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The Folger Spotlight

Louis Butelli: Pre-Blogging Diary, Part I

Louis Butelli, appearing in Folger’s upcoming Henry V and Twelfth Night.

Hello, there! My name is Louis Butelli, and I’ll be performing in two shows this 2012/13 season at the Folger Theatre. First up, I’ll play Nym in Henry V. Then, I’ll play Feste in Twelfth Night. Both will be directed by my dear friend and long-time collaborator, Robert Richmond. Henry V begins performances on January 22nd.

I’ll also be taking over authorship of this Production Diary providing (hopefully) some interesting and amusing glimpses behind the scenes of these two productions. I have previously written the Production Diary for last season’s production of Othello. You can click here for a sampling of those entries.

Meanwhile, I’ve been asked by the powers-that-be to do a little bit of “pre-blogging” in advance of my arrival back in DC. This, then, is the first of eight entries that will appear here between now and December.

For now, I’ll take a little time to introduce myself to you (and re-introduce myself to anyone who may have read these musings in the past) and to lay out some of my hopes for these “pre-blogs.”

Please note:  I already find “blog” to be sort of an uncomfortably funny word. Modifying it to “pre-blog” makes my spine tingle. I am a self-conscious fellow, and will probably keep repeating that nonsense term, just to allay some of my terror of taking on the title of “pre-blogger.” Consider yourself warned.

Here’s some background:

Henry V will be my fourth show at the Folger. My previous appearances here were Cassius in Julius Caesar, Will Sommers in Henry VIII, for which I won the Helen Hayes Award, and Roderigo in Othello last season. Having worked as an actor for the past 16 years, I can tell you with great assurance that working at the Folger is one of the most splendid things an actor can do. The staff – artistic, administrative, and technical – are the best in the business. It’s truly a family.

All this would be enough on its own. Still, working here also means that we have access to the world’s largest and finest collection of Shakespeare materials, the Folger Shakespeare Library. I’ll have more to say about that as the “pre-blogging” continues; for now, have a look at this entry about touring the Library’s Vault. It was once said to me, by an excellent actor who has worked at the Folger many times, that on your tenth show here, you are given a First Folio. I seriously doubt that this is true. Nonetheless, I will fill up the fourth and fifth slots on my punch-card with high hopes.

In addition to preparing for Henry V and doing some light “pre-blogging,” I am also continuing work with my theater company, Psittacus Productions. We are a three-year-old nonprofit, currently based in New York City. We’ve created an original piece of theater for each year of our existence:  A Tale Told By An Idiot, a comic book deconstruction of Macbeth; A True History, a new play based on the writings of Roman satirist Lucian of Samosata; and CYCLOPS: A Rock Opera. Based on Euripides’ satyr play of the same name, CYCLOPS played in Los Angeles, where it was nominated for 3 LA Weekly Theatre Awards, and the New York Musical Theatre Festival, where it won the NYMF Award for Excellence, and was Jury Nominated for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Drama. Plans are afoot to play CYCLOPS next summer at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Again, more on this to come.

All of this is just to emphasize to you just how dedicated I am to classics in the modern era – which is why I am so excited to return to Folger Theatre, not only as an actor, but as a writer. Or blogger. Or “pre-blogger.”

Here are some hopes for this “pre-blog” and upcoming Production Diary:

My main thrust in writing here is to put across, as vividly as possible, the whole experience of putting on a production of a Shakespeare play in the year 2013. There may not be a more widely produced playwright than Will Shakespeare, and he has never been more popular, some 400 years after his death. I find this to be pretty incredible, and a large part of my writing here will take that on phenomenon.

Henry V and Twelfth Night are both fascinating, if radically different plays. I’ll be taking some time to explore each play individually, and to consider how they work together inside of the same season. There is lots of ground to cover – historically, dramaturgically, thematically, etc. – and, as you’ll find, I am a huge nerd about these things. I hope that you don’t find nerdiness a turn-off. I really hope that. Really.

I’ll also be laying out for you the nuts and bolts of going to work at a professional, world-class theater. There are those who believe that there is a kind of glamor attached to working in the theater. While that is true to an extent, there is quite a lot about it that is profoundly unglamorous. I will share some of each.

Additionally, I’ll attempt to draw back the curtain on the rehearsal process, and to share some insights, if I may be presumptuous, about the actor’s process in approaching a classical role. My goal is to include interviews with my cast mates, and to lay it all out for you as honestly as possible.

Finally, I’d like to know what you’d like to read. Leave a comment, and let me know how I’m doing. Leave a suggestion, and I will incorporate it into a subsequent entry. Leave cakes and pies, and I will be very happy, and have snacks. Interact with me; let’s have some fun.

OK. That brings this very first “pre-blog” to a conclusion. Thanks for reading, if you are. Please feel free to include these humble entries in your Tweets and on your Facebooks. The more the merrier. Until next time!


Thanks, Louis! We’re looking forward to seeing both Henry V and Twelfth Night. (I’m particularly interested in hearing how you are going to approach Feste. In a workshop production we’re putting together, Feste is a blues singer.)

anomalink — September 21, 2012

Welcome back, Louis! Looking forward to reading about the adventures behind the scenes.

Suzanne Jones — September 21, 2012

@anomalink: Thanks to you! I’m also excited to figure out how to put Feste across. I’ve played him before (as a sort of white-face, bare-chest, leather-clad clown…more on that soon hahaha), and am thrilled to have another go. At the moment, I’ve got nothing. Ukulele? Meanwhile, blues singer sounds awesome – tell me more!

@Suzanne: Thank you! Should be a hoot. 🙂

Louis Butelli — September 21, 2012

Trying to wrap my head around this being a pre-blog blog-post… I fear you might be violating the space-time continuum. Nevertheless, looking forward to reading (and seeing) you again. I’m particularly interested in behind-the-scenes details of productions…. Do actors supply their own shoes whenever possible, because they know they’re already broken in and won’t hurt their feet? Is there a preference for using props in such a way that they don’t have to be replenished (e.g. slam the sheet of paper down on the table rather than crumple it up)?

Erin Blake — September 21, 2012

Hey, Erin! Looking forward to seeing you again, too!

I love the idea of the behind-the-scenes stuff – I think I could probably do a whole thing just on shoes alone. Love the props usage idea, too. I will absolutely make sure those get covered.

Meanwhile, I’m very, very excited to return to the vault in the upcoming season; thanks again for all you do.

OK, back to violating the space-time continu-

Louis Butelli — September 23, 2012