I’ve been following Eric Minton’s Shakespeareances blog, and in particular, his Canon Project. He’s seeing 38 plays in 38 theaters in North America in 2018. One of the productions he saw was our (Pigeon Creek Shakespeare’s) remount of Much Ado (he blogged about it here and here), so I got to meet him and learn about the project a bit. He was so interesting to talk to–he remembers everything he’s seen, in striking detail, and he’s so in love with the Shakespeare community. His warmth and joy are infectious.
Eric has seen so many plays that I wish I could have seen with him, and my list of theaters I want to visit grows with every post he writes. Everyone is doing so many interesting and different things with this same group of 400-year-old texts, I want to see it all!
And, as it happened, I had the opportunity this past week to check out two theaters that are not on his 2018 itinerary. Bridget, whom I had the pleasure to direct at Pigeon Creek, spent her summer working in the education wing of Elm Shakespeare, in New Haven, CT. Rebecca Goodheart, their Producing Artistic Director, was one of my classmates from grad school, and directed this summer’s production of Love’s Labour’s Lost. Not too far away, Ethan and Grace Eldred, who were on my design teams for a couple of plays in Harrisonburg and were part of my hometown theater family, have spent the summer working at Shakespeare and Company, in Lenox, MA. Both of their shows are closing this weekend, and I just suddenly really wanted to see what everybody was doing. So, I planned my own mini-Shakespeareance, covering 1300 miles in 3 days to see 2 shows. It was so worth it.
Elm’s Love’s Labours was very fun. They set it in the early 1920s (has anyone else noticed a superfad of setting Shakespeare’s comedies in that time period, just in the past year?). Their live music was wonderful–most especially a brilliant young trumpeter. Before the show, their music director gave a little talk about how he’d selected the pieces they performed, how it’s just the earliest bit of jazz, before it got so slippery in time. An interesting choice, in a play that is so dependent on time and being in and out of it.
The design elements were gorgeous, from the sumptuous costumes to a beautiful tent of lights that appeared magically out of the stage. I saw a few faces I hadn’t expected in the cast, including Ben Curns, who was the funniest Holofernes I’ve ever seen. I wish I could have recorded what he was doing to show my students, because it was a masterful demonstration of trusting the text.
I hadn’t seen Rebecca in over a decade, so catching up with her and hearing about all of her adventures was fun, too–always interesting to see the paths everyone has taken out of the Shakespeare & Performance program.
I spent a wonderful evening and most of the next day with Bridget. I have been lucky in my life to have had many collaborators who have turned into friends, and she is one. She’s had her own series of Shakespeareances in the couple of years since we’ve done serious work together–touring with Cincinnati, an internship at Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern, generally getting around. I hope we get to work together again soon, although I don’t know how or where. She’s a very thoughtful actor, always taking time to look back at what she’s just completed and ask herself where she needs to go next.
The next afternoon, I drove out into the Berkshires for Shakespeare and Company. I don’t think I’ve ever been in that part of the country before–maybe as a kid?–but I’d love to go back when I have more time to explore. The campus of Shakespeare & Co shows its history. The people who founded it were living a certain kind of dream, farming out to produce Shakespeare in the green world. Somehow, they made it into a sustainable venture, and forty years later, it’s still going strong.
We saw As You Like It, directed by Allyn Burrows, and their tight doubling, down to only nine actors, was very strong. They had a female Touchstone, and a male Audrey (they called him Aubrey). That pairing was particularly fun to watch. Total commitment, and with enough commitment, you can make anything work. The design elements were simple (more 1920s!), and beautifully executed. But the most striking thing was how apparent the actors’ textual training was. That theater prides itself on intense text work, and it showed. I’m interested in learning more about the process they use for training new members in their house style.
And then…home again, home again, jiggety jog. On the way, I stopped to have a call with a stranger (long story), and she said, “Do you often do these Shakespeare pilgrimages?”
“No,” I told her, “But I’d like to do more!”