Fri 5 Mar 2010
Hello! This is Amy McFadden and I am playing. My personal mantra-on stage and off- is “All for one, and one for all!” Being a part of the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company fits it perfectly. The entire company is supportive, everyone has some skill or talent to offer, and we all accept multiple responsibilities. I have happily accepted my roles as actor, event manager and costume crew member. I will not elaborate here on organizing an event or doing my castmates’ laundry, but I will share some of my acting process.
The first step is the text work. It’s like finding all of the pieces of a puzzle before you start putting it together, and it’s a blast. This process began the second I got cast, accelerated after the read-thru and initial cast discussions about character, and continues now (our third week). Armed with the clues, truths and tools gleaned from this work, we entered the next phase of the work: ACT-ing. Moving. Talking. Hurling myself into interaction with my scenemates. I held the intellectual detail work in my head, and began the struggle to pull myself out of my brain and into my BODY.
This is the work of communication, PLAY-ing for the audience. It can feel like a betrayal-when the words resonate as something so lovely and true in my head, but my body isn’t sufficiently marinated in Ophelia yet to properly bring her scenes to the stage. Fortunately, our director, Katherine Mayberry, started our first working rehearsal with a perfect exercise to snap me out of my head. She sent Scott Lange (Hamlet) and me to improvise a non-verbal exploration of what happened when he came to Ophelia on the night he talks with is father’s ghost. (This scene is not in the play, but Ophelia recounts it to her father, Polonius, in II, i.) Directly after the improvisation, we rehearsed II,i, and then the “Get thee to a nunnery” scene (III,i). The 10-minute improvised exchange infused my body with Ophelia. It gave me an emotional starting point, visual- and muscle-memory, and a visceral anchor for Ophelia’s relationship with Hamlet. It made this early work in the scenes more productive, and gave me my next goals for homework and future rehearsals.
In transition from brain to stage also comes speech. We all know that speech expresses thought, and comes from breath and energy. I do not always know where that breath and energy should originate, or sit, or how to connect it to Ophelia’s thoughts. Enter Katherine, again with a tool for me! The exercise is “Head, Heart, Gut, Groin,” and it helped me to decide where my energy is centered, where to speak from, and how, within a speech or scene, those things transition between the four places. Some of the choices seem pretty instinctive, but being aware of them for each line is helping me connect my body and my voice. Work on connecting my thoughts comes next…I can’t wait to see where the next few weeks of rehearsal take us, and what I will learn next about Ophelia!