Antony and Cleopatra – 2014 Illinois Shakespeare Festival

Photo Credit: Pete Guither

Photo Credit: Pete Guither

Director: Kevin Rich
Scenic Design: Kristin Ellert
Lighting Design: Sarah Maines
Costume Design: Sandy Childers
Composer/Music Director: Shannon O’Neill
Composer/Asst. Music Director: Kieran Pereira
Choreographer: Jean Kerr

From the beginning we wanted this production of Antony and Cleopatra to be musical, but more rhythmic than melodic. We therefore kept hints of melody throughout the show, but focused on rhythm as our main composition/design technique. We had a “chorus” of actors who were to be our musicians. As many of these actors do not normally play music, I asked my assistant, Kieran, to come up with a few rhythms that we could teach the “chorus” so that we could then layer the rhythms throughout the show. We had music to represent Antony’s military background (rhythmic, pulsing, regimented) as well as music to represent the sensuality of Cleopatra (lighter, fluid).

Music for this production was highly collaborative. We worked extensively with our choreographer, Jean Kerr, to be sure that music matched up with dance an fight sequences. Often choreography and music composition happened at the same time, in order for us to ensure that everything fit together perfectly.

Here are some rehearsal recordings for the production (all files recorded on Zoom H4n):

Opening Dance:

The opening of the show started with a dance. I worked with our choreographer, Jean Kerr, to figure out how long we wanted music, and how much dancing would happen. As you hear the first few chimes, the audience gets introduced to our main characters, and as the drums begin to whip up into a frenzy, the rest of the cast enters the stage and bursts into a lusty dance. The idea is that at the beginning we combine our music of Egypt and Rome, bringing together the sensuality of Cleopatra and the intensity of Antony.

Though this recording features only our chorus, during the production all actors on stage sang the vocalized portion of this piece.

Sounds of Egypt:

These are the more sensual sounds of Egypt. Egypt always felt like 6/8 time to me, and while the music is made up of percussion instruments, it is far less rigid than the music of Rome.

Battle 3:

All of our battles were underscored. This was, again, a close collaboration with our choreographer. Here, you hear the drums lightly pulsing, raising tension during the dialogue that leads up to the battle. Then, the battle builds in intensity until it comes to a stop. Then the soft pulse comes back, indicating tension under the text that is spoken, until, as Antony exits, we hear a button at the end.

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