Katie Harroff sat down with director George Yé to talk about the his experience working on Shakespeare’s R&J.
What is your history with Cygnet Theatre?
I’ve been working with Cygnet ever since 2004, I think, way back when Sean and Bill opened the space in Rolando. I designed sound for a number of shows, directed a production of Copenhagen in 2006, and other staged readings. In 2005, I produced and directed an independent project in the Cygnet Theatre space called . . .and then he met a woodcutter. Around that time I was asked to join Cygnet as an Associate Artistic Director. It was an honor I could not pass up. I continued to design, and work on various productions, and helped develop the sound system for the Old Town Theatre. Some years back we produced Escanaba in da Moonlight; for which I won a Craig Noel Award for sound design. I’m deeply committed to the continued growth and development of the company and humbled and overjoyed to participate artistically as well on R&J.
What drew you to R&J?
I love working on Shakespeare. Though I don’t get to do it very often, I actually have some intensive training. Working on this production afforded me the chance get my feet wet with some classic text while at the same time working in a contemporary way. It tells a coming-of-age story fueled with teenage angst, hormones, sensations of first love, and lust. It’s gritty. I like how Calarco’s interpretation of the original text and the students’ story align perfectly and call on the audience to experience the play through a new optic making it seem quite fresh. I was attracted to the potential the play has to challenge and reveal assumptions people have about gender, identity, and also how we can and should interpret and stage classic texts in 2013. I also was very excited to work with some of the great designers who usually work with Cygnet.
What was the hardest part about staging this piece?
The end. The actors and myself deliberated on the ending a number of times. I suspect years from now, I’ll be sitting in a café with a friend and will yell out of nowhere, “Ah! That’s it! That’s what we should have done for the ending!” I waited till very late to set the ending of the play. I knew it was a sacred moment for the cast, and I didn’t want to shut down the creative process too early, yet at the same time, everyone was looking for the right way to end the play. I had to wait and see a few run-throughs with the cast fully committed to each moment before I could start to feel comfortable with a plausible ending.
Why should people come see this show?
It celebrates the medium of theatre on so many levels. The play calls on the audience to use their imagination. Peter Herman the costume designer found us a sturdy bolt of red silk that weaves it’s way through all the action of the play. This elegant prop transforms into many items that help tell the story; vial of poison, rapiers for fight scenes; a knife, a turban, and many more. It really has turned out to be the fifth performer on stage. It’s miraculous to see how the actors use it. It’s a great play for the thrust space in the Old Town Theatre, and it addresses contemporary issues of censorship, oppression of youth, filial love and friendship, the power of first love. It’s something not to be missed.