Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pericles Speaks! An interview with Christopher Kelly

(Warning: There is a preponderancea profusion, evenof P's in the prologue to this post.)

Hello out there in readershipland! Stefanie here. I've been so caught up with Pericles program prep that I've barely had time to think about the fact that rehearsals for our first show of the season kick off in just eleven days.

Thankfully, our soon-to-be Pericles (and Pandar) isn't quite so overwhelmed; Christopher Kelly (seen at left) managed to take some time to answer a few questions about his relationship to the play, the production, and the process.

Cal Shakes: Do you have any experience with Pericles? Be honest—had you read it before being cast? Had you even heard of it?

Christopher Kelly: To be honest, I actually found a gnarled copy lying on the dirty floor of some empty rehearsal room a few years ago. Someone had left it—or lost it—so I took it home with me. Although I might have read scenes from it, I had never seen a performance of the play. The book pretty much sat on my bookshelf collecting dust until I heard about this production. Now, of course, I’ve read the play many times.

Cal Shakes: What are you looking forward to most as Pericles rehearsals grow near?

C. Kelly: There will be at least nine of us (eight actors and a director) plus whoever else is in the room. Collaborating with fellow artists can be one of the most rewarding experiences. I’ve only spoken briefly with our director, Joel Sass, but the way he speaks about the production tells me we are in for a ride. It’s eight people playing or representing forty roles. I’m guessing we’ll have to find some transformation. There are going to be really interesting, exciting people bouncing all kinds of things off of each other, problem-solving, working with a wild and moving story. And it’s amazing to think that at the end of four weeks time we will have, hopefully, created and discovered an entire play together. Then we’ll get to share it with an audience.

Cal Shakes: Do you ever get lost in the many sea travels of your character?

C. Kelly: There is a lot written about the whereabouts of Pericles’ travels; the literal destinations and the time it would take to sail from place to place. I’ve seen a map where scholars attempt to figure out the precise locations Shakespeare had in mind when writing Pericles. But the play is also adapted from other sources so that complicates the debate even more. The main debate usually comes after Pericles takes to the sea: Could he/would he have physically traveled from X to Y? From a plot standpoint, the poet Gower helps to guide the audience through the travels to each physical location—but the exact how and when he arrives might be little more ambiguous. But it is, after all, a play—and Shakespeare has been known to stretch time to suit his dramatic purposes.

Cal Shakes: What are your thoughts on the supernatural aspects of Cerimon and Diana and what they bring to the show?

C. Kelly: A belief in magic gives me that feeling of wonder I had as a child. For me, it’s also a desire to be surprised. There’s innocence there. That might be why some people come to the theater in the first place—to experience that “suspension of disbelief” again. It’s also associated with healing. That’s part of our story, too. Now, in terms of miraculous circumstances, or being present for what some might a “miracle,” that seems to be a real test for our minds and spirits. I will defer to our director (Joel Sass) who posed the question to me: Can Pericles accept the grace that is happening to him?

Cal Shakes: How’s your knowledge of Greek mythology and history in general?

C. Kelly: When I was a young boy, I loved hearing the stories of the Greek Gods and mortals—a few have stayed with me through the years. So I relish the chance to re-discover them. Someone recently told me that Pericles is the “Joseph Campbell” of Shakespeare’s plays, if that makes any sense. I think they were referring to the Hero’s Journey and the search for the “self.” Campbell loved mythological archetypes, and the Greeks have created a whole family tree for us. No doubt, we’ll spend some time as a group educating ourselves as to how the power of—or belief in—these Gods affects the action of the play. And learning the history surrounding a play is always a fascinating tool. If you’re lucky, even a small detail can open a window for you about a particular moment.

Cal Shakes: Have you been warned about the Bay Area?

C. Kelly: I am guessing you are talking about the changing weather. (Nope, actually I was talking about the KOOKS. –ed.) Yes, I have been told that the temperature can drop in the evening—even fog will roll in—but those elements might mesh well with this play—and perhaps make for a cozy, intimate audience. From the pictures I’ve seen of the amphitheater, I am coming to a beautiful place, and I sincerely feel honored to come to Cal Shakes and to be part of the community of artists who are creating Pericles.

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