At last: lights, set, costumes, props, action--all together in one place for the first time. Very scary. Even though we've thought about each in detail, when they combine it's always a surprise. Oh, THAT'S what Arden looks like! Seeing the pink sleeping bag next to Celia's green jumper I realized we had a mannerist forest--right out of Pontormo. But a scene later it was something else entirely. I was worried about the lightness of the stage floor, which under the lights risked being brighter than the faces of the actors, a classic theatre no no. But the more we looked the more we liked it. Our Arden is a playground, a circus floor, a sandbox, where people come to play and perform and watch each other play and perform.
To begin with, Rosalind watches Orlando win a wrestling match, and watching she tumbles into love. In Arden everyone is watching each other all the time. Celia watches her cousin pretend to be a boy. Rosalind and Celia are invited to watch a scene payed out between Phoebe and her suitor Silvius--her "red glow of scorn and proud disdain" meets his "pale complexion of true love." Touchstone watches Rosalind reading poetry, then Rosalind and Touchstone watch Celia reading poetry. Jaques wanders around the forest watching everyone. Touchstone, of course, is a continuous performance in progress. In one typically layered sequence, we watch the foresters watch a lord telling us how he watched Jaques watching a deer who was heartlessly unwatched by other deer. The play is full of exits and entrances. All the world's a stage. Playing and performing for others is what everyone in Arden is doing all the time. Sometimes these performances fix the players in their roles: Jaques is saturated in his melancholy, Silvius in his submission, Phoebe in her proud disdain. But sometimes performance is a route to liberation, especially with Rosalind discovering herself as she becomes Ganymede, her inner now outer boy. What a treat this is, especially when you have a Rosalind like Jane Noseworthy. Put her in a baseball cap and overalls, let her loose in the Arden sandbox, and she glows, she positively glows.
Shakespeare's deep and endless playfulness has come to light in another of our projects. We ordered 10 busts of Shakespeare and sent them around to ten of our favorite artists and asked each to play with Shakespeare, which they are now doing. The first one has just arrived, rendered by Sean O"Meallie, one of most whimsical and gifted talents. It miraculously seems to fit right in with our production. His Shakespeare is called "Nuts." Here he is.