Tag Archives: Jacobean play

A conversation with the director, Pericles

27 Dec
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey closes its 51st season with a sparkling and wintery new production of Shakespeare’s Pericles.  Performances run through December 29th at the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre, 36 Madison Ave. (at Lancaster Road) in Madison.  Individual tickets are now on sale and can be purchased by calling the Box Office at 973-408-5600 or by visiting www.ShakespeareNJ.org.  Inspired by ancient Greek mythology, Pericles is Shakespeare’s grand “once upon a time” adventure tale with equal parts One Thousand and One Nights, Homer’s Odyssey, and the episodic romance of Shakespeare’s own The Tempest, Cymbeline, and The Winter’s Tale. Pericles carries audiences on a voyage across the ancient Mediterranean, encountering everyone from kings, goddesses, pirates, pimps, and magicians along the way. Pictured:  Governor Cleon of Tarsus and his scheming wife Dionyza (left: Clark Scott Carmichael and Jacqueline Antaramian) deliver tragic news to Pericles (Jon Barker). Photo:  ©Jerry Dalia, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey closes its 51st season with a sparkling and wintery new production of Shakespeare’s Pericles. Performances run through December 29th at the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre, 36 Madison Ave. (at Lancaster Road) in Madison. Inspired by ancient Greek mythology, Pericles is Shakespeare’s grand “once upon a time” adventure tale with equal parts One Thousand and One Nights, Homer’s Odyssey, and the episodic romance of Shakespeare’s own The Tempest, Cymbeline, and The Winter’s Tale. Pericles carries audiences on a voyage across the ancient Mediterranean, encountering everyone from kings, goddesses, pirates, pimps, and magicians along the way. Pictured: Governor Cleon of Tarsus and his scheming wife Dionyza (left: Clark Scott Carmichael and Jacqueline Antaramian) deliver tragic news to Pericles (Jon Barker). Photo: ©Jerry Dalia, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.

Daniel J. Rowe

Few theatre companies delve into the lesser-known Bard play Pericles, and what’s up with that? There are pirates! The Shakespeare Theatre Company of New Jersey, however, has done the right thing and dove right in. Director Brian B. Crowe spoke with the Bard Brawl about the company’s reasons for staging Pericles, and some of the ideas the production followed. The production runs until January 29, 2013.

Bard Brawl: Why did the theatre decide to do Pericles, such and obscure play?

Brian B. Crowe: We are first and foremost a theatre that is excited about classics of all ilks – specifically Shakespeare – but we will also try lesser known pieces as well, and there are some lesser known Shakespeares as well and that certainly falls into that category. 

This particular season we were looking for something for the holiday spot, and I had workshopped a production of Pericles with some of our students a few years ago, and didn’t know much about it prior to that, and kind of fell in love with the magic of it, and the intrigue and the great resolution at the end; this family reunited, good wins out, and there’s honour in it and the bad guys get what they deserve, which doesn’t always happen in real life so it’s nice to have it on stage once and a while.

B.B.: …and there are pirates!

Pictured: In the colorful kingdom of Pentapolis, Pericles (Jon Barker) battles a knight (Jordan Laroya) during Princess Thaisa’s birthday tournament. Photo:  ©Jerry Dalia, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.

Pictured: In the colorful kingdom of Pentapolis, Pericles (Jon Barker) battles a knight (Jordan Laroya) during Princess Thaisa’s birthday tournament. Photo: ©Jerry Dalia, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.

B.C.: …and there are pirates, and there’s incest and there’s a brothel, which is everything you need for the holidays.

B.B.: Was it a challenge to introduce the audience to the play? Did you get a lot of reaction right away? When you do Romeo and Juliet, you know it’s going to be packed. When you do Pericles, a lot of producers/directors might be a little nervous they won’t get the audience.

B.C.: We have a pretty exciting audience in the fact that they love to come to the smorgasbord of things that we’ll give them and they’ve got a well-refined palate, I guess you could say. They know that whatever piece we do we will find some form of elegance and artistry to bring to it. Obviously the play itself has it.

It’s mainly just really pushing the fact that we’ve all seen A Christmas Carol 9,000 times, we’ve all seen the Nutcracker. I can’t even tell you how many variations of A Christmas Carol I’ve seen; some of them are great, some of them are really not.

A lot of people want an alternative to it.

We had an audience member who said, ‘I had no idea what I was coming to.’ She said she had been to the theatre before and like the work that we did. Pericles could have been anything to her. She sat down in the theatre and she said, ‘let’s see what happens.’
She had a blast, and she said it was not a problem to follow. We actually changed up the Gower narrator to be a three-woman chorus that is present throughout the entire show as opposed to him just popping in throughout the show. They become extensions of the goddess Diana. She said for her particularly that was a great way to navigate the show and she had a blast.

B.B.: With Shakespeare you can always pull themes out of the play. You mentioned the Gower theme of honour and duplicity and how to conduct yourself as a ruler. How did you explore that issue as far as Pericles trying to understand how to react?

B.C.: One of the things that we talked about very early on in the rehearsal process was the journey of Pericles and how he starts off as this young ambitious sort of 20-something at the beginning of the play out to make his mark in the world: I’m going to win this evil king’s daughter because she’s beautiful and no one else can, and that’s going to become my claim to fame. That will be the legend people will tell about me.

Pictured: Heroic Pericles (Jon Barker) embarks on an adventure unlike any other, under the watchful eyes of the Chorus (left to right: Amaya Murphy, Corey Tazmania, Meg Kiley Smith). Photo:  ©Jerry Dalia, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.

Pictured: Heroic Pericles (Jon Barker) embarks on an adventure unlike any other, under the watchful eyes of the Chorus (left to right: Amaya Murphy, Corey Tazmania, Meg Kiley Smith). Photo: ©Jerry Dalia, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.

That kind of young, youthful approach to life. Literally just seeking adventure and honour for adventure and honour’s sake not for necessity.

It’s interesting for being a young king, he doesn’t do much ruling throughout the play. He’s off to get Hesperites and that doesn’t work out, he then has to run for his life so he’s not being the ruler again, then he helps out Tarsus which is great, so he does something and he’s actually honoured there. In this production, when we’re navigating it through, we kind of said, ‘well this is an honour that you’re looking for, this is something that you were looking for,’ and the approach was humbled and that’s not kind of legendary. That’s not what he was looking for, but he sees that he can actually do good in the world instead of just doing good for himself.

…and then he has another disaster, and then he falls in love and loses that love, and then he becomes a more mature and better king through the trials that he’s gone through…

By the end, when he thinks he’s lost his daughter as well, he has the ability to truly respect the relationships that he sort of went willy nilly for.

It’s like someone going on the bachelor and thinking they’re going to find marriage and true love because it’s a big show and this is what it is, Then, 30 or 40 years later actually finding it.

I think it’s (the play) very contemoparary and works for modern audience because it’s all about instant gratification, and that’s not what life is about. Life is about finding these moments – especially during the holidays where you can look back on your life, look back on your relationships – and this is a wonderful happy ending, but it takes 15 years to get there and realize what he has.

The honour and the legend that he hopes to be, that he starts the first scene with, he actually does win in the end.

BRIAN B. CROWE (Acting) is in his eighteenth season with The Shakespeare Theatre where he is currently the Director of Education. Mr. Crowe also directs in-school residencies, teaches in the Summer Professional Training Program, and works with the Junior and Senior Shakespeare Corps for the Theatre. The Star-Ledger called Mr. Crowe “one of the state’s most ingenious directors” for his work on Love’s Labour’s Lost and named him Best Director of a Drama (Julius Caesar and Wonderland) as well as one of three “theatre artists to look for in the new millennium.”Other directing credits includeRed Herring and A Perfect Ganesh at 12 MilesWest;  Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest (DayTony recipient), Noises Off, the Midwest regional premiere of The Beauty Queen of Leenane andPatient A with The Human Race Theatre Company,where he is currently a resident artist;Somewhere in Between and Children of a Lesser God at Dayton Playhouse. Mr. Crowe received BFA degrees indirecting and acting from Wright State University, and was a Fellow at the 2000International Salzburg Shakespeare Seminar.

BB: Timon of Athens, Act V

17 Dec
Artwork - Leigh MacRae

Artwork – Leigh MacRae

(Podcast recorded and produced by Daniel J. Rowe, blog written and edited by Eric Jean)

Welcome back Brawlers to Timon of Athens, act V, Stephanie E.M. Coleman‘s favourite Shakespeare play.

Listen to or download the podcast.

The rumours of Timon’s gold have reached the ears of our Painter and our Poet who, at the start of act V, are camped outside Timon’s cave discussing how they plan on separating Timon from more of his money. Having nothing to actually offer him, they instead decide that they will ask for money in exchange for a promise to deliver on a project in the future. How nice.

They are unaware that Timon has over heard their whole conversation. After letting them squirm and grovel a bit, Timon asks them if they have come to get gold, like the others. They admit that they heard he had money again but that this had nothing to do with why they are at his doorstep. He plays long for a little bit and messes with them before finally chasing them off.

Moments later, Flavius arrives, leading two Athenian senators. It would seem now that they are willing to welcome Timon home. And coincidentally, they need his help to try to talk Alcibiades out of razing the city to the ground. Once again Timon pretends to play along only to flip everything around into some variation of “&@!# off and die!” (Look for some of the choice insults and curses in the upcoming speeches podcast!)

The senators eventually get the message but as they go to leave Timon in peace, he tells them not to return and that this sea-shore shall be his eternal resting place.

The news of Timon’s refusal is relayed to the city of Athens in scene 2 before turning to a lone soldier by Timon’s cave in scene 3. He expected to find Timon but instead he sees only a tomb. The illiterate soldier cannot reads the inscription so he uses some wax to make of copy of the writing and heads back to his captain, Alcibiades.

The final scene takes place just outside Athens, with Alcibiades’ army ready to besiege and conquer the city. The senators begin to plead with the general. They make the case that while he has just cause to seek retribution against some people in the city, that not everybody is equally guilty of his exile, that they just wanted to give him some time to cool his temper. In fact, it would seem that those people who did him wrong have died of an excess of cunning.

They invite him not to kill everyone but, if he really wants vengeance, to decimate the town instead, as in to kill one in every 10 people. They will not even oppose him. Timon relents and accepts instead to put to the sword whoever the senators will identify as the guilty parties and spare every one else.

At the very end, Alcibiades reads Timon’s epitaph and then enters the city, promising to help sets things right in Athens.

Is there a moral to this story? Was anything accomplished by Timon’s death? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

Legendary sonneteer Maya Pankalla returns for sonnet 53.

This wraps up our eighth play and our final play of 2013!

Stay tuned for the upcoming speeches podcast. And send us your suggestions for which play you would like us to tackle next!

 

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BB: Timon of Athens, Act IV

8 Dec

T-carrick-stamp

(Podcast recorded and produced by Daniel J. Rowe, blog written and edited by Eric Jean)

The table is set, the guests drenched in lukewarm water and the flatterers pelted with rocks. It time for act IV of Shakespeare’s tragedy, Timon of Athens!

Listen to or download the podcast.

Welcome back Brawlers. Last show Timon’s ‘friends’ were “touched and found base metal” by his servants so that Timon finally figured out that he was penniless and friendless and that pretty much no one but his servants cared that he was totally bankrupt.

With nothing left for him in Athens by the start of act IV, he decides that all human beings are disgusting, two-faced scumbags and so he does the only sensible thing and runs off to live in the wilderness by himself. Insert litany of curses and well-wishes: may your prostitutes be considered virgins, may the young steal from and beat up the old, may your state be a lawless cesspool fueled by avarice and lust.

So, it turns out that the only friends Timon has are his servants, with Flavius being particularly vocal about how it falls to the servants to try to help Timon out however they can. “Flavour’ Flavious runs off to find and continue to serve Timon at the end of scene 2.

Remind you of a certain Kent from act I of King Lear?

Seems that by scene 3, Timon has moved into a cave with a view, at the edge of some woods, right by the seashore. Seems like things might be looking up for this foraging caveman misanthrope.

As he’s digging for some roots to eat, Timon finds some gold. Timon’s about to bury all of it again when he hears some marching music in the distance. He buries most of the gold but keeps some of it, so he can torment the other humans with it, very likely. Alcibiades, who has been banished from Athens and now gathers up an army to assault the city, wanders by Timon and his cave.

Alcibiades figures out who this is but has no idea what happened back in Athens and why Timon is out here in the woods. Just like we have no idea why Alcibiades is leading an army flanked by two prostitutes. But, seeing as they are there, Timon sees an opportunity to use them in the war effort: he gives them gold and asks them to infect every in Athens with the STDs they are undoubtedly carrying. Timon also gives Alcibiades gold to make sure that he slaughters everyone in Athens. Lovely.

As soon a Alcibiades leaves, Apemantus shows up. They swap insult and wish one another a long and painful life, full of suffering, before they quickly part ways.

When Apemantus exits, some bandits, having heard that Timon found gold, show up to steal it. Timon gives them the gold and sends them off to Athens to rob all of the lying thieves in Athens blind. And maybe slit a few throats while they’re at it.

Finally, Flavius shows up and offers his continued service to Timon. His former master is about to turn him away but Flavius manages to convince him that maybe not every human being is a totally reprehensible entity entirely bereft of honestly and worth. So, Timon amends his position: all of humanity needs to die, except for Flavius.So Timon gives him some money and chases him off.

What’s left now that Timon’s given all of his money away. Again?

Tune in to the next episode to find out.

Sonnet 33 read by first-time sonneteer David Kandestin.

 

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BB: Timon of Athens, Act III

1 Dec

(Podcast recorded and produced by Daniel J. Rowe, blog written and edited by Eric Jean)

Welcome back to the Bard Brawl! This week, Daniel J Rowe, ‘Mister’ Nicholas MacMahon and myself are back for act III of Shakespeare’s tragedy, Timon of Athens.

Listen to or download the podcast.

With creditors knocking at his door, Timon turns to his friends to lend him a little money so he can avoid bankruptcy. He sends his servants out to see the three lords who he feels pretty confident will be able to bail him out.

Flaminius arrives at lord Lucullus’ house in act III, scene 1. Lucullus greets Timon’s servant warmly as he expects that he is here to deliver some sort of gift. When he discovers that Flaminius is there to ask for money, Lucullus puts on his best ‘I told him not to be so generous’ act and then tries to bribe Flaminius so he’ll pretend he wasn’t able to find Lucullus. Flaminius tosses the cash back at Lucullus then curses him (and all other selfish jerks like him) to be boiled in a vat of molten coins.

The next lord to be visited is Lucilius. By the start of this scene, he has apparently heard that Lucullus refused to bail Timon out. He finds it deplorable and says that of Timon had turned to him instead, he would have been happy to help him. And on that cue, Servilius enters. Lucilius also seems to think that Timon’s servant is here offering gifts at first. When he finds out that Servilius is here to beg some cash for Timon, Lucilius replies that he would love to be able to help Timon out but – wouldn’t you know? – he just spent the last of his available funds this very morning, just before Servilius arrived. What an unfortunate coincidence.

Are all of Timon’s friends flattering jerks? Surely Sempronius isn’t like Lucius, Ventidius, or Lucullus? At the start of scene 3, Sempronius seems disgusted by the fact that the others lords have refused to help Timon. Even worse, Sempronius is disgusted that he wasn’t asked first, as this might suggest that maybe Timon doesn’t like him as well as the other lords. So, if Timon doesn’t care for him as much and his close friends refused to bail him out, why should Sempronius have to help him out? He proclaims to Timon’s servant that any man who would dishonour him in this way won’t get any help from him.

With no one left to ask for money, Timon has locked himself up in his house in scene 4. In a hall in his house, his creditor’s servants want to be paid. Seems that the servants aren’t too keen to be collecting from Timon when they know full well that their masters walk around with the jewellery that Timon once gave them. As they wait, Timon’s messengers return to announce that they have failed to get any money for Timon’s debts.

Timon eventually enters the hall in a rage and is greeted by the collectors’ bills. He offers to pay with his blood and flesh and chases the servants out of his house. Once they are gone, he asks his servants to invite all of his former friends back to his estate for one final banquet.

We leave Timon behind for a moment as scene 5 takes place in the Athenian senate-house and features the general Alcibiades. It appears that one of Alcibiades’ soldiers was involved in the violent crime in Athens. The law calls from his execution but Alcibiades, as his commanding officer, is here to beg the senate for leniency. The senate refuses. When Alcibiades is a little too insistent in his critique of the thanklessness of the Athenian senate, they banish him from the city despite all of the wars he fought for them. This should remind you of another general who was forced to turn his back on his city.

The last scene of the act takes place in Timon’s house. The lords have all arrived for the feats and are commenting that clearly Timon’s need for money must not have been so great as they have heard. Timon greet them all and escorts them into the dining room where for each guest is layed out a covered dish. The lords sit down, Timon curses all of Athens’ flattering lords, and once the covers are removed, each guest sees that their meal is warm water and rocks. Timon slashes the water in their ungrateful faces and then drives them out in a hail of stones.

The craziest part of the whole thing is that none of the lords seems to have a clue as to why Timon would be pissed at them…

Penniless and friendless, What’s next for Timon? Find out next week!

Sonnet 56 read from afar by Zoey Baldwin.

Shout out to the Segal Centre’s production of Othello in its last weekend and the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s upcoming Pericles from Dec. 4 – 29.

 

Join us by contributing to the Bard Brawl journal volume I at our Indiegogo page.

Stay in Touch Brawlers!

Follow @TheBardBrawl on Twitter.

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Email the Bard Brawl at bardbrawl@gmail.com

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A conversation with the director, Othello

27 Nov
Othello, directed by Alison Darcy. (courtesy the Segal Centre)

Othello, directed by Alison Darcy. (courtesy the Segal Centre)

Daniel J. Rowe

It is one of Shakespeare’s most engaging and intriguing works: Othello, now playing at the Segal Centre in Montreal. It is a favourite of the Bard Brawl and watched with scrutiny by viewers. Check out brawler Eric Jean‘s review. Director Alison Darcy spoke with the Bard Brawl.

Bard Brawl: Othello is huge in scope and theme, and it’s been done a lot. Does that add pressure or do you enjoy that?

Alison Darcy: Both. I think it adds pressure and I kind of enjoy it. Of course everyone has their own ideas about the play and about Shakespeare and how it should be done, and I like the fact that there is no should and this is the way our team felt that it’s truth was being revealed in the most interesting way in the moment. This was what we wanted to offer from it. It’s interesting to challenge people with that because so many people have really strong preconceptions about how Shakespeare should be done. It’s interesting not to necessarily always follow that, but to go with what you think is the truth of the play.

B.B.: In the same sense don’t you find that often people allow a lot more exploration these days then they used to?

A.D.: For sure. Now, it’s almost expected to have your own interpretation, but it’s still, when it comes down to actual technique of the language or certain characters, people still have their reservations and their favourites and their favourite lines and their ideas of what things mean. Before it used to be more stylistically, they would say that it would have to be done in a certain period or a certain focus on the language in a very specific way, accents or whatnot. Now it’s more about interpretation, but still people have their preconceptions and they come out quite ferociously at times. People are quite willing to go to battle to defend their ideas of how Shakespeare should be done. Particularly this play.

B.B.: You use water as a metaphor throughout, and the final dramatic scene was very much centred on it. Can you tell me a bit about why you decided to use water in that way?

A.D.: For me it came from the text. It’s really prevalent in the text – water as a theme. It’s constantly referred to as being symbolically linked with deceit, and with passion. It says, ‘she’s false as water.’ A lot of the major themes are linked to water in the play, and so I was originally already playing with that. I also find that elementally, it’s very connected to the way the play moves. It’s a very quick-paced, mercurial kind of text, and it shifts and changes very quickly as does Iago’s mind and the way he moves and it feels like water to me.

The ending and the way I used the water in the ending? I like to leave it open to debate. People have been very vocal about it. Some people really didn’t like it, and some people absolutely love it. What’s more interesting to me is what people think it means. Some people are just absolutely baffled by it and others have very clear ideas about what metaphorically it meant. I have my own ideas about it of course, but I have no interest in didactically forcing that opinion on anybody else. It’s an allegory or it’s a metaphor and it’s there to be interpreted… It’s what I felt encapsulated that moment for me in the play. The fallout from the climax and the gushing of everything emotionally and psychologically that comes forth in that fifth act.

B.B.: You can’t do Othello without addressing race, but you don’t seem to push that theme far, and in not pushing the race card as far as you could have a lot of other themes emerge like the Emilia feminist line. She was really good.

A.D.: She’s amazing, and maybe it’s because I’m a female director, but I’ve always found the female characters in this play particularly moving. People often kind of hate Desdemona – not this version though, people have I think been liking this Desdemona. I always found it unfair for people to judge the character the way they did and I don’t find historically that Emilia gets her due, as such a strong character. I guess my leaning were in that direction to explore.

I wouldn’t say that I didn’t explore the racism. I think what I did do was change the conversation a bit, so that it wasn’t necessarily racism, but it was more about ‘outsiderism’, which is definitely something that is very strong in the play and they do treat him as an outsider, and I think that the exoticism of him and the separation of him constantly creates a personna that he allows himself to engage in: the story teller, the magnificent warrior that I don’t think he really is. I think he enjoys the language and the story telling, but when it comes down to it I think the insecurity that he has being part of this kind of society that doesn’t ever really accept him is then really used by Iago to draw him out of his safe zone.

I’ve always thought of the handkerchief as being a real symbol of who he is. It’s this ellaborate, exotic, foreign item that is valued for its exoticism and its beauty, and for how different it is. Everyone wants to get it copied. Everyone wants to have a piece of it.

Apparently at the time it was actually very gauche that – if you were within the same social class as someone – to ever show your wealth as being exceeding of theirs, so the only kind of way to make yourself better than your neighbour was to find exotic items and things from far away. It was to have these little secret closet collections.

I’ve often thought of Othello as, in a way, a rarity that’s been collected from a foreign land and brought to Venice and cherished because he’s different and odd. Therefore, his actual self, his sense of real self is muted by this idea of who he is; this exoticism. He even says the way he won over Desdemona was by telling these fantastical stories most of which we know are not true. I think he identifies with that idea of being a curiosity, and he thinks that that is his value.

So then when this handkerchief, which symbolizes the same kind of thing, is so easily dismissed or given away by her, it’s like she’s giving away his identity.

 Sean Arbuckle (Iago) - Photo by Andrée Lanthier; (courtesy the Segal Centre)


The handkerchief is a symbol of who Othello really is, according to the play’s director.  Sean Arbuckle (Iago) – Photo by Andrée Lanthier; (courtesy the Segal Centre)

I feel like the play is really about sense of self and about the way that your identity can be stripped from you due to racism or whatever it may be. I think that’s what destabilizes him, not just the jealousy. Just becoming that jealous, it never really made sense to me, and it’s always a problem people have with the play. Why does he go so crazy so quickly? I feel it’s because Iago knows exactly the precision point how to attack him, and it’s with this sense of self. It’s also because Iago also his sense of self was undermined and taken away when his status as a warrior was taken from him by Othello.

Darcy-Alison2Alison Darcy is the co-founder and co-artistic director of Scapegoat Carnivale Theatre. In addition to directing, producing and teaching theatre, she has been acting professionally since childhood.  

Tickets can be purchased from the Segal Center box office, either by phone at 514-739-7944 or directly on the Segal Centre website site. Prices startfrom $24. The play runs until December 1st.