Archive for June, 2013

Matt Fowler (Elbow, Abhors0n, 1st Gentleman, Friar Peter) talks about his first experience with ensemble directing.

1) How do you typically go about preparing a Shakespearean character?

I work well with an outward-in approach to Shakespeare.  How does my voice initially react to the script?  How do I feel my body wanting to move to compliment my voice?  I read each line 10 times, trying 10 different things for each one and then pick my favorite line read from each one.  Then I read each line another ten times after I sleep and wake up again to solidify them in my memory.  Is there something physical I want to try like a new walk or a new gesture? Be fearless!  Quite honestly, the thing that has worked best for me is to start with a feeling; How do you want the audience to feel and how should you accomplish that?  Ultimately when audience members forget an actor’s lines, name, or even what he or she looks like, they will remember the feelings the actor gave them for decades.  I approach every role with a specific feeling that I want to share with the audience.  Surprised?  Amused?  Excited?  Anxious?  Compassionate?  There are a ton of options out there, and the way to share this feeling is not always apparent, but a solid goal in mind certainly helps me; as I’ve learned before, exhaust the ordinary to get to the extraordinary.  The things that are most important at the end of the day are that I commit to a role 100% and that I take pride in a performance.

2) What do you find to be the most helpful part of PCSC’s standard rehearsal process?

This is my first experience with an ensemble directed show, and it is not quite how I expected it to be.  The thing I learned most heavily in Measure for Measure is to become self-validated in my work instead of relying on the validation of others.  I thought that an ensemble directed production would allow me to run wild and free With any impulse I have for a character, but I quickly discovered just how little confidence I have within my own inhibitions and fears.  After listening to Rocky’s theme and being in a fighting montage, I got into the habit of challenging myself to discover more about my characters with restless disatistifatcion;  I could pat myself on the back when performances came around.  Now I am proud of the work I’ve done and I have learned a lot from this experience.

3) What do you do for fun outside of theatre?

I enjoy animating, backpacking, and going on epic adventures with this production’s stage manager, Erin Feiner.

4) What do you want to be your day job?

My dream is to become a motivational speaker.  I want to speak to the young people of the world about self-esteem and body image issues.  I think I’m just the right person to spread positivity and inspiration into the world.

5) What theatre plans do you have in the next couple months?

I will be appearing in Grand Valley State University’s Much ado About Nothing as Don John and Verges in the fall and I will be directing Beyond Therapy by Christopher Durang right after.

Sean Kelly (Angelo) shares his thoughts on being the bad guy.

Angelo is the kind of guy who tells the management that you’re saving seats in a movie theater, but then it turns out he’s doing the same thing.

Structurally, Angelo is certainly the villain, even described as an “arch” villain by Isabella  but he only admits the fact in a couple moments. In his own words “when once our grace we have forgot/nothing goes right” and Angelo literally thinks he has only deviated once from an otherwise angelic life. Looking at Angelo this way is very useful because it opens up a twisted lightness to play instead of only mustache twirling villainy.

But how redeemable is Angelo? How justifiable are his feelings and actions? And, key to playing a character, how much is Angelo similar to you or me? There’s a specific line at the end of the show where Angelo claims that the primary reason he broke off his engagement to the unlucky Mariana wasn’t financial but “for that her reputation was disvalued in levity.” Now, it’s unclear at this point whether Angelo is being honest or trying to muddy Mariana’s reputation but if he is telling the truth then Angelo is somewhat tragic. His sexual hypocrisy and prudish persecutions fixate on virtue and target the lusty unmarried because he carries the pain of his broken engagement

My key to playing Angelo is to limit the time I consider him a villain to as few lines as possible, and I try to do so because Angelo does the same, but it is important to remember that Angelo is unquestionably a villain. He sexually assaults a nun in most hypocritical fashion. He tries to then put her brother death. He lies. He’s deceitful. However, his mask of civility is developed and studied, to the point where he believes in his own saintliness.

So, when you see the play look for things in Angelo that you feel are normal. His story has a lot to empathize with. Hopefully, doing so will make those moments when Angelo makes a choice you or I would not all the more impactful.

Some insights into her acting process from Sarah Tryon (Juliet, Escalus).

1) When creating a Shakespeare character, do you start from the “outside” (voice and physicality) or the “inside” (relationships and motivations)? Why?

When I first get my hands on a script, I like to decode the text and find out who my character is, who they talk to, how they feel about who they talk to, how they are influenced by events, and how they fit into the play itself. However, with the role of Escalus, I knew that I would have to do a lot of vocal work to conceal my feminine voice. And I would also need to decide how old I want him to be so that it can inform my physicality.

2) Is there anything about Shakespeare’s language you find especially helpful in preparing for a role? Anything that is always challenging?

Shakespeare really gives his actors a lot. I find scansion is really the best tool for me. If my character is speaking in verse it could be because of he or her status or there is heightened emotion, etc.

3) How do you prepare differently for an ensemble directed production versus a production with a director?

For an ensemble show, I more often decide on something I want to try in a scene before rehearsal, whereas with a director, I’m more likely to try what they want me to try.

4) What is your favorite “Original Practice” (audience contact, cross-gendered casting, live music and sound, etc.) and what exactly do you love about it?

Audience contact because plays are for the audience so why ignore them?

5) What is your dream Shakespearean role?

I’d like to play Viola again, but I would love to play Beatrice, Ophelia, Cassius, Feste, and pretty much every other character …