For this assignment, I attended the Henry V play performed at the St. Stephen Anglican Church Theatre. This play was my first historical play in English. Shakespearean plays are well-known for being representative of the English literature heritage. Thus, without a hardworking gifted cast and strong director such plays can fail to live up to Shakespearean standards. The entire crew of this play tours around North America, which means that they live the play every day. The scenes and their acts are a part of their lives. I will discuss several aspects of their particular performance that I found fundamentally improved the play.
The casting and performance decisions in the play vividly mixed the conventions of the era that the play represents with modern times. The female actors who performed in this play were not only responsible for traditionally female roles but they also played chief knights and army generals. As we know, women were not at all part of the army during the era the play depicts. Moreover, female roles in the plays were played by males in feminine clothing and makeup. Thus, using female actors not only to perform feminine roles but also to share in traditionally male roles is a major change that represents modern society. However, the historical theme of the play was not adjusted at all. Such a directorial choice preserves the nostalgic state of the play and adds a sense of who we are as a society nowadays.
Another aspect I found important in delivering the full experience was the venue. The director chose the St. Stephen Anglican Church Theatre for this play. This theatre was traditional in every way. Its chairs, lights, stage, and old stained glass all aided in delivering an atmosphere reminiscent of the play’s era. The experience was so deep that I felt that I could smell the fragrance of that era.
Moreover, the set design represented old theatres’ abilities. The theatre did not use microphones or any high-tech gadgets. The actors performed all the dialogue in the play using loud voices. This may have been done because of the financial situation of the crew; however, I saw this as an advantage. The actors were walking to and fro, performing around the audience. I could hear the far-away voices, and I turned left and right to keep track of what was happening.
This play helped me make several directing decisions for the Medea play. In general, the Henry V cast delivered an experience true to the atmosphere of the era, which showed me that using new technology is not always a good idea. Also, I learned it is important to deliver a nostalgic experience to the audience using every opportunity, even when it comes to sounds and smells. For specific planning, I list the following components below, though it is hard to separate the components because they overlap in several areas.
- Venue: because the Medea play represents the Greek Euripides era, I will build a theatre that mimics the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Performing the play in such a context will put audiences in the Chorus’ shoes. Also, this theatre will be designed with the best scientific approaches to better project the voices of the actors without using microphones. This will be essential to keeping the audiences fully engaged in the play.
- Casting and performance decisions: I know that this will be hard, but I will try to find a widowed woman from an Eastern culture to play the Medea role. I need the actress to be engaged with every painful line, every act, and every movement. The Medea play represents male dominance and how women were used as objects during that period. I want Medea to cry and wail realistically when she performs the infanticide scene. I may not be able to use female actors for traditionally masculine roles like the Henry V play did, but I will devote every decision to represent female grievance in that era.
- Set design and text edits: the Chorus will be seated like a normal audience. They will interject when their time comes. Their dialog with Medea will strongly engage the audience. They will empathize with Medea gradually, to catch audiences’ attention. As Medea talks to them, she will be talking to everyone. The Chorus will not be limited to specific lines of text; they will be free to interject lines of their choosing anytime they want (of course, they will choose the most appropriate times). They will be speaking and crying with the audience. I will make another text edit in the infanticide scene. It will be done while Jason watches the act and Medea suppresses his intervention with her magic. He will cry to death.
- Lighting, sound, and other effects: due to my significant funding, I will build a high-tech, reactive roof. This roof will be embedded with lighting that will reflect Medea’s emotions. Anger, fear, disappointment, and hopelessness will all be delivered to the audience through the lighting. The roof will rain black water when she enacts her revenge—and blood when she kills her own children. The only use of microphones will be to deliver thunder and sounds of pain. Audiences should be overwhelmed with her emotions.
- Costumes, makeup, and props: generally, costumes in my play will represent ancient Greek heritage. Medea will look dirty, ruthless, and ugly at the beginning of the play. She will be overwhelmed with pain and disappointment. But, after she plans her revenge, she will wear a lovely dress with a charming appearance. She will wear beautiful witch makeup, like in Disney movies, to show that she has restored her balance and that everything is under her control. Jason’s appearance will reflect that he is the best warrior of his time. I will present him as a toned, muscular male with an ego. He will be wearing golden Greek armour, which will only cover his chest. When his scene comes, the theatre will be overwhelmed with soldiers charging out from everywhere, who will then kneel before Jason. But, when he comes to see his children for the last time, he will come alone, wearing burnt clothing and looking like a poor monk.
If I incorporate all of these aspects, this will result in a very touching performance that I promise will bring tears to audiences’ eyes