I've always loved Shakespeare.
My first experience with the Bard was in high school. My theatre arts class (remind me to tell you about that sometime, it was amazing!) went to The Rep a couple times a year, and holy shit, did we all look forward to that. For us, The Muny was very nice (especially for me, the muscial freak), but The Rep was the real deal. Serious Theatre. The spring of my junior year, the Theatre Arts class went to see The Rep's Richard III.
And Oh My God. It thrilled me fucking shitless. It was rowdy and violent and nasty and powerful and sly and clever and really funny... I immediately saw the connecton between Richard and J.R. Ewing. This was Shakespeare? In junior high, we had read Romeo and Juliet out loud in class and it seemed to me the dullest, most anicent, most irrelevant thing I could imagine. But this Richard III was different. It shattered all my preconceptions. I learned that Shakespeare rocks.
So, freshman year at Harvard, I took a full year of Shakespeare with one of the Greats among Shakespeare scholars, Marjorie Garber. She taught me how to love Shakespeare's comedy, his vulgarity, his libido, his wordplay, and the complex psychology that he accessed in every play, even the lesser ones. No one had done that before, explored the psychology of characters. Before Will, there was no such thing as subtext. He really changed everything.
I fell in love with him right then and there. From that day to this, I try to see Shakespeare, either live or on video, whenever I can. And lucky for me, The Rep continues to kick ass on Will's behalf -- I've rarely seen Shakespeare as good as The Rep's. My most recent discoveries on DVD have been the amazing Hamlet with Kevin Kline and Patrick Stewart's Macbeth. I also recently discovered a very cool DVD series called Playing Shakespeare. And my favorite of all, a very cool four-part documentary called In Search of Shakespeare, about the details of the Bard's life and career.
I had always wanted to work on a Shakespeare play, but that's not an oppotunity that comes along every day. Then somehow that I can't exactly remember, Return to the Forbidden Planet came into my awareness in 2008. I had read about it before, and it really seemed like a dumb show. But I got the cast album anyway (it was a live recording, which made it even more fun), and fell in love with it. A crazy-quilt of Shakespearean dialogue, mixed and matched and patched together with some fake Shakespeare -- "fakespeare," we called it -- combined with classic rock and roll songs. Oh yeah, and set aboard a spaceship. Does it sound insane to you? Good. It should. But it's also one of the most fun shows we've done. Not only did it sell great, but we had a ton of repeat customers. It was just that fun. And oddly, at the end, also very emotional.
And that opened the door for Two Gents. I had been aware of it since it shared a composer with Hair, but I thought the Shakespeare would be beyond us. Wrong.
As it happens, we're kicking some comic Elizabethan ass! We've finished blocking Act I and had some serious fun running through it last week. Now on to Act II. We have lots of time left to explore, but this excellent, fearless cast is in really good shape. Everybody's on the same road. There's going to be a lot to put together, with band, costumes, tech, puppets (yes, that's right, I said puppets), microphones, all that stuff. But once all the pieces fall into place, we're going to have such a blast with it, and I think our audiences will too...
Just watch, Dowdy's gonna steal the damn show again...
Long Live the Musical!