Shakespeare at Winedale Retrospective

In memory of James Loehlin

Winedale photos

In Memory of James Loehlin

  • Our first Sunday night tragedy… We were warned beforehand that the audience’s reactions during a Sunday night tragedy would be more subdued, but it still stung. James once told us, “Nothing feels worse than thinking you’re funny on stage and nobody laughing.” That’s exactly how I felt after Hamlet 1.3 of our first Sunday night tragedy show, when there was absolute silence where our opening crowd had roared with laughter. I remember talking to a few other people who felt similarly disheartened at the audience’s lack of reactions. But a few scenes later, I glanced at James, who was watching from the vestibule, and he had just the largest smile on his face. It instantly made people feel better, because a smile from James meant more to us than an entire barn full of laughter.

  • Madeleine and I were drumming the “kettle to the trumpet” cue in Hamlet, and we had been doing just a few hits on the snare and bass. Nothing elaborate. James came up to us and went, “I’m not very musical, but maybe it could go like—” into an elaborate description of what he was picturing. “It could start with a bass drum going *extended drum noises*, and then the snare drum could come in like *extended drum noises*, and then the trumpet could go *extended trumpet noises*, and then the cannons could go off.” After a pause, “Or something like that.”

  • He always had complete faith in us and knew how to help us find our confidence if needed, and he always knew just how much to push us. When it came to my own roles, James was definitely aware of how hard it was for me to throw myself into the Ophelia madness scene. During plinth time, I could never bring myself to even just read the lines as practice; the scene was just so intimidating to me. And he had to reassure me multiple times that even though I had rated my singing as a 2/10, nobody would care how bad the singing was because Ophelia was insane. Still, he never pushed me to practice or demonstrate the scene for him until we had an actual onstage runthrough of Hamlet. The first time I performed the madness scene in front of everyone, I was terrified and incredibly self-conscious of being on that stage. But as soon as I ran off the stage, James turned to me and gave me a big smile and thumbs-up. And then he thought I didn’t see it, so he made a point of calling my name to give me another smile and thumbs-up and tell me that the scene was good. There was something about his full confidence and support, and the fact that he really wanted to make sure we felt it, that made it so much easier to get on stage every time after that.

  • Someone came up with “enjambment” as the weapon for Murder. As painful as it was for the players, James was just so clearly delighted and happy watching the entire time. Another time, James was playing Murder and the weapon was a rejected job application. At one point, James pretended to shred someone’s resume, and his look of evil glee was priceless.

  • Before our final dress rehearsal for Hamlet, James suggested I try a different energy for the Ophelia madness scene. He said that there was something tragic about a put-together young lady going mad, but maybe I should try looking like I hadn’t slept in days, that I’d been rolling around in mud and dirt, etc. So before the next madness scnee, I tried rolling around in the grass and smearing myself with mud, and it indeed felt feral and unhinged in a weirdly energizing way. So I have him to thank for my endless, joyous rolls in the grass, which ended up becoming one of my favorite parts of running Hamlet.

  • He painted such a breathtaking Hamlet leg on the cow. There’s a striking black-and-white portion that depicts Hamlet ascending a tower, and there’s also an absolutely beautiful rendition of the famous Ophelia painting.

  • I played the soothsayer in Cymbeline, and it was a never-ending struggle to figure out what the costume should look like. I went through a variety of accessories, from a creepy cloak to a rainbow scarf (to wearing both at the same time), but James nixed all of them. While I was still mourning the loss of the rainbow scarf, I put on a huge, ridiculous-looking feather headdress and showed it to James as a joke. But then he got this thoughtful expression that instantly made me regret it, and he said, “You know what, that works.” And so I wore the headdress, and I could never get rid of it because it became part of the character and nobody would let me ditch it.

  • During the feast scene in As You Like It, someone came up with a bit where Orlando is careless with his sword and unintentionally terrifies everyone as he waves it around the stage. At some point during our post-run circle, James peered at his notebook and said with a grim smile, “Let’s play a game. I wrote down here, ‘I hate that bit.’ Can anyone guess what it is?”

  • Towards the very end of the summer, people started messing around with a bow and arrow, which culminated in Bridget accidentally shooting Allison’s car. A group of students visited James and brought up the archery incident, and apparently James said, “Now if Megan shot the car, I would have been surprised, but when I heard it was Bridget, I thought, Yeah, that tracks.

  • People sang “Solidarity Forever” for an off-stage cue in Hamlet, and James later mentioned that cue (something positive and along the lines that the energy was good). Someone asked if they could keep singing the same song, and James immediately went, “Oh, hell no.”

  • James said in one post-run circle with a slightly pained smile, “I wrote down, ‘Why isn’t line time fixing things?’” It made it funnier when he caught Fronia and Bridget goofing off on the porch during line time the next day.

  • The AC in the classroom broke, and James asked if it was fixed or still “a miasmic zone of horror”.

  • One of the scenes in Cymbeline depicts Cloten serenading Imogen, and there was one rehearsal where our Cloten decided to go all out. Unfortunately, I had to stay backstage during that scene and never got to witness it in its full glory. But from what I can gather, it involved stripping down to rainbow underwear, a fake “I <3 Imogen” chest tattoo, and a hula hoop. The majority of the bit was of course nixed by James. But the most important part is that a few weeks later, James made the executive decision to let Cloten keep the hula hoop.

September 19, 2023