BY MIG WINDOWS
Photos by Elijah Sullivan
RCC instructor Ron Danko is a very busy man these days. In the absence of long-time friend and co-director John Cole, Danko has undertaken the task of directing “Love’s Not Time’s Fool,” a compilation of 48 sonnets by William Shakespeare. According to Danko, it will be the last play in RCC’s Warehouse Theatre.
“This will be an exciting project,” Danko said. “Very few fully staged productions [of the sonnets] have been done. I went online and boy, there’s nothing. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has done every play x amount of times, but never the sonnets. I’ll bet most of the OSF are not familiar with them,” said Danko.
According to Danko, the absence of sonnets from the theatre scene has drawn many actors to this project, including actor Rob Hirschboek, who played Shylock in the Warehouse’s production of “The Merchant of Venice” in 2008.
Danko was aware of a recent production of Shakespeare’s Sonnets on Broadway, called “Love is My Sin,” directed by stage legend Peter Brook.
“It was the 400th anniversary of the sonnets, and he did around 31 of them at the Duke Theatre. It was just his wife and an actor friend of theirs, dramatized as a conversation,” said Danko.
For this production, Danko has picked the sonnets in random order to create a cohesive story between three characters: The Poet, The Beloved, and The Dark Lady. “I’ve woven a story of love, how it’s nurtured, the encounter of desolation, betrayal, romantic rivals…” said Danko. “People view the sonnets as complex, but they forget that underlying those sonnets, a playwright was at work. They are dramatic. There are characters. My goal is to make them understood and recognized. I’ve updated the settings, but not the language.”
“In the beginning, the sonnets are aimed toward “The Beloved,”” said Veteran RCC actress and cast member Jen Phillips. “There’s this sense of fresh, beautiful warmth. Toward the second act, the sonnets are targeted at “The Dark Lady.” Somehow there’s this sense that she’s a barrier to [The Poet’s] hope, and there’s a real sense of sorrow, and sorrow for his anger.”
The sonnets have been divided amongst twenty-five RCC students, SOU students, and community members as monologues, duets, ensemble efforts, and songs composed by SOU Composition Major Gina Scaccia. Her recent composition of a monk incantation has the cast – and Danko – very excited.
“It’s a beautiful, spooky ghost chant we sing as an ensemble,” said cast member Sarah Schwarz at a recent rehearsal in H Building. “I think it’ll be cool. It’s the introduction to the cast.”
The cast shares a similar enthusiasm for a “siren chant” of three interwoven sonnets to be sung by a female trio, concerning the elusive nature of time.
“Boy we’ve got some voices,” said Danko. “Those gals!”
So far, the process has been slow, what with the students balancing school and work schedules. Many of the actors rehearse with Danko individually, and are enjoying the process.
“Ron has a true vision with this assemblage of sonnets,” said cast member and Daily Tidings columnist Evalyn Hansen. “He’s so imaginative, and has really assembled a fine, talented cast.”
“It’s all-encompassing,” said Phillips. “We’re doing it in such a way that we can convey Shakespeare’s words clearly to a modern audience and still be artistic. Each sonnet is characteristic, but conveys the proper emotion. Each has its own story, to keep it fresh and entertaining.”
Danko appreciates the growth potential that theatre has to offer, especially at a community college. “We’re not just some place you buzz in and out of for classes,” said Danko. “There’s more here.”
“I miss John,” chuckled actor David Dials, in reference to Danko’s longtime directing partner, John Cole. Cole has been on hiatus in New York, but has been contributing to the production via telephone and email. Cole is expected to return in the fall when the New Warehouse Theatre is ready for use. “They complimented each other, but Ron’s a lot of fun to work with. Rehearsals are lively and funny.”
Featured in 10 of the sonnets, Dials plays everything from an Italian music teacher to a cowboy. “He’s given me such different characters that it’s really fun to do this,” said Dials.
“Love’s Not Time’s Fool” will run for 8 performances from May 16th – 18th and 21st -23rd.
For more information, check out the posters around campus (designed by student Michael Sexton), or call (541) 245- 7637 to make reservations.