Kathleen Bode as King Henry IV
I have the first lines in this play.
That was a terrifying thought for me.
It is not the first time that I have said the opening lines of a show for Pigeon Creek, but this time it seemed so much more challenging. My physical presence, voice, and stage presence for this moment needed to be larger than life. It has to set the tone for the entire play and everything that follows (not to mention sum up Richard II). Yikes.
I began with my physical presence. As I have said before, this is my biggest challenge. I did a lot of work with making myself more grounded (i.e.: having a slightly wider stance, balancing myself more evenly on my feet, and moving like a guy.
I spent several weeks prior to rehearsals observing the physical movements of many of the guys I know, and taking note of how these movements were different from my own. Men and women move in different ways based on some basic, biological factors such as center of gravity, a difference in hip and shoulder widths, and of course…
But what really struck me as I observed the movements of men, were the many subtle differences in posture, gesture and facial reactions. Have you ever noticed how men fold their arms? Have you ever noticed how women do? I knew that, while I may not be able to change my stride, gait, or center of gravity to that of a man, I could make some changes to the more subtle movements that I had observed.
Next came the voice. With the past voice work I had done with Heather Folkvord, I was feeling good about where to start. I worked on focusing the energy of my voice to the lower registers and resonators. This is more than just talking in a lower voice. I had to allow my breathing and vocal chords to support my voice from deep within. It was wonderful to be able to explore the use of these full and robust sounds.
As for stage presence, that was a bit more difficult. I tried several different tactics for these opening moments, but none of them seemed to be working. The intentions I was trying to convey (i.e.: hope, civil peace, and a focused mission), were not ones that were reading well or fitting in with the tone of the rest of the play. It was when Scott Lange, our director, came to me and said, ‘You are commanding. Try demanding instead.’ that things really began to click for me.
With presence and voice all coming together, the moment finally came through with the strength, support and vigor that it so desperately needed.
So, shaken as we are,…