Day 1: May 26, 2019
“From the heart, not the clever” – Lisa Wolpe, Director, TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA
We began the encampment of Studio 3A at the rehearsal studios of Playwrights Horizon at 440 Lafayette which will be our home for the next five weeks. It is our official “hospitality suite.” Our line producer SallyCade Holmes told the stage management team yesterday that she had the “best order of my life” at Staples. And, boy, howdy, do we have supplies! From functioning water cooler to chargers for both iPhones and Androids.
Snacks are my particular obsession. One might even say expertise. Poor Hannah, the assistant line producer, has had to have hours of conversation with me about this. My rule is that the snacks need to be self-contained, so that we aren’t reaching into the same bag of pretzels. It’s going to be like an elementary school in that building with the high concentration of artists. So we have tons of little packets of things. And gobs of hand-sanitizer.
When actor David Huynh came in and asked if there is a microwave, we all reacted by saying, “No, but we’ll get one.” And production assistants Erin & Micah were immediately dispatched with a credit card to purchase one. We are now the proud owners of a shiny red microwave that sits on top of the small refrigerator that we also bought. And Vivia Font has a place to store her breast milk. That’s how this crew rolls!
Today was the first day of rehearsals for TWO GENTS. It is a game group of ten, who sat enraptured by Lisa Wolpe’s graduate seminar in Shakespeare rhetoric. We went s-l-o-w-l-y. I should say g-l-a-c-i-a-l-l-y. By lunch break four hours later, we had gotten to page 13. “Hm,” I thought. I know I told her to go slow to go fast, but this might be a bit too slow.
But suddenly after lunch people clicked in to all the tips she had been giving us. And the pages started to fly and we were finding Amelia Roper’s rhythm. It was joyous and intense and we really felt like we were a part of something together. I don’t think they ever got up on their feet, which was the original plan.
I wanted to begin the Festival with this play because I believe that it contains so much of what Shakespeare will present in so many different ways and in so many different genres. Verbal punning, cross-dressing, letters to propel dramatic action. And deeply human characters. Who change their minds and act on whims and lead with heart. The plays work by contrasts: what we learn in one scene is often underscored or commented upon in the next. How the play begins emotionally is not how it ends. This is what you discover when you score the play through language and character “arcs” (to borrow from contemporary acting training).
One of the overarching themes dramatized in Shakespeare’s play is watching characters move from a place of false love to true love, especially in the comedies. No matter what one’s age, this seems to be the progression of most dramatic characters in his plays. I’m not saying all of them go through this, but most of the leading ones. And not all of them make it to home plate. It’s hard work, y’all, to be true to one’s heart. And I think these plays dramatize how such growth happens.
I’m also interested in watching this writer grow from early career to late career. He was writing for an acting company who were his contemporaries mostly. And so beginning with a play about youth written in his relative youth and ending the Festival with a play about youth in his relative late career make interesting bookends.
Tomorrow: SHREW and TITUS begin.