Currently in previews, Antaeus Theatre Company will be presenting Shakespeare’s AS YOU LIKE IT with openings on July 27 and 28. As in the Antaeus tradition, this production also incorporates partner-casting, hence, the dual opening dates. We had the opportunity to catch director Rob Clare for a few spare moments during previews for an insight into his life-long work incorporating his love of Shakespeare.
Thank you for agreeing to this interview.
Thanks for inviting me.
Your Shakespearean expertise spans over three decades: teaching, lecturing, directing. How many other productions of AS YOU LIKE IT have you been creatively involved with?
Three, the most recent being an outdoor production I directed in Louisville, KY.
How would you classify your directing approach to his works — Non-traditional? Avant-garde? Modernistic?
It depends on the project. But Shakespeare is so rich and open to interpretation, if you simply give yourselves to the text and open yourself up fully to what it invites, makes possible; it will resonate afresh in every and any context. It’s often noted that Shakespeare was ahead of his time. I think he’s ahead of ours, too. We’re still catching up.
Antaeus prides itself on its partner-casting practice. Have you worked with partner-casting before?
No. But I hope I will again.
When you began your acting courses at Royal Central School of Speech & Drama (CSSD) in London, Shakespeare was not your focus. Did the opportunity of joining Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) right out of CSSD somehow influence your interest in Shakespeare?
Yes, it did. But not immediately. Most of all, it raised questions in me as to how to equip oneself to get the best out of these extraordinary, complex texts.
What do you love about Shakespeare that drives you to continue to dissect, analyze, and teach his work?
I love life. I love people. I’m fascinated by both. Aren’t we all?
How do you entice a budding actor/student who’s not interested in Shakespeare to eventually fall in love with his artistry?
Invite them to take part in a workshop, to play with it.
Any variance to your communications in your teaching procedures from your directing methods? As a teacher or a director, they’re both from a point of authority and knowledge.
Teaching is about preparing actors to work elsewhere in the profession. Directing is about evolving one shared interpretation of a given text with whatever actors one happens to be working — and trying to shape the reading of the work as much to their individual strengths and capabilities as possible.
How do you compare Shakespeare with other classic playwrights? Or should I re-phrase that to — Do you find any other classic playwright comparable to Shakespeare?
Not really. There are some who have written individual plays that stand comparison with some of Shakespeare — Webster, Jonson, for example. But none have the astonishing range that he offers, nor the same openness to interpretation that helps them still to resonate so strongly.
What aspects do you look for when attending a performance of a Shakespeare work?
I look to be engaged and/or entertained.
Are you able to simply enjoy a performance of Shakespeare? Or do you find yourself analyzing it scholastically or directorially?
Only if I’m not engaged and/or entertained.
Any current modern day writer that piques your interest?
Does Samuel Beckett count? I know he’s dead, but…
Which Shakespearean play do you consider to be his best work and why?
Whichever I am currently working on. So right now, AS YOU LIKE IT.
Who of the classic acting hierarchy have you been fortunate to see perform a Shakespeare role?
The list is too long. Among those with whom I actually worked, some of those who really stand out in different ways are Judi Dench, Mark Rylance, Bill Nighy, Anthony Hopkins, Derek Jacobi, Tom Courtenay.
Wow! Those are some actors! Can you describe the experience of watching these performances?
Uplifting, illuminating, funny, heartbreaking. Depends on the work.
Are there any Shakespearean pieces you haven’t been creatively involved with that you still want to tackle?
MEASURE FOR MEASURE.
You have taught and/or directed Shakespeare in a number of countries. Do you find there exists a preferential bias towards British actors in Shakespeare roles?
Not in my productions.
You directed A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, JULIUS CAESAR, and ROMEO & JULIET in Hindu in India. How did iambic pentameter work? Or do you just throw it out completely?
We kept the form and the poetry, where and as appropriate, but to do so, we had to simplify and/or change much of the imagery and the figured language. It can take twice as many words to say something in Hindi than in English if one tries to be as specific and as nuanced, etc. But nobody wants A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM to last five hours, however entertaining it is!
Is there one specific lesson you want your students to learn in all of your classes?
Keep going back to the text, as well as, looking to one another. And never put the text away, even once you are ‘off-book.’ Shakespeare was an actor like you. He’s your friend.
What do you want the Antaeus audience to leave with after AS YOU LIKE IT‘s curtain call?
A shared sense of joy.
Thank you again! I look forward to being joyously engaged and entertained by your latest Shakespearean endeavor.
For AS YOU LIKE IT‘s cast scheduling and available tickets through September 10, 2017; log onto www.antaeus.org