If we shadows have offended, Think but this, and all is mended; That you have but slumbered here While these visions did appear. And this weak and idle theme, No more yielding but a dream, Gentles, do not reprehend. If you pardon, we will mend. And, as I am an honest Puck, if we have unearned luck Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue, We will make amends ere long, Else the puck a liar call. So good night unto you all. Give me your hands if we be friends, And Robin shall restore amends.
Lights fade to black, PUCKS (yes, PUCKS) exit; Full house lights POP UP: Play the end of Peter Gabriel’s “The Rhythm of the Heat (last 1:19 of the piece, from “The Rhythm has my soul……”) and as his last note is vanishes away, just as the drums kick in, cast in the wings toss out the colored Serpentines (colored streamers) up and over the stage, and the FULL CAST OF45 Dreamers (yes, my Dreamers) hit the stage, the ramps, the lower stage, and the aisle-ways, and dance their hearts out to the African drumming. On the last hot note, the cast hits the floor, grounding them to the world as their arms and hands reach for the heavens.
I have been planning to write out some of my plans, my process and my style ideas each week. I got a comment from yesterday’s post Urban Shakespeare, (y)O! asking for just that, plus some comments on the social media sites I’ve been posting to. Far be it for me to ignore requests that are easily answered.
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
I have 45 campers, ranging in age from 6 (only one) to 13 years of age. As the Senior Theater Instructor, I run the play production, oversee the staff (to a point: I’m NOT the Camp Director), run daily warm-ups, rehearse them, observe them, go on trips with them, bamboozle them and like the heck out of them. These are inner NYC youths that some have already had introductions to William Shakespeare and some of the body of his work.
We will have three performances: two for other camps/home schooled/etc, and one evening performance for family. As of this writing, there are three and a half weeks left before the first performance.
Some of the Behind The Scenes tidbits are;
- Setting: This version is placed in Mali, in Africa. The culture of the music and dance are being woven into the show; highlights to move the play along, showcase the talents of the campers, and to bring a kinetic energy that will, in my opinion, draw the audience in, no matter the age.
- Editing: for timing and content, the play is heavily edited down to one hour and fifteen minutes. Bawdiness and overly verbose passages, beautiful as the language may be, had to whittled down.
- Characters: Any school or camp theater director knows that you almost inevitably have more cast members than you have parts. In this case, instead of relegating so many to just be Fairies with no lines, I doubled up a lot and have a lot of Greek Chorus style speech going on. I have SIX Pucks, ranging from three 7 years olds to three older campers. They have One-Word-At-A-Time, Group Choral Speak and Individual lines. The Fairies the same. I also added a little here and there to flesh out the storyline so all got a chance to have a voice.
- Musical Numbers: one of the things that I borrowed is how Mark Rylance crafted “Measure for Measure” at The Globe in London. In between scenes, there were songs, dances, masques, etc, that (in the notes provided) brought the play back to how it might have been seen during Shakespearean times. I LOVED what he and his cast did, and I felt that this was the way to go: make this as much a Comedy as a Comedy with Singing and Dancing: a full production, one that will have it’s flow pushed along by high energy throughout.
- Environmental: This is being performed inside, and my one true mandate for the rest of the artistic staff: this must be an environmental production. Not all the action will happen on stage. I have two 7’ramps that lead from the main stage to a lower stage. There is performance planned up and down the aisles, in front of the stage, in a balcony space, and amidst the audience. With six Pucks, you’ll never know where one will pop up (fae as well). There will be a bit of call and response happening with the audience members, beyond the clapping and tomfoolery that I have planned.
- Tomfoolery: Juggling Scarves; Dancing Scarves; Acrobatics; Fencing and Stage Combat; Really bad auditions for the Mechanicals; Songs written for some of the characters; a really elaborate Wedding Dance; Tosses and Flips and Rolling and Jumping; and assorted other thises and thats. I can’t give it all away…you have enough here.
I will write more about the production when Week Three is in the can. Tomorrow: blocking the entire end of the play, from the Wedding Dance to Pucks’ final speech. Will I have any hair left at the end of all this? 🙂
PS: The book cover at the top of the blog: for ANY naysayer who feels Shakespeare with the young is folly: Lois Burdett, a SECOND GRADE TEACHER in Canada, wrote and produced EIGHT (that I know of) Shakespeare’s plays with her students. The books introduce the story, the characters, include actual text alongside modern day prose and verse, and…SECOND GRADE!! I can not have more admiration for this.