Some Modest Advice for Taffety Punk Theatre Company Re: Its “Bootleg Shakespeare” Stagings
Last night, Taffety Punk Theatre Company performed William Shakespeare and John Fletcher's The Two Noble Kinsmen. The 36 actors on stage—37 if you count the paper bag that played the part of Emilia's Second Woman—began learning their lines about a month ago, but didn't rehearse together until yesterday morning. It was one of Taffety's "Bootleg Shakespeare" shows, and as promised, it was both rough around the edges and a blast.
There were sight gags and verbal trip-ups. A dance sequence that was as much Morris as Monterey Pop. A deliberate playing-up of sexual tension 'twixt the titular kinsmen, Palamon (Joel David Santner) and Arcite (Ashley Strand). And just after the play returned from intermission, an honest-to-Yoda lightsaber duel complete with telekinetic chokeholds.
Notwithstanding the occasional actor's request of "line," it was an arresting and fairly smooth tragicomic production that rightly earned a standing ovation. That shouldn't have been surprising, given that these actors are for the most part professionals.
But I had never been to a Bootleg Shakespeare before. Here's what I wanted to see, and what last night's Two Noble Kinsmen didn't have: a single, spectacular fuck-up.
The troupe convened yesterday around 10 a.m., and was done rehearsing by about 5:30 p.m. That basically allowed for one run-through. And apparently, that's all it took for Taffety Punk to produce a reasonably together production. There was no last-minute scrambling to produce a dead body to drag on stage because nobody had thought to prepare one. Nor did the police show up at the end because of a noise complaint, as has happened once before. No: This particular Bootleg Shakespeare felt, well, kind of professional.
In other words: People will always adjust to allotted amounts of time. Taffety has made its prep-a-play-in-seven-hours shtick work. It should up the danger.
I'm not saying audiences delight in train wrecks—though they do—and that Taffety should deliver one. I'm saying that if a missed cue had caused, oh, Theseus (an excellent, erudite James Beaman) to accidentally elbow an attendant in the face, it would have been too bad for that guy, but just imagine the audience uproar.
So here's my suggestion—nay, my challenge!—to the Taffety Punks: Don't start rehearsing till 1 p.m. The roughest bootlegs are always the most charming.