Entries tagged with “Kat Hermes”.
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Mon 13 May 2013
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Kat Hermes is a member of Pigeon Creek’s Board of Directors and an actor in the Repertory Company. She recently appeared in Macbeth (Malcolm/Fleance) and The Importance of Being Earnest (Miss Prism) and will be performing in Twelfth Night (Viola) at the end May and Measure for Measure (Isabel) this summer.
Hello, blog readers!
Here at Pigeon Creek’s Acting Blog, we try to give you an ongoing, behind-the-scenes look into our rehearsal and performance process for each of our four yearly “main stage” productions. We just wrapped up Macbeth last week, and pretty soon, you’ll be reading all about Measure for Measure, which we start rehearsing tonight (!) and which opens June 20th at Dog Story Theater.
In addition to our four main stage productions, each year Pigeon Creek produces several special projects. These include our “Bard on the Run” experiments with short rehearsal periods (usually 2-3 days per show), staged readings, command performances of scenes, school workshops and, for the first time this February, entries in the Lake Effect Fringe Festival.
This month, we have two such projects: one was a revival of our LEFF entry, a production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest using Shakespearean staging conventions that we performed just this Friday at the Red Barn Playhouse in Saugatuck, and the second is a revival of our Bard on the Run production of Twelfth Night, which we will perform at The Rose in Blue Lake on May 25th.
Remounting productions we’ve already done is always an interesting experience. Often we’ve had weeks or months between performances, usually we’ve rehearsed or performed an entirely different production in between. Sometimes there are members of the original cast who are unavailable and have to be replaced. This means that we can never quite just pick up the production where we left off, and a revival production often feels entirely different from the original.
Some things don’t change; obviously the words are still the same (though digging them back out of the recesses of memory can be surprisingly difficult), and… well, and that’s basically it. Sometimes we use the same props and costumes (we did for Earnest), but just as often we don’t. Our costumes for Twelfth Night were mid-20th century, but The Rose is a replica Elizabethan playhouse, so when we perform there we perform in Renaissance costumes, which causes a major difference in logistics (quick changes, etc. have to be replotted), in the way we as actors are able to move, and in the look and feel of the production both from the inside and out.
When remounting plays we’ve already performed, we often spend as much time re-adjusting our staging to fit a new space as we did staging it the first time. Both Twelfth Night and Earnest were originally performed at Dog Story Theater, a black box which we configure as a thrust, which is our “default” staging configuration, but revival productions are can be performed in very different spaces.
Performing Earnest in a proscenium theater like the Red Barn required re-thinking everything from how we set our furniture to what angle Algernon and Cecily’s first kiss should take place on. Since PCSC typically performs with minimal set, using folding chairs or acting blocks when actors need to sit, we found the stationary couch and chair we used in Earnest presented challenges on a proscenium stage that I (at least) haven’t though about negotiating since college. As obvious as it seems in hindsight, we had to adjust to the fact that when someone is seated on a couch, they can’t subtly move to “counter” another actor who steps in front of them the way a standing actor could. With the audience only in front of us, rather than on all three sides, a standing actor stepping in front of someone seated could cut them off from the entire audience.
The Rose will present those of us in Twelfth Night with an entirely different set of challenges. PCSC has only worked in that space once before (for last summer’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream), and the Twelfth Night cast has several members who have never performed there. Because of the two large pillars that support the roof above the stage, The Rose has some sight-line issues that are unique amongst our usual venues. And because it is a replica Elizabethan playhouse, its design based on Shakespeare’s Globe in London, it provides a chance for us to perform not only with our usual Early Modern staging conventions (universal lighting, audience contact, etc) but to work with a version of the actual architecture for which the play was originally written. Our challenge there is not just to adjust to fit the space, but to make sure we are taking full advantage of the opportunities it provides.
Personally, I love revisiting shows I’ve already performed and bringing them back to life. I think we learn something from every production we do, and with two productions between me and our original BoTR Twelfth Night, there’s a lot that I’ve discovered that I’m interested to apply to Viola. There are also some scenes that I can’t wait to play again just because of how much fun they were the first time!
Fri 28 Sep 2012
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This summer, PCSC has started a new means of gathering the inside scoop of our actors in their processes. In addition to the normal blog entries you read on here, there will also be a series of questions posed to our actors. Enjoy.
This week: Repertory Company Member, Kat Hermes
1. How do you typically go about preparing a Shakespearean character?
I start with the basics; looking at the way the character uses text, at what the character says about themself and what the other characters say about them.
Then I start to physicalize what I now know about the character. What works best for me is playing with images, sometimes drawn from the real world and sometimes from pop culture. I usually end up with two or three distinct images and build the physical character using parts of each. For example, my most recent role with Pigeon Creek, Don Armado in Love’s Labour’s Lost, was part Antonio Banderas, part Captain Jack Sparrow and part a guy I went to graduate school with. For Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the character I’m currently preparing, I’m looking at a lot of images of magical women in fantasy, such as Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings and Maleficent from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.
2. What do you find to be the most helpful part of PCSC’s standard rehearsal process?
Typically the first time we run through the entire show we do what’s called a “Ren Run” (short for Renaissance Run), where we put the show on its feet as though we were performing for an audience, regardless of how polished the staging is for each individual scene. This gives us a chance to get an early sense of the feel of the show as a whole, without stopping and starting, and allows us to test how well each of us really knows the story the we’re telling. I always make interesting discoveries during the “Ren Run”. While working Romeo and Juliet this spring, the “Ren Run” was the first time it really hit home how little time Romeo and I spent onstage together. Sean Kelley (who played Romeo) and I rarely even saw each other backstage, and I found that as the run went on I started to miss “checking in” with him. We only had two little moments together between scenes (after the balcony scene and before we enter together after our wedding night), so pretty much everything that we needed to communicate to each other, both as actors and characters, had to happen onstage. That sense of intimacy and urgency in the face of distance was part of Romeo and Juliet’s relationship that I had thought about how to convey, but when we put the show together I realized that Shakespeare had already done that work for me, that I didn’t have to “act” it, just let it happen.
3. What do you like to do for fun outside of theatre?
I read a lot. I watch a lot of Netflix. I sleep.
4. What is your day job? What do you want to be your day job?
I work full time as an assistant teacher at a daycare and accredited preschool, with ages ranging from infant to school-aged. Though I love teaching and working with kids and will probably always do so in some capacity, I’d like acting and costume design to be my day jobs, eventually.
5. What theatre plans do you have in the next couple months?
In addition to my work with Pigeon Creek, I’m also a board member of Dog Story Theater in downtown Grand Rapids, so you’ll be able to find me there most weekends working the box office. I’m also thinking of venturing into non-Shakespearean theater with a close and talented friend of mine, but those plans are still too vague for a formal announcement.
Mon 25 Jun 2012
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Kat Hermes (Don Adriano de Armado) on Creating the Costume Design
One of the most common questions I get as a costumer for Pigeon Creek is why, if we are an original practices company, we don’t perform all of our plays in Renaissance dress. It is for the same reason that we don’t play Renaissance music before the show and at intermission; we aren’t seeking to exactly replicate the Early Modern London theater experience, we are emulating the performance conditions for which the play was originally written. This may seem like a fine distinction, but it is an important one. We are not historical re-enactors, and we are not trying to present the plays as living history. We are actors performing a script as the author intended it to be performed (inasmuch as we can glean the author’s intentions over the gulf of 400 years or so).
How does that translate for performing Shakespeare in jeans? Just as the musicians of Shakespeare’s company would have opened and closed the show with the popular music of the day, his actors would have performed in what was, for them, modern dress. The theater conventions of that time had no problem with anachronism, either in the text of the play or the design of the production Whether the setting was medieval Scotland or ancient Rome, Shakespeare’s company performed in doublets and hose. This allowed the audience to “read” the costumes (getting information about a character’s age, status, religion and nationality) as easily as they did the clothing they saw around them everyday. This is not to say that the actors simply wore their street clothes onstage, however. Costumes were one of the biggest expenditures of an early modern theater company, and a major source of visual spectacle in world without electric sound and lighting effects. In addition to the “base” modern costumes the actors wore, they would have added pieces to suggest character and or setting (such as togas for Roman plays).
This style of “eclectic” or “period non-specific” costuming is one that I as a designer am particularly interested in, particularly in the way that juxtaposing modern and period costumes can make the period elements of the costumes seem deconstructed and the modern elements unfinished, which seems particularly apt for a play like Love’s Labour’s Lost.
When looking for a period to work with, I knew I didn’t want to use the Renaissance, since we just used fully-realized Renaissance costumes in our spring production of Romeo and Juliet. I had to find another period in which this play would make sense. With its comedy of manners, emphasis on witty dialogue over plot, and strong commedia dell’arte influences, Love’s Labour’s Lost is a play that seems to anticipate the farcical comedies of the 18th and 19th centuries. I decided to locate the play somewhere between the 1790s and 1810s. Rather than focus on detailed historical accuracy, however, I wanted costume pieces that evoked the feel of that era while conveying character more strongly than period.
When designing for an ensemble directed production like this one, I tend to start with a general idea of the look I want for each character and then sit back and let what the actors are doing in rehearsal influence the final product I end up with. In this production, the actors quickly began to establish three distinct worlds; the formal, highly mannered world of the ladies of France, the more natural and laid-back court of the King of Navarre, and the cartoonishly physicalized world of the lower class characters, who’s comedic subplot is a distorted mirror of the main plot. So the costumes for the ladies of France are the most firmly located in the late 18th/early 19th century, the men of Navarre have one foot in and one foot out out of the period, and the lower classes have no distinct temporal location.
In addition to making sure the costumes fit into and helped establish the worlds the actors were creating, I also wanted them to help the audience keep track of sets of characters who belong together. So each of the ladies of France is dressed in the same color as her lord, the page Mote’s costume is a miniature reflection of his master Armado’s, the peasants (Costard, Jaquenetta and the Forester) all wear leather, and Nathaniel and Holofernes wear matching 18th century-style wigs.
Finally, there is the part of costume design that I have the most fun with: using the costumes to illuminate themes and motifs in the text, all those literary ideas that are fun to discuss in English class but difficult to play as an actor in a production. I won’t give away all of my subliminal costume messages in this blog, I’ll give you one hint to think about when you come and see the production: I used color to link characters who are thematically connected as well as those connected by plot.
Fri 24 Feb 2012
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Kat Hermes as Juliet
We have what several people have said is a fairly non-traditional cast for this production of Romeo and Juliet; we have a man playing the Nurse, a woman playing Benvolio, a Tybalt who is more physically imposing than the “king of cats” is usually played, and as Juliet, we have me — a woman who is hardly a typical ingénue and who our audience is most used to seeing in comic, male roles.
All of this has me thinking a lot about the idea of “type-casting.” The phrase can have negative connotations both for actors and audiences, carrying with it the implication that an actor who is type-cast is not being challenged; he or she is “playing him/herself” or is doomed to only play a specific kind of character. But there is little doubt that Shakespeare’s company would have done a great deal of type-casting. It was, in fact, common practice. Audiences would not have been at all surprised to see the same actor playing the same kinds of roles across a variety of productions. Considering, by modern standards, the extremely limited rehearsal time Early Modern theater companies had, having actors specialize in a certain type of role was extremely practical.
The dislike many modern actors feel towards type-casting may have a lot to do with the fact that the “type” referred to is often a physical type. I mean that, depending on their appearance, there are some “types” of roles they’d never be considered for no matter what their ability, and some they’d be forced to play again and again regardless of interest. But there is another way to look at type-casting which may be closer to the way that Shakespeare’s company would have practiced it.
Though certainly appearance would have been a factor (especially since casting boys in women’s roles was a legal requirement), when descriptions of a character’s physical traits such as height and coloring are written into Shakespeare’s plays, it is not because he demanded a character look a specific way and expected to find an actor that fit his description, but because he already knew what actor he was writing for. Actors were cast by character type, rather than physical type.
Casting by character type, that is, giving actors the sort of roles that they can fit themselves into intuitively and excel at, is something that Pigeon Creek does especially and unusually well. I think our reliance on cross-gendered casting is a big part of this, as is our focus on language and storytelling over spectacle. The fact that the company is actor-run probably helps as well, since you learn a lot more about another actors capabilities sharing the stage with him or her than you can in an audition or even by watching his or her performance in a full production.
I remember a discussion about physical type in one of my college acting classes. We were talking about the professional advantages of knowing your “type” (i.e.: knowing what parts to audition for and how to present yourself at auditions) and trying to argue the limitations presented by focusing on one’s physical type instead of one’s character type. I pointed out that in a hypothetical production of Romeo and Juliet, by physical standards, I would pretty much only be eligible to play the Nurse, a role that I would be terrible at. But, I went on to say (with all the arrogance of the late-teenager), I would be an amazing Juliet if I ever found a casting director willing to look beyond physical type and consider me. One little piece of my joy at being cast in Pigeon Creek’s Romeo and Juliet is getting the chance to find out if my nineteen-year-old self was right!
Tue 10 Jan 2012
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Kat Hermes (Bianca/Tranio/Curtis) on Playing a Playmaker
When I was originally cast in The Taming of the Shrew, I was cast as Bianca, and expected to be doubled into one or two other minor roles. As anyone who’s read this blog or seen the show knows, things didn’t turn out that way. On our first night of rehearsal, I learned that I would be playing another major role, one that’s actually much larger than Bianca; Tranio, the conniving servant of the hapless male ingenue, Lucentio.
The clever servant who aids, but also manipulates, his less-intelligent master is a stock comedic character. But the interesting thing about Tranio is that while he’s smart, he’s not especially funny. Most of the good one-liners go to Petruchio’s servant Grumio or Lucentio’s other servant Biondello. Tranio gets a few deadpan asides that can earn a chuckle from the audience, but he spends much more time hatching plots than cracking jokes.
In a way, Tranio is what’s called a “playmaker” character; he writes the script from within the play and drives the action to achieve his own ends. But unlike other playmakers, such as Rosalind in As You Like It, Richard in Richard III or Falstaff in Henry IV (a role I played this summer for Pigeon Creek), Tranio doesn’t share the game with the audience. The audience gets to watch and enjoy his plots unfold, but isn’t invited to be his accomplice. In contrast, Petruchio, The Taming of the Shrew’s other playmaking character, makes a point of including the audience in his plans, telling them exactly how he plans to woo and then tame the shrewish Kate, and even asking their advice on his methods.
I bring up all this textual analysis to try to explain why Tranio was an especially challenging role for me. He’s a comic character who doesn’t make jokes, a playmaker without the playmaker’s usual connection to the audience; he doesn’t share any more information with the audience than he does with the other characters on stage. He’s hard to get a handle on. It’s much easier to play a liar who’s not very good at lying than it is to play a character like Tranio, who lies so well it’s difficult to tell from the text whether he’s ever telling the truth.
When playing multiple characters, as I certainly am in this production, I like to pick one character that is closest to my own physical “default” setting, which is usually the character I spent the most time as or the character who is the most like me. Because Tranio is my largest role, I chose him as my “default” character, so most of the physical work I did was in creating two different variations on that, Tranio as himself and Tranio in disguise as Lucentio. So the outside, the “what” of Tranio was fairly easy to come to. The inside, the “why,” was much more difficult.
It is possible to take him at face value when he says “I am content to be Lucentio, because so well I love Lucentio.” If everything he does is truly done out of devotion to his master, everything he does makes sense. But it is equally possible to imagine that he manipulates Lucentio into switching clothing and identities with no intention of ever actually switching back. His actions also make sense with that motivation. Going on the theory that complexity is always more interesting to watch, I decided that Tranio lies somewhere between these two extremes. He does genuinely care for his naive and gullible master, but at the same time is not above taking advantage of him for personal gain. When doing my actorly work of deciding my character’s intentions and tactics, I’ve thought very specifically about which actions Tranio takes to help Lucentio, and which actions he takes for himself.
I’ve also thought a lot about where the fun for the audience is in watching Tranio. You’re not really invited to laugh with or at him, you’re not included as his co-conspirators. You’re simply asked to watch, and hopefully enjoy watching, the cleverness with which his plans unfold and with which he adapts to obstacles.
Mon 28 Nov 2011
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Kat Hermes (Bianca/Tranio/Tailor/Curtis) on the Ensemble Directing Process.
Ensemble directing is one of my favorite parts of working with Pigeon Creek. Working on an ensemble directed production with a small cast, I’ve found that the excitement and challenges of ensemble direction are intensified. I’ve been thinking a lot about ensemble direction as a process.
I’ve worked on nine ensemble directed productions with Pigeon Creek and over that time we, as a company, have been organically developing a rehearsal method specific to working without a director that has been refined and improved with each successive production.
One of the major differences between directing as an ensemble and working with a director is the way in which the rehearsal process is “layered”. When a director is driving the bus, he or she typically gives the actors their blocking. Depending on the director, this can very general or detailed and specific, but most of the blocking work is done by the director outside of rehearsal.
By contrast, in an ensemble directed production, blocking typically takes several rehearsals of each scene. The first time we run a scene on it’s feet, we tend to decide where everyone is enter and exiting from and then just experiment, finding where interesting stage pictures occur naturally and where we need to stop and work on finding the best blocking to tell the story of a specific moment. It often takes several runs of the scene before we’re ready to “set” the blocking.
To somewhat oversimplify things, the ensemble directing process is a sort of inversion of the typical rehearsal process. Instead of the director working on the more “technical” aspects of production (stage pictures, pace, prop and costume decisions) outside of rehearsal and working on “emotional” or aspects (verse, objectives and tactics, character movement and vocal choices) with the cast in rehearsal, in an ensemble directed production, rehearsal is primarily focused on those technical problems while each actor does their individual character work on their own.
As actors in an ensemble directed production, this affords us a great deal of creative freedom but also puts a great deal of responsibility on each of us to be pro-active about our acting “homework.” Because the rehearsal process is front-load with technical work, once be being working on those acting details, there isn’t time to start small and work up to big choices. The most effective use of our rehearsal time isn’t helping each actor make choices, and there is no central directorial voice guiding actors towards specific choices. As an ensemble, we use our later rehearsals to help each other understand how the choices we’ve each made are “reading” onstage, and how to adjust what we’re doing to more clearly tell the story we want to tell.
Mon 11 Jul 2011
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Kat Hermes as Falstaff
I was having drinks with some of my fellow PCSC actors recently, and we confessed that we all imagine that the play we are working on is mostly about the character we are playing (however large or small our part in any given production.) Sometimes, this requires considerable effort and mental re-writing. When I played the lead in The Magical History of Thaisa (otherwise known as Pericles), I spent most of my stage time unconscious and most of the play offstage. And in our spring production of The Frat Boys of Venice, the real story was continually interrupted by all that nonsense about the pound of flesh.
This time, playing Falstaff, I am for once not alone in my opinion that the play is entirely about me. I have a great deal of scholarship and stage history on my side. In Shakespeare; The Invention of the Human, critic Harold Bloom devotes the entirety of his 43-page-long chapter on the Henry IV plays to Falstaff. Conflations of the two parts of Henry IV, such as Orson Welles’s Chimes at Midnight, often focus on Falstaff as the central character. He has been the subject of an opera by Verdi and a novel by Robert Nye. He was so beloved by Shakespeare’s audience, and anecdotaly by Queen Elizabeth I herself, that he earned his own spin-off play, The Merry Wives of Windsor (which ended Pigeon Creek’s 2010 season).
An actor tackling one of Shakespeare’s great roles always gets asked what it is like to feel the weight of all that scholarly opinion (not to mention all of the great actors who’ve famously played the role before) on his or her shoulders. How do you prepare to inhabit one of the most beloved characters in Western literature? For me, the answer is, exactly the way I prepare for any other role. The difference being that this time it is likely that there will be people in the audience who care about the character as much as I do.
There is also the fact that this particular role is one that I’ve dreamed of playing almost as long as I’ve been acting and reading Shakespeare. Because I’ve been thinking about Falstaff for years, I came into rehearsal knowing a lot more about the character than I usually do. I’m sure seasoned theater-goers like our blog readers will not be surprised to learn that many important discoveries about character and story are made in the bar, and before the rehearsal processes even started, I’d had many long, drink-fueled conversations with the director and other actors about what my Falstaff would be.
So for me, this process as has been less about finding the character in rehearsal (though of course, there are many, many exciting discoveries still to be made there) and more about finding ways to translate the Falstaff that lives in my head onto the stage. I’ve written before, in previous actor blogs, about the challenges of playing male characters and of playing characters who are much older than I am, and I’m sure other actors in our production will have their own insights to share with you about those things. With all those physical and technical challenges in the background, my focus is on living up to all of the nuance and grandiosity of Falstaff’s language, on sharing all of the things about the character that I love in a way that helps the audience to love them, too.
Fri 8 Apr 2011
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Kat Hermes as Gratiano
When Pigeon Creek announced their 2011 season and asked what I might be interested in playing in The Merchant of Venice, I said I’d either like to play Jessica (since they haven’t let me be a pretty girl for over a year!) or that one guy… I forget his name, you know, the most obnoxious one? At auditions, I ended up reading for neither part. That should have been a hint. From previous experience in ensemble directed shows like this, the entire PCSC board knows that “boorish loudmouth” is well within my emotional range. [ed. It’s true.]
So, in this production, I play Gratiano. He’s “that guy,” the one that you’re friends with but you’re not really sure why. The one who makes you look pretty suave and together in comparison, no matter what kind of trouble you get into.
One thing that was very important to me throughout the rehearsal process was that the audience be able to see themselves reflected in these characters. If our audience sees this play as a period piece, if they shake their heads at how racist and oppressive society was back then, then we as an ensemble have failed and the play has lost much of it’s power.
This is a play about a group of wealthy, entitled young men (and women) who move through the world as they please with no awareness of the unearned privilege that allows them to do so, and no concern for the others they harm along the way. Such people exist as much today as they did in the 16th century. But if the costumes are late medieval, the setting is Venice, and the language is full of Early Modern “thee”s and “thou”s, how do we say to a 21st century Midwestern audience, “This could be you, these could be people you know?”
The answer I found was to find places in which to use gestures and/or vocal patterns that are distinctly modern (but not enough to be wildly incongruous with the setting). We also spent time discussing modern versions of the scenarios the characters work through. Going to a mask was likened to going to a bachelor party. I won’t repeat in this family-friendly blog what we decided Lorenzo and Jessica were up to in Genoa.
I’ve been asked how I could stand to be “so mean” to Shylock in the trial scene, and didn’t I feel bad about having to say “those things”. The answer is similar. I came up with a modern equivalent, a financial institution that I would love to humiliate in an official setting — my bank. But I know that really, that’s not what the questioner was getting at. She was really asking what it feels like to act in a play about racism, and have to say the kinds of ugly things that I’d never say in real life. For me (I’m sure the other actors have their own strategies), it’s all about what I discussed above. I think this play has a lot to show an audience about privilege and oppression, and the most effective way to do that is to be exactly as ugly as the language demands.
Sat 12 Jun 2010
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Actor Kat Hermes weighs in on The Tempest:
That comedy is harder to perform than tragedy is a pretty well-known theatrical adage. Whether or not it’s true, I think that comedy is certainly harder to rehearse than tragedy, as I discovered over the last month.
In Pigeon Creek’s production of The Tempest, which opened last night, I play two characters (and one unnamed dancing nymph). One is Gonzalo, a counsellor to the King of Naples, who is first presented to the audience as a figure of fun, mocked by Lords Sebastian and Antonio for his seemingly inexhaustible ability to see upside of dire events. He also, however, presents a utopian vision of island life in opposition to the colonial regime imposed by Prospero. He acts a sort of moral compass to which the actions of other characters are compared.
As a young woman playing an old man, I was concerned with finding a physicality that would convey my character’s age without over-emphasizing it to the point that it became more about watching Kat pretend to be old than about watching the character. I also worked to make sure that I was equally committed both the ridiculousness of the character (his commitment to social decorum, even on the deck of a sinking ship, his immediate, unreasoning embrace of every new spectacle the island puts before him) and the wisdom. I wanted the audience to laugh at Gonzalo when the play encourages them to, but also be able to take seriously his thematically important speeches.
The other character I play is Trinculo, the fool, and this is where the “comedy is harder to rehearse than tragedy” theory becomes important. While playing Gonzalo mostly involved figuring out what they text was asking me to do and committing to doing it, much of what makes the “clown” scenes between Trinculo, Stephano, and Caliban funny is the physical comedy that punctuates the line.
Some of the physical action is discernible from embedded stage directions. When both Stephano and Caliban refer to Trinculo’s “trembling” and “shaking” it is pretty clear what I need to be doing. Apart from those select moments where what I have to be doing is written into the other characters’ lines, I was pretty much on my own. With the help of the rest of the ensemble, I came up with several “bits” for each of my scenes, and then…
Well, and then, we rehearsed. So I played to a room of people who already knew exactly was I was going to do, had seen me do it several times. Eventually, as we moved from scene work into full runs of the show, I played to empty chairs. I found that I had no idea if what I was doing “worked” (i.e. if it was funny). Just as having an audience hang on your every word and gesture is a great theatrical high, giving your all to a room full of people who stopped laughing at what you’re doing a week ago is a great breeder of insecurity.
So, in conclusion, you should all come and see The Tempest, either at the Dog Story this weekend our at one of our other venues throughout the summer, and laugh at me. Because comedy is impossible without an audience.
Sat 27 Feb 2010
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This week, our Horatio, Kat Hermes, shares her experiences from the first weeks of rehearsal.
Hello, Blog Readers! I’m Kat Hermes and I’m playing Horatio. I’m also the costume coordinator, so I’ll be working under our designer, Roz Mayberry, directing the costume construction crew. Once we go into production week and the costumes are handed over to the wardrobe crew, I’ll be acting as Fight Captain and making sure all of our onstage violence stays safe for the actors and audience.
One of the things that I find most rewarding about working with an original practices company like Pigeon Creek is the opportunity to work on multiple parts of a production. We’re not relying on a separate team of set, costume, and sound techs to create the world in which we play, we’re building it ourselves. If there are people in the seats, it’s because we went out with posters and postcards and did our own marketing. Also, I love that I don’t have to chose between acting and costuming. I get to do both, and let my work on one inform my work on the other.
Right now, we’re nearing the end of our second week of rehearsal. While last week was all about introductions, this week we got to get out hands dirty and work on some scenes. Generally, scene work goes like this: we read through the scene, talk about any textual questions and then put it on its feet. Our director, Katherine Mayberry, will stop and start us to adjust our positions onstage. Once we’ve got a shape for the scene, we run it again and start to layer in character, intentions, atmosphere (you know, the “acting” part).
The first scene we worked was, appropriately enough, the first scene of the play. Guards Marcellus and Bernardo bring Horatio up to the battlements of the castle to watch for the ghost of Hamlet’s father, who has appeared to them twice before. After we read through the scene, Katherine asked if I thought Horatio actually expected to see the ghost, and I answered definitely not. In fact, I think he’s a little annoyed that he’s been dragged out in the middle of the night, in the freezing cold, because Marcellus and Bernardo got spooked by something that was probably an owl flying by, or a coat on a chair.
After we’d walked through the scene once and everyone had a general idea of where they were supposed to be in each moment, we ran it again using the cold as a point of concentration. I found that focusing on the cold effected both my breath and movement. Next, we turned out the lights in the room and ran the scene again in total darkness (reading out scripts by flashlight). The characters’ lines indicate it is too dark to see each other clearly. “Playing the darkness” can be tricky in an original practices production, with both the stage and the audience fully illuminated all the time, but I think we made some progress toward finding the “creepy” atmosphere Katherine wants in the scene.
Outside of rehearsal this week I’ve been working on my musical parts (I’m playing the bass guitar for the first time) and doing text work, looking at the way my character uses language, scanning my verse lines and thinking about what that tells me about him.
So, that’s a little glimpse into my rehearsal process.