Executive Director Joe Keefe on Playwright Tom Stoppard

January 23, 2017 § Leave a comment

“WORDS ARE SACRED. THEY DESERVE RESPECT. IF YOU GET THE RIGHT ONES, IN THE RIGHT ORDER, YOU CAN NUDGE THE WORLD A LITTLE.”

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This maxim springs from Tom Stoppard, Academy and Tony Award-winning playwright of our upcoming production Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead and that principle is the fundamental motivation behind every great work of theater: understanding and shaping the world around us. Words are the currency of theater and, coincidentally, one of the things that separates man from beast. The ability to compose thoughts into words and turn words into actions is what makes man Man.

The interesting, sometimes astounding, use of words is what separates Mr. Stoppard from everyone else – he is, in my humble opinion, one of the finest wordsmiths in theater’s history. Even a brief glimpse at Mr. Stoppard’s credits demonstrate a mammoth talent: Shakespeare in Love, Arcadia, Brazil, The Real Inspector Hound and too many more to list.

We are unbelievably fortunate to present the brilliant play Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead on the 50th anniversary of its star-making run. This breakthrough work re-imagines Shakespeare’s classic tale of Hamlet told through the comically anxious trials of two minor characters: what if you were dead and didn’t know it or couldn’t prove it? What if death is a boat traveling nowhere or what if life is simply a coin-flip activity of something other than death? And why does this traveling troupe of tragedians keep entering from nowhere at all?

Like Becket and Ionesco before him, Stoppard explores the specifics of existence through a void of uncertainty. Rosencrantz is committed to delivering a message for Hamlet even though that delivery may kill them both. Guildenstern argues they should flee. Confusion arises not just from the void they seem to have fallen into but also that neither one can fully tell himself from the other.

Full disclosure: this is one of my favorite plays and as a young struggling actor, I had the honor to portray the Lead Player. So if you see me in the back of the theater, my lips moving, I’m once again joining the troupe in their comical exhibitions.

Life, death, comedy, tragedy, and great words spoken in compelling, electrifying orders – Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead is a wild experience of theater and one you should not miss.

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