Why do we do Shakespeare as Outdoor Theatre?
Something we’ve discovered over our last couple of summers is how Shakespeare’s words really
work best without the trappings of modern theatre: the technical elements of lights and sound and
a paired down approach to costumes. Its become clear to us how the writing really was designed to
take the place of those elements and put the power of those elements into the hands of the performers
to manipulate! What an empowering gift from a writer of such quality.
Even in a recent production of another local Shakespeare script in a more conventional setting,
the director remarked how smoothly the show came together when the focus was clearly on the script text
and mining the nuggets of truth contained therein. The actors knew where and how to move, just by
following the clear impulses contained in the words. The flow of the show had a clear rhythm by
virtue of the slip-stream we dropped the boat of the story into, from the very first moment.
When you take the leap and trust in the text, not worrying about the modern techniques of
lighting,sound, and other special effects that we're so used to, there can be surprising results that
just make sense!
"Farewell, my husband and children!" Bill Daugherty as Trinculo Glenda Warkentin (Artistic Associate) as Stephano
"Yet again! what do you here? Shall we give o'er and drown? Have you a mind to sink?" Kevin Cambridge as Antonio Jenny Daigle as Ariel Sienna Holden as Gonzalo
"You mar our labour: keep to your cabins: you do assist the storm." Randall Wiebe as Sebastian Jenny Daigle as Ariel Kevin Cambridge as Antonio background - Sienna Holden as Gonzalo Kelsey Krogman (Artistic Associate) as Prospero
"Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of barren ground, long heath, brown furze, any thing. The wills above be done!" Sienna Holden as Gonzalo Randal Wiebe as Sebastian Kevin Cambridge as Antonio
"Me, poor woman, my library Was dukedom large enough." Emily Boyle as Miranda Kelsey Krogman (Artistic Associate) as Prospero
"Thou art inclined to sleep; 'tis a good dullness, And give it way: I know thou canst not choose. Come away, servant, come. I am ready now." Kelsey Krogman (Artistic Associate) as Prospero Emily Boyle as Miranda Jenny Daigle as Ariel
"Hast thou, spirit, Perform'd to point the tempest that I bade thee?" Jenny Daigle as Ariel Kelsey Krogman (Artistic Associate) as Prospero
"Pardon, master; I will be correspondent to command And do my spiriting gently." Jenny Daigle as Ariel
"This island's mine, by Sycorax my mother, Which thou takest from me." Conrad Belau as Caliban
"Put thy sword up, traitor; Who makest a show but darest not strike; come from thy ward." John McIver as Ferdinand Kelsey Krogman (Artistic Associate) as Prospero
"For I can here disarm thee with this stick And make thy weapon drop." Kelsey Krogman (Artistic Associate) as Prospero Jenny Daigle as Ariel Emily Boyle as Miranda
"We two, my lord, Will guard your person while you take your rest, And watch your safety." Randall Wiebe as Sebastian Barrett Hileman as King Alonso Jenny Daigle as Ariel Sienna Holden as Gonzalo
Why does Shakespeare encourage us to connect with the audience?
This can be a difficult concept for the modern performer and audience member to feel comfortable with, and we have spent a bit of time discussing it with casts of Suspension of Disbelief shows to help them feel better about the idea. In Shakespeare’s day, it was the norm, by virtue of the fact the audience shared the same space and light as the performers. The concept of dimming the lights and putting up the invisible “4th wall” between performer and audience wasn’t feasible with their technology.
The other side of that coin, however, is to what degree audiences want to be able to actively participate in a performance. I’m certainly of the camp of audience members who feels very comfortable in the darkened auditorium and has no interest (and even a little fear, if I'm honest) of being drawn up onto the stage or made a fool of by not following the convention of the performance. Striking the balance between the respectful inclusion of the audience the script demands and audience comfort that they are used to is important to me.
In that respect, I encourage my performers to speak directly to audience members when the text allows, to make them a complicit part of their story, but to do it in a way that respects personal space and prevents them from getting so self-conscious they end up disconnecting from the story.
What’s powerful about this element of the text is that complicity and camaraderie that can be built between performer and audience in moments where it is used. Sometimes Shakespeare’s characters are divulging their plans and bringing the audience in on their intrigue, sometimes they look to the audience for support, and sometimes they share a joke or some other little moment because the other characters in the scene just wouldn't appreciate what's going on in their heads. It's a really (post)modern idea that Shakespeare had to not ignore the audience, but aknowlege their presence and talk directly to you, trusting you'll catch a little better glimpse into the character you're enjoying on the stage.
~Brad G. Graham - Artistic Director