This Sunday, students ventured into the cities to see the Guthrie Theater’s production of Shakespeare’s Pericles, directed by new artistic director Joseph Haj. Carleton Alum Daisuke Kawachi (’13, CAMS) was an assistant director during the production’s original rehearsal process and run at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2015. The Miscellany chatted with Daisuke about the production and his experience working on it.
How did you get involved with this production of Pericles?
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) is deeply committed to empowering the next generation of theatermakers, whether it be in a directing, acting, writing, design, or technical capacity, through a fantastic program called FAIR (Fellowship, Assistantship, Internship, and Residency. I was accepted for the directing assistantship and based on my application, it was determined that I would fit well with Joe Haj and this production of Pericles.
What did your job on the production entail?
Assistant directors are there to fulfill the needs of the production and the director. During the table read phase I spent my time synthesizing various interpretations from actors, taking notes on passages or words that Joe or I wanted to check with the dramaturgy team, and offering my own (hopefully insightful) interpretations where appropriate. Once we moved into blocking and rehearsing, I took notes on blocking, line changes, and interpretation questions, for actors and the design team, and much more. I even got to stage some transitions and blocking in scenes. That being said, director/assistant director relationships are specific to the needs of the director and the play, so every assistant director at OSF comes away with a different experience.
Can you tell us a little bit about this production of Pericles? Are there any concepts or themes it emphasizes?
This production of Pericles has a particular focus on father/daughter relationships and on the way that boys become men. We start in Antioch with a very young and headstrong Pericles, but by the end of this production, he’s a grown man with a full lifetime of experience and emotion under his belt. He’s been all around the Mediterranean, he’s loved, he’s lost, he’s been lost, he’s been found, and he’s been reunited with the daughter and wife he thought had died.
Also, keep an eye out for all the ways that the ocean is presented on the stage. I love how the projections work during the storms, how the floating platform conveys the turbulence of the seas, and how the enormous ocean cloth perfectly represents the first storm.
Do you know if the production has changed at all from its run at OSF, to the Folger in Washington D.C., to now?
I know that some of the cast members have changed, but other than the obvious changes that come with different performance spaces, a lot of the same elements have remained in place, including the projections and (my favorite set element) the floating platform!
What challenges do you encounter in producing a less-frequently performed Shakespeare play?
With a lesser known and less performed Shakespeare, I think you actually get a lot more freedom when it comes to world-building. Everybody has seen Hamlet and Macbeth and Midsummer so many times that it’s far too easy to get caught up in applying a “concept” that feels new and fresh. Sometimes, like in the Patrick Stewart Macbeth, it works out super well. Sometimes not. But at the same time, because the text and the characters aren’t as familiar, you have to work much harder to bring the audience into the production and there’s more pressure to create a memorable and positive experience.
How do you see your experiences at Carleton reflected in your directing work?
I spent a lot of my time working with ETB and ADing for the Theater Department shows, and that was massively helpful for my AD work at OSF. Big shout outs to Ruth Weiner, David Wiles, and Roger Bechtel for their classes and letting me be the upstart loud AD in the room while they put up a department show.
What other productions have you worked on recently?
I was also AD and Stage Manager for a workshop and then a production of a new Russian play called Illusions (by Ivan Viripaev) at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. Currently I’m the Production Manager/Stage Manager for a series of lectures at the Baryshnikov called “Words on Dance,” I’m a founding board member of a new theater festival (slated for Fall 2016), and I’m collaborating with a playwright friend on a play that we hope to send to the NYC Fringe Festival this summer.
The Miscellany would like to acknowledge the Elizabeth Thompson Memorial Fund for making these trips to the theatre possible at low or no cost to students.