Archive for August, 2013

Our newest Rep. Company member Zachary Johnson (Hector, Calchus) answers our second round of acting questions.

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

Inside. It kind of has to be with me. Mostly, I am going to be sitting alone reading these words over and over again…all by myself…thinking about what the hell any of them could possibly mean. In that way, I am already having the internal monologue that is required to feel out the character’s motivations. For example (after reading the play through from Hector’s perspective):
Me: So, Hector seems pretty pissed off at his entire family nearly the entire show.
Me Too: Yup.
Me: But everybody’s always talking about he’s so honorable and virtuous and patient and moderate
Me Three: (Offstage) Yeah, gallant’s the word!
Me: So, what the hell?!
Me Too: …I dunno. Bad week?
Me: …Gotta be. Bad week it is!
You see? How could I work on my physicality and voice that early when I’ve already got several people screaming opinions about the character at me in my head? It doesn’t seem like a reasonable expectation. When I’m sitting on the toilet wondering what the word “tenth” means and how I should go about coloring it (quick hint: tenth doesn’t mean what you think it means), I have no time to devise a specific posture. All that comes later, when the other actors and rehearsal space exist.

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

My answer is the same for both things; implied stage directions.  On the one hand, I love it because, when I understand what stage direction is implied, it eliminates at least one of those “uhh, I don’t know what to do with my hands right now” moments from the play.  I especially love false exits.  Any time my character says goodbye even twice or more, I typically try to make a run for the exit after the first farewell.  The concept of making another actor have to force you back onstage after you try and just leave is really fun for me.  Unfortunately, things get hilarious in a more at-my-expense kind of way.  I end up looking confusedly at someone for several seconds before they just come right out and say, “You should probably be stopping me from ripping her eyes out of her skull right now.”

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

I don’t know that I change very much between ensemble and “nonsemble” directed shows.  More likely than not, I will just pose all of my questions throughout the process to the directors as opposed to taking them to everyone around me.  Directors have their own overall plan, but an ensemble just needs to talk more in general to each other to establish their own overall scheme together.

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?

I would say audience contact, but I typically end up struggling with it too much still to really admit to it being my favorite.  Soon, maybe, when I’ve got it all figured out, I will appreciate it better, but for now I am going with live music.  For one, I always end up involved in some way.  Most often I am on drums, which might be one of the most rad things that I’ve gotten paid to do.  However, sometime I get the pleasure of learning one of the ridiculous instruments that PCSC has at their disposal.  My favorite example of that would have been in Love’s Labour’s Lost when I got to play three different songs on the concertina.  It’s like an eentsy, uncomplicated accordion, and it rocks my socks.  I even managed to work in “Epona’s Song” from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as I entered a scene with that instrument.  Nothing beats it: walking around crotch-first and half-naked while playing a Nintendo love song about a horse on a wang-shaped instrument.  I felt like I had made it…like I had finally made something of myself.

5) What is your dream Shakespearean role?

King Lear.  Is that everybody’s?  I wouldn’t be surprised.  I have never actually seen the show performed, but it has always been my favorite since we read it (we of course read it last, after Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Taming of the Shrew, and Merchant of Venice) in high school.  I had always actually liked the Fool the most as far as that play goes, but as far as dream roles go Lear is way superior.  You get to be an ornery old man as well as hang out with the Fool for the entire play, and then there’s all the madness business when he gets naked in the rain.  The people that go nuts are always especially fun.  And then, in the very end of it all, you get hit with some seriously heavy drama.  Dude feels so bad about mistreating his not-evil daughter that he dies!  That all wrapped up in one guys seems pretty dream-worthy to me.

Rep. Company member Janna Rosenkranz (Ajax, Deiphobus, Cassandra) talks about the challenges of doing battle onstage.

From Couch to Greek Warrior in Six Weeks: Stage Combat for the Morbidly Sedentary

I couldn’t have been more surprised when I was cast as Ajax and Cassandra. The later character, Cassandra, is the type of character that comes easy to me in that I know what it feels like to be a woman whose voice is not always (for poor Cassandra never) heard or counted. Ajax, on the other hand, through me for a real loop. I had nothing, internally, to really explore for Ajax, so I took a very simple outside approach with him and played up his cartoon like Football Joe/Meathead characteristics. (No insult is intended towards football players named Joe or Meathead). It also must look ridiculous, as I’m the complete physical opposite of the men I’m fighting, however, as that lends itself to the fact that Ajax is a joke, and is made fun of by virtually everyone in the play.

With the help of our wonderful directing team, Angela and Francis Boyle, I was able to find some specifics to help with Ajax’s character, but besides the acting challenges, there was a huge physical challenge. I’m a 48 year old, overweight, Netflix addicted, un-athletic woman! I’ve taken some stage combat (around 15 years ago) and once even took a fencing class (in my last year of college for a required PE credit), and done some minor combat with PCSC in Henry IV, 2 and Macbeth, but I’ve never had to really have a serious stage fight before, and now I was faced with three serious fights. I was lucky to already have acted with the three men I’d be fighting with, Scott Wright, Killian Goodson, and Zachary Johnson. I knew them and trusted them. I was also extremely lucky to have Francis as our fight coordinator and Steven Schwall as our fight captain. I felt a kinship with Francis and Angie immediately and Francis was very clear with his instructions. Trusting your fellow artists is half the battle. I thank them all for their professionalism and camaraderie.

Facing my fears of anything movement related was a huge part of my challenge. Over the last ten years or so I’ve become a very careful mover, watching every step for fear of what my husband calls “tipping over.” Basically, I’m a huge klutz (I take after my Jewish mother) and I fall. A lot. Like a lot. During PCSC’s production of The Merchant of Venice I fell down a set of stairs and caught myself with my face. I had a huge lump on my forehead and two black eyes as a result. In Henry IV, 2 I had one tiny fight during an excursion and I think I managed to mess it up in every performance. I did better in Macbeth, but only had one or two parries and a duck. I still am not quite sure how The Powers That Be at PCSC would even trust me with a sword, let alone cast me as a character who is in three fights!

Learning and rehearsing fights is like learning a new dance, there are beats, positions, intentions; basically lots to think about when you are fighting. I’m lucky to have a muscle memory of dance and gymnastics from my childhood; I’ve even been told I still sometimes move like a dancer, despite my more recent commitment to the good fight against gravity and being a highly ranked officer in the eat masses of carbs army. Like dance, you start getting the fight into your body and get some muscle memory established. Of course this means loads of repetition. The fight choreographer and captain (Francis and Steven in our case) model the moves of the fight beat by beat, and then the actors repeat what they did beat by beat. Since we’re doing live theater, we, rehearse the fight before each show with our fight captain observing. Since anything can happen during the fight, the more practice we get, the more we have the moves in our muscles, the more predicable the fight will be and the more we can deal with adjustments on stage.

We are currently in our final stages of rehearsal before we open and although I’m still nervous about my combat, I’m very excited. There is so much I don’t know and so much I learn every time we do fight calls and runs. The most important thing is that NOBODY gets hurt in any way, shape, or form, but for me, this experience has been so much more than just some fights in some play, it’s become a new source of mental, physical, and emotional confidence and  self-assurance.

The confidence that PCSC showed in me helped me gain more confidence, both in myself as an actor and in my own body. My appreciation for my body has also risen exponentially, and of course getting in a little better shape doesn’t hurt anyone. Both roles were great acting challenges and I am honored and appreciative that everybody at PCSC trusts me with helping them tell the stories of these wonderful plays.

Introducing  Brad Sytsma (Diomedes, Servant)! Troilus and Cressida is Brad’s first production with PCSC, so he’s answering round one of our Acting Questions.

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

This is my first Shakespeare show, so I can’t say that I have a typical way to prepare a Shakespeare character.  I think I pretty much followed my usual routine where I started by looking at the dialogue and figuring out my character was thinking, and what other people think about my character.  Diomedes doesn’t really say a lot, so I also dove into some of the other materials written about the Trojan war to figure out who he is, and what he wants.  All in all, researching this character was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and very helpful in my performance.

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

I think the most helpful part of the PCSc rehearsal process was the discussion.  Shakespeare can be difficult to understand.  The heightened language can be challenging to wade through and understand exactly what a character’s thoughts and motivations are.  Being able to discuss different thoughts and opinions on the approach to delivery and action was extremely helpful in figuring out how to perform in my first Shakespeare play.

3) What do you for fun outside of theatre?

More theatre.

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

I am currently a Give a Wow Specialist for Terryberry, an employee recognition company.  I design websites in conjunction for employee recognition programs for businesses worldwide.  I would love to make theatre my day job, whether that be writing, acting, or even directing, I would love to be able to spend all of my time in a theatre.

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

I will probably audition for some of the other shows happening in the area.  I’m also writing a series of 10 minute plays, two of which won contests and were produced this summer, that I would like to try and produce sometime this fall.