Q+A: Sock ‘n’ Buskin director Tamara LaPlante

Tamara LaPlante is directing a production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night for Sock ‘n’ Buskin Theatre Company. With the show’s opening just days away, The Charlatan spoke with her to learn about the play, the directing process, and why she prefers comedies to tragedies.

The Charlatan (TC): Let’s start with why Twelfth Night? What drew you to the play?

Tamara LaPlante (TL): Sock ‘n’ Buskin kind of has a bit of a tradition where we’ve started doing Shakespeare every year. It used to be we did a Shakespeare and a musical every year, we haven’t done a musical in a couple years. I really like tradition, and I also really prefer the comedies over the tragedies. I think tragedies are important, but as for watching something, a comedy like Twelfth Night with an ensemble cast is just really fun for two and a half hours.

TC: Why do you prefer the comedies?

TL: I would like to say it’s because I’m a hopeless romantic. All the comedies usually end with a marriage or two people getting together, and I also just really like to laugh. When I go to see theatre, I like to forget about everything else that’s going on in my life, and watch what’s happening on stage. In Twelfth Night, there’s a prank scene that goes on, people fall in love, people fall in love with the wrong people. All these things happen, and then it comes together at the end when you don’t think it will.

TC: Is it a challenge adapting Shakespeare?

TL: I think it can be, because they’re done so frequently. So, every director wants to try to do something new or something original and have their own take on it. But at the same time, they might also find it’s inaccessible because it’s a script from 400 years ago. I think the themes in Twelfth Night will really be relatable for university students more than they think. Like I said, falling in love with the wrong people probably happens all the time, playing pranks on your friends, getting into disagreements, miscommunication, that all happens in Twelfth Night. The actors didn’t have a hard time relating to their characters at all.

TC: What can you tell me about your cast?

TL: They are so incredible, and they’re the most wonderful group of people I’ve ever met. There’s some people I’ve known for my four years at Carleton, and some people that I’ve just met this year in the cast. But they are all dedicated to the show, and they’ve never been afraid to take risks with their characters, which is something I encourage them to do, and make their characters as big and exciting as possible. They really fill the stage. They’re really excited to be a part of the show.

TC: Tell me a little bit about your directing experience. What was it like for you?

TL: This is my first time directing pretty much anything, and I’ve been in quite a few Sock ‘n’ Buskin productions. So, I’ve tried take from the directors I’ve had in the past, and see what skills worked for them, what challenges they had, and use that to inspire my cast. I tried to be as available as possible to go over lines, any questions about the context of the play, and with that, I tried to really understand the text. I read it about three times before we started rehearsals to make sure I understood everything going into them. But at the same time, I didn’t want to have a vision in my head before we started rehearsal. That way, I could see what the actors brought to the table as well.

TC: What were some of the biggest things you took from past directors that you applied to this production?

TL: I think a lot of people who aren’t in Sock ‘n’ Buskin have this idea of a director and what that means, to be somebody that’s calling all the shots and may or may not be a very stern person. But it’s definitely the opposite in our company. So really trying to extend friendship and really getting to know each cast member as individuals was important. For example, Casey [Beynon] from last year, I was her stage manager, and I looked at her directorial style of just having an outline and an agenda for each rehearsal. That way, I’m prepared when I come into the room and can keep the actors on track. Matthew Venner, who’s in the show, he was the director of As You Like It two years ago. He taught that it’s ok to not have all the answers right away, and to just take a step back, think about it, and come back with a full answer.

TC: Were there any big challenges that you ran into along the way?

TL: We’ve lost a couple people in the show, including a stage manager and one of the leads. It’s not because they didn’t like the show, they just felt Carleton wasn’t the right fit for them. Thankfully, it wasn’t too last minute, but replacing those roles is a challenge. When you’re replacing people and having to play catch-up, it can be difficult.

TC: Is there a particular scene in the production that stands out to you?

TL: There’s a scene in the later half of the show that’s kind of the climax of the prank they play on the character Malvolio. They have locked him away in a room, and they try to convince him that he’s gone mad. The character Feste, played by Molly McGuire comes on, and she plays her own character as well as taking on the personality of another character called Sir Topas. Watching her go back and fourth between the two is the most hilarious thing I’ve ever seen.

TC: What can we expect to see in the show? Like what approach are you guys taking for this production?

TL: As I mentioned, Shakespeare’s been adapted so many different times and trying to do a period piece can be very difficult, so I didn’t really want to do that. The timeline isn’t definitive, but in that I’ve tried to bring in a few absurdist techniques, just making the actions as big as possible. People who haven’t read Twelfth Night before might have difficulty understanding the dialogue, but they can understand the action they see the characters doing.

TC: What has your Sock ‘n’ Buskin experience over the last few years meant to you?

TL: It has been kind of my home at Carleton. Outside of class, it’s where I spend most of my time. I’ve been involved with the company since my first year and it’s my fourth year now, and Twelfth Night will probably be the last production I do with them. So having the honour to direct is really wonderful. It’s where I’ve made all of my friends, and I just really built a home at Carleton.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Photo by Meagan Casalino