Why I LOVE Shakespeare?

I just closed a production of AS YOU LIKE IT with Ten Thousand Things were I played Orlando, and the experience made me reflect on why it is the I like Shakespeare so much.  If you aren’t familiar with Ten Thousand Things, they tour their shows to prisons, treatment centers, homeless shelters, etc.  So it’s important the production be accessible in many many ways.  By the audience response, it was clear that I was part of a very accessible production and the show reinforced my joy of doing Shakespeare.  But why?

As an actor, I love the use of language.  It is such a joy to speak the way his characters do.  The images are vibrant.  The arguments are intriguing and smart.  And the thoughts require an inspiration of breath that is directly connected to emotion.  We don’t speak this way anymore.  Not even close.  We’re lucky if we need to piece together a sentence with 6 beats, let alone 10 or even 20.  And with texting and twitting, we don’t need any breath at all.  I get excited about the challenge of making his language clear and accessible.  I also love his characters.  They have contradictions and complexities that real humans have.  The stakes for them are always very high and they don’t shy away from extreme emotions.  To do it well, the actor really needs to tap into a deep truth.  Faking it will never do.  Another great challenge.

I love his stories.  Shakespeare knows how to tell a great story.  I know what happens in Romeo and Juliet, but when I see a good production, I’m riveted to know what’s going to happened to the star crossed lovers.  And he’s not afraid of bizarre twists, like someone suddenly getting chased by a bear, or pirates appearing out of nowhere, or gods suddenly descending from who knows where, or statues coming to life.  These are wonderfully theatrical moments with a spirit of fun.

Shakespeare is all inclusive.  His plays know no boundaries when it comes to gender, race, disability, and religion.  The fact that I am a Filipino American has very rarley been an issue in being cast in a Shakespeare play.  It didn’t matter that my brother in AS YOU LIKE IT, Oliver, was a middle aged white man or that a white Rosalind had an African American cousin.  It didn’t matter that in The Strange Capers production of TWELFTH NIGHT that Orsino was played by a woman, or in our MIDSUMMER that Audrey was a man.  The audiences joyfully threw themselves into the event of make believe and didn’t let those things get in the way of their experience.  It didn’t matter!  What mattered was that there were good actors telling a good story in a good, exciting, and clear way. 

Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are culturally specific plays that need to be told in a culturally specific way.  And I’m also aware that there were times that I was not considered for certain Shakespeare roles because of my ethnicity.  But in my experience acting, directing, and producing, Shakespeare plays are strong enough to sustain open casting and I love that.

It is my personal mission to continue on this path of open casting and I look forward to that process again with our production of THE COMEDY OF ERRORS by William Shakespeare.

–Randy

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Playing on the Pastel Gazebo

Another photo of our amazing company of players. (And we do mean PLAY!)

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The Mercy of Wild Beasts

I think I could go on and on about the Powderhorn birds and animals.  At first, we were a bit disappointed to learn that we couldn’t play and swim in the lake in the middle of the park (what we were hoping to do I’m not sure – maybe Puck could have a snorkel, appearing and disappearing from the water); now that I see such a profound reason Why, it’s much easier to let go of any watery aesthestics.

A shockingly beautiful white heron lives on that little lake.  Ducks sail around, trailing long lines of ducklings, until they bob under the water with their little tail feathers pointed up at the sky.  One of the actors pointed out to me a wild and strange phenomenon in the thick algae near the shoreline: the baby ducks would swim towards the green muck and then proudly walk up onto it, defying gravity, until it gave way to water again, and the ducklings would sink back into their natural buoyancy.  Vigilant, intimidating mama and papa geese watch us carefully if we pass close to their flock of children, which, when we started rehearsal at Powderhorn almost two weeks ago, were at that funny and strange adolescent period, the color of babies with the bodies of adults.

There are plenteous turtles.  Often they sun themselves near the shore, but it’s not uncommon to see a little boy chasing a little girl with turtle in hand; it’s hard to tell whether he wants to scare her or show her all the beauty.

I’m fond of saying that we do Shakespeare like Shakespeare did it: God is our lighting designer, and we create the middle of the night in the middle of the afternoon with words, by saying “O tedious night!”  But the Globe was a brilliant hybrid space, indoor and outdoor at once, and while it may have been the occasional home to a bear-baiting or a backstage dog, London in the 1590’s was probably not a very friendly place for wild animals.  Perhaps it’s one of the small ways that we have evolved as artists (who needs walls?) and as a society (this lake is for birds and turtles and dragonflies, not for speedboats and beaches).

-Eric

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MIDSUMMER at Powderhorn

There are trees in Powderhorn Park with little doors carved in the trunks.  This is just one of the many inspirations in this park.  The Strange Capers’ production of MIDSUMMER starts at the gazebo and travels to a shaded grove, as actors traverse hill, dale, bush, and goose poop to bring this magical tale to life.  This is a much busier park than Boom Island (our home in 2009) and we’ve already had audiences of camp kids, teen bikers, and picnicing mothers with their brood observing our messy rehearsals.  There is a diversity in the neighborhood that truly reflects the audience that we aspire to reach. As we battle the heat, the humidity, various wildlife, and the challenges of this physical production, we cannot help but to be in awe of its natural beauty. Today  I discovered that exits are infinite, only marked by the entrance of another.   I am always amazed at how the outdoors, and now Powderhorn, continues to teach me how Shakespeare can be done.

-Randy

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Opening Weekend

AYLI opening danceRandy here.  I had the rare experience of directing a play and not being able to come to the opening of that play.  The dates just happened to coincide with FLOWER DRUM SONG, a show that was closing that weekend.  I have never wanted to be at two places at the same time more in my life.  Luckily I had Rachael Crew, give me a play by play,via text messages.  I was amazed by the turn out.  There were over 100 people there on each of the days, equalling a weekend of over 250 witnesses.  This kind of response is a reflection of the greatness of the Twin Cities community.  The crowd was a beautiful mix of age, race, and socio-economic background.  It wasn’t strickly a theater crowd, but a Twin Cities crowd.  Of course, this is what I heard, since I wasn’t actually there.  But if you have any stories, images, moments, from this weekends performances, please do share.  Would love to hear more.

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A Mirror Up To Nature

A River Runs Through It

Hello Strange Readers, Eric here, thinking about the beauty of Boom Island Park, and of Minneapolis in the Summer.  It’s a gift to work on a text as thick and generous and magnificent as this one; to tell a story about the beauty of the world (“the property of rain is to wet and fire to burn”) while spending time, every day, sitting by the river and playing in the grass.  And, in that same vein, to dive into an investigation, an education, on the nature of Love, (“If thou remember’st not the slightest folly / that ever love did make thee run into / thou hast not loved”) while, in the world, we all must look into Love’s bottomless question.  Is Love full of deceptions and feigning?  Or full of a natural purity?  When is it an excuse for sex? and when is it totally blind and wrongheaded?  In this rehearsal period, we’re trying to make these questions as visceral to us as whether it will storm tomorrow.

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Yard Sale Wrap-Up

Thank you to all who donated to and made purchases at the giant yard sale on Saturday. It was great to have so many friends, family and TSC members drop by to say hello and support our company! I for one enjoyed sipping mimosas all day long while sitting outside in the warm sun.

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