by Lorie Lewis Ham
This weekend, for 2 performances only, Fresno Pacific University will present Dark as the Night, Selections from Shakespeare. We took a moment to chat about the show with the director, Brooke Aiello, who is an Adjunct Theatre Professor and Costume Shop Coordinator at FPU.
KRL: Please tell us about your show Dark as Night.
Brooke: The show is a selection of scenes from Shakespeare linked together by physical explorations and sonnets from the Dark Lady sequence of Shakespeare’s sonnets which are, I think, sonnets 127-154.
KRL: What parts of Shakespeare’s work are in your show?
Brooke: We feature some sonnets and excerpts from obviously “dark plays” like Hamlet, Macbeth and Richard III, but also comedies like Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing and even one of the problem plays Measure for Measure.
KRL: What does the title of the show mean?
Brooke: The title is taken from one of the Shakespeare’s sonnets. Since the theme was exploring the darker or shadowy side of our natures it felt right. The ensemble came up with the title.
KRL: Why did you choose to do Shakespeare?
Brooke: I chose Shakespeare because, if given a chance, I’ll always choose Shakespeare. You can’t get a better window into the soul than him, and the specificity of the language is a boon to actors at all levels. There is so much THERE to uncover. Also I once had a theatre teacher say that if a program only did musicals and Shakespeare, it would teach a student nearly everything they needed to know. We were already doing a musical this semester so I figured, “Why not Shakespeare, too?”
KRL: How did you pick the specific parts of Shakespeare’s work to use?
Brooke: We started with the Dark Lady Sonnets and developed the show from there. I love Shakespeare, a lot, but he ‘IS’ a little male centric. I have always been fascinated by the Dark Lady sequence in the sonnets, and we used that as a jumping off point. The ensemble chose the Dark Lady Sonnet that they like the best, and then we took scene inspirations from there.
KRL: Have you or the students added any special or unique takes on the material in the show?
Brooke: This is an incredibly creative group of students with very willing hearts and minds. They have inspired each other and me from the beginning. We always knew that we would be doing some “gender blind” casting, and watching some of these young women embrace their aggressive, masculine side has been really neat. I think my favorite pieces though are the transitional moments that feature the ensemble working as an impressive whole.
KRL: How many students are in the show?
Brooke: Seven; some are on theatre scholarship, some from the general student population.
KRL: What have been the challenges of putting this show together?
Brooke: Time. It is always time. We are a smaller department, so we are ‘all hands on deck’ putting together the main stage musical Little Women, which opened a week before us. The students are pulled a thousand different directions, as I am. But getting into the room and working with them all is always the best part of my day, and I hope theirs too.
KRL: What has been the most fun and rewarding?
Brooke: Working with these students on this language; it is always a joy to watch them uncover something new in the work I didn’t know was there. The way they cheer each other on, and the amount we laugh during rehearsal.
KRL: I believe that the poster was student designed, can you tell us a little about that?
Brooke: I asked an ensemble member Gabriel Rios to design the poster; he is getting his degree in graphic design at FPU. I love what he came up with. He is really a renaissance guy. He acts, he designs, he costumes; just one example of the deep and multi-talented ensemble in this production.
KRL: Tell us about where and when, and is there a charge?
Brooke: This is a FREE performance on the Fresno Pacific University Main Campus in the Theatre Lab. The Theatre Lab is located in the Kreigbaum Building basement accessible through a side gate off of Hamilton. The performances are on April 15 and 16 at 8 p.m.
Editor’s note: Parking is available on Hamilton street or the gravel parking lot where Hamilton and Winery meet.
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