Tales from a Rude Mechanical

By Kling, Kevin | American Theatre, October 2000 | Go to article overview

Tales from a Rude Mechanical


Kling, Kevin, American Theatre


An actor finds that a wintery, 17-city tour of 'Midsummer' bridges two worlds

Last spring I landed the role of Peter Quince in the Guthrie Theater's touring production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. I'd worked with artistic director Joe Dowling previously on Playboy of the Western World, in which my Irish accent left little doubt there must be areas of Ireland that border Canada. Now Joe wants me again. Why?

The mystery is unraveled at my first costume fitting. It seems that in this Midsummer, the "rude mechanicals"--the troupe of Athenian community actors, "hard-handed men...that never labored in their minds till now" (as Philostrate says, Act 5, Scene 1)--are to be represented as rural Minnesotans. I try on a sweatshirt with the picture of a loon (the Minnesota state bird) and a pair of rust-colored corduroys with mismatching jacket. As the dressers laugh openly at my appearance, I glance over at the hanger with the clothes I've worn to the theatre: a T-shirt with a loon on it and corduroys. It was too warm out that day for the jacket.

I then put in my contact lenses so I can wear the "character" glasses that look exactly like the ones I just took off. A little voice that sounds like a Lutheran church lady tells me I can handle this part.

AT THE FIRST COMPANY MEETING JOE EXPLAINS THE importance of this tour. The Guthrie hasn't toured a play in over 10 years, and since it's the "flagship theatre for the region," he feels it is high time to give something back. The theatre is also hoping to expand its facilities in the near future, and the support of the surrounding communities will be crucial in that effort. For these reasons Joe decided to remount the Guthrie's popular production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

This grand endeavor includes performances in 17 cities, a cast and crew of 39 people, two passenger buses and three semis loaded with state-of-the-art equipment. Beth Burns, our tour manager, has been booking cities for months, and many of the venues are already sold Out.

For my part, I vow to speak in pentameter without tapping my foot.

We rehearse at a nearby church in south Minneapolis. The company is comprised mostly of very talented young actors with a smattering of cagey veterans. Warm-ups consist of Suzuki, Alexander, yoga, chirps, hollers, bleeps, blips, stomps, sighs, a couple of oldschoolers smoking by an open door, and German industrial music blaring from the sound system, courtesy of our sound man, Ryan, who is bedecked in silver faux leather, blue hair and cat-eye contact lenses. One of the parishioners accidentally enters the room, then turns and runs away like she's just seen Sodom and Gomorrah.

One of the challenges of acting is portraying what the playwright has left unsaid--finding the gesture or vocal nuance that's left to interpretation. The challenge of Shakespeare is that he goes right ahead and says what's unsaid. A lot. This will be a test for audiences of the Midwest, where a family reunion can be pulled off in seven words or less. Not a wordy bunch--more like doers.

But Joe is relentless. He wants the audience to understand every word. "The poetry of Shakespeare must never be lost." "Refer to the text. "Observe the antithesis." "If you're not following the pentameter, you better have a very good reason." I like Joe; he brings quite a bit of passion to his rehearsals and truly honors Shakespeare's language.

A concern I have is that our audience, for the most part, are the people the mechanicals represent-working class, good- hearted, rural folks. And although we offer heartfelt renditions, I'm a little nervous we may offend some people. Even so, I have no doubt our plaid-couch set piece will be coveted by all, and we'll have to lock up the mallard-duck lamp at night.

ONCE THE PLAY IS REHEARSED, WE LOAD INTO THE BUS, powdered, pampered, rouged and ready to rumble. It's February, so the plains are blanketed in ice and snow. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Tales from a Rude Mechanical
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.