From Renaissance Festival street performance to dozens of Farmer’s Markets and schools and community Fourth of July celebrations, these actors, despite their youth, have put in hundreds of hours of training for and performing with audience members as integral aspects of their storytelling (nearly five hundred hours at the Renaissance Festival, alone).
“The ensemble is very tight, great staging and timing.” *
Working improvisationally and collaboratively to create new performances that engage audience members on their terms is old-hat to these relatively veteran performers of audience-interaction.
The process of creating On the Road to Verona involved significant time reading, watching and talking through Shakespeare texts and commentary, careful study of literary structure and of the essential rudiments of the story Shakespeare captured in Two Gentlemen of Verona.
The process also involved talking together during long walks in the woods, joking together, eating together (a lot of eating!). Hundreds of thirty-second “Flash-scene” improvs, dozens of hour-long improvisational explorations, scores of character-exploration improvisations. It involved strongly emotional reactions to the ramifications of the story they were creating. And even more silliness, frivolity, light-hearted banter — and making fun of Mike.
And music. Hours and hours and hours of playing and playing the same song over and over (and over!), of changing keys and instruments, of trying things out and throwing them away, of starting a scene and grabbing instruments to see what might come out of it. (Even of “inventing” a new instrument, the Half-ba. It’s so much less than a tuba, they said, that it’s not even a One-ba.)
All the time, it was nine people working together to see what nine people would create that would engage all nine of them and their audiences in the essential elements of the story.
“A-a-a-a-mazing! These young performers' energy, musical writing & performing chops, creativity, media savvyness, athleticism, humor, and literary understanding took my breath away.” *
Creating On the Road to Verona involved a constant and necessary commitment to making their youth a strength of the show, rather than a weakness. Of recognizing that they can’t—or at least don’t—perform this show with the big-gestured nineteenth-Century Shakespearean elocution and the “Great Tragedian” demeanor so often associated with Shakespearean acting. But that they can perform as enamored teenagers confused, amused, repulsed and ultimately invigorated by the events and motivations of the characters in the story
There is, of course, plenty that the Guthrie can do with this show that SkyVault can’t. On the other hand, even the Guthrie might in fact be hard pressed to do what this handful of teenagers does easily (no disrespect intended): Interact humbly and spryly and simply with audience members — while playing nineteen instruments between them, falling off a ladder, and making a joke out of the fact that Julia’s fake moustache means she has, “more facial hair than anyone else in the cast.” And, most of all, actually being fourteen. Or seventeen. And in love.
Creating On the Road to Verona involved coming to terms with Proteus. A horrific character, in many ways. Often vilified, sometimes simplistically. And of coming to terms with Valentine, who “gives” Silvia to Proteus after and in spite of Proteus’ dehumanizing attack on her.
The cast was certain, however, that it wasn’t their job to decide who was “good” and who was “bad.” Those things, they felt, had already been decided. They had no doubt that in the eyes of Elizabethan audiences, Valentine was a “good guy.” Their job, rather, was to discover how to celebrate what seemed obvious in the text: That Valentine’s forgiveness of Proteus was an extraordinarily beautiful act of selflessness and, perhaps, of shrewdness (does he know that things will turn out well?).
The cast wrestled for weeks with how to portray the ethical dilemma of this surprisingly complex dramatic climax of a mostly silly love story.
“The script itself is very good - a great take on the play.” *
And then: A bass note and the guitar chord struck with it — and perhaps the spirits of the two musicians leaning over Proteus’ shoulder to cause both his repentance and Valentine’s forgiveness — is their answer to this complex question. Not really an answer, at all. Nonetheless, a satisfying restoration of the ugly spirits and actions that had accrued in all the characters, in response to Proteus’ mutable passions.
And the enormous celebration of humility which results.
“The SkyVault cast showed impressive acting and musical skills. High energy. Great timing (both dramatic & comedic). The use of simple props to move along the story was effective. The slapstick bit was excellent. As they moved through the story, the group felt like an ensemble rather than independent actors. They wrote the screenplay and the music so they have offstage skills.” *
“Excellent physical comedy." *
“I will out myself as an old fuddy duddy by using the word ‘sprightly’ to describe them. “ *
- Follow the Verona Road Top level of the Verona site
- Embarking on the Journey How the story was created
- The Story What is it about?
- Interactive Facebook Experience Interacting in real time with the audience on Facebook
- Fringe Festival Premiere Learn more about our experience at the Minnesota Fringe Festival in Minneapolis
- A Shakespeare Show Without Shakespeare See what peope said about our adaptation of Shakespeare
- The Music Music is a huge part of who we are and what we do
- How the Show Was Created Learn about what went into making On the Road to Verona
- The Cast Find out who these zany actors are
- Traveling to the Renaissance How we brought Verona to The Minnesota Renaissance Festival (and bonus information on our involvement there)
- Continuing the Journey How we can bring Verona to you.
All the quotations on these pages are excerpted from unsolicited comments from theatre-goers who are active in the Minneapolis theatre world comparing On the Road to Verona with the entire spectrum of 168 different Fringe Festival performances.
(For all these excerpts in one place, click here, And a link to the unexcerpted reviews—including, of course (alas), those that are less glowing than these we have cheekily quoted, on these pages: http://www.fringefestival.org/show/?id=20160990.)