Monday, February 15, 2016

Our Midsommer Nights with Romeo and Juliet

Much like last year’s post Much adoe and Me, this post is about why A Midsommer Nights Dreame and The Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet (First Folio spellings) were chosen for our Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project tour this year.  To begin with, both of these plays are perfect demonstrations of almost everything the Unrehearsed Cue Script Technique offers from blocking directions to simultaneous dialogue clues.  MSND, aside from being my favorite of Shakespeare’s comedies, has countless examples of how this technique shows the audience what the characters really think about each other even though they are saying the opposite.  Using just the rules of Unrehearsed brings the Demetrius & Helena ‘follow me no more’ scene to hilarious life when the actors follow the technique’s rules of crossing.  And the play within a play scene never fails to entertain when the actors stay true to the text and do exactly as Shakespeare has written!  I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ve seen so many productions of MSND where the director feels that he/she needs to ‘add’ superfluous actions and props to make this scene funny.  It doesn’t need it.  Just stay true the text and you’re golden!  Finally, as the director of MSND, I got to do one of my favorite doublings, which is to combine the lovers, mechanicals and fairies into just four tracks.  I put together this doubling the last time I directed MSND, which adds a bit more excitement and fun for our cast as well as the audience – who get to see our versatile actors switch characters with the snap of a finger.  With the usual doubling of Puck & Philostrate, Theseus & Oberon, Hippolyta & Titania, and Egeus & Quince (Bottom has no doubling), this rounds out my cast to 9 actors onstage and 1 prompting.

As for Romeo & Juliet, that was a bit of a happy accident.  We wanted to do two plays this year and needed one that would be a dramatic contrast to MSND – while still sharing some of the same romantically tragic elements of how love (or the lack of it) affects people.  Plus, this would be an opportunity for people to see a well-known story presented in a new way, which will be illuminating in ways that more traditional productions, movies or merely reading the script are not.  Romeo & Juliet was written around the same time as MSND, and Andy Kirtland (the director) initially thought it could be performed using just 10 actors, as well (9 performing and 1 prompting).  However, after many nights of hair-pulling research, he discovered that this play does indeed need 11 people.  This is where our Apprentice idea came from, and we are thrilled to be bringing in someone to take over a track of roles for R & J as well as assist our awesome stage manager in MSND.  R & J also has that wonderful simultaneous dialogue in certain parts, if you use the Unrehearsed Cue Script Technique.  These dramatic moments of confusion and characters talking over each other are thrilling and are rarely (if ever) seen in performances!  On a personal note, R & J was the first Shakespeare play I ever read and acted in.  Even though I had a very small part as a dancer in that university production, years later it would be one of my first Unrehearsed Cue Script Technique shows with The New England Shakespeare Festival – in which I played Mercutio.

As with all of our Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project shows, each of our actors have taken on 2 or 3 tracks, which we switch around for each performance.  So, audience members who attend on multiple days will never see the exact same show twice!  Watching an Unrehearsed Cue Script Technique production brings Shakespeare’s plays to life in ways that people don’t usually get to see.  Our theatre company cares about the story and staying true to the text, which comes through in the high quality performances and audience reaction.  I am thrilled to be bringing our 3rd year’s tour to Allegheny Parks again and look forward to bringing our fun and energetic shows there for many years to come.

-Elizabeth Ruelas, Artistic Director of The New Renaissance Theatre Company (which produces The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project)