My lovely college friend Hannah Kushnick co-runs this awesome thing every month in Chicago. Pecha Kucha is Japanese for “the sound of conversation,” apparently, and it’s a presentation format in which you make 20 slides that hold for 20 seconds each. She and artist Rachel Herman ask presenters to adapt this any way they see fit, including using theatrical devices and audience participation. This is an unofficial series, held at the amazing Hyde Park Art Center, and Hannah asked me back in April if I wanted to present on the theme of “repair.” The other presenters were so, so great, and we had an awesome discussion (with wine!) after, plus it took place inside a giant sculpture of a bull. You should make it to the next one if you can.
You all know how much I love Cymbeline. A lot of that comes from how frankly wacky it can be. I started thinking about our desire to fix or iron out things we don’t understand, which then led to thoughts about the PowerPoint presentation we’ve all dreaded (and secretly always wanted to sabotage). Here’s my off-road pecha kucha; I hope it makes you smile.
Hello. Hello, welcome. Thank you. To both our esteemed chairs, I appreciate your time. I’m Edeth Garblers, team leader for this action committee, and this is my presentation.
I need not summarize the uproar that made this committee necessary. You all read the material…? Okay, well, I’m certain you understand the gravity of this meeting. Our reputation is at stake with every new product we release.
As you’re aware, our task today is to recommend action steps to ensure that our audiences get what they pay for, which is a quality production from Mr. S. We have delivered on this guarantee for years, sometimes, as you’re aware, with more work behind the scenes than people know.
We already had certain challenging metrics in mind before the submission, and had advised Mr. S. to pivot away from certain trends. Of course, we have nothing but respect for Mr. S and his tremendous catalog of work, but what we seem to have in this latest item is a clips show.
I give you, in brief, the cast of Cymbeline: An angry king who is angry at his youngest daughter. An evil stepmother. A headstrong ingenue.
An impoverished lover in exile. An idiot clown who nonetheless tested very well in in-house focus groups. A number of clever servants. None of which, of course, are deal breakers.
We all remember what a critical and commercial success our last venture with an angry semi-mythic British king with daughters was. I think we have it in us to pull something equally great from this text.
We became concerned at the introduction of a manipulative Italian named Iachimo. I’ve made notes in your packets of other such recurring characters, including the Leonatus figure, whose inspiration has already contacted our office on several occasions, saying he’s apologized to Mr. S.
This was the first of many red flags. Whether Mr. S is employing some kind of post-modern japery or if he’s simply phoning it in, is beside the point. We only have so many days before this goes live, and once it’s in the world, we can’t ever take it back.
But we still have time. We can turn this around. You all remember a similar meeting after Pericles, Prince of Tyre. We did good work and gave good feedback to Mr. S. Coriolanus and The Winter’s Tale followed.
We have our work cut out for us, though, as those of who have read the material will know. I see a few heads nodding around the room. The committee recommends attention to the following plot points.
Cross-dressing. Yet another lovesick heroine who dresses as a boy and runs off into the woods. Haven’t we cross-dressed enough at this institution? Do we as a society still need to see women playing men and talking about it?
Cloten, a buffoon with a real heart in him underneath. We feel the text is too hard on the clown, whose comical attempts at wooing the heroine are sure to tickle everyone’s funny bone. Perhaps introduce a female counterpart for him to love instead?
As valued and important as we are, we are and remain an arts organization. You know what kind of effect culture can have on the people. Funding always remains tentative. Perhaps reconsider the future king of Britain almost literally being raised by wolves.
Back to Cloten. I really want to emphasize how well he tested with focus groups. Beheading him early in Act Four seems sudden and graphic, given the earlier light-heartedness of the character.
We’re a touch concerned about the hero spending most of the play wanting to kill his wife, when he’s been deceived about her faithfulness. Maybe iron that out — mind control subplot, perhaps? It doesn’t make sense that she takes him back at the end otherwise.
Some of you in the room, you knew this was coming. The actual deus ex machina, in which Jupiter descends on an eagle into a prison cell full of ghosts, just seems dangerous to stage, in addition to desperate storytelling.
When we consider the sum total, especially the frankly outlandish fifth-act resolution, well. It looks a little simple, and bafflingly not up to par.
Mr. S. has so far been reluctant to offer any insight as to his decision-making process. Nor is he, as you can see, choosing to join us today. But the work needs work. Luckily, that’s what we’re here for.
This committee has done great work in the past, and I honor that and expect similar greatness today. I now open the floor for a solution-oriented discussion, and I invite you to share your comments and thoughts.
For those who want some triumphant exit music, I recommend Neko Case’s “Man,” quoted in Slide No. 12. Though the Loreena McKennitt song is quite lovely too.