In rehearsal the other night, Sean Kelley, who had been Romeo in my 2012 Romeo and Juliet at Pigeon Creek Shakespeare, pulled out his phone and started showing me pictures of my play that I had never seen before. Pigeon Creek remounted my production in 2014 to perform at The Rose, a reproduction Elizabethan theater at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. A “remount” means that, as much as possible, they retained my casting, blocking, and general intentions and interpretation of the play. Scott Lange (Mercutio, music director, generally awesome guy) sent me a message afterward that summarized the process (as well as flattering me greatly). Among other things, he said, “Although you were not with us in person, you were certainly there with us in spirit. All week, as we rehearsed, you were there with us. We talked constantly about the original intentions you had for each scene, character development, and staging that you had in mind for almost every scene. We kept as much from our original production as possible, because we loved it so much. Even today, during the audience talk back, we made sure to mention the decisions that were yours, and why we all agreed that in this re-staging, they had to stay. Even though you weren’t here with us, your hands were all over this production. I think that we would have made you proud. There was a great photographer there, and I think we will have some awesome stuff to send you soon! Miss you and I think I speak for all of us when I say we can’t want to work with you again.”
Why was I not there in person? Much as I wanted to be, I had to audition another show that day, in Virginia. Not a show I was particularly excited about. I was so depressed and grumpy about that. Scott’s note was the highlight of my day, and I saved it because it still makes me smile.
But oh, he mentioned some photographs? I didn’t ever see them until this past week. Sean had purchased a CD of watermarked images (just the photos that had his face in them). I convinced him to post them to Facebook so I could look over them at my own pace.
I couldn’t believe how beautiful they were. I also realized, in a way that I hadn’t understood from Scott’s note, how very much he was right–this was my Romeo and Juliet, not an approximation, not a generic thing. As a director, I always feel funny about my work–how much can I say it is mine? When I work with great actors, especially, I get self-conscious about taking any credit at all for it. They do so much; they take a few words from me and realize an entirely new understanding of a character or a moment. But having that right word or two, knowing the moment and the pacing, all of that is the work I bring. Part of my problem is that I’m awfully subtle about it. I’m not a “Hamlet on motorcycles” high-concept director. Even I have a hard time finding my fingerprints in the collaboration, sometimes.
Seeing these pictures–recognizing moments that I helped create–I understood quite clearly how my hands are in the work. And that’s extra good because I was questioning what I brought at all to Duchess, beyond keeping the process flowing (not an insignificant thing! But also not beyond the reach of a competent stage manager). When the actors are that good, the collaboration becomes seamless–which is a good thing for everything but my own impostor syndrome.
I also went and found the Facebook event page, because I was trying to remember the exact date when I missed it. To my surprise, there were a number of comments from audience members that made my jaw drop.
“This was the best Romeo and Juliet I ever saw. I always feel like this after a Pigeon Creek production.”
“I cannot say enough about the wonderful performances my two daughters and I witnessed today! A HUGE shout-out to all the performers and those behind the scenes who did such a great job!”
“Playing the comedy up in the first two acts made the intensity of the play after intermission that much deeper.”
Scott Wright, who was the Friar, said something similar to that last comment–“I remember you had us play it as a romantic comedy until Benvolio says, ‘Mercutio’s dead!’ And when it happened at the Rose, you could just feel that whole wooden room turn over. The mood transformed. It was unreal.”
Here are some of my favorite moments–moments where the photo made me sit up and say, “I made that!”
Also, holy heck, can you believe something I directed was in such a beautiful space? Because I can’t. I’ll believe it when I see it, which, I suppose, means I need to direct something Rose-worthy, next time I go. 🙂
All pictures are by Tim Motley, of Motley Cat Studio. Actors featured include Scott Lange, Sarah Stark, Sean Kelley, Kat Hermes, Katherine Mayberry, Scott Wright, Killian Goodson, and I think that’s Chaz Albright (?).