October 5, 2010

Monkeying around may be theater too, says director

“Can monkeys make theater?” It’s a question that brought dozens of students to Max Palevsky East on Friday, but theater director Sean Graney didn’t have an answer.

“I’m here to ask, not answer that question,” said Graney, wearing a green cap, a tattoo, and a wide smile on his face. Graney challenged attendees to consider theater in a broader context — asking if monkeys can make theater, he said, isn’t such an absurd question.

The director of Court Theatre’s ongoing production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, Graney challenged audience members to examine their relationship with theater throughout the talk. He asked audience members how their lives might be different without theater and what society would be like without performance.

“Going to the theater for me is like a dress rehearsal for life,” he said.

Graney has directed a number of plays at Court Theatre, most recently the popular Mystery of Irma Vep. He also founded The Hypocrites, a Chicago-based theater company known for its avant-garde approach to adapting classics.

His adaptation of The Comedy of Errors includes historical dialogue but is still relevant to contemporary audiences, Graney said. He aims to capture the pulse of the play and communicate it in a way that today’s audience can understand, he said. “What [Shakespeare] wanted for his society, I wanted for our society: the comedy of the errors.”

Graney suggested that there is a symbiotic relationship between actors and the audience and this is both a product of and a contributor to learned behavior. “Theater is not about entertainment or escape for me,” he said. “It’s about seeing something worthy of beholding which will inform me of aspects of my life.”