Monday, June 30, 2008

The great outdoors

For the last couple of days, we've been rehearsing the Dream on the stage at Sand Harbour, Lake Tahoe. It's the first time I have ever directed in the open air, and I am truly loving it. I think the experience of visiting Athens and (especially) Epidauros last year has made a big difference to my understanding of outdoor theatre. I've become much more aware of the power that performance can acquire when it sits in relation to landscape.

Of course, there couldn't be a more perfect play to display this than the Dream. Titania's great speech about climate change acquires a whole new force when there are real mountains, forests, beaches and lakes for her to refer to. And the fact that she is wearing a Native American costume makes it doubly powerful. You become aware of a ritual connection between the performer, the text, the land and the indigenous culture. It's very multi-layered, and at the same time astonishingly simple - because it simply requires the stating of what is actually happening in the moment of performance.

I'm also really enjoying the experience of directing American actors in Shakespeare. The discipline of verse seems to me to be better understood here than it is in contemporary Britain. UK drama schools have just about given up teaching verse in the interests of the fast-track to TV. Maybe that's true of some places here too - but America is a big place and there are enough people with specialist knowledge and detailed training for some masterly iambics to be spun by the lake.

1 comment:

Mark said...

It is the one thing that Brits working in The U.S. say when dealing with the verse speaking of American Actors. The U.S. actors do it better than us Brits at the moment. It is all about the training. I noticed this particularly when I was at DC Shakespeare Theatre last year and it was flagged up particularly well by the UK critics when our fabulous production of Loves Labour's Lost (not an easy play!) travelled from the US to The Swan at Stratford on Avon.

Hope you are having fun!