Evening Discussion

Link to Shakespeare on the Road PowerPoint (Dropbox)

STA 2015

Conference Day 2: Friday, January 9

Evening Discussion


Paul Prescott­­“Shakespeare On the Road”

• University of Warwick, Birthplace Trust, Misfit Inc.

• 14 Festivals in 2014

◦ 63 days, 17,000 miles driven

◦ 22 Shakespeare plays, 44 performances

• Speaking to the people who make Shakespeare happen

◦ 150 interviews

◦ 50 hours

◦ Actors, directors, audience members

◦ Asked both questions specific to the interviewee and common questions

◦ Trailer for interviews (see PPT)

◦ Shakespeare at Winedale, Texas

▪ “What does Festival mean to you?” “Is there anything political that happens in this


▪ Always ended with “Does Shakespeare actually matter?”

▪ “No theatre city that does not have [a Shakespeare Festival] can call itself a theatre



stop, around 45 years old

▪ 3

▪ Not a festival, but an educational program

▪ Actors gathered in a barn in rural Texas, performing 3 shows in rep

▪ Students make all their own costumes and props

▪ On the blog

• Interviews with audience members (all with permission forms)

• Interviews with cast

◦ People talked about their time at the program as being life­changing

• Songs from the show

▪ Professor James B. Ayres

• Discussion of the importance of play

• Always say yes

• Gather around a tree before the show and a different tree after

▪ “What we found there…compacted a lot of what we found over the two months as a


• Shakespeare is a political, countercultural space, that takes you out of everyday


◦ Every time some one places Shakespeare in a space, they are looking

towards some sort of redemption—not necessarily spiritual, but separate

from the day to day aspects of our lives, and inherently finite.

◦ Ongoing

◦ Lack of commodification through free or cheap Shakespeare

▪ All 14 partner festivals were invited to archive performances in Stratford upon


▪ Possible BBC radio documentary

▪ Bard in the USA book of the experience

▪ Shakespeare on the Road 2: This Time It’s Personal

• Europe tour

• 16 festivals identified

• Hopefully to take place in 2015 or 2016

▪ Harvard House Exhibition

• Nov 2014­ Jan 2015

▪ #BardintheUSA @BardintheUSA

• Average Day

◦ Recovery

◦ Car Talk

▪ Time to talk openly about everything

▪ Some things tabled for the car

◦ Editing/Blogging

◦ Events/work with the Festivals

◦ Interviews (5­6)

◦ Matinee and evening performance

◦ Talks

◦ Interactions with community

▪ Plaques from felled Birthplace tree

STA President Richard Garner—Georgia Shakespeare

• Guy Roberts questioning

• Encouragement of STA to continue the tradition of interviewing the people involved

• Georgia Shakespeare

◦ Both bad and good in the experience of running Georgia Shakespeare

◦ “You have all these things you can look at, but if you can’t get past cash, none of it

◦ Final season involved an original work

◦ Richard Garner and managing director forwent payroll for several weeks to make sure

◦ “It became obvious that the change we needed to happen quickly was not going to

• Debt

◦ Carrying over season to season: “Three words. Don’t do it.”

◦ Muse of Fire Project

makes a difference.”

▪ Debt from pre­recession

• Never missed payroll until closing

▪ Biggest single night attendance and week attendance in GS history

everyone else was paid

happen…we ran out of time, we ran out of cash.”

▪ Get debt out of the way (350k)

• Were told explicitly that no one wanted to fund the removal of debt

• Kept afloat by individuals

▪ Capital investment (200k)

• Items that would make Shakespeare in the Park more economical long­term

• Actually exceeded

▪ Build an operating reserve (400k)

◦ Eventually felt that they were requesting too much from donors and board members

◦ Summer didn’t improve situation

◦ Felt it was better to close in between productions than in the middle of a production,

which looked likely if it was attempted to continue another season

• Legacy of GS

◦ Felt Atlanta 29 years ago was tapped out for classical performers

◦ Made investments in artists

▪ Almost every actor was from Atlanta

▪ Over a number of years, actors would grow in skills and stature

▪ Associate Artist program

• Artists with GS for 5 yrs would have an explicit impact in the company

• How can we get significant artists to call Atlanta home?

◦ Chose 5 (now 40) artists who are offered a guarantee of a job in the next


◦ Artistic Identity

▪ Georgia Shakespeare

▪ Personally

• Don’t start with the texts, but with the visual idea

• A strong visual paired with a strong group of artists

• “I don’t care what it looks like so long as you have a strong statement about the

ideas of the story.”

• Emphasis on the importance of ideas

• Start with a visual metaphor

• “Armani, not armor”

◦ Noticed in college wardrobe that there were more business suits than suits of


◦ The transition from actor to director

◦ “The notion that whatever you need to tell a story, you need not be restricted

by a perceived notion of what that story needs to look like.”

▪ Everyone has a mental image of ‘classic’ Shakespeare, but that’s not

▪ “I don’t care if it’s armor or it’s Armani, make the choice that makes the

◦ “Freedom [to tell] these stories in a way that keeps them visceral…”

• Trained as an actor, assumed that’s what he was

◦ Most proud of artistic director job as creator of a space where actors could


• Years into the company, finally started to feel as though he was a director

• Continued to do some acting throughout GS experience


story come to life.”

▪ Transition to Direction

◦ GS on Casting Issues

▪ Georgia is not one of the centers of non­white cultural life in the south

▪ Tried to choose best actors who read for the role

• Received letters complaining about choice of African­American lead actors

◦ Famous Productions

◦ Non­profit and Theatre in America

◦ Personal Feelings Since Close

◦ Possibility of Archive

▪ “What’s the most exciting way to tell the story? [Who are] the actors who can do

that the best? What’s the most exciting theatre we can tell?”

▪ Hamlet looking into a mirror

• Moving mirrored stage

• Emphasis of reflections for both Hamlet and Ophelia

• Modern dress

• Barefoot

▪ Odyssey

• Contemporary, street version, bookended

• Half a musical

• Vietnam

◦ The warrior coming home

◦ Soldiers in WWII with pocket books


◦ Opens with a soldier pulling out book of the Odyssey

▪ Are live and classical theatre still viable?

▪ Collective call to figure out a different model

▪ “I don’t have the answer, I just have severe questions about ‘is this the right model

right now?’”

▪ Lack of engagement from GS board (28 members) may have been a contributing

factor in close

• One bad person on a board can bring the whole thing to pieces

▪ “I feel a little guilty saying this in this room—I’m great!”

▪ More sleep, less stress

• “Stress is a given, but I don’t think I knew the stress I was under until I was


▪ Approaching other creative endeavors

▪ “…take care of yourself. Here’s my advice to you: Even when you think you’re

taking care of yourself, and I thought I was—at universities, every seven years you

get a sabbatical. Make your company take care of you that way.”

▪ University library has the GS archives

▪ Possibility of presenting those next year

• Attempts to create a big picture of GS from years 1­29

▪ All physical things are in hands of university, in circulation through Atlanta theaters

• Costumes, props, etc.

Reed Martin—Reduced Shakespeare Company

• Steve Muterspaugh questioning

• Background with Shakespeare

◦ Hamlet exposure in HS

◦ Theatre at University of California, Berkeley

▪ Cast in Cymbeline


◦ Summer at the Globe

• Involvement with RSC

◦ 1989, joined circus from NY

▪ “Well I want to be an actor, but how am I different from any one of a million people

▪ Interest in learning physical comedy

◦ Job as a Disney Imagineer w/ Austin

◦ Balanced audience interaction from circus, experience with Shakespeare, and clowning


◦ 1990, retrospectively became a full time job, first big tour

▪ Company started locally in 1981

• Jobs Beyond Performance

◦ Started on equal ground

◦ Contacted originally partially due to writing ability

◦ Jess and Adam interested in creating a new show

• Beginnings of RSC

◦ Group of Renaissance Faire people

◦ Charged with 30 minute entertainment

▪ 30 min production of Hamlet

◦ Adam was brought on in drag due to injury

◦ Troupe evolved into three guys

▪ Hamlet

▪ Two­man Romeo and Juliet

◦ Northern­Southern CA Renaissance faire

◦ Suggestion to do complete works at Fringe

▪ Shared space with a dance troupe

◦ Began American tour in 1987

◦ Largely popular in England first

▪ West End 1992­1993

◦ Jumped to History of America

◦ Since have pioneered 9 shows

• Decision of Impermanence

◦ Evolution to permanent touring

◦ More economically viable

◦ 1 full time employee

◦ Some consideration of a space and classes, but eventual decision to stay safe from lean


◦ “It evolved as a touring company and that’s just the model that works for us.”

• Tech Use

◦ Podcast, website, etc.

◦ World­wide fan base means lack of repeated tours

◦ FB, twitter, podcast allow interactions constantly despite physical distance

◦ Steve Muterspaugh personally endorses RSC Podcast

• Creative Process

who want to do this?”

◦ All shows are scripted

◦ Sitting in a room trying to write a play is ineffective

◦ Starts with an outline, series of ideas for sketches which are written separately

▪ Coincidentally the Monty Python model

◦ On tours, outlines and sketches are read, feedbacked, rewritten, switched around

◦ Everyone impacts ever scene, although some more than others

◦ Last 3­4 shows have been workshopped

▪ 6 weeks of rehearsal

▪ Re­written in the moment

▪ People are sometimes invited to readthroughs and walkthroughs

◦ Shows are updated over time

• Process of International Updating

◦ Depends on show and location

◦ Some things are explicitly changed to be topical/culturally relevant

◦ International references are changed if necessary

▪ Replacement of Google with Baidu in China

◦ Additions of subtitles

◦ “The structure remains the same, but the audience appreciates it when you’ve taken

some time to figure this out.”

• Favorite Show

◦ To perform, usually the one that’s being done in the moment

▪ Comedy, Ultimate Christmas Show

◦ As a writer

▪ Least favorite is the one with the deadline

▪ Writing is much harder, but much more satisfying long­term than acting

◦ As a director

▪ Things not written rather than personally penned shows

• New Show

◦ Complete History of Comedy Abridged

▪ Departure from taking serious things and making light of them

▪ “Comedy is fun to us, but it’s serious. And I think our serious approach to it is funny

▪ Second best selling show in premiere season

◦ Returning to RSC Roots

▪ “William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play Abridged”

▪ Premiere hopefully early 2016

◦ Very productive time for the company

▪ Complete History of Sports

▪ Ultimate Christmas Show

• Service or Disservice to the Works of Shakespeare

◦ “I think the answer is that we don’t seem to.”

◦ Purposefully set out to get facts correct when not required otherwise by comedy

◦ Purposeful emphasis on choice between serious and comedic treatment of the source


◦ “It would be a shame if this was the only way that Shakespeare was done, obviously.

But in a way it’s a return to his tradition. We interact with the audience, the

groundlings. And I know for a fact—because we go afterwards, sign autographs—and

not a show goes by where a teenager….usually multiple people don’t come up to us and

to people, it’s turned out to be.”

say ‘you know, I saw this on the TV a few years ago, and it turned me on to

Shakespeare.’ I think it’s a wonderful introduction to Shakespeare.”

• Gender

◦ All­male troupe

◦ It’s just the way it evolved

◦ “The truth is, the brains of the operation are my wife Jamie and our office manager.”

• Road Stories

◦ Places to remember

▪ Lincoln center

▪ Kennedy center

▪ Singapore

• First time ’94

• Miss Saigon in the opera house, were invited to the white house for the 4

July, RSC “History of America” got invited along

• History of America, loved political satire despite being unable to do the same

thing about Singapore

◦ Pulled a Priest up to play Ophelia

◦ Famous comedians watching

▪ Eric Idle

▪ John Cleese

▪ Kevin Spacey

• Workshopping

◦ Not RSC members

◦ Sonoma County Rep—local professionals

◦ No relationship with RSC going in, though relationship has formed

◦ Partially written with these people in mind

◦ Lack of knowledge going into the material allows for a necessary lack of finesse

starting out, a completed script at the beginning of rehearsals

▪ Helpful for honing the script

• Monetary Concerns

◦ “My guess is, I guess I don’t make as much as most Artistic Directors would make. I

don’t know that for a fact, but that’s probably true.”

◦ “My 17 year old Saturn just died, so I drove here in my 94 Volvo station wagon.”

• Licensing Issues

◦ When licensed, RSC should be taken out of it

▪ RSC are the producers, not the creators

▪ Authors wrote as individuals

▪ Name is trademarked, issues in misleading the public with regards to who is

◦ Shows are not published for a few years after first production

◦ Bookings are restricted within 50 or 100 miles when RSC is booked to do official


• Responses to Interpretations

◦ “Usually it’s great, right? Because we ask them to ‘insert the name of your local corrupt

politician here’, and that’s exactly what we do when we go overseas, or, you know,

wherever it is. Cleveland.”

◦ People have attempted to insert scenes


▪ No longer allowed rights

▪ Scene required to be immediately removed


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