Being skittish about the hot weather, Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park has moved indoors for a while with The Life and Death of King John.
It’s part of OSP’s “Bare Bard” series, in which plays are staged with minimal sets, costumes and lighting. It gives the company a chance to present lesser-known works, such as last season’s Cymbeline.
Longtime actor Rob Gallavan makes his directorial debut with King John. (You may remember Gallavan as the character Weather, who wreaks havoc in Salazar Roofing & Construction television commercials.)
He said pared-down staging “can pose a problem when you don’t have the budget to build a wall for Prince Arthur to climb out of prison or to build tents for all the different royalty that Shakespeare wrote in during battle scenes.”
The solutions can be more creative than what was originally intended.
“Instead of simply staging actors on top of a wall for an entire scene, the actors in King John make use of the catwalk above the audience,” Gallavan said. “The audience will essentially become part of the production, rather than just spectators.”
He worked with two local artists on the scenic design, using sculptures by Todd Jenkins and paintings by Trent Lawson.
“The concept is that the Burg Theater will essentially be the great hall of King John,” Gallavan said. “The stage will, for the most part, be a bare stage with only a few small set pieces and props. The production will have a contemporary look, but will not be set in any specific time period.”
He and cellist Lisa Noker Day compiled a musical score, which she will perform live.
“Collaborative productions that extend beyond the theater community are few and far between here in the city. We have such a wealth of talented artists and musicians, and I think it’s time local artists start working together,” he said. Gallavan wanted to direct the play for OSP because it’s relevant to current politics and world affairs.
“I found King John to be more of a morality play than a history play,” he said. “You have politicians willing to go to the extreme and sacrifice whomever they want to gain or maintain their status. You have the church meddling in the affairs of everyone involved in order to further its own interests.
“For unknown reasons, the play wasn’t produced much after the 19th century, despite the fact that it was widely regarded as one of Shakespeare’s most popular history plays until that time.”