Rhodes’ McCoy Theatre will present a production of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” April 12 & 13, 18-21, with visiting director Nick Hutchison from London. A director and actor, he has appeared in the films “Miss Potter” and “About A Boy,” and his work also covers television, voice-over and radio, working for the BBC, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, the Royal National Theatre, and Shakespeare’s Globe.
Hutchison has directed undergraduates from the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Europe in scenes from Shakespeare at the Globe, and worked on dramatic monologues from all periods. His residency at Rhodes is made possible by the Ellis Rabb Fund for Visiting Artists.
What first brought you to Rhodes?
A number of years ago, Professor Michael Leslie in the English department got me involved with the British Studies at Oxford program. I spoke to students about the newly built Globe Theatre, and Shakespeare’s own theatre world, and since then, this has become an annual event. I started to do more and more for the program, coming to the United States to lecture at Rhodes, Sewanee, Birmingham Southern and Trinity Universities. I’ve gotten to know Memphis quite well and was introduced to the theatre department at Rhodes. Professor Leslie and Professor Scott Newstok arranged with the theatre department for me to come and direct a production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” here in 2011. The production was nominated for nine Ostrander Awards, and I enjoyed that experience enormously.
What did you enjoy about directing “Twelfth Night”?
First of all, at Rhodes you have a great, supportive, and very strong theatre department. I love directing in the States and was very impressed by the standard of actors here at Rhodes. I also greatly enjoyed working alongside Donald Jellerson [a former Rhodes professor], who now works at the University of Wisconsin, but amazingly is able to come back to Memphis to work with us on “As You Like It.” Also, when I came for “Twelfth Night,” I lived just around the corner and discovered the joys of living in Midtown. This year, I have a bigger place so that my wife and two daughters will be able to join me.
Did anything surprise you about Memphis?
There is actually a really strong theatre community in this city, which I think is great. Memphis is an easy city to live in.
What has the rehearsal been like for “As You Like It?”
We mostly rehearse during evenings. I love the process of rehearsal more than the actual performance—that’s why I gave up being an actor to become a director. Even though I love the performance, I love making the play work and dealing with the issues that arise during rehearsal. I also love the challenge of working with actors who are not experienced at Shakespeare. I think the audience during “Twelfth Night” was surprised at the level of virtuosity and language that the cast had, which is something that I love to communicate. The idea that Shakespeare is not some dead language, but a real and living thing, is essential, and getting that into the actors’ DNA is a great part of the experience.
What is your personal favorite Shakespeare play?
“Love’s Labour’s Lost” because I think it’s Shakespeare’s masterpiece, even if I’m alone in the world in thinking that. It’s a really beautiful play about growing up and moving away from college, really. It’s the first comedy that I know of in the English language that doesn’t end happily, and I think that is very brave. It’s a play that loves language, wit and cleverness, but ultimately does not love those as much as it loves honesty and emotional truth.
What else has been keeping you busy around campus?
I’m co-teaching an English course with Professor Leslie called “Shakespeare’s Texts and Performance” in which we combine the academic approach to Shakespeare with the theatrical approach. Using those two quite often opposing disciplines together has been fascinating. I’ve also taught a few sessions at the Meeman Center for Lifelong Learning.
(information compiled by Rhodes Student Associate Lucy Kellison ’13)