Entries tagged with “beyond the mind’s eye”.


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
and…uhh…gallant?
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.

Measure for Measure is still running, but we’re already hard at work on Troilus and Cressida! Here, Killian Goodson (Troilus) 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?

I think it is important, when creating a foundation for a character, to understand their arc throughout the play. To me, this is grounded in the motivations of the character. Getting inside the life and thought process of the character while understanding their values and priorities lends itself well to the voice and physicality of the character later because it becomes the natural response to the various internal and external stimuli. For example, Troilus carries the values Ilion, which is as much to say that honor and pride are important and formulate Troilus’ life as a warrior prince. Yet, his warrior tendencies escalate late in the play. To begin, he is so caught up with his feelings toward Cressida, that although the war and his family’s honor is something to take note of for Troilus, it isn’t until he loses that veil that he becomes as reckless, and bloodthirsty as he does. I enjoy going through this change with Troilus.

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

Troilus get’s to speak in verse often in this play. The rhythm is so intuitive and has the ability to guide the actor to find meaning that may otherwise be glanced over. As I have learned from our directors and other members of the company, verse can often mean the character actually knows what they are saying, and they are trying to use wit and rhetoric to outlast the conversation and persuade others to play into their plans. Verse is easier to learn because the lines have to follow in a specific way or it quite obviously doesn’t sound right. On the flip-side, the few times Troilus speaks prose with Cressida, the lines seem to come in a more, one might say, random, way. There is still a through line and the various cues in the scene guide what will come next, but the middle lines can sometimes become problematic, at least for me.

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

I love having a director. My preparation for one type over the other doesn’t really change; I still like to begin with finding the characters motivations. With directors, however, I feel like they are the authority on how they want the play to play out and can offer loads more specificity than the tedious nature of ensemble directing. It is common that opinions get lost for the sake of tact, and it can lead to weaker choices and, in turn, a weaker story.

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?

Fighting only feet from the illuminated audience, rallying them on your side during a scene, and knowing that you have them on the literal edge of their seat is what is most rewarding to me about original practices. Looking people in the eye, teasing and admiring the audience—I find this adds another dimension to the performance that you don’t otherwise get with proscenium or modern practices.

5) What is your dream Shakespearean role?

Whenever I am asked this I am slightly overcome with shame that I am not more familiar with Shakespeare’s characters. I will refrain from picking any characters from plays I have done. I think my usual go to dream character is Caliban. I find him so intriguing and know that language to him is important. I like how he develops and is challenged. I also have to say that I love any character that has to be drunk on stage.

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 …

Rep Company member Scott Wright (Macduff, Soldier) 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?

Well – both, I think… it depends a lot on the character though. As I started thinking about how to answer this question I began to reflect back on roles that I’ve done and thought about whether I’d favored one technique or the other. It seems to me that some characters have a very clear physicality that’s written right into the text – Caliban for instance, or King Richard III, or Jack Falstaff – and I think it can only be helpful to start right off with that. When doubled into a minor role that has little or no textual clues to work with I find that starting off with a distinct physical or vocal characteristic allows me to give those characters an individuality that their words or relation to the scene might not otherwise have.

But there are also characters whose attitudes and feelings about their situation or the characters around them are what powers their actions in the story. Creating those characters’ inner life is the more important aspect – more important than what they look like or how they walk. I could create a Claudius with a speech impediment or a Bottom with a particular physicality but those things don’t really seem important to the portrayal or to the story.
The “recipe” or ratio of inner to outer would seem to depend too, upon whether the character is dramatic or comedic. The comedic roles are so often more physical and it’s easy to start off with voice and “character.”

The question of “which comes first” is actually a little circular to me. I’ve come to realize that on one hand our actions are manifestations of our thoughts and emotions. Tears flow or we lash out because of strong emotions. We move to fulfill a want or need in response to thoughts. But on the other hand, many of our thoughts and emotions are triggered by feedback or physical responses in our bodies.
Building the illusion of great sorrow or anger or completely un-self-conscious enthusiasm on stage is a subtle blend of the physical and mental/emotional. We spend a good deal of time discovering and refining that blend in rehearsal by experimenting with the emotions, our own memories & experiences, and creating the situation physically.

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

I find the verse meter to be the single most helpful thing – not only for memorization (the words sort of fit together only one way…) but sometimes the meter actually helps you find the right emphasis for certain words. One of the things that’s always challenging is sorting out exactly what’s happening in a scene… Some scenes of course are much written & talked about and what’s happening is well known. In some other scenes of course what’s happening is clear enough, but there are many scenes that are much less clear-cut and finding the action or energy that brings the words to life is always tough for me.

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

I’m a bit of a history buff so in an ensemble-directed atmosphere I might do a little bit of extra research into other people’s characters (depending on the piece – history plays offer loads of opportunity for that kind of thing… You still have to be tactful – not everyone appreciates that kind of “help.”) or I’ll look into other sources for ideas I can bring to rehearsal that we can try out and possibly integrate into our show. With a director you rely a lot more on the fact that the research and the decisions about how the show will look and feel have been thought out before hand. Otherwise the preparation is very much the same – reading the play, looking into dictionaries, resource texts, and (at least for me) maybe seeing a performance or two of the play, if possible, to get an idea of what other people have been doing with the material.

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 probably have to say that cross-gender casting, live music & etc., and direct audience contact get equal share here. Direct audience contact was quite difficult for me to get used to when I first tried it. I feared that looking into someone’s eyes would distract me from my lines and I’d screw up. But it quickly became clear that, while some will look down or away when you meet their eyes, most audience members seem to be even further drawn into the performance. As it was pointed out to me during rehearsals recently, “Instead of seeing you experience it, they experience it with you.”

Naturally, I really enjoy performing the music in our shows. It’s almost as much fun as the play itself.
Cross-gender casting is something that I’ve tried for myself only very recently. My experience with it has mostly been with women cast as men – and we have a ton of women in the company who are really good at it – but men playing women is a little rare. My personal experience with it was really challenging and fun – so much so that it catapulted cross-gender casting into this list and I look forward to more such opportunities.

5) What is your dream Shakespearean role?

It would be hard to limit myself to one dream role…
I’d always wanted to play Falstaff and Sir Toby Belch…; Bottom; King Claudius. All of which I’ve had the privilege to play with PCSC.
I’d really like to play Macbeth one day, and King Richard III, and Iago, and Shylock…
When I’m older I hope to have an opportunity to play Titus, and Prospero, and Lear…
Then there are the roles that I’d really love to do but don’t expect to ever be cast in them : Petruchio, Benedick, Berowne, Mercutio, King Henry V, Hamlet…
They’re all dream roles.
But probably the role that stands out as the one I most hope to one day have a shot at is Falstaff in the Henry IV plays.

Pigeon Creek Rep. Company member Sarah Stark (First Witch, Doctor, Murderer) has already answered our basic acting questions, so in this entry we’ll delve a little deeper into her process.

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

I tend to begin from the inside. In my first few readings of the play an image, line, or idea will stand out and attract me to the character. This attraction inspires and impassions me, firing up my imagination and excitement to explore. I find creative daydreaming about the character to be one of my most effective tools in the early stages. I do so because I need the fantasy to evoke the outside form, to articulate it in my body.

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

The language is everything to me. I feel that the character is laid out fully by their word choice and speech patterns. I commit to the belief that the character is using precisely those words for a reason. My task is to find, specify, and convey that reason. I have to continually look, listen, and speak their language until I can do so with strong clarity. I also need to grasp the language of the whole play to arrive at a fully integrated comprehension of my role.

For every character I will always have at least one phrase that is difficult to comprehend or that feels clunky to me for quite awhile. I think part of it is the distance between Shakespeare’s language and ours today. However, once I do get it, often in a moment of flash recognition, it reveals something very impactful about the character that was previously hidden to me.

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

The cultivation of an ensemble directed production relies more heavily upon the perspectives and insights of the group, rather then a single person. Therefore I feel a greater responsibility to cogitate on all scenes in the play. In preparation I repeatedly read the scene prior to its rehearsal for comprehension then contribute any impressions that strike me after witnessing the scene performed as an outside eye.

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. Honestly, it took me some time to warm up to it because it can be jarring when that self critical voice in your head tries to make snapshot assumptions based on what you perceive in the moment of contact. However, I love theatre because I believe it is powerful. It can be redemptive, prophetic, and pressing. Communion ignites the impact of it all. Without an audience there is no significance. The opportunity to share a story that is common and truthful to every single one of us and to communicate it directly to the audience, eye to eye – that is essential and life giving.

5) What is your dream Shakespearean role?

Cleopatra. I love the raw turgor Shakespeare expresses in this woman who is historically embedded and inflated in myth and distortion. Shakespeare is a master of characterization because he portrays the conflicting oppositions that lie in crux of his characters’ hearts and how that tension propels them to make the choices they do. Cleopatra is strongly alluring to me because her struggles are very real to me. Ultimately this powerful woman has always fascinated me, and I feel that out of the vast arrays of imaginings of her true nature, Shakespeare came the closest to the truth.