John Maclay (Director, Romeo and Juliet)
John Maclay directed the current Shakespeare-in-the-Schools Touring Production of Romeo and Juliet.
Where did you grow up? Where do you currently live?
I grew up in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. I currently live with my wife and kids in Lake Zurich, IL ( a Chicago suburb) though I work predominantly in Wisconsin. I drive a lot.
Have you ever been involved with Romeo and Juliet before? If yes, how many times and in what functions/roles?
Yes and 6 or 7? Director (twice prior and one upcoming), producer, assistant director, fight choreographer (twice prior and one upcoming), Mercutio, Gregory, Peter, Friar John, understudy for Capulet and Friar Laurence.
What are you looking forward to the most about this tour; why did you want to become involved?
I think that the first experience with Shakespeare is potentially the most important. If an audience member's experience is inspiring and affecting, that person will be a fan for life. If the first experience is negative, it is difficult to get that person to give Shakespeare a second chance. This informs a great responsibility for all of us who contribute to the tour.
Have you ever done a similar tour like this before? Tell us about it.
Yes. The Chicago Shakespeare Theater tour in 2000 as an actor. We did about 90 performances throughout Illinois. Much like this tour we played every type of space- from gorgeous cathedrals of art to "cafetoriums." You learn to preserve the truth of the story in all manner of architecture. It truly is tremendous training for an actor. But it isn't for the timid. It is incredibly demanding work and fortunately this tour has exceptional actors who are built to thrive in these ever changing environments.
What do you hope to contribute or give to young audiences during this tour?
The reaffirmation that violence is futile, pointless and always perpetuates more violence. That Shakespeare is incredible, truthful and not in any way beyond them. That greatness can be achieved with the spoken word in greater and more profound measure than it can with a football. And I write this as someone who unapologetically played a lot of football.
Why do you think art in general is important?
There are a hundred reasons that art is important. Most important to me is that the performing arts, and theatre specifically, require that you adopt another's point of view. As a theatre artist you have to adopt that point of view without judgment. This develops understanding and empathy.
The theatre also offers experiences that of course entertain or educate an audience member or allow an audience to identify with a character or escape from their troubles for a couple of hours.
But perhaps more important is the theatre's ability to bring communities together and to change people’s minds. A wise mentor of mine once said that the only ways to really change someone's mind are to give them a book, have a long one on one conversation with them, or take them to a play.
Participating in the arts teaches collaboration, leadership, creative thinking, and discipline while developing empathy and emotional intelligence. What other subject can claim that?
This production of Romeo and Juliet will be touring through April 24. You can find the schedule at http://www.bard.org/education/tourschedule.html.
Photos by Karl Hugh, copyright 2013 Utah Shakespeare Festival