As executive director of Tacoma Arts Live, David J. Fischer helps create shows that draw the community to the organization’s historic venues. A perfect example of his involvement is the current run of Shakespeare in Love, a play which reveals a little bit of the agony and the glory of creating live theatre.
The script by Tom Stoppard, Lee Hall and Marc Norman presents a highly comedic and fictional speculation on how William Shakespeare came to write Romeo and Juliet. Filled with inside jokes, theatre geeks around the world fell in love with the original movie and subsequent stage shows. The oft repeated line “It’s a mystery” refers not only to romance, but to how a jumble of ideas can become a moving work of art on the stage.
We talked to Fischer about the enduring appeal of Shakespeare in Love and live theatre.
Rosemary Jones: Now that the show has opened, where are you hearing the big laughs?
David Fischer: Every audience is different, but I think some of the biggest laughs come when the “loan shark,” who lends money to produce the play, falls in love with the theatrical process. He gets swept up in the joy of production. That infectious energy is something we all feel, in the cast and backstage. That, I think, is what the audience enjoys so much about Shakespeare in Love.
What surprises you most about the audience reaction?
I love that the audience so eagerly immerses themselves into the world of Elizabethan theatre. There is a great curiosity to have the curtain pulled back and reveal both a different time and a sameness to today.
The movie leaps from location to location as Will runs through London. When you bring this script back to the stage, what are some of the challenges in keeping the action moving and the audience clear on the location?
Many of the film’s settings are duplicated in the stage script, and this is a challenge. We don’t have the luxury of editing. So, this script needs to flow cinematically from place to place. We achieve this through a minimalist approach to stage furniture, and use actors, costumes, music and lighting to move us from place to place. The cast skillfully meets the choreographic demands and keeps the action flowing from moment to moment.
For Shakespeare buffs, there’s a lot of hidden gems in this story as Will hears others say lines that he will write into his plays. What’s your favorite Shakespeare trivia moment in the show?
You’re right, there are a great deal of hidden quotes from a variety of Shakespearean classics, from Romeo and Juliet to Hamlet. My favorite comes from “the Scottish play”—which superstition demands we not speak, but I can type—Macbeth! So, the contemporary playwright Stoppard has a dog running loose onstage, because “a bit with a dog” always pleases the Queen. However, the dog is taking over the action to a point where the producer barges on stage to grab the dog, shouting “Out, damn spot!”
The center of this play is a romance of the minds as much as the bodies. Why does this particular play, and Will and Viola’s romance, work so well on stage?
The love in this play is first and foremost a love for words, for poetry, for the ideals of love. I think the universality of the play comes from out human yearning for love and our expression of that desire, even when—or especially when—it is unrequited.
Rosemary Jones has written about arts and culture in the Pacific Northwest for the Cornish Magazine, Capitol Hill Times, Encore, Examiner.com and others. Additional work can be seen at rosemaryjones.com.