November 12th, 2007 02:31 EST
Carson Grant Directs
Tell me about the latest project you directed?
I directed an abbreviated version of this famous 1595 play by William Shakespeare about two teenage "star-cross'd lovers" whose “untimely deaths” unites the two households and ends their rivalry.
This presentation was similar to the prose tragic 1582 Italian romance ‘Palace of Pleasure’ written by William Painter and the Italian 1562 translated verse “Romeus and Juliet’ by Arthur Brooke; where only the main characters are respresented in the story.
How did you get involved in this piece?
Morna Murphy Martell from ‘The Instant Shakespeare Company’ asked me if I had the time to direct their company for the summer run in the “Shakespeare in the Garden” West Side Community Garden, NYC. I actually didn’t give an answer, but asked to meet the cast.
How do you share your ideas as a director?
I first had to evaluate the stage environment and develop a vision for the show using the Garden’s elevations and acoustics to the maximum advantage. There was no real budget so creative thinking and minimalism was the design sense; as in, using my window’s sheer curtain for the shrouds.
I decided to have the actors wear white tops and black bottoms, and as a painter I splashed them with color.
Romeo and Juliet were light celestial blue, Tybalt was jealous green, Nurse and Peter were warm serving yellows, the Prince/Capulet were royal red and the Friar was deep commitment purple. I used black to represent evil anger as in the swords which were transparent black snapping towels; and transparent white for pure innocence as in the lovers’ sheets and shrouds.
The first rehearsals I observed what skills and interpretations the actors bought to the play. I inherited these fine actors as an established ensemble group. Being the stranger among them, I explained I needed their trust to guide them through a maze of experiences to arrive at what my understanding of the play’s needs.
After two rehearsals, sensing their resistance to change, I offered to walk away from the production. I gave them the choice. They took the challenge to surrender to my vision and allowed me to knead them to their finest performances. By the third week into rehearsals, they got it! I placed demands on them to give their best performances; winning for them, myself and the audience.
How does this project stake up to others?
I have directed and written other projects, but Shakespeare is so enjoyable, and to have the opportunity to guide actors through his language is very exciting, and yes, much work.
As the director, I take on the responsibility of carrying the entire project. Every creative corner and every production detail needs to be filtered through my eyes, so the audiences’ experience is one continual journey of emotions.
Do you see yourself doing more directing than acting?
Yes, I am a natural story teller, so in time, I will probably balance my acting and directing careers with many tales to tell. I have already been asked to direct ‘A Midsummer’s Night Dream.’
When I was eight years old, I played a story game with my younger brother and sister to help them fall asleep. The ‘word-story game’ was where they would choose a word and I would create a story.
Acting and directing are similar to this game, where I am given the words then I fill in the life of the characters.
One last question, what did you speak on during the Rhode Island International Film Festival film forum panel 2007?
‘Casting from the Actor’s Perspective’ which reviewed some strategies a performer can consider when using the Internet in this new digital age while submitting for an audition, preparing for a casting call and executing your best performance in front of the casting director, then dealing with post-audition blues.
Thank you, Denise, for this moment to share my thoughts.
You're welcome Carson and keep up the great work.
For more information go to: www.carsongrant.com
Time Out Theater Shakespeare Alfresco