Saturday, February 07, 2015

Stoon Shakespeare Lab

Sometimes it's best to let the director speak:

Directors Notes 

    So, what exactly are we up to? Well, I've had a number of conversations and debates over the past few years as to what a theatre company really needs in order to put on a Shakespeare play. Do you have to have a dozen actors to do Shakespeare justice? Do you have to have elaborate historical costumes? And that isn't knocking large cast productions (nothing makes me happier than wearing chainmail and wielding a sword) or even knocking large cast productions (more actors on stage, yes please!). But if we're already willing to accept that we're all in a theatre and not in a castle that is over two thousand years old, then how "simple" can we go? Shakespeare's company didn't trouble themselves with accurate costumes, so we're not worried about it either. If Shakespeare's company had men playing women, then I see no reason why women can't play men (if an actor is wearing a dress, then they're playing a woman). If someone says they have a sword then they have a sword.

    We've got the story, and we've got the text. Let's find out if it's enough.

    And while we're at it, why don't we do one of Shakespeare's plays that most people don't know. Our friends at Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan and Persephone Theatre will no doubt continue to do an excellent job of bringing Shakespeare to life, but they can't do them all. We're just bringing a different kind of Shakespeare to the table. We hope you're willing to come along for the ride.

Cheers,
Skye

... those were the notes in the program to The Saskatoon Shakespeare Lab's Cymbeline ... mission statement: "committed to giving theatre artists the chance to explore the plays of Shakespeare to bring Shakespeare to students and to produce the lesser known works of Shakespeare." (taken from the postcard flyer) ...

... so with some high school students I went ... debates will rage where two or more passionate theatre lovers meet ... witness this twitter "conversation" between a theatre maker and a critic ... but no debate after this show ... just awe, wonder, curiosity and thankfulness ... 

... something about just the story being told, the text exquistely articulated and the space so open, empty and white allowing the action to carve into the imagination ... something about the music, a delicate funeral lament sung, a ukelele toyed and plucked on and a startling thunder crash which tuned the imagination  ... something about the harsh white light of day, the soft blue light of night and the silhouettes of ghosts that so precisely pierced the imagination ... it was enough ... no it was just the right enough to free the imaginative body, space and image into a curious, complex story ...

... just right enough ... my Polish mentor Zygmunt Molik loved to share the "spring" metaphor ... I hear his broken English ... holding an invisible spring between his thumb and forefinger: "you see if you push the spring too hard it collapses and breaks ... if you don't press hard enough then nothing ... you must find just the right pressure then release and it will fly ..."

What was the pressure that made the imagination fly in Cymbeline?

 ... the actors ... yes their complete selfless effort ...the work of six to be seventeen characters was an uncomprosmising challenge ... & we experienced their work as play ... 


In everyday life, "if" is a fiction, in the theatre "if" is an experiment. In everyday life, "if" is an evasion, in the theatre "if" is the truth. When we are  persuaded to believe in this truth then the theatre and life are one. This is a high aim. It sounds like hard work. To play needs much work. But when we experience the work as play, then it is not work anymore. A play is play.”― Peter Brook

... the truth was we did not  ask whether that was a real fight with real swords and a real wound ... or could a poison cause death & resurrection ... or was that based on a true story of a king & queen ... or can a woman with flowing hair really be disguised as a young man ... 
  
... we listened and saw a battle and questioned why they were fighting & who exactly they were & when they won or lost what did they win or lose ... we watched a diamond ring move from finger to finger to finger and back again asking whose finger wore it well & who decieved us ... we never wondered whether the diamond was real ... 

... we listened and watched the story ... & it's all in the telling ... we think we tell stories but often the stories tell us ... learning to free the imagination requires the actor to hear the story, to have questions, to pause and hear silence, to dare to name it and then become the storyteller ... all of this takes, what my wife suggests, a "distanced spontaneity" (that's another writing for another time) ...

... I could quibble ... I always see those practiced skillful artists as my former students desiring more ... the formalistic structure demanded bold associative/abstract projections not illustrative markers of mountains or castle ... & play the angles, twist the bodies to create dynamic spaces ... no, no more pedagogy ... all of you simply did it ... released us into the story ... 

... Stoon Shakespeare Lab did it all ... artists explored, students reached out and the lesser known became known ... Thanks.


::Note:: ... i can only watch in admiration the work of Skye&Josh who so inspired me as an educator too many years ago now ... how they continue to inspire me to this day ... the picture is of six of the eight students who came with me ... i put them onstage afterwards saying silently "Hope to see you there again in a few years" ...