Who: Mark Routhier
Where: Algiers Point
Q: What is the difference between an author and a writer?
MR: I can think about this within the context of Shakespeare, and how we worked to put together the Romeo and Juliet scenes for the Goat in the Road production. Shakespeare is in the public domain, so his work gets done all of the time. For this particular cut I’m working with the drinking game, I had to cut the full play down to 30 minutes for three actors and some bridges handled by the ‘narrator’, with the idea of ‘What will make this palatable and entertaining and clear to a room full of bar patrons?’ I guess that makes me and my collaborators the ‘authors.’
We originally did this cut of Romeo and Juliet for the Orlando Fringe Festival. I was going to be directing two of my friends in a Rajiv Joseph play called Gruesome Playground Injuries, but due to the lottery, we didn’t get a venue. We talked to Michael Marinaccio about how to continue, and he suggested doing a ‘Bring Your Own Venue.’ We could do any show we wanted as long as we made an arrangement with the venue.
We were sitting outside a place called The Thirsty Topher, and thought ‘Let’s do a two-person Romeo and Juliet that we could perform here.’ We quickly realized that we couldn’t do that because there are so many other characters in the play. So, we grabbed a third actor to play a bunch of the other characters and made it for three people. Then we added a fourth person who would narrate some bridges in contemporary, extemporized language.
I’d cut the acts, we’d meet at the house, we’d discuss what cuts we should keep and what speeches or parts everyone wanted added back in. It was entirely collaborative. So along with Shakespeare, all of us authored this piece.
Q: Whose voice would you like to have on retainer as an omniscient narrator for any and every piece that you direct?
MR: [Laughing] When I was studying playwriting at NYU, one of my friends was studying acting at Juilliard, and he is now a character actor who works all of the time in theatre, film and television. His name is Bill Camp, and if I were going to have someone be an omniscient narrator in all of my pieces, it would be him.
He is insanely talented, he has a really cool voice, and he has a great sense of humor and irony, so he gets it. Also, he’s so versatile and flexible. He does serious pieces, comedic pieces, and he’s great on stage or on camera. He’s an actor I’ve worked with in the past, and I completely trust him, which is really one of the most important things. I could choose someone like Patrick Stewart or James Earl Jones for my omniscient narrator, but I don’t know those guys. I know Bill well. It would be fun to work with him again.
Q: When did an animal influence your work?
MR: The very easy answer is that I was writing a ten minute play when I was living in San Francisco, and I was part of a group called Playground. They would give you a theme on Friday morning, and you had to turn in a ten-minute play by the following Tuesday. There were about 36 writers in the pool, and they’d choose the six they liked the best to be staged the following Monday.
One particular time, I had heard about an incident at the San Francisco Zoo. There was a group of kids at the zoo, and they were throwing things at the tigers that were caged there. It was one of those cages that is protected by a moat, and one of the tigers got angry, climbed out of the moat, and mauled the kids. The police then came, and they shot and killed the tiger. I thought it was so tragic that these kids were throwing things at the tiger without someone stepping in to stop them, and that it caused the tiger to lose its life.
So, I wrote this little play where the tiger that’s lost his mate is philosophizing about grief and time, and the ghost of his dead mate comes back to release him from his grief.
Q: When do you know that a scene is right?
MR: When I’m directing, I collaborate very heavily. There are directors that envision the scene in their head, and then they bend the actors to their will in order to get as close to that image as possible. I prefer to see what the actors can bring and then find it together.
The actors I worked with in Orlando are not the actors I worked with in New Orleans for this ShakeBeer production. So, just like I do when I’m working with new actors (to me), we read through the script together, then got on our feet, and although I helped a bit cuz our time was limited, we found it together.
With the ShakesBeer, the Drinking Game performance, the audience is the wild card. When you go to a theater and watch a performance, occasionally you get a drunken person that yells back at you, but you can pretty much count on the audience being quiet and attentive.
When you put the performance in a bar, and our performance is also a drinking game, many more variables come into play. They get rowdy, which is sort of the point. To demystify Shakespeare and make his work more accessible, and get the audience involved.
My aim is for the actors to feel so comfortable with their work together that if there is unplanned-for interaction between them and the audience or even just someone walking through the bar who gets caught in the action, they can improvise, have some fun, engage them and then get back to the story.
Mark Routhier is the director of Goat in the Road’s production of: Shakesbeer: Romeo and Juliet: The Drinking Game. The show is on Friday, December 8, 7:00 pm at Parleaux Beer Lab (634 Lesseps St.) and Saturday, December 9, 7pm at 12 Mile Limit. All performances are free and open to the public. For full details, you can check out their event page as well a Goat in the Road’s website.