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Posts Tagged ‘Phil Killian Directing Fellowship’

“Why Monster?” from Tom Ridgely

In Directing, Phil Killian Directing Fellowship, Tom Ridgely on January 28, 2014 at 1:42 PM

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We had our first stumble through of The Tempest today. And since Tony had foregone an initial read in favor of diving into table work, it was actually our very first chance to hear the play uninterrupted (more or less) from beginning to end. Of course, as always, you notice different things when you take a step back and view a play as a whole. Different things pop and catch your ear, or your attention. In that spirit I decided to make a word cloud of the entire script (above).

A word cloud, in case you’re not familiar, is a visualization tool (read: toy) that renders any copy you might care to paste as a randomly arranged conglomeration of words rendered in different sizes, colors and fonts. The cool part is the words that occur most often are displayed the largest.

After removing the most common articles, prepositions and pronouns – as well as character names and stage directions, here’s what you get. These are the words the characters speak to each other. Which ones seem to pop?

‘Here’ and ‘sir’ look to be the biggest, which perhaps shouldn’t surprise too much for a play about exile and discovery full of kings and dukes and their vassals and offspring. But the one that really leaps out is ‘monster‘. Could it really be used that much more often than ‘brave’ or ‘strange’, the verbal motifs that assert themselves most insistently upon reading?

But word clouds never lie. ‘Monster’ appears 38 times in the Folio text, versus 14 times for ‘brave’ and 17 times ‘strange’. And of course we know to whom it invariably refers: Prospero’s ‘savage and deformed slave’, Caliban. But Caliban, however monstrously he might be rendered in production, is still a human being. Both Prospero and Miranda – who ought to know – confirm this. Yet, over and over Shakespeare has his characters use this word to subordinate and strip Caliban of that humanity.

Words can do that. They can break down the fundamental ‘we’ and ‘us’ into ‘you’ and ‘them’. We can safely say that Shakespeare was a man who chose his words carefully. So maybe it’s worth stopping to ask, why did he choose that word? Why do we choose the words we use?

-TR

“Back Home Again” from Hana Kadoyama

In Assistantship, Directing, Hana Kadoyama on January 19, 2014 at 7:37 AM

Hello from Ashlandia, where the mountains are finally getting some snow; where the deer are as vocal as the people; where there are more public Shakespeare references than anywhere in the world (or at least in the United States); and where hundreds of people are reuniting, rehearsing, building, meeting, singing and dancing as the first weeks of “school” are upon us.

The beginning of the OSF season does feel like the first day of school; we all gather after the 7-week off-season to welcome new company members and begin rehearsals for the first four shows of the year. And the first event of the new school year is Company Call, where the whole company piles into the Bowmer Theatre to introduce ourselves – new company members and 30-year veterans alike.

For me, this is a poignant “first day of school,” as it also marks a school year in which I’ll only be at OSF for a little space of time. I’ve been lucky enough to work at OSF in various departments over the last few years; this company has taught me more about life and art and theater than anywhere else I’ve been. I’ve recently made the move to Chicago – the real world, where bars and self-storage companies aren’t named after Shakespeare! – and am back in Ashland for 7 weeks as second assistant director on Tony Taccone’s production of The Tempest. Despite my history of OSF department-hopping, I have very little (read: zero) directing experience, and I’m incredibly lucky to be in a rehearsal room with Tony and my fellow A.D., this year’s Phil Killian Directing Fellow, Tom Ridgely. In our third week of rehearsals, I’m overwhelmed with the intelligence, instincts, and humor of this team and this community. It’s good to be home for a while.

“Why Shakespeare?” from Tom Ridgely

In Directing, Phil Killian Directing Fellowship, Tom Ridgely on January 16, 2014 at 8:24 PM

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Any theater artist, producer or spectator must at some point during their evenings spent at the theater ask the question: Why Shakespeare? Why do we come back to these plays again and again? Why do we see them in parks, on film, on, off, off-off (even off-off-off) Broadway and in schools? Why do theaters name themselves after him, dedicate their missions and their budgets to his oeuvre, and how does this draw thousands of people night after night to sit in the dark and listen those words? Is it the language, the characters, the comedy, the tragedy, the cross dressing? What is this mysterious hold that Shakespeare has exerted on the human imagination throughout history and across cultures?

After four centuries you would think we’d have moved on.

These were the questions rattling around in my head as I boarded a westbound plane two weeks ago. These were the questions rattling around in my head as I sat down at the table in the Great Hall to listen to the first read through of The Tempest.

And in Act V came an answer. Throughout the play Prospero has sought revenge on those who have usurped his kingdom, dispatching the fairy Ariel to torment them and administer a charm that will render them insane. Ariel reports back to Propsero:

Ariel: Your charm so strongly works ‘em

​That, if you now beheld them, your affections

Would become tender.

​Prospero: Dost thou think so, spirit?

​Ariel: Mine would, sir, were I human

Prospero: And mine shall.

Mine would, sir, were I human.

In this small but pivotal moment – Prospero’s reversal – Shakespeare both demands and defines our humanity. To be human is to behold another and to become tender. He gives Hamlet, the poor prince consumed by a revenge burden, a similar moment in Act V:

Hamlet: But I am very sorry, good Horatio

That to Laertes I forgot myself,

For by the image of my cause I see

The portraiture of his.

In this formulation, to be human is to look at someone else and see yourself. The act of doing so makes us larger, renders our cruelties impotent. Theater at its best, Shakespeare’s theater, fosters tolerance and empathy, teaches us humanity. Theater challenges the outer limits of that empathy – shows us the humanity that is in everyone – not just a small group of people who look and think like us. This is why theater, especially theater dedicated to Shakespeare, must be committed to diversity in the broadest, most expansive sense of the word. This is why I’m thrilled to be spending four months at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. And this is why Shakespeare will never lose his relevance or resonance – our affections can always become more tender.

-TR

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