Thu 17 Apr 2014
Frequent PCSC actor, Kyle D. Westmaas (Hippolyta/Oberon) talks about the differences between working with original practices with PCSC versus other companies
There is an inherent challenge for any theatre artist whenever they approach a production of Shakespeare, and I’m not talking about the language. At this point, Shakespeare’s productions have been around for over 400 years and have been produced by theatrical artists all over the world and through many different times and genres. In other words, they’ve all been done before. So when a new production of one of Shakespeare’s plays comes about, whoever is producing it must answer a question: how are they going to approach it? What are they going to bring to the table to make the show fresh and accessible? The answer to this question will make or break the show: stray too far from the original play in an effort of creativity and you may lose is message and intention. Don’t plan at all and the language and the scope of the play will drown its performers. So it is that every company that makes the attempt at one of his plays must figure out the question for themselves: how are we going to do Shakespeare?
At this point in time, I have done quite few productions of Shakespeare, all with varying levels of success. I have done the big budget museum pieces, experimental abstractions, and even small scenes in coffee shops. A lot of my work, however, has been with Pigeon Creek and original practices, and it is their approach that has most resonated with me and that I have carried with me to whatever production I’m involved with. What is that approach, you may ask? To put it as simply as possible: Shakespeare’s approach. When Shakespeare wrote his plays, he had a very particular expectation for how they were to be staged. Action motivated through language, audience interaction, universal lighting, thrust staging: all of these were inherent to the words that he put down on page. Starting with and using this sort of foundation means that whatever idea you put on top of it will not get in the way of the play itself and it’s message: the language will not be lost. Shows that I’ve been involved with that haven’t been successful have let whatever idea they have for the production get in the way of this foundation, of the language and the intention. With Pigeon Creek, this doesn’t happen. While the shows may not have the budget or flash of some, the story and language are one thing that is never lost. The goal of every show is to make sure Shakespeare’s words and intentions are communicated clearly to the audience, perhaps making it so they hear it truly for the first time.
As I have said; I have been in many productions of Shakespeare. But what makes Pigeon Creek different, and the reason that I keep on working with them is that I know that whatever else happens, the play will always be the thing. There will be fun and there will be laughter, all wrapped in a layer of professionalism that can only come from experience, but at the end of the day, the play will always be the thing, and Shakespeare’s story will be told.