Jorge Cacheiro is a professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance, and director of this Spring 09 MSU production of Homburg. Here, Cacheiro shares his insights regarding his very different take on this upcoming production with B.F.A student, Kelly Karcher.
Kelly Karcher: When you were looking through scripts for the season for this year, what initially drew you to The Prince of Homburg?
Jorge Cacheiro: I was looking for a verse play, so I wanted to cover things that I feel the students need as future actors. Students here need to understand world drama as opposed to English drama, and English plays. I did want to do a play where the language is a little meaty; where the content and form of the play might make new demands on the actors. I chose this particular play because I’ve had a long, long relationship with The Prince of Homburg and with the author Kleist. He’s been a source of fascination and intrigue for many, many years.
KK: What can you tell us about the background and the history of the play?
JC: I thought that as an academic exercise, and as a teaching exercise, we would do not only a verse play, but construct a work based both on the writer and the work. Art is about the individual expression, the eccentric, nonconforming impulse, in a world that conforms. That basic tension of creating and conforming, of stepping outside, is an extension of the creation of art, the artist’s extension—sort of like the notion of the little man lost, creating something huge. The play and Kleist take on multiple levels of meaning and his writings, specifically his letters, are as profound to me as is the actual play. The letters are really mad, and crazy, about a man who’s running all over Europe and has these relationships that are never consummated. He has a fiancée he never sees and doesn’t tell her where he is. It’s this very mysterious, eccentric behavior by this man who wanted to be a great writer, but he doesn’t fit in anywhere. Here the artist and the work itself seem to speak to each other.
KK: Where did the idea come from to add the author into the play? What made you want to adapt the play instead of doing the original piece?
JC: I think the letters have a drama of their own. And I think the character has a drama all his own. He wrote multiple plays; these wonderful short stories. Some of them have been made into movies. He is a play unto himself—and not every author is a play unto himself. I’ve always toyed with the idea of how far Kleist can go into the work. This work is not really embraced in the United States—so it has no canvas, it has no preconceptions; there are no expectations about what it is. The man is really incredibly intriguing to me. He’s basically a non-functioning person, whose ambition is Olympic. He is well known for his suicide, and on some level you could say that that’s what he was always looking for, but I don’t necessarily buy that. He was always looking for greatness - for great acts, for great work - and the suicide is a great act in some way, eccentric, and over the top, and romantic…and it comes from a deep abyss of not succeeding, of not getting what he wants.
KK: What is the rehearsal process like? Do you have specific exercises that you’re doing with the actors for this very different process?
JC: I think there are basic demands that you make on your actors that are always the same. The preparation is not through games or exercises; it’s as deep as they can get into character so they can search for who this character is. But there are things that in the space, and in the work, are integral to the work. One is a real understanding, a real sensitivity for space, and physical tension and movement—how do you take space and how do you move through space? So the body’s very, very important for the work. The work is going to have multiple layers of action happening simultaneously. So, somebody in the back might be doing something totally disconnected from somebody in the front, who’s doing something totally disconnected from somebody in mid-stage or in side stage. It’s a whole organism that’s being connected, a whole sense of order.
KK: What can audiences expect to see, and look forward to, when coming to see your show; and what do you think will set it apart from previous productions?
JC: Good acting, lots of fun, singing and dancing. When the audience comes to see a play, the first thing you hope is that people enjoy it, that they’re intrigued, that they’re captivated by what is going on, intrigued by the dilemmas that are set up for this Kleist, this Homburg, or any other character in the play—the Princess, the Elector, all these characters—and that somehow the narrative, the writing, the acting, the staging, the music— that the elements that create theatre come together, and every one of them has a responsibility to help engage the psychic interest of an audience. That’s our first task, grabbing—and not letting go. The educational part—that’s hard to answer. Obviously there are a lot of questions that’ll be raised by the play. The play raises questions like, is this a good thing that happens to the prince; is this a bad thing that happens to the prince? Where does Kleist, the maker of this play, fit in to this puzzle? Since he’s creating it, what happens to him?
KK: Are you working music into the show as well?
JC: There’s going to be a lot of music; there’s going to be a lot, a lot, a lot of music.
KK: Is it period music, or more contemporary music—?
JC: Mostly period music, but there might be some contemporary music. An audience looks forward to a great story, a great play, one of the really, really great plays of all time. I hope they leave thinking about what are they seeing, what is this experience about, and intrigued by all of the things that come with it.
Homburg opens at the Alexander Kasser Theatre Tuesday, March 10, 2009 and runs through Saturday, March 14. For more information regarding the show, and to buy tickets, check out: http://peakperfs.org/performances/Homburg_09. MSU Prof. Neil Baldwin, the show’s Dramaturg, is keeping a “biography of the production,” from the first ideas to the final show. Please check out his journal on INSITE, the new ACP website: http://www.peakperfs.org/insite/?cat=29
Kelly Karcher is in her third year of the B.F.A. Musical Theatre program at MSU. MSU credits include The Full Monty, Sometimes Y, Elmer Gantry, and the upcoming Four Short. She has also performed in regional theatre. This past fall, Kelly served as Dramaturg for MSU’s Fall 08 production of Crazy for You. She was honored as the Region 2 Winner of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Student Dramaturgy Initiative, and will go on to compete at nationals, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., this April.