Baring It For the Bard


Directors must convey directions directly.

Subtlety is not required. Or desired.

"Give me your best Friday-the-13th-blond-cheerleader-old-school-B-movie-scream, like 'YA-YA-AAARGHUUMMMP!' "

Don't hold us to that spelling.

It's unclear whether instructions to an actress such as those above, articulated by Insurgo Theater Movement's John Beane at a rehearsal for the troupe's interpretation of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" -- opening July 25 at the Onyx Theatre -- separate the masters from the mooks. But only a mook couldn't love listening to his motormouth exhortations:

"Pace-pace-pace-pace-pac-e-ty-pace-pace!"

"C'mon, slink up that mother(blanker)!"

"You're gonna lose your virginity tomorrow. If you don't lose your virginity, you're gonna die, so you've got a lot on your mind."

The first is self-explanatory. The second refers to an onstage riser an actor scales in a scene. The third? More actress motivation. ... Hey, don't look at us. Shakespeare wrote the thing.

"It's not exploitive or shock treatment with the nudity," Beane says, lighting up a cigarette during a rehearsal break outside the Onyx, as traffic speeds by on East Sahara Avenue.

And yes, you read right. Nudity. In Shakespeare.

Bare boobs. Bare buns. Bare Bard.

But only in spurts.

"We are dealing with the height of passion, the obsession quality of that. And that love juice that keeps pouring into everyone's eyes, described as the most potent form of Cupid's powers, we're really taking that to heart. We do use nudity as one of the tools in it, but it's just a part of the tapestry, not a main theme of the show."

Up at the ongoing Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City, they're likely keeping their Elizabethan britches on, but Insurgo's approach at least eases costume wear-and-tear and partially redefines the concept of dress rehearsal. (Imagine, though, the transgender issues alone if actors doffed their duds during the author's time, when men played women's roles.)

This midsummer nights' sex-love-horniness comedy is set in ancient Greece, revolving around young Athenian lovers, a gaggle of amateur actors, the Duke of Athens and his betrothed, the Queen of the Amazons (Theseus and Hippolyta to their pals) and fairies prancing through a moonlit forest, with lots of, well, dreamy context and subtext. You've no doubt seen it somewhere at some time -- it's a hardy, Bard-y perennial.

"We're exploring the dream aspect of it," says T.J. Larsen, who plays Quince, leader of a wretched band of thespians (the characters in the play, not the actors at Onyx).

"The idea of, what is a dream as opposed to reality as opposed to hyper-reality and why dreams take different pieces of real stuff and enhance that, and how to convey to the audience that it's completely real to us, and yet the dream aspects skew things, reconfigure ideas."

It's all rather existential. And as he darts onstage to demonstrate poses, mimic movements and bend bodies into the shapes he wants them, then ducks back to his seat, ordering resumption of rehearsal, leaning forward, head bopping in anticipation, Beane's ferociously focused:

"C'mon, triple the volume, triple the pace! Here we go!"

"It's 50 percent better than it was yesterday. Gimme 10 percent more."

"I don't want you to look like, 'Oh my God, there's a (blanking) moon there!' "

"That's be-yooooo-tiful!"

"Good! Good, good, good, good, good, good, good!"

This obsessive auteur is hell-bent to stiffen the backbone of the Bard's characters. "I think it's incumbent on anyone dealing with the classics to do the muscular work and make it everything it can be for us," he says between scenes. "(The play) has often been seen as a kind of castrated, pastoral version of these heroic archetypes. We've gone back to the origins of those characters, some of them from Greek myth, some of them actual heroes, Spartan admirals. These were not wilting, paisley, lavender, petticoated little Nancies prancing through a fairy world. These were guys fresh off the boat from a conquering land."

Lavender, petticoated little Nancies? Too bad Beane didn't rewrite it as well as reimagine it (a sacrilegious notion, we know, when referring to the god of ye-and-thee-playwriting). "John's a purist as far as Shakespeare's lines go," Larsen says, noting that his talent is in his interpretations. And in the hours, ardor and imagination he invests in Insurgo productions.

"This is my first Shakespeare," says Drew Yonemori, making his Bard breakthrough as a fairy. "John lets you create your own path to what his vision is. He'll let you zigzag and loop-de-loop to get there and he's very supportive. He's here 16 to 18 hours a day, absolute dedication. I've called him at 2:30 in the morning and told him, 'I can't sleep with what I did today at rehearsal.' He's usually up just because he's working on stuff, and he'll say, 'Well, if you do it this way ...' He's always there."

And always animated. And always intense:

"He's trying to Brando it!"

"It's gotta be rhapsodic. Don't take it in, take it out! Out! Out! Out!"

"Projection! Projection! Projection!"

"Cool! Cool! Cool!"

At a John Beane rehearsal, subtlety is not required. Or desired.

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

 

Rules for posting comments

Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Stephens Media LLC or this newspaper. This is a public forum. Read our guidelines for posting. If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon next to the comment.