by Brandon Palmer
A few years ago, when Boulder based The Upstart Crow Theatre Company reached their 30th anniversary season – a feat rarely seen in small companies – the original work Fast, Loud, and Overplayed began to take shape. The script – which shares the title of the first review the company ever received – was written by founding member of the company, Katherine Dubois, and draws solely from the company’s history. Directed by Richard Bell, also a founding member of Upstart Crow, the play combines “original material with excerpts from past Upstart Crow productions.”
“Boulder’s Upstart Crow Theatre Company performs classical theatre with a true passion and love for the playwright’s words. It is our love of language, of the finely crafted phrase that touches the soul, that draws us to the works of the world’s greatest playwrights. It is this love that drives our philosophy of fidelity to the original text. We offer our audiences a luxury seldom seen today…an uncut play.” – Upstart Crow website
If Fast, Loud, and Overplayed is the play of the history of the company, it seems fair to say Upstart Crow has held true to their mission even here. “Not every single play we’ve done appears in this show,” says Dubois, “but a whole lot of them appear at least briefly. I chose which plays we were going to use and put them in the order they’re in and put them together in a way that I thought seemed to work. When a play is quoted or somebody is in character from a play, that dialogue is straight from the play.” Bell tells us “Most of it is word-for-word from scripts of the plays.”
The only part of this play that is not true to the classical theatre that the company has striven to present since 1977 is the framing device created by Dubois to tie the whole piece together. “The narrator and the Crow are presenting this,” explains Dubois. Bell is playing the narrator and tells us that the notorious crow (of the company’s title) is always disagreeing with everything he says.
In directing the piece, Bell says, “The difficulty is that each actor (of a cast of six) plays thirty or forty different characters. We’re working on trying to slip into the style that we used for each particular play, so there are some places where there are abrupt shifts.” Dubois claims, “It’s a neat challenge for the actors. We’ve always put a focus on the text and the acting, so this play works well because now it’s entirely about the acting. It’s the actors shifting from role to role.”
For the set, or setting, of the play, Bell and Dubois have decided to make use of projected images and text, in order to “give it some visual interest and also to help keep the audience grounded,” in Bell’s words. He says, “I don’ t know how you build a set for 150 plays. When we are doing for instance a speech from Death of a Salesman, we will project a slide or two from our production of it.” Chiming in, Dubois adds, “There might be other places where we just project the name of the play.”
Regardless of whether you are a season ticket holder with Upstart Crow and have seen a large number of their productions, or you know a lot about classical theatre, or even just walk in from off the street, Dubois assures us, “It was my intention to write something that would stand alone. There’s a lot of humor in it.” Bell explains, “I think clearly people who know a lot about theatre will enjoy it a little more and people who have followed our work will have a special kind of enjoyment, but I think somebody walking in off the street would enjoy it.” He tells us, “It’s a kind of appreciation of the company and our actors.” However, Dubois says “it’s also an appreciation of the richness of the history of drama, the number of amazing plays that have been written over the centuries that still speak to us today.”
Asked what he would like audiences to take away from this production, Bell jovially says, “Since this is a fundraiser, it’s more what we want them to leave behind, but we want them to have a good time.”
Fast, Loud, and Overplayed, opening June 21 and playing three nights only! Tickets may be purchased by calling 303.442.1415 or by visiting the Upstart Crow website.