BWW Interview: Nathaniel Twarog of NO PANTS SHAKESPEARE - AS YOU LIKE IT at Tennessee Williams Theatre Company
Fans of The Bard and wearing their sweats at home are in for a treat as the Tennessee Williams Theatre Company brings to you NO PANTS SHAKESPEARE - AS YOU LIKE IT on Friday, April 3. John Proctor is set to direct an ensemble of New Orleans talent in a staged reading of one of Shakespeare's funniest comedies. Conceived by local theatre artists Eleanor Pritchard and Nathaniel Twarog, this is the first New Orleans No Pants Play Production live stream event.
In AS YOUR LIKE IT, witty words and romance play out as heroine Rosalind runs away from the court of her usurping uncle in search of love and happiness in the Forest of Arden. In order to escape notice, Rosalind dresses like a boy, only to discover her true love, Orlando, has also fled into the Forest. In this mixed-up world, anything can happen-and in the end, love does indeed conquer all.
Will there be props? Will there be disguises? Will there be actual pants? Read on to find out this and more as BWW sits down with Nathaniel Twarog to find out more about this remote reading during a time when theatre is most needed.
BWW: How did you come up with the idea?
Twarog: My wife Eleanor originally came up with the idea a couple weeks ago, just after schools were cancelled. Both of us have a lot of friends in the New Orleans theater community and were disappointed that so many amazing shows had to be cancelled. We both felt like there were a lot of people in the community who wanted something they could connect to, something that could give a semblance of live performance. I've worked from home as a programmer for the last several years, so Eleanor felt like it would be feasible for the two of us to set up a virtual "stage reading" It's certainly not the same as true live in-person theater, but it's as close as we can get these days. Once we felt like we had a handle on the technology, we got in touch with Augustin Correro and Nick Shackleford at TWTC, who started reaching out to their contacts about the project; that's when the plan really started to take off.
BWW: Why AS YOU LIKE IT?
Twarog: When we started fleshing out the idea, we realized this was going to have to lean on a public domain script, since the "reading" would be streamed live to a theoretically unlimited number of people. Both of us have always loved Shakespeare, so it seemed like natural starting point. From there it was kind of a process of elimination: we didn't think anyone was in the mood for a tragedy at the moment, and the histories can be a bit tough to follow even when you've got a stage and costumes, so the comedies felt like the best fit. We had a fair amount of familiarity with AS YOU LIKE IT, and both love the show, and at least a couple of the themes - the odd duality of humor and melancholy, finding contentment in a time of unexpected isolation, the simple joy of human interaction - seemed somewhat relevant, so we went ahead with it.
BWW: What do you hope viewers will take away from the experience?
Twarog: It's hard to say how people will react to the reading, as I can't think of a close parallel to what the cast will be doing. I imagine many of the folks who tune in on Friday will be members of the theater community, who will hopefully feel a sense of excitement and relief at being connected to their community again, if only for an hour or two. Assuming nothing changes before Friday, all of the actors will be live on video throughout the show, so the audience will be able to see not just the actors "on stage," but also their fellow actors watching with them. Having watched the cast read through the script a couple days ago, I can say that there was something unexpectedly joyful about seeing all these wonderful performers playing off of one another, and really enjoying each other's performances, even in such a strange format.
BWW: What is the format of the show?
Twarog: What we've tried to aim for is the virtual equivalent of a staged reading. So, there won't be any costumes, and very few props. I think there might be a little hat work, to help with some of the disguise plot points, but not much beyond that. We did trim down the script a lot so that we could keep the cast size fairly manageable. As it's currently cut, the cast is 13, with no doubling, and the show ran an hour and forty-five minutes in rehearsal (with occasional stopping and notes).
A question that we have (understandably) gotten a lot is "How is this actually going to work?" Basically, we'll be using video-conferencing software to do the reading together. The meeting will then be streamed from my computer to YouTube live, where anyone with the YouTube link ( https://youtu.be/fM1juzhbGQw , which will be on the No Pants Shakespeare event page on Facebook), can watch it in real time.
BWW: Who is in your cast?
Twarog: The (truly remarkable) cast is:
Julia DeLois as Rosalind
Matthew Raetz as Orlando
James Yeargain as Duke Senior
James Bartelle as Jaques
Trina Beck as Celia
Matt Reed as Duke Frederick
Keith Claverie as Touchstone
Jonathan Drury as Oliver
Reid Williams as Silvius
Drew Lenore Pearson as Phebe
Monica R. Harris as Adam
Kate Kuen as Corin
Leslie Claverie as Audrey
and John "Ray" Proctor, Director/Stage Directions
BWW: Really no pants?
Twarog: We'll never tell...