This week I participated in the first session of A Noise Within’s new INsiders program (formerly known as Scholar’s Society) led by Dr. Miranda Johnson-Haddad.* The evening was a lively discussion entitled, “The Dark Fantasy of CYMBELINE,” that took place in the company’s upstairs rehearsal room in Pasadena. Refreshments were provided and each of the participants had previously received an edited version of the play that ANW is producing this fall. CYMBELINE will kick off ANW’s second season on September 22, the first of a series of plays that were all chosen because they deal in some way with a journey, just as this season is a continuation of the journey A Noise Within is taking in its new permanent location.
Dr. Haddad first gave an overview of the play and noted that CYMBELINE doesn’t fall easily into a specific category as do some of Shakespeare’s other works. Written relatively late in his career (approx. 1608-1610) when Shakespeare no longer had anything to prove, it contains both comedy and tragedy, as well as fairytale elements, and is often considered one of the four great Romances, along with Pericles, The Winter's Tale, and The Tempest.
We discussed important themes common in a Romance such as conflicts between fathers and daughters, forgiveness & redemption (one of the most important themes), reunions, and reward after great adversity. For example, in CYMBELINE the king’s daughter Imogen sets out on a journey and proves worthy of reward by journey’s end. She is reunited with her father, and is also reunited with her husband, Posthumus, while the king is reunited with his two sons, Guiderius and Arviragus. And like many of Shakespeare’s plays, all is forgiven.
We also examined some of the significant scenes and speeches in the play. One of these was Iachimo’s speech in Imogen’s bedroom when he emerges from the trunk while she’s sleeping. Not many film versions of CYMBELINE exist but Dr. Haddad showed this scene from the 1982 BBC film starring a young Helen Mirren as Imogen and Robert Lindsay as Iachimo. Shakespeare’s poetry, his choice of legends referenced (like Tarquin from The Rape of Lucrece, and Tereus and Philomel), and the sexual nature of the situation all combine to make a very powerful scene.
[For those who may be interested, I did find a fascinating 22-minute black & white silent film version of CYMBELINE (1913) online directed by Lucius J. Henderson and preserved by Thanhouser Company Film Preservation, Inc. you might like to check out.]
For A Noise Within’s production of CYMBELINE, director Bart DeLorenzo has made the unusual choice of doubling all of the characters, with the exception of Imogen (played by Helen Sadler). Many of them are not on stage at the same time which lends itself to doubling and it also becomes an intriguing way to view the different sides of good and evil with one actor portraying a version of each. For example, Posthumus (good) and Cloten (evil) will both be played by Adam Hunter, and Francia DiMase portrays both the Queen (evil) and in a gender switch, Belarius (mostly good). Other doublings include Joel Swetow as Cymbeline and Philario, Andrew Elvis Miller as Iachimo and Caius Lucius, Jarrett Sleeper as Guiderius and Frenchman, Paul David Story as Arviragus and Cornelius, and Time Winters as Pisanio and Gaoler.
All in all, it was a stimulating evening of conversation led by Dr. Haddad with a great deal of interaction by the rest of the INsiders members. It’s also a wonderful way to become familiar with the classics that will be a part of the season and make some new friends in the process. I highly recommend it.
A Noise Within’s INsiders series continues with sessions that focus on George Bernard Shaw’s The Doctor’s Dilemma, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice, and George Farquhar’s The Beaux’ Stratagem. Remaining dates for the interactive conversations are September 19, October 10, November 7, January 9, 2013, February 6, March 6, and April 10. Guest speakers for these dates will be announced at a later date.