DSF’s Producing Artistic Director David Stradley will be directing this summer’s THE COMEDY OF ERRORS. He’s writing a blog entry each month to let DSF’s fans into the creative process behind the production.
This is the “dreaming” portion of the director’s process. At this time, I’ve read the play a couple of times and am allowing it to wash around in the back chambers of my creative consciousness. I’ve read some essays and look for bold ideas to pop out to me. (I always read Harold Bloom’s chapter on whatever play I’m directing in his book Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human and whatever references to the play are in Stephen Greenblatt’s creative biography of the Bard, Will in the World). I pay attention to reviews of current productions of the play, wherever they may occur. I’m actually going up to New York this week to see a production of The Comedy of Errors at The Public Theater.
When I read reviews or watch productions, I’m not thinking, “Oh, we’ll do the show just like this!” I’m looking for inspiration – themes that reviewers may find in the productions, casting choices different directors might make, an actor who brings a certain aspect of a character to the surface. Shakespeare is so big and so bold that you are never going to mine everything fully in a production, so I feel you may as well take advantage of all the various efforts out there to present entertaining and vital productions of the play. You can always learn something from watching or reading about a Shakespeare play. And, hopefully, that knowledge will help us take a few steps forward when we are working on the play this summer.
I start thinking very broadly at this time about the world of the play. Shakespeare sets The Comedy of Errors in Ephesus, which is a city near the Aegean Sea in modern Turkey. I’m starting to imagine what costumes might be like (Turkey is a hot place – can we get away with some of the men in shorts?). In the Bible, Ephesus has a reputation for being a somewhat wild and mysterious place (thanks to Paul’s letters that detail his struggles with magicians and soothsayers in the town). Shakespeare and his audience would have had that frame of reference in mind. How might our production capture that mysterious and slightly discombobulating feeling? It’s accurate both for the sense of place and for the chaos and confusion that ends up surrounding the characters in the play. A production in San Diego set the play in New Orleans. The DSF version probably won’t be set there, but you can understand why the creative team would make that decision.
DSF’s audience loved the decision to stage The Taming of the Shrew “in-the-round” last year. I’m thinking about whether there is a creative staging technique we could use this year. Right now, I’m pondering the idea of a “runway” staging with a long platform running right down the middle of the lawn and audiences sitting on both sides. The Comedy of Errors, with two sets of identical twins, is a play about identity and figuring out who you are. So, why not a staging that would have one half of the audience looking directly at the other half for the whole play, much like the twins consider each other at the end of the play. Everything is possible right now! In a few months, I’ll start having conversations with the designers and they can tell me I’m insane for wanting to use a runway! But for now, you dream your way into the play and seek inspiration in all sorts of places!