Producing Artistic Director, Dawn McAndrews, addresses the question: why only one Shakespeare in this summer’s lineup?

First of all, I am not a trouble-maker and I am definitely the opposite of rushing into decisions blindly. I think of the season as more of a Rubik’s Cube; when you make that final turn and all the colors fit perfectly. I consider many things in season planning but they are primarily viewed through one of three lenses: mission, community, and fiscal responsibility. I start by thinking about our mission: presenting innovative approaches to Shakespeare and other classic plays. Then I consider what our community will want to see and why. And then I make certain that the dreams I have for plays and cast sizes and magnificent sets and costumes are achievable within our budget. Easy, right?

For 2013, I knew I wanted to do Taming of the Shrew—and that I wanted a woman to direct it. I felt that the 2012 season had been a little “male” heavy and as a female artistic director, I wanted to give the other viewpoint some stage time. It is my belief that the play is called “Taming of the Shrew” and not “Katherina the Shrew” because Shakespeare meant for us to wonder who the shrew really is. He meant for us to consider the institution of marriage and perhaps more forward thinking for his time, that it takes a willingness to change on the part of both partners for any union to be a success. So with one Shakespeare play selected and in the hands of former TAM artistic director, Sally Wood, I considered the rest of the season.

For the “other” Shakespeare I knew what I really wanted to do but I set that aside and selected the American classic—Our Town. When I picked it I did not realize we would be part of a global 75th Anniversary celebration, I only knew that its New England roots (in fact, the Wilder family has ties to Maine and the Kennebec Valley) and its magnificent message of living life to the fullest was the right fit for our community. With those two plays in place, I approached the board with my idea to address the feedback I’d received—instead of a second Shakespeare play, I wanted to produce a second Elizabethan play and present the work of one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries. Knight of the Burning Pestle, by Francis Beaumont, is the perfect fit for our acting company and our audience—this mash up of Monty Python and Don Quixote— and was the highest grossing play of all time at the American Shakespeare Center. It fit all three criteria and so, it was scheduled.

The final play came as a gift-wrapped present from longtime company member, Janis Stevens. Janis was set to tackle the one-woman play based on Joan Didion’s memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, in both Vermont and California. Didion’s incredibly strong female voice (arguably the greatest female writer of the 20th century) grappling with issues directly facing our audience, was the perfect complement to the other plays. While not yet a literary classic, Magical Thinking is a though-provoking piece of literature that speaks both to our humanity and the instinct to tell stories to heal. And that’s how the 2013 season came together.

We’ve received a handful of comments on the decision NOT to produce two Shakespeare plays this season. The first, indirectly from Megan Grumbling in the Portland Phoenix when she announced the summer seasons of a number of theatres and wrote, “the lone Shakespeare play at Theater at Monmouth;” another from a long-time ticket buyer who emailed me just one line: “What, only one Shakespeare play this year?” I sent a response explaining my decision and asked him to give the other Elizabethan playwright a try; another from a long-time donor who commented that his gift was designated for years when we did two, or more, plays by Shakespeare. And the lone social media post on our Facebook page, also only one line: “Why only one Shakespeare?”

So now you know the thought process behind the decision. I hope you’ll come to see this play by Shakespeare’s contemporary and share with me what you think about the production. And rest assured that for Season 45 in 2014 there will be two Shakespeare plays on the menu.

Thank you for supporting TAM and as always, I look forward to seeing you at the Theater!

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