by Justin Brady
Shakespeare has no shortages of champions in Indianapolis; newest among them is Amy Hayes at the helm of the theater company IndyShakes. Hayes brings a wealth of knowledge to the table as a classically trained theater professional, having received her B.A. in Theatre and English from Vanderbilt University and her M.F.A. in Acting from the University of Nebraska. She continues to study at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Mass., and has taught acting and theater courses at DePauw University since 2003. In our Q&A we discuss the new company IndyShakes and why Shakespeare resonates with women, and we will preview the upcoming performance of The Winter's Tale at IndyFringe Theatre.
Q: How did IndyShakes come about?
Hayes: I started IndyShakes last year with Ronn Johnstone of Wisdom Tooth Productions. We are interested in staging Shakespeare and other classical and language-based theater with fearless actors and designers. This is our second show, following Twelfth Night last year. Next year we hope to produce a new play from Chicago-based playwright Jessica Shoemaker called Jason and Medea, as well as expand our season to include other contemporary plays.
Q: In recent years several Shakespeare-tinged companies have popped up in Indianapolis including Eclectic Pond, Hoosier Bard and the IRT regularly includes Shakespeare as part of its season. Also, there is Shakespeare in the park offered by HART and The Garfield Shakespeare Company. What is it about Shakespeare that draws so many theater artists to produce his work?
Hayes: I'm delighted to find myself in a market the size of Indianapolis with so many comrades engaged in great storytelling. The fact that we all seem to gravitate toward the classics, and to Shakespeare in particular, just confirms these plays are the juiciest and most delicious banquets. They continue to delight and teach us and confound and intrigue us. These are the plays that nourish us and show us how to be human.
Q: What will make IndyShakes stand out?
Hayes: What makes IndyShakes different, perhaps, is our aesthetic for organic and minimalist storytelling. Keeping the stories language-focused and energy-based, having actors play several different roles and work from a place of physical and emotional bravery, are largely original practices. Shakespeare worked very much the same way: ensemble-based work with a company spirit and a hunger for rich language.
Q: The Winter's Tale is a lesser-known work from the Bard, but one of my favorites having seen it performed at The Globe in London. What drew you to directing this play?
Hayes: The Winter's Tale has always been a siren song to me. I am drawn to its mystery, its studied carelessness with details of time and place and realism. I love that it's a family story of how we hurt most the ones we love, and what forgiveness and redemption look like. I love that it raises issues of guilt and faithfulness and mercy and grace. Shakespeare wrote this play toward the end of his life, when he was back home in Stratford after a long career in London as an actor and writer. By this point in his life, Shakespeare must have known great love and great passion and great hilarity and great suffering. He certainly wrote all of these into his plays and poems.
Q: As a female director and actor, do you feel there is a certain resonance of Shakespeare's work with women?
Hayes: I am a little tired of the idea that Shakespeare or anyone seems concerned with portraying strong women. I am a wife and mother and lover and artist and philosopher and woman who struggles with issues of faith, love and integrity. I see myself reflected in every character, every turn of the plot. In short, I am human. No wonder female actors love acting Shakespeare. We get to be every bit as human as the men. We really are all in this together.
Q: What other projects are you working on?
Hayes: Indianapolis is a small community for theater artists, and I'm learning that we all pretty much know each other, or will sooner or later. We are by and large a passionate and creative lot, and I am finding it a joy to get to play with different actors and directors and companies, each with his or her own perspectives. Next up I am working with NoExit's production of Middletown in April and then Hamlet with Acting Up Productions in July. I can't wait to work in all these different playgrounds. The more we work together and watch each other, the more we learn.
Q: If you could recast the leads of any movie with local actors -- what movie would you choose and to whom would you cast the roles?
Hayes: Dangerous Liaisons. I want to be in it! But I'll resist casting myself. The cast would be Bill Simmons as Valmont, Diane Timmerman as Marquise de Merteuil, Maria Souzaas Madame de Tourvel, Leah DeWalt as Cécile Volanges, Claire Wilcher as Madame de Volanges, Adam Tran as Le Chevalier Danceny and Gayle Steigerwald as Madame de Rosemonde.
You can catch The Winter's Tale at IndyFringe Theatre, now through March 1st. Also, keep an eye out for Amy Hayes as Hermione (no relation to the well-known wizard).