Written by: Natajia Sconiers
On September 10th at 7pm, Philadelphia Shakespeare and theatre lovers rejoiced when the Revolution Shakespeare team uploaded the filmed adaptation of Shakespeare’s sonnets, written by, filmed and produced by a broad spectrum of artists in the Philadelphia community.
This impressive project spearheaded by Revolution Shakespeare’s Artistic Director Tai Verley, brings a complicated and often over simplified universal theme to this year’s philly fringe: love.
With a project this huge, one is sure to find at least one Philadelphia Artist they recognize, know or have seen perform, and if you are reading this blog...you can now say you know two!
The Philadelphia Artists’ Collective is proud to say that two of our own Artistic Associates (Charlotte Northeast and myself: Natajia Sconiers) were a part of such a unique and impacting project.
Below you’ll find a short interview in which Charlotte and I discuss our unique experiences as writer (Charlotte) and actor (myself) and our process and bringing Shakespeare’s classic words and their powerful adaptation to your screens!
What sonnets did you work on and in what capacity?
Charlotte: I was a writer for Sonnets 65, 96 and 150
Tay: I performed in sonnet 82, adapted by Erlina Ortiz
Had you had any experience adapting classical work before?
Charlotte: I have had experience taking classical work and creating a streamlined script for production. The most intense piece I ever did was taking Fair Maid of the West, parts 1 and 2 and making them into one script for the PAC production in 2015. That took me AGES. Basically, almost every script that PAC produces has gone through some sort of process. Classical work is like bread - gotta knead the dough to make good bread. That might be a silly metaphor but that's what I got.
Tay: Never! This was my 1st time working on a piece that was directly adapted from Shakespeare’s works, and I was really excited to discover and also curious to learn more about the process and Tai was super gracious and more than willing to sit down and discuss with me all the work that went into this project and the entire process
What is your experience with Revolution Shakespeare as a company?
Charlotte: I have been a part of 2 of the all-women readings and have directed one. I love what Tai is doing and can't wait to see what she does next.
Tay: I’d seen a couple productions and worked with Tai Verley during my time at Del Shakes but this is my first (and hopefully not the last) project with Revolution Shakespeare.
What resonated with you the most in your sonnets?
Charlotte: Maybe it's just my cynicism speaking but I definitely heard some snarky voices in my head when I was working on these pieces. The sonnets are pretty raw in terms of the emotion that threads throughout them. The raw love and passion and self-flagellation at times can be overwhelming, appealing and repulsing all at once for me. Definitely speaks to the passion of love in perhaps a younger Shakespeare. Yeah, I feel like an old lady when I read some of them - they are just so private in public, you know?
Tay: What was so endearing to me about the sonnet I performed in is that the writer is expressing or acknowledging that this person they admire makes an effort to get attention/validation from others online and they are good at it. They are acknowledging “hey, you are gorgeous and other people/strangers you don’t even know think so too… but I see you without all the makeup and the show of social media, and I think you are beautiful in public and private”. It’s not shaming or belittling the person for “performing” for others ( because who are we kidding? I think we all do that/seek validation to some degree) but it is accepting all parts of the person. Saying i see all parts of you and i think they are all equally beautiful.
What is similar in the sonnets (or) how would one identify the sonnet as coming from you? What about your sonnets are essentially "you"?
Charlotte: Sonnet 150 spoke to me the most. As an immigrant, the thought of loving something so flawed and yet wanting to put all you have into it made me examine my own relationship with the United States. People often ask me, "Why do you live here?" "Why don't you go back to Canada - especially now?" And I really struggle with the answer because most of my adult life has been spent in the US and I have a deep love/hate relationship with it. And the US I moved to in the late 90's isn't the same place as it is now. So, Sonnet 150 somehow speaks to that - I'm not sure I achieved that but that's what I was going for…
Tay: I've always been super into visuals and cinematography, mood achieved through colors and lighting and effects. I’ve always been super aware of aesthetics in television and film and how are they affecting/manipulating my emotions and experience as an audience member overtly or subtly? I tried to achieve that in the way I filmed my sonnet.
What was the most fun about working on this project? What was the most challenging?
Charlotte: Fun was trusting myself and actually putting pen on paper. Challenging was actually trusting myself and putting pen on paper.
Tay: The most fun was actually filming the things outside and seeing how things came together when editing. The most challenging was trying to figure out how i would physically achieve the things i wanted to do in my head...and the sound quality! I hope everything I did matched what the playwright wanted or they were at least interested/intrigued by my take on their words.
Now that you’ve got an insiders peek at our process, see how our sonnets and the sonnets of even more talented artists came out!
You only have until October 4th, so better start binging!
Thanks for reading the PAC blog, where we share what's happening behind the scenes, what we're thinking about this week, and what classic stories are inspiring us right now.