Shakespeare, I Love You: Pericles (2012)

This was an amazing experience.

By far the largest undertaking that B.O.T. has ever attempted, Shakespeare, I Love You is a multi-company production where the five acts of a Shakespeare play are given to five different theatre companies, each company is given complete artistic freedom over their assigned portion of the text, and then the whole play is performed together as one story from multiple perspectives.  For this project, we selected Pericles, Prince of Tyre.

Pericles is an existential epic, with no real plot to speak of other than the wanderings of the titular Prince, like Waiting for Godot on a boat.  Yet, despite one Macguffin after another leading to an amazingly improbable finale, there is significant beauty and emotional weight throughout the hero’s journey through “fortune fierce and keen.”  So, given the meandering structure of the play and the wide variety of settings that Pericles visits, it seemed like the perfect choice for this project.  After running four shows at the Den Theatre, each with great audiences and fantastic performances from all of the companies, I am incredibly proud of the show as a whole collaborative production.

Act I was produced by freelance director Stephen Murray, who created a beautiful world underlit by old-fashioned stage lighting, distinguishing between a large cast of characters with hand crafted masks.  Murray utilized the storyteller role of Gower in a very clever way, opening the show with a lone traveler’s trunk onstage that opens to unleash the characters and props.  It was a perfect way to open the play.

The cast included:

Brian Hurst Pericles
Lee WichmanGower, Helicanus, & others
Joe FelicianoAntiochus & others
Renee KeenDaughter, Dionyza, & others
Blake WilliamsThalliard & others
Edward RutherfoldCleon & others

Liz Cooper – Lighting Designer
Jaci Entwisle – Costume Design

Act II was choreographed by Katie Graves and Matthew McMunn Dance, translating Shakespeare’s text into purely movement, aurally complimented by an original score from TOOM It was a visceral and intense shift in the journey of Pericles, and I especially appreciated the agency it gave to the character of Thaisa, whose love for the Prince of Tyre was wholly palpable.

The cast included:

Katie Graves
Matthew McMunn
Josh Anderson
Adam Gauzza

TOOM [aka Mason Thorne] – Composer

Act III was another dramatic shift, going to the Unrehearsed Shakespeare Company whose First Folio Cue Script Technique encouraged a wonderful level of audience participation as rowdy groundlings.  The sudden announcement, “take in your arms this piece of your dead queen” – that Marina is born and Thaisa is dead was simultaneously heartbreaking and lovely thanks to their hard work and talent.  Their daring technique requires actors to not know their roles until the day of performance, at which point they know only one line for their cue and then their own lines.  Their large company rotated roles throughout the run of this production.

The cast included:

Chris Elst
Danny Pancratz
Carl Lindberg
Peter Eli Johnson
Jessie Mutz
Ashlee Edgemon
Nicole Farmerie
Jared McDaris
Jared Wall
Sam Paulak
Tommy Iafrate

Act IV was produced by Equity Library Theatre of Chicago, who offered an entertaining gravitas to the story when it suddenly shifts to Marina’s journey from Princess to whore, and her rise to a respected tutor.  I really loved involving them in our production because it was an honest, traditional approach to the material that is the way most people expect Shakespeare to be performed, and is an essential and comfortable representation for an audience riding through this story.

The cast included:
Ronald Keaton – Gower, Pander
Molly Burns Dionyza
Herb Lichtenstein – Leonine, Gentleman
Leslie Handelman – Marina
Matthew Fahey – Pirate, Gentleman
Connie Foster – Bawd
Michael Joseph Thomas Ward – Bolt
Razz Jenkins – Cleon
David Knoell – Lysimachus

Special Thanks to:
Steve Rashid –
Music Credit
Evanston Dance Ensemble –
Evanston Dance Ensemble
Luther Goins –
Business Associate at AEA
Rogers Park Chicago Public Library –
Rehearsal Space

Our evening concluded with Blunt Objects Theatre performing Act V, in our signature minimalist and raw style.  I’ve only recently come around to calling my style of directing “post-Brechtian,” but it really does describe the style quite succinctly, so let’s just make up that name for our style and then run with it as far as it goes. Our cut of the script essentially removed Gower as a character, dividing his narration between all of the actors as they set up a scene before entering the action.  And the final line of the play, “So, on your patience evermore attending, New joy wait on you! Here our play has ending,” resonated perfectly with the evening.

Our cast included:
Alexandra Boroff – Marina
Colin FewellPericles/Gower
Tina Haglund Costume Designer, Helicanus/Thaisa
Bohrs Hoff – Director, Lysimachus

Pericles really is a perfect example of Epic Theatre, traversing the darkest parts of human society from a famine-stricken island to the bowels of a brothel, achieving a poetic focus rather than the traditionally valued plot or character.  The insanely improbable ending is not something that can hold weight in a purely realistic style, but paradoxically the unreal world has to be believable.  By working with all of these wonderful companies, radically shifting the focus from act to act, I think we successfully achieved an engaging, entertaining, and cathartic performance.

We also want to offer a special thanks to our supporters on Kickstarter, listed in no particular order.  This project would not be possible without them:

Mary-Liz Murray
Lisa Litberg
Joseph McNulty
Henry Boroff
Jean Monfort
Tom Targos
John Graves
Lauren Valsoano
Rich Laux
Katy E. Hall
Tina Haglund
Jared McDaris
Kevin Fewell
Stephen Murray
Kate Shine
Elaine Miller

I apologize for not having an abundance of media for this production, though we are working on converting a video file that we hope to post soon. Also, we are hopeful to attempt this sort of project on a regular basis, though time will tell.

Be seeing you!


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