Shakespeare and Fletcher wrote The Two Noble Kinsmen using various source material including Chaucer, Grecian culture, Elizabethan hierarchy, ancient mythology, etc. So, I decided that we should create our own world also derived from several sources, the main one being Tim Slover’s modern translation. The design took inspiration from ancient Greece, the Blackfriars’ stage, war, “The Hunger Games,” hip-hop, and high fashion. By combining all these elements we are creating a unique world reflective of the past (Shakespeare’s original inspirations), the present (Slover’s translation), and the future (with the next generation of Shakespearean actors). With every Shakespeare play, the universal themes always win out, and for Two Noble Kinsmen we focused on the passion of youth, the obsession of love, the destruction of loyalty, and the delicacy of the human psyche in the backdrop of war.
For an hour before each rehearsal the cast engaged in a physical training. This was a way of physicalizing the text, building teamwork, and strengthening their core in order to play warriors, nobility, and county folk connected to the earth. The actors don’t have a real experience of war, so training together was a way of getting these ideas from their heads and into their bodies. The training included dance (with choreographer Juan Carlos Claudio), military calisthenics (with Major Tyler Holt, USMC), Suzuki and Viewpoints exercises, original movement techniques, acting exercises developed by the late Kenneth Washington (former Director of the ATP at the U and my mentor), meditation, and yoga.
During the rehearsal process, we kept coming back to the idea of obsession, and how we justify our actions based on a personal belief system connected to religion, societal norms, or political values. An important context for the obsession is youthfulness or a limited experience within a certain aspect of life. The obsession then leads to questions about sanity. How far is one willing to go to justify what they believe? How does one use their belief system to justify their actions? What is the cost of not taking responsibility for one’s actions? These are the questions that we have been wrestling with.
Another word that kept surfacing was “honor.” What does honor mean to us today? We had Major Holt come in to train and to talk with the cast. When asked about what honor meant in the Marines, he acknowleded that it was a great question that he has not contemplated in a long time—although it is a key value to the Marines. He said that honor was about doing the right thing in any given situation. And that made me think about who establishes what is ‘“right.” What code are we talking about? The pursuit of the answer is inherently flawed because honor is a human invention. And yet it is a core value in so many organized institutions. This play challenges those same ideas.
Speaking from my own value system, strongly influenced by my Mom, I am deeply honored to be back at my alma matter and direct this play with an amazing group of students (including actors, stage managers and a few designers) who jumped in at one hundred percent with full heart and soul, and the unflinching support of faculty and staff of the great University of Utah Department of Theatre.
Thank you for coming. We hope you enjoy the show!