Dramaturgical Note

Questions of body and voice, performative and non-performative, are central to the drama of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, and thus of course to our own production.  From the play’s earliest moments, when the patrician elder Menenius utilizes Aesop’s fable of “The Belly and its Members” to figure the Roman gentry as the life-giving center of the restless plebeians, the political and dramatic power of Shakespeare’s text is located in the corporeal bodies of its actors.  Conflict is found in the way they control and manipulate their own and one another’s beings and voices.  Thus Coriolanus’ fame as a war hero is essentialized in his bodily wounds; the democratic power of the plebeians is conveyed through their “voices”.  And in the drama’s climactic moment, the fate of Rome is secured by a mother’s bodily supplication.  These are actions of character, motivated and plot driven.  And yet, as is the subtle genius of Shakespeare’s dramatic ability, the actions of his characters are consistently problematized and questioned.  Caius Marcius is unwilling to bare his wounds to the common folk, to twist his voice and body to gain the votes of “Hob and Dick”.  The plebeians are unsure in their power of decision, allowing their elected officials to maneuver their voices against Marcius.  Thus questions of power, of ownership and responsibility, are complicated in the original text, as in our production. For what happens when one voice becomes many?  When one body is spread over five?  How can our staging here today further illuminate these innate textual complications?  Such are the questions we, Shakespeare, Müller, Brecht and even good old Thomas Bernhard pose to you, questions of staging and creating performance that remain beautifully, delightfully unanswered.

Jessica Goldschmidt