coriolanus Production Patter

Welcome to “Production Patter,” Indy Shakes’ new mini-study guide.  In the theatre, patter describes an actor’s very quick speech or rapidly delivered song.  Gilbert and Sullivan were superb masters of patter songs─just think of “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General from the deliriously funny The Pirates of Penzance, 1879:

I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,

I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical,

About binomial theorem I am teeming with a lot o’ news─

With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s brilliant rap verses in Hamilton (2015) are close relatives of the patter song:

Yo. Turns out we have a secret weapon! 

An immigrant you know and love who’s unafraid to step in! 

He’s constantly confusin’ confoundin’ the British henchmen. 

Ev’ryone, give it up for America’s favorite fighting Frenchman.”  “Guns and Ships.”

Our “Patter” is designed to quickly give you some background about Coriolanus, including a few Internet links and suggested further readings and a note or two from the play’s director, Robert Neal. 

A Political Thriller

Coriolanus is an intriguing political thriller for times past, present, and future.  Set in Ancient Rome and written in the early 1600s, the play has readily reflected the contemporary political climate of each of its professional productions.  And it will do so once again for our audiences in summer 2018.  Shakespeare’s unerring instinct to tap into what matters to us, what we value, and what we are willing to fight for, shines brightly in Coriolanus.  But Shakespeare does not take sides─he asks us to decide which causes call our name, and who and what we want our leaders to be.

Acclaimed British actress Glenda Jackson has noted that “All Shakespeare ever asks is: Who are we, what are we, why are we?”  And indeed Coriolanus poses these questions for us─timeless questions for which there are no easy answers.  And as director Neal has succinctly observed: “All of the characters are right and wrong and complex and struggling, just as we are.”

So take a seat, enjoy your picnic and the summer breeze, and join us as we tell the compelling, ever-relevant story that Shakespeare wrote for his contemporaries─and ours.


Historical background.

Plot summary and introduction to the play, with links to on-line texts, digital images, and other resources.

2012 film of Coriolanus.  Cast: Gerard Butler, Ralph Fiennes, Brian Cox, Vanessa Redgrave.

Ruth Franklin, senior editor at The New Republic, wrote

“Some women swoon for swashbuckling Antony or bodice-ripping Othello, but I’ve always had a soft spot for prideful, imperious Coriolanus.  Next to Shakespeare’s other tragic figures, who sometimes sound like Freudian cases . . . Coriolanus comes across as downright noble.”

Michael Dobson, director of the United Kingdom’s Shakespeare Institute and professor of Shakespeare Studies at the University of Birmingham, describes the political context in which Shakespeare wrote Coriolanus, and how the play has resonated with later generations of playwrights, directors, and actors.

Further Readings

Bloom, Harold.  Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human.  New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 1999.

 Epstein, Norrie.  The Friendly Shakespeare: A Thoroughly Painless Guide to the Best of the Bard. 

New York: Penguin Publishing Group, 1994.

Garber, Marjorie.  Shakespeare After All.  New York: Anchor Books, 2005.

 Knowles, Ronald.  Chapter 9: “Coriolanus,” Shakespeare’s Arguments with History.  Basingstoke:

Palgrave MacMillan, 2002.

Rosenblum, Joseph.  A Reader’s Guide to Shakespeare.  New York: Barnes & Noble, 1999.

Director’s Notes

Noted Indianapolis actor and Indy Shakes Company member Robert Neal is Coriolanus’ director.  A 2007 recipient of the Arts Council of Indianapolis’ Creative Renewal Fellowship, Neal earned a Shakespeare Certificate from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art; and he was selected as a 2017 Lunt-Fontanne National Fellow.  Neal observes that Coriolanus “is remarkable and important at this moment in time because among other things it’s a cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy.  Shakespeare shows us who we are as human beings, still and especially today, rather than didactically lecturing us.  We must draw our own conclusions.”  

And showing his innate intelligence and sensitivity, both as a human being and as a theatre director, Neal affirms that “one of the things that I love most, is that at the end of the day, it's the women, particularly Coriolanus’ mother Volumnia, who, in such a paternalistic play, turns his heart and saves her tribe from destruction.  As in all Shakespeare, the women characters are the best and brightest.  I recently read of a Native American tribe who was governed solely by the women.  The men served as warriors and hunters.  The women even negotiated the peace treaties with other tribes and made all the domestic decisions. I think they were on to something we could learn from.”

So, we invite to you to come and learn, come and enjoy, come and delight in Coriolanus, our free, professional 2018 summer Shakespeare production, August 2, 3, and 4, in White River State Park.