The Complete Works of William Shakespeare in 90 Minutes is one thing, while the Complete Works of William Shakespeare in one weekend is entirely another. But that is exactly what Company’s Marathon 2013 is bringing: a free, non-stop, back-to-back reading of Shakespeare’s canon, by both professional actors and everyday people, taking place from 4/16 at 7 pm through 4/20 at 10 am at the 4th Street Theatre.
This event was founded in 1998 by Gordy Hoffman, and the 86-hour performance has been done in Los Angeles as well as New York. The 2013 production marks the event’s first performance in New York in nine years, produced by Facing Page Productions, a company that strives to create new theatrical experiences from classical texts and themes. Co-producer Winnie Lok, who, with Ryan McCurdy, is heading the Company’s Marathon, said, “This was a no brainer.”
Throughout Company’s Marathon, actor André Braugher will choose the play order, and members of public will perform alongside professional actors, at now tradition that was a part of the event from its inception. This tradition, Lok said, celebrates William Shakespeare by creating a community of participants to read from his works.
Lok has a long history with the Marathon, having participated from 2002-2004 in Los Angeles as well as working as a stage manager for an eight-hour shift in 2004. She described her experience at past Marathons, saying, “There was this excitement in the air, because in doing a marathon like this, there is always the question of: will we get this done? Will we actually finish this? And it felt really good to be a part of making it all happen.”
The combination of members of the public as well as professional performers in the Marathon reflects the universal love for Shakespeare, according to Lok, who said, “I believe this came partly from the number of participants needed for each undertaking, but also because this event is about celebrating Shakespeare. People from all walks of life, not only those in the industry, appreciate the Bard and his works.”
Involving the public in the Marathon reflects the growing popularity of interactive theater, which Lok said shatters the fourth wall. She described being drawn to interactive theater by citing her desire immerse herself in a performance’s content, despite distractions such as stage lights overhead or cell phones ringing.
“There is usually some distraction that reminds me that I’m in the audience,” she said. “But with an interactive production, I’m forced to be a part of the action. I’m walking on the same ground as the performers. I’m occupying the same space. It allows you to open up and accept the situation in a way you don’t usually get to. It’s wonderful, and it can sometimes be very scary because you don’t get the protection of the fourth wall.”
Lok is currently working as Production Stage Manager on the Roundabout Theater’s The Big Knife and previously worked as Production Stage Manager for Manhattan Theatre Club’s Venus in Fur and An Enemy of the People, but said the Marathon is a completely different experience for her, citing the long hours and the amount of planning involved.
“In producing a play, you bring together a team of people with creative input. You market to a certain audience to sell tickets and fill the seats,” she said. “Here, we are working on building a community of people from all walks of life to help us reach our goal of finishing the Marathon. There are a lot of unknowns that we have to prepare for with just a couple of us to do it.”
Participants in the Marathon sign to read one play at a time, and throughout the weekend Lok and McCurdy will cover all the hours of the performance. Lok said they have numerous contingency plans at hand and are ready to act quickly when something does not go as planned. She described multi-tasking as being the norm for stage managers, and she appreciates the opportunity to see what each department of the production does.
“I plan to do a lot of napping, although once the Marathon starts, I think the adrenaline associated with the excitement of it all will help see me through,” Lok said. “It also helps that I have an amazing producing partner who will work tirelessly alongside me to get everything done. Communication is the key: with my co-producer, with the participants. And we have to have a love of Shakespeare. Why else would we be doing this if we didn’t believe in the importance of bringing his works to the public?…I think the professional actors will appreciate the excitement the public will bring and will give the public an up-close look of a professional at work.”
Producing the Marathon takes a great deal of leadership, a position Lok has held n the industry for several years, and said at times she has experienced feeling out of place due to her gender.
“No matter how progressive I feel we are at this day and time, sometimes I work on a show and it feels like a Boy’s Club,” Lok said. “It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. In those cases, I feel that from the moment I step aboard a production, I have to prove myself and work harder to earn everyone’s respect. I feel that I’m under a certain scrutiny. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t. I just have to have confidence in what I do and learn from each experience.”
Participants can sign up at FacingPageProductions to take part in Company’s Marathon 2013 as a performer, and audience reservations will be made available in advance online and the day of at the theater.