an actor you want to know everything. We’re like, “What room are we in? Does the door—? What color is the room?” But David [Leveaux] was really patient with us, like, “Listen! That will all take care of itself. We’re not focusing on that. What we’re focusing on is just tell the story. Don’t try to make it old or new or anything. Just what is actually happening.”
This production, the goal was to have it really be about the text, which is why it’s not overly festive. We’re not trying to distract you from the text. All the colors and everything are kind of simple in that way.
EBONY: What were your past experiences with Shakespeare? Was the language a challenge?
CR: I worked on it! Were you able to understand?
CR: That’s good, because that was our goal. It is hard on the ear if not done right. Our goal was to not dumb it down but make it understandable for people. If you as the actor understand, you have the power to pass that understanding on, because you know what you’re saying.
With the language is, I had worked on it before when I was in college. But honestly, not in this way. I can say even when I thought that I’d got it, I didn’t know what I was reading. It is a heightened text, and when people try to do the text in a contemporary way, they try to bring the text down. They try to say lines in the way that we talk. But the problem with that is the language is heightened. So when you try to make it something else, that is when the audience doesn’t understand, or when people are just speeding through lines like, “I don’t know what they’re saying.”
Miles Marshall Lewis is the Arts & Culture Editor of EBONY.com. He’s also the Harlem-based author of Scars of the Soul Are Why Kids Wear Bandages When They Don’t Have Bruises, There’s a Riot Goin’ On and Irrésistible. Follow MML on Twitter at @furthermucker, and visit his personal blog, Furthermucker.