Posted Tuesday, September 21, 2010 - 9:50am

Walter Bilderback: What is the importance of language to doing Shakespeare?

Andrew Wade: The importance is that the whole storyline is driven through the language. It’s very easy to talk about text-driven plays, because most plays have words in them. But in Shakespeare, the whole narrative is driven by how the language works, how we relate to that language, and therefore how a story is told to an audience. Shakespeare is verbalized thought.

WB: What are some of the ways in which you help actors to get a feel of that language?

AW: We are always having to find our relationship to form, so the work always seems to be changing, decade to decade, generation to generation, in how we relate to form and writing. How do you react to the form of the text? When I started teaching in the late ‘70s, working with a group in a drama school on the Romeo and Juliet prologue, an actor came in, and brought a sword, and ran around and jumped around the stage. And when I said, “Well what about the shape of it,” he said, “Oh, ____ the shape. I just wanted to be creative with it.” And I think in England during the Maggie Thatcher years everything became about qualifications and rules. There was a whole generation who just wanted answers on  how to speak Shakespeare. Wanted to know what the rules were.

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An Interview with LEAVING Set Designer Klara Zieglerova

Posted Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 11:42am

Richard W. Kotulski, Wilma Literary Programming Assistant and Casting Director: The set for Leaving is quite non-realistic: a vast array of doors everywhere the eye looks. Yet I understand that each door was meticulously researched. Could you tell us a little bit about how you and Jiri Zizka arrived at this design?

Klara Zieglevora, Set Designer: Jiri and I started our meetings in Prague this past December. We were talking about the metaphysical nature of the play and drew a number of different sketches and ideas on the proverbial napkin. Somehow the idea of multiple doors of various sizes and characters was present in most of these sketches. It just felt right.

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Interview with Translator Paul Wilson

Posted Thursday, April 22, 2010 - 10:24am

You’ve been translating Vaclav Havel’s writing for a quarter century now. What events led to you translating his works originally?
That happened gradually, more by accident than by design. I had already translated two major novels by the Czech writer Josef Skvorecky, and was then offered the chance to translate Havel’s influential 1977 essay, “The Power of the Powerless.” It’s a brilliant descriptive analysis of how the system, which Havel called “post-totalitarianism,” actually worked. It argued that the Soviet system could be resisted and ultimately overcome by non-violent means: by “living in truth.”

Then, when Havel’s letters from prison were published in samizdat [literature or other media clandestinely distributed in Soviet-bloc countries] his American agent turned to me for a translation. Letters to Olga turned out to be a classic – some critics think it’s his best book – and it probably established me as Havel’s unofficial translator. I went on to translate his first autobiographical book, Disturbing the Peace, just after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Velvet Revolution in 1989. I edited Open Letters, a collection of Havel’s essays, and when he became president, Havel turned to me to translate his major speeches, speeches that he delivered in English around the world, including one he gave in Philadelphia in 1994. Finally, I translated his presidential memoir, To the Castle and Back, in 2006.

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an absurdist drama from a surrealist politician

Posted Thursday, April 15, 2010 - 12:25pm

The theme of moving, of leave-taking, and of cutting down was something I may have brought upon myself: the play I’ve long been preparing to write will work with these themes; it will attempt to allude to Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, to Beckett’s Endgame, and above all to Shakespeare’s King Lear. It will be about a statesman who has lost his position and has to move out of the official residence provided by the state; it’s surrounded by an orchard, and he can’t come to accept it. The loss of his position and all that pertains to it means the collapse of his world. He goes slightly mad from it all. (The interesting thing is that I started writing this play before the revolution, that is, sixteen years ago, and then I tossed the manuscript away in the belief that after all the changes taking place, the theme would no longer interest me.… But it’s far more probable that, having thought about it for so long, I’ll never get it written, and then someone else – most probably my longtime friend and colleague Tom Stoppard – will write a play about a writer who prepared his whole life to write the most important play of his life and, of course, he never writes it.)
-Václav Havel, To the Castle and Back

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Interview with Playwright Yussef El Guindi

Posted Tuesday, February 9, 2010 - 2:17pm

Walter Bilderback: Can you tell us a little about your background and your development as a writer?
Yussef El Guindi: I was born in Egypt; moved to London when I was 4. Went to school there until I was 17. Spent a year in Paris. Then went back to Cairo for my undergraduate degree in English and Comparative Literature. From there, I went to Carnegie-Mellon University for a graduate degree in Playwriting. Kicked around San Francisco for a couple of years after that, doing brief stints as a reader at the Magic Theater and as a dramaturg at the Eureka Theater. I landed a position as playwright-in-residence at Duke University for 7 years. Then moved to Seattle, where I pursued poetry, acting, film-making, before finally settling down to write plays full time. That’s the short and dirty. Actually, the short and dry.

In between all that one-thing-following-another, life sort of happened. And some sort of voice happened. Facilitated, I think, by my getting my citizenship in 1996. That event, strangely, concentrated the mind wonderfully. It gave me a subject matter. Or rather, it brought together a bunch of amorphous elements and subterranean emotions that were in effect, but to which I just couldn’t give a name to, or find a coherent story for. And that story was the simple one of the immigrant journey. One that had begun when my family left Egypt when I was 4. Becoming a citizen, in a way I hadn’t anticipated, plugged me into that unique template that belongs to this country in particular. Few countries owe their national character, and very reason for being, to the immigrant. This country got to be what it was with journeys such as mine. Millions of little such journeys. In Europe, if you’re an immigrant, you will always remain a foreigner, no matter how long you stay in England or France, etc. You will never quite be English or French. In America, some may gripe at immigrants, but this country’s life blood depends on them.  Becoming a citizen plugged me into my own journey. Strangely. It allowed me to write about it.

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