Hi NC Stage Fans! Check out this blog post from Director, Ron Bashford, about our 13th Season Opener, Pericles Prince of Tyre.
Thirty Characters, Five Actors!
Why do a big Shakespeare play with just five actors? The answer is “Why not?” As Charlie and I talked about doing an ambitious project over a year ago, we hit upon Shakespeare’s Pericles, an epic tale of love, loss, and adventure. The play has a prince, an evil queen, two murderers, two princesses, four kings, five knights, fishermen, sailors, and, of course, pirates! So, the question then was: How do we put it on stage?
I’ve been inspired lately by the idea of a close-knit ensemble, that is to say, a group of actors who not only act well together, but who talk deeply about the play they are working on, know how to improvise together, and improvise creative solutions through trusting play — solutions that a director alone could never imagine on his or her own. So, to tell a big, important story, we decided we needed a small group of versatile performers who knew each other. Charlie, Rebecca, Willie, Lauren and Catori. Add an inventive and adept stage manager and props designer (Jessica), a super-duper production assistant (C.M.), and you’ve got everything you need. Well, almost. Erik came aboard to do beautiful lighting, and Julie jumped in to paint our psychedelic set. Of course, it didn’t hurt that several of us can do sound design, and that Catori wears the hat of all-around builder and technical expert. And did I mention that Nina did some costume alterations? Okay, so it’s not a very small group, but still, just five actors.
It’s been a wonderful journey. Having to figure out how to keep Pericles — a play with nearly thirty scenes — fast-paced and clear, we needed to solve two essential problems: Who plays what parts and how do we tell the characters apart without full costume changes? We broke down the play together, and in deciding how to divvy up the roles we all learned how the play really ticks. The story is about a hero over a span of twenty years. Let’s have three people play Pericles: young, middle, and older. That helps spread out the other parts in a way that works, too. A narrator conjured from the past? Well, that’s all of us! Can we re-order some scenes, or re-arrange text? Sure! As long as we know the story we are trying to tell.
As for costumes and props, our approach was practical and child-like rather than conceptual. We came up with ideas as a group, right in the rehearsal room. Need to instantly become a wandering knight? A pair of goggles will do nicely! Want to transform yourself into a goddess? Don a svelte vest and let your hair down! A suit of armor? A kick-ass leather jacket! And can we make everything seem to appear out of thin air and disappear without taking it off stage? Of course we can, we are theater-makers!
If you’ve read this far, you know that we’ve had an intense and fun time making our production of Pericles. We’ve worked hard to move together, speak together, and feel together. For all of our inventions, what’s best about this show is the play itself: Shakespeare’s unerring dramatic instincts, his perfectly pitched writing, and a story full of suspense, wonder, laughs, and heart. Come see the play, and I guarantee you will quickly forget there are a mere five actors, or a single set and a handful of props. Instead, your imagination will take you from Antioch to Tyre, Pentapolis to Ephesus, across the stormy Mediterranean waters, and bring you safely home, refreshed and ready to meet the challenges of real life anew.
Want to see the show? Click here to get more information and tickets for Pericles, Prince of Tyre.