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Making Shakespeare’s bloodiest play even bloodier.


by Lee Trull 20 Apr 2009

Great to have guestblogger Lee Trull on board today, and hopefully, in the future. Lee is Associate Artist with the Dallas Theater Center, and a member of the Kitchen Dog Theater Company. Two years ago when my co-adapter, Leah Spillman, and I first set out to adapt Titus Andronicus for Kitchen Dog Theater, our first […]

CTA TBD

Great to have guestblogger Lee Trull on board today, and hopefully, in the future. Lee is Associate Artist with the Dallas Theater Center, and a member of the Kitchen Dog Theater Company.

Two years ago when my co-adapter, Leah Spillman, and I first set out to adapt Titus Andronicus for Kitchen Dog Theater, our first task was how to tackle the violence. We decided to amp it up. Having transposed the play to ancient Maya, our “vocabulary of violence” was instantly expanded. The ritual sacrifices (organs drawn from the proudest war captive), the terrifying weapons, and, most importantly for our play, the eating habits, provided stage moments that made the ancient Romans seem shy. Now that it has been produced there’s a new question: is the violence supposed to be funny, scary, or gross? Or, are we allowed to laugh? Lawson Taitte in the Morning News wondered if Shakespeare’s audience laughed as much as Kitchen Dog’s. Knowing what we know about his audience, of course they did! Mark Lowry at Theater Jones wonders if we at Kitchen Dog might take this play seriously. Of course we do! (Both of those reviews were wonderfully generous and fun, thank you both!) The violence in this play evokes laughter because it rolls out at a relentless pace and to extraordinary extremes. The sick joke is that the tragedy plays out like the famous duet in Irving Berlin’s “Annie Get Your Gun” — anything you can do, I can do BETTER! For the most part the violence in this play is nothing you won’t find in Darfur, or Iraq, or right next door in Juarez. Oh, who am I kidding…in Dallas. The ancient setting of Titus isn’t meant to illustrate how violent things USED to be, but to illuminate how little things have changed. Doesn’t sound funny? Perhaps Titus puts it best when asked why he would laugh at such atrocities — “Why I have not another tear to shed”.

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  • Paul Barnes

    The adaptation done by Lee Trull and Leah Spillman of KDT’s “Titus Andronicus” is simply stunning. It is a brilliant piece of theater that elicits loud gasps from the audience – along with giggles and groans. It wasn’t too long ago that Texans went to public executions as a form of entertainment. Beheadings, mutiliation, and whacking off a hand or ear have long been crowd pleasers. Now GITMO, Abu Grahib and the Bush torture memos inform our response to cruelty. Leave it to Kitchen Dog to produce a thoughtful, witty and exciting update of one of the Bard’s most obscure plays. It’s a great show and I encourage all to see it for the fine acting – and the gore!

  • CJ

    Titus is a violent work so I can’t see where playing on that is going to be all that bad. I personally dislike when Shakespeare’s plays are modified for time or place like this one is, but I have no objection to amplifying parts of the work that already exist.

    I won’t go see it, but I don’t think anyone who wants to should let the potential of a play that’s already violent being produced with violence stop them.

  • Lee Trull

    PS
    Had I known Jerome’s review would touch on the same themes as the others I would have waited to write my blog. I am very proud of the fact that our play has inspired three energetic and funny reviews. Come and see it– and don’t forget the splash guard!