Joel L. Schindlbeck on the Induction of The Taming of the Shrew.
We’re thick in rehearsals for The Taming of the Shrew, and while I’m also playing Baptista, the Haberdasher (yeah, one-liners!) and the Widow, my most difficult challenge currently is the Lord in the Induction.
Why am I challenged by it? True, he isn’t the most in-depth character in the plot. And true, he is perhaps the most fanciful and ridiculous; therefore while perhaps physically exhausting, conceptually…well, how hard is it to wrap your head around a fruitcake?
The reason I find it challenging, is that the plot of the Induction doesn’t resolve itself. My instincts are then, CUT IT! But the Artistic Director, Katherine Mayberry, chose to keep it in. Of course, I completely respect her position on everything Shakespeare related, so I was forced to turn back to the Induction and make it work. To discover why it’s here and how to make it amazing!
The first thing I noticed about the induction, after scouring the lines and finding the bits of comedy and character inside of it, was that it could be seen as a “variation on the theme” of the main plot of Taming of the Shrew.
For those of you that haven’t read the Induction, it revolves around one rather Falstaff-ian Christopher Sly who ends up drunkedly passed out on the floor of the inn. A fanciful lord, returning from hunting with his entourage enters, and upon seeing the man, decides to turn his world topsy-turvy in order to “practice on this man.” The lord feels that the best means of making this drunkard “forget himself” is to convince him that he is, in fact, a “mighty lord”, rich and well-placed, with servants at his beck and call, leagues of gold and wealth, and a beautiful lady at his side. My character then instructs his entourage and a traveling troupe of actors to follow suit and teach Mr. Sly his lesson. They do, and the bewildered Sly is then whipped up into this world of fancy, even accompanying his “lady” to a play that evening at the inn. Perhaps…the play is one “The Taming of the Shrew”, potentially a parable for Sly in conversion to being a productive and upright member of society.
While, we never see what happens to Sly after his viewing of the play, this is certainly enough for me to build a character on. Thus, I must. And there is my challenge, to deliver this character regardless of the fact that his plot is never resolved. No resolution, no denouement, no jig song at the end for him! All that build up! (Trust me, with the amount of lines that this Lord delivers in just these two scenes, the build-up is immense.)
So, I do it.
I have an acting theory that has worked for me in the concept of character building, and it is certainly applicable here. I believe that for one to truly be able to deliver their character on stage, whole-heartedly committed and convincing, one must “jump off the cliff”. We stand at a precipice with every role. To simply stand at the rock’s edge, dangling one’s toes over into the oblivion, is non-committal. It’s full of fear, and thus weakens one’s position and delivery. To truly commit to character, one must jump and know that there is no going back, regardless of how far the fall truly is or what will happen when one reaches the ground. Think of it. Flying down through the air, there is nothing but instinctual emotion and rippling sensations of wind, gravity and air beating against either side of you. You have no ground to stand on, you simply see the end growing larger and larger towards you with no retreat.
So, I believe that this is what I must do with this character, even if the “ground” is never in sight. I must jump and give in to the chaos of the character’s world, regardless of the end (or lack thereof.) My only aim, to make it a beautiful flight. Let’s try…