Columbus Makes Art Presents: The Winter’s Tale at Actors’ Theatre with Director Micah Logsdon
Micah Logsdon has performed, written, directed and administered theater for more than 20 years. We sat down with
him to discuss his directorial process for Actors’ Theatre’s upcoming production of William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and its Appalachian setting.
Scott Vezdos: Describe your art and your creative process.
Micah Logsdon: I don’t know if I’m comfortable with the idea of “My Art” or “My Process.” I was a little kid that lived in their head and struggled to, or did not have much control of, how that got dumped out into the world. I drew my own comic books in kindergarten. I wrote stories. I forced other kids to re-enact most of Ghostbusters with me during recess. I was Winston. I was very concerned that the line reading of “Ray…When someone asks you if you’re a God… you say YES!” be presented just right. Art, at its simplest, for me is communication. Anything “artistic” I may have ever done has just been me trying to talk.
Scott: What inspires you most about the Columbus arts community?
Micah: That it is a community in a very real sense. From CAPA to Actors’ Theatre, there is a very real sense that the work of one organization or group of artists services another. No one artist or company exists in a vacuum and all must exist and thrive for the work of one to have value. The success of one is the foundation of the success of another.
Scott: What does Columbus make possible for your creative process that you wouldn’t find anywhere else?
Micah: For me Columbus provides balance. There’s ample opportunity for expression and engagement and it can be balanced with having a large dog, a house, a baby. I spent nearly a decade in New York City and midway through it all… I realized the creative expression had just stopped and been replaced by survival. I worked professionally in theatre, but I didn’t make anything.
Scott: How do you feel about the difference between directing and performing?
Micah: Acting is specific and directing is broad. With acting you only have to worry about the character you’re recreating and the interactions with the people and the world that that person has. With directing the concern is the whole world and everything in it. For who I am I find directing an easier fit, it plays off talents, or lack thereof, pretty well. But for who I am I find acting way easier to do.
Scott: What was the inspiration behind the Appalachian setting and music of ATC’s The Winter’s Tale?
Micah: It was a whole collection of bits and pieces of inspiration – different little bits that came together perfectly. It started with the music. Last summer, I was driving home from a performance, listening to the album Doc Watson and Jean Ritchie: At Folk City – two of the greatest performers and standard bearers of American Traditional music – and it all just hit me, very quickly, and fell together between German Village and Clintonville. Here were two performers from Appalachia, who share a musical tradition and vocabulary, who on one night got in a bar in New York City. And played music from home. But they’re not from the same home, sure they are both from Appalachia, but Jean was from Eastern Kentucky, Doc from Western North Carolina. Two places so much a like except for one thing – coal. In Kentucky, (and West Virginia) the coal companies had come in, taken land, leveled mountains, and trapped the people into a cycle of servitude and toil. And that hadn’t happened in North Carolina, or Tennessee, or Georgia. And yet here were these two very pure very real voices merging together so freely. And it sort of hit me how well that dynamic fit The Winter’s Tale. Everything quickly fell into place.
There is the dialect. I remember a professor in college, as we muddled through Shakespeare, trying to break us all of the habit of becoming British when we performed the text, telling us that the way we spoke was no more true to the text than any English dialect spoken today. The language has evolved. (Look at all the text that once rhymed that now does not.) If there were any people alive today who still spoke a dialect even vaguely close, he said, it was in Appalachia… where bits and pieces of early English culture had not met with the influences and merging with the cultures and voices of hundreds of willing and forced immigrants as it had in big cities, across the south, in the westward expansion. The language had not changed as it had in England due to the influence of the Continent and empire.
And of course there was the music. The play as written has four or five songs. And I could have thrown in a traditional tune here and there, swapping Shakespeare for Kentucky, for a little flavor. But there was too much of an opportunity here. There are songs sung and passed down in Appalachia today that were sung 400 years ago. There are songs we will perform in the show that in some form were sung in Shakespeare’s time. Songs about murder, lords and ladies, betrayal, faith, nonsense. Sung to pass the time. Sung to share a connection between father and son, mother and daughter, to teach, to scare, to make laugh. Which is after all what a Winter’s Tale is. A story meant to pass a long winter’s evening.
Scott: What makes the works of William Shakespeare still relevant 400 years after his death?
Micah: For all its beautiful language and celebrated stories, Shakespeare’s plays are littered with toilet humor, raunchiness, sex, profanity, murder, puns, alongside the lofty tragedy, the heroes, the villains and unrequited love. They are a brilliant mix of everything. They are works that don’t take themselves too seriously, even if we tend to take them that way.
Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting art and advancing culture in Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at how #artmakescbus.