23 February 2009
And finally, our own Conor McGuigan is a pretty dang neat-o drawer, too...
20 October 2008
"Things get out of hand." This sums up pretty nicely for me what I'm imagining as a central action of our play. Much of the action of the basic story reminds me of children at play (and I refer to every character here, except possibly the prince) who get a little out of control with their fussing and fighting. Before you know it, someone's heart's broken, someone's eye's poked out, and everyone's pointing fingers in order to avoid more hurt. This meshes well with clown theory as I understand it, because clowns are very much like babies, or alien visitors, experiencing everything for the first time. They still have to learn concepts like "hot," much less "love." As it stands, our version will have only Romeo and Juliet as clowns, and the rest of the world populated by masked commedia dell'arte characters. This stands to drive the action right along, as commedia characters are largely appetite-driven and selfish. It's exciting to think of our first -- in five+ years of making dell'arte-inspired theatre, mind you -- masked show in general. I hope we can help our audiences see the masks as they were intended; more caricature than disguise, more revealing than deceitful.
Regardless of style choices, it will I hope retain the sense of contemporary fun that has been in every Zuppa show through the years. In our workshops, as we explored the seeming despair over Rosaline that Romeo exhibits on his introduction, we thought of having him accidentally pulling out moves borrowed from Hamlet, dressed in black, contemplating a skull wearing a red nose. I'd love to have movie posters up for other Shakespeare plays, borrowing from Silent Lives the notion of characters who learn their behavior from popular culture. The humor should come from the moment and character, not necessarily the indications of a joke in the script. Heather and I are already discussing the possible humor of feigned (or frustrated) exits, a running joke about people trying to leave stage and continually being called back. The balcony scene is a great one for this and comes to mind immediately, but also on the way to the party Romeo keeps trying to leave. The topper is the "morning after" scene, probably. Great place for a fart joke there, too, I can't help but notice. (Hopefully someone will shoot me down on this; "that may be a great idea for
next year's show...") "It is the lark that sings so out of tune..."
17 October 2008
- Romeo and Juliet belongs to a tradition of tragic romances stretching back to Ancient Greece. Its plot is based on an Italian tale, translated into verse as The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke in 1562, and retold in prose in Palace of Pleasure by William Painter in 1582.
- The earliest known version of the Romeo and Juliet tale is the story of Mariotto and Gianozza by Masuccio Salernitano, in the 33rd novel of his Il Novellino published in 1476. Salernitano sets the story in Siena [!!!] and insists its events took place in his own lifetime.
- A few of the earlier versions of the story insist that it actually took place, and that the play is based on personal observance.
- Shakespeare did not invent the characters of the nurse and Benvolio; Matteo Bandello did, in 1554.
- Christopher Marlowe's Hero and Leander and Dido, Queen of Carthage, both similar stories written in Shakespeare's day, are thought to be less of a direct influence, although they may have created an atmosphere in which tragic love stories could thrive.
- Poet John Dryden wrote ... in praise of the play and its comic character Mercutio: "Shakespear show'd the best of his skill in his Mercutio, and he said himself, that he was forc'd to kill him in the third Act, to prevent being killed by him."
- There are many moral interpretations of the play. Are their deaths the result of accident, tragic flaw, or in punishment of the feuding families?
- The play ascribes different poetic forms to different characters, sometimes changing the form as the character develops. Romeo, for example, grows more adept at the sonnet form over the course of the play. ... Shakespeare uses a variety of poetic forms throughout the play. ... For example, when Romeo talks about Rosaline earlier in the play, he attempts to use the Petrarchan sonnet form. Petrarchan sonnets were often used by men to exaggerate the beauty of women who were impossible for them to attain, as in Romeo's situation with Rosaline. This sonnet form is used by Lady Capulet to describe Count Paris to Juliet as a handsome man. When Romeo and Juliet meet, the poetic form changes from the Petrarchan (which was becoming archaic in Shakespeare's day) to a then more contemporary sonnet form, using "pilgrims" and "saints" as metaphors. Finally, when the two meet on the balcony, Romeo attempts to use the sonnet form to pledge his love, but Juliet breaks it by saying "Dost thou love me?" By doing this, she searches for true expression, rather than a poetic exaggeration of their love. Juliet uses monosyllabic words with Romeo, but uses formal language with Paris. Other forms in the play include an epithalamium by Juliet, a rhapsody in Mercutio's Queen Mab speech, and an elegy by Paris. Shakespeare saves his prose style most often for the common people in the play, though at times he uses it for other characters, such as Mercutio. Humour, also, is important: scholar Molly Mahood identifies at least 175 puns and wordplays in the text. Many of these jokes are sexual in nature, especially those involving Mercutio and the Nurse.
- On their first meeting, Romeo and Juliet use a form of communication recommended by many etiquette authors in Shakespeare's day: metaphor. By using metaphors of saints and sins, Romeo was able to test Juliet's feelings for him in a non-threatening way. This method was recommended by Baldassare Castiglione (whose works had been translated into English by this time). He pointed out that if a man used a metaphor as an invitation, the woman could pretend she did not understand him, and he could retreat without losing honour.
- Friar Lawrence's plan for Juliet's salvation bears a resemblance to the story of Jesus Christ's martyrdom and resurrection.
- Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet spans a period of four-to-six days, in contrast to Brooke's poem's spanning nine months.
- All in all, no fewer than 103 references to time are found in the play, adding to the illusion of its passage.
- Thomas Otway's The History and Fall of Caius Marius, one of the more extreme of the Restoration adaptations of Shakespeare, debuted in 1680. The scene is shifted from Renaissance Verona to ancient Rome; Romeo is Marius, Juliet is Lavinia, the feud is between patricians and plebeians; Juliet/Lavinia wakes from her potion before Romeo/Marius dies. Otway's version was a hit, and was acted for the next seventy years. His innovation in the closing scene was even more enduring, and was used in adaptations throughout the next 200 years...
- The earliest known production in North America was an amateur one: on 23 March 1730, a physician named Joachimus Bertrand placed an advertisement in the Gazette newspaper in New York, promoting a production in which he would play the apothecary. The first professional performances of the play in North America were those of the Hallam Company.
- Not until 1845 did Shakespeare's original [unadapted play] return to the stage in the United States with the sisters Susan and Charlotte Cushman as Juliet and Romeo, respectively ... . Cushman adhered to Shakespeare's version, beginning a string of eighty-four performances. Her portrayal of Romeo was considered genius by many. The Times wrote: "For a long time Romeo has been a convention. Miss Cushman's Romeo is a creative, a living, breathing, animated, ardent human being." Queen Victoria wrote in her journal that "no-one would ever have imagined she was a woman". Cushman's success broke the Garrick tradition [of adaptation] and paved the way for later performances to return to the original storyline.
- Throughout the nineteenth century, Romeo and Juliet had been Shakespeare's most popular play, measured by the number of professional performances. In the twentieth century it would become the second most popular, behind Hamlet.
- Peter Brook's 1947 version was the beginning of a different style of Romeo and Juliet performances. Brook was less concerned with realism, and more concerned with translating the play into a form that could communicate with the modern world. He argued, "A production is only correct at the moment of its correctness, and only good at the moment of its success." Brook excluded the final reconciliation of the families from his performance text.
- At least 24 operas have been based on Romeo and Juliet.
- The play influenced several jazz works, including Peggy Lee's Fever. Duke Ellington's Such Sweet Thunder contains a piece entitled "The Star-Crossed Lovers" in which the pair are represented by blended alto saxophones: critics noted that Juliet's sax dominates the piece, rather than offering an image of equality.
- Romeo and Juliet had a profound influence on subsequent literature. Previously, romance had not even been viewed as a worthy topic for tragedy. In Harold Bloom's words, Shakespeare "invented the formula that the sexual becomes the erotic when crossed by the shadow of death."
- In 2006, Disney's High School Musical made use of Romeo and Juliet's plot, placing the two young lovers in rival high school cliques instead of feuding families.
30 July 2008
- There will be a significant use of the original text; at present, people seem jazzed about Romeo and Juliet being the ones who are largely involved in that approach.
- There will be some Italian-language incorporation.
- The story will be tinkered with, expectations will be subverted, but the sequence of action will remain by-and-large the same and recognizable.
- The work will be informed by improvisation exploration as well as scene study. It is possible-to-likely that some sequences of the final product may be semi-improvised.
- We will have legitimate combat sequences.
That's about as much as we know, now. Just wanted to get it up on the 'blog so people can respond with their questions (don't know if we'll have answers), comments (we like "awesome," just as a for-example) and complaints (seriously: this is the venue in which to be heard). There will be periods of relative inactivity on this here 'blog, but feel free to check in any time and throw down any thoughts you may have. That's what it's here for.
08 April 2008
04 April 2008
Also, would we want non-Zuppa people to contribute to the blog? Or no?
Useless information: I have a copy of the play that has a picture of Juliet in a black shroud on the cover. Every time Peter sees it, he signs "gorilla." Perhaps we should have Juliet as an 800-pound-gorilla? No? Well, there's a joke in there somewhere...
02 April 2008
31 March 2008
30 March 2008
First some ideas that got tossed around after Jeff left on Sunday. We played with balcony scene and the longer we worked on it the more I feel that Romeo & Juliet seem to fit so naturally into clown.
We talked also about the idea of Romeo and Juliet being the only clowns in the piece and rest of the characters being commedia characters. I liked the idea of Romeo and Juliet finding each other and recognizing their need to be together because they've finally met someone that sees the world in a similar way.
Not sure if Mercutio is more a clown or commedia character. We spoke of possibility of him being a clown but older and world-weary. Idea came up of him wearing a grey nose instead of red. (As I write this, a clown with lost innocence seems to be contradictory and that Mercutio is probably more commedia.)
We talked of the idea of using parts of the texts in certain scenes, some specific lines here and there. Another idea that seemed pretty cool is the idea that the scenes with Romeo in Juliet be done with the text. So, their meeting, the balcony scene and the deaths be full text. I got really excited after this discussion because we had been reading the balcony scene a lot and I was thrilled about the thought of getting to say those words and work on some Shakespeare. (So, I may be a bit too giddy about that and need to let it go at this point.)
We played a bit more with just commedia characters and lazzi. David and Rich as Pantalone and Arlecchino were a hoot. Conor worked a bit on Tybalt and the duel scene with Mercutio. Rich was playing around with Mercutio as a Arlecchino charater and Conor was working with Tybalt as a Capitano. They did the duel as verbal sparing and then Conor kept pulling out more and more weapons. Rich countered each weapon with a food item (hungry Arlecchino). I stepped in as Romeo and tried to keep the peace (or at least refuse to fight Tybalt). With two such strong Zanni, I felt it more my job to build bridges between them. Assisting at whatever given "side" I felt I was on. Not sure if this is truly Romeo's inclination or my natural default to a two clown. It was fun to play.
We continually commented on how refreshing it was to have a ready scenario/story/reference to go back to when dry or lost.
These two weeks have just wetted my whistle to do more with everyone! This last week we only had Conor for one day and David for a couple. Realized it is just hard to do much with just two playing. Though improvising the balcony scene with Rich was great!
Ah, yes. We were really paying attention to the atmosphere in the balcony scene. Darkness, can't really see each other. We played it with an idea to discover comic bits. You know, tripping over shrubbery, benches, talking to someone who is actually behind you. Fun.
That's all I can remember tonight. Will add to this as sparks hit.
Laura is his Juliet. The pilgrim one reminds Andrea of Romeo's banishment from Verona.
Sonnet I - Voi, ch'ascoltate in rime sparse it suono. (He confesses the vanity of his passion)
Sonnet VI - Si traviato e 'l folle mio desio. (Of his foolish passion for Laura).
Sonnet IX - Quando 'lpianeta che distingue l'ore. (With a present of fruit in Spring.)
Sonnet XII - Quando fra l'altre donne ad ora ad ora. (The beauty of Laura leads him to the contemplation of the supreme good.)
Sonnet XIII - Io mi rivolgo indietro a ciascun passo. (On quitting Laura)
Sonnet XIV - Movesi 'l vecchierel canto e bianco (He compares himself to a pilgrim)
Sonnet XV - Piovonmi amare lagrime dal viso. (His state when Laura is present, and when she departs).
Romeo - Innamorato
Juliet - Innamorata
Nurse - Franchescina (please note my spelling is off)
Friar - Dottore, Covello, possible everyman
Montague - Dottore
Capulet - Pantalone, Cavello
Benvolio - Flavio (innamorato type)
Mercutio - Arlecchino
Tybalt - Capitano
Paris - Inamorato type, more formal
Lady Montague - Rosaura
Lady Capulet - Laura
Prince - Magnifico (sort of Pantalone without the vices)
What/who are these characters you may ask. Well, here are more specific descriptions of the commedia characters per Andrea's notes (with photos.) (To be added when I can figure out the best way to import that document....ummm, help..
Okay. So in June 2007, David Z., Heather, Todd and I were sitting around discussing potential shows to collaborate with Italian artists on. For some reason, Shakespeare kept coming up in general discussions prior to that, with Italians and amongst ourselves. Romeo & Juliet in particular, actually. I wrote a little bit about why here.
I've been trying to remember who brought up a clown version, but I have no idea. No doubt it was related to the clown work Heather and I had been doing so much of late in some way. It tickled us, though. I remember David saying we should take a promo picture a la La Dolce Vita in Fontana di Trevi. We also got very excited about returning to that format, and tackling Shakespeare.
So essentially, the reasons we thought it was a perfect show to begin with had to do with the idea of finding something on which we collaborate with Italian theatre artists whilst in Italy. Someone told us Shakespeare productions were a very mixed bag there (as we saw in the contrast between productions of Othello [so bad] and Much Ado About Nothing [so good] there), and got to thinking about how language was going to be a constant issue in the collaboration. What better story than one set in Italy, to which we could add the original English language to at points, and one that pretty much everyone knows to one degree or another.
Because we kept trying to figure out how to bring Silent Lives to Italy, too, the appeal of clown work and how it can be very effective when silent (thus transcending all language issues) was great as well. Since then, as we've incorporated the idea into TNT's season and continued our informal explorations of the show, I think the main thing that has kept us going on the idea is how effectively it has gathered Zuppa del Giorno alumni. That's another thing we've been craving since Silent Lives: a reunion show. We kept trying to make space for it in other productions, but Romeo & Juliet seems to lend itself to that better than any before.
Finally, there's a lot about the show that resonates with themes Zuppa naturally inclines toward. Innocence and its loss, re-appreciation of old forms, passionate motivations and appetite-driven scenarios, and the more operatic side of comedy. In many ways, it was impossible that, once the idea was raised, we could let it go. So here we are, asking, "Now what?" Which is a place we can get pretty excited about.
29 March 2008
I had a great time working with Mark last week. Do we know if he is directing yet? Or will that not even be a possibility until David figures out which shows in the season he is directing? Did you all talk about this anymore last week?
My understanding of the commedia world is that it happens in a particular time & place.Did you start talking about what time and place that would be? If we are doing contemporary commedia, are we making any attempt to make this story relevant in a contemporary world?
28 March 2008
I have a copy somewhere. If we ever unpack, I'll bring it around. I found a website where someone scanned in a few of the images. It doesn't tell the whole story-- but you'll get the flavor.
What I like about it is how nightmarish it is. I hope while we are looking for the comedy in R&J we don't let go of the danger and terror and ugliness. I think these things are important.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
26 March 2008
I was watching "Blues Clues" and the characters were playing at being pigs. Instead of dressing up as pigs, they had very simple pig noses tied on with string. I thought--- hmm--- all of our characters could have noses tied on with string, whether they are red noses or commedia-style noses. In other words, the commedia characters would not have the full mask, only noses. It would give a more consistent look-- like one world, rather than merging two.
I believe (and this is just my opinion) that noses should be assigned based on whether the character is innocent and "with the tao" (i.e. a red nose) or trapped by desire (or other worldly trap), and "away from the tao" (i.e. a commedia-style nose).
If it is not clear from the text whether the character is innocent or not (I do not believe age is really a gauge, unless you are talking about under 2-- even 2 as a cuttoff point is debatable) then, I think that we could play to find out if a red nose "is sustainable" or not. BTW, here are two things that I learned in clown school (maybe other clown-school students learned different) : clowns cannot be archetypes and not all people (characters) have a clown.
[Digressive story: On the first day of class we all got up, one by one, to present ourselves to the master. He asked us each to do a few things and then told us to go away. One guy got up and the master looked at him and told him he had no clown -- that perhaps he had some other place in the theater, maybe some kind of romantic or action hero, he didn't know. He didn't throw the guy out (that was a different guy and a different story) but he basically said that, for him, clown school was a waste of time.]
That being said, what would it mean for Father Laurence to have no nose? That he is outside the world (e.g. the devil)? That he is spiritually deformed or maimed? Please discuss.
If we went with Dave's meta-route, I perhaps everyone starts in red-nose to tell the story and put commedia-style noses on top of the red nose to become characters. Maybe some of the clowns get trapped in their commedia-style nose? Like when we try-on things in our lives that, without our intending to, change us forever.