Director’s Notes: Wrapping Up “Mankind”

Finishing up a show is always a mixture of feelings. Accomplishment. Pride. Exhaustion. And the process of looking back and analysing what went well, and what lessons were learned along the way.

Mankind had numerous highlights. A few weeks ago we noted some along the way, as they’d manifested thus far in the rehearsal process. Many of them carried through to the end. The absolute commitment and enthusiasm of the cast comes in first for mention, as it was both unwavering and crucial to the play’s success. Medieval plays can be hard going for actors: the wording is unusual or foreign, there are lots of long monologues, it’s not always evident what is happening. Our cast did a brilliant job of overcoming any confusion, and the progress with which they learned their lines and characters was remarkable. Every single rehearsal we saw improvement, and their best performance was the one in front of an audience- just what you want to have happen! I’m still in awe of how quickly they assimilated changes and adjustments: these were amateur actors and for the most part they did this as well or even better than many professionals. They brought ideas and tried them out, remained flexible in their thinking, and managed to make it look as if they hadn’t been working flat out for weeks. I really couldn’t be more proud of them.

I also just plain liked our cast as people. It often seems to me that the theatre attracts an unusually high number of interesting, intelligent, kind, generous, and dedicated people. Maybe that’s just the nature of the thing. But it makes work that much more enjoyable. Theatre friendships can be funny- because you all go on immediately to other things, people often don’t stay in touch, but whether we do or not, I consider myself fortunate for having had these people’s lives and work collide with mine, even for a short period of time.

We asked the audience for feedback, as we are in a process of determining where to move forward as a company. Their reception of Mankind was beyond my expectations. I’m especially pleased with the comments from those who don’t know medieval drama and who had come along warily, and were surprised by how accessible and engaging it is. That is exactly why we do this: to share the past in ways that surprise and delight. Any time someone says they learned something new- especially if that something is how interesting historic drama is- I feel like we’ve had a success.

In short, Mankind was everything we’d hoped it could be. If you didn’t have a chance to see it… It’s the kind of play I could certainly keep coming back to. Who knows? Maybe someday it will have another incarnation. And if it does, I can only hope it will be as much fun as this version was to create.

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