Keeping Busy

News & Other Fun Stuff, Plays I've Seen, Show Information

It was another busy month in February!

I had a great time working on Adam Webster’s short play NOTHING TO FEAR for RhinoFest, which included a chance to meet a bunch of great people and work with some new-to-me actors.

It was great fun to check out Promethean Theatre Ensemble’s short run of An Evening of Shakespeare: Lonely Hearts and Twisted Love at the Red Lion Lincoln Square. An Evening of Shakespeare (“EoS”) has become a wonderful annual tradition for Promethean over the years, and this year’s installment delivered great scene work in an intimate setting, with some well-known familiar scenes mixed in with others that aren’t performed as frequently.

Next up, I’m directing a night of the side project’s upcoming HOME: A Festival of Storytelling III, a three-week festival featuring the work of about 30 storytellers and 10 directors.  Details are on my Upcoming page. I’ll be working with three stories/storytellers for the March 29 performance, starting with a 5-minute story from Evelyn Keolian and a 10-minute story from Jack Schultz, both of whom are new to the storytelling scene. Then we’ll round out the evening with a 15-minute shared piece from veteran storyteller Don Hall (of The Moth and more) and poet Dana Jerman. It’s shaping up to be a very cool evening, and I’m excited to work with Evelyn, Jack, Don, and Dana.

Also in March (next week, in fact!), I’ll be teaching a pair of Shakespeare Audition Workshops for Midsommer Flight, one focused on Monologues and the other on Cold Reading. I’m so excited to get back to teaching. There’s still time to sign up if you’re interested – the workshops are a great value (they work out to only $12.50 an hour and include a ton of personalized instruction) and they should be a lot of fun.

Being this busy can feel a little overwhelming, but I’m having fun with all of these projects and I’m lucky to have them on my plate. Happy March!

R&G ARE DEAD included in Windy City Times 2014 Highlights

News & Other Fun Stuff

Hey look! Mary Shen Barnidge at the Windy City Times included my production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead at Promethean Theatre Ensemble in her 2014 Chicago theatre highlights. Check out the article, Smart Moments in Theatre in 2014.

Congrats to the entire cast and crew!

Interview with Howlround

News & Other Fun Stuff, Show Information

I was recently interviewed for a piece on HowlRound about Shakespeare in the park. The article includes a fantastic review of Midsommer Flight’s Much Ado About Nothing this summer, and also offers an in-depth look at the experience of presenting Shakespeare in the park.

Take a look at Neighborhood Shakespeare in Chicago’s North Side Parks, by Dani Snyder-Young. Happy reading!



The fool doth think he is wise

News & Other Fun Stuff

First Ira Glass, now Julian Fellowes.

There’s a new movie version of Romeo and Juliet out this week, adapted for the screen by Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey fame*. I say “adapted” because Mr. Fellowes has “taken liberties with the original text,” according to the New York Times review of the movie. The way I hear it, he uses less than half the original text and even adds some new scenes. I haven’t seen the movie yet, so perhaps it’s unfair of me to judge. But then again…

Regarding why he changed the text, Fellowes told the BBC,

When people say we should have filmed the original, I don’t attack them for that point of view, but to see the original in its absolutely unchanged form, you require a kind of Shakespearean scholarship, and you need to understand the language and analyse it and so on.

I can do that because I had a very expensive education; I went to Cambridge. Not everyone did that, and there are plenty of perfectly intelligent people out there who have not been trained in Shakespeare’s language choices.

Well la-dee-dah, Mr. Fellowes.  It strikes me as unbelievably condescending to suggest that people who do not share your fancy educational background are therefore too stupid to understand Shakespeare, no matter how “perfectly intelligent” they may be.

Last summer I directed Romeo and Juliet for Midsommer Flight, a free Shakespeare in the park production in two Chicago neighborhood parks. I cut the script down for time to run about 100 minutes, but our version was still 100% Shakespeare’s words. Plenty of small children came to the see the show, and totally loved it. Plenty of neighborhood residents (most of whom probably didn’t attend Cambridge) came to the show and told us it was one of the best things they had ever seen. We made our audiences laugh, cry, and cheer. The phenomenal cast did their job as actors, to communicate the story with clarity and passion. And audiences had no trouble understanding it.

Maybe Mr. Fellowes himself doesn’t understand how universal Shakespeare’s plays can be when good actors communicate the story. Maybe he doesn’t know how to pull those kinds of performances from his actors, or doesn’t trust that his actors are capable of doing so. Whatever the case, he’s just plain wrong.

This piece in The Guardian quotes several folks who pretty much nail my point of view on the subject. I’ll give one of them the last word:

Fiona Banks, head of learning at Globe Education, said his comments risked alienating potential audiences. She told the BBC: “To see Shakespeare in the original, in its absolutely unchanged form, we need nothing more than a performance space and a company of actors who are able to share his stories in a way that engages their audience.” She added: “It would be very worrying if anyone read [Fellowes’s comments] and felt excluded from Shakespeare’s original language because of their level of education.”

*Disclosure: I confess I do love Downton Abbey, this post notwithstanding.