Like so many directors, husband-and-wife fight choreo-graphers Josh Brown and Kelly Elliott wanted to put their stamp on Shakespeare. So they started with a dictionary of the Bard's characters, which notes whether each character dies, and if so, how. That's the part that interested them.
"We found every death in Shakespeare, and we made a huge spreadsheet," says Elliott. They counted about 150 fatalities in the Bard's 37 plays.
From those, they selected the ones who died in fights — more specifically, the fights they thought could benefit from their cinematically informed style. The result is Kill Will, which — along with Carly Garinger, Danielle Hisey and Doug Snyder's Cramped — opens Cleveland Public Theatre's Big [BOX] series this week. Performed by Elliott and Brown, directed by Alison Garrigan, Kill Will contains no actual scenes from Shakespeare. It's just the fights, as the show's creators see them.
"We're starting off with [the big Capulet vs. Montague fight scene from] Romeo and Juliet, but we do it Matrix- style, and it ends with an extravagant, John Woo-style gunfight," says Elliott.
Another is a kind of duel, taken from Henry VI Part II, in which a servant accuses his boss of committing treason against the crown. They beat each other to death with sand bags.
In each case, Elliott and Brown add their own twists. "I don't want to give too much away," says Elliot, but she reveals that they will present "all the fights" in MacBeth, staging them as a big video game.
Kill Will also includes fights from Antony and Cleopatra, Julius Caesar and Richard III.
"Most of the ways we are presenting [the fights] are in homage to quintessential movie fights we've seen through the decades," says Elliott.