I Have A Question

A question this morning from the peanut gallery:

If you were to direct a Shakespeare play, which, where, and why?  Which play would you direct?  Where would you set it?  And why would you set it there?

My initial response to this, knowing my audience, was “I have a bunch of people who have directed a bunch of plays, so we’ll hear about what choices they made in the past.”

Hence, we’re cutting that off at the pass.  This question must be answered in the conditional / future tense.  Which play would you direct, where would you set it, and why would you set it there?

(That word has now lost all meaning to me.  Would would would.  I hate when that happens.  Looks like mould now.)

8 thoughts on “I Have A Question

  1. i am not a director, nor do i work in the theater in any way — just an aficionado.
    and i haven't thought it through in great detail; this just occurred to me when i saw the question.

    one of my favorite plays is The Tempest.
    i'm also a big fan of science fiction, in general.
    so maybe Prospero's island isn't just an island, but an isolated planet out in uncharted space.
    the "shipwrecked" visitors are a lost science expedition.
    and Ariel and Caliban are aliens.
    or something like that.

    hmmm… might have to make it a movie so i could have some awesome sci-fi special effects.
    and now i sort of want to see this actually happen. ; )

    oh wait… why?
    i've seen a lot of different settings and interpretations of shakespeare; not sure i've seen a really futuristic version.
    but why not? it's timeless, right?

  2. @amy: An interesting idea. Forbidden Planet, of course, is based loosely on the Tempest, with Robbie the Robot as Ariel and Caliban as the Monster from the Id. Like I said, loosely. A jukebox musical called "Return to the Forbidden Planet" takes that setting a remixes in a more a Shakespearean plot, I believe. I haven't seen the show, but it was considered sufficiently on-topic for the American Shakespeare Center to perform it multiple times.

    In response to the question, I AM directing a Shakespearean play right now, in an unusual setting, no less (dystopian Measure for Measure, to emphasize and elaborate on the play's portrayal of a diseased body politic). But I've also always wanted to do a wacky Interbellum Love's Labour's Lost, with the costuming and sets evoking a Jeeves and Wooster story.

    Ooh, or Steampunk Pericles, just for the sheer fun of airship piracy.

  3. @alexi ha! thanks! it occurred to me after i wrote my comment that something similar might've been done before; now making a note to check out Forbidden Planet. : )

    i love your idea of a steampunk Pericles, and your M4M and LLL sound pretty cool too. one of my favorite things about Shakespeare, especially as a theater-goer, is getting to experience a wide variety of different productions. i don't know exactly what it is — perhaps something about the fundamental/archetypal place the plays have in our culture — that seems to give people free reign to experiment. (plus, the characters and language stand up so beautifully!)

  4. All right–good ideas. But I'd really like to know more about why you would set these plays there. What does it do to Love's Labour's Lost in the manner of Jeeves and Wooster? [That's a brilliant idea, but I still want to know why it could or should be set there.]

    What does it do to The Tempest to have it set in the future in outer space–especially if it follows the play more nearly than Forbidden Planet did?

    For my part, I would love to stage Henry V in a Vietnam War setting–and I'd love to have alternating performances that switch the nationalities. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, the English would be equated with the American forces and the French would connect to the North Vietnamese. On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, the English would be the North Vietnamese and the French would stand for the Americans. The actors would have Sunday off.

    This production would be deeply unsettling to both American and Vietnamese audiences–particularly if they came to two different performances. It would call the political rallying of the play into question. It would make us reconsider the play's ambiguous portrayal of Henry V. I think putting it in a setting that is itself deeply troubling and deeply ambiguous would make us all think very carefully and deeply about the nature of Shakespeare's politics and the play's politics.

    And . . . next!


  5. David Blixt is having trouble commenting for some reason, so he asked me to pass along a message:

    "Still won't let me. So tell Alexi, Steampunk Pericles is mine, and I'm currently rehearsing (as an actor) for a Love's Labour's set in 1919."

  6. Why? What does it do to have Love's Labour's Lost in 1919? I know you're having trouble posting, but tell @ShakespeareGeek—he's like the post office.


  7. kj: the impetus for the Wodehousian LLL is to emphasize the ludicrousness of the lord characters. Audience's sometimes don't think aristocratic romantic leads can be laughed at, but Shakespeare is definitely inviting us to deride the naivety and immaturity of the King, Berowne, Longaville, and Dumaine. Like Berty Whooster, the men of LLL are not nearly as smart as they think they are, and have a lot of growing up to do, but their antics and hijinks still manage to amuse us, if occasionally at their own expense.

    David: Wait, really? That LLL sounds cool, but I want to hear more about Steampunk Pericles. Do you mean you have plans to put on that show? Or is it just something on your wishlist (as it is on mine). Pass on an answer through Duane if you need to.

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