Friday, May 17, 2013

The Object of Art: Director's Profile

Anthony Clark-Kaczmarek, director of Twelfth Night sits down for an interview with Artistic Director Vincent Carlson-Brown.  Apparently it's a good idea to have a hyphenated name if you want to direct plays for Nebraska Shakespeare.

VCB:  After working with you on last year's The Comedy of Errors (I directed, you played one half of the Antipholi twins), I was interested in having you work with us again.  I began my search for a director for 2013's comedy, Twelfth Night, and brought you in as a candidate last fall.  I met with you to discuss the possibility and after three or four meetings; discussing style, concept, approach, and schedule, brought you on board.  As we enter our first week of rehearsals next week, I want to introduce you to our audience.

ACK:  That was all very weird, the way you said that, me sitting here.

VCB:  Be quiet, it was just the intro.

ACK:  Just saying.

VCB:  What's your background?  Where do you come from?

ACK:  Where do I come from?  I am originally from North Platte, NE.  

VCB:  Yes.  And?

ACK:  Ok, I went to Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln and earned my Bachelors in Theatre (emphasis in directing) and Education.  I have lived in Omaha for about 17 years with my wife, Kim.  We have been active in the Omaha theatre community both professionally and as community theatre members.  I taught theatre at Bryan High School for 10 years, before getting my Master's in Administration from UNO and moving on to that side of the public school system.  Kim started the Living Picture Project (LPP) in the year 2005 as part of her Master's in Theatre from the UNO.  The LPP was a theatre company that we worked on for five years; writing, acting, and directing.

VCB:  I built the set for one of your shows.

ACK:  That's right, you did.  
           Dogs Playing Poker.

VCB:  Really, I just hung a green billiards lamp over a table.

ACK:  We couldn't have done it without you.

VCB:  I know.  What's your history with Nebraska Shakespeare? 

ACK:  My very first experience, I had a horrible audition, having just graduated from Wesleyan.  I auditioned with a piece from Macbeth that I threw together a few days before.  I went up (forgot some lines) during the audition, but tried to cover it.  The result was the most hesitant and modern sounding MacDuff speech ever performed.  To everyone's shock and dismay, I was not cast.  Ah youthful choices...

VCB:  There are stories told about how bad that audition was.

ACK:  Seriously?

VCB:  No.  Nobody remembers it.  That's how bad it was.

ACK:  Thanks.

VCB:  Just saying.

ACK:  My first actual work with Nebraska Shakespeare was as an instructor for Camp Shakespeare in 2004; I directed the Players (high school age group) in the Romeo and Juliet section of The Compleat Shakespeare Abridged script.   Great fun.  
Then, I was asked by Bill VanDeest (then Associate Artistic Director) a few years later (2006) to be the Assistant Technical Director for the 20th Anniversary shows, The Taming of the Shrew and Antony and Cleopatra.  I had a great time working outside and building with the crew.

Last year I was fortunate enough to play Antipholus of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors. It was one of the first times that you and I got to work as actor/director.  It was a great time creating and laughing.  Hopefully, the beginning of a future of collaboration between you and I. 

VCB:  I recall, in the sweltering heat of last year's summer, you sweating through your pants in the first act.

ACK:  My daughter, Stella, thought I peed myself, as the sweat marks grew from my waist-
VCB:  -To your ankles, yeah.  It was gross.

ACK:  There were a lot of stairs.

VCB:  And you were in long pants.

ACK:  Thanks for that.

VCB:  You bet.  We've ordered some cooler weather this year.

ACK:  Hope they get the memo.

VCB:  What attracts you to Shakespeare? 

ACK:  I have directed Shakespeare numerous times and everytime I do it is an amazingly satisfying process and product.  The work is tremendously vigorous but the payoff is marvelous.  I am attracted to the way Shakespeare developed relationships.  His use of language is so precise and at many times, an actor's blueprint.  I am intrigued by what was working for an actor during the time he was also an actor/playwright and what works for us today.  I think if you do the work and listen carefully he tells the actor much of what he/she needs to know.   

VCB:  What attracts you to Twelfth Night?

ACK:  I love it because it is one of Shakespeare's most accessible and real comedies.  It is magical and romantic.  It is funny and silly.  Twelfth is a beautifully balanced piece.  It has balance in structure as it starts with music and ends as well.  It has balance between riotously funny clowns and passionate lovers.  It's very storyline is based upon the imbalance between an individual.  Everyone in the play is searching at some point for their other half, their true love.  But, Shakespeare strikes a balance by bringing individuals together and developing relationships that allow them connect.  For many they find their other half, for some there is disappointment.

A piece of Dr. Seuss concept art Anthony brought in for the
designers, showing the whimsy, color, and feel of his production.
But, the thing that strikes me most about Twelfth and that I have chosen to focus our production on is MUSIC.  The music is so vital and important to the story.  There is a character, Feste, who is a performer.  Shakespeare gave us this character in my opinion so that he could explore the love story and the comedy with music.  To me, it is an added dimension to the play that we will explore.  I have exploited it, really.  My adaptation has much more music than Shakespeare's original.  But, I think Shakespeare's soliloquies and dialogue were like a music to the Elizabethans who would have seen the original play.  I think he wanted the music to tell the story and so I am taking a cue from him and letting music speak to our modern audience much as it might have those Elizabethans.

VCB:  What's your favorite line in Twelfth Night?

ACK:  I am fixated on music and it's power in Twelfth.  So, I love Viola's response (as Cesario) to Orsino's question, "How dost thou like this tune?"
"It gives the very echo to the seat
Where love is throned." (Act 2, Scene 4)
I think it is key to our work.  The characters in Twelfth communicate in ways beyond simply words.  They are lyricists and musicians.  And, when they emote, they sing.

VCB:  So, elaborate on that.  What should we expect?

ACK:  Expect a Twelfth that is full of music and singing.  

VCB:  Well, that's pretty clear.

ACK:  One actor said, "I heard you are developing the musical version of Twelfth Night."  In many ways, I have developed a Twelfth that tells the story both traditionally and with music.  Part love song...part dance party. 
Nearly all of our characters will sing. As they are disguising either their identities and/or their emotions, they will break into song.  Love songs.  I chose music that is recognizable, fun and at times outlandish.  It is playful and emotional.
I want the audience to be able to sing as the character's tell the story.  I want them to feel the story through music.

VCB:  What informed your music selections? 

ACK:  I chose music that was modern and familiar.  I wanted audiences to be able to recognize the tunes and even sing along.  I gave myself a rule that all music had to represent the demographic in the park.  Well, that is a big demographic.  So, I looked at everything from 70's rock to hits in 2012/13.  

My choices were always based in the text as well.  I chose music that I felt told the same story as the originals that Shakespeare wrote.  If Feste sang a song of lost love, well, then I found a song that had a similar sentiment.  I also made choices for speeches.  There are soliloquies that have been replaced with music.  The "willow cabin" speech for example has been replaced by a tune that is beautiful and poetic.  It resonates with similar emotion.  

Most importantly, I wanted the music to advance the plot.  I didn't want the songs to be performed for their own sake.  So, rule number two was that all music must tell the same story that was originally told.  Music for music's sake was not an option.  So, there are times that we use music to express heartfelt desire, woeful pain and even raucous joy.  

But, in all cases, it tells the same story, just in a modern manner.

VCB:  Do you have a sneak preview or tidbit from this year's show that we can have an inside look at?

ACK:  I won't give too much away, but let's just say that the #1 YouTube cover song can also be found in our show.  And regardless of your opinion of that works!     

VCB:  Thanks for the sit-down.

ACK:  You bet.

VCB:  You ready to get to work?

ACK:  Can't wait.

VCB:  Good Friday Gentles.

ACK:  What's that?

VCB:  That's my tag-line.  I was signing off.

ACK:  Good Friday?

VCB:  Yeah.  Good Friday Gentles.  I bid you a Good Friday, gentle people of the world.

ACK:  Oh, ok.  Good Friday.

VCB:  Gentles.

ACK:  Good Friday Gentles.

Twelfth Night opens June 20th in Elmwood Park.  Shakespeare On the Green is free to the public.  To learn how you can help through Omaha Gives!  CLICK HERE.

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