So: Romeo and Juliet is the next production on the schedual. Rehearsal begins with a reading the 17th of July, then a short break, then we dive in. So--for the interested, or the curious, I suppose it's time to start posting progress reports on my various blogs and journals.
Our set designer is Jett Johnson, who is brand new to it. Although not by any means to the disciplines required. He is an artist, and a handy guy on the whole. We've only had one meeting so far -- a few weeks back. We began at my home-office listening to techno music, then went to the theatre so we could play the music louder, and look at the space. Neither of us have a very definite sense of what the set will be, as of yet. Most of our conversation had to do with how we would set up the space to create an alternative world. Because of the fact that we're setting it modern, (as modern as you reading this!) we'd talked about the possibility of setting the room up like a club, with non traditional lighting, and fans and predetermined scents strategically released at certain points in the play. However, as much as I like the idea of a club scene--and want to incorporate some of it for the Capulet masque, I can't commit to it fully because we need the various locations. We need a balcony, we need a place for Friar Laurence, we need some sense of common, public, outdoor grounds, so we can also get a sense of hot, hot weather. At the end of our discussion we'd talked about creating a ramp connecting the upper-staging area to the lower-staging area, for the fights and for the dance; and talked about creating two sand boxes for the fight sequences, and also to get a sense of a beach-like environment. I like the idea of blood in the sand. That's about as far in as we are though; he went off to Texas, and I leave for Alaska this Friday.
Costumes: It seems (unless something changes in the next week or so) that our costume designer will be Lacey Cassidy, recently graduated from the university in Corvallis, Oregon. I reviewed her portfolio earlier today; she is a double-major, costume design and fashion design. I'm really more interested in what I saw of her fashion designs; she's got a very eclectic sense of style, which is also quite functional. And as I told her I wanted the characters to be identifiable, like people you'd see passing by, on a train, on the street, and so on, I am hoping she'll use some of the "fashion designer" imagination that she has, and not only the costume designer imagination that she has.
I am still looking for the right Romeo. Part of it is the simple act of seeing Romeo candidates opposite Juliet. I have come to agree that if you're an actor, you can--mentally--invent chemistry, or put on a mask of attraction. Paying attention to your opposite, playing each line and action for your opposite and to your opposite and about your opposite, and because of your opposite. As if there were no one or nothing else in the world except your opposite. This is a mental state of mind. However, I still don't think you can fake chemistry physically. If the slightest nerve in your body is not engaged or stimulated by your opposite, the outsiders will be able to tell. The person watching a couple can always tell who is genuine and not genuine, whilst one of the people making up that couple may not know themselves. It's funny, isn't it? It's always easier to spot a lie when you're not emotionally involved with someone, but watching people who are emotionally involved.
I suppose my most radical interpretations of characters so far would be:
Mercutio who I've cast as a woman.
The Prince who I've cast as a woman.
The Friar who I see in a very non-traditional light. I've cast Devin Bernard to play Friar Laurence; Devin played the blind King in The Tower-Maiden's Daughter -- you can see some photos from that play on the photo montage on my main Myspace page. So, with the Friar, I am keeping the same gender (obviously); but I see him in a physicaly troubled light. I see him with a crutch, for one thing. And I also see him smoking cannabis in ACT II.3 when we're introduced to him. -- If you're in the cast and you're reading this, I've put a very long-winded, throrough explanation of why I see this into the Preface for my cutting of the script. However, here and now, for the time being, I'll simply say this: I do not think that Friar Laurence is a bad man, or a sinister man, or a manipulative, or power-thirsty figure. There've been many darker interpretations than mine... I think he's a good man, but a bad priest. He takes responsibility for things he can not possibly provide, and I think it's to do with his faith. As a Priest, he's a servant of God. He's responsible to help God's will on earth unfold in his capacity to aid it. And by this point his ability to interpret what is and what is not within his bounds is unquestionably clouded.
Also: Part of it is to do with sneaking in shadows of mortality. The whole idea of Romeo and Juliet dying is mentioned in the beginning, in some of the first words of the play--given by the "Chorus" in the prologue. I have to be faithful to that; the audience needs to be prepared for watching Romeo and Juliet die, and that process can not only be vocal, referred to in the text, it also needs to be visual if the forshadowing is the work. It strikes me that a physically struggling Friar, and a Prince of questionable health, can help that through-line unfold.
I've talked with Dani--who did the mini documentary of The Foreigner--about documenting the rehearsal and process of getting Romeo and Juliet on stage, and also helping to create a short commercial or "trailer" if you like to help market/advertise the play. He and I both have very difficult scheduals, so, at the moment this is all up in the air, at the moment, and I'll be sure to post any progress.
I've asked Joyce to come aboard as a source of additional actor support, and Shakespeare coach. I'd hoped that she'd be able to be involved in the entire process, but she was recently cast in The Metamorphoses at A.R.T. which has a parallel rehearsal schedule. But, she did say she wants to participate, and pointed out that she could help as far as a sort of vocal coach and Pentameter coach, suggesting that she clear up questions about language and scansion so I'm a bit more free to focus on acting values in rehearsal.
At the moment, that's where things stand. More meetings tomorrow evening, and more meetings immediately when I return from Alaska on the 6th.
I think that our "Romeo and Juliet" promises to be thrilling because it was chosen specifically as an answer to one question: If we were to do a play for people who had never been to a theatre, or seen a play before; a play that featured a little bit of everything that makes the theatre great, what would that play be? The answer is clear enough, and coming up in November!