The Royale – A Note from Director Ameenah Kaplan

I first read The Royale in 2012. I was up for the job of choreographing it, but immediately after reading, I wanted to direct it. The Royale was a perfect storm of artistic techniques that lit a fire in my belly. I heard and saw music everywhere! In the language, in the characters, and in the clapping and stomping written into the script.

I’ve long been working in physical theatre. My mission has been to combine what we do with linear storytelling. This has been the bane of the community. We’ve set everything from the The Bacchae to A Midsummer Night’s Dream to movement, trying to find the formula. But, I’m attracted to new stories rather than recycling old ones. The Royale is a new play written specifically with movement and sound in the design. They are not appendages or creative afterthoughts, but rather integral parts of the story.

Ameenah chats with ACT Artistic Director John Langs (left) and Sound Designer Sharath Patel (right).

Of course, it’s not the first play to fall under this definition. What makes The Royale stand out is the excellence of the storytelling. Marco Ramirez has written a dynamite piece of literature. There are no wasted words and no wasted actions in The Royale. Marco had a very specific story to tell and he told it succinctly, with passion, and candor. I don’t know what was going through his mind when he chose rhythm as his preferred accompaniment, but in so doing, he was speaking the universal language of man. What better way to handle the difficult topic of race? Words have not sufficed. We are constantly misunderstanding each other with them. But with rhythm, this is hardly ever the case. It calms, it soothes, and it informs.

There are hard lessons to be learned in The Royale, hard history to be swallowed. Perhaps there is no need to draw the obvious parallel between the events of The Royale, set in the early 1900s, and the current events invading our smart phones and computer screens daily. Perhaps words just don’t suffice. Perhaps it’s time to do what we always do when there are no more words … we listen.

So, I invite you to listen to the heartbeat of The Royale. Listen to the undercurrent of rhythm. It speaks a language we can all understand.

The cast and creative team of The Royale.

The Royale runs September 9-October 9 at ACT Theatre. Tickets and info here.



One thought on “The Royale – A Note from Director Ameenah Kaplan

  1. I saw The Royale last Saturday, October 8. I stayed for the discussion. I truly enjoyed the story and the production, and so I was confused with my uneasy, empty feeling at the end. I figured it out the next morning. Unlike Jay Jackson’s trainer in the Royale fights, Jay was never going to be alone in the ring against the white champion and Nina’s concerns. On his side were the hopes and dreams of all African Americans. I wanted to see the embodiment of that in the final bout. While Nina’s fears are well-founded, prescient and real, they also present an illusory choice between fighting and not fighting. White Americans were killing black Americans anyway. The only prayer with a chance to stop such mistreatment was for Jay to fight and win. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to see this play.

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