Don’t Miss the Details
Often we take a classic story, like the tales of King Arthur and the Round Table, or a classic musical, like CAMELOT, and look down on it from 30,000 feet. We throw grand generalized banners over it like “Legendary” and “Epic.” We build towering two dimensional pedestals for the characters in the story… Arthur is for us “Noble” and “Good,” Guenevere is “Impetuous” and “Beautiful,” Lancelot is “Strong” and “Chivalrous.” And we view their lives through an indistinct lens as “Fabled” and “Tragic.” We stand afar off and forget that the truly great stories are not antiquated or irrelevant mythology… they are present and real; they are our truths yet today.
The Russian actor, director, and theatre theorist Stanislavsky said “Generality is the enemy of art.” Wisely, Artistic Director Brandon Thomsen has reminded the cast of CAMELOT of this truth from the outset of rehearsals. And as we have all come closer to this story and these characters whose obstacles and choices and passions shape the legend, we have found rich detail at every turn, the specificity that is the friend of art. The text, lyrics, and message of CAMELOT do not come up short in offering us clear and stunning details. And God, as Van der Rohe and Maxwell would tell us, is in the details. And it is here that we find our common threads, where we pull the story close to us and walk alongside it.
In the role of Queen Guenevere, I am on the receiving end of some of the richest and most romantic word pictures that CAMELOT has to offer. Everywhere she turns she is confronted with stunning and magnetic details in the lines and lyrics of her two great loves, Arthur and Lancelot. In their first meeting, Arthur paints a vivid picture of his kingdom in order to convince Guenevere to stay there (“Camelot”). Then the creation of the Round Table begins as they talk and discuss the dream that would be Chivalry. Lancelot, knowing his love for Guenevere should take him far from her, draws her close in his vibrant descriptions of how each season enhances her allure (“If Ever I Would Leave You”). In his stunning “proposition” monologue closing Act I, Arthur brings his love for Guenevere down to the very “strand of hair” in devoted detail. Guenevere herself reveals the torment of her heart being rent in two through her goodbye to Lancelot (“I Loved You Once in Silence”). And in the final moments of the story, young Tom of Warwick is charged with purpose through Arthur’s inspiring words to him. These words overflow from the depths of passion in each character’s heart, and they are a feast for our imaginations and our senses.
As a hopeless romantic myself, and a great lover of literature and the written or spoken word, this piece and this role is a joyous revelation in the power of description and expression. It reminds me of the Bible verse in Matthew 12:34 that says “out of the abundance of his heart a man speaks” and so, like the French proverb based on Matthew 6:22 that says, “The eyes are the window to the soul,” I propose that “Words are the window to the heart.” And audiences of CAMELOT will get a sparklingly clear picture window view of the hearts that hope and dream and break and bleed in this complex and ageless story.
Putting on a show is often overwhelming; a full schedule that, when added to the usual busyness of life, becomes hectic and frantic fast. That’s when we start losing focus and overlooking details. And what a loss that is! Yesterday morning I was standing at my kitchen sink, looking out the window and not seeing what was before me because in my mind I was already planning what would come later, where I needed to be when, what I had to accomplish before then, etc. etc. etc. And suddenly into my view came two cardinal birds, male and female, lighting in the blue spruce outside. I watched as they flitted and chirped, his bold red and her softer brown feathers, their movements and purpose invisibly tethered and natural; a beautiful moment of quiet yet pristine detail in the midst of my busy day. And my heart sang with the poignancy of it. Are they really so different from me? Are Arthur and Guenevere and Lancelot and all the citizens of Camelot so different from us? It was a moment not to be missed or dismissed.
So to everyone coming to see CAMELOT, and to all of us creating the show in these final days, I say “Don’t miss the details!” Don’t become so focused on the big picture that it blurs and you can no longer find the rich intimacy and accessibility of this story and these characters. Let the inventive set design of Paul Denckla transport you and Kristen Ahern’s rich costume design delight you as music director Kent Kanauss and the pit orchestra drench your ears in sumptuous sound. Let the firm foundation of distinctive storytelling by Brandon Thomsen weave its spell around your heart and mind as we actors and actresses invite you into ourlives in word and movement and song. Don’t miss a single detail! Don’t miss CAMELOT!