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Staging the Burial of Fidele

By Cymbeline Anthropocene on Aug 07, 2020 at 03:21 PM in Project News

At the first ever Cymbeline in the Anthropocene meeting in January, our collaborators gathered in Santa Barbara, California, to exchange ideas. After the first day of introductions, directors and actors took to the stage to experiment with sections of Cymbeline in person. One result was a staging by actors of the local Lit Moon Theatre Company of the strangely beautiful burial of Fidele/Innogen during a thunderstorm, which merged ideas about ecological grief into the elegiac dialogue. Read Shakespeare in Yosemite co-director Katherine Steele Brokaw's thoughts on this scene below, and watch the video for a glimpse at what an ecodramaturgical Cymbeline might look like.

"When approaching the scene in which Guiderius, Arviragus, and Belarius bury Fidele (who is actually Innogen, and who is actually not dead), we first considered the way the brothers’ funeral song assures the (seemingly) deceased “boy” that the strife brought on by weather can no longer hurt “him,” now that “he” is dead:

            Fear no more the heat o’th’sun

            Nor the furious winter’s rages…

            Fear no more the lightning flash,

            Nor th’all-dreaded thunder-stone. (259-60, 271-72)

Excesses of heat and excesses of rain are two of the increasingly prevalent weather problems brought on by worldwide climate change. So in order to stage this funeral scene, we considered the way these dangerous weather events might interrupt personal moments: what if the little family was trying to bury Fidele in the middle of a thunderstorm? As a Lit Moon actor suggested, the characters would then be fighting both their grief and the elements. For the characters, the presence of a storm during a burial could at times feel as if the sky were crying too, that the weather was assisting in this lamentable moment. But at other times, rain and thunder would just make an already difficult situation worse: the delicate flowers they pick become soaked; the lightning makes their presence outside dangerous; the water-logged ground becomes difficult for them to dig into; and through it all, they can hardly hear each other over the noise of the thunder.

These were the ideas that actors played with when we staged the scene. I worked with the other collaborators to create storm noise in the background: with our hands and feet, we made a soundscape of raindrops, wind, and thunderclaps. And Lit Moon sound designer contributed to the orchestrated cacophony with piano improvisations, and, at the end of the scene, underscoring to the song.

The result was that as a group, we considered the intersection of ecological grief with personal grief, and the way global changes exacerbate the most intimate of moments."