Friday, May 18, 2007

"Rock 'n' Roll" Broadway Bound

In case you haven't heard, "The Coast of Utopia" has racked up 10 Tony Award nominations this year.

Hot on the heels of "Utopia," Stoppard's "Rock 'n' Roll" is slated to open November 4 at the Jacobs Theatre with much of the original British cast intact.

If this article is correct, you'll be able to hear a BBC Radio 3 broadcast of that play in July, as well as one of "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead."

Speaking of "R&G," there's a modern-dress production in Washington, D.C., complete with Beckettian bowler hats. The production in Kings Langley looks more traditional.


Anonymous said...

Thought this would be of interest to you. Stoppard's play in Boston.

Jon Musker said...

Hi there

I recently finished playing Guildenstern in the Kings Langley Players production. Thanks for the namecheck!

Traditional? Yes in a way I think it was traditional. A black set, everyone in elizabethan costume; three large barrels with people climbing in and out. Jill, the director, has wanted to direct this for forty years, since she first saw the show in London. We played it with about 8 tragedians and a different 8 or so playing the court. One of the benefits of amateur shows is that we can afford to field a large cast. Although the court and the tragedians are often doubled, I suspect this is usually a financial rather than an aesthetic decision. I think the tension between the tragedians and R&G works better if the court are played by a different actors.

As an actor, clearly the sheer size of the part is daunting, but I find that line-learning is just a case of investing the right amount of time. A big challenge with the script is ensuring that the audience engage emotionally with R&G. I believe that unless the audience care whether R&G live or die, the play is about forty minutes too long. I find that particularly challenging with Guildenstern, because his dialog is so caustic at times it can be hard to find a way to show how close R&G are. I think we managed that, though, working on the principal that if we could show how that they liked one another, the audience would find that sympathetic.

The biggest challenge, and one that I would love to have had more performances to work on, was that of timing. Although I am used to timing individual sections of dialog, and building these into effective scenes, I've never been so much on stage (and so close to the audience) that I could literally watch the audience's reactions over the course of the entire show. The first night, we lost them about half way through Act II, and it was a struggle to regain their attention.

Also because R&G are permanently on stage, we have no opportunity to discuss how it is going except in the break between Act I and Act II. We only ran for four nights, and we were only really starting to get the hang of how to control the pace over the entire evening when we stopped. When we got the timing right, though, it was magical; the ending becomes absolutely riveting.

One thing I love about Stoppard (like Shakespeare and Sondheim) is that the more you watch it (or read it) the more you get out of it. Many of the locals who would normally come to see murder mysteries didn't turn out, but many Stoppard fans
were happy to travel quite far to quite a small village to watch it. I think the unusual thing about Stoppard is that he is happy to put in so many gags that you can also appreciate the show on the first viewing. Hopefully we may have made a few converts!

Best wishes for your Stoppard endeavours.