It takes a Village.
The Diverse creation of the new Bay Colony Shakespeare Company.

There is an old adage that it takes a village to raise a child. In a way, BCSC like to think that it takes a 21st century village to create a theatre company. Rich in diversity, experience, not lacking for talent and open minded to all possibilities. When it comes to casting there is no sense of the ‘traditional or formal’, it’s about creating stories with the talent and experience within the company of actors.

“I try and keep to the principle to cast on talent and, what we can build from that, after all that’s all part of the ensemble.” Quotes Ross MacDonald, Artistic Director. “When Eric and I took over the reins, it was clear the company needed to refocus and reenergize. We decided to concentrate our efforts on a Performance in Education program, as it was a mutual passion and something we believed should be the cornerstone of the company moving forward.”

Eric Joseph and Ross MacDonald met over a production of ‘Noises Off’, MacDonald as a director and Joseph a last minute replacement for the role of Selsdon. “It was a happy accident, how we met, but returning to BCSC was the furthest thing from my thoughts.” MacDonald adds.

“Once we decided on a strategy, Eric wanted me to assemble a team that could help us achieve our goal. I was lucky that I had a list of actors who I knew I wanted to work with, and just hope they would reciprocate.”

MacDonald a former soldier and veteran of Afghanistan knew that the right team of actors were needed for the task.

“You know it’s funny that when you have this opportunity, you want to create a talented team that can do the job, and that you’ll enjoy working with through the process. I don’t think about gender, or race, or sexual identity, I genuinely think okay we have this melting pot, and let’s see what we can create. I have a vision a story to tell but I don’t need to limit myself to the traditional or with one particular look in mind. It’s equality in action.  Look I am not comfortable saying look how diverse we are, we have women playing roles originally meant for men, or we have gay actors, or a black actor playing MacBeth, and as a Scot I love that!”

“Look we have Raisa Hoffman playing Malcolm in MacBeth as a woman, it seems quite easy to make Malcolm a Queen, after all I served a Queen and in this version I believe it helps in several ways. Not once have any of the students questioned this choice!”

But all this is only the tip of the iceberg, a long serving member of The Bay Colony Shakespeare Company, is Alexander Munoz. A trans-gender actor playing his roles for the most part as trans-gender characters.

“Ross phoned me and was like do you have a problem with us talking about my identity, and I was like, no, it’s very important that I talk about my identity.”

“Alex and I have worked together for a number of years, and I admit for a long while I had no idea about his identity and of course I struggled to grasp this, and the truth is, playing his characters that are closer to who Alex actually is, the work is very very good.”

MacDonald admits that he struggled with Alex’s identity, and yet over the last few months, though not ever being against these issues, he is, in his own words.

“Gosh I am a lot more sensitive about it, far more understanding, and personally I am honored that Alex is comfortable not only being who is, but sharing it on stage. Thing is we aren’t trying to do it as a gimmick, but as I said before it’s simple, Alex is free to be who is and we are enriched by this. We live in a new age, and students in any schools can’t be sheltered from this, and if it at least makes these students aware of what it actually means on stage as a character in Shakespeare, then well I think it’s another part of what makes our company rather special. After all, we are rather special.”

A special village?

“Oh I hope so, maybe one day a city.”

On a hill?

“One day if we are lucky, one day.”

The night I almost met Alan Rickman

Last week, I saw a delightful film called ‘A Little Chaos’, which starred, was co-written and co-produced by the sublime, superb and sadly now late, Alan Rickman. The story, briefly, revolved around the architects of the Versailles Palace gardens, and the Sun King himself Louis XIV (played by Alan Rickman). At the end of the film courtiers dance in an outside ballroom, standing center admiring all, the Sun King himself, a beautiful shot, and a moment that I thought perfectly summed up the impact Mr. Rickman made on any film.
Back in 1998 I was taking part in my final drama school production. It was being staged at Lyric Studio Hammersmith, a 150 seat black box part of the historic Lyric Theatre Hammersmith. In the main house it was celebrity night as the great and good of London decided to descend and see Joanna Lumley (Absolutely Fabulous and Avengers) in an Improv show! As they were enjoying their intermission drinks, we were deep in the second half of our production of ‘Cloud Nine.’ In the second half of this Churchill classic I played a seven year old girl and a dead soldier! This transformation involved a very quick costume change from girl to soldier to girl again, and several quick dashes back to the dressing room. That night I nearly flew right into Mr. Rickman, and Richard E. Grant, clad in summer frock, and then repeated the almost same collision dressed in camouflage two minutes later.
Within four months I worked for fringe legend Syd Golder (that’s another story). Syd and Alan went way back, including the fact that Syd had given Alan Rickman, Richard E. Grant and a host of others their ‘first’ London jobs. Or at least that is how Syd painted the picture; but there is evidence that all of them, including Gary Oldman, worked for Mr. Golder. Syd always threatened that Mr. Rickman would come to the show, and I had hoped he would as I thought what better way than to apologize for nearly spilling his G and T while dressed in a frock. However it was not to be, and now it will never be.
What’s the point of this wee story? I am not sure, missed opportunity, what if, a celebrity story a little bit different. The closest I came to meeting one of my all-time favorite actors. The funny things that happen off stage. I don’t know, but in closing I would like to say the following.
Alan Rickman was a unique hero, villain, lover, victim, a king, a sheriff, a ghost, a gangster, and of course, a wizard. He could be as comfortable in a costume drama as he was in a Richard Curtis comedy. He was an actor with a unique voice, superb timing, untapped reserves of compassion and an ability to just always be in the moment.
My hope is that BCSC is a company that produces such actors, that attracts such actors, that encourages such actors. That every actor we have has the opportunity to play the widest range of characters that they can envision, and not just to explore the well-trod path. We may never achieve the dazzling heights of Mr. Rickman, but maybe we might be lucky and all stand in the warmth of the Sun.

Aye,
RM

A little patience is all we need

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the ‘Guns ‘n Roses’ concert at Gillette, the perfect summer sky and full moon hung over the proceedings, an omnipresent blessing to the band being back, and wow, were they back. To say the evening was an experience would be an understatement to the power of a band that at least musically had discovered the secret of eternal youth.

Which brings me to the point – the event, the concert itself was the epitome of an experience, 20,000+ brought to a stadium to be captured for a few hours by a musical moment. Now this is no ‘Hamilton’, quite the opposite, but instead of being swept away in a wash of nostalgia for when I first heard these songs, or reminiscing about the times we listened to ‘Paradise City’ on the way to rugby games where I had the stuffing knocked out of me, it was instead a very present, in the moment, watershed.

I am no rock expert, but I don’t think I have ever heard such subliminal guitar work. Slash, looking disguised as always with the hair and trademark hat, was a wonder of experience and expertise, a master with his instruments. One could only sit, stand, shuffle side to side, roll the head, or in my wife’s case, rock it, to the power of the music, to a maestro, the Yo-Yo Ma of the guitar.

What’s the point? Great music, like a great play, will never be a recreation, merely to inspire nostalgia for what things once were, they must always be as fresh and new as if we were hearing and watching the action unfold as if for the first time. The performer, like the maestros Slash, Axl, and Duff, must be as present as if the words and events were living, unfolding around him and through him in that moment. That the audience need to be as transfixed, empowered, swept along as if the rest of their world was forgotten for this brief passage of time.

That is the ambition of BCSC, to create theatrical productions of classical work as if it was for the first time it has graced the stage. To sweep our audiences along on journeys where the action unfolding before them transfixes, holds and envelops. Our actors, directors and designers are encouraged to be maestros in their own craft. I can’t wait to see what ‘rock’ we will create, but if I can beg your ‘patience’, we will definitely have something to share during ‘the November rain’.

Aye,

RM

 

A not so little touch of Europe

I recently found myself in the North End with my family. It has recently become almost a monthly ritual. My daughter is a Pizza Regina fanatic, and with these long summer months, the joy of walking through this unique piece of Boston (which itself prompts a whole host of my own childhood memories) is always a great day out, tantrums and all!

But the thing about the North End which especially appeals to me is the sense of neighborhood and community that remains even amid all the 21st century excess – the rental properties, the young professionals, the packs of tourists pounding through the Freedom Trail. Amongst it all, there is this overwhelming link to generations of families, friends, traditions and heritage. What stories even the humblest brick could tell!

Now my wife is half Italian, of which half of that is Sicilian, so the trips apart from our pizza fix are an important part in my children’s connection to a part of their own unique identity. Heritage, culture, community – it’s all important. The past paving the way to the present, always building for the future.

Now what I am about to say, might be slightly controversial, but this is where BCSC has always had its sense of self. Even though we are dedicated to the classics, we have always been a company that has valued the sense of community, from the local to the international. We are not trapped to one community, one political outlook, one artistic aesthetic, we are not secular in our productions.

Why was Shakespeare popular? Because his plays resonated with both the ‘common man’ and the noble lady in the third tier. His stories were not merely caught in the politics of the day, but the micro and macro issues which resonate through eternity. That even the struggle of kings would have the laborer draw comparisons to his own travails.

We live in troubled times, but I don’t think you could find a point in history where that has not been the case. We could argue that the freer we have become, the shackles seem so much heavier. But amid it all I believe we must be mindful of the community in our work, that if we forget the tinker, tailor, baker, candlestick maker in our work, then it is irrelevant.

I hope that one day our work can be shown in the North End. Presenting ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘Much Ado’, ‘Merchant’ there? Good grief! Shakespeare left us enough plays that would be perfect in the perfect North End, but not just because of the architecture.

Aye,

RM

 

A little insight on Macbeth from Ross MacDonald

So I am currently preparing for my eighth production of the ‘Scottish Play’ (technically my fifth since leaving drama school). You could say I have spent a lot of time on this play – ‘studying’ it at school, growing up with the stories, hearing untimely jokes on my own ‘untimely ripping’ and listening to my Father’s particular insight into Scottish folk lore.

That’s not to say it gets any easier or dulls over time, it just keeps giving. The more I continue looking at it as an actor or director the more I find. For example, it’s easy to say the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth is intrinsic to the plot, but it’s not until you finally find yourself standing there as Macbeth with a Lady Macbeth sharing the load in those scenes, playing their own ambitions, that you finally get it. Moreover, it doesn’t stop in that relationship. In every scene secrets continue to unfold with more envy, more guilt, more ghastly sacrifices and increasingly murderous choices.

It’s not just Macbeth who has these sins of ambition and fear. The play is littered with the ‘sins’ of vanity, fear, greed, lust, envy and, of course, murder. Lady Macbeth, the witches, Banquo’s little moments, the Porter’s sloth-like delay and hellish observations. It’s not just all Macbeth. You could even argue that taken as a whole, he is the ultimate product of his time.

In the production we are presenting this fall, my hope is that at first the audiences will be forgiven for thinking that the witches are transforming into different characters on stage. By the end, my goal is that the supernatural and spiritual qualities which the witches possess will be identified as being present in all of us. Further, that for the likes of ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Lady Macbeth’ it manifests itself speedily but for the likes of Malcolm it is more of a slow boil which the Prince himself is aware of as inevitable. Perhaps Shakespeare’s ironic nod to manifest destiny.

Aye
RM

To all our friends and supporters

To all our friends and supporters

It has been a week since Neil announced his resignation and forthcoming over seas adventures. I know for many the news was a surprise, and even in these tumultuous days, genuinely sad to read.

So let me start by saying thank you, to Neil, and his family for all they have given to BCSC, the communities on the South Shore, the Cape and beyond. From the inception of the company in 2012 to June 2016, none of it would have been possible without the sacrifice, passion and talent of Neil McGarry. Many of you have written about Neil’s triumphs, and we look forward to producing more of them. Nor could I omit Beatrix McGarry for all her generous support and encouragement. Bea, thank you, for letting us all have Neil for the last few years and thank you for all your support

So join me in a virtual three cheers for Neil, Beatrix, Willi, Sarah and Patrick. Hip hip hooray, thank you, and here’s to your wonderful adventures in the Italian Alps.

Over the coming months, you will be hearing from Eric and I rather regularly to say the least. So I will try and be as brief as I can.

To be honest I wasn’t expecting to return. Even though from when I started to work with Neil in March 2013 to when I stepped down in January 2015, BCSC had a profound effect on my life. Leaving the company was only on par with leaving my Regiment in terms of the impact it had on me.

So as I said to Neil, and as I say to you all now. I do not take this task lightly and it is an honour and a privilege to now serve as the Artistic Director of The Bay Colony Shakespeare Company.

I am immensely grateful to be joined by the super talented Eric Joseph. If I could only tell you what he has been up to in the last month. Unfortunately I can’t, not yet, nor indeed what I have been up to, nor can I even tell you what our new Education and Community Director Tom Grenon has been up to. However what I do know is that you are all going to be very, very excited.

Which is what I want our supporters, friends and audience members to feel all the time. Excited, gripped to the edge of your seat and waiting with bated breath to see what we will get up to next.

I will let you into a few secrets, Neil comes back with ‘Carol’ for a limited run. We have a Fall/Winter tour of three Shakespeare classics going out on the road which will occasionally pitch camp for an evening show. In the Spring we start a new tradition of works from the American Canon and next summer at least two plays in rep, one of which being my favorite Shakespeare comedy. (Only perhaps because that is how I met my wife.)

Thank you and look forward to seeing you all soon.

Yours Aye
Ross MacDonald
Artistic Director
BCSC