June 26, 2019
Day 32: I’m skipping to the end, but am working to fill in the middle bits.
The last week of readings begins! And not a moment too soon!
It finally happened: I hit a wall. It began last night and by the end of CORIOLANUS tonight I was so fried that I cancelled the talkback. I feel badly about that, because I think there were people who wanted to talk about the play. But I just couldn’t summon the energy.
And I wanted to spend some time with the actors afterwards. This is the last week, and I wanted to tell each one of them how grateful I am to them for being a part of this.
But….so what about my needs? I think we need to have talkbacks. So I’ve figured out how to do that. It just so happens that Shakespeare scholar Cason Murphy has arrived and will be with us to the end. Aha! I thought, let’s conscript him. And he being a good sport, has agreed to facilitate at least three of the remaining six talkbacks. Score!!!
I don’t know what happened to today, quite frankly. It seemed to fly by and I don’t remember doing much. We had our last company breakfast, which is always a fun event. I don’t think we’ve been particularly consistent about documenting our events, but part of me loves that there we are in the moment together and not worrying about a selfie.
We started H8 and Tempest today. I was describing my emotional state to my colleagues while sitting in the hospitality suite, and I had just said, loudly, “I’m done!” when sweet ASM Maggie timidly approached me to say, “They’re ready for you in Tempest.” It was a classic Shakespearean moment: definite statement in one beat, opposite action in the next. That pattern is what makes Macbeth so funny. It may be the play in which those juxtapositions are the most obvious.
I told the cast that the Tempest is my least favorite Shakespeare play. By far. And I think it’s because it is the one that has the most spectacle potential in it, and directors can’t seem to resist tarting it up. I’ve never felt anything for any of the characters that wasn’t mechanically manipulated through lights, sound, or movement. So I challenged them to make me like it.
I appreciate that this play is the one that has this potential in it. But I am hoping that perhaps in a staged reading format, we will be able to focus on the text. What has been so interesting to me is how we have listened to those comedies in the first three weeks. There were some gestures and a few costume pieces but for the most part, we just listened. And heard the heartache behind the shenanigans. I so want to learn that in this play. If it’s there to be mined. Maybe it isn’t there? Hm. I hadn’t thought about that until just now.
I was called into the H8 room around 12:30 to talk to the cast about it. That was fun, actually. Nobody really knows this play, and I hope that there will be an audience for it on Saturday. It’s a great political family drama. Perhaps that’s redundant? For aren’t all political dramas basically family dramas?
I see it as the first TV serial. Because it feels like it is eight episodes or something like that. And there are three major storylines: Buckingham, Queen, and Wolsey. And they complete their story in sequence. They aren’t woven together so much like Shakespeare’s other plays. This is a fascinating structure to me.
I’m looking forward to hearing the nuanced arguments that are being made in the play. Everyone wants something in this play – to survive, perhaps? – and they will go to any length and say anything. The trick for me is to know when it is political double-speak that I, as audience, am let in on, while the other characters on stage are not, and when it’s just gnarly. Caridad has done a great job with both – unpacking the gnarly along with making the double speak both gnarly and understandable.
Taylor and I finally got some time together. Every week we had plans to spend some time talking about what happens after the Festival. It has long been my philosophy – learned from plays, by the way – that the minute you are at the height of something, it’s the beginning of the end of that. And you have to begin to think about what’s next before you get to that peak. For us, once the Festival had been set up, which was a few months ago, I began to look ahead.
We both got more buried in details than we had hoped: I was working on scripts for the first few weeks of the festival, he was buried with casting, and our third colleague, Summer Martin, was buried with payroll. So we just hadn’t had any time with each other. I do live on the floor above him but we rarely leave the building at the same time together.
So we walked to Washington Park for a chat. We both remarked about how we know the 15 blocks down 3rd avenue to CSC and 440 Lafayette. I haven’t ventured off 3rd or 4th ave much except to go to the Strand.
We talked about our challenges and what we are proud about. My new motto is: All’s Well that Ends. So this is about to be a very successful festival. Because it will end. And we talked about the break that we are going to take – just to let you know, POS offices will be CLOSED from July 10-20. Pride is a very hard thing for a Midwesterner to embrace about oneself. But I will say that I have great pride in how Taylor and Summer built the systems to take care of the artists. And I take great pleasure from watching all those actors dive in and work hard to present these texts. It was like summer stock, one play a week. And they were awesomely fierce and brave and game. That gave me great pride.
And much enjoyment. It will take some time to assess what all this means to me. That essay “What I learned on my summer vacation” will take awhile to write. But I have been renewed in my deep interest in being a part of an artistic process. I have missed that.
In the meantime, the hospitality suite has begun to be dismantled. There is a table of “Free Stuff” from the bins – it’s a crazy collection of stuff:
And we are talking about how to distribute the music stands, what to do with 130 three-ring binders, and what we need to clear out of CSC on Sunday. We still have some tshirts and water bottles and we will be bringing those to the closing party on Sunday.
Dramaturg Nakissa Etemad arrived on the scene tonight. She worked with Marcus on Lear for many years but had a conflict with another show that she was writing and so couldn’t be here for the reading last weekend. I wanted her to have the Festival experience, however, and I had this feeling that she would dig Sean San Jose’s translation of Coriolanus. They are both Bay Area artists. And one of the many outcomes from this festival is to remind us all how very connected we really are.
My good friend Mica Cole showed up today as well. She and I bonded years ago during a workshop of a musical, and the director for the reading tonight – Awoye Timpo – was one of the assistant directors on that project. Funny, how small our theater world is! She said after the reading that she felt that she had seen a production of it.
It was a thrilling rendition, to be sure. Damn, how fierce those actors are! They totally got into the fights among factions. Better than C-Span! And how could it be that I felt badly when they murdered Coriolanus at the end? That doesn’t make logical sense. That was one cranky dude. Oh, hey, maybe that’s the point? Logic isn’t what rules the heart, does it? Time and time again, when a character in Shakespeare doesn’t bend, there are dire consequences. As much as I admired Cor’s consistent stance, it may be that pride goeth before the fall. I was taught that the Greeks had a saying, “Moderation in all things.” I have found what I think is a better (more accurate?) translation: “Nothing in extreme.” I like the latter because it gives more leeway along the line of human behavior. From the absolute evil to the absolute pure, we are somewhere in between. And anyone that is on the extremes either needs to have a chiropractic adjustment to their attitude or they won’t survive the social structures in place. The irony is that we need people with extreme views to move us along the line. Because we need something to react against or for. But there is a cost to them for holding such extremes.
I needed some strawberry ice cream and so I stopped at the Westside market for some. I don’t know why I’ve had this yen for strawberry ice cream this whole month.
Tomorrow: The final play of the festival enters the house.