Tod Randolph didn’t think she was going out on a limb. Suggesting a John Patrick Shanley play be performed at Shakespeare & Company seemed like a very good idea, and she was right.
“I mentioned it to Tina [Packer] and Michael [Hammond] when they were putting together the season last year, and they both liked the play and some of my casting ideas,” said Randolph, who is directing Shanley’s 1986 work “The Dreamer Examines his Pillow” Friday through Sept. 6 at Shakespeare & Company’s Elayne Bernstein Theatre. “I love the characters in the play and the language of the characters. The writing is wonderful, and it’s about relationships between people. Shanley was a born playwright, just like Shakespeare.”
Earning spot on schedule
Packer, Shakespeare & Company’s founder, and Hammond, the producing artistic director, immediately scheduled a staged reading of one scene from Shanley’s play at the Studio Festival of Plays last Labor Day. With the success of that work, a full-scale production of “The Dreamer” was put on the 2009 summer schedule, with Randolph, an actor up to that point in her 13 years at Shakespeare & Company, getting the nod to direct.
“I love acting, and in a perfect world I’d love to keep doing both,” said Randolph, who grew up in the Chestnut Hill area of Boston and spent a year at NYU before transferring to Juilliard. “I had always thought about directing, but I remained very much into acting into my 30s. I guess I was never quite sure how to go about becoming a director.”
‘The Dreamer Examines His Pillow’
WHERE: Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre, Shakespeare & Company, 70 Kemble St., Lenox, Mass.
WHEN: Previews Friday at 8:30 p.m.; opens 8:30 p.m. Saturday and runs through Sept. 6. Performance times vary
HOW MUCH: $48-$12
MORE INFO: (413) 637-3353 or www.shakespeare.org
It was while she was at Juilliard that Randolph first came into contact with “The Dreamer.” Shanley wasn’t that well known as a playwright at the time, but a year later he earned an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for “Moonstruck.” In 2005, he wrote “Doubt: A Parable,” winning a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony for Best Play, and he then wrote the screenplay and directed the movie version with Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
“At Juilliard, we just worked on one scene as a training exercise, so I still haven’t seen a full production of the play,” said Randolph. “But I did the read the entire play and I found it very moving, and the one scene we did really seemed to work. So, I’m very excited about getting the opportunity here at Shakespeare & Company to direct the play.”
“The Dreamer” depicts the confrontation involving a father, his daughter and her ex-boyfriend, a clash that opens up complex and age-old questions about women and men, sex and truth, and art and love.
John Douglas Thompson, who is also playing the title role in “Othello” this summer at Shakespeare & Company, is playing the father in “The Dreamer.” Thompson is in his fifth summer with Shakespeare & Company, and while he has countless regional credits on his résumé, he has also performed on Broadway with Denzel Washington in “Julius Caesar” in 2005 and with Jennifer Garner and Kevin Kline in “Cyrano de Bergerac” in 2007.
Miriam Hyman, in her first summer at Shakespeare & Company, is playing Donna, the daughter, and Bowman Wright, another actor making his debut in the Berkshires, plays Tommy, the ex-boyfriend. Both newcomers, like Thompson, are black.
“The play is set in New York City, and all three actors are African-Americans,” said Randolph. “That’s something we haven’t had here before at S & C, so that’s pretty exciting for us.”
Protecting her sister
The confrontation in the play arises when Tommy begins dating his ex-girlfriend’s younger sister. Donna, having already endured a stormy relationship with Tommy, doesn’t want her sister to go through the same experience.
“Tommy is a bit of a troubled young man, and he gets a visit from his ex-girlfriend, who wants to talk to him about his behavior,” said Randolph. “Once she knocks on the door, there is a very intense confrontation and we all go along for the ride.”
Wright is currently pursuing a master’s in the acting program at the University of California at San Diego, while Hyman is about to enter her third year at the Yale School of Drama.
“I am working with an absolutely wonderful cast,” said Randolph. “I immediately thought of John for the part of the father, and our two younger actors are great in their roles. These are three wonderful characters that Shanley has written. His plays are always being used by acting classes because they are so well written and they really give an actor an opportunity to perform.”
Randolph last performed at Shakespeare & Company in 2006 as Rose in “Enchanted April.” Prior to that production, she also played Titania in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Virginia in “Vita & Virginia,” and Virginia Woolf in “A Room of One’s Own.”