An impossible question from a Chinese actor—“Why is Shakespeare eternal?”—drove Sidney Homan after fifty years in the theater to ponder just what makes Shakespeare…well, Shakespeare. The result, Directing Shakespeare, reflects the two worlds in which Homan operates—as a scholar and teacher on campus, and as a director and actor in professional and university theaters. His concern is the entire process, beginning in the lonely period when the director develops a concept, and moving into increasingly larger realms: interaction with stage designers; rehearsals; and performances in which the audience’s response further shapes the play.
Homan recounts the experience of staging King Lear accompanied by a musical score for piano, violin, and cello played live onstage. He discusses the challenge of making and trying to justify cuts in Hamlet. A casual remark from an actress leads to a feminist production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He describes the delicate collaboration between director and performer as he works with actors preparing for The Merchant of Venice, King Lear, and Hamlet. Other chapters treat a set designer’s bold red drapes that influenced the director’s concept for Julius Caesar, and the cross-influence of back-to-back runs of Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstsern Are Dead and Hamlet.
In a highly personal concluding chapter, Homan tells of joyously working with a spontaneous young actor playing Puck and with an audience of unruly teenagers who wept at a performance of Lear.
Delightfully written, and filled with practical insights, Directing Shakespeare draws together scholars, critics, and those who work in the theater to bring the written word to life.