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