Hello friends & followers of RLT’s Blog!
It is very exciting for me to begin work on the Queen Margaret Project. I have long longed for some kind of relaxed, slow-cooking creative stew of collaboration, rather than the 20 minute meal type of process I’m so used to in the semi-professional and community theatres for which I usually work.* Even though the QMP does have a couple of clear deadlines (Fall 2015 for the reading of the adaptation, and Spring 2016 for the full production), all I feel is its spaciousness. To fill in our readers, company member Dan Morbyrne approached me several months ago with the idea to co-create a play about Queen Margaret, based on the four plays of Shakespeare’s in which she appears, (Henry VI Parts I, II, and III, and Richard III), which I would then direct.
Margaret of Anjou was one of history’s great female powerhouses, and Shakespeare certainly seems to have fallen in love with her.
Our first step was to do a close read of all of the plays, and then to engage in dramaturgical research to learn about the actual life of Queen Margaret. Our job now is to come up with prompts that engage our ensemble’s creativity, so that by the time we sit down to create our script in July, we have reams of excellent material from which to choose. Once we begin rehearsals for the full production in, say, October or November, the hope is that our ensemble so fully understands this play and its characters, and feels so much agency in its creation, that the process should be easy. (Well, ‘easy’ is a relative term. As ‘easy’ as it ever is.)
To give you the tiniest taste of our work: One day, actors brainstormed a list of words, themes, and ideas that recur throughout the plays. Dan and I then created a shortlist,
(It must be a comedy, huh?)
The actors, who have all been assigned one to three characters to champion and research and love throughout the exploration process, came up with gestures for each of these words for one of their characters. We shared them with one another, took some time to all learn the ones that really stood out to us, played with juxtaposing different sequences, and decided to have Warwick spend some time creating a puppet show about treason.
This is just one of many exercises we have engaged in and will continue to engage in over the next seven months, as we work toward creating this brand new play using only text from Shakespeare, (the four aforementioned plays, plus maybe some guest appearances from Romeo & Juliet, Antony & Cleopatra, and who knows what else), and our own imaginations.
Toby and everyone at RLT
*Not to put down that type of work. A deadline, a time crunch, can be a very effective tool for creativity and problem-solving.