Thursday, July 23, 2009

Recess: The Setting

I don't much care for cute kids performing in cute miniature Elizabethan costumes. I'm allergic to cute costumes. In fact, I'm beyond allergic; I'm a snob about it and I don't have time to make the damn things. I'm busy enough getting a script together, collecting and making props, and rehearsing and feeding children. Because they, like all actors, will work for food.

Directors of Shakespeare's works are often noted for their ingenious settings of his plays. Some schools of thought — and I don't disagree — believe that placing the story in a modern context can help an audience hear the play anew.

Our productions have a standard format. The actors, each dressed in jeans and a Shakespeare Club T-shirt, sit onstage in a horseshoe formation. The T-shirt color is changed each year to reflect the mood of the play: black for "Hamlet," red for "Romeo and Juliet" and so on.

Props are set under each actor's chair. Because the kids are up there for the duration of the play, I sit out front and take notes. I don't have to do the old run-around-in-the-wings-pushing-children-on-for-entrances thing.

The actors help each other and solve problems on their own. Like real actors in a real theatre.

And, as happens with professional actors, bonds are made between these kids when they stand together in that odd war zone and invite an audience to laugh and cry.

In fact, they make their own case for the non-cute approach.

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