Published in the Tuscaloosa News, November 1, 2013:
Prentice Concert Chorale and local Shakespeare troupe the Rude Mechanicals have joined forces to bring the Tuscaloosa community “Shakespeare Spoken and Sung” this weekend.
The performance consists of 45 minutes of song and 45 minutes of scenes, soliloquies and sonnets performed by members of The Rude Mechanicals and the Prentice Concert Chorale. Scenes will be performed from “Much Ado About Nothing,” “As You Like It,” “Twelfth Night,” “Taming of the Shrew,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “Macbeth.” Additionally, soliloquies were chosen from “Twelfth Night,” “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Hamlet” and “As You Like It.”
The performance has required two months of rehearsal time in which the Rude Mechanicals and Prentice Choral Chorale prepared for the production separately; the two groups will put it all together in one rehearsal before taking the stage this weekend.
Leslie Poss, director of the Prentice Concert Chorale has been sitting on the idea for more than three years and said her original intent was to work with the choir itself.
“I knew there were great musical settings in Shakespearian text,” Poss said. “I was also realizing so much of Shakespeare’s original intent was for his text to be acted, adding that element to the spoken word.”
As Poss continued to think about the idea, she said her first contact was Mark Hughes Cobb of the Rude Mechanicals.
“He was definitely interested in it, and then we broadened the circle and brought in Steve Burch and Deborah Parker because of her connection with the two groups, and agreed this was something we wanted to do,” Poss said.
Poss said the hardest part of putting the production together was determining the material that should be included in the show, as well as how closely the music and drama should be tied together.
“There are scenes that will be acted and within that scene there’s a song Shakespeare wrote” (the lyrics; the Bard didn’t write melodies), Poss said. “For some of them, we’re able to directly link the song and the play, and for others there’s no connection at all necessarily.”
Most of the musical selections are two or fewer minutes in length, which led the two groups to add more musical selections than they had originally intended. Selections include short songs from the play’s texts, with music by various composers, such as Leonard Bernstein, John Rutter and Cole Porter. The Chorale’s performances range from solos to ensembles to full chorus.
“There was a challenge as far as music is concerned because most of the songs that Shakespeare wrote were very short, that were in the context of a play,” Poss said.
The groups also recognized the importance of choosing scenes and soliloquies that are well known enough outside the context of a specific play so they were able stand alone.
“All four of us discussed scenes based on themes, love mainly, as well as material that could be explored in the confines of a space with a choral group,” said Burch of the Rude Mechanicals.
Although the event appeals to Shakespeare fans and music enthusiasts alike, Poss said the show won’t be what the audience expects.
“This provides a great opportunity to hear Shakespeare live without the fear or dread of, ‘I have to sit through an entire Shakespeare play,’” Poss said. “That’s the advantage of this programming. There is known and unknown as far as some scenes are concerned, and once they start to see it they will be comfortable with it.”
Burch said his favorite part has been being able to direct scenes in the performance.
“It’s always a treat to have a go at Shakespeare, even if in fragmented form,” Burch said. “The language and the insight into human behavior make it not work at all.”
Poss said working with the production’s other directors Burch, Parker and Cobb has been inspiring and humbling.
“Their love and passion for Shakespeare and the spoken and acted work is very inspiring,” Poss said. “Their knowledge and their love of this is just palpable. It’s not something that we should study because it’s 400 years old and because it’s good for us, it is their belief in Shakespeare and his insight into humanity and the raw emotions of who we are as human beings.”