Directing

Shakespeare in the Rough

Written by Lindsay Price

Episode 199: Shakespeare in the rough

Have you ever thought about performing outside with your students? What’s it like to rehearse and perform Shakespeare outside?  In this episode we talk to Hilo Community Players about their Kids Shakes production.  Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Show Notes

 

Episode Transcript

Welcome to the Drama Teacher Podcast brought to you by Theatrefolk – the Drama Teacher Resource Company.

I’m Lindsay Price.

Hello! I hope you’re well. Thanks for listening!

This is Episode 199 and you can find any links to this episode in the show notes which are at Theatrefolk.com/episode199.

So, we are talking about a couple of things today. First, Shakespeare. Two, environment.

Oh, you like how I messed that up? First, two? Ah, I know some of you were probably paying attention. “Why did you say ‘first, two’?” Okay, okay, okay. First, Shakespeare. Second, environment. You got it. I know you got it. We’re all in this together, right? Right.

When I’m talking about environment, I’m talking about, where is it that Shakespeare is performed? Have you ever thought of performing outside with your students? Your first reaction would be, could be, “No!”

But hang on. What happens when you take away four walls and you have to deal with the elements and people who might just wander through? You might say, “Lindsay, you’re not selling it!” However, we’re going to talk today to some folks who love the experience. They love working with students and performing outside. We’re talking to some folks from a community theatre in Hawaii who put a Kids’ Shakespeare production every summer – outside.

Just a note here before we continue on. There is a gaggle of us today – three in Hawaii and me. Things might get a little crowded. But, again, we’re going to deal with it, right? Ah, I knew you would. I knew you would.

So, see you all on the other side.

LINDSAY: Hello everyone!

I am here, and I’ve got a bunch of people we’re talking to on this podcast today which is awesome. So, I want to say hello to Mimi and Cathy and Yvette.

Hello, ladies!

GUESTS: Aloha!

LINDSAY: I always like for you guys to say where you’re from and you guys are in a very special place. Where are you?

GUEST: We’re in Hilo, Hawaii.

LINDSAY: Aloha!

GUEST: On a big Hawaiian island in the beautiful coast of Hawaii.

LINDSAY: Awesome.

Are you guys locals? Or are you transplants?

GUEST: I’m a transplant.

GUEST: I’m a transplant.

GUEST: I’m local.

GUEST: I’ve been living in Hawaii for over twenty years.

GUEST: And I’ve been here sixteen years, so I’m kind of local.

LINDSAY: Kind of local. I think that anybody in a place over ten years, I know sometimes locals don’t feel that way, but I think any time over ten years, you get to claim status, I think. You’re residents.

You guys sent some lovely pictures of a production of Mmmbeth – Allison Williams’ Mmmbeth. I just wanted to get you on a podcast to talk about it – talk about your process. You guys performed outside which I think is a unique experience and I’d like to hear about your successes and your struggles with dealing with some Shakespeare but outside. I think that’s pretty awesome.

Let’s start with the choosing of the script. You did this for your Kids’ Shakespeare program, right?

MIMI: Correct.

Actually, a bit of background is the Hilo Community Players has been putting on Shakespeare in the park since 1978. So, this was our 40th year of putting on Shakespeare in the park. For the past four years, we’ve added to that Shakespeare in the park experience a Kids’ Shakes program. It’s a lighthearted sort of Shakespeare-themed show that gets put on using the same set as the main stage show and using the same space and everything but at a matinee time for a younger audience.

LINDSAY: That leads me to my first question. We’ll get back to the show in a sec, but why did you decide to create a “Shakespeare for kids” program?

MIMI: Well, it was the brainchild, actually, for the lady who brought outdoor Shakespeare to Hilo, Jackie Pualani Johnson, who was a long-time theatre professor at the University of Hawaii here in Hilo. Local girl went away to college, came back, and wanted to bring this outdoor experience to the community of Hilo. So, she started in 1978 with a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Then, the Hilo Community Players has been around since 1938 – one of the oldest community theatre organizations in the state. And so, for our 75th celebration of being the Hilo Community Players, she came up with this idea of putting on a kids’ show as part of our Shakespeare. And so, we’ve been doing that for the past four years.

LINDSAY: That’s awesome. Well, what a great way to introduce a generation to Shakespeare. It’s a great doorway, I think.

GUEST: That’s what Jackie thought, too.

GUEST: She wanted to reach the kids, reach the keiki, and teach them about Shakespeare and Shakespeare in the park. And so, it’s been a great way to really entertain the kids and tell them a little bit about what Shakespeare’s about.

LINDSAY: Awesome. So, what was it about Mmmbeth that fit your program?

GUEST: Well, I am an elementary school teacher and theatre is my passion. I love to direct little plays with my class and with children. Throughout the years, I think that the amount of plays and the diversity of plays that you can find online has definitely grown and there’s been a greater pool of richer texts and richer plays that you can pull from. But I’ve read a lot of plays online and this one stuck out to me in particular because it was just so extremely hilarious.

I mean, I sat down and, within the first minute or two of reading it, I was just cracking up. The whole time I was reading the entire script, I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, this is just the funniest little play I’ve ever read!” and I think the kids as well as the adults would really enjoy it. It was just because it was so cleverly written and just a really funny show.

LINDSAY: When you showed it to students for the first time, did your instinct come true – that they were able to connect to it right away? Or did it take some time?

GUEST: No, definitely. I was not surprised but pleased to see that everyone felt the same way that I did – that it was just such a funny show. You know, there’s so much adult humor as well as little jokes for the kids, too. It reaches everyone.

GUEST: The cool thing about our Kids’ Shakes production that we do is it’s not just children that are performing. Our auditions are open to all ages. And so, Mimi had a range of ages. Some of our veteran actors from Shakespeare were also in it as well as some newbies – little kids who were for the first time getting their foot in the door which is sort of the goal, one of the goals of our Kids’ Shakes program.

GUEST: Our youngest actor was 12 and our oldest was 84.

LINDSAY: Oh, my god, that’s awesome! I love that! It’s a little mentorship built in, eh? Because you’ve got younger actors who are doing this for the first time, seeing what other actors do. I think that can sometimes be the best teaching ground for them.

GUEST: Definitely.

GUEST: It’s been really cool to see the Kids’ Shakes program grow as well because I’ve been involved with, as I said, the Hilo Community Players have put on a Shakespeare production every summer since 1978. I’ve been involved in 16 of those over the years in some capacity. And so, there’s a group of us who, every year, you see us onstage or around the productions. And so, people know, “Oh, you’re Shakespeare with the Shakespeare and all this,” but it’s been really cool because there’s been about two of these young people who have been involved in every Kids’ Shakes show for the past four years which is really, really fun to see these children. Now, they’re teenagers and they’re still involved in doing the Kids’ Shakes. That’s been really cool.

LINDSAY: Well, you’ve hooked them!

GUEST: We’ve hooked them.

GUEST: One of the actresses that was in Cathy’s show, the mainstage show, even said to us about the whole experience, she said, “It’s just like camping,” and it really is because so many of those camping elements that are involved with using an outdoor space.

LINDSAY: What a wonderful segue! You must have known I was going to ask about that.

First of all, let’s talk about rehearsing. Do you rehearse outside?

GUEST: Yes.

GUEST: Yes.

LINDSAY: Talk about that. What’s it like to rehearse a show in the great outdoors?

GUEST: Well, we always want all the actors to come prepared no matter what the weather is. We want them to have sunscreen and sunglasses and hats and umbrellas and all of that just to be prepared.

In Hilo, it’s funny because we always say, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes and it’ll change,” because we are the rainiest city in the US.

GUEST: Seattle doesn’t want to admit it, but we know. We’re humble in Hawaii, so we let them think they are.

GUEST: But we’ll have brief rain showers and most of the time they just pass after a few minutes, but we’ve also had shows like last year, we cancelled an entire weekend of our show because we were in the middle of hurricane season and there was just buckets and buckets of rain, so it became a little bit impossible.

GUEST: Yeah, last year was challenging because we had a hurricane threatening to come through and we had to go basically take the set down and tie it all down. The hurricane thing – goodness – went over us. But then we went and set it back up the next day and put on a show the next evening!

LINDSAY: Another question I have about performing outside or rehearsing outside, what it’s like in terms of distractions? Because there’s not a space where everybody can sort of be contained in. You’re in the outdoors and the outdoors itself could be just a wonderful distraction. How do you deal with that?

GUEST: There’s a lot of interesting things that happen. You know, we’re right in Downtown Hilo so there’s all kinds of people, lots of diversity and people will come up right in the middle of rehearsal to ask us, “What are you guys doing?” It keeps things interesting, but it also is very positive in some ways because there’ll be people sitting on our bleachers that we have set out for the audience and so the rehearsal time becomes a time when the actors are onstage and actually performing for a real audience. It’s good practice in that sense.

There’s a lot of noise pollution because we have a lot of motorcycles and loud music that comes past. Airplanes, we’re right in the path for the nearby airport, so there’s an extreme amount of sound pollution. But, you know, we just deal with it. The actors learn how to hold for noise. We just have to be really patient. But I think the audiences, when they do come, they understand the challenges.

GUEST: And I’ve got to say, in Mimi’s production of Mmmbeth, there was only one actor that I ever had a hard time hearing and I know she worked with him to try to get him louder because we don’t use amplification. We’re not rich enough. We’re a non-profit, very poor. One show gives us the money for the next show kind of organization. We don’t have any fancy sound equipment like Central Park folks do. We have to use the amplification that god gave us.

The other kids projected really well. There was just that one who you couldn’t quite hear. But everyone did well with all the noise.

LINDSAY: It’s really interesting these days. I remember a time in watching any show where there was no such thing as mics. No mics! Now, it seems that that’s the go-to move. I think that, whenever you can teach any actor – a student or otherwise – how to use their voice and how to project their voice and how to deal with noise pollution, I think that’s an amazing skill.

What’s your go-to projection exercise?

GUEST: The one that I like? Well, there’s several. I like to focus on the breath and breathing and have them breathing through the diaphragm and then just doing a “hah” and supporting a “hah” and then more support, more air, and doing that “hah, hah” just sort of getting louder and louder with more support.

Then, our park where we perform is King Kalakaua Park. Kalakaua is one of the Hawaiian monarchs and he’s got a statue that’s in one end of the park. So, we always tell our actors, “You’re performing for King Kalakaua. He has to hear you, so project so he can hear you.” That gives them a visual kind of thing. “If he’s going to hear me, I’ve got to be really loud.”

I don’t know if you have another projection.

GUEST: There’s a couple of different ones that we use. When I say “we” I’m talking about my stage manager as well, Bernard. He likes to use an object that was up close, a middle object, and then a building or something that’s further off in the distance. We’ll say, “Say a line from the show.” Whatever the line is, you say it as if you’re reaching an object that’s maybe five feet away, and then 20 feet away, and then 30 feet away, so they can see the difference between reaching an audience member that might be closer and then farther away.

One interesting thing that I wanted to add about the audio and the set that Cathy designed is it kind of became kind of like an amphitheatre. If a performer was looking towards the back of the set, their voice could kind of bounce off the back and it would carry into the audience. I thought that was really interesting.

GUEST: It was a happy accident. When I designed the shape of the set, the set was designed for the main Shakespeare in the Park show which is our evening show. This year was our 40th year so we were doing a variety show, I guess, of Shakespeare. We were doing Best of the Bard II: Scenes, Sonnets, and Soliloquys. We did 14 scenes from seven plays and seven sonnets. It was in this sort of patchwork quilt. That’s sort of the idea of a patchwork quilt.

We also did it with various multiple directors for different scenes. I wanted to design a set that had possibilities. We had different levels and something that was different. This L-shape, when we got it there, it became almost like a bandstand. I can’t remember the one it’s called – like a band shell where the sound actually was project out towards the audience which was a wonderful happy accident that I’m going to explore more in my next set design for the park.

GUEST: Another vocal exercise that I recently learned – unfortunately, I wasn’t able to use it with my cast – here in the islands, we do have the risk, we run the risk of having tsunamis. So, there are tsunami sirens that will go off at the first of every month. And so, the tsunami siren activity, and you’re kind of winding your arm like you crank a toy horizontally.

GUEST: You learn about the resonance – how to use the different parts of your head and your chest for resonance which is really cool. We have, for past shows, had vocal coaches come in to help as well.

LINDSAY: That’s awesome.

GUEST: The last one that I have is one that I learned from going to the University of Hawaii at Hilo is where you take the vowels and a consonant. You’ll say, like, “T – tae, tee, tie, toe tou,” and you try and get the actors to really push their breath out from their diaphragm and you can do consonant sounds like CH or any of the others.

LINDSAY: That’s great. You guys overdelivered. I love it. It’s wonderful!

I was just thinking, we’ve got lots of folks who are in tornado areas and I bet you that tsunami exercise just walks right over to tornados, too.

I want to go back to the notion of the set and applying Mmmbeth to that. But, also, just because we’re talking about this notion of projection and how that is very important in an outside venue, what did you do, Mimi, in terms of physicalization? Mmmbeth is a very larger-than-life play. Did you have to incorporate that in terms of the physicalization being larger than life just to reach to the king there – to the back of a space – because the audience may not be so close?

MIMI: Yeah, I did a little bit of that. I worked really closely with the witches. The witches, I cast three teenagers. They’re all ages 14 and 15. And so, they’re experienced actresses. They’ve all done other work, but I just really wanted them to embody the character of the witch and I used a very stereotypical kind of witch to be the inspiration. It wasn’t the traditional – the real story witches. I don’t want to say the title of that play.

LINDSAY: No, that would be very good, don’t say that.

MIMI: So, I did some activities where I just rehearsed with them. I had them practice using different voices, using voices in a lower register and a higher register. You know, we practiced our cackles. We practiced.

There was one time where we thought of witchy kind of animals and what are witchy kind of animals. We thought of cats and snakes and lizards and other kinds of creepy, crawly things and I just had them kind of try to embody those animals and walk around like they were those animals, so they could see how their bodies might move as witches and kind of relate it to their characters.

LINDSAY: I think that’s a great idea. Just anything that you can get them outside of their bodies – you know, the normal way they use their bodies.

MIMI: Yeah. Actually, we have a theatre program from the Honolulu Theatre for Youth based on Oahu and they have some great ideas about how to use your body and, sometimes, I steal their ideas because they really help you to focus on making a circular angle with your body, make a straight shape with your body, make a flat shape, think about levels and different things like that because a lot of the young actors don’t really think about the extent of how they can use their bodies when they’re acting.

LINDSAY: No, and that whole notion of extension, too. I find that student actors, the elbows are attached to their sides and everything just gets very not insular but straight up and down. I love the idea of creating shapes and shapes that encourage them to extend themselves which must be perfect for performing outside.

So, you’ve got this set that is for another show but has these wonderful colors. As you were talking about the patchwork quilt, I was like, “Oh, that so could fit with Mmmbeth because there’s the patchwork quilt!” There’s the guys in the foam hats and the different eras. How did you deal with costuming the show, knowing that you were working on a set that was for another show? Did you incorporate the costumes with that? Did you go very base with the costumes? How did you incorporate the place you were working on with the show?

MIMI: Well, you know, hindsight is 20-20, right?

I used some costume pieces that I probably should not have used, and I’m trying to do a little bit of repairs and taking care of those costumes right now because we work in a very damp space. You know, it’s consistently muddy in the park. I had a pair of suede shoes that I probably should not have used and some velvet fabrics and things like that. But I tried to keep it all very colorful when thinking about costumes. We used some plaids, of course, to bring in the Scottish element of the show.

Typically, I’m not a costumer. It’s not my strength. I’m an actress. I haven’t directed too many shows. But I felt like, since this show was so playful and so fun and so modern, you could kind of do almost anything with it. So, I brought in elements that were more historical. But then, also, a lot of very modern pieces into the costumes.

The witches were all in rich velvety kind of fabrics. In Mmmbeth, we actually found a real kilt for him to wear. That was fun. Let’s see. What else did we have? We got some funny hats for the soldiers because there’s one scene in the show where they’re like, “What are you wearing?” and they’re supposed to be wearing Styrofoam crazy hats. That’s of course an element where we could use something very modern. But then, also, there was a traditional World War II, very heavy wool coat, a full-length coat that we had one of the soldiers wear also. So, I had to be very careful with that and made sure he knew not to wear it if it was pouring rain. We had to take care of it.

GUEST: We’re a small theatre community and none of us are rich although different organizations borrow from each other. Mimi borrowed from the university. She borrowed from other theatre groups in town and people’s personal items. We do that all the time.

LINDSAY: That’s okay. I think creative limitations actually sometimes make the best theatre, you know? When you have all the money in the world, sometimes, it looks like it’s just money as opposed to a specific vision or just problem-solving. That’s all theatre design is, right? It’s problem-solving,

GUEST: True.

MIMI: And we’ve got an excellent theatre community here on the big island. It’s not anything unusual for one theatre company to go to the next and say, “Hey! Do you have this or that? Can we borrow it?” Everyone’s very open to sharing what they have – their resources. It’s wonderful.

GUEST: We’re generally sharing the same talent as well. So, we learned over the years that you’ve kind of got to get along because, you know, the person who’s acting in your show today is going to be acting in somebody else’s show next week. We try to get along.

LINDSAY: There’s nothing wrong with that. A little community, it’s all good.

As we’re wrapping up here, I wanted to hit on something you said, Mimi, that you’ve got more of an acting background, you haven’t directed a lot of shows. What did you learn from this experience? What did you learn from directing something outside, directing a little bit of a flavor of Shakespeare? What did you learn and what are you going to take away from this experience?

MIMI: I think that I really learned how important it is to ask for help. I actually didn’t do that great at that. I’m not one to ask for help as a teacher. I’m kind of like the one, I try to do all the work and I don’t delegate as well as I should. My boyfriend, the assistant director and stage manager, ended up helping me a lot. I did ask for some help from some of the actors. You know, occasionally, of course, we have to haul the props in and out of the shed on a daily basis for every rehearsal and every show, so that’s a huge job where we need a lot of help from people. But I feel like, you know, directing is a job where you have to wear so many different hats and, in order to be successful, you have to really just be able to rely on a lot of different people and ask for help.

LINDSAY: I think that’s an excellent point.

MIMI: Yeah, it’s hard for me to ask for help, but I’m learning.

GUEST: That’s actually another aspect. You asked us earlier about performing outside. Where we perform is basically a small park in Downtown Hilo. We have our setup – we have bleachers, we have our lighting and lighting trusses – but we can’t leave anything out beyond our set and lights because it will probably not be there when we come back.

So, we have to sort of set up and strike after each performance, meaning you take everything except the set out of the park basically – the set and the lights – out of the park. Any set pieces that you have – all the costume pieces, all of the props and everything that you’ve set up backstage – everything has to be struck every night and set up every morning. It’s a little different than most shows.

When folks sign on to be in Shakespeare in the Park or Kids’ Shakes, they’re signing on to also be a pseudo-techie because you’re going to be helping with breakdown and set up each night, too.

LINDSAY: What a great learning experience, you know, to show actors that there’s also that other side – the technical side. And you must be incredibly organized. You know, you just can’t throw a costume piece somewhere. Otherwise, if it doesn’t get put away and put exactly where it needs to be, who knows where it’ll end up tomorrow? You guys must have had checklists for days.

GUEST: Yeah, because it’ll end up on the homeless guy walking through the park if you’re not careful.

LINDSAY: Hey, you were helping out with the tech side, right? What was your experience in working on this?

GUEST: For me?

MIMI: Oh, Yvette.

LINDSAY: Yeah.

YVETTE: Oh, I’m like shaking my head to everything you guys are saying.

I was a production assistant for the night time show. Being an owner of an F1-50 truck, also the one that hauled things from the shed back and forth.

LINDSAY: So, you were the most important person?

CATHY: That’s correct. We couldn’t set up or strike if she didn’t show up because she had the truck.

YVETTE: Yeah, I’m the one with the truck, but everybody actually in the evening cast just like how Mimi had described, what may have been a difficulty with her cast because you had a difficult time asking for help, for some reason, we just got the cream of the crop of our cast this past year and everybody was experienced in being a techie as well as being a seasoned actor. So, it worked out really well. There wasn’t much that we had to say. In fact, the last weekend of our show, it took our 18 minutes to break down everything and get it back to the shed after the show was done at 10.

LINDSAY: You guys are pros!

GUEST: The kids and the adults in my cast were amazing, too. I know, especially two of our youngest – the 12-year-old and then 14-year-old – I mean, they were there every day, early, helping. They always asked, “Do you need help with this or that?” They worked really, really hard.

GUEST: Actually, on the final day, after our last performance, they were there.

GUEST: On Sunday, just the other day, we struck the set from the park in just about an hour and a half. Several of the young people from Mmmbeth came as well as the cast from the main show, I guess, the mainstage show. We had it down and put in the truck and ready to be hauled away in just about an hour and a half, two hours.

Those teenagers and young people worked really hard. They really did the pieces that had to be stripped down and broken up into smaller pieces because the wood had already sort of rotted from being in the rain for a month already. The demolishing of the flags were separating.

GUEST: It’s kind of cathartic.

GUEST: Yeah.

LINDSAY: It’s not symbolic at all!

Okay. Last question, what piece of advice would you give to a theatre or a teacher listening and thinking, “Oh, I’ve got a courtyard in my school, I’ve got a space that I could perform outside”? We have lots of folks who have no theatres, they have no lights, they have no anything, and performing outside might be an option for them. What pieces of advice would you give someone thinking about rehearsing and performing outside?

CATHY: Well, to borrow a saying from a very famous company, “Just do it.” You know, the theatre arts – any of the performing arts particularly – I have a special part in my heart for theatre arts, it’s one of the only multidisciplinary fields of studies that are there. You can teach all of the academic areas through the process of putting on a production. You can teach measurement. You can teach math and figuring out how many yards of material you need. You think about the math that’s involved in putting the set together. You think about the science involved in rigging the lights and learning how to even create lights. If you don’t have any, how can you make that? So, there’s the science. Let alone the language arts that are involved in learning the script and learning the genre of theatre.

MIMI: And the problem-solving skills that come along with that.

CATHY: Exactly! Because, like you said, problem-solving is the biggest part of putting on a theatrical production. No matter who you’re putting it on for or where you’re putting it on, you’re always constantly having to problem-solve. And so, there’s the ways that theatre and the theatre arts can see what goes on in the classroom. It’s priceless.

Just do it.

LINDSAY: I don’t think that could be said any better.

Mimi, do you have something to add? That was awesome.

CATHY: I don’t know if you have anything else to add.

MIMI: Yeah, well, I think that, if I were to give advice to an elementary school teacher, you know – and I haven’t done a performance outside with my own classroom students but, if I were – I would definitely say a delegation of jobs. You know, everyone, have one specific job and be in charge of that one thing every day.

But, also, be aware of your surroundings and what’s going on and see where else your help might be needed in order to get things going in a smooth and efficient manner. Like Cathy said before, after practice, things get to be really quick, setting up and breakdown happens really fast.

Also, just being open to the possibilities of there being distractions and times where you’re going to have to problem-solve. You know, when there’s rain or the elements are kind of interacting with what you’re trying to do outside.

CATHY: I’ve got to say, the rain showers that we did get this year during our mainstage show, when it could start raining, when the Tempest scenes would start, I thought that was priceless.

MIMI: Perfect timing, yeah.

LINDSAY: It’s almost like it was planned.

YVETTE: The downpour though, during that Henry IV, Part 1, not so timely because they’re in a tavern but it’s pouring down rain. But the Tempest ones worked really well when it would rain.

LINDSAY: Awesome.

YVETTE: And then, the witches when it would rain.

MIMI: “Hail! Hail!” And then, the last witch, “The weather looks fine to me!” But it’s raining. The weather does not look actually fine.

LINDSAY: Awesome. Thank you so much for talking to me today! It was lovely!

CATHY: Well, thank you very much!

MIMI: Thank you! Nice talking with you!

LINDSAY: Thank you, ladies!

All right, before we go, let’s do some THEATREFOLK NEWS.

It’s a play feature! It’s a play feature! It’s time to feature a play!

So, we’ve been talking about Mmmbeth by Allison Williams. If you are ever looking for a doorway to Shakespeare, Mmmbeth is the perfect door for you. In fact, all of Allison’s plays are excellent that way. Shakespeare’s story; some of Shakespeare’s language; some modern language; and, most importantly, modern context.

For so many students, Shakespeare feels, looks, sounds old, out of touch, and it’s just not true. You can’t tell them that, but it’s really not. I’m not saying that Shakespeare is easy, but the stories are so far from out of touch. Here, in this play, the Scottish play, the whole idea of power and power corrupting, well, I would say that is a pretty much universal story, if there ever was one.

So, if you can get beyond the barriers with Shakespeare, if you can find a doorway, you’re going to engage your students. You’re going to have a much more fun and fruitful time with any of his plays that you choose to look at.

Just to prove my point, we’re going to look at a little section of Mmmbeth. The first thing to know here is humor. Find the doorway; find the funny.

This is very specific to Mmmbeth – and, actually, all of Allison’s plays when she’s dealing with Shakespeare – gender flexibility. In this case, we don’t have a King Duncan. We have a Queen Duncan. Duncan is the king of Scotland and that’s what Mr. M wants to be. In this case, she’s not interested in dying or leaving the play. She’s got something to say about it.

We don’t have a King Duncan. Duncan is the king of Scotland and that’s what Lord M, Mr. M, Mr. Mmmbeth, that’s what he wants to aspire to. Let’s have this little scene here that deals with Duncan right after the first battle. We have a battlefield – dead bodies. Queen Duncan and two soldiers survey the field.

DUNCAN: Well-done, boys! A great victory!

SOLDIER 1: Aw, thanks, Queen Duncan.

DUNCAN: Now we can return home, pass out some honours – I think I’ll make Mmmbeth Than of Cawdor, he was pretty brave – and get back to ruling Scotland. Long live the Queen! Long live me!

SOLDIER 2: Well, for about another three scenes, Your Majesty.

DUNCAN: What?

SOLDIER 1: Umm, you – well, you aren’t in the whole play.

DUNCAN: Impossible! I am the Ruler of Scotland, Commander of Thanes, Protector of the People, Leader of the Army, Mistress of Justice, Verity and Temperance! I dominate the play from start to finish! Beginning to end! And I have a great idea for a franchise opportunity.

SOLDIER 2: But –

DUNCAN: Isn’t this play about the Queen of Scotland?

SOLDIER 2: Kind of, but you see – your part is more of a supporting role.

DUNCAN: I will support the entire play as Queen of Scotland!

SOLDIER 1: Queen Duncan, you die in Act Two.

DUNCAN: Inconceivable! I have an army to protect me! Get me Fleance!

SOLDIER 1: Runs away, Act Three.

DUNCAN: Banquo!

SOLDIER 2: Murdered, Act Three.

DUNCAN: All my sons!

SOLDIER 1: They sleep through your murder and run away after your death.

DUNCAN: Oh, this is terrible! You! Go tell Mmmbeth he’s Than of Cawdor! You! Go tell Macduff to meet me at Mmmbeth’s castle. I’m sure I’ll be safe there.

That’s Mmmbeth by Allison Williams.

You can find the play at Theatrefolk.com. You can also find a link in the show notes Theatrefolk.com/episode199. In the show notes, I’ve also put a link to all of our Shakespeare parodies and adaptations.

Find that doorway, my friend.

Finally, where can you find this podcast? Go to Theatrefolk.com/podcast and there you’ll see we are on iTunes, Android, Google Play, Stitcher, and more. That’s Theatrefolk.com/podcast.

And that’s where we’re going to end.

Take care, my friends. Take care.

 

Music credit: ”Ave” by Alex (feat. Morusque) is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

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Lindsay Price

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