For the past several years, playwright Kirk Lynn has been fixing Shakespeare one play at a time. "We started with Fixing King John, we have fixed Timon of Athens, and now we're fixing Troilus and Cressida," he says. "The aim is to start with the least-produced plays. Although, like anything, when you're digging in, you know, a band's b-sides... you find 'Oh my God, this is so beautiful!’"
"You know, the inspiration initially was [that] I was jogging and I was listening to the White Stripes play [the Robert Johnson song] "Stop Breaking Down," and I thought, 'This is so great. I wonder what Robert Johnson would think of this song?'" Lynn says. "And I thought, 'I really want to cover something.' And of course, covering something in theater just means adapting it."
So Lynn's Fixing Shakespeare series is essentially his cover versions of some of Shakespeare's lesser-known works, updated for a modern audience while and also made to fit into his own theatrical style a little better. Troilus and Cressida certainly fits into the category of lesser-produced Shakespeare plays, making it a natural choice for the series.
This is director Alexandra Shaw's second time working on a Fixing Shakespeare play (she co-directed Timon of Athens with Madge Darlington, who had previously helmed King John). "I feel very honored to carry the mantle into Troilus and Cressida. It's been a blast," she says.
Another facet of Troilus and Cressida that made it a prime candidate for fixing is that it's usually considered to be one of Shakespeare's "problem plays" -- it doesn't neatly fall into the comedy, tragedy, or history categories. "It is comic in some sense, but it's also not quite tragic because the fall of the characters is not because they are beautiful and brave but have some tragic flaw," Lynn says. "It's that they are complicated and greedy and cowardly and sad. There's a romance in the middle of a war and the war is corrupt and the romance itself gets corrupted. And so it's not a tragedy and it's not a comedy. It really is a problem play."
For Lynn and Shaw, the complicated nature of the play make it feel more current and timely than many of Shakespeare's other works, which might be why Troilus and Cressida wasn't terribly popular during Shakespeare’s own time. "I think the things we're trying to explore are... how can you be honest and true to yourself when you have to protect yourself? Or how can you love during war?" says Shaw. "And these things seem like the things I'm trying to figure out currently in my life today."