“The words are really the star of the show,” Kyd says during a break. “The rest of us are in service to that.” As for the possible sound effects abuse, “The distortion [through the speakers] takes the voice somewhere the human voice can’t go. . . . To me, it’s all still honoring the poem. If someone loses the logic, that’s fine for me.”
Shakespeare’s epic poem — in which a man comes, sees and conquers the doomed woman of the show’s title — is interpreted by the cast alternately through rock music, text and action. (In addition to directing, Kyd plays the guitar and does voices during the performance).
Taffety has taken on Shakespeare before, with all-female versions of “Romeo and Juliet,” “Measure for Measure,” and “Julius Caesar,” along with “bootleg” productions of others, one-time only shows for which the cast has just one rehearsal. “Lucrece” marks the first time Taffety is tackling Shakespeare full force: a coed cast, a 2-week run.
Most of the cast consists of Taffety company members. Kimberly Gilbert, who is also in the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, plays Lucrece and the bass. Joel David Santner plays Tarquin, Lucrece’s assailant; Tonya Beckman is the narrator. Dan Crane (a frequent collaborator but not a Taffety member) plays Collatine and doubles as the drummer.
Beckman reads: “Wrapped and confounded in a thousand fears / Like to a new-killed bird she trembling lies . . . ” as the music gets louder and louder and—
“Excuse me? Hey, can you please keep it down?” Someone from CHAW has popped her head in the door. “There are music lessons going on upstairs.”
She leaves, and everyone looks at each other with expressions that essentially say: Turn it down? This is loud? Which just confirms: Yeah, this is exactly like a garage-band practice.
Take two. Beckman keeps reading, and the guitar kicks in, the drumming intensifies, the music rises, rises, rises, like smoke in a fire. Tonya’s voice is underneath it somewhere; you can’t hear her anymore, but you can feel the song, literally feel it, pulsing through the floor.
“That was awesome!” Kyd cheers when the scene is over. “It’s a little effed up,” he adds. “But that’s why it works.”
When Kyd, a D.C. native, actor and punk rocker (his most successful band, The Most Secret Method, toured in the 1990s) met Erin Mitchell, a classically trained ballerina from outside Richmond, in 2003, they had the same problem.
“Actors and dancers are, with rare exception, migrant workers,” said Kyd. “We’re always out of work every two to three months and are knocking on doors for jobs.”