Matthew ‘Kupakwashe’ Murrell writes about the second week of his Emerging Directors Residency, a collaboration between Fresh Milk and the National Cultural Foundation (NCF). This week emphasized the importance of planning and strategizing to get the most out of the residency period, as well as seeing Matthew work more with his selected actors Patrick Foster, Nala and Luci Hammans as he continues to develop his interpretation of the play ‘Shakespeare’s Nigga’.
I almost didn’t know what to write for this report. At first when I thought about this week, I kind of felt I had very little to say or report – yet when I really thought about it, I have a lot to say.
Well, first off, I got more clarity on what is expected of me during the residency, which has caused me to re-evaluate many things, almost start over and restructure. One thing that’s for sure is the importance of timing and planning. With that said, the date of the residency showcase has been postponed till late October. This works better for me and for everyone. In order to have a productive rehearsal, I can’t have my actors being loud disturbing the concentration of the visual artists. Also, we have time to focus on the text with stretched out rehearsal times.
Speaking with Kendel Hippolyte, we’ve asked some serious questions and came up with very interesting observations about the texts and the characters. It’s very clear he loves this play and the craftiness of Joseph’s attempt at old English fused with modern English. In conversation with him and my actors, we’re still dissecting the characters and figuring out who they really are and what their purposes are. The language has a lot to offer in many different connotations and offers a range of possibilities for both actor and director to explore. Many views were agreed on and a few questioned, but the journey to discovery is most amazing and rewarding, definitely the highlight of the residency.
I can’t say that I have a 100% concrete idea and concept of how to stage it. Through the many conversations with mentor and cast, more ideas float in and out. This is great, but I also need to concentrate on the theme I am pushing, which is Black Masculinity. One of my objectives is to give this text a space in the Caribbean, have the actors own the language in their voice. Our discussions on black masculinity mostly take place through the character of Aaron and the decisions he makes. Why Shakespeare’s daughter? How does he feel about Othello? The will to over throw Shakespeare’s empire.
The rehearsal space gave room for exploration and discovery. Friday’s rehearsal saw Patrick and Nala on their feet working a scene where the power dynamic switches from Shakespeare to Aaron. After all the reading and discussion and dissecting of text for further understanding, after the second time on their feet, the actors got very intense. Choices of ‘interrogation’, ‘opium and open threats’, ‘dependency and power’ overcame the scene. Patrick and Nala as veteran actors entrusted me as a young director to get them to that point, and I am confident we have found the direction to head in. The actors, so happy and impressed by the work we put in, hug it out after a strong rehearsal!
So since the push back to October, I will be stretching my rehearsals to once a week. Though my time with Kendel is almost up, we agreed to keep talking through the duration of the residency as our conversations are very insightful, and often times humorous in the things we discover in the text and the ‘interesting’ choices I would like to make. I have more hours to make up with my actress than I do with my actors, but I’m excited about what I’ve learned in the process of directing, and excited to see what more can be uncovered.
This project is a collaborative initiative, funded by the NCF Barbados