Urban Shakespeare: Final Reflections

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

My photos did not come out well at all: for some reason, the inner workings didn’t work too well, so…unless I get more photos from the production, I will have to make do with what is above. My apologies, but what you see up top: on the left, my Pucks (six in all, ranging in age from 7 to 13); on the right, my Helena & Hermia (back to back), with Demetrius to the right. Theseus is in the far background.

“Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (I, i, 234)

One of the first things said after the curtain call (NOT by me) was: “Look at what we accomplished!”

NO…look at what the kids accomplished!

It’s all about them, not the adults, who bickered, got in each others ways, made scapegoats, argued, ignored, interrupted, did not work as a team with the production staff, the production staff who did not work with others in the production staff…it’s not about the adults. The kids either get it or they don’t, and in this case…

They got it. The 44 kids, ranging in age from 7 to 13, DID get it, and they did present SHAKESPEARE!! Whether they knew it or not, they enhanced their literary knowledge, were not dumbed down to, and they rose to the challenge. They spoke in iambic pentameter as LANGUAGE, learned comic and dramatic timing, presentation, stage and life skills, and so much more in a relatively short period of time.

Just so you know, their first performance? After it, I couldn’t talk. I teared up and cried from the pride I had at what they had accomplished. I was SO touched by what they put out on stage for their first paying audience. They earned their applause and laughter all the way. It wasn’t the Parent’s audience…you know, where no matter what happens the parents will applaud and love it. This was an audience of other camps, whose campers showed them the work before them was worthy of laughter and applause.

Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.
William Shakespeare

There were moments and aspects of this production that I will never forget:

  1. The young man who played Bottom WAS Bottom, from the audition to the final performance. If anything, he honed his comic timing and acting presence to a fine art, and I truly to hope to see him continue in the craft. Yes, I did tell him so. I don’t think I’ve ever been so impressed with a young actor as I was with him, except for…
  2. The young woman who played Oberon: yes, YOUNG WOMAN. 9 years old, and just blew me away! Barely 4 feet tall, what she put into the performance was simply mesmerizing. She deserved this part, earned it, grew into it fully and expertly. I also expect great things out of her.
  3. The two female leads (Hermia & Helena) are truly gifted young actresses. Both blessed with amazing voices (the musical director and they created character development songs that ADDED so wonderfully to the show), they also grew over the six weeks into their roles.
  4. The final rehearsal for the mechanicals “Show Within A Show” had all of us laughing so hard. Our Demetrius was crying with laughter from their antics. None of us could keep it together: they were just so over the top funny. I wish we could have recorded THAT for a blooper type reel. Truly: six young people being SO amazingly nutty AND ON TARGET!  I wish you could have experienced it with us. Writing about it just can not give it justice.
  5. With a great Stage Combat artist, we were able to have our Lysander and Demetrius fight not only with words over Helena but with staves as well. We talked it over, and then when I first saw it in actuality…it was a Wow moment, and it was for the audience. Excellent timing and a great addition to the show.
  6. The Fairy Lullaby
  7. The Pucks, when they actually began to really work as ONE PUCK, when it finally clicked for them.
  8. The Finale: after Puck’s final speech, I wanted something hot and on fire, with an entire cast blow out (before the curtain call). While I did not really get what I wanted (a friend who came to TWO of the performances said “it was nice” but…nice was not what I wanted), it still was a great button to the show, and the audience dug it (little did they know that it was Peter Gabriel’s “The Rhythm of the Heat” that got them going).

So…I am very glad to have had the opportunity to finally direct most of my artistic version of one of my favorite of Mr. Shakespeare’s plays. I truly did care and love most of my cast (even if they gave me the heebie-jeebies with their non-stop talking and antics). There are many things I could vent about here, but I won’t. In the end, the play is the thing, all the world’s a stage, and I’m done with this and moving onto my next project, as it should be.

Puck. If we shadows have offended, Think but this and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d 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. [Exit.

      –William Shakespeare

(*Special Thanks to Mr. Derek Galloway for the three pics inserted into the essay)

Urban Shakespeare: Week Five-Hell Week

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.

Week Five is now over and done, and I needed the day to separate myself from Hell Week (part one). For those not in the know, Technical Rehearsal week is unofficially called Hell Week.  It is full of stops and starts, is long LONG hours, tempers are high and patience is at a minimum towards stupidity, lighting, sound and final blocking cues are locked in, costuming should already be happening, makeup, the stage manager should have the action running ON stage while the Directors (actual production director, musical director, technical director and Choreographer) work on the minute details and honing, the actors SHOULD know  all their lines, entrances and exits, and…did I mention the long, long hours?

Theater Hell Week

Tips for Surviving HS Theater Hell Week

Caliban’s Revenge: Hell Week

Stress is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness.  ~Richard Carlson

As is the normal case with running around like mad men (NOT the TV show!), a good many of us are sick. Head colds are running rampant, and I have sneezed, coughed, hacked and fallen asleep at the computer more times this week than I can actually count, let alone shake a stick at. Not sure why I would want to shake a stick, but if I had one, I tell you…you would see some real stick shaking!!!

I am glad for this weekend to, first, spend time with family and friends (yesterday) and, second, to have a day of just me, music, writing and napping (today). As of tomorrow, I enter into the final week of the six week production process that culminates in what it’s all been about: a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast? said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.
“It’s the same thing,” he said.

“I have had a most rare vision.” ~Bottom

At this moment, I know that the main part of my job is complete: I have shard my artistic vision with cast and crew. My needs have altered, finding a need to delete and add as the needs occurred, made discoveries of the great and not so great kind, and in the end: it is all about the kids.

Normal camp/school productions, they make a big thing about bringing the Director out after the kids get their curtain call. Me? I’d be happy if they just let me be. I don’t  want to come out on stage.  Let the kids get the applause they will deserve. Let the show be about them. My applause comes from what the audience will give them.

Like Bottom, I have had a most rare vision: seeing my ideas put together on stage for a show I’ve performed in a number of times, SEEN performed far more, and have loved ever since my mother sat with me and we watched the 1935 movie version (with Mickey Rooney, James Cagney, Dick Powell, Joe E. Brown and Olivia De Havilland) on our black and white TV when I was a kid.

This Week:

  1. Will I have costumes? I have not seen a blessed thing yet: any costuming I’ve done, by raiding my own prop/costume trunk from The Brothers Grinn. Supposedly, I will see it all tomorrow…two days before our first show in front of a paying audience!
  2. Will I have an assistant/stage manager? Did no one but me see that asking someone who interviewed for the director’s job (which I got) to volunteer their time NOT be a disaster in the making?
  3. Will the choreographers (yes, plural) do the fine tuning needed in time for Wednesday?
  4. Will the actors remember their lines, their blocking, project their voices, stay in character and not fight with each other?
  5. Will all the tech cues happen when they’re supposed to happen? (this one is the one I have the most faith in, at the moment).
  6. Will the counselors/stage crew get their heads out of their you-know-whats and do what they are supposed to do?
  7. Will I have a voice and sanity (which is always questionable!) when Friday night has come and gone?

Next Saturday/Sunday: the wrap up of Urban Shakespeare.

Tech Plans: Urban Shakespeare, Week 3 (part 1)

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date . . . .”

Well, for me, Summer could trip away and make no stay…especially not the heat we’ve had this past week (and are still experiencing). The heat has definitely affected everyone’s mood and output this week, even with all the progress the kids have made.

Tech Things Reporting:

Costuming and Props:

I had a great visit to Materials For The Arts this week. For those not in the know:

“Since 1978, Materials for the Arts has provided thousands of New York City’s arts and cultural organizations, public schools and community arts programs with the supplies they need to run and expand their programs. Materials are gathered from companies and individuals that no longer need them and redistributed to the artists and educators that do. In the process, hundreds of tons are removed from the waste stream every year and kept out of landfills, helping to sustain our environment and promote reuse and waste reduction. MFTA helps artists realize their visions, provides students with a richer educational experience and furnishes businesses and individuals with a simple and efficient way to enhance the cultural life of their city. The success of MFTA and its programming would not be possible without the participation of material donors throughout the metropolitan area. If you are interested in donating your unwanted reusable items to MFTA please visit our Donor page or call 718-729-3001 and press 1 for “Materials Donation”.

At this moment, my costuming costs are  as close to zero as possible. There will be some fill ins, I’m sure, and I am not taking into account the salary of the costumer and her assistant.


I picked up some wonderfully vibrant fabric, colorful and light, to go along with the previous fabrics I had “shopped” on a previous visit. Set in Mali, I am excited about the patterns and use of Earth colors that the costumer now has to work with. My cast will be barefoot, which fits both the traditional feel plus the ease of the dances. I have a lot of running, twirling, swirling, foot stomping things planned.

To the right is a picture I found online when I did my Google Images search. When I came across this, I immediately had my Oberon costume, in style if not in actuality. A little more “magical,” this outfit is already close to perfection to me for Oberon. I love the pattern and the flow of the garment. I would only add a bit of green to it, to cement it to the Magic forest, and I need it to capture the idea of Air.

That is how I am seeing  this, as I am sure so many others have before: the Royal Court (Humans) are grounded/Earth; Fairy Court are Air; Mechanicals are of the Earth, but deeper and more firmly planted, even in their clowning/Everyman status.

Face Painting & Masks

For the Fairy Court, mainly, I am looking at traditional and tribal face painting to accent the “difference” of the two realms. Yes, again, nothing new, but I’m letting you into my process of total environment.

I’ve been enjoying the research, the “hunting and gathering” of what the production staff will need to help the overall artistic vision come alive. Colors play an important part of all this.

I’ll be using some masks: planned are three and I feel that is all I will do, even though I originally wanted to have more. Less is more, in all things. It should not take away or hide (mask) the work the kids are doing. Their performance should shine through first and foremost. So, Oberon will have a Dragon Mask (I’ve had for years) that stirred my actress (yes, actress) in her physicalization; the Donkey do for Bottom; and a half mask for Thisbe (Flute). All three masks are planned for removal during the show.

More info to come, and that will make up (get it? pun intended) part two of my Tech Titterings.


I’ve said it before, re: me: What fool this mortal be!


How did you trick out your show? What would you like to do?

Editing Shakespeare

The world’s greatest playwright!

The Bard of Avon!!


First, my warning: I do not hold the works of William Shakespeare on a pedestal, to be revered from far away, where only those with the malady of StickUpTheButtitis can be the only ones, the elite, to treasure the man’s work. I would not be the one on the stage balcony of the Globe, only wishing to be noticed, and in so doing, care only about that (take that, bourgeoisie!).

I’d want to be with the groundlings (not the famous, and well deserved to be, Improv company…although if they asked me to join, it couldn’t hurt). The groundlings, the common people, that made up the majority of the audience. The popular culturist of his time. I truly believe, and I say this to my students, that if Shakespeare were alive and writing today, he’d be writing for HBO or be a rapper.

So…considered the “English world’s greatest writer,”… but what chutzpah we have, in that editing Shakespeare’s plays is TAUGHT in schools/higher learning!! Meanwhile, a certain playwright who I won’t name (NS) would sue your pants off if you even changed an “A” in one of his plays and,  in my opinion, NS is no Shakespeare.  We edit Shakespeare for a number of reasons, time being one of them (well over two hours, in most cases, if the play is done in it’s entirety). Then we play around with setting, time periods, etc. as fits the whims of the director &/or the location it is being performed in.

So, I am in the process of EDITING SHAKESPEARE: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream“, one of my favorites. I have to take this way over two hour play and not only it edit it down for time, but also to make it an age appropriate program for a Drama Camp. If you don’t know, Shakespeare is full of bawdiness and innuendo, and his satire was aimed at the  elite, the folly of men and women, and overall the plays that he adapted (yes, I said it: Shakespeare was one of the worlds greatest adapters) were rife with the socio-political climate of his day.

I’m almost done with my first edit. Since I am adding singing and dancing to the production, I am adding time as well, and more edits will have to happen. BTW… Thank YOU to Mr. Mark Rylance. I had the extreme pleasure of seeing “Measure for Measure” at The Globe Theater in London when he was the Artistic Director. He directed and starred in the production, and his going to the roots of how a show might have unfolded in days of yore was eye opening. Easily one of the best productions I’ve seen, and heard. You go to hear Shakespeare. It’s language is musical, when done well.

So, I will most likely have to edit this down even more after the first read through. I had a tough time “selling” this as the play I wanted to direct this summer. Big and splashy musicals always seem to hold more sway over the minds of what should be done. Audience pleasers. I hope that with the enthusiasm I have I can show what can be just as pleasing.

Shakespeare: never for just the “elite,” even if they still think it is so.

More over the summer about these trials and tribulations.

Have you ever edited a Shakespeare play? Why and werefore and to whit and hencewhy?

What was the best edited WS show you’ve ever seen?

Above, Mickey Rooney as Puck!!