The Two Gentlemen of Verona
The Two Gentlemen of Verona
Stage Managed by:
- Amy Shepard
- Kate Ayers
- Korja Giles
- Maddox Pratt
- Morgan Picton
- Ryan Hendrickson
- Sean Canning
- Scott Douglas
Welcome to Milan – a place where it is mostly likely that Shakespeare had never been. Like Master Shakespeare, we too have invented this land and this time period using research and conjecture as opposed to empirical data. Likewise, it is in no way accurate but still inspires the mind to create the reality necessary to host the story of the play. We have invented costumes out of bedsheets and Grocery Outlet shower curtains, a set made of electrical conduit, and props from our neighborhood “free-piles”.
Shakespeare probably had more of a budget than we did (one would hope), yet it is likely that he was only guessing at what Italy was really like. At times his guesses are hilariously wrong, beginning with the fact that Milan and Verona are landlocked cities unreachable by sea-faring ship. These errors – characters whose names change mid-play, confusion about which city the scenes are set and the distance between the cities, a few seeming warps of time, and a duke referred to again and again as an emperor – actually gave me a sense of relief when first approaching this script. We hold these texts so sacred and yet, let’s face it, Shakespeare was wrong! He made mistakes like the rest of us and knowing that the show is full of obvious gaffes made it easier for me as a woman to face the chauvinism in the text; It is as wrong as sailing a ship on dry land.
They say 90% of directing is casting, and boy, is that ever true. Even if I had sat in the park picking my nose all summer, this cast, with their excellent chemistry, willingness to play with each other and strength of character both on and off stage, would still be mesmerizing to watch – but that is certainly not what we did. I kept the cast small, knowing that impossibly fast costume changes are comedy in themselves and that having three people in eleven roles would highlight the “play-ness” of the show. I sought out actors who I knew were not only talented but also wise enough to engage with the huge, glaring problems the text poses to a modern audience. There is misogyny embedded throughout the play that leads our “heroes” to behave as villains in a scene of terrifying near-violence at the end, which is then forgiven and forgotten so quickly that we, like Silvia, are left bewildered at what just happened.
To face this challenge, the cast and I spent a lot of time discussing how various interpretations of lines resonated with our own experiences and which ones made no sense (i.e. does “All that I have in Silvia, I give to thee” mean that Valentine gives his love, equal to that he has for Silvia, to Proteus, or is he literally offering Silvia to him?). Both “gentlemen” talk about women as property and thus neither can be a true hero in modern terms, yet in rehearsal we found that both men can find and begin to overcome their folly, both can have moments of sincerity,and both can grow and learn. We also found a vital strength and wit in the ladies that could easily be missed as both women have so few lines in the end scene, but is beautifully communicated in the faces of these two strong actresses.
Thank you for joining us for this ridiculous story. I hope you find our tongue-in-cheek take on this silly world hilarious and colorful, something we all need a dose of in this wild world. If you wish to find out more about our approach to this play, check out the blog section of our website and for goodness sake, sign up for our mailing list! Animal Fire Theatre is turning five this year and coming into our own in ways you don’t want to miss. Stay tuned, Olympia. Stay tuned.
a.k.a Peter Quince”
** The Griswold Building performance on Sunday the 3rd has been cancelled. **