A guest post by Nate Chen, who portrays Lord Capulet, Juliet’s father, in our production.
When I sat down to consider how to best play the part of THE Capulet in Romeo and Juliet, I wasn’t thinking of commerce or mercenaries. But
after reading the script, one thing that bothered me was that I couldn’t put my finger on what Capulet’s place in Verona society was supposed to be. He’s important, of course, and he wants everyone to know it. But why is he important?
A guest post by Nate Chen, who plays Lord Capulet (Juliet’s father)
Nate first offers some background to the social and political setting of the play:
Shortly before 1000 AD an odd phenomenon started taking place in Italy. People started to immigrate into Italian cities in large numbers. Now in most feudal societies of the era that kind of mass immigration was impossible – you swore your allegiance to a feudal landlord quite early, and paid rent on the land you worked for the rest of your life when you weren’t serving as a foot soldier in your liege’s army. But in Italy, city denizens – or citizens for short – were freed of their allegiance by virtue of living behind really thick walls and the assurances of the city government. This, along with a handful of other guarantees, was one of the first instances of people having rights backed by government.
For most people, the principle of being free of a renter’s life wouldn’t be enough to convince them to uproot from the familiar and go somewhere else.
I can hear the murmurs…”Why Shakespeare?” “Why Romeo & Juliet?” “Why in the round?”
I am so glad you asked!
–Shakespeare, because he is the high-water mark of English literature and English language. Many words and phrases still in common use today can be traced to the Bard, and he is still consistently studied by high schoolers across the US and around the world. Moreover, afO always desires to enrich as well as entertain,
We have spent a number of years kicking around the idea of doing Shakespeare on our Home Stage. But it never seemed like the right time. Until now! Having found the right show and the right concept to bring it to fresh life…God saw to it that we assembled the right cast, too. Young, enthusiastic and very hard working, they have risen to the challenge of Shakespeare’s language, AND playing him in the round, AND adding sword fights and Elizabethan dance.
Kenneth Grahame wrote The Wind in the Willows during what is known as the Golden Age of British children’s literature. Consider that between 1900 and 1930:
Beatrix Potter wrote and illustrated her many picture books for young children, beginning with The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
A.A. Milne created Winnie the Pooh.
E. Nesbit wrote her wonderful children’s novels, including The Railway Children, Five Children and It, and The Enchanted Castle.
Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote A Little Princess, The Secret Garden and Little Lord Fauntleroy.
J.M. Barrie created Peter Pan.
And this list is not exhaustive at all. There was also an explosion of American children’s literature at around the same time, The Wizard of Oz, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Pollyanna, to name a few.
The wonderful thing about all these books, to my mind, is that they are not written “down” to children, over-simplified and dripping with moral lessons. Rather, they are strong original stories which are amusing, engaging and often thought-provoking, but which are most appropriate to the genre (fairly new at the time) of children’s literature.
When the playwright is also a musician and sometime composer of incidental music, it should surprise no one that she has strong ideas about the music for her own play.
One thing that struck me when I re-read Jane Eyre just before beginning to write the play, was a ballad that Bessie–a servant of Aunt Reed, and Jane’s nurse of sorts–sang to the young girl at a time when Jane had been especially mistreated. Oddly enough, though I had read the book a score of times before, I had no recollection of reading the lyrics to that song previously! I find it true in all my reading, that different aspects and scenes of a book will speak to us at different times in our lives. This is one
reason I relish the chance to revisit a favorite book after a few years.
I hunted online to see whether “The Poor Orphan Child” was an actual ballad of the time (popular folk ballads were printed as cheap sheet music and sold on street corners or shops).
All evidence points to Charlotte Bronte herself as the author of the lyrics. Whether she had a melody in mind when she wrote them is anybody’s guess, as no tune is listed. But the words were quite evocative to me, and I found myself compelled to write a melody for them. The result will be heard in the opening moments of the play. Although the song’s origin (and singer) are not explained in the context of the play, they have a mournful quality which is appropriate to Jane’s orphan state. Indeed, orphans are a recurring theme, since not only Jane but Adele is (possibly) parentless; the school where Jane teaches later in the story also includes orphans (notably little Alice, Jane’s attendant). Not only children but adults are without parents: Rochester’s father died when he was a young man (no mention is made of his mother); the Rivers siblings have lost their parents.
This blog post is a perspective on the adaptation of Jane Eyre being used by all for One. It has been common knowledge since our season was announced that I (artistic director Lauren Nichols) wrote it. But I haven’t published any explanation here of why I felt compelled to create my own version, since so many others exist.
Adapting Jane Eyre began as a bit of whimsy, nine years ago. I had been experimenting with non-linear storytelling in another play I was writing at the time, and I was appreciating its many benefits, especially in telling a familiar (perhaps too familiar) tale. It occurred to me that my favorite novel of all time would work well being told in this way, and I sketched an outline which pleased me. I promptly filed it away and half-forgot about it.
This post, on the many and various forms taken by works which have been inspired by Jane Eyre, was contributed by Brittany King, a young actress making her afO debut. Brittany plays the interesting and challenging dual roles of Mrs. Fairfax and Rosamond Oliver.
Most classic works of literature have inspired countless other tales, spin-offs, revamps, adaptations and themes in storytelling, and Jane Eyre is no exception. Since its publication in 1847, there has been plenty of time for the novel to be dissected and resurrected in fresh, new ways, as well as to be adapted into multiple feature length films and television series, and of course, great theater adaptations.
It is often instructive to look at what else was developing and popular at the time of a book’s publication. I asked two cast members to research literature, music and art of the 1840s, to better put Jane Eyre in context. Deborah Dambra and John Dunlap, both of whom play multiple roles (see cast list), provided the background information for this post.
The 19th century saw the rise of romanticism, whose strong association with the natural world was frequently used in symbolic ways to express abstract ideas. Some notable British painters of the first half of the 1800s are George Frederick Watts, J.M.W. Turner, and Edwin Lapseer–a notable painter of animals, including dogs, horses and stags.
Art has the strongest ties to Jane in the novel: Jane herself is an artist of some skill, who prefers rather bleak landscapes and somewhat macabre subjects. As a child she is drawn to the paintings of birds in their native habitat found in a book of naturalism in her uncle’s library. When trying to persuade herself out of her growing feelings for her employer, she decides to do a portrait in pure, soft pastels of the beautiful Blanche Ingram, and a plain charcoal portrait of herself, in order to underline the contrast between them.