Austin Shakespeare’s production of Old Times, a Harold Pinter play, is just getting started. Director Ann Ciccolella takes us behind the scenes of what it’s like creating Pinter’s world of Old Times.
Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter is a master of theater. His dialogue zigs and zags in surprising directions—and in Old Times, memory is the central spike. Pinter’s characters are continually vying to gain power positions over one another. For me as director, style is the aesthetic pleasure of this work. Pinter began writing poetry at age 12 to assuage his broken heart over his first love. He wrote hundreds of poems before his first play and continued to his death in 2008. My attraction to Old Times lies in the characters, and particularly in how they speak—oftentimes in surprising patterns. This script unfurls like a long dramatic poem. We hope you recall your own romantic memories here, and are drawn into an intriguing journey with a playwright who relishes language.
Now that we are in front of audiences we are discovering it’s true, Pinter’s Old Times is a comedy of menace, studded with powerful pauses and silences. People are laughing—different times each time—but nonetheless getting the ironies. College students have been responding positively, experiencing a masterpiece of rarely performed theater. Actors are having a fabulous time dancing around the ambiguities of their romantic triangle.
We are also having a blast with lines from mid-twentieth century songs: Lovely to look at, Blue Moon / They can’t take that away from me / All the things you are / I get no kick from champagne / Smoke gets in your eyes / These foolish things / Just the way you look tonight. One of our actors, Jill Blackwood has starred in tons of musicals, most recently at Zach Theatre, but her dark mysterious portrayal in Pinter is far from Mary Poppins.
Another welcome surprise is the positive response to the lighting by Patrick Anthony and how it transforms the stage with the audience sitting in the round, especially during crucial confrontations.
Just before we opened we realized that we should note that, although there is no nudity in the show, it is suggested for “Adult Audiences.”
Every performance of an Austin Shakespeare show includes a post-performance audience discussion, oftentimes with special guests. On opening night we heard from UT English professor Dr. Elizabeth Richmond Garza. You never know what audiences are going to say and especially with a highly poetic ambiguous play like Pinter’s.
Notice that the bar features a specialty cocktail: “The Pinter Pause,” with delicious new Banner’s wheat whiskey! The entire performance is less than 90 minutes. And you can pre-order your drink at the top of the show and it will be waiting for you at intermission!
Just last year, Academy Award-winner Clive Owen played “Deeley” in Roundabout Theatre’s production of Old Times. “I find it very funny,” said Owen. “Often the funniest things come out of the toughest but totally truthful situations. There’s twisted humor in it and all of the humor comes out of honesty.”
Austin Shakespeare is presenting Old Times in Rollins Studio Theatre through March 5. Come enjoy a “Pinter’s Pause” with us!