Shelbyville Times-Gazette, 23. Juni 2008
Davies sets Shakespeare play in South
By Mary Reeves
The director of the upcoming Tennessee Shakespeare Festival’s „A Midsummer Night’s Dream“ stands beneath the massive tent on the Webb School grounds, answering questions, giving instructions, and, yes, directing the flow of work going on around him. Clad in khakis and black T-shirt, actor Lane Davies is in his element.
Despite years of success in Hollywood, Davies remains a casual, country boy at heart, and a Southern one at that. The Georgia native is exposing those deep Southern roots with this play — setting it not in ancient Greece, or even Elizabethan England, but in the deep South during the Great Depression.
„I wanted to do something different,“ said Davies, who has directed nine previous productions of the play. „It occurred to me there was an Athens, Ga., as well as an Athens, Greece.“
Bell Buckle isn’t exactly Athens, Ga., but the graceful grounds and Southern feel are there. The show will run Friday, Saturday and Sunday, then again July 4, 5 and 6 at Webb School.
Although there has been a serious change in geography and time period, he said the atmosphere is much the same. Instead of being fairies and elves, the spirits such as Titania, Oberon and Puck are just that — spirits. The king and queen of fairies are actually a couple who died in the Civil War (or, as Davies put it, ‚The War of Northern Aggression,‘) and the other sprites are the ghosts of children — orphans and runaways who also died during that time.
„Titania plays a game with them and tells them they are fairies to keep them from finding out they are really dead,“ said Davies.
He takes a few other liberties with the play — but not many.
„Most of the Southern accents are authentic, thanks to the Nashville talent pool,“ he said.
Sam Dalton, a producer now making his home in Bell Buckle, met Davies when they were both cast on the soap „Santa Barbara.“ He says the changes in the play’s setting have had a definite impact on him.
„I’d never really gotten into Shakespeare that much,“ he said. „What Lane has done is put it somewhat in the language — the patois — of the South. Now, all of a sudden, you understand what Shakespeare was all about.“
„English at that time was a very mongrel language. He showed us how it should sound,“ said Davies.
„I’m what you call a ‚Bardolator,'“ he went on, laughing. „I think Shakespeare teaches us how to be caring, responsible, thinking human beings. We’ve had great poets, great philosophers and even great psychologists, but nobody ever put it all together like Shakespeare did.“
Davies‘ arrival in Bell Buckle is the latest stop in a circuitous journey. Born in Dalton, Ga., he was born into a family that loved to entertain. His father was a radio announcer and his mother was involved with community theater. Even his three brothers were involved with theater. But it wasn’t until high school that he stopped working behind the stage and started working on it.
He earned a degree in speech and theater at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. There, he met Ruth Cordell and Ralph Jones and a slew of others who would later prove to be invaluable contacts as he built his Southern cast of the play.
In fact, Davies was performing „The Taming of the Shrew“ in Los Angeles with Ruth Cordell when Henry Jones, another former classmate, came out to see them. He also happened to be a history teacher at Webb School.
„He started doing some talking informally about doing Shakespeare in Bell Buckle someday,“ said Davies.
Later, Cordell was in Bell Buckle, considering becoming the director of the theater department at Webb, and Davies came to visit.
„The headmaster, Albert (Cauz) said he wanted to make Bell Buckle a destination for Shakespeare,“ said Davies.
Plans started moving. With assistance from the Tennessee Repertory Company Webb School, MTSU, and, of course, Bell Buckle itself, the first of what Davies hopes will be many, many of Shakespeare’s plays is set to open.
There will be premium seating (under the tent) for $10 in advance or $15 at the door, and $5 festival seating, which is on the grass outside.
„The line of sight is excellent — you’ll be able to see and hear everything,“ said Davies. „Bring lawn chairs, bring a quilt. Bring some Off! for the chiggers…“
He said those attending can also bring beverages — „the libation of their preference.“ There will be concessions available, as well as souvenirs and a wine-tasting tent.
Davies has had multiple roles on television and in movies, his first appearance being a one-shot on „CHiPs.“ Many remember him as the original „Mason Capwell,“ on the soap „Santa Barbara,“ although his first soap appearance was a less-lived Dr. Evan Whyland on „Days of Our Lives.“ Other soap appearances would include „The Bold and the Beautiful,“ and „General Hospital.“
Before the big „Santa Barbara“ break, Davies was in the feature film, „The Magic of Lassie,“ and was in several made-for-TV movies.
But even as he made waves in „Santa Barbara,“ it was the stage, not the sound stage, that kept pulling at him.
„I have a lot more fun doing this than I ever did doing television,“ said Davies, referring to live theater. „And I love doing television!“
In fact, Davies has just completed a movie in Louisiana with Ally Sheedy, Ruby Dee and Midsummer’s cast mate Kate Siegel called „Steam,“ and has also completed a comedy pilot.
In California, with the Santa Susana Repertory company and the Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival in Thousand Oaks, to Georgia, and now to Tennessee, Davies has been working hard to bring Shakespeare to the nation. He plays Oberon in this play, and has also taken on the roles of Hamlet, Macbeth, Petruchio, Henry V, Shylock, King Lear, Richard III, and in a non-Shakesperian moment, Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac.
He’s also kept busy in television, making guest appearances as the psychopathic time-traveling „Tempus“ on „Lois & Clark,“ who outs Superman’s identity to Lois Lane. He was Chancellor Duncan on „3rd Rock From the Sun“ and Dr. Simon Reid on „Scrubs.“
„About six years ago, Lane came to me and said, ‚I want to go home,“ said Dalton.
And that’s what Davies did. He still splits his time between Los Angeles and Georgia, but if there’s any culture shock when he comes back to the South, „it’s the good kind,“ he said.
„I still spend a lot of time driving, but now it’s through pretty farmland, not through the concrete and steel megalopolis that is the Los Angeles basin.“
He considers himself very fortunate.
„I’ve been lucky enough to do pretty much what I wanted to do my whole life,“ said Davies.
And luckily for Bell Buckle, Webb School and everyone else, what he wants to do right now is Shakespeare.
© Copyright 2008, Shelbyville Times-Gazette
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