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BWW Blog: Music Plays the Role of Muse

BWW Blog: Music Plays the Role of MuseMusic has always played the role of Muse for me as a stage director. Occasionally, when I am stuck creatively or wanting to be around the actors in the rehearsal room or need to assistance in focusing, I will play the same piece of music over and over. I have meditated on Dvorak when considering the relationship between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West in Vita & Virginia, on Bach's cello concertos when considering Julius Caesar, on Bartok when constructing A Midsummer Night's Dream, Zoe Keating for The Tempest, Rachmaninoff for Hamlet, and many others.

I've just sent my letter of welcome to Tennessee Shakespeare Company's 17-actor cast of our Taming of the Shrew. I speak to many things, as usual, in the letter, including how we will rehearse, the use of First Folio, a brief history of the company, and an overview of early thoughts on the production's designs. The end result of the production might not be what I write about today. But I like having a working psychological place from which to open the door to the actors and designers.

And then things change once we all get in the room together.

We will set our Shrew, which is one of my favorite plays and one that presents a controversy which I embrace, in 1927 in Memphis. My musicology, while pedestrian, has always enabled me to name the year of a song, especially if it was 1920 to 1948. When I was 16, I used to tell people I stopped listening to music after that. You can imagine how popular this made me.

I say this because I knowingly fudge pieces of music against the year or era in which we are producing. And if it is just a matter of a few years, well, that doesn't generally stop me from being inspired by a particular piece of music.

That piece right now is composed by Richard Rodgers. What an extraordinary and prolific American musical talent. Pianist Derek Smith plays my favorite version of Rodgers' "You are Too Beautiful." I have included link to it below, and it is connected to the final scenes in Charlie Chaplin's masterpiece, City Lights. If you have never seen the film, please don't access this link. I don't want to spoil it for you. But if you would like to listen and watch, I think this will make you smile:

Alternatively, or additionally as you see fit, I include two other pieces of music that will make you smile.

A young actor with an old soul, Sam Bardwell, years ago in Atlanta introduced me to singer/songwriter Greg Brown. I am forever grateful. Listen to this one all the way through:

My favorite female singer and stylist is Susan Marshall. She's a Memphis legend. I first saw and heard Susan sing nearly 35 years ago. She sang as Maria in West Side Story, and I've been drawn to the musical ever since. Susan also introduced me to Manhattan, its subway system, my first taxi ride, The Empire State Building, and my first transvestite. I love Susan. And she has also made sure to introduce me to all the great musicians in Memphis, including several who have played in TSC shows. Even on video, you will see she radiates generosity. Susan will definitely make you smile:

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Guest Blogger: Dan McCleary Dan McCleary is the Founder and Producing Artistic Director of Tennessee Shakespeare Company, the Mid-South’s professional, classical theatre and education organization based in Memphis.  Dan has made a living as a classical stage actor, Shakespeare master teacher, producer, artist-manager, and stage director around the country for 25 years. Memphis Magazine named him among the “Who’s Who in Memphis” each year from 2009-12, and the Germantown Arts Alliance honored him with its 2009 Distinguished Arts and Humanities Medal for Performing Arts.  Dan is a published poet, and he holds a B.A. in Advertising and Journalism from Temple University.  Dan is the proud father of three-year-old twin boys, Sullivan and Collins.

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