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The Folger Spotlight

Ian Merrill Peakes.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is officially open! Did that last Monday, to a full house of totally engaged and laughing patrons.

Opening nights are a funny thing. It used to be that I hoped for opening night to be the best show ever. Younger and foolish(er) that I was. But now, I realize the show will obviously continue to grow and expand and improve.

At this point in time, all that matters is that we get our show out there. It is just another performance. Of course, it is loaded with all the excitement that comes with an opening, and the house is full of friends who you hope to amaze and inspire. But it is just another show, and now, in all my massive wisdom (imagine a wry smile here), I try to approach it as such.

Ian Merrill Peakes as The Player. Photo by Teresa Wood.

Ian Merrill Peakes as The Player. Photo by Teresa Wood.

One thing I do now, since my son Owen was born, is I stand backstage and reach down to grab my – imaginary, as our curtain time is his bedtime – son’s hand. I breathe. All is put into context and the world is safe and happy. Well, my world. I see what is important.

And I think that is what has led me to my new stance on openings. Just do the work. Let it speak for itself. Theater is a living thing, and it will continue to grow. Opening is usually not even halfway through performances, and with a play this complex many moments have yet to be fully figured out. That’s fun and exciting.

Not to say that we still rehearse. We don’t. Unless something goes wrong – like an important prop breaking two nights in a row; not a disaster, but needing a few moments to fix – we have not a single moment of rehearsal. But we do have this play and this amazing cast.

I am in awe of the talent and level of dedication everyone brings to the table (er, stage) every night. I especially marvel at the folks who have little or nothing to say in this production. Not only are they fully engaged, but every night the Mousetrap “Dumbshow” – where they tell the story without words – gets the loudest response. A scene with no words by the ensemble! They lift me so high. I can’t remember this kind of dedication by an entire group in my career. And that is saying a whole bunch.

As a director, Aaron Posner’s job with this production is to create a framework in which we get to explore and play and grow and improve. He creates the boundaries and it is our responsibility – and this is maybe my favorite part of my job – to fully examine every inch of that framework, right up to the edge. Will we cross it sometime? Yes! But if the framework and boundaries are well crafted, we know it and can rein ourselves in.

With this production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Aaron may have created his finest framework to date. He urged us to keep exploring, to keep discovering, to continue being amazed, and to make choices that give the play momentum. He was so open and clear with this directive, how can we not play and explore?

Ian and the cast of R&G. Photo by Teresa Wood.