Monday, July 7, 2014

“…Go not till I set you up a glass”: An Intern’s Reflection

What a whirlwind of a month! After our final SIT performance of Hamlet last night and thinking all the way back to orientation and seeing The Comedy of Errors during our first night together, it is truly overwhelming to think of all that has occurred in between. I met one of the most unique, humble, and cohesive casts I have ever worked with, worked alongside truly wonderful and passionate artists, and felt a new level of personal growth and satisfaction that I do not believe I would have achieved if I had chosen to spend my summer working at any other theatre.
Our first day began with our check-in process, a way we would begin and end each camp day that helped to establish a judgment-free, safe and open environment that was less about the rest of the cast hearing about each other’s feelings and more of giving each student a chance to self-discover and sort through what they were bringing in and leaving with each day. I struggled with this process for a few reasons. To begin with, in this day and age, with how bombarded I judge most of us are with all manner of stimuli and responsibilities, I know that I find it difficult to find time to be with just me, in a quiet space, and reflect on how I’m doing that day and how what has happened to me that day has affected me. I also struggled with wanting to be the perfect role model for the students and what that meant to me, which turned out to be that I felt I had to simply claim to be happy all of the time and then I was done. And I wasn’t being dishonest; I am usually quite an optimistic, hopeful, and content person. However, I also needed to recognize that I’m human, struggle and go through hard times too, but more importantly, I had to realize that it was okay for these kids to see that too. It would give them permission to also open up and admit that they weren’t always a bright and bubbly, box-stepping and jazz-handing theatre student. By the end of the month, and definitely for our final check-in (during which I was able to remain relatively dry-eyed until it was the directors’ turns), I was a lot more comfortable with admitting to how I felt, honestly, and expecting nothing more than a listening ear in return.
I almost just began to recall ‘the most challenging part of the past month was…,’ but truthfully, ‘challenge’ tends to have more of a negative connotation, I judge, than what I’d like to convey about a particular part of the camp. I was invited at the beginning of the month to consider what sort of class I might like to teach the students. I had a whole plethora of ideas and had no idea how to narrow it down to one concentrated class. So I didn’t. I observed that we were spending a lot of (extremely valuable) time working text, whether it was from the show or not, and thinking about choices, relationships, motives, tactics, etc. I decided it would also be beneficial for the students to expand on those concepts by working on how best to convey them on the stage, by way of projecting one’s voice, hitting the consonants that would help communicate emotion, letting the sound of the vowels resonate throughout one’s body, breathing correctly, releasing tension in one’s body, and furthermore, exploring different ways one’s body can move. I consulted one of my acting professors from DeSales University to brush up on my Linklater technique and she guided me through some breathing, neutralizing, and vocal exercises. I also consulted my notes from a movement class taken a few years ago that focused on a fun and explorative animal exercise. Finally, after having taken three years of classes in Zumba at college and absolutely adoring it, I put together a few of my favorite routines for a short dance/exercise session. I had an absolute blast sharing this particular passion with the students and was so excited when a few of them would request songs or even ordered their own Zumba workout kits. I also did my best to reinforce the Linklater technique with a fun lyric-inspired exercise we did a few times per week. I mostly just wanted to get the students up and moving and experiencing the text they were working with as much as they were thinking about and analyzing it. Based on the moving and committed performances given by all, the feedback from my directors, and the hint of self-satisfaction I had, I would like to think the class was a success.
Working with the other directors was also an absolute blast. I had taken a directing class at school and while I enjoyed it thoroughly, I realized it wasn’t something I wanted to pursue at great lengths. However, working alongside my set of directors this summer and sitting in the metaphorical passenger seat of the directing process, I was able to step back and see how I could apply the ‘directing by asking questions’ technique to my own acting experiences. This technique, I judged, gave the students permission to make bold choices, explore on their own, and sometimes come up with something original that perhaps wasn’t in the director’s initial blocking or notes. Based on these observations, I predict that I will better be able to challenge myself during my own performance work and not be afraid to “just try it!”
My time spent with the SIT students and directors this June was certainly an experience that has had one of the most memorable impacts on me so far. I respected and learned from every single person I had the pleasure to work with and it is so hard to accept that few of us may see each other again in the near future. Yet one thing that will connect us all, no matter where life takes us, is this single lesson that I hope we will all continue to carry close to our hearts: “This above all: to thine own self be true.”

-Emily Wisniewski

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Remembering the Magic: An Intern’s View of Shakespeare Superheroes Camp

My name is Katy Hiott, and I am a rising senior Theatre major at North Greenville University in South Carolina. I grew up participating in many theatre camps and was able to experience the magic of theatre as a young child. As I began a more in-depth study of theatre, I knew I wanted to give back and offer children a chance to fall in love with theatre, just as many people had invested in my love of theatre as a young girl. This created a desire in me to teach theatre and the magic it brings. The Atlanta Shakespeare Company Education Department has given me a chance to do just that!

This summer, I am an intern for the Shakespeare Superheroes camps for kids ages seven to fifteen. I just finished my first camp of the summer. I loved it! Before camp began, I was a bit nervous about teaching. I knew my responsibilities included assisting with directing and choreographing a performance at the end of camp, as well as helping lead games and other activities. However, I didn’t know how the kids would respond to me or if they would be able to grasp the poetic language found in Shakespeare’s play. My doubts quickly disappeared—these kids absolutely blew me away. Although they enjoyed playing games and getting to know one another, I was surprised by how smart and dedicated they were to performing. On breaks, they often practiced lines or music for the performance. Several students even had their monologues memorized the day after they received their scripts. Their focused dedication and commitment to the show was evident. Most of all, I was impressed by the imagination of these children. Not bound to the pressing conformity of the world, Shakespeare’s works came alive in fresh and creative ways through their interpretation of the script. Was their interpretation completely accurate in meaning? No, but the kids put their heart and souls into the performance and their hard work clearly showed. The two weeks weren’t without struggles and hardships, but everyone pushed through and created an entertaining (and hilarious, I might add) piece of theatre.

My favorite moment from camp took place on the day before the performance. During a rehearsal, the kids began to gasp after every line during one of the scenes after being prompted to be as over the top as they could possibly be. They acted as if a big secret was being revealed as each line was spoken. As the students became more engrossed in the scene, the more captivating they became to watch. Eventually, their characters became bolder and bolder. The students, even the ones who were very shy, came bursting out of their shells. As I watched the students laughing at how silly they were being and how much fun they were having bringing Shakespeare to life, my mind was reawakened to how magical theatre can be. I can’t help but think that it’s one of the most beautiful memories I’ll have of the summer.

One of the most excellent benefits about theatre is experiencing the freedom and the excitement that accompanies exploring worlds different from your own. Watching these students giggle, make new friends, learn the basics of theatre, experience struggles and successes in learning and understanding two of Shakespeare’s works, and come together to create a show for their families and friends was truly a revitalizing experience. These kids reminded me that a playful and open attitude can transform the way I view and participate in theatre. They reawakened my imagination and reminded me of the magical world of theatre I grew to love as a young girl. I am truly grateful for these kids and the opportunity the Shakespeare Tavern has given me to invest through teaching. I look forward to round two of camp in July!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Behind The Scene: Music for Emilia



With Othello opening on Friday, we thought we'd give you an inside look into the production. We asked our own Kati Grace Brown, who is playing Emilia in this production, to share with us a bit of her process in preparing to step on stage. Here's what she had to say:

Using music to mentally prepare for a performance is not a new idea- I actually stole it specifically from Kelly Criss Felten when I had the pleasure of sharing a dressing room with her in The Tempest in 2009 when she performed the role of Miranda for a week. Kelly is an actress whose work I have admired since before becoming an apprentice in 2007, so when I saw her listening to a playlist on her iPod that she had specifically created for that role (I believe “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid was on there… J) I really wanted to try it out for myself. It has turned out to be an incredibly useful tool for me, particularly when I am cast as characters that I judge to be very different from myself. Naturally I am very silly and not inclined towards stillness or calm of any kind. Backstage of Twelfth Night, for instance, I could frequently be seen laughing maniacally at the monitor (at jokes I’ve heard a hundred times by this point), throwing my shoes at people or climbing into the bottom shelf of the props cabinet (a feat that I am particularly proud of.. just don’t tell Cindy). Something about the rehearsal process of Othello, however, leads me to believe that I am going to have to stay a little more somber during the run of this show- especially since there are four apprentices in the cast who deserve a better “good example” than being pelted with a Grecian sandal. So I’ve chosen songs not always based on their lyrics (though sometimes I am struck by how perfectly a lyric from the 2000s can resonate with my character from the 1600s) but by the mood of the piece and the emotional response that I have when I hear them. The cover of “Somebody That I Used to Know” actually came on while I was at yoga class last week, and I could not get it out of my head when thinking about the frustration and the depth of sadness that Emilia feels as her marriage disintegrates around her for reasons that she doesn’t know much less understand. “Better in Time” by Leona Lewis captures the core belief that Emilia holds every time she interacts with Iago that, “maybe this time it will be different.” Spolier: it really never is, at least if we’re defining “different” as “better.” Our director, Laura Cole, has worked with me a lot in previous roles (Sylvia in Two Gents and Miranda in Tempest) of cultivating “beautiful stillness” in my approach to movement onstage, so a few songs are geared towards eliciting that feeling: “Cathedrals” by Jump Little Children and “Mad World” from the Donnie Darko soundtrack. There’s no rhyme or reason to the order of the songs- I just put the list on shuffle when I start getting ready, skipping anything that might not speak to me at that particular moment. Additionally, I also spent some time putting together a post-show dance party mix for the ladies’ dressing room that I’m looking forward to unveiling after the Preview Thursday! Because, let’s be real, if any ladies in Shakespeare deserve some silly dances moves and a drink or two, it’s Desdemona, Bianca and Emilia.


And here's her playlist:

Crimes by Damien Rice

Poison & Wine by The Civil Wars

Maybe I Like it This Way by Lisa Ostrow

Mad World by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules

Keep Breathing by Ingrid Michaelson

Jar of Hearts by Christina Perri

Hide & Seek by Imogen Heap

The Girl in the Other Room by Diana Krall

Flightless Bird, American Mouth by Iron & Wine

Better in Time by Leona Lewis

Addicted by Kelly Clarkson

Freewheel by Duke Special

Bruised by Ben Folds Five

Closer by Joshua Radin

Cathedrals by Jump Little Children

#1 Crush by Garbage

Somebody That I Used to Know by Madilyn Bailey & Jake Coco



From Kati Grace and everyone at the ASC: Thank you! And we hope to see you at the tavern!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Directing Othello: A Few Thoughts from Laura Cole

The beginning of the fall season here at the Tavern is always an exhilarating time, but particularly for the staff in our Education Department which, of course, is my home base. With school being back in session and educators looking to us to bring Shakespeare to their classroom, things around here are about to get delightfully chaotic (hey, we’re artists: we thrive on organized chaos!). Each fall is another chance to be better educators, better mentors and better guides for our students, and we are ready to embrace the challenge. It really is a job like no other: once you see a young person discover the power of Shakespeare’s language for the first time, believe me, it’s hard not to be hooked.

However, this fall I also have the distinct pleasure (and challenge) of directing Othello for the first time as a part of our Evolution Series. For those of you who don’t know, the Evolution Series is a multi-year project in which the ASC will produce all of Shakespeare’s comedies, tragedies and histories in roughly the order in which they were written. This kind of project is an educational journey for the company and the audience—just one more way that we at the Tavern are actively finding new ways to inspire and engage our patrons. Also, it hasn’t been done before, at least to my knowledge. And that’s just cool.

On a personal note, it also happens to be my favorite. Don’t tell the other plays, okay?

Othello, of course, fits into the tragedy segment of the Evolution Series (if you are hoping for some light laughs, this ain’t it.) Along with King Lear, Macbeth (both coming later this season) and Hamlet, Othello is considered one of Shakespeare’s four great tragedies. Othello, however, is unique in the scope of its plot. Unlike the other three, many critics consider Othello a “tragedy of character.” This is not a play about affairs of state or the line to the throne. This is a domestic story, a personal tale about the inner workings of a man and a marriage. The story itself is highly structured: there are few sub plots, if any. Each incident in this play is directly linked to the ever-increasing fears of Othello and the evil machinations of Iago. All roads lead to Rome. (Or in this case, Venice.) Shakespeare does not allow us to veer off course: Othello’s trajectory is set and all we can do is hold on tight as our hero descends into deeper and deeper dismay. I’ve tried to capture that dynamic (the hurdling-like-a-freight-train-to-its-ultimate-conclusion kind of dynamic) in my staging of the play.

And, of course, there is Iago. More so than Lear’s daughters, or Claudius or Lady Macbeth, Iago is a villain of unparalleled evil. He is positively diabolical and, for the audience, deliciously so. His closeness to Othello, and his dubious reasons for deceiving the man he calls “friend,” makes the tragedy all the more compelling. Perhaps the best word to describe this play is: intimate. And witnessing it as an audience member is both unnerving and exhilarating. I believe it may be the most painful of all the tragedies, for the green eyed monster is never far from any of us, is he?

The ASC is very fortunate to welcome back Victor Love to tackle this hefty role. You may recognize him as Caesar from last season’s production of Julius Caesar. If you didn’t catch that, then perhaps you recognize him from one of the hundred of credits on his resume (see below for a taste of what he’s accomplished.) He is an amazing actor, and will surely make my job as a director look EASY!

Mr. Love has accumulated an impressive body of work throughout his long career, with roles in television, film and theatre. Some of his past credits in film/TV include: Bigger Thomas in Native Son, Hank in The Hank Gathers Story, Miami Vice, Different World, Batman Returns, LA Law, Will and Grace, Gang Related, HBO’S Spawn and The West Wing. He has even been the voice of a few really cool cartoon characters. He was in the cast of A Few Good Men on Broadway and his regional credits include: Camino Real at The Shakespeare Theatre, DC, Richard II at the New York Shakespeare Festival, Black at The Williamstown Theatre Festival, Playboy of the West Indies at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre, Public Ghosts: Private Stories at the George Street Playhouse and Cymbeline at the Arena Stage, Washington, DC.

You won’t be able to tear your eyes away from this play and the captivating actor in the title role. It’s a big, heartbreaking, epic web of a story that you can’t help but enjoy watching unravel.


See you at the theatre!

Laura Cole, Director of Education and Training

Monday, July 22, 2013

Meet the Interns!

We asked Jennifer and Caitlin, our two college interns for the Shakespeare Intensive for Teens program, to introduce themselves and talk a little bit about their experiences this summer. Here's what they had to say...


Jennifer Latimore:


My name is Jennifer Latimore and I am a rising senior at the University of Georgia, pursuing a dual degree in Theatre and Mass Media Arts. Acting has always been a passion of mine and during my college career, I have learned a plethora of techniques. More importantly I have learned countless things about myself, one of which being my comfort zone. As I push these limits in thought and action, I realize that every opportunity is a chance for growth. My most recent role as Lady Macbeth in University Theatre's production of Macbeth let me explore the multiple facets of what it means to be human. This was a chance to go outside my comfort zone and question everything about the human morale and what that meant to Lady Macbeth. As much as I love acting, I love being able to share my knowledge and love with others. The Education Internship at the Atlanta Shakespeare Company lets me do just that.

Before beginning my stay at the Tavern, I knew that a challenge had been set forth; a complete submersion in the administrative and teaching aspects of a theatre company. It was a challenge I was nervous about, but also one that I knew would expose me to fresh ideas and creative opportunities. I did not know what to expect from the administrative portion of the internship, seeing as I had never been exposed to arts administration for an extended period of time. In order to have a job in the theatre though, I knew that knowing how a theatre is run was an invaluable understanding to have. In addition to arts administration, fostering a passion for Shakespeare in young students was an opportunity I could not pass up. I reminisced on the countless theatre camps I attended during my summers in high school and how much those impacted my life. This internship was the perfect opportunity to witness the power of theatre camp and also play a role in the exploration and discoveries the students would make during their month at the Tavern.

As I finished my administrative duties, I realized that I thoroughly enjoyed my responsibilities. I got the chance to put my organization skills to good use and learned just how important time management and punctuality are in the work place. I also got first hand experience with grant writing, from the research, writing and proofreading all the way to sending off the finished product. It is imperative that we continue to fight for the arts; that was the main understanding I took away. While there are many artists and educators who understand the power of art, the battle to keep the arts a relevant and necessary subject still continues. I will continue the fight to keep arts alive and with my new administrative knowledge, I now know the most effective ways of doing so. Moreover, my current work in the education portion of the internship has shown me a completely new way of thinking. It's one thing to just tell an actor what to do on stage, but it's another to guide them to figure out their own new directions and think for themselves. This technique is used in the summer camp classroom and each time I observe the directors using it, I am baffled by its effectiveness and strive to do the same as I interact with the students. In short, these students are being taught to think and deduce. Not only does this make them better actors, but better people as well; people who can think for themselves and depend on their own instincts to make decisions. As I finish out the last leg of this internship, I will continue to help students push their own boundaries and stretch their creative abilities. This opportunity has been nothing short of what I expected; a chance to grow in passion, in exploration and in knowledge.


Caitlin Cain:


Last spring, I participated in Furman University’s production of “The Winter’s Tale” and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. My professors gave many lectures about properly interpreting Shakespeare’s text by delving into the folio, deciphering the difference between prose and verse, and most importantly, understanding how tiny linguistic changes such as grammar and spelling could completely alter the meaning of a phrase. It was always fascinating to read Shakespeare’s work in a classroom setting, but this newfound love of his text and style inspired me to apply as an intern for the “Shakespeare Superheroes” and “Shakespeare Intensive for Teens” programs at the Atlanta Shakespeare Company.

After receiving the offer to work with high school students, the anticipation was that I would mainly observe the kids and work as the communication bridge between the students and instructors. I did not have any formal expectations because I had never worked with the age group before, and had no concept of the Atlanta Shakespeare Company’s teaching methods. Prior to my internship I received acting training from numerous directors, but had never been introduced to “Original Practice” in the theatre. After the first week of observing my teaching artists Andy Houchins and Jennifer Acker, I realized that every single play I performed in thus far incorporated Stanislavski’s method of the “Fourth Wall” (including my two collegiate leads, Theresa in Circle Mirror Transformation and Delia in Beautiful Child). The Tavern’s idea that the actors could use the audience as scene partners was an astounding and foreign concept to me. Through an example exercise led by Andy and Jennifer, I realized that a scene is more engaging for me as an audience member when the two actors directly address my presence in their scene.

Another huge discovery made during the process was the manner in which the directors asked questions to instruct the student actors, and just how powerful this teaching method can be to creative students. In my experience, directors would tell me what to do and explain why they made decisions, but never before had I seen students making their own discoveries based on pointed, inspiring questions. I was so grateful to have this experience working with the Atlanta Shakespeare Company this summer and observing some of the most passionate and talented teaching artists I’ve ever met. During my internship, I was exposed to so many different theatrical methods and exercises that I will definitely utilize in my own future education endeavors!


Above: Cast members of the 2013 June SIT production of 'Love's Labors Lost.'



Thursday, March 14, 2013

What the heck are the Ides of March?

Hayley Platt, a member of our 2013 Apprentice Company and our resident Classical Civilization scholar, explains the definition and legend behind the Ides of March.

What were the Ides?

The Ides were simply part of a numbering system for the Roman calendar: the Nones referred to the 5th or 7th, the Kalends the 1st, and the Ides the 13th or 15th depending on the month. The Ides of each month was sacred to Jupiter, the father god or supreme deity of the Romans. In modern times, the Ides of March has become best known as the date on which Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BCE. Caesar was stabbed to death at a meeting of the senate, in an assassination involving as many as 60 conspirators led by senators Brutus and Cassius.




Ancient Roman writers Plutarch and Suetonius [pictured above] both cataloged the life of Julius Caesar, and both inspired Shakespeare’s play. The assassination of Caesar at a meeting of the Senate after a soothsayer's warning to "beware the Ides of March" has been famously dramatized by Master Shakespeare. And indeed, according to Plutarch a certain ‘seer’ did warn Caesar to be on his guard against a great peril on the 15th of March. When the Ides had come and Caesar was on his way to the senate-house, he greeted the seer with a jest and said: “Well, the Ides of March are come,” and the seer said to him softly: “Aye, they are come, but they are not gone.”

The Roman biographer Suetonius identifies the seer as a haruspex named Spurinna. A haruspex was like an augurer (augurers could determine the will of the gods based on the flight of birds) except that a haruspex was focused on ‘reading’ the liver of a sheep rather than birds.

Suetonius describes the scene this way: “In his way, some person having thrust into [Caesar’s] hand a paper, warning him against the plot, he mixed it with some other documents which he held in his left hand, intending to read it at leisure. Victim after victim was slain, without any favorable appearances in the entrails; but still, disregarding all omens, he entered the senate-house, laughing at Spurinna as a false prophet, because the ides of March were come without any mischief having befallen him. To which the soothsayer replied, ‘They are come, indeed, but not past.’” (Jul. 81)



Plutarch's Parallel Lives catalogues the order in which senators dealt Caesar’s wounds during the assassination. For example, in Plutarch the senator Tillius Cimber (also known as Metellus Cimber) takes hold of Caesar's toga with both hands and pulls it away from his neck, which is the signal to attack. Plutarch also describes Casca as striking the first blow: "First, Casca struck him on the neck with his sword, a blow neither fatal nor deep, for naturally he was nervous at the start of so terrific a deed of daring, so that Caesar turned about, grasped the knife, and held it fast.” (Plutarch, Parallel Lives, translated from the Greek by Louise Loomis, 1951)

Shakespeare takes his prompt from Plutarch in having Casca issue the first blow: Casca’s line “Speak hands for me!” (III.1.84) indicates that he is the first to stab Caesar. Interestingly, Shakespeare changes the part about Metellus Cimber. Rather than pulling Caesar’s toga away from his neck, in Shakespeare’s play Cimber simply distracts Caesar with a petition, allowing Casca to strike.

Like Shakespeare, for our production we’ll be using Plutarch as a reference for our assassination scene but may not wholly adhere to his description. Check out the show next month to see our very own depiction of the most famous Ides of March!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Making of the Shakespeare Evolution Series


As we embark on the Tragedies segment of our Shakespeare Evolution Series with Titus , people have been asking how we settled on the chronological order for all of Shakespeare's plays...not to mention how we decided what counts as a ‘tragedy’ or ‘comedy’ or ‘romance.’ Well, here’s the truth: since Shakespeare never left a personal record of exactly when he wrote each play, that lack has left everyone guessing about the order for the last four hundred years. Probably dozens of proposed composition orders exist in the Shakespeare scholarship universe, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Part of the fun involves arguing over which play goes where.

But a producing theatrical company eventually has to settle on an order, and we knew that we needed to just pick one list and stick with it ‘till the end. Ultimately I suggested that we rely on the composition order presented in The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works (2nd Edition), because I studied under one of that book’s editors in grad school and could email him personally to make sure that the order still makes scholarly sense. When I received the go-ahead back from him, we had our list. Not everyone in the world agrees with this chronological order--in fact, not even all of our company members agree with it. I’ve overheard some great debates. Again, every chronology is debatable, and debates are part of the fun.

But that’s not all we had to choose: we aren't just performing Shakespeare’s plays in the order he composed them, but rather performing his Comedies in order of composition, followed by the Tragedies, followed by the late Tragicomic Romances (and at some time in the future, we would love to round things out with the Histories!) This plan demands that we assign genres to each play, and that’s where things get even fuzzier. Part of Shakespeare’s brilliance as a writer lay in his ability to mix comedy and tragedy almost effortlessly. His comedies all contain elements of tragedy, his tragedies all have funny moments, and the history plays have lots of both. As with order of composition, when it came to genres we just had to make a decision and stick to it.

Shakespeare doesn’t seem to have held much personal interest in publishing his plays during his lifetime. Luckily, his friends and fellow company members collected many of his plays after his death and published them together in a book. Scholars refer to that book, first published in 1623, as the First Folio. And while the First Folio as a document is far from error-free, we think it still can tell us a great deal about the way that Shakespeare’s contemporaries viewed his plays, and our company accordingly treats the First Folio with a great deal of respect when we approach his work. In keeping with that respect, for the Comedies and Tragedies portions of our series we’ve relied mostly on the way that the First Folio classifies each play. For instance, modern scholars have trouble agreeing on a genre for Troilus and Cressida, but the First Folio titles it a ‘Tragedie,’ so we’re going to honor that classification (although interestingly enough, Troilus and Cressida was completely left out of the Folio’s table of contents--I told you the Folio wasn’t error-free!) And while Richard III seems much like a tragedy, the Folio lists it as a history play, so we haven’t included it in our Tragedies portion of the series.

But you’ll notice I said we were almost relying on the Folio’s classifications. If we relied totally on the Folio, there would be no Romances portion of the Evolution Series, because the Folio only divides Shakespeare’s plays into Comedies, Tragedies and Histories. Thus, the Folio lists The Tempest and The Winter’s Tale as a comedies and Cymbeline as a tragedy. But we feel that a series always works better as a trilogy (just ask Peter Jackson.) And since the point of the Evolution Series is to show Shakespeare’s evolution as a writer, we thought it’d be neat to show how he perfected the comedic genre, and also perfected the tragic genre, and in his later plays perfected mixing the two genres into Tragicomic Romances. The term ‘Romance’ has been applied in more recent years by scholars--though the genre ‘tragicomical’ must also have existed in Shakepseare’s time, since Polonius mentions it in Hamlet--to describe Shakespeare’s later work, which often mixes the death of major characters with themes of resurrection and reconciliation and, of course, clowns. So we’re straying a bit when it comes to honoring the First Folio, mixing that publication’s genre classifications with a little modern scholarship. Instead of counting The Tempest as part of our Comedies portion, we’ll be performing it again in the final Tragicomic Romances leg along with The Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline, Pericles and The Two Noble Kinsmen. And that list highlights another important reason to mix in modern scholarship: the First Folio doesn’t even include all 39 plays currently attributed to Shakespeare (including two of the plays I just mentioned,) and we want to do them all!

So the Evolution Series turns out to be a bit like Shakespeare’s work itself: plenty of different influences thrown together in order to, we hope, create some great entertainment. Catch Romeo and Juliet in February for our next Tragedies installment, and in the meantime...we welcome your questions and comments.

~Kristin H.