"A great while ago the world begun, With hey, ho, the wind and the rain; But that's all one, our play is done, And we'll strive to please you every day."
Twelfth Night Act V, Scene i
Mirth & Matter came about out of a sincere necessity for performance. The pandemic descended, and we rose to the occasion by gathering our favorite people to share a stage with and doing simple readings over Zoom. As the light at the end of the tunnel began to brighten, the idea to take what we discovered and bring it to an audience began to take hold.
We voluntarily met once a week for over a year over Zoom to read Shakespeare. Our favorite plays, obscure versions of those plays, plays we’d never seen performed or had even read - some of which became new favorites. We used it as an opportunity to read parts we would never get to read or play. Every scene we would read a different character, which lent itself to wild and crazy choices. As time went on that would come to include surprise costume and accent changes. Sometimes we would do things just to make each other laugh. This play reading group was what kept a lot of us going through months and months of no idea when live theater would return.
This gave us an extraordinary freedom to frolic and delight in these words and pieces so many have been taught to revere. Taking away the need to make something precious or meaningful, it was amazing how the meaning and the matchlessness of the plays came through even more strongly. Moments of levity lent by character choices that got named things like, Shouty Guy (almost always a messenger), Northern Guy (tends to be a little dumb), and High Status Guy (no explanation needed) would highlight Brutus and Cassius’s fight to mean something to each other, and Constance’s grief of her missing her child. That the words themselves pulled the meaning out of us when it was earnestly necessary.
We want to bring the joy we found to an audience.
We are an athletic, flexible, and exuberant group of people who love this stuff. We want to take away whatever wall (fourth or otherwise) that has separated the audience from Shakespeare and invite people in. We want to share the heartfelt glee we have found throughout this very dark and scary year. And we want to share it with you.