Throat Culture Interview 003: Gina Gargone, director of Teatro Serpiente’s Complete Works of Shakespeare.

Live theater is SO HOT RIGHT NOW!  The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised] has just sold out (YES, SOLD OUT) its entire opening weekend. Teatro Serpiente has kicked off its 2013 season with a bang! 3 actors riffing on the entire (37 plays) SHAKESPEARE cannon in just under 2 hours. The laugh-to-minute ratio is  right up there with a really good night of SNL. (If you are thinking about going to one of this weekend’s performances: Thursday (tonight!) in Dixon, or Friday & Saturday back at the Harwood,
STOP READING NOW & CALL: 575-737-8574 & reserve your seats, operators are standing by!).

Alright: back to our regularly scheduled program: An Interview with Gina Gargone, director.

 

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Throat Culture & LIVE TAOS sat down with the play’s director, Gina Gargone, & hit her up for some behind-the-scenes info. It went down like this:

TC: Where did you find this play?

GINA: The script was brought to the group by Adam (Overly) before I even came on board. They were talking about doing the show during As You Like It, (Summer 2012) which was my first Teatro Serpiente production. And then they all [Adam, Rich Greywolf, and Scott Tennant] wanted to be in it so they were like…who’s going to direct us?

TC: They had a play, but no director?

GINA: Which worked out really well, because I had seen it done in New York.

TC: It’s also a big hit in London.

GINA: Since the mid 80’s!

LIVE TAOS: It launched at one of the “fringe Festivals.”

GINA: Yes.

TC: I thought it was California guys.

GINA: No. They’re Brits through & through. Which is why, I think, they can get away with what they’ve done. They love their Shakespeare which you can tell from the care they put into their script.

TC: I didn’t get the impression that they had any familiarity with Shakespeare beyond Romeo & Juliet & Hamlet.

GINA: Really?

LT: I disagree, I think they really know their stuff & the whole point is: “it doesn’t matter that we know our stuff, we’re trying to make a fucking funny, ludicrous show” & the point is people are so tired of being introduced to Shakespeare in a deep, serious way & instead let’s make it accessible, let’s make it weird & goofy.

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GINA: The reason that I do think they have scholarly knowledge is that the “Titus Cooking Show” (skit) has some stuff the average person wouldn’t know to put that together.

TC: So, how did you go about directing this show?

GINA: Welll … since I am not a trained director — the training I received was in acting — so … going into this show, what I thought directing was is so not what I came out with, which is good. Because if I hadn’t made that shift I don’t think we would have got to the place we got to; we would have stalled out on purely “acting” notes. Because, really, when I started out, I was looking at all three of them from an actor’s perspective. I knew I had to give blocking — which was easy for this show, because there’s three of them & they are onstage almost all of the time.

TC: What’s blocking?

GINA: Blocking is where you create dynamic movement on stage, so people aren’t just standing there in a clump. For certain points in a scene you tell people: “now you’re going to cross down here, now you’re going to move over here,” & you do it off of the text. A perfect point is when Adam has his “Twilight” freak-out & he gets all upset & he moves off to stage right & he isolates himself because he is upset. So you use their emotion that is going on in the scene to base their movement.

TC: So you tell them when to go offstage.

GINA: A lot of the physical comedy is already in the script. We brought a lot to it & we improved upon it. But there was a great road-map already written in the script.

LT: With a small cast of actors that know each other really well a lot of things arise organically & so they are not intentionally “directed,” but when you see them … I’m thinking about when Adam goes over to stage right to sulk, & there’s another scene where Scott goes to the same place to sulk — & at the time of directing the play, you probably weren’t thinking to yourself: “Now go to the sulking corner!”

GINA: Right!

LT: But, that’s how it plays!

GINA: Keep that!

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TC: As director, you’re looking at the play from above.

GINA: That was actually the hardest part for me, because I was still thinking like an actor … & I wasn’t looking at the show as a whole until maybe a week & a half before it went up. & I was looking at lines, character choices, then all of the sudden I realized, “I have not watched this show yet” — I have no idea what it looks like from start to finish — & that’s probably my job! That’s probably something I should be thinking about already.

We were aware that we had stalled, & we didn’t have a show that we would have been happy with. All four of us knew that. I realized I need to do less worrying about lines & character relationships, & I need to see how the show looked, & once we did that, I realized we needed to make a couple changes.

TC: Changes in the script?

GINA: Not changes in the script, but some of the gags that we had been doing — which were funny in the moment, because all four of us were in the same room — but instead, thinking of it as an audience seeing it for the first time, & so it was like, no, that’s not really funny … because they were just inside jokes that we had developed in rehearsal. I worked with Rita (O’Connell) on that because she came back into the mix at that time, & we made some changes. Not a lot of major changes, but a lot of minor changes.

 

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LT: So what about the role of the director when you are working with peers & friends — which Teatro really is — & because “everybody’s supposed to get a turn,” & there are some people with more experience than others…it’s an interesting set of relationships to navigate.

GINA: There is a core group that keeps the season together & keeps the business aspect together. We want to rotate so that nobody gets burned out. We all want to act. We all want…I would say most of us want to direct. I don’t think I would say: “I want to direct,” I’m willing to direct.

TC: I think you succeeded.

GINA: Thank you. We started out all fun & games & then as we were creeping up to the performance we were like, “wow!” “we are having trouble memorizing our lines,” “we are having trouble getting our props built.”

TC: Did you ever say, “this sucks.”

GINA: No, but there were nights when we left really disheartened.

TC: With each other?

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GINA: No, & that’s the thing that I think is really cool about the relationship we have — because it is built on trust. I don’t think we were so disheartened with each other, I think we were just disheartened with what we were doing. The reason I was able to say: “this is not working,” & “no, I don’t like what you are doing,” is because I looked at myself & I looked at my friends on stage & I said: “OK, we all want to put on a really successful show & I have to say something, or else it won’t be.”

LT: You can’t coddle people just because you are friends with them.

TC: Exactly.

GINA: There’s a way to say it, it’s not like I came out & said: “Guys, That sucks!”

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Whatever Gina did say clearly worked — Complete Works opened last weekend with two sold-out houses, a start-to-finish laugh track from the crowd, and multiple standing ovations. Speaking of which:)

LT: People are clearly so desperate for laughs. It’s great that Teatro’s doing light, comic shows, but there’s also something about community theater, & seeing someone that you know doing weird, silly stuff.  It’s ludicrous to see your child’s 8th grade teacher running around with a wig on. People started laughing the minute Rich & Scott walked out. They didn’t do anything funny — they just appeared. Comedy!

TC: Seeing people you know.

GINA: I went & saw “Merry Wives of Windsor,” & I hadn’t done any theater in 8 years & I walked out & said: “I need to hang out with these people!”

LT:  Traditional theater standards be damned! This is fun!

GINA: Right.

LT: And sincere & honest…

TC: In somebody’s back-yard… beer & wine!

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GINA: Because that’s what makes community theater work. What I like about Teatro is that there’s passion, there’s knowledge, but also, we’re willing to make fun of ourselves & we are actually willing to get the whole community involved. You don’t have to be a trained actor to be onstage,  & we will love you anyway.

TC: I think Shakespeare can handle it.

GINA: I agree.

TC: With Teatro Serpiente, that was the mission…”we are going to do community theater & we are going to do it with Shakespeare”!

GINA: Yes.

And that was such a great success that it turned into a whole company with year-round offerings at venues all over town! ALRIGHT: At this point, the three of us — Rita, Gina, & I — went on talking for another 2 hours: trying to define Community theater, why  ‘fun’ must also have a role, casting, gossip, & of course William Shakespeare: now starring as a  guardian angel for theater freaks everywhere.

LT: And we promise to get to the rest of that later, as we head into what’s shaping up to be a booming 2013 theater season here in Taos! We’ll be bringing you promos and coverage of all the performances from all the various theatrical groups and individuals, so stay tuned — and we’ll see you in the crowd.

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