If there’s one thing we can be sure of in DC Theatre, it’s that each season we’re going to see something by William Shakespeare. According to Washington Post critic Peter Marks, that’s becoming a bore and reeks of security over artistry. But no matter how many times you’ve seen a particular play, you’ll never see the same show twice. Every production is something new.
Allow yourself to be surprised by the production. Open yourself to the possibility that you don’t know what’s coming. Sure – maybe everybody dies at the end, but maybe this time they don’t. Notice a new inflection the actor gives to a particular line, or the cuts a director chooses to make to the script to highlight certain points that may otherwise be buried, or even a new setting that compares the life of the play to another lifetime – there is always some “aha!” moment when you come into another new production of a play you’ve seen a hundred times. Speaking as someone who’s worked in DC Theatre for almost ten years, I can say that I legitimately get excited when my favorite classics are staged, even if I just saw them at other theatres.
All of Shakespeare’s plays, but especially the “building-block” ones, have staying power because there is so much to tackle. There’s more than one way to kill a king. For example, you might get tapped out on Hamlets. How many times can you listen to that Danish prince whine about his morals? This is a play that raises so many questions about itself, though, that it would be hard not to be different every single time it’s produced. In one year you could see five different productions of Hamlet, and see five completely different interpretations of each moment in the familiar poetry. The language speaks to us, but the production team and cast are the ones using the language to tell their story. Everyone’s relationship to each play is different. It’s not about us.
Caitlin’s Chocolate Cookies Recipe
2 sticks of butter
3 oz of unsweetened baking chocolate
1 cup of sugar (plus a little extra for coating later)
a dash of baking powder, baking soda, and salt
1 tsp of vanilla
2 cups of flour
Melt the butter and chocolate together, stirring until completely combined and smooth. Add the sugar, dashes, vanilla, and egg. Fold in the flour one bit at a time. When batter is completely combined, chill for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350, and prepare the chilled dough, molding it into balls with your hands and rolling them in the extra sugar. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
Let me know if you try something different with it!
I once successfully modified this recipe to mimic Teaism’s fantastic Chocolate Salty Oat cookie (after a few experiments). Make it your own!
The one play of which I will never tire (I am as true as truest horse about this one) is A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Great comedy, fun characters, hilarious hijinks – but what I love most of all is the ode to the life of a player in the scenes starring the wannabe acting troupe including the bombastic Bottom the Weaver. The way they talk to each other about putting on a play and telling the story touches me because we’ve all had those conversations in a rehearsal room. No matter how many times I see it performed it is always funny because it’s always a new set of people taking it on and making it their own.
It’s as familiar to me as my favorite cookie recipe, but I won’t get bored of those characters – or those cookies – because they make me feel good without fail. There is always the possibility of failure – be it burning the cookies or making a choice that just isn’t funny – but I’m open to that, because if it works it’s worth it. Every time. Does it lack artistry? Here my metaphor might crumble, because a recipe is a dictum whereas a script is a suggestion, but come with me: there are always “what ifs.” What if I add oats instead of more flour? What if the forest is an old abandoned theatre? What if I add a hint of peppermint? What if Snug is in love with Bottom?
“What if” is why I can see the same play a hundred times and never see the same show. “What if” is what we are always asking when we take on Shakespeare, and like all “what ifs,” sometimes it’s a gamble. But isn’t it worth it to roll the die and learn from the answer?
What do you think? Can you get too much Shakespeare?
Caitlin Griffin has also been writing with John Dellaporta for our Slings and Arrows series.