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Shakespeare in Yosemite: Interview with William Wolfgang

By Cymbeline Anthropocene on Aug 06, 2021 at 06:11 PM in Project News

While filming Imogen in the Wild, Shakespeare in Yosemite’s research assistant Monica Perales interviewed various cast members about their experience adapting Cymbeline. Today, the Cymbeline in the Anthropocene blog presents a second interview between Monica and production manager, William Wolfgang, who also appears in the film as a waiter, security guard number three, and protester number two. 

Monica Perales: What is your experience in acting and Shakespeare, and what draws you to these plays?

William Wolfgang: It's exciting to be doing a project again after having to work through the pandemic. Actually, tomorrow I'm hoping to wrap up my PhD, and I have my defense tomorrow!

I've been doing Shakespeare for a very long time and also care deeply about the environment. It's so nice to make sure Shakespeare means something beyond literary studies. It's nice to put it into action. It's nice to take the words and to use those words to affect change and to be part of something bigger than Shakespeare, bigger than each one of us. It's quite inspiring to be part of change when we know that we all believe change is so needed. So, I think that's what drew me to the project - is being able to do something I love, which is Shakespeare, to help the world.

MP: What is your personal experience with environmentalism and ecotheatre?

WW: I've studied it a bit and read quite a few texts on it, and this is my third year involved with Shakespeare in Yosemite. I've recently directed a production as well that was site-specific theater and site-specific theater has a lot of a lot of connections with ecotheatre because you can set it where you want to tell the story and that story is so deeply rooted in the environment--be it in wild environments as we think of traditionally with wilderness, or be it in an environment like where we're currently standing, with a manicured lawn and trees and buildings and cement and sky. Just using those subtle aspects that you might not necessarily think of to tell part of your story in a site-specific way I think is very important, and that's something I've been trying to do as the director.

MP: How do you think ecotheatrical productions can impact environmental consciousness in the cast, crew, and/or audience?

WW: We're all thinking about it because we're out here, and we're in one of the most beautiful places in the country, in the world. Ecotheatre affects us because it's always part of us. It's in the back of our minds. You see a bottle of water that's been littered or thrown on the ground, and you know, you do your little part, you pick it up and take care of it.

It's just about it being a present part of telling stories, and telling stories is part of your daily life. We always tell stories, constantly, and it's about tying those things into your daily storytelling, whether it be through productions like this annually or more, but also through how you think about the world. It's about how we all collectively think, and if we're collectively thinking this way about theatre, we can start collectively thinking that way about everything we do.

MP: What do you hope viewers will take away from this performance?

WW: I think this is really going to challenge the viewers who know the play! It's really going to make them think about how endless and infinite adaptation can be, and how exciting and how truly fun, quite honestly, it can be.

For people who've never seen it before, I hope they can see the fun and the way that we put the excitement into making it, and I hope they get to see Shakespeare in a new light, and to see and experience the beautiful shots in Yosemite and some of the amazing footage that our photographers and the rest of the crew was able to get. There are some just stunning shots where it kind of goes back and forth between like a nature documentary and a movie. I'm excited for people to be able to see it.

MP: What has been a highlight of your involvement with this production, as well as the biggest challenge?

WW: The biggest challenge is absolutely logistics. It was insanely difficult to do. We have a limited amount of people that are able to be here, and that's why I am sometimes directing, sometimes managing logistical operations, sometimes blocking, sometimes working with the camera, sometimes I'm on set, sometimes I'm acting... that's the biggest challenge, without a doubt. We just need more people, and I know we have more people that would be willing to help but it's just COVID.

We're still in a pandemic, and that's the biggest challenge, but the thing that has been most rewarding is having the opportunity to tell stories in a different way and to have the experience of being back together with other people again. We wore masks, we had all of our precautions, we were testing. It is an absolute thrill, and a privilege, and so centering. You feel like you're back with people after being quarantined or in lockdown or whatever for a year, and now we can do activities like this. It's been so rewarding to make art with people again.

MP: Do you have any other thoughts, or even an attempt to answer any questions you wish I would have asked?

WW: I just feel blessed to have been a part of this production, and I'm so happy for the Cymbeline in the Anthropocene project connecting the theatres that are doing this production from around the world. From a scholarly perspective, I am just thrilled to take a look at the archive and to take a look at Randall's work that he's putting together with all of this, and to see how these productions differ. It's a massively exciting project, and I am very happy to be a part of it.

The Cymbeline in the Anthropocene team is equally happy to have William and the rest of the Shakespeare in Yosemite company join us as collaborators--especially during a time when theatre-making has been so radically transformed by the global pandemic and ongoing climate change.

Stay tuned to our blog and social media (@ecocymbeline) as we continue posting interviews and updates about productions by Shakespeare in Yosemite, Montana Shakespeare in the Park, and more upcoming performances!