Antony & Cleopatra (2015) - Notes from the Director

CAN YOU FEEL IT, SEE IT, HEAR IT TODAY?


EPIC – adjective ep·ic 'e-pik
• extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope
• telling a story about a hero or about exciting events or adventures

With its first known performance in 1608, Antony and Cleopatra is one of
Shakespeare’s last tragedies and his first movie. Ok, it may have predated
the first motion picture by a few centuries, but the cinematic scope
of the play is undeniable and epic: more scenes than any of his other
works (40-ish scenes, depending on how you define the breaks); jumping
back and forth to/from the Mediterranean locations of Rome, Egypt,
Greece, and sea battles in between; along with starring one of history’s
most famous pair of powerful lovers.

IMAGINATION – noun imag·i·na·tion i-'ma-j -'nā-sh n
• the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present
• the ability to form a picture in your mind of something that you have not
seen or experienced

The production history of A&C has been challenged by the shifting
theatrical norms of the day. When big sets and some sort “realism”
or “naturalism” dominated the production choices of an era, theatre
companies have battled to stage the breadth and reach Shakespeare gives
us. If we build a set for Rome, another set for Cleopatra’s court in Egypt, a
set for Pompey’s boat, another set for Ceasar’s camp outside of Cleopatra’s
court, then we’re going to have great difficulty switching back and forth
as the story demands. The outdoor and indoor Elizabethan and Jacobean
theatres for which Shakespeare wrote were far more open and easy to
navigate. Shakespeare’s company didn’t need a special lighting cue and
set change to switch locations. When he wanted the action to shift locale,
all he had to do was start a scene with the line “Welcome to Rome,” and
then the audience knew to make the jump without an electronic revolve
revealing a new set. Shakespeare used language to create the settings for
his audience to imagine. Modern set designers either struggle to create
multiple locations in a play or they build something that doesn’t match
Shakespeare’s words.

Here at the Blackfriars Playhouse, the theatre itself is the set. We
sometimes embellish the stage with tables or thrones or cushions or
curtains or whatever’s called for in the text. But we believe wholeheartedly
that Shakespeare’s writing creates Theatre of the Imagination, which
allows us to go globetrotting at the blink of an eye. A&C is filled with
infinite variety. We hope you will build the sets with your imagination, that
you will allow our inhabiting of Shakespeare’s language to empower your
senses, touch your heart, and tickle your funny bone.

So welcome to Rome. And Egypt. And Pompey’s Boat. They will look
like whatever we imagine; and together we’ll take this epic journey
where Shakespeare leads us.

JIM WARREN
Artistic Director and Co-founder

NEWS FEED

2017 SUMMER/FALL SEASON
PETER AND THE STARCATCHER • MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING [ more ]