Sorry I haven't updated in so long -- these rehearsals are taking quite the chunk out of my free time. But it's all been worth it! The cast is having fun, the lines are coming to life, and seeing everything assembling is a wonderful moment, as you realise how much bigger this play is than just the few lines you're given.
There's been another interesting development, as well: we've now moved our rehearsals to the front lawn of the Esplanade, our local concert venue. The immediate reaction is horror -- instantly, we're beset by the sounds of diesel engines and sirens and car stereos, assaulting our ears to the point where even the walk signal down the block seems to mock our humble production. Overcoming this background noise has been a challenge for us all.
Naturally, then, we've all asked ourselves during the last few weeks: "Why does it have to be outside?" Tonight, I found the answer.
Tonight was the first night I noted the pedestrians walking by the rehearsal. Some of them asked what it was, some stopped to watch for a few minutes. One and all, they were delighted just to *see* such a thing. Even if they just strolled right past, they were still happy that it existed. One fellow asked us if we were all from Montana, such was his incredulity that Medicine Hat would have a Shakespeare Festival of his own. He was willing to welcome us as travellers, but his delight rose tenfold to hear that we were all local actors. As well it should!
A Shakespeare Festival should never be a "best-kept secret" or a "local treasure". It should be pushed into people's consciousness, it should leap into their conversation, it should pull at the motorists' view as they drive past. A Shakespeare Festival should not just speak to a community -- nay, it should speak for a community, to proudly proclaim, "This is who we are, and what we are capable of doing!"
I now realise that although a quiet setting would be nice, it's not integral to the audience. I've been to concerts before where I couldn't hear anything because it was too loud. I didn't care -- I already had all the music at home, after all. In a way, this is no different. The audience doesn't want a perfect portrayal capturing all the Bard's subtleties. They just want to be there. They want to be a part of something pure, something honest, something inarguably worthy. They want to know that their city has a soul*. We don't need to be perfect to give them that experience. We just have to let them give that experience to themselves.
If you don't mind me quoting a great man from days gone by... one could say that "the medium is the message."
Or, to quote a greater man from days longer gone...
The play's the thing.
*This is actually the reason why I want to see next year's "Shakespeare in the Park" festival held in the old abandoned Wal-Mart parking lot. What can I say? I'm a sucker for irony.