This past Wednesday I interviewed director Isaac Bayne on his production of The Tempest, written by William Shakespeare, opening Thursday May 18th.Isaac is a senior at Northampton High School who will be attending UMASS Amherst in the fall.
Q: What is the date and location of your production of The Tempest?
Isaac: May 18th, 19th and 20th in the NHS auditorium at 7PM every night with a 2PM matinee on the 20th.
Q: Can you give me a brief summary of the plot?
Isaac: A whole lot of lords from Italy get stranded on an island as the result of a big ole storm, and then they slowly realize that they are being manipulated in their search for one of their crew members that they lost. It all comes to a head when they realize the manipulating force is none other than the estranged Duke of Milan who they thought they disposed of many years ago.
Q: Why did you decide to direct?
Isaac: I certainly figured it was the next big step for me, I’ve acted a lot, I’ve done a decent amount of tech. I figured I’ll take my knowledge of both of these things, put them together and direct.
Q: Why did you choose The Tempest?
Isaac: I chose The Tempest because I think it was in 2012 there was a production of The Tempest at Hartford stage and that is to date the best Shakespeare i’ve seen. I completely fell in love and I left the theater thinking about how I would do my own and now I have the opportunity.
Q: What new things do you have to bring to The Tempest:
Isaac: With Shakespeare you have a lot of opportunity to do new things and if you don’t it often ends up very boring because it’s not the language we speak, people just tune out over the course of the show. I’m guilty of this, I’m not above this, so you have to make everything visually interesting, you have to make it interesting to listen to as well, you really have to create an experience that’s more than just the basic “stand in the circle and say the lines, cross the stage when you’re speaking to someone”. You have to get good people because good people will give you good ideas and your job as the director is to curate those ideas.
Q: Who do you think is the most interesting character?
Isaac: Caliban. Caliban I believe is by far the most interesting and complex character. He is the son of a witch and the devil, he is a murderer, an attempted rapist, and yet throughout the course of the show we still feel ourselves feeling sorry for him because the suffering he endures at the hands of Prospero is so great, he’s enslaved and all he wants is to be left alone on his island. He never would have done any of those things if he had just never been bothered. So yes, Caliban is a very bad person, that much does not need saying. The interesting part is he’s a sympathetic monster- despite his most egregious and horrible crimes we end up feeling some sort of sympathy for him.
Q: Who’s your favorite on stage pairing?
Isaac: For sure Stephano, Caliban, Trinculo. These three, they’re the comic relief from the sort of dramatic events around the island and they’re so funny because they are so plastered all the time. They’re uneducated, they’re stupid, they’re evil, they’re planning to take over the island and kill everyone else on it and yet we love them, we don’t just feel some ‘Oh isn’t that a shame’ like with Caliban. We love Stephano and Trinculo even though they are really really bad people.
Q: What’s it like having the mariners and having them come in so late into the process?
Isaac: Oh, it sucks man, due to the scheduling, with how close every show is, namely Accidental Death- of course not to pin that on Accidental Death [of an Anarchist]- but so much energy in the theater went towards Accidental Death, which is great which is great, and a lot of energy went into this show as well. Having those two so close together- the energy had to be divided and that was really hard to work with for I think both shows.
Q: Which actor is the most fun to work with?
Isaac: The most fun to work with…I would have to say, I gotta couple answers here, I like Calvin Hill who is Caliban, first of all because I don’t have to say anything to him. He is so naturally gifted and has such a sense for the character and the language that he nails it every time, his voice work is incredible, his physicality is beyond human comprehension, if you see the show he really does twist his body into ways that are really truly bizarre. I love Calvin Hill because I don’t have to tell him what to do. The greatest to work with and give notes to is probably Charlotte Harrison, Prospero of course. Charlotte is really holding this group together. Not because of acting ability- these are all very talented people. Charlotte as the lead has taken on the responsibility of guiding a lot of people through what it’s like to be directed, and I obviously really appreciate that. That means I can do my job as a director without teaching people how to be directed, which is not something the director should have to do and therefore it’s great, it’s lovely. Charlotte also has some brilliant ideas for Prospero every now and then and I love working upon those ideas with her. So I think Charlotte and Calvin between the two of them.
Q: What’s been the most difficult part of production?
Isaac: The most difficult part of production is the timing. We were crunched for time after the musical cut in a little bit. Then we lost another two weeks to Antigone. That was kind of devastating. I thought I scheduled those two weeks to be worked with and we ended up not having them, which was a very big detriment.
Q: What was the most rewarding part of production?
Isaac: Definitely every time I left a production meeting I felt so good about everything that the show was working towards, everyone who came to a production meeting really had their, I should say have their stuff together so you can quote me, it’s really remarkable to work with such a coordinated and excellent group of people and working with these people gives me a lot of hope for next year. I won’t be here obviously and neither will a lot of these seniors, but some of the people I’m working with aren’t seniors and they’re very very very talented.
Q: What part of the show are you most proud of?
Isaac: I think I’m proud with how far the underclassmen have come, a lot of people came in and they weren’t really sure what they were doing. I think over the course of time on this show with a big cast where they could have a lot of experience and have a lot of experience working with all sorts of actors and all sorts of technicians and everybody. I’m happy to have given them the experience to do that so they can move onto the next show and be even greater.
Q: Do you ever regret your choice to direct?
Isaac: Yes, I very nearly cancelled this show three times, and I joke about it a lot during rehearsal. It’s like a ‘Oh, the shows canceled hahaha’ or ‘Oh you’re fired haha cause you made a bad pun’ or whatever but I seriously have considered like dropping the whole thing two or three times after really really bad rehearsals, which just happens for any show, and it doesn’t really mean anything against the cast or crew, there are just bad days all around. There were bad days that have been truly devastating, and it was hard to go through and after those I was like I don’t know if we can put up a good show, so that, that was hard.
Q: If you could redo it would you? and how so?
Isaac: I would have bullied the actors a lot more into learning their lines, we lost a lot of time to learning lines. I casted everybody before the musical held their auditions, so they had months and months and months to study their lines. And I understand, and I am an actor who likes to come into rehearsal and learn the lines that way. But in the professional theater you very rarely get that opportunity.