John Wier as Bassanio.
Hi! John Wier, here, reporting from my time playing Bassanio in The Merchant of Venice. A unique experience in many ways, working with Pigeon Creek on this production has been and continues to be a tremendous way to learn. We have investigated many of the original practices of Shakespeare’s company in our time together as an ensemble, adding a certain authenticity to the practice. As an ensemble-directed cast without one person in the role of ‘director,’ the cast is left to their own creative devices in order to make the show work. What I find great about this organic style of theater is that people from all walks of life come together and combine their varying creative influences with the greater goal of making the show come to life in an entertaining way. In our cast, while we have many different levels of experience in acting, everyone throughout the rehearsal process was still given creative rights in making the show their own, the result being a combination of great ideas and lots of experimentation.
One thing that Pigeon Creek focuses highly on is a thorough evaluation of the text. Looking deeply into every line of the play and paraphrasing the meaning of the dialogue into our own thoughts were both helpful tool we used in understanding the language of Shakespeare’s time. By utilizing this, we came across aspects of our characters that we hadn’t thought of before; i.e. their motives, emotions, and even pieces of inner dialogue our characters may have that influence the way that they react physically during a conversation or a monologue. These reactions add a certain aspect of realism to the show, making it seem as if the script is not memorized but that the characters are actually thinking of what they are about to say just as it is happening, and the actors around the speaking characters are reacting as if they are in fact hearing all of this for the first time. As my first experience with these sorts of textual exercises unfolded with Pigeon Creek this year, I found them to be fun and highly beneficial in learning to play the role of Bassanio.
While preparing our minds with the information within the text, we also prepared physically for the show by doing warm-ups often throughout rehearsals and always doing them before every show. I appreciated doing this with an ensemble-directed cast because with all of our theater experience combined we have now learned a slew of different tricks to get the body into a relaxed posture and to get the voice onto a level to be audience-ready. What I like about warm-ups is its basically a once-a-day relaxation seminar. Who would deny that?
In summation, acting with Pigeon Creek has been a blast- a “true-to-the-times” Shakespearean adventure with a talented group of actors. I’ve been privileged to have the opportunity to learn so much and look forward to auditioning for more shows in the future!