For most Brown students, Shakespeare existed only in high school English classes; while his importance as a founding father of modern drama and comedy are drilled into our brains, his texts often remain inert to the modern reader.
To those who haven’t seen high-quality Shakespeare productions, welcome to a whole new world. To those who have and love it, welcome to your dream.
Twelfth Night, directed by Jane Nichols, is a well-oiled machine. Despite running two and a half hours, the show doesn’t ever lag. The actors are like frenetic puppets, weaving on and off stage with timed precision. The set, too, is moving; the stage, initially all but bare upon entering the theater, changes subtly but effectively to denote change of setting.
Nichols, an esteemed professor of at the Yale School of Drama and currently a visiting artist at Brown, is an obvious professional and the true star of the show, despite never appearing on stage. Her blocking is as tight as can be, and her knowledge of the text is clear from the start. Unlike many student productions of Shakespeare, it’s clear the actors know the exact meaning of the lines they’re delivering. When the actors know the meaning of their words, it’s much easier for the audience to wade through Shakespeare’s, at times, opaque text–and the jokes certainly land with surer footing. The actors are just as comfortable in group scenes as they are expertly delivering soliloquies that sometimes border on… lengthy.
The idea of a collaborative, spontaneously-created script is evident in almost all aspects of HEIST PLAY, directed and written by Skylar Fox ’15. The three-act play follows a group of criminals, not unlike the teams in heist movies we’ve come to love, as they plan and execute a heist.
Yet HEIST PLAY, which is still being workshopped by Fox, ventures beyond the cliché world of heist films. Each character is unique and idiosyncratic, brought to life in an unparalleled way due to the intense connection formed between the character and the actor. There is no “lead” part, though Evan Finkle ’15 plays the team’s beloved leader; instead, all of the actors work together as a team, each bringing their own unique personality and contributions to the story.
In an interview, Fox was quick to praise his dedicated cast and crew, citing them as integral collaborators in the devising process. “What happens in the play specifically revolves around the people who auditioned and what they created… I thought I knew something about a character and I thought I knew how I wanted them to do something, and then I’d be like ‘oh no, that was way more right than my idea.’”
This ubiquitous collaboration transforms HEIST PLAY into a uniquely mortal experience. “Coming from the very two-dimensional world of characters in heist films,” Fox remarks, “I really wanted them to be able to develop into very three-dimensional, interesting, strange characters. I thought the best way to do that was to develop them with a company of actors.” Continue Reading