By (The Winter’s Tale) director Tashina Richardson
Several months ago, I had been considering the idea of directing my first Shakespeare piece. There aren’t many that I think fit into my “wheelhouse,” so I was considering dropping the idea altogether. (Maybe one day I’ll write about my “wheelhouse,” and about the etymology of “wheelhouse,” plus a discussion about why I use quotation marks when they’re probably unnecessary.) I considered The Winter’s Tale, my favorite Shakespeare play, and I wanted to give it a try. When I re-read it, there were a couple of ideas, but not enough for me to feel really excited about delving into the script.
One day, while I was riding the train, I listened to ( ) by Sigur Rós. The last song on the album, Popplagið, started playing, and all of a sudden I could see the show. I began cutting text, replacing expository scenes with movement to in order to SHOW rather than TELL, and listening to the rest of the album to see what else I could find. I realized the entire album meshed well with the show. I found my way into the text via the music of Sigur Rós, and I haven’t looked back.
So here we are, a week and a half into (The Winter’s Tale) rehearsals. (Yes, the parentheses are on purpose, as a hat tip to the Sigur Rós album used in the show.) The hardest part about the show now, after having cut about 40 pages of dialogue, is the fact that I’m also acting in it. Previously, I had been adamantly against acting and directing in shows. How could I possibly be able to stage it properly, give notes to actors with whom I was acting, and/or generally stay objective in production decisions if I was an actor? I’ve seen many people pull off the director/actor hybrid in a production, and it always flummoxed me. I’m always looking for a challenge, though, and this seemed as good a time as any to try something new. Plus, I’ve been creating devised theatre for over 10 years, so I certainly have experience acting and making creative decisions. So far, no problems, but we’ll see what happens. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being nervous about juggling the two roles, though.
What’s happened so far? Movement exercises, character work, discussions, and A LOT of amazing moments. These other seven actors are bad ass, man. They will jump in and try absolutely anything I give to them. They were making deep connections on the SECOND DAY of rehearsals, and it’s only going to get better. The dialogue is going to be a BEAST (it is Shakespeare, after all), but with the work that’s happening in rehearsal, I have nothing but high hopes for how it continues.
It’s not just the actors, either. The production team is focused and ready to jump into all this craziness. My stage manager and assistant director are running rehearsals like gangbusters (especially helpful since I’ll be onstage sometimes), and my designers are going to rock out with ideas for lighting, props, and even a bear suit. (!!) We’re a small company, which of course equals small budget, but these folks are incredibly creative so I’m excited to see what weird, cool ideas they have.
If I’m being completely honest, I’m scared to death about how this show turns out. It’s a big change from the original The Winter’s Tale, and everyone might hate it. But if the process continues in this way, I know I can be proud of the work put into it. Even if you’re a Shakespeare purist, I believe the production will at least show what you can do with a strong group of passionate, dedicated, and talented artists.
Oh, and if anyone is interested in donating 4 pairs of men’s jazz pants, let me know!