Notes from the Director
A year and a half ago our Artistic Director, Jim Warren, came to me with two scripts and asked me to pick one, cast myself in it, and “direct” it for the Actors’ Renaissance Season.
After wrestling with the shock and surprise, I dove in, read both plays, and weighed the pros and cons — that’s how we ended up with The Fair Maid of the Exchange, a play that we don’t believe has been performed for nearly 400 years, in the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theatre, the Blackfriars Playhouse.
I’ve been involved with the experiment of the Renaissance Season since its inception in 2005 and have performed in all of them except two. Over the years, it’s been interesting to see how our season of experimentation changes and develops with each new group of people and plays. Having one of the company members straddle the director/actor line seemed like the next logical step, and I’m honored to be the guinea pig for it.
This production marks my professional directing debut, but having performed in over 100 productions on the Blackfriars stage, I feel ready to give it a go. Often during the Renaissance Season, the actor playing the largest role in any given production guides the rehearsal process. We believe, based on what we’ve catchily titled the “Peter Quince Principle” after the actor-in-charge of A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s Rude Mechanicals, that Shakespeare’s company may have had an actor-as-director to help shape their performances.
There are actors in the company who are not unfamiliar with me putting my fingers in their process while I was playing Faustus, Brutus, Prospero and a few others (including Coriolanus in this year’s season). This season, I hope they are armed and ready for me to steer this Fair Maid ship.
It’s an interesting play with delights and dilemmas for a modern audience, and I hope that together we have created a dynamic and entertaining piece of theater for you to enjoy.
RENÉ THORNTON, JR.