Jon Johnson here, managing to score an interview with the director of Shakespeare in the Pub’s “Fringe” offering – Titus Andronicus, as well as the head honcho of the company itself.
I’m pleased to introduce Jill Tighe, director, and John Stange, producer. Mr. Stange has been producing Shakespeare in the Pub productions for the past few years, bringing “Shakespeare to the people” in various pubs, alehouses, cafes, and bars throughout the DMV area. Jill, having partaken in a good few, has taken them helm this time around to bring us an outdoor-bar version at Fort Fringe.
Her plan is to cover much of that bar area with plastic, to help with the potentially copious amounts of blood. Actors have been offered the option of “being hosed down” before leaving, if it helps (at least one has already agreed to the offer).
I sat the two down prior to their rehearsal yesterday to ask a few questions.
So why Titus? Why now?
John Stange: It’s in a venue we can hose down after we’re done.
Jill Tighe: Literally just because! SiTP hasn’t done Titus yet and I love and LOATHE it at the same time. So there’s no cultural reason to do the play for me or for SiTP except because we can, dammit.
Opens and closes July 20, 2017
Details and tickets
Aside from buckets of blood and plastic everywhere, what can we expect?
Tighe: A bunch of ladies doing Shakespeare knackered. Audience call out and participation and lewd LEWD jokes. (Titus, in particular, has one of the best “Your Mom” jokes EVER written.)
Stange: Double entendres. Also single entendres. Maybe a triple entendre or two, if someone’s feeling ambitious and isn’t worried about pulling a muscle.
Is drinking in the audience encouraged? (I know the answer to this, of course)
Tighe: Oh fuck yes. Can I say “fuck”? Does it get edited to “hell”?
Stange replies only with a laugh, as if to imply the absurdity of the question. The laugh is almost buddha-like in nature, like when the Buddha asks an inquirer to “unask the question”.
Is audience participation encouraged?
Tighe: Oh FUCK YES! (Seriously, can I say “fuck?”)
Stange: We don’t make people get up and make spectacles of themselves or anything (we’ve got that covered), but our audiences do tend to participate verbally. We’re cool with that.
Is there anything you think the piece will say with mostly female/one enby cast?
Stange: “Hello, here are some women being raunchy and playing classical lead roles. You may cheer loudly or shrivel into a raisin, depending on your political affiliation.”
Tighe: I mean there’s always the obvious “Women/Not-Males can be as ruthless as Men” talking point because this play is damn ruthless. There is also no one named Ruth in the cast. But mostly this is just an opportunity for a bunch of bad-ass ladies to do something hilarious absurd and wonderful.
Knowing the show, some people do some horrible things to one another; do you think that makes a statement when the violence is perpetrated by women?
Tighe: Absolutely. I don’t think the “Women/Not-Males can be as ruthless as Men” trope is played out at all. I think it is a fun way to subvert this play that is pretty much a Jacobean revenge “tragedy” that becomes an absurdist comedy when SiTP gets involved.
Stange: I mean, we’re just committing artistic vandalism, not really trying to make statements. It does somehow feel like a safer (if that’s the word) way to play with comically extreme violence. The spectres of systemic misogyny and abuse are less of a presence when it’s not, say, a 6’4″ man pretending to assault a woman.
We know that Theatre Prometheus’ Abortion Road Trip got some pro-life protestors. Do you think you’ll get any, I dunno, just picking a group at random for no reason… anti-cannibalism protestors?
Tighe: I. Would. Love. That.
Stange: We could troll the Reddit forums where neckbeards are complaining about Lyanna Mormont and the 13th Doctor. See if we can get them all spun up about Shakespeare sans dudes.
You’ve assembled a stellar cast; how did you manage to draw such talented performers on such short notice?
Stange: With enormous difficulty. Oddly enough almost everyone we ever ask is 100% game to work for tips from a hat that barely cover a bar tab (probably because, by hour, it’s still better than your average non-eq paycheck). It’s always the scheduling that’s a challenge.
Tighe, leaning in furtively: I bribed them.
How do you plan on making Titus Andronics, a tragedy…fun?
Tighe: I think there is a point in Jacobean Revenge “Tragedies” where the violence gets so ABSURD that it passes over into dark comedy and the only way to play it is to turn it into a dark farce. SiTP is specially situated to facilitate those DARK FARCES and it becomes silly, absurd, goofy and fun. I love the opportunity to turn a “SERIOUS SHAKESPEARE” into something deeply silly.
Stange: You can clown on damn near anything in the classical canon. So many of the plays hinge on characters behaving irrationally, and there are a million dick jokes. Plus everything’s funnier when you’re drunk.
Any drink specials at the bar? Maybe a special cocktail for the show?
Tighe: I wish. Maybe I should bribe them too.
Stange: We asked for a particular food truck that night, but no word on whether it’ll happen. You’ll know it if you see it.
What are the challenges of putting together an “off-the-cuff” one-off night like this?
Stange: Cutting a four-hour play down to 90-120 minutes while still leaving room for our obnoxious ad libs. Casting actors with, like, no notice at all.
Tighe: Getting people together is always a challenge. Everyone is so talented and so busy in DC. But we are trying to expand our reach and get more and more people involved. E-mail: [email protected] if you’d like to get involved.
Could you tell me a little about how this is fun, and why you do it?
Tighe: Shakespeare in the Pub is an opportunity to let our hair down and speak some beautifully poetic text while goofing off. It is low pressure and allows us to stretch our creative/improv muscles while working with some classic text. Everyone knows Romeo & Juliet. But what if Romeo & Juliet were both ladies & all of the swords were penis balloons? (all credit to Kari Ginsburg). That is the sort of thing that makes this so much fun. Absolute sillyness. I think we could all use more silliness in our lives.
Stange: Geez, that’s a list…It gets my lame ass out of the house. It’s a fun way for actors, English teachers, and other people who geek on this stuff to blow off steam. We get to play with Shakespeare and other classical stuff in a little low-stakes, one-off setting where it’s not cutting into the production of underappreciated living playwrights. Lastly, we get to cast people in roles they might not ever otherwise get to play, and they’re often great at them. There’s a reason we do so many all-woman casts.
How’d you manage to get Fort Fringe to host you?
Stange: We thought of it last year and approached them with it, but too late to make it work. They contacted us earlier this year about giving it a shot. As with everything else associated with Shakespeare in the Pub, “just ask” seems to work way more than you’d expect.
Tighe: John bribed them. (not really. but just pretend so I can have my three bribing jokes.)
What can we expect the next “Shakespeare in the Pub” offering to be?
Stange: I’m glad you asked! Angela Kay Pirko is directing something crazy ambitious- the War of the Roses plays (Henry VI 1/2/3 and Richard III) in the span of a week, from August 13th to August 21st at The Pinch in Columbia Heights. We’re gonna do Part 1 for brunch! And we somehow talked a DC theatre heavyweight into playing Richard III, though I’m going to be cagey about that until we’re on top of it, just in case something comes up.
Tighe: What Stange said.
*** There you have it, friends. Shakespeare in the Pub presents Titus Andronicus on Thursday, July 20th, at 6:45 pm at Fort Fringe. Details, including the ever-tantalizing cast-list, can be found on Shakespeare in the Pub’s Website
Stop by for a rollicking, raucous good time with some of DC Theatre’s favourite femmes. I’ll be there, probably wearing something I don’t mind getting a little blood on (just in case.)
Performance is free, but do be sure to tip the performers at the end of the night! There will be a tip-jar, split among all the performers. I have it on good authority that some of them will accept a drink, but please be sure to ask first!