Saturday, August 8, 2009

Say it Hot, or Say it Not - Catlin Kelly on Commitment

Catlin Kelly as Kate in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (Ben Reed as Petrucio in background) - Photo Brenda Sparks

I am so grateful to once again be a member of the Nashville ShakespeareFestival's Apprentice Company; so grateful for another opportunity to workwith and be taught by such interesting, intelligent, and inspiring individuals.

To spend a summer in the park is sort of like building a tree house in the highest, fruitiest branches of the proverbial Tree of Knowledge. The feat is not easy: it requires energy and drive and awillingness to learn, but if one is truly COMMITTED to absorbing all that the experience has to offer, the fruit will fall in abundance. In fact, if I had to use only one word to describe the most importantand useful thing I've learned this summer in ApCo it would be this: COMMITMENT.

Being a successful member of the Apprentice Company requires commitment, being an artist requires commitment, and, perhaps most importantly in this case, performing Shakespeare requires commitment. Commitment is of course an important concept in any artistic environment,but it seems especially necessary this summer. This summer we are facing not only the usual summer heat, but also the lagging support for the arts due to the bad economy, a smaller budget, a large ensemble encompassing many ages and levels of experience, a short rehearsal period, and an incrediblychallenging text. The odds, it seems, would be against us, but fully committed, there are no odds. I stand by the words Petruchio speaks in act one of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, "Think you a little din can daunt mine ears?"

This summer I have witnessed everyone involved in this summer's productions, from the ApCo members, to the professional actors, to the directors, to the designers and the technicians, rise magnificently to the occasion and commit. And out of this commitment comes constant discovery, endless possibility, truth, comedy,wisdom, awareness, and true connection. In just the past month I have spentt raining with the Apprentice Company and rehearsing for THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, I have realized that any challenge can be faced confidently and successfully if there is a true commitment on my part.

Personally, my greatest challenge this summer has been the text of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW itself. Shrew is a funny play, but it is also, when taken purely on it's literal, surface level, quite misogynistic. The challenge of putting on this show in modern times is how to work within a text and tell a story that is about love, union, and transformation rather than submission, misogyny, and male-domination. At first I was scared out of my mind. How could it be possible? I might be able to justify the story in my head, but how could it possibly be communicated to the audience? The answer was commitment. If I am committed to the story as we are interpreting it, committed to my goals and objectives in each scene, committed to clearly telling the story to the audience, then it is impossible to go astray.

Just as if an ApCo member is committed to learning, it is impossible that he or she won't learn anything. However, it's not as though I stumbled theoretically upon this answer in my little head. I came to the conclusion that commitment is key both onstageand off by seeing examples of true dedication and commitment all around me. Seeing Brenda Sparks, our wonderful director, being totally and utterly committed to the story and totally committed to our interpretation of it. Seeing the professional actors commit their full days to working on two shows, and never giving less than their all even at nine o'clock at night when they've been on their feet for nearly twelve hours. Seeing our amazing costume designer June Kingsbury put in endless andendlessly stellar work, never ceasing to making our costumes better and better. Seeing ApCo members in minor roles commit to so fully to theircharacters that they come up with fascinating and thorough backstories fully supported by the text. Also, seeing the staff of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival; Artistic Director, Denice Hicks, Executive Director, Nancy VanReece and Producer Robert Marigza, and other Festival volunteers devoted completely to Saving Our Shakespeare.
Witnessing all of this commitment is proof enough that it is fully committing to something, no matter how silly or outrageous, not matter off stage or on, no matter whether you are committing to shrieks of fury or utter silence, commitment is that action that opens the doors of the most opportunity. As D.H.Lawrence said, "when genuine passions moves ou, say what you've got to say,and say it hot." That is commitment.