April Q&A: The Bard and the Bastard




By day, he's an economic consultant for RKG Associates in Durham. By night, he could be any number of things - king, friar, villain, soldier, courtier. Those are the kinds of roles Larry Cranor plays for the New England Shakespeare Festival, a professional touring company based in Deerfield. In the upcoming summer season's "Much Ado About Nothing," one of Shakespeare's best-loved comedies, Cranor plays three roles, one of them, Don John the Bastard. Is it true you don't have to learn your lines when you perform? True. We use the "first folio" approach, which means doing the play in the original Elizabethan style, just as they would have seen it in the early 1600s. It's unrehearsed with the actors using scripts that show only their part and cues. It creates a lot of interaction and spontaneity, so every night it's fresh. A reviewer called the performances "hip." Shakespeare is hip? What's old is new again. Are you sure Shakespeare wrote the plays you perform? My personal opinion is yes - no one has convinced me otherwise. I can understand the suspicion that he didn't - that's a lot of creativity to come out of one mind over a relatively short period of time. Has playing Shakespearean characters informed your real life? It's made me appreciate simple humor. Shakespeare's plays in their time had to compete with the local brothel, the tavern, a bear-baiting exhibit. The people had a choice of where to spend their penny or half penny, so Shakespeare wrote to entertain the masses. Who's your favorite Shakespeare character? Iago. I haven't played him, but I would love to. He's an absolute son of a bugger, evil and nasty just because he can be. Oddest moment on stage? Playing the widow in "Taming of the Shrew." I came on in a hoop skirt and stage breasts that would put Dolly Parton to shame. I had a full beard and was smoking a cigar. Why should people see the play? Outside of supporting us starving actors, it's just plain entertaining. Families come, the kids get it, the costumes are great. And if you put yourself in the right frame of mind, you can go back 400 years. Would you want to have lived back in Shakespeare's time? Oh, god, no. It would be fun when all this was fresh, but given the health standards then I don't have a fascination with that. Sounds like you're having fun. It's an absolute blast. It's not only fun and creative, it gives you a chance to be someone else for a few hours. Everyone wants to be someone else for awhile. For more information about seeing - or booking - a performance, call (603) 666-9088 or visit www.newenglandshakespeare.org.
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