Entries tagged with “Joel L. Schindlbeck”.


Joel L. Schindlbeck on Music Directing for Love’s Labour’s Lost

For Shakespeare’s theatre, music seemed to be a necessity. Not only the interior songs that Shakespeare built into his works, but also the interludes between acts, and musicians performing before the show to help appease the arriving mass of audience. We see this in modern theater all the time. Most musicals, operas and ballets have overtures, although those are usually played after the audience has already arrived and seated. Some theatre companies will use pre-show music while the audience is arriving in order to help put people in the mood. Outside of theatre, music is also used to persuade. Television is riddled with jingles and music to play during the titles and credits of shows and advertisement. Almost all movies come with a complete underscoring of music to retain a mood throughout the film. Even in personal life, I see so many people around town or on the bus wearing iPods while they work out, or travel, or go to work, or simply walk to the store. It’s a way of life. Music moves.

I can only imagine that in a world of no radio, no iPods, and no TV, the impact of having music was just as strong a means of putting people in the mood for what they’re about to see or do. At Pigeon Creek we don’t often have complete underscoring for scenes. We like to let the lines speak for themselves, unless a surviving stage direction in the script prompts us to create music; (and yes, we make sure that it comes from the source of prompter scripts.) However, we do follow the original practice of musical interludes. In the modern conventions of theatre, Pigeon Creek will not do breaks in between every act, instead opting for an intermission. And it is there that we attempt to use music to motivate.

As music director, I have a responsibility to serve that purpose. To put people in the mood for what they’re about to see, or in the case of interior songs, what they ARE seeing.

I won’t go into too much detail about the songs we’re using for Love’s Labour’s Lost. Part of the fun of our music is letting the audience experience it as a surprise. What I will say is that the music in this instance aligns itself perfectly with the point of this play. Love can be fun, even when we create roadblocks in the way and make trouble for ourselves. As I was trying to find the theme for our show’s music (and then find appropriate songs to match that theme), I started with a couple thorough readings of the entire play. I focused on the general concepts: what is the play’s point, how should a general audience feel about the play or the theme of the play, and what is the broad stroke of the play that we should let the audience go home with.

From that point, it was a matter of finding thematic songs that meet the following criteria: do the actors have the ability to sing and/or play the necessary musical instruments, can we perform this song acoustically (I tend to always say yes and find a way), when I listen to the song do I generally get the required emotion even without listening to the words if necessary, and is it possible that at least some of the audience will recognize the song. (We tend to pick what we call “Top 40 Songs”, be they from either today’s music charts or past decades.)

Then, it’s rehearse, perfect, perform and enjoy. We hope you do as well.

Joel L. Schindlbeck (Baptista / Lord in the Induction / Haberdasher / Widow)

In the beginning of my acting process, I’m asking myself the question, “Why is my character saying these lines.” That question could keep me busy for weeks, and often it does. Using it as a battery for my rehearsal time, I march through the scenes, exploring and discovering exactly why the words are coming out of my mouth. But we’re a little under two weeks from opening the play. My use of these question has near run it’s course and so, we venture to the next question.

“Why is this character in the play?”

Luckily, to spur the creative mind, the answer is not simply, as in the case of Baptista in The Taming of the Shrew, “Because without this character, Katherina and Bianca would have never been born.” Yes, that is certainly a true statement, but couldn’t the play then have gotten along just as well without Baptista actually being around? We don’t see the birth of Katherina and Bianca, so obviously Shakespeare choose to not delve into the importance of birth and parenting.

“Why is my character in the play NOW?”

I believe that Baptista is the world of the play. He has created the rules of engagement for his daughters, he has set the bar for the courtiers and he referees the entire process along the way as a means of not only controlling the future of his family, but also establishing the base moral code for how his family WILL create their future. He is the thread on which the plot builds as a candle builds from being dipped into melted wax. Every act, every scene, every interiour French scene brings another aspect of life choices made by characters which alters the world of the play, putting on another dipping layer of wax for the final candle.

For example:

*We first see Baptista quieting the suitors and reminding them of the marriage rules that he has set forth for his daughters.
*Immediately, the suitors plot means of cheating the rules in order to achieve the desired end.
*This drives them to seek out a suitor for Katherina.
*This drives Petruchio to decide to woo the wild beast that is Katherina.
*This drives a formal engagement, through lies and deception of the rules, between Katherine and Petruchio.
*This frees up Bianca to be married.
*Problem solved!

(Except, as we lovingly see from any comic farce on life and love…not playing by the rules requires people to be on their toes and create diversionary tactics in order to by them time to achieve their ends without disrupting the world and rules set out for them. I mean, wouldn’t it completely have been simpler if the suitors simply hired true instructors to teach Bianca, hired Petruchio to win Katherina and then wait patiently as Baptista assesses their true dowries and makes the choice he intended to make. I’m digressing, but the point remains that Baptista has created the world of the play at the beginning, not necessarily a fair world, but the rules nonetheless. Without these rules, the following four acts wouldn’t need to happen.)

So, there’s a beginning answer to the question. Baptista serves as the world of the play, or keeping my simile, the wick of the play. But then what? I mean, all of that could be delivered in one speech and I could go to the bar while everyone else plays around for two hours and meets me there after the audience leaves.

This is where Baptista, as the world, must respond and/or change the world to match new realities that occur. He is the reactionary character. Not only is he the common foil to most characters’ ruses, but he is also the person responsible for seeing that progress has happened according to his rules and setting forth the next step of the world.

Using a similar example as above:

*Baptista’s Rule: Bianca may not marry until Katherina does.
*Petruchio will marry Katherina.
*Baptista, satisfied, allows for the suitors’ assets to be analyzed. Bringing his next rule…
*Lucentio (Tranio is disguise) may marry Bianca is his father promises the dowry even in the case of Lucentio’s death.

Thus: THE DIRECTION OF ACTION IN THE PLAY CHANGES WITH NEW RULES!

We have been whipped up in the courting of Katherina in order to complete the first milestone of the play. That being over, we now get TWO PLAYS to watch: The Taming of Katherina via Petruchio AND The Cozening of Baptista via Tranio’s lies of the Pedant being Vincentio (Lucentio’s Father.)

Having decided this, my next question is more meta-theatrical: Is a reactionary character a form of audience surrogate? I’m still working on it. Come find out.

Joel L. Schindlbeck on the Induction of The Taming of the Shrew.

Greetings Shakes-fans.

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…

Joel L. Schindlbeck as Cymbeline’s Queen

Oh, trust me; one year ago, when the PCSC board was talking about an all-male production of Cymbeline to match our successful all-female production of Julius Caesar, as well as our coming up all-female production of Henry IV, Part One, I leapt at the opportunity. To try the ancient profession of cross-gendered casting. I’m a dorky kid in a renaissance candy store. Little did I know how much…

When I was offered the role of Shylock this past winter, I was taken aback completely. I had intended to offer myself for the role of Antonio, and that was how I had spent most of my audition rehearsal. In the past, I had only ever played minor villains, so I was not prepared to even be considered for the role of Shylock. I took it in stride. I know…that sounds terrible, to “take a wonderful role in stride.” But it’s never been my goal to play the greatest roles. Call it humility, call it typical actor self-deprecation, or just call it plain ol’ fear! However, when it came down to it, Shylock was a beautifully written part; a good step (in my opinion) between Polonius and Richard II; a part I’ve played and the part I want to play before I die. All part of the grander scheme of natural selection that I believe any passionate actor will come across as they find jobs and continue to grow in their art.

However, what I did not expect was to find a penchant for villainy.

And oh, how the Queen is wicked. I remember someone telling me years ago that the Queen in Cymbeline was extremely akin to Snow White’s Queen. God’s. Honest. Truth. This woman’s poison does not simply remain in a closed cabinet in her private study. Oh no! She drips with it, the words pour out of her mouth as sweet and fluid as arsenic nectar. Almost no one sees her face, her true face, except the audience; which is letting me discover an extra benefit about playing the villain.

A couple years ago, Katherine Mayberry, our executive director, started to teach me about the concept of Audience Contact and Surrogacy. To act many years with a great distance between yourself and your audience; and then to turn that table on it’s side and eliminate the distance entirely between the two…what a blessing! The chance to take your art to the next level and not only entertain, but engage! Almost all Shakespeare’s major and minor characters do it at some point. The “aside”, the “soliloquoy”, the rousing public monologue or war rally; in Original Practices, this is one of the greatest and genius tools that Shakespeare has given us. It could be argued, however, that no characters in Shakespeare do audience contact and surrogacy with such panache as the villains. The characters beg to have a private comrade to confide their true wishes and plans to. More often than not, you can’t do such with other characters in the play. They’re the VICTIMS!

No, the audience, they’re the greatest option, and I relish to opportunity to explore performing audience contact with great stakes and such meaty substance as grand treason, murder and political subterfuge! And, not only do I get to participate in one the finest means of entertaining a Shakespearean audience, but there’s the other beautiful meta-theatrical character device that I fell in love with during my time as Malvolio: The ignorant belief that the audience is on your side. Oh…the be the blind villain or foil, that deliver the juiciest of their secrets to the engaged and paying audience; to let the rest of the cast trip and tumble you through hoops of self-conceit and tortuous character arcs as your plans come to fruition and then rot on the vine.

That…that is the true pleasure of playing a villain, in my opinion, and I am relishing it UP with Cymbeline’s Queen. I cannot WAIT for our audiences to see this amazing cast and amazing direction and amazing show.