By Andrew Daniels, Iachimo in Cymbeline
Howdy, I’m Andrew Daniels. I came all the way from Marion, Indiana, to play the villain (well, one of them anyway), Iachimo, in Sweet Tea Shakespeare’s summer production of Cymbeline! Now, I know what you’re thinking: “What’s this Hoosier doing coming all the way down to Tar Heel country just to say some dead guy’s funny words?” Well, I can tell you that my decision wasn’t completely based on our shared affinity for strange regional nicknames born from antiquated colloquialisms—though that was definitely high on the list. No, I made the twelve-hour trek to Fayetteville from my hometown in the Crossroads of America to be part of a theatre company I love, and one that regularly produces art that matters. So, let’s talk about some Billy Shakes!
As I sat here trying to think of something to write about (and neglecting my line memorization… Sorry, Ruth), I found myself procrastinating and reading articles online, as one does. I came across an article relating to the protests of the Public Theater’s production Julius Caesar in New York City. Whatever your feelings—love the production or hate it—there is no denying it: that production, the art they are creating, matters. Why does it matter? Shakespeare is making people, ordinary people, feel things in a visceral way, and that’s precisely the point of it all.
We have a problem in modern theaters of participating in a form of theatrical self-indulgence; we artists can be selfish sometimes. We fall into the trap of producing and consuming art for ourselves and only ourselves, completely forgetting that our art is not for us. Too often, theaters don’t trust their audiences, so they produce the Bard’s work in this self-serving manner. In many people’s minds, the very utterance of Shakespeare’s name conjures images of powder-face ninnies in tights rhyming to the moon in falsetto verse. Yet we still wonder why his work isn’t well received. Well, Sweet Tea has cracked the code by—surprise!—trusting their audience and working exceptionally hard.
STS understands these aren’t lofty, pinky-out texts, but rather relatable fables with human emotion and interaction at their core. By no means does this company attempt to grab their audience by the wrist and forcefully drag them through a barrage of Shakespeare’s complicated verse, as so many often do. Instead, Sweet Tea strives to work with the text, understanding and performing it in a grounded way with honesty that makes it enjoyable for audience members of all backgrounds. Going the extra mile allows the company to build fantastic new worlds for their patrons to wander around in. It allows viewers to really feel the love, loss, joy, suffering, victory that these characters are living and maybe even discover something about themselves along the way. This is why I believe that STS is doing theatre that matters in the real world today. Doing the extra work takes love and an immense passion for doing things the right way, which isn’t always the easy way.
Here at Sweet Tea, you won’t find us stabbing presidential effigies, but what you will find is a group of selfless, passionate, dedicated individuals who understand what art is all about. So come out to see Cymbeline and wander with us for a while! If nothing else, I heard there would be beer and barbecue. So, come for that, and stay to watch us say some dead guy’s funny words.