Sam @CUSP Conference 2015

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Reflections: Shakespeare in Detroit presents "Antony and Cleopatra"

My heart is completely full.

We closed "Antony and Cleopatra" five days ago after a glorious run March 15, 16, 21 and 22 at Recycle Here. Both opening night and closing night left us scrambling for chairs as we hoped to seat our more than sold out audiences. The other two shows were also made up of wonderful audience members who came out to see what Shakespeare in Detroit was brewing inside the walls of an unlikely venue. It felt so amazing and made my heart swell to have so many excited people come to see nontraditional, traditional theater. We really wanted to create something really wonderful and groundbreaking and we were able to do that with the beautiful support of Detroit. Thank you.

It is so humbling to watch the story of Shakespeare in Detroit unfold -- from "Othello" to "Antony and Cleopatra." It feels like a dream. It is a dream come true. I remember sitting in my classroom every Saturday morning at Tech Town dreaming of my first show. And to have that first show be embraced by the city that raised me, the city that I love, means so much. Then, to walk into Recycle Here a few months ago and have a Eureka moment , realizing that it was the perfect play space to reimagine the epic history/tragedy of Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra" and have a director and a cast of talented actors bring that vision to reality -- I can't even really express in this blog or in words, period, how much it means.

"Antony and Cleopatra" in particular was such a challenging piece to execute as we faced one of the most difficult winters on record. On top of that, when I first decided to do the show, I had no idea how to finance it as we had just finished an unsuccessful crowdfunding campaign. I reached out to community leaders like The Whitney, Sit On It Detroit, Midtown Detroit Inc. and the Detroit Institute of Arts and they sponsored different pieces of the show to make it possible -- from heating to chairs. Then there is Recycle Here and Matt Naimi who allowed me to use the space and were open and wonderful throughout the process. My family, friends and members of the community also came to the rescue to help make our sophomore production possible.

Now, let's get back to the cast...

I will put it on record that the ten actors who made up the ensemble of Shakespeare in Detroit's "Antony and Cleopatra" are the best dramatic cast of 2014 -- PERIOD! What other group of artists do you know would perform in 10 to 20 degree weather, roll around on the floor (sometimes wet) and still give performances of epic proportions? I have never adored any group of artists more than the ten who I had the complete honor of working with for our March show. They were consummate professionals throughout the rehearsal process and soldiers during our shows. I love each and everyone of them forever for what they just did. I bow down to each of them and I pray, literally, that I get to work with them again. SOON!

"Antony and Cleopatra" was one of those shows that couldn't have been successful without a special kind of artist -- resilient, smart, flexible, hardworking and compassionate. They are all the above.

I feel so blessed to have worked with so many awesome people. Some of whom worked offstage  like Kyle Grant, the director of the show. And, of course the incomparable Cal Schwartz who designed our unique, repurposed costumes  -- my animal spirit.

There were so many blessings that came throughout the A&C process like being filmed by a wonderful, new New York City-based film company for a major media outlet, being honored by Mayor Duggan and having an author fly into town to observe us for his upcoming novel. It really feels surreal

I am floored by all the love. Floored. The universe has truly been kind to me and I know that everything that has happened has very little to do with me and everything to do with something bigger and grander than me. I prayed for something really wonderful to happen in my life and this is it. The opportunity to give back to my community, to work with incredible people (which also included two wonderful visual artists, James Johnson and Ernest Camel who created the the artwork for "Antony and Cleopatra"), the chance to advocate for something I truly love -- Shakespeare and the arts -- and the gift to honor some of this city's historical sites, venues and parks.

Detroit, we have so much to be proud of from our talented artists to our history. I pray that you allow me the opportunity to continue to showcase the two via Shakespeare in Detroit which creates community engagement, celebrates our history and manifests experiences not just theater.

Taking a small hiatus and then we're back!

I hope to see you all soon.

Complete and utter gratitude.


~ Sam

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