All’s Well That Ends Well First Rehearsal Recap
By Bridgette Ramirez
January 6, 2022
Capturing both a magical essence and human complexity, Shakespeare’s unconventional comedy All’s Well That Ends Well subverts what we think of fairytales and what makes a “happily ever after.” Director Nike Doukas (she/her) evoked this sentiment with her opening words at first rehearsal: “The title of this play gives away the ending, which is a strange thing to do. I think Shakespeare is not interested in how everything turns out well but why. In other words, what we as human beings need to do to make things turn out well.”
Helena, the leading lady who does whatever it takes to get her beloved, touches on this idea when she says, “Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie.” Containing some of Shakespeare’s strongest female characters, All’s Well That Ends Well follows the young healer Helena as she ropes in a cast of fools, romantics, and cynics in her pursuit of her runaway groom Bertram. All’s Well That Ends Well is being rediscovered and produced nationally for its focus on a younger generation demanding change and the community of women in the play who are centered as pillars of wisdom and virtue.
While Helena does show admirable tenacity, she suffers from flaws like all the characters in the play. “Three of the many themes in the play that resonate for me are: forbearance, community and forgiveness,” said Doukas. “Despite some of the ugly things that happen, I think it’s one of Shakespeare’s kindest plays because of the kindness and tolerance from everyone in it.”
With that, Doukas shifted the attention to Resident Artist Scenic Designer Frederica Nascimento (she/her) to talk about her vision for the play’s world, which she said “leads with light.”
“To tell this story as a fairytale, the biggest decision we made was to completely open the fourth wall, expose the back of the theatre, add depth into the shop,” said Nascimento. “We are creating two mirrored rooms that allow for a lot of sunlight to go through the windows, a long beautiful staircase for the actors to play with, a Vermeer sky and floor. Nike wanted me to inspire the world with Vermeer paintings and create our own.”
From French doors to royal blue palace walls to yellow silk curtains to vast black staircases, Nascimento’s scenic design delves into the luminous presence of light, shadow, and vivid color. “This play has archetypal and folktale elements, but it’s also psychologically rich,” said Doukas. “Vermeer’s paintings spoke to me about the textural feel of this play that’s different from a more literal storybook setting.”
According to Resident Artist Costume Designer Angela Balogh Calin (she/her), the costumes as well as the set takes a whimsical folktale approach. “While we’re in France in the beginning of the play, the costumes will be ornate and in dark saturated colors and make strong class distinctions,” said Calin. “Then as we go into Italy, where there is more freedom (and hot weather), the mood will change dramatically. Hopefully, we’ll bring the light and color to the costumes, too.”
As far as time period, costumes will beckon all the way from the 17th century to the 21st century, playing with period and contemporary looks. For this production, it’s less about historical accuracy and more about making the characters feel like real people.
“There’s a progression of season where we start in the winter and end in the spring,” said Doukas.
Another element of whimsy will come in the form of music. Doukas mentioned how the female Clown will sing a short song and how Bertram will form a singing trio with his friends to try to woo a young woman named Diana in Italy. Composer & Sound Designer John Ballinger promised to provide all the proper accompaniment to help everyone to sing well.
After the designer presentations concluded, Stage Manager Alyssa Escalante (she/her) cued the cast to begin their first reading and asked whether to read the stage directions. Doukas said, “Use your discretion, we trust you implicitly.” Grinning, Escalante replied, “Well, that’s your mistake.” The cast laughed and then began their reading, and Shakespeare’s rich and resonant words took flight once again.
Learn more about All’s Well That Ends Well and get tickets today! Performances begin on February 6.