To be or not to be…in contemporary clothes!

A note from Producing Artistic Director Diane Timmerman

When I talk with people about an Indy Shakes production, they invariably ask: are you going to do that in a “traditional” way?

And I always smile and say, “We are! But you may be surprised by what I mean by that.”

2016 Winter’s Tale  Photo by Julie Curry

2016 Winter’s Tale
Photo by Julie Curry

Back in Shakespeare’s day, actors wore the clothes they had in their wardrobe as their costumes onstage. When they played in Julius Caesar, they did not wear togas—they wore their Elizabethan clothing. When they played in King Lear, they did not wear the historical garb of that play’s time period (800 BCE)—they wore their Elizabethan outfits!

In other words—
Shakespeare’s actors wore contemporary clothing!

And so we at Indy Shakes do actually follow Shakespeare’s tradition: our actors tend to wear contemporary clothing, too. We often infuse that contemporary choice with echoes of other eras. Our 2018 Coriolanus production was set in what the director called a “pre- or post- electric world”. And so the costumes, props, set, and sound reflected the designers’ and director’s visions of what a non-electric world looked and sounded like. (For me as an audience member, I sometimes thought we were in a pre-electric world and other evenings I thought we were in a post-electric world! The choices were evocative and drew me into the world of the play even though I could not put my finger on exactly what time period we were in.)

2015 Twelfth Night Photo by Zach Rosing

2015 Twelfth Night
Photo by Zach Rosing

2018 Coriolanus Photo by Julie Curry

2018 Coriolanus
Photo by Julie Curry

Does this mean Indy Shakes will never produce a Shakespeare play set in Elizabethan times? I imagine we will one of these days—we certainly did in our earlier years as the Heartland Actors’ Repertory Theatre. But now our mission is to share the joy of live professional theatre in ways that appeal to diverse audiences. We want our productions to speak to the people of Indianapolis right here and right now—and we feel the contemporary flair of our productions provides a dynamic pathway for our audiences to relate to the Bard’s words.

And speaking of the Bard’s words….one final thought: although our costumes and props may be contemporary, our words are all Shakespeare! We edit Bill’s words to come up with running times that are pleasing to contemporary audiences. But we don’t change Bill’s words—we just cut a bit. We think he had a good thing going as a playwright and keep his words the way he wrote them!

 Yours in Shakespeare,

Diane Timmerman