Shakespeare scholar Yu Jin Ko didn't blink when I asked him to drive up from Wellesley College in Massachusetts to see the Stonington Opera House production of "Antony and Cleopatra." He said: "Yes! It's one of my favorite plays." This will be Ko's third year joining the Opera House Arts Shakespeare festival to participate in post-show audience conversations with the audience. You can read his thoughts from past years on "Much Ado about Nothing" and "Measure for Measure." Ko, members of the creative team and I will talk with the audience after the performance of "Antony and Cleopatra" 7 p.m. Friday, July 13 at the Burnt Cove Church in Stonington, Maine. The show opens Thursday July 12 and runs through July 22. The following is an excerpt from an e-mail exchange with Ko.
The Stonington Opera House production of "Antony and Cleopatra" is very intentionally set in a church, and many of the scenes make use of the church as "pulpit" -- even though there is no pulpit in the church. Is "A&C" a good "church" play?
It's not a "good" church play -- it's a great church play. The main characters continually assert a spiritual, transcendent dimension to their love, even as they heap disdain on Roman moral attitudes that befit a "pulpit."
You wrote this about Antony and Cleopatra: "The heart of their world is the world of their hearts." Tell us more about this idea. Are they the greatest lovers in all of Shakespeare?
Yes, they are the greatest lovers in Shakespeare. (They make Romeo and Juliet look like the young kids that they are.) They love to use the world as their stage, but the world that ultimately matters to them -- the "new heaven, new earth" that they seek -- is the one they create together through their unruly but sublime romance.
You once mentioned to me that "A&C" is one of your favorite Shakespeare plays. Why?
It's the ultimate fantasy of sorts -- if you can be delinquent on an epic scale, you can achieve sublimity and redemption.
What scene or character will you most be watching for in this production? Is there a place in the play that has to be highlighted, heightened or done perfectly for the rest of the play to fly?
I love every part of this play, but I'll of course watch Cleopatra most closely. I like to joke with my students that either they're in love with Cleopatra or they're wrong.
Who is more powerful: Antony or Cleopatra?
Cleopatra. He always succumbs to her in the end, and it's Cleopatra who ultimately determines how we view Antony.