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Production Notes

Coriolanus

Centennial Park Bandshell
August 14 - September 7, 2008
Thursday - Sunday 7:30PM
Labor Day Monday, Sept. 1 7:30PM
 
Directed by Mark Cabus
Set Design by Jonathan Hammel
Costume Design by Billy Ditty
Lighting Design by Anne Willingham
Fight Choreography by Roy Cox
 
Coriolanus Christopher Brown
Aufidius

Kamal Bolden

Cominius Matthew Carlton*
Volumnia Rona Carter*
Virgilia Jamie Farmer*
Valeria Denice Hicks
Sicinius Jessejames Locorriere
Brutus Brenda Sparks*
Menenius Rodrikus Springfield
Titus Lartius Patrick Waller*
   
The Byron & Beth Smith Apprentice Company
Jillian Frame, Lindsey Myrick, Maddie Hicks, Ashley White Brothers, Miranda Fisher, Emily Eytchison, Meredith Locke, J.R. Knowles, Matt Moynihan, Kai Mote, Jesse Wangrud, Diego Gomez, Sam Spanjian, Brad Burns, Tommy Harless
   

* Denotes Member of Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States

A note from the director of CORIOLANUS:

Excuse me? CORIOL-what did you say?!? How many times have I heard that over the past year? CORIOLANUS, I’d repeat. I’ve never seen that one was the general reply. That’s OK, I’d nod smiling, me neither.

Last October, when Nashville Shakes Artistic Director Denice Hicks telephoned me to ask if I really intended to produce CORIOLANUS in Naked Stages’ 08-09 season, I answered yes. I knew that in an election year Shakespeare’s rugged play about power and politics was a perfect fit. Denice agreed. She agreed so much that she too was planning to make CORIOLANUS apart of the Festival’s next season. Hmm. Now here was a genuine dilemma. Was Nashville big enough for dueling Coriolani? No, we didn’t think so and met to discuss it. We both agreed that play’s correlations to the modern electoral process were too obvious to ignore. We discussed our various ideas, expanded them, and soon a partnership between our two companies was born, a collaboration of like minds and a little-known play.

CORIOLANUS is a play of action before thought. As Shakespeare’s final tragedy, it represents the worst in all of us. These Romans don’t consider the repercussions of their actions. They are easily swayed and manipulated by public and private opinion. They are petty and ruthless and want what’s coming to them. In the midst of them stands Coriolanus, an intensely honorable man with an awe-inspiring military record. Tempered by the searing righteousness of his mother’s morality, he is more machine than man. He holds himself to a higher standard and despises all who fall short of his criteria. He is a man of too little education and too much rhetoric. In Shakespearean terms, he is destined to fail. In modern American terms, he is every individual set upon a pedestal for public scrutiny.

At Naked Stages, we embrace a vision of spare, unadorned theatrical storytelling, the proverbial “empty space”. In doing so we hope to expose the human condition by stripping theatrical nature to its most fundamental. In approaching a sprawling play about power brokering in ancient Rome, the question was making it applicable to a modern audience. I believed our “naked” viewpoint could help narrow Shakespeare’s focus (Thank goodness, Denice believed so too.).

Rather than recreate an antiquated world of sandals and togas or a contemporary one of boots and camo, I was more interested in a modern visual context that still retained a sense of past. Searching for a parallel history, I discovered the Russian Constructivist era served my purposes best. Rome’s nascent Republic, newly freed from Etruscan rule, corresponds quite nicely with the post-czarist Soviet Union. No, I’m not saying the Romans were Communists, but both early cultures experienced cruel war, economic hardships, supply shortages, patronizing leadership, public dissension, and divisive government policy. Sound familiar?

Yet this is still a regime under construction. We’re four hundred years away from the Empire we hear about on the History Channel. The Coliseum is but an imminent shadow. Our set designer, Jonathan Hammel, ingeniously brought classical elements of Roman architecture together in a single open space, presenting them as iconographic symbols, both singular and flexible. Wrapped in the yet-to-be-built walls of a citadel, we are centered round a sand pit, the symbol of power in the play. All battles, whether physical or verbal, center in this arena. It is a place reserved for few; to take power in this world is to take the circle. The power is never given. It must be won by force.

I’ve always been impressed with costumer Billy Ditty’s discerning eye, impeccable taste, and his dedication to including the actors in his process. He spends real time sifting through their ideas to accomplish his own. We both agreed that the constructivism of both eras allowed us the latitude to ‘rough it up’, and being fans of pop culture, we ran our concept through a punk rock meat grinder. He embraced the blending of two cultures into a third. What immerged is a timeless yet completely unique world of rough-hewn men and women struggling to define themselves militarily and socially.

At this writing, we have only discussed the lighting of this play, but my admiration for Ann Willingham’s design work is great. Her use of chiaroscuro, the play of light and shadow, is complex and deep. We both agree that lighting a play out of doors presents many challenges. Having to contend with sunlight, even though it is fading, is only part of the difficulty. But in CORIOLANUS, whose story goes from light to dark, we embraced the waning of day into night as a theme. We’ve sought to capture atmosphere and expression over naturalism. I’m certain her final design reflects the power and authority of this play.

Roy Cox, an extraordinary fight choreographer and friend, worked with us closely to create a tumultuous people, warriors all. Mixing martial arts and weaponry, he produced combat sequences worthy of the rugged Romans. His patience and skill have rubbed off, inspiring us to satisfy “Uncle Roy’s” unflagging spirit.

Text consultant Dr. Ann Calhoun and Dramaturg Christine Mather were both invaluable in my adapting the text into a muscular performance script, drawing from other Shakespeare texts and sources to complete the story pounding its way out of my head.

Robert Marigza and Nancy VanReece have been beacons of calm reason and wisdom through a process that is seldom either. Denice’s unwavering support and trust inspired and prodded me onward, just as Claire Syler’s insight lit my path in times of doubt. This has truly been a collaboration of like minds. I pray our efforts make CORIOLANUS a less of a little known play and more of an well-remembered experience.

Welcome to CORIOLANUS, the Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s 20th Anniversary production and its first collaboration with Naked Stages. Together, we are thrilled to share this timely play with you, Nashville’s audience.

Mark Cabus

Director for CORIOLANUS

and Artistic Director for Naked Stages

 

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Production Notes
 



 

 

Christopher Brown as Coriolanus and Kamal Bolden as Aufidius

Photo by www.jefffrazier.com

 
 
 
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