Imagine it's 1591 or so, you are William Shakespeare, and you've decided it's time you wrote a decent love story - a tragedy. Your last tragedy, Titus Andronicus, was set in Rome. It was well received by the bloodsport enthusiasts
among the London theatergoers and your popularity as a playwright is growing with each new play. Giving thought to the best setting for a love story, you have an artistic epiphany and decide on Verona.
Now, about 420 years later, the Grassroots Shakespeare Company is bringing you his brilliant and lamentable tragedy: Romeo and Juliet. The images displayed on this page are from that "fair Verona". A popular spot known as Juliet's balcony, (above left) a distant view of a Roman amphitheater dating from 40 A.D., (above right) and a quaint chapel rooftop (left) give us a sense of the romantic scenery in which these "star crossed lovers take their life."
Over the past few weeks we've been having a royal time creating our own little Verona. Of course our tight budget compels us to build our Verona out of the characters, rather than elaborate set pieces or costumes, and we wouldn't have it any other way. Our Verona emerges out of the characters we've been exploring, and their relationships to one another.
For example, Verona became real to me during one particularly memorable rehearsal in which we enjoyed an hour of character interviews. One by one, the members of our cast took the stage and we proceeded to ask them questions. "Juliet, how old are you?", "Romeo, How do you feel about the Capulets?", "Lord Capulet, why do you hate the Montague's?", "Tybalt, have you ever been in love?" etc. To these questions each actor playfully and enthusiastically responded, and block by block our Verona began to take shape.
Our Verona is a world with a 45-year-old friar turning the cogs, mischievous teens, a sweet (albeit masculine) Nurse, and animosity between Capulets and Montagues. WE still have lot's to explore, but no matter what we do, Verona just won't be Verona without YOU. You, our audience, are the final piece to the puzzle.
So come play with us! Bring a date, bring your friends, and get into it. Pick your family, be it Capulet or Montague, and cheer them on in the infamous Veronan street brawls. If an actor asks you a question, go ahead and answer it. Remember the "fourth wall" wasn't invented until centuries after Shakespeare, so feel free to respond, react, cheer, boo, hiss if you must. We love it all.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
It's been a great couple of weeks for the Grassroots Shakespeare Company. Our efforts to bring you an outstanding summer tour are yielding more and more fruit every day we rehearse. However, this year has also presented it's share of challenges. Shortly after our casting meeting we lost two of our most experienced performers, leaving our touring troupe with just two players from the original Grassroots cast...
Cue Shakespeare Miracle number one: In minutes we contact two talented players who are thrilled at the opportunity. They agree to do the show, we make an adjustment to our casting and by our 3rd meeting we have our full cast. Rehearsals begin, and we start exploring our characters and blocking as we try to wrap our minds around the unique rehearsal process of the GSC.
May I emphasize how unique that rehearsal process really is. Imagine, for example, that 14 artists from different stylistic periods come together to paint a popular mythical scene. Some of the artists are from the Renaissance, some from the Baroque period, a couple impressionists, a futurist, and a Dadaist for good measure. Now suppose, that there is no one in a position to oversee the whole project. Instead the artists are to collaborate together to make a unified and gripping final product. Things could get messy unless each artist learns to trust in the ability of the others involved as well as in his own. That trust can be hard to find. It was for us. Last year the cast was already well acquainted, having performed together before. This year many of us hardly knew each other, so trust had to be developed during the rehearsal process.
Shakespeare Miracle number two: "I don't know. It's a mystery." Somehow things begin to work out. As we get to know one another our trust grows and the resulting collaboration is ingenious and intuitive. The show begins to take shape and every rehearsal seems to add a new and exciting level. We have a good, albeit chilly, rehearsal the Friday before we open. When things seem to be rolling along we get hit with some bad news. Eric, the resident athlete among us, has gone off and twisted his knee all to pieces at an intramural game!
Shakespeare Miracle number three: Eric shows up the next morning in good health. His knee is only sprained, much to our relief. With his distinct squinty-eyed smile he said, "It's a Shakespeare Miracle!"
If you believe in Shakespeare Miracles, why not help support us this summer! Invite everyone you know to come to our shows, and consider making a contribution. No amount is too small, no amount is too great. Give us a couple bucks, or be our wealthy patron. We love what we do, and it's only possible thanks to you.
-Share the Grassroots, share the love!
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