Monday, August 24, 2009
Sometimes it feels a bit crazy. Romeo and Juliet has at least 28 characters listed in its original Dramatis Personae. We do it with six.
I mean, hey, I've done this before. Last year Curious Frog did Much Ado About Nothing with 8 actors. You cut a lot of characters, you cut a lot of scenes, and when all is said and done you stare at the script for a really long time, mapping entrances and exits and costume changes, and try to figure out who can come bouncing back on as a different character and be able to maintain those same characters throughout the whole play. You think you've got it, then you encounter a scene where you've got an actor on stage with both her characters at the same time--back to the drawing board.
But we had 8 actors, then took it down to 6, and this year we also did something different: The adapter became part of the cast.
Hard work folks. Really hard work. What's funny is, it's actually not the character changes themselves that are the hardest part. Once you've done all the scansion, the text analysis, the backstory on your multiple characters, you can actually walk off stage in a happy state as one character, change costumes, and walk back on right away in an angst-ridden state as another character, and really truly be there. That's what rehearsals give you.
What they don't give you is the madness between. You have 10 seconds, maybe less, to rip off a blouse and pants and flats, throw on a skirt and boots and do a hair style change, grab your props for that scene, and run on, being in the right moment for that character.
Our Romeo and Juliet is contemporary: My Mercutio is a goth girl, my Lady Capulet is a cold, pre-occupied CEO who is a single parent to Juliet. Our friendly, cynical Benvolio runs off stage to rip off his t-shirt and throw on a regal polo and blazer to become the celebutante, romantic Paris. Our Tybalt races off in anger to tear off her bracer and throw on a floral blouse and scarf and come back on as Juliet's BFF Nurse. Our Friar ambles off to tear off his linen shirt, clogs and sunhat and drop off his basket o' herbs to throw on a royal emblemed jacket and dress shoes and comb his hair to become the Prince Escalus, governor of the city. And our Romeo and Juliet run off stage to grab props, prepare for the next scene, and watch as their cohorts schizophrenically change before their eyes.
Madness. In so many ways. And we love it. And our audiences have too.
And listen, having women play the quick-tempered, skilled fighers Mercutio and Tybalt (as woman) is phenomenal in itself. But asking six actors to pull off an iconic play is truly a feat.
We enjoy it. Hope you do too.