This week I had the great fortune of seeing Henry V at Jobsite Theater: my first time seeing live Shakespeare in over a year! It had me feeling a lot of feels. I was nostalgic for my days training at NYU’s Classical Studio. I heard the voice of my mentors, Louis Scheeder and Daniel Spector, in my head saying “play to win!” I remembered the warm ups every morning, working with my classmates to complete the entirety of Hamlet’s “To Be” speech, standing in a circle facing each other, each taking a line of verse that we kept on rhythm by passing a tennis ball back and forth. If one of us dropped a line, we would start over from the beginning. It took an entire year to complete the speech together without a single error. I just recited it to my dog, just to see if I still had it. Turns out, it’s still in my brain and body. I hope it always will be.
Watching from the mezzanine, I felt like a Willy sponge soaking up the language, so grateful to hear the heartbeat of iambic pentameter once again. Thanks to associate director/text coach, Giles Davies, I heard Shakespeare’s words with clarity, play, and precision. I was elated to watch the production’s ensemble, made up of an all star cast. This is one of the things that makes Shakespeare so special. His plays depend on a troupe of actors that, like the tennis ball thrown back and forth, come together to play off each other with athleticism and heart. It was a true joy to watch this group play together. The production was brought to life by the deft direction of Jobsite’s Producing Artistic Director, David Jenkins, who incorporated amazing projections and an original score by Jeremy Douglass that kept us on the edge of our seats.
While I adore new plays, studying Shakespeare in college developed a passion for heightened language and adaptation. They taught me to hear Shakespeare’s characters literally and let them want things. It was this approach that inspired my vision for a site-specific Macbeth. Later in the week, I had the opportunity to revisit this production, which I adapted and directed in 2017.
Fascinated by Freud’s interpretation that the couple are two parts of a whole, I heard Lady Macbeth’s pleas that the witches “unsex her” as a genuine desire for the political power afforded to men. I thought of Louis’ demand that she literally ask the question (“Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here…”). I answered by granting her wish: the witches enacted a live ritual allowing Lady Macbeth and Macbeth to switch bodies (and roles halfway through the show), fulfilling one woman’s power-hungry wish for purpose and affording a female actor the chance to play Macbeth!
I’ve been hesitant to watch the video footage, afraid that I would see glaring mistakes. I was young and extremely idealistic. But when I finally sat down to watch it, I discovered that the strength of my work held up. Sure, there are things I see now that I couldn’t see then. But revisiting it gave me ideas for how I would approach this production again, if given the chance. As with all Shakespeare, you can hear the play again and again and still find new kernels of inspiration. So, I’m putting it out into the universe: I want to direct this play again! I want to revisit this concept and find new ways to let this gender-swap shine. The hurlyburly’s not yet done.
Click here to read a Bust article about the creative process of the Macbeth Production!
Click here to read a review of the Macbeth production!