Review Fix Exclusive: John DeSotelle Talks ‘Hamlet’
Review Fix chats with Hamlet director DeSotelle, who discusses his version of the classic production and how he’d like it to affect audiences.
The production is set to run through February 25, 2017 at The Main Stage of John DeSotelle Studio, 300 West 43rd Street, Third Floor, New York City.
”Hamlet is the story of many lives entangled in destiny from the death of a king and a stolen crown. Hamlet is not the only one to see the ghost of his father, the entire Castle Elsinore is haunted by his memory and his death,” says director John DeSotelle about his focus on the multiple journeys explored in his production; “this production explores all the personal demons brought forth by this event.”
About John DeSotelle:
John DeSotelle has gathered a powerful cast and imbued them with his own celebrated method of Meisner-based training method. Led by Jack Wink, making his New York debut as the Dane, the cast includes Jurgen Jones, Mickey Pantano, Charles Montgomery, Julia Boyes, Ethan Russell, Sean Richards, Justin Blake Broido, Joe Lalumia, John Rearick, Michael Bryan, Albert Baker, and Michael Fox.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
John DeSotelle: Looking specifically at choosing a play and actors – I know this probably sounds cliché – but a play first has to “speak to me” (not literally-ha!). I then formulate a sensory “picture” about what the entire production looks, feels and sounds like. After reading it many, many times, I have to find something within in it that celebrates or examines the human condition and that offers depth of character and behavior for the actor to “play” with. I am an actor’s director. Being an actor myself, and coming from years of training and practice, I have a tremendous respect and understanding for the actor and their process. I also know that sometimes when actors are hired for a role, the time allotted to truly study and develop the complexity of the characters and relationships found within the play is often minimal. So I use as much time as possible for “table work,” where actors read through the play multiple times, discuss the scenes, what is going on, what is the person feeling, what relationships are emerging? It gets to a point where the actor wants to get up from the table and start moving. This is where blocking and positioning within the space occurs and is borne out of an organic need for the actor to move. From there the story begins to physically build. My job is to continue shaping and adjusting the visual picture all the while subtly manipulating the actor’s objectives and points of view to bring the story alive.
Another creative facet to a production’s journey is translating a vision from my head and all its challenges to a hand-picked team of designers; appealing to an exercise in imagination and resourceful engineering to accomplish what sometimes seems impossible within a small venue such as ours – but that is another story…
Review Fix: What makes this project different or special?
DeSotelle: Well, I hope you will come and see! We are pushing the limits of our theatrical space with immersive staging – an inventive set with stone walls, a rampart and even a draw bridge that brings the audience into the castle and graveyard, original designed costumes styled in the early 1500s, as well as illusions of a REAL GHOST!
Review Fix: What did you learn about yourself through this process?
DeSotelle: That perseverance and passion is a must in this profession; and that in undertaking a project such as this, there has to be a single driving force that pushes all limits, especially within myself. My wife and daughter may wonder sometimes if I’m a “glutton for punishment” – but that’s the beauty of art. It often takes all that you have to give at a particular moment, and then demands more than you thought possible. But in the end, no matter what, you have accomplished something special and something that everyone involved from crew to actor to designer to the audience can experience and take with them…. then you wake up the next morning, drink a cup of coffee, and read a play looking for the next adventure…
Review Fix: How does it feel to be a part of something like this?
DeSotelle: Right now – at this moment, a few days before opening night…. tired but exhilarated!
Seriously, this has been an enormous, incredible and daunting experience! I have had the true pleasure of working with some remarkable people. Judith Feingold, my Assistant Director, has been invested in this project since the beginning. Her knowledge of Shakespeare and Hamlet, along with her command of the language has been a tremendous asset. The producer of this venture is my wonderful and beautiful wife, who keeps me and everyone else in tow – mostly me! And then I have the privilege of working with an amazing and talented cast, exceptionally creative designers and a strong and capable production team – all of whom have shown an extraordinary dedication that celebrates artistry in its truest sense!
Review Fix: What are your ultimate goals for this production and for the future?
DeSotelle: We want our production of Hamlet to be seen – THE Hamlet of 2017! And it would be fantastic for everyone who has worked so hard on this project for it to get picked up and continue for a much longer run.
On a more global front, we would like audiences to see that great theatre can be done in small spaces; that you can be technically advanced and that there is a lot happening in the intimate and independent theatres of New York. As the Artistic Director of Nu•ance Theatre Co. and John DeSotelle Studio, I sincerely hope that if we are able to achieve our vision through this elaborate and ambitious staging of Hamlet, it could also help elevate the standing of all small independent theatres in New York who are continuously striving for theatrical attention and legitimacy amongst the giants of Broadway and Off Broadway.
Review Fix: What do you think your audiences will enjoy the most?
DeSotelle: Oh, I think there is something for everyone – the unexpected staging within a small 50-seat theatre is a visual smorgasbord, from the bold set design and subtle lighting, the innovative sound-scapes to the elaborate costuming (some 140 pieces). Shakespeare enthusiasts may pickup on subtle additions to the text woven in from earlier folios. The story will be enacted with truthfulness and a human component – where we all might ask ourselves, “What would I have done?”……Oh, and then there is the Ghost……an actor or an illusion?