The company Hamlet Isn’t Dead is on quite a mission—to produce all of Shakespeare’s plays, in the order in which they were written.
They’re up to Richard III, and as director Brian Gillespie (with theGSAS!hat trick!) points out at the top of the interview, it’s a pretty fortuitous time to be putting up what some might call the Bard’s first “hit,” what with the real, historical Richard’s body re-buried just last week. This production takes the idea of the infamous English monarch as “master manipulator,” and “explodes that metaphor—through puppetry.” Which is really cool to watch.
Listen in as Brian and five of the nine cast members—Jarret Kerr (Richard), Laura Iris Hill (Margaret and more, and also a returning podcast guest), David Andrew Laws (Buckingham, last on GSAS! with Brian for Twelve Nights), Morgan Hooper (Richmond and more), and Travis Klemm (Hastings and more)—discuss puppet workshops, working within your constraints, playing characters you’ve always loved, and the “magic trick” that comes from streamlining your cast.
“The more that I researched the play, the more I was like, ‘which characters don’t have any agency that might be controlled by others, that could be puppets?’…or, ‘there’s a lot of references to shadows, could we explore some of these nightmares with shadow puppets?’…”
Sometimes, as a director, you run into those scripts that you know you just have to do.
For Michael Sladek, that script was Richard Dresser’s Below the Belt, an absurdist take on life and work in the corporate environment — and “absurdist,” in this case, means pretty dead-on, as both Michael and I attest to in this interview.
Listen in as Michael & I discuss putting up a show in the former boiler room of Bell Laboratories, avoiding curse words in verbal battles, wrangling in the corporate workplace, and finding the funny in the dark material.
“…it’s the whole world over, we are all apparently corporate beings now…it’s so funny how often we’re fighting for jobs that, once we have the jobs, we hate them…it’s a lot about that sort of wrangling to get up that ladder, even though you hate the ladder, but you do it anyway, because it’s what you do to survive, and it’s what you do to avoid the harder things in life…”