Sunday, July 13, 2008

American Dream

My production of A Midsummer Night's Dream opened on Lake Tahoe last night. Although it's not a Border Crossings production, it (perhaps inevitably) reflects a lot of the concerns in our work, particularly in the way we engage with Native American culture and spirituality. Watching the ending, as the cast go out into the auditorium with their smudge sticks, Kelvin plays his flute and Art speaks his Washo prayer, as the moon shines above them and reflects in the lake, is extremely moving.

I spent the last day or so of rehearsals wondering about the strangeness of the audience in this open-air space. Never having directed outdoors, I wasn't really prepared for the way in which the daylight in which the first half of the play is performed makes the audience far less passive, far more likely to move around, to chat (admittedly about the play), to eat and drink. To begin with, I found it irritating, until we got to Act 5, the play within a play, and I realised that Shakespeare himself portrays an audience which does exactly that. The Dream was probably written for a wedding, so the party element at Tahoe is very much in keeping with the play. Realising that, I began to realise how the early part of the play, which is full of conflicts, actually serves to subvert the conventions within which it was placed. Realising this, we were able to rehearse a much more jolting, intense approach to the early scenes, which really energised the play, and set up an inspiring dynamic between the stage and the auditorium. Space educates again....

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