Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fratellanza wows Oberons

Paul Manganello and Jim Manganello: Fratellanza

The Fratellanza collaborative of Jim Manganello and his brother Paul Manganello visited Oberon last night to talk about The Mute Quire, their new play running currently at Mix Studio Theater in Ypsilanti. Their energy and dedication to the art of theater thrilled us.

"They made me feel young again -- as if anything were possible." Joy T. said.

The Mute Quire is about the production of The First Folio and features, according to co-writer Jim Manganello, an antagonism between printer William Jaggard and actor John Hemminge about whether the play As You Like It should be included in the folio. Actors John Hemminge and Henry Condell signed a foreword in The First Folio testifying to the worthiness of the content and the co-signatories are often termed "editors" of the book by traditional Stratfordians. Most anti-Strats consider Ben Jonson the one and only editor of The First Folio, as Oberon chair Richard Joyrich pointed out during the discussion last night. 

While the viewpoint of The Mute Quire story may be traditional, the viewpoint of Fratellanza is emphatically iconoclastic.

"This piece is not completely exempt from the authorship question in that we're exploring the creation of the plays and not the writing of the plays,"Jim Manganello said. "Another orthodoxy I'm interested in debunking is the First Folio technique." 

Manganello said this acting technique assigns strict instructions to every aspect of the play, with slavish adherence to every word and punctuation mark in The First Folio.

"This kind of God-given, pristine text is so counter-theatrical," Manganello said. "You need to find what's important to today's audience and bring that out."

Paul Manganello agreed. Both brothers have trained in an alternative acting method that owes more to circus than to academe. Jim studied with Paola Coletto in Chicago and Paul studied with Malcolm Tulip at the University of Michigan. Both teachers studied at the Ecole International de Theatre Jaques Lecoq in Paris. Jim said the school is focused on using the body as the engine of performance and on creating work from the ground up.

"Who knows what was going on when the plays were being staged for the first time," Paul said. "They (the First Folio technique proponents) are interested in the fluidity of the work; one thing we’re interested in is toying with that fluidity and making bold, sometimes reckless, choices."

Oberon Chair Richard Joyrich, MD, approved of the Fratellanza viewpoint.

"There is a disconnect between the plays as performance and the plays as literature," Joyrich said. "I think you need to know something about the author and the circumstances. I like your approach of trying to figure
this out."

We have invited the Manganellos to talk more about their work as guest correspondents to the Oberon web log which they have agreed to do, and we look forward to their discussion. They hope to perform The Mute Quire at Shakespeare festivals and anticipate an evolutionary approach to the play, as they believe Shakespeare's actors would have done.

Jim said, "The kind of theater I‘m most interested in is the kind where the audience walks in and within two minutes they’re soaring. Shakespeare's work almost always challenges us to do that. At every moment there’s
some thing more important than the surface. I love the plays."

Paul said, "When an Anglophone speaks Shakespeare it feels like you’re at the exact center of your human experience. It’s so joyous to put those sounds out."

The Mute Quire, was written and produced by Fratellanza for the New Theater ProjectPerformances will begin at 8 p.m. this Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday -- June 28, 29, 30, and July 1 at the Mix Studio Theater at 130 W. Michigan in Ypsilanti, MI. General admission tickets are available for $15/$10 students at Brown Paper Tickets. See video promo and more info at "Mute Choir by Fratellanza" on the Oberon web log.

See also "Alexandra Clement Jones plays Richard II" for a review of Jim Manganello's Richard II production for the University of Michigan Rude Mechanicals.