Friday, March 03, 2006

Casting Breakdown

I've looked through the play in some detail, and I think the smallest cast I could work with would be about 18. Well, OK, that's far from true--I have, after all, directed Macbeth with a cast of 6, The Tempest with 4, and Othello with 3. I'm sure I could come up with some highly theatrical conceit which would allow me to do Antony & Cleopatra with some insanely diminished number of actors. But not only would that prevent me from dramatizing the whole "army shrinkage" issue I've been on about, but it would also put an unreasonable limit on the number of Walterdalians who get to come and play.

The main reason I haven't tried to do this play before now is because I think that, even more than Lear, it needs to have scope. A big cast isn't the only way to create that effect, of course--a one-person play can have scope, if they talk & act big enough, and if you throw lots of streaking clouds across the cyclorama behind them--but it's the way Shakespeare intended his play to be done. And while I frequently and unrepentantly diverge from what I think are Shakespeare's original intentions, I'd rather stick to them here.

Anyway, the cast breakdown will look something like this (first males, then females):

ANTONY (the play's largest part, at 766 lines--that's way less than Hamlet but slightly more than Lear).
OCTAVIUS CAESAR (the third largest part; he's a young bumbler in the first half, but quickly grows into a tyrant near the end).
LEPIDUS (this grey-bearded fellow is the third part of the "Triumvirate" who rule the civilized world at the beginning of the play. He drops out of sight mid-way through the action, so I might double-cast the part, if I need a senior citizen soldier or something).

Antony's followers: The main ones are ENOBARBUS, VENTIDIUS, and EROS. There are lots of others (PHILO, SCARUS, SILIUS) which might require double-casting.
Caesar's followers: AGRIPPA and GALLUS are his most devoted. There's another one whose name I like (THIDIAS), who might turn up in the play's second half.

Then there's POMPEY, the upstart rebel whose threats to attack Rome are what draw Antony back from Egypt. He has two pirate buddies, MENAS and MENECRATES, who could easily be cut, but who strike me as fun characters. All three of these guys are gone by the intermission, so they could easily be double-cast with soldiers in the second half.

CLEOPATRA (at 622 lines, she's Shakespeare's second gabbiest gal. Of course, these numbers will inevitably shrink when I set about cutting the play down to size).
OCTAVIA (a small role, and she may have to get even smaller. But I'm confident that I can find a way to make her attractive and rewarding for a young actress to portray).
The SOOTHSAYER (who can be doubled with the CLOWN, another asexual character who smuggles Cleopatra's asp in to her, so she can kill herself).

And that's 18, believe it or not. I'm also contemplating adding a Chorus character, to help fill in some of the gaps I will necessarily be creating when I cut. Unless that character were double-cast, that would bring the cast count up to 19--which, at one higher than this year's Lear cast, seems appropriate somehow. What good am I, if I'm not constantly topping myself?


mejonesutarzan said...

I just played Octavia, yo. In All for Love. Why do you want her to be smaller?

Scott Sharplin said...

I don't know how Shakespeare's Octavia compares to Dryden's Octavia. I can't stand Restoration adaptations, so I've never read "All for Love" (although I'm sure your scenes were just Love-ly).

I'm afraid her role may shrink because I'll be trimming the Roman scenes more than the Egyptian scenes. There's also a scene in Athens (Act 3, Sc 4) where Antony tells Octavia to go back to Rome to keep the home fires burning (while he sneaks off to Egypt for some nookie). It's long and confusing, because we don't really know where they are, or why she's there with him, and so forth. Better, I think, just to have him sneak off in the night, and see O's reaction to his betrayal.