Sunday, April 26, 2015

Timon of Athens: The Beginning

The Life of Timon of Athens
Three years ago I directed Henry VIII for the Cleveland Shakespeare Festival. While audience attendance for that production could not compare with that of its companion piece, As You Like It, the show had gotten positive reviews and was attracting healthy audiences to this modern dress, iPhone wielding production of a late-era Shakespeare play few had ever seen.

Following the conclusion of a performance at the Shaker Heights Colonnade, as satisfied patrons were making their donations and wandering away, I approached CSF artistic Director Tyson Rand and asked, "What am I doing next?"

He said, "Timon of Athens?"

This was, as I said, in 2012. I have checked in with Tyson annually to ask, "Now?" Finally, last year, he said that it was time. So I finally read it.

At a baseball game for my son last summer, I asked my friend and colleague Kelly E. what she knew about Timon and she said it was her favorite primarily due to the eye-popping number of insults. I found the text to be composed primarily of insults, and when not engaging in outright offense, is merely creating a pretext to be offended.

Coupled with CleveShakes other 2015 summer production, The Merchant of Venice, I have decided to call this season "Summer of Assholes."

Prior to auditions, a few weeks back, I observed that I would be directing a play no one has ever seen. A number of friends disagreed, stating they had seen many fine production of Timon of Athens. Well, not a number of friends, only two or three said that and they were all professional Shakespearean actors. But still.

National Theatre
A recent, acclaimed production starred Simon Russell Beale, the greatest British actor of my generation, little known in the States - he was the Baker's Father in the film version of Into the Woods, even there a major role reduced to 10 seconds of screen time. A brief consultation with the internet shows this was, like my Henry VIII, a modern dress production complete with very fine suits.

The story is simple. Lord Timon believes his wealth is without end and is lavish and spendthrift with all his friends, who are many. Finding himself at long last in debt, he learns too late his friends are false and won't help him. He abandons society to die in the wilderness.

A subplot involving a vindictive general comes to the fore as Athens realizes too late Timon was the only man who could have prevented the general from invading their city. End of play.

Timon is meant to be a lord, one of some age and history at the outset. For the production I will direct he will be young, a man from a monied background, in a position of influence based solely on his charm and trust fund. He will be a fraternity president at a state university in a city called Athens.

Rehearsals for The Life of Timon of Athens begin in one week.


  1. Oh yes! The best insults in the whole of Shakespeare's canon! But it's also about being honest with yourself and the impotent anger you feel before you get to that point. In order for Timon to let go of material goods (in many senses of the words), he has to be honestly aware of himself and the position he has put himself in by allowing others to take advantage of him. Is being a nice guy better than being an honest one?

  2. Who knows? Who cares? I just want to set Luke Brett and Brian Pedaci at each other in the Ultimate Snarkfest Showdown of Ultimate History.