As in many of Shakespeareâ€™s plays, over the course of Pericles the protagonist loses everything â€“ family, love, fortune and friends.
â€œBut unlike other plays, he doesnâ€™t do anything wrong to lose everything,â€ said Joe Haj, producing artistic director of PlayMakers Repertory Theater and director of the companyâ€™s production of Pericles.
Moreover, â€œHe gets it all back, and he doesnâ€™t do anything right to get it back.â€
Pericles is one of Shakespeareâ€™s lesser-known works, which some consider to be a â€œproblem play,â€ but Haj wanted to bring it to the stage of the Paul Green Theater to hopefully share his love and understanding of the play with a larger audience.
â€œI think it really is much more the way life actually goes, where itâ€™s not just the very good people who get the good things,â€ he said. â€œI think thatâ€™s where the play is profound and successful.â€
PlayMakers has produced Pericles once before, during the 1991-92 season at the theater, but this production is different, featuring the original music of Jack Herrick of the Red Clay Ramblers.
While not a musical, the production places a heavy emphasis on Herrickâ€™s music, which he performs with 14 cast members throughout the production. Both Haj and Herrick felt the music should play an important part in the play, which begins, after all, with the words of Gower, â€œTo sing a song that old was sung…â€
Herrick said he used some of the text of the play in the song lyrics he wrote for the production, as many of the words seemed to flow into song. Building on the text, Herrick wrote songs to help tell the tale of Periclesâ€™ adventures across foreign lands and oceans.
â€œI wanted to find a style that would be appropriate for the piece and the production, so the first job was to figure out a musical style that would fit with the text,â€ Herrick said, describing the music he wrote for the play as â€œa cross between old-timey and middle eastern.â€
Herrick isnâ€™t new to creating music for theatrical productions. He and the Red Clay Ramblers have produced music for a number of plays, and when the Ramblers couldnâ€™t fit Pericles into their schedule, Herrick decided to do it on his own.
â€œI really enjoy writing songs to go along with Shakespeareâ€™s text,â€ Herrick said, adding that he couldnâ€™t turn down an opportunity to work with a local production.
â€œUsually I have to travel to some distant city or country,â€ he said. The last play he produced music for was rehearsed and produced in Wales.
Haj said the production benefited from having Herrick involved at every step along the way.
â€œJack was able to build the music going along with the talents of the cast,â€ he said. While some cast members sing, others play the guitar, flute or other instruments throughout the production.
â€œItâ€™s an incredibly talented cast musically,â€ Haj said.
The production also features a unique set, with an ocean built into the stage.
â€œWe thought that getting water into the set was a really, really important element,â€ Haj said. Pericles spends much of the play traveling across oceans.
Although Pericles is known by few, Haj said he hopes that people will come to see the play and understand why it was one of Shakespeareâ€™s most popular during his lifetime.
â€œOur theater has a long history of producing Shakespeareâ€™s plays,â€ Haj said. â€œYou canâ€™t spend all your time in the middle of the hit parade.â€
Performances will run Sept. 24 to Oct. 12, with shows at 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 4; and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets range from $10 to $40. Free post-show discussions will be held Oct. 1 and Oct. 5. In addition, on Oct. 7 PlayMakers will offer an all-access performance with sign-language interpretation and audio description for attendees with special needs.
For a schedule or to purchase tickets, call 962-PLAY or visit www.playmakersrep.org.