1599 Original Concept
The year 1599 proved to be a significant period in Shakespeare’s development and in English history. In 1599, Shakespeare completed the text of Henry V, wrote Julius Caesar and As you Like It and finished the first draft of Hamlet. England much like a contemporary America attempted to crush a foreign rebellion which was rapidly turning into a quagmire, weathered a threat from an expanding super power, worked to maintaining its status as a world economic leader, and waited too see who would succeed an increasingly unpopular leader.
Inspired by the publication of James Shapiro’s A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare 1599 four years ago, we began work on the most extensive and elaborate project in our 33 year history. We will now bring this project to its culmination in the spring of 2016. Work on it will occupy the company for the entire 2015-2016 season.
Shapiro’s study was a provocative analysis of how the historical events, living conditions and literary advances in England in that year sparked the incredible outpouring of creativity that produced these 4 plays. Following pilot productions of each of the four plays, a one month “living dramaturgical investigation” with a full company on what connects the plays, and most recently a series of four Shakespeare “experiments,” each exploring a singularly different aspect of each of the plays, we are now entering the project’s concluding phase an epic event which furthers the Shapiro work one additional step. We will be presenting the 4 plays plus a fifth original, company devised work in a rotating repertory that presents the plays as one Uber text and shows how the reoccurring themes (the plight of the unempowered exile, the roots of tyranny and the fascist state, the nature and limits of patriotism, and the consequences of the principled and examined life) are developed and refined as Shakespeare moves from text to text, demonstrates how the continuing search for a more perfect idea may have inspired the unrelenting journey that led him from the promise of Henry to the ultimate achievement of Hamlet. The 4 plays will be presented in 90 minute forms with 2 plays performed each night.
The culminating evening will be the devised work, a living version of a printed theatre program. It will be created from the research and by interrelating text from the plays to demonstrate thematic and stylistic developments. It will provide historical context, be a way to present an intuitive rather than intellectualized understanding of the dramaturgical discoveries, and will be brought to life theatrically through a series of small events presented simultaneously throughout all the nooks and crannies of the theatre. As the audience moves from location to location (and perhaps back again) they will be able to respond to this event as though leafing through the pages of a magazine in which one may flip backwards and forwards as interest and need arises.
In our 33-year history we have positioned ourselves as a research theater, exploring the nature of acting and directing while using our projects to cast light on significant national and global issues. The vehicle for this work has been the permanent ensemble, actors and director working together in an experiential, aesthetic conversation. This conversation is neither theoretical nor academic; it takes place on our feet first in the rehearsal studio and then in the theater itself-any space where actors and audience meet in a shared space. At the center of this space is the collective storyteller—the members of the acting company.