Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Gallery Players' Dominic Cuskern on Players Shakespeare and King Lear

As promised, here is my cyberinterview with actor Dominic Cuskern about the new "Players Shakespeare" program at The Gallery Players in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Me: This is a very exciting new project for The Gallery Players. Can you tell us what prompted you to start up "Players Shakespeare" and why this is an important project for the company?

Dominic: I have always wanted Gallery to do more Shakespeare. A couple of years ago I started a free Shakespeare Summer Camp for Teenagers. We did a one hour version of Romeo and Juliet. The play turned out well but I was very unsatisfied with the process. There was only me and 15 kids. Rehearsals proved difficult as too often there were kids with too much down time. I realized I needed a lot of help before I could undertake such a venture again.

I had also been asked by Shep Sobel, artistic director of The Pearl Theatre Company, to take a look at the role of Lear. He suggested it would be great to do that role somewhere before tackling it at the Pearl.

So this is some background to a dinner I had with friend and fellow Shakespeare addict, Sidney Fortner. She was bemoaning the lack of decent Shakespeare work. I noted that Gallery Players was dark in July and our imaginations sprang to work. I saw a rebirth of the Summer Camp and Sidney envisioned the Acting Apprentice program. Our modest budget helped sell the idea to the board and we were off and running.

Me: How have you assembled the ensemble for this production? What were you looking for when casting actors?

Dominic: We advertised auditions for actors who had both training and experience with Shakespeare. Some people who had worked at The Pearl expressed an interest in being involved. But we were looking for actors who were passionate about Shakespeare, who could act and who could handle text.

Me: What's the unique "hook" for your production of Shakespeare? People can see Shakespeare for free outdoors all summer long; what's going to bring them indoors to see your work?

Dominic: First there is Gallery's high reputation for good work and I do have a very small following of people who might be interested in seeing me tackle this role. Our production will also be as true to the Bard as we can make it without recourse to gimmicks or concepts. And with this weather, it's best to work indoors--less chance of cancellation!

Me: Are there any plans for work beyond this initial production of Lear?

Dominic: Once we knew we would be doing Lear we began to think of the longer range. I see Gallery getting back to the free Shakespeare Summer Camp for Teenagers. The kids would perform the same play as the adults are working on, although in an abbreviated form. I'm hoping that the actors in the evening production will filter into the camp and mentor the kids. I also see the teens attending the adult rehearsals and maybe being part of that production. We're also planning on helping those who want to understand and appreciate Shakespeare with something we're calling Bard Basics. We'll also do readings of the lesser-known plays, discussion groups, workshops and things we haven't even thought of yet.

I'd like to thank Dominic for taking time out of his schedule to share his thoughts with my readers. King Lear at The Gallery Players begins performances on July 23; get more info here.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Dominic rocks - glad to see him doing this, and thanks to you Martin for the interview!