This week, Kathleen Bode discusses playing Ariel in The Tempest.

For me, this week has been full of two thing; pushing my boundaries as an actor, and ibuprofen.

Ariel, much like Prospero, tells stories. The story of how the ship sank, the story of how he/she lead this group of people around the island, etc. But the way that Ariel tells stories needed to be very different from the way that Prospero tells them.

So I started with the fact that Ariel is a non-human character. So, how do you convey that to an audience? I needed to make it clear, visually, to the audience that Ariel is “other wordly”. There has to be a real distinction between how Ariel moves compared to how the human characters move.  Movement is not my forte, so I met with Katherine Mayberry (our producer) for some help with this. With her extensive dance training, Katherine would be able to help me better use my body to develop and present my character.

We started with some image work. I did some online research of animals, and brought a dozen or so pictures of different images that I found. Each of these images struck me, for different reasons, as ways that I could see Ariel. What surprised me most was that they were not all animals that fly. I started my research with birds, but only about half of the images I chose ended up being avian.

Once I had my images, Katherine had me replicate with my body each of the pictures I had chosen. From there, I began to use that image to produce a movement. How would an Arctic Skua move around the room? How about a Black Skimmer?

No one wants to feel like an idiot, and I was afraid of looking like one while doing these movement exercises, but I realized that if I didn’t make these choices big, bold – and confidently – then they would never read to an audience. They would look foolish because the audience would know that I felt foolish. But, using these images to create distinct and precise movements helped me to really embrace the sense of freedom that I found allowing myself to move in ways that are wholly unfamiliar to me. I found myself enjoying that freedom to move any (and every) part of my body.

Getting out of bed the next morning was a bit more challenging than usual for me. Having never been an athlete or dancer, my body was not used to those kinds of movement, and I had to pack a bottle of Ibuprofen along with my lunch that day!