HFF:  No, actually it’s not.  Claudius and Polonius are overhearing every word.

OPHELIA:  What?

Claudius and Polonius come out of hiding.

CLAUDIUS:  It’s true.  Hamlet’s physical and emotional response to you are excellent indications of his madness.

HAMLET:  I am but mad north-north-west.  When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.

POLONIUS:  You might as well know it, Ophelia, Claudius and I set this whole meeting between you and Hamlet up in order to determine whether or not he is mad. 

OPHELIA:  Yes, I already know.  You use me.  Your own daughter.  You use me like a mouse to catch a cat.

POLONIUS:  Well, in a manner of speaking, yes.  But it is for the good of all parties involved.  You included.

OPHELIA:  Really?  Do you know that in trying so hard to figure out if Hamlet is mad, you drive me mad in the process?

POLONIUS:  I know some repercussions are to be expected.

OPHELIA:  Do you know that I die?  I drown, for your information. 

POLONIUS:  Oh, my darling girl.  And I’m not there to save you because I die first.

OPHELIA:  Precisely.  Are you all aware that we are all on the same downward spiral to destruction?  Not one of us gets out of here alive.  Don’t you think that’s obscene?

HAMLET:  Yeah, bummer.

OPHELIA:  You all set yourselves on a path of deceitfulness, destruction, and death, and you’re so caught up in it that you don’t care who you take with you.  I am the only innocent one here.  Look, Hamlet.  I’ve done a lot of internal work to accept my fate.  All I’m asking for is some explanation.  What happened between us?

HAMLET:  I did love you once.

OPHELIA:  Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.

HAMLET:  You should not have believed me.  I loved you not.

OPHELIA:  I don’t want to do the scene now, Hamlet.  I’m trying to talk to you on an honest level here.  I’m asking you to open up to me like you used to and tell me your true feelings.

HAMLET:  Can’t do it.

OPHELIA:  Why?

HAMLET:  Because then we’d be Romeo and Juliet.

OPHELIA:  Tell me how you really feel about me or I’m walking.

HAMLET:  What?  You can’t go rogue!

CLAUDIUS:  Ophelia, don’t be a foolish girl.  There’s a harsh penalty for characters who go rogue, you know that.  Polonius, talk some sense into your daughter.

POLONIUS:  Daughter, this is ridiculous.  You wouldn’t put all of us in danger of non-existence, would you?

OPHELIA:  I’m thinking about it.  All I want is for you all to own up to what you do to me. 

CLAUDIUS:  You really are to blame, Polonius.  She’s your daughter, after all.  You should stand up for her.

POLONIUS:  Excuse me, but you’re my king.  I pretty much have to go along with anything you say. 

CLAUDIUS:  That isn’t entirely true.  You have a mind of your own, right? I’ve always respected you for your good council.  There’s a possibility I would listen to it if you went against my plan here.

POLONIUS:  Yeah, right!  You’re so focused on not getting caught for the murder of the previous king that you’ll use anyone to get Hamlet out of the way.

CLAUDIUS:  Oh, I didn’t know you knew about that.

POLONIUS:  Of course I know about it!  I may be old, but I’m not stupid or blind!

OPHELIA:  Father, Claudius, please.  This is about me.  Focus on me for a minute.  Hamlet?  What do you have to say to me?

HAMLET:  Fine.  Ophelia, this whole scene we do here is poppycock.  I’m madly in love with you the whole time, okay?

OPHELIA:  Okay.  Thank you.

HAMLET:  I mean, I’m only cruel to you because I know the king and your father are watching, and I want them to think I’m mad.  But this scene kills me.  The whole time I’m cursing you and throwing you to the floor and stuff, I’m thinking “I love you!  Marry me!”  But of course I can’t say that.

OPHELIA:  Okay, I understand now.

HAMLET:  And when you die, I about die with you.  Seriously, I want to jump in that grave and be buried with you.  I hate that my last words to you are “To a nunnery, go.”  I hate that I can never tell you how I truly feel about you.

OPHELIA:  Okay, Hamlet, point taken.  You love me.  That’s all I wanted to know.

HAMLET:  You complete me.

OPHELIA:  We can go back to the scene now.

POLONIUS:  (Throwing himself at her feet) Daughter, forgive me!  If I had known how all this would have turned out, I would have taken you away from this place.

OPHELIA:  Good.  As long as you know you’re wrong.

POLONIUS:  I would do anything if only I could right it.

OPHELIA:  Great.  I forgive you.  Now back to your hiding place.  (he goes) Claudius, have you anything to say?

CLAUDIUS:  No.  I have no regrets.

OPHELIA:  Really?  Okay, well two apologies out of three is not bad.  I’m ready to move on.

Claudius returns to hiding place.

OPHELIA:  (cont.) Now where were we?

HAMLET:  Let’s take it from, “I loved you not.”  You should not have believed me.  I loved you not.

OPHELIA:  I was the more deceived.

HAMLET:  Get thee to a nunnery.  Why woulds’t thou be a breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me:  (lights start to fade) I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offenses at my beck than I have thoughts to put them in…

Slow fade to blackout.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Glooming Peace and the Aftermath of Tragedy

I love the idea of exploring what happens to the surviving characters of Shakespeare's tragedies. I wrote this short story last summer while I was studying "Romeo and Juliet" in preparation for directing it.  I welcome your thoughts.

A Glooming Peace
By Rebecca Salomonsson

I thought I heard her call to me the night she died the first time.  I had only just left her chamber and a faint call of, “Nurse!” reached my ears.  But then all was silent, and I did not return to her.  If I had, all might have been saved.  All might have been forgiven. 

Forgiveness.  It is not something I have yet found.  For myself or for them.  The horror plays itself out again and again, never granting me a moment’s peace.  I wake in the night, having wept through my sleep, only to weep through my day.  My lady is dead, and I to blame. 

Though the Prince exonerated me and my Lord allows me to stay, I know in my heart that all could have been prevented had I told him instead of allowing it to continue – nay, enabling it to continue.  I know he knows that too, for sometimes I catch him staring at me while I pour his tea or serve his dinner.  I cannot look in his eyes, for the torment I see there is too great and I know I am the cause. 

She died twice.  The first time it was I who found her.

“And what did you do when you found her, seeming dead?” asked the prince at my trial.

“Grief-stricken, sir, I screamed and brought the household running to her chamber.”

“And what did you think at that moment?”

“I thought he had killed her.”
           
“Her father?”

“Yes.  Not that he had strangled her in her bed, but that she had died of grief because of his cruelty.”

“His cruelty in forcing her to marry?”

“Yes, your highness.  He said terrible, cruel things to her – that he would rather see her dead in the street than not married to his friend – and the like.  I hated him for that.”

“But then you thought she had consented?”

“Yes, your highness.  I counseled her to consent, saying this second match was better than her first, that she would be joyful in her new marriage.  She seemed to change heart then.  She said she would be ready to marry on Thursday, and she went to the friar to seek forgiveness for displeasing her father.”

“Or so you thought.”

“So I thought.”

The friar is allowed visitors now, and I go to see him from time to time.  He is the only one among us who has been imprisoned, so I take him small comforts – extra food and blankets – believing that I deserve to be in that dank cell alongside him.  His mind is healing now and we are able to talk of all that transpired.

“I cannot sleep,” I say.

“Nor I,” he says.

“Has God forgiven us, do you think?”

“I cannot tell.  It seems He has abandoned me, for I do not hear Him nor feel Him here.”

“Nor I.  Perhaps we are not listening,” I offer.  “I cannot hear anything save the tearing of my own heart.”

“I cannot forgive myself, how can I expect God to forgive me?  I killed two of His children.”

“You did not kill them.  You did not poison one and stab the other.  It was them that did that themselves.  You cannot say you killed them.”

“No, but I married them in secret, I gave her the sleeping potion, it was my letter that went astray and never made it to Romeo’s hands.  One misstep led to another, leading to their deaths.”  He takes the blanket I have brought him and turns to the wall of his cell, curling himself inward and away from me. 

“You thought all for the best.  You thought to end the feud, you wanted his happiness, just as I wanted hers.”  But he does not hear me.  He has descended into his grief this time, just as he has done on other visits.  I will come again next week.

The second time she died, I heard of it from Peter.

“Madam, there is news from town,” he said.

“Be gone, boy.  I care not for your news.”  I sat in Juliet’s chamber, looking out the window I had sat in front of a thousand times before, nursing her from my own breast, singing her to sleep.  My Juliet was dead.  My second daughter, beloved as much as the other I lost.  Susan from my flesh, Juliet of another’s, but loved both the same by me.  I sat at the window, wishing I could tear Capulet’s eyes out with my fingers for his cruelty to her, wanting to stab him in his sleep, poison him in his tea.  But I would do none of those things, for the fault was mine as well. 

“I have just come from the tomb, where the Lord and Lady Capulet are grieving anew, and with them the Lord Montague.  Romeo is dead in that same tomb where Juliet lies.  Romeo is poisoned and Juliet stabbed.”

I turned from the window to look at Peter, whose eyes were red from weeping.

“What fresh hell is this to torment me?  Romeo dead too?  Juliet stabbed?” 

He told me what he knew, what Friar Lawrence had confessed to the prince and the nobles.  The potion that Juliet drank to make her look dead, the letter, never delivered,  that was supposed to tell Romeo – banished to Mantua – that he was to meet her in the tomb where she would wake. 

“Friar Lawrence is under arrest for his hand in it.  And there is word they will come for you as well.”  Peter ran to me then and laid his head on my lap, and we sat together until nightfall, when the soldiers came for me.

 “Did you, for a moment, consider the consequences of enabling Juliet to marry Romeo in secret?” asked the Prince. 

“I did not, sir,” I answered.  I felt no need to lie, to try to save myself from imprisonment.  I cared not what would become of me. 

“Why did you fail to consider your actions?”

A question I had asked myself thousands of times, for which I had only one answer: I wanted Juliet’s happiness and nothing else.

“She was my child from another’s flesh, my lord.  I would have done anything she asked of me.”

I wish he’d imprisoned me, tortured me, burned me at the stake, for my body is not capable of feeling pain akin to that in my soul, and torture of the flesh might come as welcome relief from the torture in my heart.  But he released me, and I have remained with the Capulets – and now, just the master himself, for the mistress died some months ago.  My comfort is Peter, always trying to cheer me.  He will not blame anyone for the death of my Juliet, but points to the feud and lack of forgiveness from generations of Capulets and Montagues.  There is peace in the streets now – if one blessing could come of this, it is that.  Peter urges me to forgive the master and move forward.  And I almost have.  I almost have.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Outrageous Fortune

Sadly, it's been a year since my last post.  It's difficult for me to keep on top of this for a number of reasons, namely time and commitment issues.  But now that I have been blessed with a regular playwriting schedule (thanks to my mother for watching my youngest child two days a week!), I can no longer use time as an excuse, until I get down to the final days of freedom before summer camp starts, and I'm in a crunch to finish the play.  My commitment issues - well, there's a seperate beast all together.

This year's play is entitled "Outrageous Fortune."  The tragic characters from several plays are in group therapy together and vow revenge on those who wrong them.  I'm about a quarter of a way in, and I must say, this is probably the easiest writing I've done.  This play is writing itself.  I'm being a little ambitious with the language, including entire scenes from the original plays.  But over the last five years that I've been doing this (writing a Shakespeare-based play and directing it at the Arvada Center) my students have proven to me time and time again that they are entirely capable of handling Shakespeare's original language with style, ease, and acting ability.  So I'm not worried.  In fact, I'm greatly looking forward to delving into this stuff with the younger set (8-13 year olds for this camp) and seeing what they come up with.

I will also be directing "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with the 13-18 year olds.  Our maiden voyage of a full original Shakespeare production last year was a beautiful success.  Producing "Romeo and Juliet" was not only a long lived dream of mine, it was a very valuable learning experience.  I'm not sure I could put my finger on, if asked, how it changed me, but it changed me.  It made me a better director, a better writer, and a better person.  It helped me see teenagers in a fresh new light - not only from working with the characters in the play, but from working with my students as individuals.  I've always been empathetic to them (I remember the pain, the sadness, the delight, the joy, the anticipation, the frustration, and the excitement of being a teen clearer than any of my students can imagine) but my experience with "Romeo and Juliet" deepened my understanding of young people further than even I thought possible.  Of course, I'm still expecting to hear "You don't understand me!" from my own daughters when they come of age.  I wonder if I'll ever be able to convince them that yes, in fact, I do understand them.

And so I look forward to "Midsummer" with great anticipation, and every Tuesday and Thursday until then, I will be seated here, at my computer, looking out the window as winter changes to spring, and writing "Outrageous Fortune."  I'll be updating this blog on a more regular basis, too - you know, in case anyone is actually reading it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Toil and Trouble

Picture this... fog envelopes the stage and the three weird sisters emerge from the fog to change the course of one man's life. That man is Pericles, Prince of Tyre. The play is entitled "Toil and Trouble" and it is a melding of "Macbeth" and "Pericles." After last year's supernatural-less play, I wanted to bring back the supernatural elements that I've had in play's past, and I really wanted to involve the witches. Out of the witches, the idea was born.

But now, as I sit down at my computer and stare at the few pages I've written, I'm finding the concept of this play to be far more complicated that I thought it would be. The original "Pericles" is rife with a host of topics inappropriate for my age group, including incest, rape, and prostitution. And so I face the challenge of working my way around those things and still having a story left to tell. Also, there is a time gap of 14 years between Pericles losing his wife and daughter and his reunion with them. In "Exit, Pursued by a Bear" - the play I wrote two years ago - I jumped back and forth over a 16 year period a couple times, in order to tell the story and create equal stage time for each character. I could do so again, but this play is already so much like that one, and I don't want to repeat conventions so much that my audience (and actors) ask, "Didn't we see this a couple years ago?" So I must find a different way through these toils and troubles.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Already?

I can't believe it is that time of year again, but so it goes. The time has come to generate a new play, but as of yet, not one brilliant idea has come to me. "Hamlet"? Everyone dies in the end. "Romeo and Juliet"? Likewise. "As You Like It"? Not a fan. "Midsummer"? Already done. My mind keeps drifting back to "King Lear." Though it is also one where the vast majority of the characters meet an untimely end, there seems to be comedic potential. But how to adapt it comedically in a meaningful way? What philosophical conundrum can I pose to my students and my audience? Perhaps I should revisit the idea of having two sides to the story... kind of like the movie "Sliding Doors" with Gwyneth Paltrow. What would have happened if Cordelia had just told Lear that she loved him? Would it all have turned out the same or would the story have a happy ending? The casting potential for such a project is intriguing. I could have two Cordelias, two Gonerils, two Regans, etc.

Or how about a courtroom drama? The tragic characters sue the comedic characters, or one accuses another of a crime, or Macbeth is put on trial for war crimes.

Hmmm. Nothing is really striking me as "the one." I have approximately a month before I make my proposal. Genius better knock me over the head soon.