Rosehill Shakespeare Players - Open Stages 2014
Keep up to date with the Rosehill Shakespare Player Open Stage 2014 blog
On Sunday 26 October 2014, we had a visit from our RSC Open Stages mentor, Tom Hogan:
Tom came to one of our rehearsals at the Haven Club and saw us perform several scenes from our show Fanfare for the Common Wo/man. The scenes were at different stages of preparation, a few off-book but many still with scripts. He was extremely helpful, and explained that he wasn’t there to tell us what we were doing wrong but to support us in what we were doing and offer help with direction where appropriate.
He pointed out that we all needed to think hard about what our characters were doing before each scene started, what mood they were in, how they related to other characters on the stage, where we all were (e.g. what kind of room or other setting) and so on. These points applied whether we were playing major or minor characters, and whether or not we had lines to say. If we can take all this on board, it will be easier for audiences to believe that our characters existed before, and will exist after, the brief glimpses we show them.
He also focused quite a bit on movement, getting us to think in detail about how our characters would walk, where they would be most likely to position themselves on stage, and so on.
On Saturday 8 November and Sunday 9 November 2014, we had workshop sessions with Bardy Thomas and Jennie Buckman, two expert acting coaches who first came up to Rosehill Theatre in 2010 (at Richard Elder’s Invitation) to work with many of us on the show that became ‘Shakespeare’s Christmas Party’:
The Saturday session took place upstairs at the Haven Club, and we split into two groups (one with Bardy, one with Jennie) in order to rehearse most of the scenes from our show. In some cases, they were able to give us very detailed directorial input. In others, we read through the scenes, analysing the language and the characters’ motivations as we said each line.
On Sunday 9 November, we were at the Theatre Royal, Workington: http://www.workington-playgoers.org.uk
We will be performing our show at the Theatre Royal on 9th and 10th January, and tickets are on sale now. You can book them through the Carnegie Theatre:
Come and satisfy your curiosity and see the results of all these workshops!
The entire Sunday session was devoted to Twelfth Night, as the Workington Playgoers will be putting on this play in Autumn 2015. We were joined by several members of the Playgoers, and the day started with some warm-ups, including the ever-popular ‘Zip, Zap, Boing’ and a game where you have to throw a ball and say your own name at the same time. (This was surprisingly difficult!)
We then broke up into two groups and read individual scenes, focusing on some of the main characters, such as Viola, Olivia, Orsino, Sir Toby and Malvolio. After lunch, we read the final scene in the play, in which all the separate storylines are resolved. This is a very complex scene, with one group of characters interrupting another, and we talked about the challenges of ‘choreographing’ it.
With each section, we discussed the language and read the text, then ‘put it on its legs’. With help from Jennie and Bardy, we all found that we were able to speak the lines with feeling and understanding. At one point, Bardy mentioned a helpful technique called ‘cartooning’, where you think of Shakespeare’s images quite literally as you say them.In the final part of the scene, Viola (played by Hannah Lewis) was reunited with Sebastian, the brother she thought drowned (played by Jesse Binns). Despite the fact that they were reading the text for the first time, these two young actresses gave such an extraordinary performance that many of us were moved to tears. They showed us what was possible, made Shakespeare’s text live and breathe, and provided a very inspiring end to the weekend.
On Sunday 8th June 2014, the Rosehill Shakespeare Players invited Michael Corbridge to Rosehill to deliver a Shakespeare workshop, which was open to all amateur actors in West Cumbria.
Michael Corbridge is a voice and text coach with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He has over 30 years' experience as a voice coach and has worked on numerous productions. Click here to view a video that gives an idea of his approach.About 20 of us met at The Barn at 2pm. There was a wide age range (from a sixth former to over-60s) and participants included members of several amateur groups, the Rosehill Shakespeare Players, Workington Playgoers and Whitehaven Theatre Group.
Michael began with some games, such as arranging ourselves in order of age without saying anything. This was quite a challenge! RSC actors apparently spend a lot of time playing games at the beginning of every rehearsal period, and we all felt the benefit of doing so, in terms of increasing our sensory and spatial awareness and group rapport.
The first bit of text Michael introduced us to was Romeo's speech from 'Romeo and Juliet', Act 3, Scene 3, beginning 'Tis torture, and not mercy'. We spent quite a while just saying the word 'Tis', then reading the text in a circle, one phrase each. In this way, we got used to the sound of the words, and tried to say them with real urgency, without analysing their meaning. This was very helpful and, by the time we got on to discussing the content and Shakespeare's use of antithesis, everyone was surprised to find how much they had instinctively understood.
In the rest of the workshop, we explored several other passages, including Viola's speech from 'Twelfth Night', Act 2, Scene 2, 'What means this lady?' Michael gave us some excellent techniques to try, such as using repeated physical movements and gestures to reinforce the text. Another interesting one was asking two actors to act out a scene without a script, while two others prompted them on each line. The 'prompters' read the lines in a neutral tone, while the 'actors' focused on moving and speaking expressively.
This workshop was extremely inspiring, and I think succeeded in convincing several 'Shakespeare novices' that Shakespeare's text is something to be embraced rather than feared.
Michael enjoyed working with us and was very impressed by Rosehill Theatre, especially the beautiful auditorium and the Messel Room.