I often get the question, “Do you only direct Shakespeare?” Of course not. I love all forms of Renaissance verse drama!
Joking! But people do ask this, often. I thought it might be interesting to run my stats.
Although I list my directing credits very comprehensively, for this analysis, I didn’t count any staged readings, remounts, assistant directing gigs, or class projects, putting me right at 33 plays since 1997 (if I include all those other things, I’d have roughly 45, not counting ones I’ve forgotten about by now.).
Of those 33 plays, just under a third are Shakespeare. I’ve directed two of his plays twice (Much Ado, Antony and Cleopatra). I haven’t directed many of the most frequently performed ones. No Midsummer, no Macbeth. If we count the canon as about 38 plays, I’ve directed just under 20% of them. I’m not one to obsess over canon completion–if I never direct Henry VIII, that’s probably fine. But I’d like to get closer than where I am right now! So yes, I’ll direct some Shakespeare, given half a chance.
But my directing wishlist is way more than just Shakespeare. The unifying theme in both the work I’ve done and that I hope to do is that it typically has both a mythical scale and a human specificity. Or it’s what someone offered me and I said, “Yes.”
The other thread that binds is verse. Nearly half of the plays I’ve directed have been either verse dramas or musicals, mostly the former. I’m a word nerd. Rich text speaks into my soul. Most of the plays that keep me up at night have memorable lines that roll around in my head and expand as I listen to them.
When York College asked me to direct Eric Overmyer’s On the Verge, one question I had for them was, “Why me?” I wanted to know why they thought of me when they were discussing that title. I haven’t worked with them before. If they were hoping I’d do any particular thing for their students, knowing that in advance would be helpful. They said some nice things about the KCACTF response I had done for their production of Tick, Tick…Boom last year. “We could tell you know how to talk to students. You were kind, but also observant.” Then, they said, “We also know that you are good with text, because of your Shakespeare work. And we thought maybe you get offered Shakespeare a lot and you might like to do something a little different.” They were right on both of those points. I have seen a number of productions of Verge and never much cared for that play–but I think it’s because the actors’ engagement with the text has been very surface. When I am thinking about how I would approach it, the Shakespeare toolbox is very much to hand. I hope that will give it more depth.
I’ve heard it said that if you can act Shakespeare, you can act anything. I think the same is true of directing. And I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to do Shakespeare and beyond.