Sunday, March 25, 2012

First-Person: A Day In The Life of Antoni Cimolino and Cymbeline

From left: Cara Ricketts, Graham Abbey, Geraint Wyn Davies (Andrew Eccles photo)

Occasionally I come up for air
Time is probably the most important and scarcest resource in Canadian theatre
by Antoni Cimolino

I’ve been asked by The Charlebois Post to detail a “day in the life”.  Since the announcement of my being A.D. designate, my days have been split between many of my previous duties as General Director, rehearsals for Cymbeline and planning the 2013 season.  Occasionally I come up for air.

Rehearsals are a blessing as they allow me to spend time with wonderful actors working on a great Shakespeare text.  The cast of Cymbeline is made up of many of Canada’s finest talents – Geraint Wyn Davies, Cara Ricketts, Graham Abbey, Tom McCamus and Yanna McIntosh among many others.

My first job in any rehearsal is to set up an atmosphere that encourages artistic exploration, listening and fun.  After our first reading, we spent the day in Complicité theatre games to build trust, a sense of community and play.  We return periodically to these exercises to break out a sweat and build a common sense of time and collaboration.

To me this story feels like a retrospective by Shakespeare.

We rehearse in repertory system which means that our time is spread out over months.  Ideally this should provide significantly more time for rehearsal and exploration.  Any great text like Cymbeline requires secondary rehearsals where we can quietly and in a relaxed way examine and discuss the text, attempt new approaches to the scene, and digest what we have learned.  Time is probably the most important and scarcest resource in Canadian theatre.

A few words about Cymbeline… among Shakespeare’s last plays (an increasing number of scholars think it is his last play) Cymbeline takes place in Britain at the time of the birth of Christ.  It is the story of a king, an older man who earns his Kingship and regains his family.  To me this story feels like a retrospective by Shakespeare.  In his last plays, his Romances, Shakespeare increasingly used “rough magic” to bring about happy endings.  In Cymbeline this magic is found in dreaming.  The central characters experience dreams which threaten, surprise and yet prepare them for growth.

Shakespeare has cast himself as Cymbeline.

Shakespeare takes the leitmotifs of his life work – father/daughter conflict, the loss of a son, a husband’s intense jealousy for his wife and the reunion of siblings and through dreams he brings about perhaps the happiest ending in the canon.  As a father with grown children this desire late in life to recast the past is completely understandable and to me compelling. Not because I have bad relations with my children -- I am blessed with a loving son and daughter -- but because I suspect we all as parents wish we had done a better job – taken more care, been more generous and shown more understanding.  I believe Shakespeare has cast himself as Cymbeline.  His own life journey has become the source material for this historical romance.

We have another month before we begin tech rehearsals.  I will be sad to miss this period of free exploration in the rehearsal hall.  But, our 60th season and then 2013 beckon …

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