×

Art Maker: John Bechtold | theater director, designer readies immersive adaptation of ‘The Winter’s Tale’

  • John Bechtold works at The Arts Block in Greenfield, Aug. 22. He is creating an immersive adaption of Shakespeare's "The Winter Tale". —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • John Bechtold works at The Arts Block in Greenfield, Aug. 22. He is creating an immersive adaption of Shakespeare's "The Winter Tale". —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • John Bechtold works at The Arts Block in Greenfield, Aug. 22. He is creating an immersive adaption of Shakespeare's "The Winter Tale". —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • John Bechtold works at The Arts Block in Greenfield, Aug. 22. He is creating an immersive adaption of Shakespeare's "The Winter Tale". —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • John Bechtold works at The Arts Block in Greenfield, Aug. 22. He is creating an immersive adaption of Shakespeare's "The Winter Tale". —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • John Bechtold works at The Arts Block in Greenfield, Aug. 22. He is creating an immersive adaption of Shakespeare's "The Winter Tale". GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS


Thursday, September 22, 2016

John Bechtold, 39, of Montague is a theater director and designer, with a special interest in devised work and immersive theater. (Immersive theater is a loosely-defined term for theater productions that place the audience directly into the world of the show.)

Currently, he’s directing Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale,” produced by Eggtooth Productions and the Arts Block in Greenfield. The show takes place in an immersive environment across five floors.

“It will feel like a choose-your-own-adventure story that offers both intimate and grand experiences, each waiting to be discovered by an audience member,” Bechtold said. “I hope to bring in audiences that have never had a good opportunity to fall in love with Shakespeare’s words and storytelling — this production is especially for them.”

“The Winter’s Tale” is a fable that follows two intertwined stories that take place 16 years apart from each other.

“Audiences are given a lot of freedom to explore the show and its many characters in any order, putting together the plot of these two stories,” he said. “It’s a roller coaster of a play and perfect for this incredible space.”

Hampshire Life: What is your creative process like? For instance, Does your work start with a “Eureka!” moment?

John Bechtold: Yes. My ideas for productions almost always start with a single image or line knocking around in my head for reasons I don’t get. Directing a show for me is usually the process of figuring out where it came from.

H.L.: How do you know you’re on the right track?

J.B.: I think you know it when you feel it. There’s an internal logic to any play — it’s a separate little world that you get to understand at an intuitive level. If it feels like everything you’re making is connecting by shear coincidence, you’re on a good track. That said, I’ve found that I need to have someone on the outside helping to see if it works from their perspective, too.

H.L.: What do you do when you get stuck?

J.B.: Read, watch and listen to lots of things until something unsticks me. They might have nothing to do with the show. In fact, that’s often helpful. I’ve found that I usually can’t plan my way out of those moments. I’ve got to stumble into something that solves the problem.

H.L.: How do you know when the work is done?

J.B.: It’s never done. There’s just opening night and then you have to stop.

H.L.: What did you do today that relates to your art?

J.B.: I was reading Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” and listening to Eartha Kitt songs at breakfast.

H.L.: You’re spending untold hours and energy with a bunch of people, some of whom you’ve only just met, to build an entire world that’s not going to last a week, with no sense of how many people will even see the final product. Why?

J.B.: I don’t know. But I think theater is an incredibly comprehensive and exciting art form — and when it happens to work, there is simply nothing like it.

— Kathleen Mellen

“The Winter’s Tale,” by William Shakespeare (immersive adaptation by John Bechtold and produced by Eggtooth Productions and the Arts Block in Greenfield) takes place Sept. 28 through Oct. 1, at 7:30 p.m., and Oct. 2 at 2 p.m. Tickets ($25) and info. at eggtooth.org.