Directing Shakespeare

Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 149

No two theater directors approach Shakespeare’s plays in the same way. When it comes to setting, blocking, costuming, casting, and cutting, there are countless ways directors can shape Shakespeare to make his works their own.
 
With this sense of infinite possibility in mind, we invited two theater directors to join us for a conversation about how they approach Shakespeare. What goes in to directing one of Shakespeare’s plays? Where does a director start? What do directors think about as they kick off rehearsals?

Laura Gordon is a Milwaukee-based freelance theater director. She has directed at theaters including Utah State University, the Utah Shakespeare Festival, Santa Cruz Shakespeare, the Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival, and the American Players Theatre.

Vivienne Benesch is the Artistic Director of PlayMakers Rep at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. She has directed at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, the Chautauqua Theater Company and Conservatory, The Juilliard School, and, in 2019, Folger Theatre, where she staged Love's Labor's Lost. Gordon and Benesch are interviewed by Barbara Bogaev.

Listen to Shakespeare Unlimited on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Soundcloud, NPR One, or wherever you get your podcasts.

From the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast. Published July 21, 2020. © Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved. This podcast episode, “A Bill of Properties Such as Our Play Wants,” was produced by Richard Paul. Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster. Ben Lauer is the web producer. We had technical help from Andrew Feliciano and Paul Luke at Voice Trax West in Studio City, California.

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Transcript

MICHAEL WITMORE: The words—Shakespeare’s words—those remain the same. But what you do with them? What a director can do to make them mean this or mean that… that is practically infinite.

From the Folger Shakespeare Library, this is Shakespeare Unlimited. I’m Michael Witmore, the Folger’s director. If you’ve gone to more than one production of a Shakespeare play, you’re aware that no two theater directors treat his work the same way. When it comes to setting, when it comes to costumes, when it comes to casting, directors shape Shakespeare to make his work exactly what they want it to be. In fact, there’s a joke in the theater that that’s one of the reasons why directors love to do Shakespeare. You can do whatever you want with him and not worry about him sending you a “nasty-gram” or calling you out on Twitter.

It’s with this sense of infinite possibility in mind that we invited in two theater directors for a conversation about how they approach the works of Shakespeare. Laura Gordon is a Milwaukee-based freelance theater director, who’s done a lot Shakespeare work in the west. She directed Shakespeare at Utah State University, at Santa Cruz Shakespeare, and also the Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival. Vivienne Benesch is the Artistic Director of PlayMakers Rep at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. She’s directed Shakespeare at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, at Chautauqua, at Juilliard, and—last year—here at the Folger, where she did a wonderful production of Love's Labor's Lost.

While they’re only two of the hundreds of directors who work in Shakespeare, we think you’ll agree that their ideas offer a window into the special care directors take when they’re given the opportunity to work in this special realm.

A note before we start: Laura recorded herself at her home in Milwaukee. Viv recorded herself at her mother’s apartment in Manhattan.

We call our podcast “A Bill of Properties Such as Our Play Wants.” Viv and Laura are interviewed by Barbara Bogaev.

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BARBARA BOGAEV: Let's start with the beginning of the whole process. I'm curious, and I'm going to ask each of you in turn; who gets to decide that you'll be directing a Shakespeare play? I mean, is Shakespeare a favorite or are classical plays a favorite? Laura, let's start with you.

LAURA GORDON: Classical plays are favorites for me. I love Shakespeare, but I'm a freelance director, and I started as an actor. I've always been in the position where a Shakespeare play has been offered to me to direct. I've never been in a position where I dreamed up some great version of a Shakespeare play that I wanted to do and pitched it to a company. That's just not how my career has gone.

BOGAEV: And how about you, Viv?

VIVIENNE BENESCH: Well, for me, what's been fun—of course as an artistic director, you do get to do that, and then you have to decide whether you keep it for yourself or you give it to another artist. And other people say, "Well, how do you approach Shakespeare?" And I was like "No, you approach everything else like you approach Shakespeare rather than approaching Shakespeare like everything else."

I was first—and similar to you, Laura—an actor first, and as I started directing, it was actually the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey where I had played several roles. They asked me to do Richard III. But the only one I pitched was on multidisciplinary Romeo and Juliet with the symphony, with the opera company, with the theater company and the ballet. So that was pretty exciting.

BOGAEV: Oh, and that leads right into my next question, which is; when you know you'll be directing Shakespeare, what do you attack first? I mean, with the multidisciplinary idea, clearly, you had this vision. But is it the setting? Is it deciding what to cut? What do you attack first?

BENESCH: I'll start by saying unlike nearly every other opportunity that I get as a director with Shakespeare, I love to watch every production I can get my hands on. And that is so untrue of anything else because I like to, sort of, keep what's my personal vision. What's the way I'm going to, sort of, really be original. But with Shakespeare, I feel like the first thing I want to do, other than delving into the text, is find out what is the problem solving, and how our relationships and themes and story brought to life by every other version I can find? Because in that case, much like the Romanian director Liviu Ciulei used to say, "Originality is just the sign of not enough information."

BOGAEV: That's unusual though. I mean, that really is. Most people… a lot of people try to avoid, you know, blurring their vision with other people's vision. Laura, what do you do?

GORDON: No, I would agree with Viv on that. Also, agreeing that in plays other than Shakespeare, I don't necessarily want to see what anyone else has done. But there's so much room for interpretation that I just like to see what other people are doing.

The other thing that I've noticed about my career with Shakespeare is that my approaches to the plays vary greatly depending on the theater that I'm working at: depending on what the tradition of that theater is, and what the expectations are, and what the audience is.

I started by directing—and this was a number of years ago—but at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, which was a much more traditional approach to the work. They were under new artistic directorship at the time, so things were beginning to change. But it was coming out of a culture where you set those plays during Shakespeare's lifetime. The window was small in terms of where you could go. And then I've also done a couple of shows at Santa Cruz Shakespeare, which is a company that's committed to gender parity, where 50 percent of the cast are men and 50 percent are women. So the decision making comes from, how am I going to use those women in a nontraditional way and what kind of world supports that decision? It's been cool.

BOGAEV: Yeah. So specific. Well, what about scholarship and scholarly texts and secondary sources and things like, you know, reading about Elizabethan history in Shakespeare's life or scholarly works on the specific play in question? Are you reading those as well? And Laura, you can start with that.

GORDON: I'm not doing that too much. No. I think, you know, for me, it's the text, and then once we decide on a world, if I need to dive into Vienna history, or something, for the setting for Measure for Measure, then I'll do that kind of research. But that research for me is more in terms of the work with coming up with what things are going to look like and where it's going to take place.

BOGAEV: How about you, Vivienne?

BENESCH: For me, the sort of dramaturgy part of it is ongoing, and if we're lucky enough to have a dramaturg on hand to sort of build the world of resources for the design team and the cast, that is always fantastic. But for me, in terms of scholarship, it is always just going back to the text, before you even get to world of play, to see what is evoked in all the clues that Shakespeare gives you.

Once that is really done, certainly I love to read Asimov's previews to Shakespeare, to each of the plays… are fantastic and give you a sort of historical context and certainly the source materials. You know, I'm not going to go read the source material for Two Noble Kinsmen beyond knowing that it exists and what the stories were and knowing that—I don't feel necessarily that mining those texts is as helpful as thinking about what the play is for us today.

BOGAEV: Right. And you said, though, at first, you go straight to what other people have done. Can you give me an example of a movie or a recording of a play that you've watched and it set you on a certain course? Either gave you an idea, inspired something or you thought, "No, no, I don't want to go there."

BENESCH: I was doing a production of Much Ado About Nothing. I inevitably, you know, watched the Kenneth Branagh/Emma Thompson, so beautifully set in the rolling hills of the Italian countryside. I loved the film, but for me, what was great about watching it was that it hit all this sort of sense of romance to me, but didn't get to the underlying textural machismo. You know, there's always the—especially male behavior in many of Shakespeare's plays—sort of, the justification for, "Why are they behaving this way? Oh my God." And then that machismo led me towards what we wound up in: Cuba of the 1930s.

But the film really, really helped me understand, again, the romance, the breeziness, the darkness of it. For me, what was missing and really started me investigating other options than the Italianate option that he had actually written it for.

BOGAEV: Interesting. And Laura, you also did a Much Ado in Santa Cruz, right?

GORDON: I did. Yeah. And I get that's linking back to the casting, you know, sort of being one of the driving ideas with coming up with the world for the play. I had spoken with the artistic director, Mike Ryan, and he had some ideas about where we might use some of the women nontraditionally. So we decided, and we had a great actress to play Leonato, but playing it as Leonata, so as Hero's mother. And then also we had a woman playing Antonia. So it turned into a matriarchal family.

I needed to come up with a way to have a world that made sense with that truth, and so we settled on… it was right after World War II with the troops coming home. The women were at home, running the vineyard. Dogberry, he had really bad vision, really like coke bottle glasses so that he wasn't able to go off and fight. The watch were, you know, the Boy Scouts that were too young to fight.

We had to kind of come up with the world that made sense for that kind of casting, and I thought it worked really, really well. And there's an interesting thing that happens when you put a woman into a role that is traditionally played by a man; you hear the play in a different way. And it was—I don't know, I thought it was really cool, and now I want to play Leonato.

BENESCH: Oh my God. Now I'm fascinated by that, Laura, because… well specifically given what I was just talking about, that I'm so curious what that was like—

GORDON: Yeah.

BENESCH: In terms of that again—what I sort of found and mined within that sort of male toxicity… when you put women in the parental roles there—I'm so curious what that did.

GORDON: Well, I found it so interesting to have a mother say those things to a daughter. You know, when Hero, at the wedding. Super painful to hear. Like it's always painful to hear the father say that to a daughter anyway, but having it coming out of the mouth of a mother was an incredible experience.

But then to have the mother, when she realizes what has actually happened, to defend her daughter. That great little scene with Antonio and Leonato kind of taken on Claudio, and to have these women roaring up to the defense of this girl, I found really, really powerful.

I think that for audiences that have seen Much Ado many times, it was, "Oh, let me listen to this play in a different way." And for people who hadn't seen Much Ado, that was just the reality of what it was that they were seeing.

BOGAEV: Yeah.
 

BENESCH: It gives women such agency. It's the women saving the women and standing by them. Yeah.

GORDON: Yeah. And the scene before the party—you know—the scene before the mask. It was a scene of all women before that party.

BOGAEV: Mmm.

GORDON: So I don't know, I found the dynamic really, really cool, personally.

BOGAEV: While we're talking about casting, I have a whole bunch of casting questions. And the first is a really basic one. How concerned are you that your actors have experience with Shakespeare when you're casting? That the language is already in their mouths? Vivienne?

BENESCH: For me, it's not a question of Shakespeare or not. It's literally a sense of a love of language.

GORDON: Mm-hmm. I agree.

BENESCH: A love of language and desire to express. Much like in musicals, the need to sing; the need to express through this language. It doesn't so much have to do with "Oh, I've studied it, I know, I do end-stops at the end of, you know, a particular technique or a particular...” It's really not that.

GORDON: Yeah. I kind of think of it as an athletic event almost. It's like I want actors who are able to, kind of, chew this language and love this language.

BENESCH: Yeah.

GORDON: I mean, I'm a real geek, and I'm sure you are too, Viv. Are you a geek? Sorry. Of what you were saying just about the text.

BENESCH: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

GORDON: I get really excited by the acting clues that are there to follow. So I want actors that maybe they don't know all of that, probably they do, but are open to it and are open to saying, "Oh, here's a scene. This is Olivia and Viola, and the scene is in prose until it turns to verse." I find that really exciting. And so that you go, "Why is it turned to verse?"

BENESCH: Mm-hmm. Me too.

GORDON: We need to notice that and make a decision about it. So I like actors that are willing to get in there and chew it around.

BOGAEV: I mean, the inverse of that would be, do you find that actors sometimes come to Shakespeare with tics or habits that they're not even aware of because they've watched so many of the greats or have acted the roles before?

BENESCH: Yes. It's amazing in auditions, when you meet someone and you're having a nice conversation with them, and suddenly, their voice completely changes when they go into the material, and you're like, "Wait. Wait. I want to hear you, I want to hear you speaking." This is not some idea of a Shakespearean sound. I mean, it's less than it used to be, but it still prevails.

GORDON: Right.

BENESCH: And on the converse, people… it is really worthwhile to know how and have the technique to be able to deliver a five or six or seven line thought in one breath. When people can do that and take the parentheticals and get in there, and boom; that is technique and experience.

GORDON: Yeah, that's skill. That's experience. And I think one of my biggest pet peeves quite honestly, with a lot of actors in Shakespeare, is breaking up the text and putting in pauses that don't need to be there. So like encouraging actors to realize that these characters think faster than we do, you know. It's like, if Leontes actually took the time to think his way through these speeches, the play wouldn't happen.

BOGAEV: It probably would be nine hours long.

GORDON: You know, if he really thought about it, he would know he was being an idiot.

BOGAEV: And now the big overarching casting question, and maybe you've answered part of it with the discussion about Much Ado and switching around the gender assignments, but how do you think about ethnicity and gender and casting? And are we at a new place with freedom or taboos in relation to any of this?

I'm thinking of one of our guests on this podcast, the director Peter Brook. He just rejects the term “colorblind casting” altogether. He says that's a terrible phrase. We should call it “color-welcome” casting. So Laura, why don't you take that one first?

GORDON: Well, I am just interested in the way that these plays… I mean, obviously, we're still doing them. We've been doing them for hundreds of years, and they stand the test of time. I think what keeps them relevant is the different voices that get to speak these words. So just as an audience member can hear something different with the words coming out of the mouth of a woman, I think we maybe hear these plays in a different way when they're coming from actors of color in a way that we haven't heard before. I find it all really, really exciting.

BENESCH: First of all, there's no question that Shakespeare and far too few authors—but Shakespeare certainly has entered into a place where our interpretations and the social context with which they were written is far more universal and expansive than that. I mean, we don't worry anymore about the fact that Henry VIII looked the way he did. We are enough removed from it to be able to make jumps.

I completely agree with Laura that hearing all of these characters come from a variety of voices is part of the wonder of it. But I think as we're working on productions where—yes, I will happily call it “color-welcome”— where you are choosing not to base it in a specific sociopolitical context, or those productions where you are specifically doing that. there are so many ways in which if you want it to be specific, then you have to be very color-conscious and otherwise color-welcome. And both are okay, but don't avoid the choice.

BOGAEV: Well, it's complicated. But it sounds so open-ended, and I can hear the excitement in your voices. But what about gender, and ethnicity for that matter, and the business of theater? I mean, we see discrimination against women directors and film and television and opera and nearly every profession. So how does being women affect your choices or opportunities in theater, Laura?

GORDON: Well, I'm excited about the future. You know, I worked as an actor for a long time. I still do. But I was doing Shakespeare festivals in the ‘80s, where I was one of three women who were hired for the season with 20 men. And while it was great for my social life, you got a—did a lot of nice dating during those summers. But I never even entertained the idea that I would be playing Prospero one day.

So I find like this whole new world kind of opened up of like, "Damn, you know, somebody needs to hire me to play some of these roles." And if there wasn't a worldwide pandemic, I would be playing Prospero this summer. Which… I just got another year to dream about it, but you know, it'll hopefully happen. I'm just seeing so many more things opening up. And we've seen—and Viv is a great example of this—we've seen a lot of women take on artistic director roles, and that helps this conversation as well. Also people of color.

BENESCH: The word opportunity that you used, Laura, to me means everything. And again, as an artistic director, that is one of the most important credos for me; is how am I giving women opportunities? You know, in no way do I feel like a trailblazer, not at all.

GORDON: Right.

BENESCH: It's interesting. I feel in the middle of the pack, in the sense that I want to be a facilitator for what I think is a huge wave coming forward. But I feel like I'm standing on the shoulders of some of the great foundationalists—at least the 20th-century foundationalists—that gave us structure and form, and even what was seen as avant-garde in the middle of the 20th century. I'm so curious what that's going to be in the middle of the 21st.

GORDON: I directed a production of Romeo and Juliet a couple of summers ago in Santa Cruz, and we had a woman playing Tybalt, as a woman, and Benvolio as well. We had this group of, like, Girl Scouts—Girl Scout camp night, or something, you know—that they had all come early and they were there for the fight call. They were watching this really amazing fighter—this woman playing Tybalt—going through her fight call. And these girls were like so excited and screaming, "Girl power, girl power." And I just thought, “Traditionally for a young woman, your way into that play is through Juliet.” To have a way into the play for a young person watching, to have it be through Tybalt, to have it be through Benvolio was just such an interesting... Like, I never had that.

BENESCH: That's amazing. Yeah.

BOGAEV: I want to talk some more about setting of these plays because it's a real risk. I mean, you can turn off an audience, I suppose, or that's happened, by a setting that doesn't click. So, Laura, are you a director who likes to set classical plays in a specific period or do they take place either in their own time or in no fixed time? Do you, like,—do you even think there is such a thing as setting a Shakespeare play in no fixed time, in the world of the imagination?

GORDON: In the world of the imagination; I think what I've had success with a couple of times, which I kind of like. Because, obviously, we don't want this place to feel dusty too: "Let me take you back in time to tell this story." We want them to feel fresh.

I'll use that Romeo and Juliet as an example. The biggest questions driving the decision about how to set that production, since we had a woman playing Tybalt, was what weapons are they going to fight with and what does Tybalt wear to the party. You know, like what is she going to…?

BENESCH: The perennial question.

GORDON: But it really did drive a lot of the decision-making because I didn't want to update it in a way that begged the question about guns. I still wanted to have sword fight. I still wanted to use rapier and dagger, but I wanted these women in these roles fighting. It was like keeping the silhouette of the Italian Renaissance. So, you kind of create this world that you can still do the fights the way you want to do them, but the period is referenced.

I think it works, you know, for certain plays. I think it works pretty well. I did a Richard III that was similar in that way. I often like, kind of, googling “Italian Renaissance runway fashion”, and then you see a lot of Alexander McQueen. You're like, "That is very cool." And it's very fresh, but it still has a reference to another time.

BOGAEV: Who what wear in the Renaissance.

GORDON: Yeah.

BENESCH: And it's born—but here's the thing, that is born again of the world of the play. It can hold that beautifully, and there's a range there where I get really frustrated with productions is where they're trying to squeeze a concept of the time period on to something, and forego...

GORDON: Right. Yeah. Exactly.

BOGAEV: It gets so distracting.

BENESCH: Yeah.

BOGAEV: It distracts you from the text, from the words, the poetry.

BENESCH: It really does. It really does. And you know, that's my thing about cell phones—with productions that use cell phones. I've seen it work brilliantly, but it's also—okay—what Shakespeare allows us is to set something in contemporary world and have no cell phones. That works too because he was not consistent either. Like he's asking us to believe that no one recognizes Ganymede versus Rosalind. The jumps of imagination that are theatrical that we all go on… we have to remember, as we're creating a world, that we should take those kinds of liberties as well. As long as what we are not taking liberties with is the story and the texts that we're using to tell that story.

GORDON: Amen.

BOGAEV: And a very practical question. I mean, Vivienne, what about the physical theater space that you have to work with? How big a factor is that in influencing your decisions?

BENESCH: Oh, well, that's so much fun. I mean, that's where director manna is, right? The boundaries are your creative wellspring. So if you have a giant thrust and you're trying to achieve intimacy in one moment and a civil war in the next, how you make space and light—and this is why I think lighting designers love Shakespeare so much because they are so responsible in productions where they can be for, sort of, shifting. I don't know how you feel, Laura, but give me no transitions, and I'm a happy girl, in the sense of the furniture moving. That again, the sort of rhythm of the play, and yet it's where a composer is also so, so important and your sound design is so important that you are sort of structuring the musicality of the play to keep going and not sort of start, and stop, and start, and stop.

GORDON: Right.

BENESCH: So you just asked a question about the space, and my response is the creative team at large. It's so thrilling to work with the creative team on a Shakespeare production because every element, whatever the restrictions are or the demands are, you cannot achieve it separately from each other.

BOGAEV: Well, this is a very different category of question, but I guess the question is, how much of what you do is aimed at provoking your audience, or making your audience think? How much is it about engaging them with this beautiful language and this playwright and this specific play? Is that a false dichotomy, first of all? I'll start with you, Laura.

GORDON: Mmm. Right. I mean, I think, like, story is everything for me, and the clarity of text and trusting the text. I get annoyed when physical comedy has to do the storytelling at the expense of the text, or because people think that that's how you can get the message across to an audience. I get annoyed when the production design is overwhelming the text, isn't trusting the text.

I think that there's a way to make the plays accessible through the language and to make them provoking through the story. You know, I think it's important for me to get to the end of a play, like Measure for Measure, and float out both possibilities of how that play can end. It’s, like, Shakespeare doesn't let Isabella say anything at the end. And when I first started rehearsing that play, I thought, "How can she possibly go with the duke after this? No way can that happen." And then by working on the play and working with my actors, I went, "Oh. I think that she might. I think that's actually kind of a good match." But then staging it in such a way that that's all kind of shimmering there and provoking an audience to make a decision.

BOGAEV: Okay. Very direct question for directors. How much of the text do you consider cutting and why? Viv.

BENESCH: Cutting Shakespeare may be my favorite hobby.

GORDON: Can I call you the next time I need to cut?

BENESCH: Yes.

GORDON: Thank you.

BENESCH: And I will admit that it's not that I take joy in cutting what's there. It's that in the process of making a cut, you learn the text better than anything else.

GORDON: Mm-hmm.

BENESCH: I compare it a little bit to working on a Chekhov. Depending on which translation you're working on; you have like seven translations at the table with you and you're looking at each one and trying to determine why the adapter or a translator used the one they did. In a similar way, in the act of cutting Shakespeare, you are getting to what is essential: tracking the psychology, learning the rhythm. To me, it's really exciting and fun.

BOGAEV: So it's like getting your hands into the guts of the play.

BENESCH: Exactly. Exactly.

BOGAEV: But Laura, you don't feel that way?

GORDON: Oh, no. It's just torture. I mean, I agree that it is a great way to learn the play for sure. It's just that every cut bleeds, you know, and some require triage in a different way. So it's so time consuming. And I really do rely on bouncing my ideas off of other people.

BOGAEV: So you need second and third opinions, to continue your medical metaphor?

GORDON: I do. I do. I do.

BENESCH: And I agree with that. And part of the rehearsal process that I love is being in conversation about a particular cut. Often, I wind up putting something back or doing a different cut.

GORDON: That's so true. Yeah. You know, you count on the actor to know what it is that they feel like they might be missing. But you know, I also don't want to take precious rehearsal time to rehearse material I'm not going to do.

BOGAEV: Oh. I'm really curious about this. What have you always dreamed of doing in a particular way, and what's kept you from doing it—among Shakespeare plays, that is. Viv?

GORDON: Mmm...

BENESCH: So I really… that interdisciplinary Romeo and Juliet—I just am dying to do that with many, many a Shakespeare play. It won't be as obvious as it was for Romeo and Juliet, where you have masterpieces of music, masterpieces of dance, and jazz. To string that multidisciplinary retelling together was so obvious in that, where, if you were to do that with King Lear, what operatic music or symphonic music is going to keep you on the story?

BOGAEV: It sounds very expensive, I've got to say.

BENESCH: Well, I'll say this; yes, the reason we were able to do it at Chautauqua is that there is a resident theater company, dance company, opera company and symphony.

BOGAEV: Uh-huh.

BENESCH: So yes, you are absolutely right.

BOGAEV: And you, Laura? What's your dream production and what's keeping you from doing it?

GORDON: Well, I'm going to be truthful here. I've never been a big bucket list person. So I don't have like a dream production. Although because I'm facing unemployment for the foreseeable future, now is my time to begin, you know, dreaming. To begin dreaming of something, and the plays that are really kinda bubbling to the surface for me. I kind of want to wrap my brain around a Winter's Tale right now. Then also, interestingly, I never ever, ever was interested in Comedy of Errors. I thought, “That's not my thing.” And now I'm thinking, "Wow. We really need to laugh right now. So let me wrap my brain around something completely goofy that might be fun."

BOGAEV: Oh. I'm excited to see what you come up with for Winter's Tale.

GORDON: Me too. Me too.

BENESCH: I can see that.

BOGAEV: Well, thank you both for such a fun and really heartening conversation. Thank you.

GORDON: Thank you.

BENESCH: Thank you. What a pleasure.

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WITMORE: Laura Gordon has worked in Shakespeare as an actor since 1984 and as a director since 2011. She has played Adriana in The Comedy of Errors; the Princess of France in Love’s Labor’s Lost; and Mariana in Measure for Measure, among others. As a director, she staged Romeo and Juliet and Much Ado About Nothing at Santa Cruz Shakespeare; The Winter’s Tale, Measure for Measure, and Love’s Labor’s Lost at the Utah Shakespeare Festival; and Richard III for Shakespeare at Notre Dame.

Vivienne Benesch is the Producing Artistic Director of PlayMakers Repertory Company, based at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Before that, she was Artistic Director of the Chautauqua Theater Company and Conservatory. She’s also directed at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Trinity Repertory Company, and Red Bull Theatre, among others. Last year, at the Folger, she helmed our production of Love's Labor's Lost.

Viv and Laura were interviewed by Barbara Bogaev.

Our podcast episode, “A Bill of Properties Such as Our Play Wants,” was produced by Richard Paul. Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster. Ben Lauer is the web producer. We had technical help from Andrew Feliciano and Paul Luke at Voice Trax West in Studio City, California.

If you are a fan of Shakespeare Unlimited, please leave us a review on whatever platform you get the podcast from. That’s a really important way to get out the word about the work we’re doing here, especially to people who don’t know about the podcast already.

Shakespeare Unlimited comes to you from the Folger Shakespeare Library. Home to the world’s largest Shakespeare collection, the Folger is dedicated to advancing knowledge and the arts. You can find more about the Folger at our website, folger.edu.

Thanks for listening. For the Folger Shakespeare Library, I’m Folger Director Michael Witmore.