"And We've Started" by Jason Jacobs
I gather the cast into a circle and ask everyone to position their bodies so that, with soft focus of the eyes and heightened peripheral vision, they can see everyone else in the circle. Our first task: together, without talking or making any signal, is to jump in the air as a group. Our feet will leave the floor at the same time and all land together. We will listen to the energy of the group and know when to jump. And we've started.
This is how I guide the first step of our journey to find our connection as an ensemble: before we speak a word of Shakespeare's text, we move together.
One of my favorite aspects of directing a play is gathering a group of individuals and bringing them together as an ensemble. I am thrilled to start working with this wonderful cast. Each actor brings a different background and experience. We have long-term Vermonters and New Yorkers who are here for the first time. There is a diverse range of experience with Shakespeare - some of us have worked on As You Like It before; for others, this is their first production of Shakespeare. Some cast members have had extensive training with Viewpoints - an established vocabulary for physical staging that I will employ to stage the piece - while others will encounter it for the first time. However, everyone has been cast for the unique attributes that they bring to the role(s) they are playing.
I am excited to move from a solitary preparation process into a mode of collaboration. For over a year, I've been immersed in the play and the dense forest of criticism and analysis that has grown around it after 400+ years in existence. I don't know if anyone could possibly absorb all the interpretations of this comedic masterpiece. As I prepare, the theme I keep coming back to is the potential for human transformation. The play shows us how people change for the better when they find love, friendship, and trust. These transformations happen in a natural setting, "Arden": a forest inhabited not by fairies or sprites, but populated by human beings who are all on similar journeys to find themselves. The central journey is that of Rosalind -perhaps the most delightful Shakespearean character we have ever met - but each character that travels to Arden is touched by their experience in a deeply personal way. So everyone in the ensemble will be working to find the transformations they portray in the play.
This week we will be reading the play together, exploring Shakespeare's language, tending to the details of the text, exploring the meanings and sounds of words, the rhythms, the shifts from verse to prose. We'll exchange our ideas, inferences, and opinions - going deeper into the forest together. And using Viewpoints, we'll begin to create the gestures, movements, and images that bring the play to life in our space. As we begin making choices, the play becomes our own. The production that emerges in FlynnSpace from THIS ensemble, THIS design team, and THIS audience will be our own unique offering of the play, as we like it.