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The Tragedy of King Arthur

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Jordan Reeves
February 21, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Director/Artistic Director.

What is your show about?
THE TRAGEDY OF KING ARTHUR centers around the discovery of a lost Shakespeare play and the doubts about its origin.

What type of theater do you like most to work on?
I'm deeply drawn to Shakespeare. More specifically, approaching Shakespeare's work as if they were new plays. I believe Shakespeare’s writing is still relevant in the 21st century. I helped create the Guerrilla Shakespeare Project (GSP) to give Will a chance to be a fresh, new playwright for today’s audience. We believe in fostering a vibrant, passionate, and visceral connection between actors and audience. We make inventive and immediate American theatre from classical works. The goal is to blow apart the audience's perceptions of what Shakespeare has been by creating something new from the classic text.

Complete this sentence: My show is the only one opening in NYC this winter that...?
Is the first "Shakespeare" premiere in over 400 years. Literally! Well… sort of. THE TRAGEDY OF KING ARTHUR centers around the discovery of a lost Shakespeare play and the doubts about its origin. It is the story of King Arthur from the Bard's point of view -- full of fraud, forgery and illegitimacy. The Tragedy of King Arthur has Shakespeare's language, poetry, insight, drama, beauty, and history; yet it's not by Shakespeare. But then again, even Will didn't know he was "Shakespeare.”

How did you meet your fellow artists/collaborators on this show?
I met the other founders of The Guerrilla Shakespeare Project while we were all graduate acting students at Brown University/Trinity Rep. We’ve been producing plays since 2005. I met Arthur Phillips, best-selling novelist and our “Bard of Brooklyn,” about three years ago when he, out of the blue, approached me to get my opinion about a “lost” Shakespeare manuscript. The five-act verse play he sent me had a surprisingly modern arc that Shakespeare just didn't follow, but I was blown away by the language, poetry and epic Shakespearean scope. It was like I was getting to hear Shakespeare again -- for the very first time. When I met with Arthur, he revealed that the play was just part of his newest novel being published later that year. We hit it off immediately. From there, GSP and Arthur worked together to bring the world premiere reading to The Public Theater in May 2011. That reading was a huge success; since then, we have been collaborating on a full production. We've spent months interweaving the themes and story lines from the novel into the five-act “Shakespeare.” We’ve created an epic evening that will change the way you look at the greatest playwright of all time.

Which “S” word best describes your show: SMOOTH, SEXY, SMART, SURPRISING?
I have to pick just one? Then I’ll go with “Surprising.”

Who are your heroes?
Shakespeare, Joe Papp, Antony Sher, my father, … and Batman.