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Monday, January 9, 2012

Sam Mendes on The Bridge Project

Ethan Hawke in The Cherry Orchard (2009), Sinéad Cusack in The Cherry Orchard, Juliet Rylance in As You Like It (2010), Christian Camargo in As You Like It. Photos by Joan Marcus.

“No” is what I said when Joe Melillo asked me to create a theater company for BAM: I had just left as artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse in London and wanted freedom.

“No” is what I said when Kevin Spacey asked me if he should run the Old Vic: too much work.

“No” is what I said to my longtime producing partner, Caro Newling, when she suggested she approach Actors’ Equity Association and UK Equity about a combined company of American and British actors: much too difficult.

That shows you how little I know.

What followed was one of the most exciting theatrical journeys imaginable: the BAM Harvey Theater lit up with flame in The Tempest; an enchanted forest in As You Like It; a haunted candlelit ballroom in The Cherry Orchard; a child’s nursery filled with the madness of adults in The Winter’s Tale.

Ethan Hawke’s Autolycus serenading 12,000 people in Epidaurus under the light of the stars; Stephen Dillane’s Prospero conjuring the spirits on the Champs-Elysées; Simon Russell Beale’s Lopakhin finally buying his beloved orchard in the magical jewel box of the Teatro Español in Madrid; Juliet Rylance’s Rosalind falling in love in Singapore; Rebecca Hall’s Hermione slowly coming back to life in the silence and intensity of the Old Vic; and now Kevin Spacey’s Richard III everywhere from China to Istanbul to San Francisco.

Thank you, Joe, and Kevin and Caro for not listening to me. And thank you, BAM—for being the definition of a great theatrical institution: ambitious, daring, tenacious, brave, supportive, and fun—and for never taking no for an answer.

Sam Mendes

This text was excerpted from BAM: The Complete Works. Click here for more information on the book.

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