Sat 25 Jun 2011
Dan Christmann as Cornelius
I am, at this particular moment in time, in a bit of a rut. I cannot for the life of me figure out a single topic or experience to write about. Not that my time working on Cymbeline has been uneventful. Far from it. I think the real problem is that there are too many for me to choose from, and none of those topics will adequately describe my experience to the reader. Ah, the eternal curse of the postmodern writer. You, my reader, have probably read many blog entries on character creation, actor processes and, even analyses of Shakespeare’s text. But what few of us have actually touched on is how the actual process feels, how it moves and transforms us into the people we will become. As I am a dramatic, and even poetic, being by nature, I think it would be the best option for me to focus on this aspect of our process. Perhaps, by using this text as a single part to an even greater whole, you will come one step closer to piecing together the puzzle that is our time with Pigeon Creek.
One of the strongest feelings I get when I’m working with the guys is a sense of camaraderie. Now, the very nature of any theatrical process is that it brings people together, unless you have some preconceived grudge against any of the other ensemble members. However, at this point in the process, I think its safe to say that this camaraderie we have built is of a different nature. The hierarchy based on how large one’s role is virtually absent from this production. People here seem to realize that the size of a part does not necessarily reflect on an actor’s skill, nor his importance in the production as a whole. This allows those who would normally squabble in petty ego-games to get down to their work and actually create characters that work right off the bat. Furthermore, everyone in our cast seems to genuinely like each other, and I think I can go so far as to say that we’re all friends. Now, I’m sure this is common in many tight knit companies, but for many of us, Cymbeline is our first show with Pigeon Creek. To gain the friendship of so many in so short a time is a wonderful experience, and I think one partially unique to this cast.
Performing a Shakespearean soliloquy is probably one of the most challenging, and exhilarating, experiences of my life. Even after doing six of them for nine performances when I played Hamlet a few months ago, they still have not lost their appeal for me. However, at Pigeon Creek, the soliloquies that I do take on a different, more unique flavor. If you didn’t know, one of the original practices we do at Pigeon Creek is “audience contact”, which basically means that you, the audience, are part of the show. You don’t have any lines, but we still feed off of your reactions and what you do. This also means that I, as an actor, can walk up to someone in the audience and deliver my words directly to you. For me, this gives those words much more weight, as if I know that because I am directly speaking to an audience member, I am telling them exactly how I am feeling at that point. The feeling of looking into someones eyes as you deliver those lines, seeing them react and give you the energy of their understanding is something akin to magic. It’s as if you have connected yourself to them with a cord of life through which you share your understanding of the world, but only for a brief second. I know it sounds a bit far fetched, but that’s how it feels.
I could really go on for pages about my experiences and how they’ve felt. However, there is really only one more that I find exemplifies my time at Pigeon Creek, so I will finish up with that instead of boring you with the little details. This type of show was a new one to me, not only because I get paid (an added bonus for something I’d probably do for free) but also because we are traveling to so many venues. Obviously, I haven’t finished this experience; we have 3 more venues after Dog Story. However, I can tell you how interesting it is for me to play in more than one community. Each place that we travel to, whether it be to Saugatuck’s Red Barn Theater or Midland’s Creative 360, has a different kind of stage, and a different kind of audience. You might not think it, but this is actually quite exciting for me. It means that we actors get to show off how adaptable we are, something that many of us who only perform in one place to one audience seldom get. If we don’t have that adaptability, then we get to develop it over time. I tend to believe that each production you work on gives you a little bit to take away with you, but this is an added bonus that I doubt any of us new company members could have foreseen. Plus, it’s a great time, and I enjoy meeting people all around Michigan who are willing to come out and see some great Shakespeare.
Maybe one of these days I’ll get to meet you!