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Majestic Theatre 2020-2021 Proposals
Updated: Aug 1, 2019
The following proposals have been submitted for the 2020-2021 Majestic Community Theatre season. Please review them and then use this form to submit your feedback about the shows and the director’s vision for them. Click the link now to open it in a second tab/window and you can add feedback as you read the proposals. Copies of the plays will be available in the Majestic Business office for check out beginning on 8/5/19.
We will not be accepting feedback about the director’s ability or behavior. These aspects have already been vetted by Majestic Theatre Supervisor Jimbo Ivy and those that have been permitted to submit have been approved as being capable. The feedback form requires an email address for verification, but your feedback will be anonymized and distilled into topics to be discussed by the PRC. Only Theatre Supervisor Ivy will directly view your feedback.
From these proposals, the Play Reading Committee will select three plays and two musicals. Your feedback will help them select the best season for our community. Directors may only direct one show per season, so with multiple submissions from a single director, they will select only one.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Director: Sarah Sheldrick
“It would be a privilege and honor to be able to stage a production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. American play is to uncover the fear and phobia’s that have divided and polarized families and society. This is the story of a dynasty losing the patriarch and the protocol son in line to inherit. The son says that the inheritance is broken and the father says it is the new generation that is broken. This play has something old and yet it is still relevant to the story of America.
THE BEDROOM: Williams stages the play in the bedroom of a married couple. The invasion of privacy is a key component of the show. I am critical of productions that turn Brick and Maggie’s room into a grand master suite. That happens to fit everyone in the cast comfortably. As the family descends into the bedroom to celebrate Big Daddy’s birthday. My vision is to make the space of the bedroom smaller and a feeling of a guest room. Williams is on the front lines of America in this classic play. Ibsen, Shaw, and Chekov were also uncovering the pretense of family and society. However, they staged the scenes in the drawing room and living room space. Williams confronts the paradox of truth, love, and family in the bedroom. “I like you guys that want to reduce the size of government, make it just small enough so it can fit in our bedrooms.” — Josh Lyman on gay marriage from The West Wing, Season 2 – Episode 7
The main themes developed by Williams are the focus on: truth, sexuality, addiction, memory of the past, and America. In reaction to the Kinsey report and popular TV shows like, Leave it to Beaver, Williams zooms in on the guest bedroom of a Plantation home where we find domestic abuse, racism, and same sex attraction. Tennessee Williams will not hide what is happening in the bedroom of the all-American family. Ironically the censorship of the famous film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman was exactly what Williams was combating. He went as far as he could when uncovering the dysfunctional aspects of society and family. This is a story of unrequited love. The love of a father for his son, brotherly love, friendship love, and romantic love. Williams does the deep dive on what it truly means to Love thy neighbor. The play is very political and this play is terrifyingly relevant to the current political discussion.
Vision: I want the stage to feel suspended in the void of darkness. The bedroom will not take up the whole stage. There will be dark empty space that surrounds the bedroom. The bedroom will look almost like a doll house room. Cute and small and cozy. Inviting, almost as if you want to crawl inside. In addition, the walls will not meet at the corners. Everything will be just slightly off and dis-connected. The terrace often is built on the up-stage side of the bedroom. In my production, it will be downstage and the audience space will be used for the children in the show to enter from. I will be using lighting and projections and impose them on to the walls of the bedroom. I will use deep colors to signify moods. Dealing with issues of racism in the staging is to have different characters react in different ways. Some more woke than others.
The 1974 revival of Cat on Broadway: Atkinson’s review in the NY Times called it “”a stunning drama…It is the quintessence of life. It is the basic truth.”” Atkinson went on to write, “”In a plantation house, the members of the family are celebrating the sixty-fifth birthday of the Big Daddy, as they sentimentally dub him. The tone is gay. But the mood is somber. For a number of old evils poison the gaiety—sins of the past, greedy hopes for the future, a desperate eagerness not to believe in the truths that surround them…CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF is a delicately wrought exercise in human communication. His characters try to escape from the loneliness of their private lives into some form of understanding. The truth invariably terrifies them. That is one thing they cannot face or speak…As the expression of a brooding point of view about life, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF is limpid and effortless. As theatre, it is superb.”
This is from Glass Menagerie and very inspired set design. http://collettepollard.com/production/the-glass-menagerie/
Director: Deborah Wren
Company, which opened in 1971, was a ground breaking musical that is a mature, intelligent and wildly funny look at relationships, vulnerability and “being alive”. It is a winner of 7 Tony awards. I first was drawn to “Company” because of the music of Stephen Sondheim. And one song that spoke to me in particular was “Being Alive”. Company wittingly shows all aspects of marriage. This is achieved by Bobby, the main character, who is commitment phobic learning all the different sides of the importance of sharing yourself with someone through the point of view of his married friends. I see this as being a one set stage with platforms to represent the different apartments. The orchestra is part of the play by being on stage. David Campbell has agreed to be musical director.
Cyrano De Bergerac
Director: Sarah Sheldrick
Cyrano – Welcome to the Inside-out
This classic play and is a popular favorite with many audiences. Often Cyrano is associated with over theatrics. Big hats, swashbuckling, sword fights, beautiful voluminous dresses, and unrequited love. Behind all the show is a story of a quest for love, and the definition of beauty. Cyrano sustains significance because of the human need for self-esteem and belongingness. The play is filled with adventure, comedy and tragedy. Cyrano is on the journey of learning to accept, love and trust oneself.
The staging of this production will explore the design elements that make theatre iconic. We will strip always the schmaltz and embrace the theatrical experience of putting on a production. First, my Cyrano will not have a big theatrical nose incorporated into the base character. The nose will be metaphorical to self-imposed stigmatization and isolation. My vision of this show is to turn the theatre upside down and shake out all the iconic treasures. I will be staging the show as a deconstructed play. Think of the staging as if the audience has walked into a scene class. The backstage will not be hidden but rather incorporated into the show. The actors will all be dressed in more modern, everyday attire. Actors will have access to costume pieces hanging within view on classic costume racks. Prop tables within view. All the elements of design will have some props and costumes pieces classical. Other elements will be purposefully not. I will work with sound design and would like to incorporate live musicians on the stage with the actors. The set design will be to achieve a rehearsal space. With some architecture on stage. Exposed framing, steps, a window, and platforms. I will work with my designers to create a timelessness to the play. For me, the theatre is a practice in time. Incorporating traditional and modern elements into the show.
Cyrano is a love story about feeling unlovable. The three lead characters Cyrano, Christian, and Roxanne all represents aspects of the struggle to self-acceptance. Cyrano a great poet, Roxanne a great beauty, Christian classic masculine strength. Yet each of these characters focus only on their faults and wallow in their insecurities. In search of the answer: How do we accept love from another when we cannot love our-self first?
This production of Cyrano will be a celebration of theatre. Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Rehearsal of CYRANO production and interview with the director https://youtu.be/ZPe1ngZhLbM Here is a great video to get a feeling of theatre that I want to capture in the production.https://youtu.be/GxG0AvoXcbA Our production will be the script of Cyrano however nonverbal staging will have the feeling of a rehearsal space. Acting Style: HBO’s Barry: https://youtu.be/CVvEauIwLec The Kominsky Method on Netflix: Here is a scene with Alan Arkin which blends comedy and deep passionate love. We will be finding how to blend moments like this into an emotional roller coaster https://youtu.be/GWjtXyd5THM
Elf The Musical
Director: Cherie Gullerud
First, I would like to share this synopsis of Elf the Musical from the Musical Theatre International website:
“A title known the world over, Elf the Musical is a must-produce holiday show that can easily become an annual tradition for any theatre. Based on the cherished 2003 New Line Cinema hit, ELF features songs by Tony Award nominees, Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway, The Wedding Singer), with a book by Tony Award winners, Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers, Hairspray) and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone). Buddy, a young orphan, mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and is transported to the North Pole. The would-be elf is raised, unaware that he is actually a human until his enormous size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to face the truth. With Santa’s permission, Buddy embarks on a journey to New York City to find his birth father and discover his true identity. Faced with the harsh realities that his father is on the naughty list and his half-brother doesn’t even believe in Santa, Buddy is determined to win over his new family and help New York remember the true meaning of Christmas.”
Some quotes from reviews of the Broadway production:
“The New York Times says ELF is “SPLASHY, PEPPY, SUGAR-SPRINKLED HOLIDAY ENTERTAINMENT!” USA Today calls ELF, “ENDEARINGLY GOOFY!” Variety proclaims, “Elf is happy enough for families, savvy enough for city kids and plenty smart for adults!”
With David Campbell as Music Director and Emily Ferrin as Choreographer (plus a list of enthusiastic others who love the show), I believe Elf the Musical can be a sold-out event for The Majestic Theatre. And here is why:
Because the John Turtletaub/Will Ferrell film is so well-known and loved, our production would attract audience members who have not seen shows at The Majestic, and who would likely return for future events. New actors and crew will attend auditions based on the general like-a-bility of the film. (ELF has the same kind of multi-generational appeal and longevity as THE PRINCESS BRIDE.) Parents and Students involved with the Majestic Summer Theatre Adventure and in other Majestic Education programs always want to know what they can do next, and this show would provide a fun and educational experience of a “”big”” musical for budding actors and “”Jr. Blackshirts.”” This all-ages appropriate show would be popular during the holiday season as friends and families seek for ways to get that squishy, warm cookie-stuffed feeling during “”the most wonderful time of the year.””
My vision for Elf the Musical is to play up the cheerful, campy nature of the material through keeping the performances honest and realistic. The show has conflict and drama, but at its heart is unapologetically happy; a rarity in modern entertainment options. If the audience leaves breathing a sigh of happy satisfaction and vowing to be kind to someone then our work is done!
Using coordinated merry designs and jaunty holiday colors in audition, promotional and set and costume designs will go a long way towards building anticipation and enjoyment for this musical. And think of the Majestic FaceBook commercials we can do…!
To save set building costs and to make room for a large cast, scenic backgrounds can be a mix of rented backdrops, and/or projections and flown-in cutouts. Gobos and smart lights can add a lot of atmosphere to this joy-filled show. Spotlights will help with solos. No static set is needed because of the big dance numbers. 3-D painted rectangular acting blocks will provide visual interest and dancing levels as the elves’ workbenches, Walter’s office and Santaland at Macy’s. Santa’s narration can be done on a stage right wing-backed chair draped with holiday-themed quilts with a standing lamp, and a table with cookies and milk, and perhaps an electric fireplace.
The North Pole opening and finale costumes should be colorful and may need to be custom-made if we cannot borrow them from another place, but the rest of the scenes can be costumed in NYC winter streetwear, which should not be hard to find. (Philomath High School did the show a couple of years ago and may have some costumes we can borrow.) While we should have the dancers in character shoes for safety, a lot of the ensemble can wear home-found street shoes and coats and hats in the crowd scenes. We can keep the budget down by utilizing the Mid Valley Theatre Alliance for borrowing costumes and set pieces and by collecting show items and costumes in advance, where possible.
The songs are clever and campy and there is a lot of comedy and famous one-liners from the film in this production. There are opportunities for featured character lines and bits. This is a great show for selling production-specific merchandise at intermission and for providing photos with Santa and Buddy and Jovie. Holiday-themed treats and drinks could be offered at concessions. We could have a brass quartet playing holiday favorites in the lobby as folks enter the theater, and we could have cast members do a number in our local Corvallis Thanksgiving parade.
Please give Elf the Musical your consideration. Thank you!
https://www.mtishows.com/elf-the-musical (The official Music Theatre International page)
https://www.movie-trailer.co.uk/trailers/2017/elf-the-musical/#play (The London Production Trailer – a lavish spare-no-expense version of the show.)
https://paramountaurora.com/events/elf-the-musical/ (The Aurora, Illinois Paramount Theatre version is close to what I envision for the Majestic – cost-saving, and space -promoting projections.)
http://www.themusicallyrics.com/e/235-elf-musical-lyrics.html (Some typos – but this site illustrates the clever lyrics and varied crowd-pleasing song styles within the musical version.)
https://www.allmusic.com/album/elf-the-broadway-musical-mw0002227885(An review of the Broadway production with all the music to listen to)
https://www.theatreworldbackdrops.com/blog/2017/01/3022/beyond-elf (Rented backdrop ideas – $210 to $600 per drop. Our stage would use the smallest size – 15′ high by 25′ long)
It Can’t Happen Here
by Sinclair Lewis, adapted by Tony Taccone and Bennett S. Cohen
Director: Leigh Matthews Bock
Sinclair Lewis’ darkly satirical novel (written in 1935 /play written in 1936) was a huge — and controversial — hit at the time. It follows the ascent of a demagogue who becomes president of the United States by promising to return the country to greatness. Witnessing the new president’s tyranny from the sidelines is a liberal, middle-class newspaper editor from Vermont who trusts the system will fix itself—until he ends up in a prison camp. Called “a message to thinking Americans” upon its publication, this eerily prophetic story recently received a new play adaptation inspired by the parallels with the present.
The novel and play have gone down in history as upholding Lewis’ belief in the “free, inquiring, critical spirit”—which many argue is central to a democratic process. It is incredible that a novel written so long ago can feel like a piece of nonfiction written here and now—certain passages can cause the hair on the back of your neck to stand up.
This play moves quickly and seamlessly from one scene to the next with limited furniture/set pieces moved in and out as the action/story continues. 1930’s costumes with coats, sweaters, hats, etc. added to help show the passage of time. I would use the upstage brick wall as the backdrop and would like to incorporate a large American flag and possibly a large political sign as well.
My hope for this play is for each audience member to find themselves in this story, do a thorough self-check for any complacency, and if found, decide how to move forward in a way that truly honors this country and the people who call it home.
“…thrilling and grim…IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE is an argument for journalism as a basic pillar of democracy…The curious pronoun in Lewis’s title, lacking an antecedent, may well refer to the rise of fascism in the United States. But a less literal reading of the title suggests that ‘it’ is something more subtle: a collective apathy, born of ignorance, and a populace that can no longer make the kind of judgments that participatory democracy requires.” —The New Yorker.
John Steinbeck’s THE GRAPES OF WRATH
by Frank Galati
Director: Robert Leff
Five years ago, Latino playwright, Octavio Solis was part of a road trip sponsored by the National Steinbeck Center in celebration of the 75th anniversary of THE GRAPES OF WRATH. The trip retraced the Joads’ journey from Oklahoma to California. Along the way, Solis talked with migrants, homeless people and survivors of the Dust Bowl. None of them had read the novel or seen the 1940 movie. He had no idea what he was going to write in response to the trip until it reached the Arvin Migrants Camp outside of Bakersfield, built expressly to house migrant workers coming from Oklahoma and places hit by the Dust Bowl. Today, the migrants at the camp are from Mexico. There Solis met a young Mexican man who had read the novel many times and quoted passages. He said, the novel is about his life and added “I’m the new Tom Joad and Mexicans are the new Okies.” Solis knew what his play would be about.
The World Premiere of MOTHER ROAD is currently running at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It takes place today and is about the last two descendants of the Joads. The two men travel from California back to Oklahoma. I saw the production the end of March. It’s powerful, funny, sad and moving. I saw it again in early July. The production has grown and deepened. At the end, I was crying. Things have changed since THE GRAPES OF WRATH published in 1939; things have remained the same.
When I returned home in March, to prepare of a talk about MOTHER ROAD, I reread sections of the novel. This passage from the Introduction by Steinbeck scholar, Robert Demott caught my eye. “Like many American novels, THE GRAPES OF WRATH does not offer codified or institutional solutions to cataclysmic social, economic, political, and environmental problems. Rather it leads us deeper into complexities those issues raise by historicizing beneficent, sympathy, compassion, and relatedness. For instance, Grapes privileges the white American migrant labor scene. Steinbeck elides — but was not ignorant of the problems of nonwhite migrant workers — Filipinos, Chinese, Japanese, and Mexicans — who made up a significant percentage of California’a agricultural labor force. . .” This got me thinking.
In my mind, my reaction to MOTHER ROAD, its back story and the passage fused together. I got out my copy of Frank Galati’s stage adaptation of the novel written for Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company in 1989. All of the cast was white. I sat down to read the script with the thought, would it work with a diverse cast? What would THE GRAPES OF WRATH look like with Mexicans, Filipinos, Chinese, Japanese, Native Americans and whites onstage? The answer to the first question is yes. The answer to the second has two parts: 1) A diverse cast will widen the lens of the story. White people were not the only ones who suffered from the Dust Bowl. and 2) A diverse cast will bring an immediacy to the story. THE GRAPES OF WRATH is not an old story from the past. Things have changed; things remain the same. Current events support this.
In the novel/play migrants are mistreated by those in power. Then and now, the poor are forced off their land. Then and now, migrants seek a better life. Turn on your TV and see stories of them kept in cages, their humanity denied. Today, farm workers are exploited by owners. The racist chant, “Go back to where you came from” is openly shouted. All of this has fused in my brain and convinced me a diverse cast will bring THE GRAPES OF WRATH to life and speak to the audience in 2019-2020.
One more thing. The novel/play does not offer solutions. On the other hand, to me, it begins with the Joads focusing, with good reason, inward for survival. As they travel the Mother Road, what happens to them causes a change. They begin to think about and react to other people. By the end, they have moved from I to We. The final image in the novel/play is a powerful reminder that, in these troubled times, all of us are connected.
In my productions of OUR TOWN and ALICE IN WONDERLAND, I cast non-white actors. They auditioned. I liked what they did and cast them. Things would be different with THE GRAPES OF WRATH. I will reach out to different communities in the area and then meet with them to explain my approach and stress how their lives will be honored and added in telling this story. I will need help to plan a sensitive way to do this. I welcome advice.
There are 45 characters in the play. Some appear throughout; others appear only once. In the original production, the actors who played the Joad family had no other roles. The other actors played more than one role. In my production I would follow this plan. There is nothing wrong with supporting actors playing one role, but these actors spend most of their time sitting backstage. For example, Muley Graves appears in two scenes early in the first act and is never seen again. I would prefer to have the actor play Muley and other characters. The two young children in the Joad family. Other children are mentioned in the script, but are listed in the cast. I would include more children in the cast.
Set – The original production used open fire and real water. This production will not use them. I envision a simple, open set with signs flown in and furniture brought on by the actors. The pit will serve as the Colorado River and the flooded stream. Projections might be used.
The Truck – The original production has a real truck on a track. This production will not. The truck could be a platform with wheels that is pushed by the actors. During the play, we need to see the front, the rear and side of the truck. However, the first question to ask, when it comes to the design, is where will the truck be stored when it is not onstage? For both the set and the truck, the audience will use their imagination to fill in the details.
Costumes – The many characters will require many costumes. They should look like “real clothes.”
Props – In the back of the script, there is a long prop list. With a simple open set, the costumes and props need to be detailed (real). Nakedness – In the scene at the Colorado River, the script mentions one of the actors is naked. Not in this production. At the end of the play, Rose of Sharon bares her breast to feed the starving man. How this will be done in this production will depend on what is allowed onstage and the comfort of the two actors.
Music – An original score was composed for four onstage musicians. The instruments were guitar, fiddle, harmonica, saw, jaw harp, banjo, accordion and bass. The score is available, but I need to hear it to decided if I want to use it. Another possibility, is asking local groups to compose a score. Dance – There is a Square Dance in one scene, so a choreographer will be needed.
Stage Fights – There are stage fights, so a fight choreographer will be needed.
The Opening of This Production – To introduce the “world” of the play, I plan to add a short “Prologue” of projected photographs of the Dust Bowl and people. Also, a few contemporary photos of farm workers and migrants will be included.
My Approach To The Play – The Grapes of Wrath is salty and down-to-earth with moments of humor. Members of the Joad Family have their flaws. Ma and Tom are not saints. There is outrage in the story. Some of the language and some of the scenes might upset people. This production will not shy away from anything. On the other hand, I will focus on the humanity of the characters.
This an episodic play, so a production could ended up as an evening of “one bad thing after another.” To avoid this trap, the director, actors and designers must focus on how the characters change from the beginning to the end and how each moment and event forces the change.
Yes, The Grapes of Wrath is a big play. It will take careful planning, team work and commitment to bring it to life onstage. However, with what is happening in the country, this is a time to do it.
Director: Ruth Mandsager
Legally Blonde follows the transformation of Elle Woods as she tackles stereotypes, sexism, snobbery and scandal in pursuit of her dreams, and proves that you can be both “legally blonde” and the smartest person in the room. My vision for bringing this show to the Majestic stage really centers around “girl power”. Not only does the show itself speak loudly to enabling women, it also digs deep enough to deal with an all too realistic “Me Too” moment (which the script handles beautifully).
My experience with the actors from all around the Willamette valley both as a director and a professional actor has shown me that the female acting pool is talented and deep. However, women are far to often under represented by playwrights. LB provides so many roles for women; especially young women, that I anticipate a very exciting but difficult time casting this show. From the actresses that I have had the pleasure to coach from time to time and among many others, there is a deep talented pool of girls who not only need a casting break, but will shine in this show.
Links: Sample of rehearsal footage from a community theatre type playhouse.
Pride and Prejudice
Director: Leigh Matthews Bock
Joseph Hanreddy, J.R. Sullivan’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice honors the source material through a contemporary theatrical lens. Lean and dramatic, energetic and forward-moving, yet in no way modernized. There is romance, wit, emotional subtleties, lessons to be learned, music and dance within this minimalist production that requires only a piano and early 1800s trappings for various interior places. Scenes move seamlessly into the next without sacrificing the humor and romance and allows for small costume changes such as adding a shawl or bonnet and the rearrangement of furniture.
A production of Pride and Prejudice could become heavy under the weight of costumes and set pieces, but I plan to honor this minimalist adaptation by focusing on the relationships and Jane Austen’s well written dialogue.
I believe there are relevant lessons still to be learned from Pride and Prejudice. Those words had slightly different meanings at the time Austen was writing. Being proud usually meant someone thought they were better than other people or were not open to interacting with different kinds of people. Prejudice tended to mean having a set idea about someone that was based on assumptions or preconceptions, rather than a person’s actual actions and characters. Today, prejudice may mean making judgments about someone based on, for example, their race or religion. Once our prejudice is challenged we have the choice to overcome it by being open or to stubbornly stay stuck. Thankfully Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy are good examples of what it looks like to let pride and prejudice go when faced with being mistaken about the character of others based on rumor, appearance or misunderstood actions.
For me, any character in Pride and Prejudice can and should be any ethnicity. No matter who you are, you should be able to locate yourself in this story. My goal is to encourage all interested actors, regardless of their ethnicity, to consider auditioning so we can help remind our audiences that assumptions and preconceptions can bring about prejudice.
by Lisa Loomer
Director: Maxine Agather
There are some political topics that are inherently controversial, and have been for decades. But there is one particular topic that seems more emotionally and morally heated then all the others, and has become especially relevant in the media lately – the topic of abortion – on which “”Roe”” (named for Roe v. Wade) is entirely centered. Few things seem to be able to get people as heated or as divisive as the discussion around abortion rights. Even forty-six years after abortion was made legal in the United States, those rights are still being both questioned and threatened – possibly now more than ever. And when political topics begin to reach such a volatile boiling point, it becomes more essential than ever to stop, listen, and try to understand one another.
In fact, I believe that coming from a point of understanding is one of the only ways we can get through to people who would never have listened to us otherwise. This can be particularly difficult with plays, where conversations can become so one-sided. Lisa Loomer herself has said that when working with divisive topics, the ability to connect with the audience is essential, and ultimately lies in the presentation of each character. Not only do you need to have a character representing every viewpoint, but each character needs to be performed thoughtfully, respectfully, and with a full commitment to whatever side of the story they’re trying to tell. As such, I want everything about this show to be driven by it’s characters.
Roe is a show about abortion. It can be blunt, occasionally in-your-face, and it doesn’t hide from the truth. But, more than anything, it is a story about real people. People from all walks of life and areas of belief. People who fall on both sides of the abortion issue, and people who fall somewhere in between. People who are all, in their own way, trying to make the world a better place.
The setting for the stage will be similar to what is called for in the opening stage directions – minimal, relying mostly on projections, with a few “”grounding”” stage pieces to make each era, each moment, more tangible. But the actors will interact with these pieces only when absolutely necessary – I mostly want them moving, standing, addressing the audience, and acting as both the center piece and driving force for every scene. I may even have the two main characters be the ones who gesture for props to be brought on, or for scenes to change – they are the ones telling their story, and I want them to be the driving force behind that.
Their styles (especially Norma’s and Sarah’s) will be very distinct throughout the years as they grow and change with the times. Ideally, I’d like to spend more time designing characters then designing the set, as that is where the focus should be. I want people to see these characters and vaguely recognize them as someone they know.
I also want people to feel physically immersed in the show – especially considering how frequently the characters address the audience directly. I’ve imagined having Sarah pace down the aisle muttering to herself before coming up on the stage to yell at Norma, or having protesters with signs chanting down in front of the stage. My hope is that the audience feels fully invested in everything that is happening throughout this show.
In addition to being an amazing, female-led show, with representation for both people of color and LGTB+ folks, Roe was also written locally for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2016. The rights were just recently released to the public, meaning that the Majestic would potentially be one of the very first community theaters to ever perform this show!
Roe is an incredible story, both timeless and entirely new. It pokes at some of our rawest nerves, but in a way that encourages us to try and feel. It is a story that, especially in this increasingly chaotic political storm we find ourselves in, needs to be told. Because ultimately, it isn’t a story about politics. It is a story about the very ethics and morals of what it means to be human.
by Brian Watkins and Suzannah Doyle
Director: Brian Watkins
“Scar”: is a full-length, large-cast musical fantasy set in a world where three species share the land in tension; the Free Cats, the Rat Gang, and the Humans of Avenwood. Scar is a former Warrior Cat, exiled and condemned to live half her life as the lowliest of humans. She wanders the land, never sleeping, and with nowhere to call home. With Prince Frederick (another exile), she goes to Avenwood Castle to find a new life. The Castle is on alert, as the Rats are becoming bolder, the Royal Astrologer is making confusing predictions, and the King and Queen are looking for a match for their beautiful but headstrong daughter.
Our production is designed to appeal to all ages and especially to those who seldom come to the Majestic. This community is both our support and our future.
The music of “Scar” draws on varied styles to support and convey the different worlds our characters live in: Action Movie, Ragtime, Anthemic Hymns and Broadway Ballads, topped off with powerful electronic dance music for the Free Cats to dance their magic to. The choreography will reflect that diversity.
The costuming will distinguish each species by use of silhouette and color palette, while keeping a common visual style that will emphasize the unique story we are telling. The show is multi-set, but allows for rapid change between locales.
Conflicts between the species are a big part of the story, and we will give a large part of rehearsal time to our experienced Fight Choreographer to ensure that our battle scenes are both safe AND impressive!
The casting concept of “Scar” is different from most musicals, with three ensembles plus leads. We envision a total of 36 to 44 in the cast, with many of them being young.
Our motto for this production is two-fold: “Never forget that the children care passionately about the story!” and “Make sure that the adults are very happy that they came with them!”. Maybe it’s because we’re just kids, but we too care passionately about the story of Scar. We want to share our vision of that story with the people of Corvallis, both young and old, at the Majestic Theatre. We want to bring them together to forget about the cares of the world for a couple of hours and lose themselves in Avenwood, where Cats dance and do magic, Rats have food fights and there is a dramatic, powerful and romantic story being told.
This is our vision. We hope it will become your vision too.
Link to Materials folder with sample scenes, songs and costume concept art.
by William Gillette and Arthur Conan Doyle
Director: Robert Leff
Back in the late 1970s, I bought a copy of SHERLOCK HOLMES by William Gillette and Arthur Conan Doyle after reading reviews of the Royal Shakespeare Company popular revival in 1974. It sounded fun and I thought it might be something I’d want to direct. My heart sank when I discovered the play calls for five sets. It wasn’t practical to propose it. The script has sat on my bookshelf for years.
I’m a fan of the BBC series SHERLOCK with Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role. It’s a fun show. During the second season, I took down the Gillette/Doyle script with the thought of proposing it. Once again, the need for five sets worried me. It went back on the shelf. I thought proposing it wasn’t practical.
A few years ago, I directed ALICE IN WONDERLAND AND THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS at the Majestic. The script calls for more locations than the five in SHERLOCK HOLMES. For ALICE, projections, video and furniture were used for the many locations. Other productions at the Majestic have used projections and video. Is it now practical for me to propose SHERLOCK HOLMES?
This spring, my thoughts turned to the play, so I took it from the shelf and read it. Yep, there are still five sets. On the other hand, I had a new worry. I have a Ph.D. in American Theatre History, so I’m familiar with late 19th century plays. They are interesting from a historical point of view; directing them for an early 21st century is another matter.
The Gillette/Doyle play is 130 years old. Yes, it shows it’s age. Nevertheless, the script is playable. From an actor’s point of view, the script is filled with meaty character roles that are fun to play. From the audience point of view, the script has thrills, melodrama and humor. From my director’s point of view, for the play to “work,” the actors must treat the characters with respect, keep a straight face and give their all to their parts. Years ago, I directed George M. Cohan’s Seven Keys To Baldpate at the Majestic. This was my approach to that play. This is my approach for SHERLOCK HOLMES.
There are a few elementary details to consider. By the way, elementary does not appear in any Sherlock Holmes story. It does in the play. Ever since, elementary is part of the Holmes world.
Two Characters – At first glance, Alice Faulkner is a damsel in distress. Reading between the lines, she has some grit. This will be stressed in the production. From the script, it is not clear Billy is a teenager. In fact, teenage Charlie Chaplin played the role in England.
Accents – They will be used. Some dialogue is written in old-fashioned stage dialects. I would tone this down to be more “realistic.”
Cocaine – In one scene, Holmes injects cocaine. This is part of the Holmes lore. At the time of the play, the use of it was legal. In the scene Dr. Watson tries to convince his friend not to use it.
The Look of The Production – Victorian Steampunk (Sets, Costumes, Props and Music) Yes, there are five locations in the play and each of them is used once. One solution is to have a basic background and then use furniture to establish the location. The use of video/projections is possible. Oh, yes, a baby grand piano is needed in the first scene. It is played.
Prologue – To bring the audience into the world of the play, I would add a short prologue. We would see a paperboy deliver the newspaper to Forman, the Butler. The use of stage fog at the Majestic is a problem. A foggy atmosphere could be created with lights.
SHERLOCK HOLMES will appeal to actors and the audience. It promises a fun time in theatre.
Taming of the Shrew
Director: Sarah Sheldrick
Taming the Shrew is problematic show because of the misogyny and domestic taming of a woman. I would like to use the show to highlight modern aspect of society that are also problematic. I am not going to ignore the problems but use them to understand the mess we are in.
My vision is to set it current 202, as a Reality-TV show. I will model it after the very popular Bachelor, Bachelorette, and Bachelor in Paradise franchise. I included a link to the Pinterest Look-Book I created for the show. The stage will be the iconic Bachelor mansion that stages the meet and greet of each season premier. In addition, I will have people with cameras with non-speaking rolls on stage at the same time of the show. They will follow different actors around – sometimes even back stage. In addition, we will have non-speaking parts for make-up and hair to be ‘fixed’ in real time on stage. Working with our tech crew and designers we will have two projections on either side of the stage running the TV screen. Shakespeare is famous for the soliloquy. It is a device when a character speaks to themselves, relating thoughts and feelings, thereby also sharing them with the audience. In our show these will be directed to the camera and projected simultaneously. Baptista the father I will cast as the popular host of the show, Chris.
It will be an exciting show, because of the opportunity to tackle the current climate on sexuality, me-too, and misogynistic bias. I also will look at the staging of the show to highlight on-camera and off-camera. What is Real in Reality-TV? and what is staged for ratings and popularity. The addiction for extreme emotions to satiate an audience’s appetite.
We will use high comedy mixed with true heartbreak. I will use the great technical gifts of the majestic to bring the show a current and cinematic feel. My cast and I will explore the complexity of the characters to reveal the true need to be heard, respected and loved.
Thank you for your consideration.
Pinterest Look-Book https://pin.it/tafrf2hz7nqnmq You-Tube https://youtu.be/8XazisbHKxg You-Tube https://youtu.be/blZMk5MklF4 YouTube https://youtu.be/B0w0EScuZlE https://youtu.be/DaPq4FM5gD8 This is a great video to get a feeling of what I am aiming for YouTube https://youtu.be/oaDU091lyQs Summary and critique https://youtu.be/sVbN3_mddZM Ted talk – https://youtu.be/OUmFdTHTD8M
The House of Blue Leaves
by John Guare
Directed by Deborah Wren
With a cast of 5 men and 6 women this play is set in 1965 and is considered a black comedy. It won an Obie and a Drama Critics Award in 1971. It is set in New York City during the visit of the Pope and deals with the different perspectives of the characters to the Popes visit. The main thrust of the play is “what is crazy”. This is a time of coming out of the blissful 50s and early 60s, dealing with the assignation of the president and the Vietnam war. Coming out of the comfortability of life to dealing with a harsh new reality.
John Guare has given us a platform where we can laugh at the craziness instead of crying about it. You see that we can embrace and love the characters such as Bananas in spite of her craziness. This is a one set play with rich meaty characters for the actors to sink their teeth into. I want to do this play so we see that it is all right to be a little crazy to survive the harshness of reality. The thing I like about this play is that it makes you laugh and cry and it spurs conversation.
by Sarah DeLappe
Directed by Harriet Own Nixon
#11, #25, #13, #46, #2, #7, #14, #8, #00 Numbers. Each number has conflict, each number has discord, each number has confusion, each number has failures, each number is alone. Each number has harmony, each number has agreement, each number has clarity, each number has achievements, each number is combined. Each number is unique. Each number is united.
A group of teenage girls on a soccer team, identified by the numbers on their jerseys; simple setting, simple premise/complex ideas, complex lives. Teens today, right? Their social media preoccupation, being tied to their friends and frenemies on Insta, Snap-chat, Twitter, the constant texts, the constant connection, their overwhelming need to obsessively watch their phone for every notification and respond, to not miss a single photo or post. Compulsively binge-watching ‘reality’ TV in a bid to keep up with some fan-made billionaire, becoming emotionally attached to a media-made bachelor seeking the non-existent perfect match in a Disney-painted world full of perfect white teeth, toned abs and bronzed legs with the perfect thigh gaps. They are so self-absorbed, so selfish, so self-serving, so self-conscious, so self-defeating, so self-aware.
Teens today, right? Their preoccupation with mass-shootings in schools, being tied to a chaotic stream of skewed body images, the overstimulation from every direction; drugs, sex, the constant temptations, the constant interruptions, their overwhelming need to fit in, to find themselves, to grow up, to become whoever they will be.
The Wolves aren’t an exceptional soccer team. The Wolves don’t all get along, they don’t all like each other, they don’t all respect each other, they are all individuals and they are all on the verge of becoming who they are. They are in turn mature, silly, aggressive, scared, inquisitive, bossy, determined, lonely, needy, and they are all together in one place, with a shared mission. And they are here to show us they are human.
With overlapping dialogue and synchronized drills, we discover who is who as the teens discuss everything from homeschooling, to eating disorders, to peer pressure, to social issues and, of course, the Khmer Rouge. Brace yourselves, this play is full of unexpected conversations, revelations and, at the end of the day, it is full of honesty.
I don’t want to share too much, I want you to experience the play for yourselves; follow each character’s story and get to know all of them as they bond, fight, win and lose; it’s a game of soccer, it’s a game of life. And, like life, it has been billed as a tragicomedy, which is accurate.
A few notes regarding how I have approached and studied this show: At first, I was a little taken back by the style of writing and how the script is organized. It was a little confusing.
So, I began reading each conversation out loud, following the columns and then imagining the overlapping conversations going on at the same time. Sometimes the resulting cross-communication is hilarious and sometimes it is very intense. It is well-constructed, even if it seems chaotic, once taken apart it makes sense and hearing it read aloud is helpful. I coerced a few people to read sections with me and that really helped. The play comes alive when heard.
I wanted to know every character and it can get confusing when you don’t have a visual sense of which person is which, so I broke out each character’s lines individually, following their storyline, their reactions, their arc. I then identified who was friend or foe and examined the why behind their feelings. Each character is an individual and is crafted as such, not a caricature, an actual person with personality, feelings, experiences and a life. I felt for all of them; they each showed vulnerability, they showed love, they showed pain, they showed humanity.
I researched many reviews, I read interviews with the playwright, directors and some actors involved with the show. The words that I kept reading were ‘empowering’, ‘exhilarating’, ‘athletic’. Yes! A powerful play told through the voices of young women.
So, why do I like this play and why do I think it should be done on our stage and in our community?
I actually first read the play while flying to meet my niece who is a 20-year old college student on an athletic scholarship. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as the premise seemed a little dull, but the reviews I read said the show was amazing, and the setting is a place I know a little something about. See, I come from a family of soccer fans and players; my Dad played professional football (the correct name😉) in England, way before ‘sport’s stars’ were a thing. He suffered an injury pretty early on in his playing days and decided to go to university instead and study physics (good thing for me, since that is where he met my mum). And while not being a player myself, I have watched two nieces and a husband for countless hours on the soccer field; seeing the ups and downs, the injuries, the wins and losses and lots of tears (mostly from the girls, my husband claims he was just wincing in pain). And, soccer aside, I recognized The Wolves, I recognized each and every one of them, I saw who they were when they grew up, I saw where they came from, I knew them. I cared for them.
I reached the end of the play about 20 minutes before we landed. I was a little weepy but was playing it cool because I was on a plane and ugly crying is not something one appreciates in a seatmate. Also, with only 20 minutes left, I couldn’t sequester myself in the bathroom. So, I stifled, I looked at my notes, I put on my director hat, I analyzed, I imagined some staging ideas, I began making a list of soccer coaches I know and who I could rely on to help choreograph if I were ever able to make this show a reality. I was stoic, not a normal look for me, but one I am sure everyone appreciated. When we landed, I texted the niece and arranged where to meet, I retrieved my bag, I found the exit, I saw her car, I smiled big, she smiled big, she jumped out and hugged me. I burst into tears.
My niece is why this show is important, her friends, her frenemies, every single person alive today is why this show is important. We are all human, we are all flawed, we are all amazing and we all deserve to be heard and recognized. And while her generation may seem so very loud and proud, I think they are very misheard and misunderstood. When you take a good look into their lives and really hear what they have to say, you may be surprised.
Roles: 10 women – all ethnicities
#11: Female, 18+ – Midfield. Brainy, morbid, budding elitist, thoughtful; smart and she knows it, watches documentaries, columnist for high-school newspaper; both of her parents are psychiatrists; a bit of a know-it-all, she enjoys policing and correcting her teammates.
#25: Female, 18+ – Captain. Classic ex-coach’s daughter; she keeps the team on track, even if she’d rather join in on the fun, and loves a good pep talk; a hard worker, a good leader; emotionally closed off, she discovers her first crush on a woman and shaves her head.
#13: Female, 18+ – Midfield. Class clown, jock, a bit of a bro, her older brother’s a stoner, and they definitely play FIFA; into her wackiness; refuses to take anything too seriously, she lives to rib her teammates, which can get her in hot water.
#46: Female – Bench. The new girl, awkward, different; homeschooled, she lives in a yurt with her new age travel writer mom; her nomadic life has left her with idiosyncratic passions (bird watching) and a lack of social skills, but she doesn’t seem to mind; extraordinary soccer skills are essential; she must juggle a soccer ball for a minute, or perform a similarly impressive feat.
#2: Female – Defense. Innocent, unlucky, kind, skinny; sweet, naive, sheltered, she considers herself a nice and humble person; she is a member of her church’s youth group and of Amnesty International, along with the oldest sister and caretaker of her many younger siblings; has an eating disorder; has suffered multiple concussions; doesn’t like talking bad about others.
#7: Female – Striker. Too cool for school; sarcastic, “f*ck,” thick eyeliner; the child of a bad divorce, her lawyer father owns a ski house, and she’s dating a college boy–they’re very much in love; has problems with authority.
#14: Female – Midfield. #7’s insecure sidekick; just switched to contacts; she’s modeling herself on the cool girl, #7, but begins to rebel after a ski weekend gone wrong; her mother is Soccer Mom, very involved in her life.
#8: Female, 18+ – Defense. “Omigosh,” plays dumb, goofy, giggly, excitable, a crier, a dreamer; obsessed with “The Lord of the Rings” and making it to nationals in Miami; her mom died when she was ten, and she never talks about it; she lives in a self-inflicted state of innocence.
#00: Female, 18+ – Goalie. Intense performance anxiety, social anxiety, perfectionist, high achiever; she has a 4.9 GPA, is Editor in Chief of the high-school newspaper, plays cello; before every game, she stops talking and vomits; militant.
Soccer Mom: Female, 40-59 Manic with grief, warm, generous, she is a suburban woman who prides herself on her involvement in her teenager’s lives; never misses a game;.
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Rachel Kohler
In some ways, William Shakespeare’s ‘Titus Andronicus’ is the ‘Saw’ of its time. Rape, murders, pit traps, severed heads and hands, insanity, slit throats, cannibalism — the play is full of over-the-top gore, and within its verses, Shakespeare seems much more interested in ravishing the eye with blood than in ravishing the ear with beautiful poetry. This play is so ridiculous in places that a lot of scholars have tried really hard to argue that Shakespeare didn’t write it. T.S. Eliot himself once said that ‘Titus Andronicus’ was “one of the stupidest and most uninspired plays ever written.”
Obviously, I don’t agree with this sentiment. ‘Titus Andronicus’ was one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, and it’s a direct response to (and almost a pastiche of) the blockbuster play of the late 1580s, Thomas Kyd’s ‘The Spanish Tragedy; Or, Heironimo Is Mad Again’. This famous horror show featured more violence than even Titus, and it was enormously popular and financially successful. It pioneered a uniquely early modern English theatrical genre, the revenge tragedy.
Revenge tragedies are fantasies about justice against those who are by social, political, or financial means “above the law.” These stories always begin with someone being wronged in some horrific way by someone in power. Stymied in all attempts to achieve justice by normal means, the protagonist must use guile to enact their revenge, often covering their tracks by pretending to go mad. In the end, although the protagonist achieves their goal, they generally pay with their lives, and usually the lives of a whole host of innocent bystanders along the way. 2019 doesn’t have unjust Roman Emperors or Kings of England, but it has corrupt CEOs, oligarchs, and politicians aplenty. Watching a revenge tragedy gives an audience the fantasy of revenge against the corrupt elite, while simultaneously forcing viewers to confront the fact that the violence of that revenge is utterly abhorrent. This ambivalence begs the question — how do we bring justice without violence?
This is the question ‘Titus’ asks of the audience, but I came into this project with a question I wanted to ask of ‘Titus’. There are more wrongs than stars for Titus to revenge over the course of this play, but the greatest is probably the rape and maiming of his daughter, Lavinia. I love this play, but I hate how Lavinia is victimized, objectified, and sidelined after her assault, made to be a prop to her father’s grief, to the point that at the end of the play, Titus kills her himself, crying, “Die, die, Lavinia, and thy shame with thee, / And with thy shame thy father’s sorrow die.” Lavinia’s character arc becomes nothing more than a piece of her father’s shame. Certainly, the treatment of a ravished woman as an object defiled was a cultural standard during Shakespeare’s time, but the historical context makes the attitude no less vile. So I wondered: how would the context of Lavinia’s rape and eventual death change if Titus were not her father but instead was her mother?
This idea seemed very exciting. We need models in our imagination of women taking on the roles traditionally assigned to men. We can do this literally and figuratively in the theatre. Cross-gender casting tends to be pretty common in classical theatre, but it’s much rarer in titular tragic roles, and it needs to happen more. Not only does it give talented women a chance to shine in roles outside of the narrow types that typically make up a female-identifying actor’s options, but it can also allow the play itself to be recontextualized in radical new ways. How much more interesting to see a revenge tragedy starring a mother! Especially when that mother is also a decorated war general, one of the jobs most socially coded as “masculine.” I can think of lots of ways that having a woman playing Titus might change the context of this play, but the cast and the audience would find so many more. I think it will engender some fascinating conversations.
Once I actually sat down and started to work with the text, I realized that it wasn’t enough to just *cast* the role of Titus with a female-identifying actor. The character needed to identify as female within the text itself, so I started changing pronouns. Then I thought, well, if Titus is a woman, and this hypothetical production’s Rome is a place where women can be respected generals, why not add *more* women to this heavily masculine play? In the end, my adaptation gives Titus two more daughters in place of two of his sons. Lavinia’s husband Bassianus has become her wife. And Chiron, one of Lavinia’s rapists, has also become a woman, creating a world where women can be warriors, princes, or monsters, just as men may do. Of course, the play also comes pre-built with a strong, fascinating woman: Tamora, Queen of the Goths, one of Shakespeare’s early and excellent villianesses, a fiercer, more violent Lady Macbeth. She, too, seeks revenge, and in this way serves as Titus’ dark mirror. Both characters seek redress for wrongs perpetrated against their children by the other, and it’s hard to say which one ends the play as the worst of the two.
But back to Lavinia, because she’s why I started this. The play turns on her brutal sexual assault at the hands of Tamora’s children, Chiron and Demetrius. Lavinia’s tongue is literally cut out, but those who are raped in our current world frequently cannot speak even when they are theoretically capable of doing so, and Lavinia is a heart-rending embodiment of this. I’ve seen this play a few times, and productions find all kinds of ways to stage the assault, everything from horribly realistic violence to interpretive dance with red ribbons. Shakespeare never indicates that the rape is staged, however, and there is absolutely no need to stage it or to show it or to hear it. It’s Lavinia’s journey in the aftermath that is important. I want to turn her story away from focusing on the assault itself and instead upon her ultimately unsuccessful attempts to process the trauma of it. I’ve added a lot of stage directions to my adaptation to communicate this vision. Lavinia eventually has her very own #MeToo moment when she names her assaulters, and while many productions seem to represent this as Lavinia finally figuring out how to communicate with her family, I wonder if she instead had to take some time processing her trauma in order to bring herself to name them. I want to give Lavinia the agency to tell her own story and to decide her own fate. Her story ends in tragedy, but I want her death to be her *own* tragedy, not her father’s / mother’s. At the end, when Titus kills her, I’d like to stage it in a way that suggests that this was Lavinia’s choice.
Finding new ways to engage with Lavinia’s story and creating new and diverse roles for women does nothing to address the other glaring issue with ‘Titus Andronicus,’ and that is the paradox of Aaron the Moor. On the one hand, Aaron is the smartest and most likable character in the play. He spends a lot of time speaking directly to the audience, making snarky asides about other characters. He has some really fantastic pieces of verse to deliver, too. On the flipside, though, he’s an absolutely over-the-top villain, and many of the other characters have a lot of racist things to say about this. Again, while this makes sense in a historical context in that early modern England was super racist, it doesn’t change the fact that Shakespeare accordingly was super racist. Apologists may point out that his plays are somewhat *less* racist than those of his contemporaries, but less racist is still racist. It’s something that needs to be acknowledged, but I don’t think it necessarily needs to be performed. Accordingly, I have cut most of the slurs based on race and skin color present in the text. The racial tension is there without having to inflict the discomfort of the language itself on the audience and the actors. I don’t want to erase it, though. If this play were to see production, I’d want to explicitly talk about it in the program notes and in talkbacks after performances.
All of this brings me around to the importance of diverse casting in this play. Obviously, Aaron *must* be played by an actor of color. The term “Moor” in Shakespeare’s day was incredibly vague and was used to describe pretty much anyone with darker skin than a pasty Englishman, but generally Shakespeare’s Moorish characters are played by black actors in modern productions. I would, however, like other characters to be played by actors of color, if possible. I would prefer the implication be that Aaron’s villainy arises out of his deeds rather than the color of his skin.
I’ve done a lot of gender-bending with the adaptation already, but I’d be open in casting to placing more women in men’s roles, and I’d be thrilled to cast some non-binary actors and let them decide how they’d like their characters to represent themselves. It might be cool if Marcus, Titus’ brother, were in a wheelchair. I like diverse Shakespeare. Cisgender, able-bodied white men have been hogging most of the coolest roles for themselves for the past 400 years. Everyone else deserves a turn.
Finally, a note on the setting. As with my other proposal for ‘Wars of the Roses,’ I think ‘Titus Andronicus’ will make the most sense if presented with a heavy metal aesthetic. Heavy metal, specifically power metal (i.e., Iron Maiden, Manowar, Nightwish), has a sort of self-aware, campy presentation, one that takes itself very seriously with extreme gravitas while also reveling in how patently ridiculous it is to sing about skeletons, vikings, and the blood of one’s enemies while dressed in elaborate costumes. There is no way to get around the fact that baking one’s enemies into a pie is absurd, but by presenting the almost comical violence of this play as if it’s part of a Manowar music video, my goal is to sidestep the potential comedy by framing the material as something almost mythological. In addition, as fun as period Shakespeare is, it’s expensive to build the costumes accurately, and it looks silly when they’re built inaccurately. Setting Shakespeare in a different period all together invites all kinds of problems with the text contradicting the action. The fantastical, otherworldly setting of some kind of nebulous mythological past (or future?) works well with Shakespeare, because no one has to try pretending that a switchblade is a rapier or a dress shirt is a doublet. Besides, think of how much fun a costumer would have going wild with this! Also, I really like metal, and I think declaiming Shakespearean verse over sweet guitar licks would be totally awesome.
Here’s a link to my Mainstage Proposal Google Drive folder, which contains the adaptations of both scripts I am proposing, some remarkably terrible pencil sketches of set ideas, a bunch of costume/set/aesthetic pictures, and a playlist of some really sweet metal.
William Shakespeare’s Wars of the Roses
written by William Shakespeare, adapted to hell and back by Rachel Kohler
Directed by Rachel Kohler
Hardly anyone outside of a dedicated Shakespeare festival does William Shakespeare’s ‘Henry VI’ plays. Hell, hardly anyone does any Shakespeare history plays at all, with the exception of ‘Richard III’ and maybe ‘1 Henry IV’ because it’s got Falstaff in it, and everyone loves Falstaff. And I get it. These plays are hard to engage with unless your audience is pretty up on English history. This is especially true of the ‘Henry VI’ plays, because they’re a trilogy that follows the same story and characters across three very long plays. While Shakespeare did write them out of order, creating ‘1 Henry VI’ last as sort of a prequel, he knew his audience was familiar with the material, so jumping around was fine. Modern audiences, however, are generally not familiar with the niceties of the English royal succession in the 1400s, so doing *just one* ‘Henry VI’ play can be confusing and unsatisfying, and doing all three is impractical in a community theatre setting. I’ve always thought this was a huge loss. These three plays are fun, action-packed, and full of exciting setpieces and interesting characters. I’ve always wanted to direct at least one of them. But how could I possibly make them happen on a community theatre stage?
Ultimately, the solution was to conflate them, turning three very long plays into one moderately long play. Honestly, I didn’t know if it was possible. There are quite a few conflations of the ‘Henry VI’ plays floating around, but almost all of them turn three very long plays into two slightly less long plays, and that wasn’t going to work either. So I sat down with all three texts, tore them apart, and spent nine months piecing them back together into a single play that would tell the same general story without any subplots or extra details. After a few tries, I finally did it. All three ‘Henry VI’ plays together are 248 pages of dialogue with 107 different named characters. Uncut, these three plays together would probably run about seven hours, possibly more. My conflated adaptation, which I am calling ‘William Shakespeare’s Wars of the Roses’, is 96 pages long, contains 31 named characters, and runs around two and a half hours. Mission accomplished.
Admittedly, this conflation leaves out A LOT of material, and it’s even more historically inaccurate than Shakespeare’s originals (which is saying something).The timeline is a bit fuzzy (example: we come back from intermission to find that King Henry suddenly has a pre-teen son), but the story is awesome, and the amazing verse and fantastic main ensemble cast is more or less intact. Watching these people destroy themselves and each other while screaming over-the-top insults and engaging in excellent sword fights would be *so* much fun.
Leaving the fun aside, the ‘Wars of the Roses’ is also incredibly relevant. In a divided country in which our government seems a lot more interested in backstabbing, grandstanding, and personal enrichment than it does, you know, actually governing, there’s a lot to see in parallel in this saga. Alliances form and break. Members of both sides attempt to betray their way to the throne. People change sides to advance their own cause. The common people are left without a voice, used as pawns for those in power to advance their own ends. There are no good guys in this play, and there is no happy ending. Violence begets more violence. The cycle continues.
I also think that the ‘Wars of the Roses’ is incredibly marketable. ‘Game of Thrones,’ the biggest thing to ever happen to mainstream television, just ended. George R.R. Martin has freely admitted his indebtedness to this source material, and it’s pretty obvious (York vs. Lancaster, Stark vs. Lannister? Hmmmmm). Audiences *love* ‘Game of Thrones’. They’ll be jonesing for it by 2020-21. Let’s show them where it came from. Cersei’s got nothing on Queen Margaret. Joan of Arc was the original Arya. Richard of Gloucester schemes more than Littlefinger and gets his hands dirty while he does it. Bloodthirsty Prince Edward dies in his mother’s arms even more dramatically than bloodthirsty Prince Jeoffrey. While there aren’t any White Walkers in the ‘Wars of the Roses,’ the Duchess of Gloucester DOES summon a demon, which is close enough.
Also, just as ‘Game of Thrones’ offered a huge ensemble cast to know and love, so too does this play. I could cast really any number of people. There isn’t a “lead” role. It’s a true ensemble cast, with sixteen substantial roles and a whole slew of fun smaller roles for some combination of doubled actors. With some really exciting quick changes, we might be able to double this down to 15 actors, but realistically, it would be more manageable with a cast of 20-22, and if there’s a ton of interest, we could probably have as many as 30 actors involved.
Within this large cast, I’d like to have as much actor diversity as possible. While this material is ostensibly based on history, between Shakespeare’s imagination and my adaptation, the characters are so far removed from their originals that this is about as historically accurate as ‘Hamilton’. So I want women playing men, actors of color, actors of any age playing any age, disabled actors, non-binary actors. As I pointed out in my ‘Titus Andronicus’ vision statement, cisgender, able-bodied white men have been playing the best roles in classical theatre for thousands of years. Everyone should have a chance at playing the most interesting roles that Shakespeare has to offer. While I’m pretty much open to anyone playing any character, I’d particularly like to cast a disabled actor as Richard. One of my pet peeves is seeing able-bodied men spend two hours contorting their bodies onstage into some imagined disability when there are all kinds of actors out there living that experience. I’ve spoken to Michael Brugger, who has already agreed to choreograph stage combat for either of my two proposals, and he says he’d relish the challenge of doing stage combat with an actor in a wheelchair, depending on upper-body mobility. When I directed ‘Shakespeare In Love’ last year, we had an wheelchair-bound actor with very limited mobility, so we just cast another actor to be his man-at-arms who did his fighting for him. With some creativity, it’s possible to work within an actor’s physical constraints.
Finally, a note on the setting. As with my other proposal for ‘Titus Andronicus,’ I think ‘Wars of the Roses’ will make the most sense if presented with a heavy metal aesthetic. Heavy metal, specifically power metal (i.e., Iron Maiden, Manowar, Nightwish), has a sort of self-aware, campy presentation, one that takes itself very seriously with extreme gravitas while also reveling in how patently ridiculous it is to sing about skeletons, vikings, and the blood of one’s enemies while dressed in elaborate costumes. There is no way to get around the fact that summoning demons or making out with a severed head in an ostensible history play is absurd, but by presenting the almost comical violence of this play as if it’s part of a Manowar music video, my goal is to sidestep the potential comedy by framing the material as something almost mythological. In addition, as fun as period Shakespeare is, it’s expensive to build the costumes accurately, and it looks silly when they’re built inaccurately. Setting Shakespeare in a different period all together invites all kinds of problems with the text contradicting the action. The fantastical, otherworldly setting of some kind of nebulous mythological past (or future?) works well with Shakespeare, because no one has to try pretending that a switchblade is a rapier or a dress shirt is a doublet. Besides, think of how much fun a costumer would have going wild with this! Also, I really like metal, and I think declaiming Shakespearean verse over sweet guitar lyrics would be totally awesome. In fact, for this play, I would like to explore the possibility of using live musicians to augment the experience, almost turning this history play into a spoken rock opera of sorts. A guitarist, a bassist, and a drummer in costume, participating in and underscoring the action of the play would lend yet another creative twist to the production that I think would really engage an audience. It might also be a further selling point! A Shakespeare history on a community theatre stage is notable enough, but one with *live metal music* is sure to pique even more curiosity.
Here’s a link to my Mainstage Proposal Google Drive folder, which contains the adaptations of both scripts I am proposing, some remarkably terrible pencil sketches of set ideas, a bunch of costume/set/aesthetic pictures, and a playlist of some really sweet metal.
That’s it! Use this form to submit your feedback! The season will be announced in late October 2019. Thanks!