YOU—Yeah, you’re the director. So how are you doing the play?
ME – I am going to do it very well.
YOU – But where are you going to set the play to get a new angle on the story? People can’t take Shakespeare straight. We need it relevant for now.
ME – Not important.
YOU – Explain!
ME—I have seen lots of Shakespeare plays up-dated so they are more related to our own times. Okay, but-
YOU – I once saw “Julius Caesar” set in Mussolini’s Italy! Brutus and Cassius wore red armbands to show their leftist resistance to fascism.
ME – There is the first mistake. Brutus and Cassius were actually cranky aristocrats who resented Caesar’s populist land reforms and free corn doles to the working plebs of Rome.
YOU – I did not know that.
ME – You like the show?
YOU – It sucked!
ME – Why?
YOU – The verse thing. It was all babble after the first two lines!
ME – The director’s second mistake. Don’t get me wrong. I have done plays in different times and places. I produced and directed “Macbeth” setting it in Nazi Germany with Hitler as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as Eva Braun. It was a critical and commercial hit.
YOU – Buuut?
ME – I never let my “brilliant” re-set distract me from the main thrust of the original script. I worked the actors hard on the sense of the verse and respected Old Will’s original intentions. He had his message and I had mine.
YOU – I guess the comedies lend themselves better to modern times?
ME – They often do. Comedy or tragedy it is vital not to direct the new setting all the while ignoring the demands of the original play. It happens a lot. You snub Olde Will? He will turn hard and come back to bite you!
YOU – What’s the worst you’ve seen?
ME—I was in a “Twelfth Night” production set in the Swing Era of Britain. I had to secretly coach the actors in verse styles. Their speeches were so slurred and confused they needed sub-titles. The setting totally bombed. It failed to dredge up any comic gold. We got through it, just.
YOU – So, you are not against setting Shakespeare plays in different times?
ME – No. I am doing “King Lear” in modern dress this summer. But…
YOU – You are keeping to Shakespeare’s original intention?
ME – God, I hope so!
YOU – How about Donald Trump as Falstaff!
ME – Is there a copyright on it?