Entries tagged with “macbeth”.


Rep. Company member Janna Rosenkranz (Ross, Hecate) talks about adapting our production of Macbeth to multiple venues.

I’ve been asked to write this blog entry on how an actor adjusts to multiple spaces. PCSC is the first touring company I’ve worked with, and although it may have taken a tour or two, I’ve gotten used to acting in multiple spaces. It isn’t easy, but once you prepare yourself, it’s more than manageable. There are some spaces you may like more than others, but they are all usable and you never know when a new space might help you discover something about your character or the play.

The first thing I do as an actor is create a document called My (with your name) Play (a plot, which is similar to a lighting, sound, or costume plot) with character names (if you are doubling or tripling) entrances and exits, cue lines, and any special notes you may want to remember.

For instance my document for Macbeth looks like this:

Janna’s Play


I ii: Ross – (costume and/or prop notes)
Cue: Duncan: They smack of honour both. Go get him the surgeons
EDL (enter down left)/ EDR
Iiii: Ross (costume and/prop notes)
Cue: Banquo: To the selfsame tune and words? ENTER Who goes here?
EDR/EUL
Etc.
INTERMISSION
Song:
Song:
III v: Hecate
Cue: THUNDER
EC/EUL
IV i: Hecate
Cue: 2nd Witch Then the charm is firm and good
EC/EUL
CHANGE INTO ROSS
IV ii: Ross
Cue: Macbeth: Come, bring me where they are

Not every actor needs or wants their play mapped out like this, and those who do might do it in a different format. This method works for me, although I’d color code it because I’m a bit anal about this stuff.

When PCSC loads into a new space we always are able to walk our play at some point, so if there isn’t a down left entrance/exit space we are able to adjust. We do this by talking to our scene partners and figuring out where our entrances and exits would make most sense artistically and practically. From rehearsal we know where the actors in the scene before us make their exits and if they are carrying any props and/or set pieces. This way we won’t get in anybody’s way. Since we help each other with things like props, set pieces, quick changes, sound cues, and curtain pages, we have to take these things into consideration as well.

Every space has different sound, lighting and space issues. If we know a space is very echo prone or absorbs sound we know we have to sharpen our pronunciation and hit our consonants particularly well or simply project our voices more. If there is no dressing room, and we are behind the curtain we stay extra silent backstage. If a space has day light coming in we have to take things like see through curtains into consideration. If a space has a low ceiling or if the acting space is very close to the audience we might have to change some blocking or re-choreograph some stage combat.

Our load in is also effected by a change of space. Parking close enough to unload costumes, curtains, props, and set pieces might be an issue. The locations for costumes may be a smaller space than we are used to and might have only a few outlets for the iron and steamer. We might have to set up our curtains differently because of the size or set up of the space. We often have to help set chairs for the audience and if there is a beam in the way we have to figure out how to move the chairs to fit the situation.

Sometimes there seem to be a million things we have to consider and perhaps alter in every new space, and it can be very daunting. As we know what spaces we will be in ahead of time, we are already aware of the stumbling blocks in spaces. If it is a space new to the company, the executive director or a member of the board will check it out first. The key, as with many new things, is professionalism, preparation, and flexibility. I’m always impressed when I tour with PCSC as they seem to have the knack for all three.

Rep Company member Scott Wright (Macduff, Soldier) answers our second round of Acting Questions.

1) When creating a Shakespeare character, do you start from the “outside” (voice and physicality) or the “inside” (relationships and motivations)? Why?

Well – both, I think… it depends a lot on the character though. As I started thinking about how to answer this question I began to reflect back on roles that I’ve done and thought about whether I’d favored one technique or the other. It seems to me that some characters have a very clear physicality that’s written right into the text – Caliban for instance, or King Richard III, or Jack Falstaff – and I think it can only be helpful to start right off with that. When doubled into a minor role that has little or no textual clues to work with I find that starting off with a distinct physical or vocal characteristic allows me to give those characters an individuality that their words or relation to the scene might not otherwise have.

But there are also characters whose attitudes and feelings about their situation or the characters around them are what powers their actions in the story. Creating those characters’ inner life is the more important aspect – more important than what they look like or how they walk. I could create a Claudius with a speech impediment or a Bottom with a particular physicality but those things don’t really seem important to the portrayal or to the story.
The “recipe” or ratio of inner to outer would seem to depend too, upon whether the character is dramatic or comedic. The comedic roles are so often more physical and it’s easy to start off with voice and “character.”

The question of “which comes first” is actually a little circular to me. I’ve come to realize that on one hand our actions are manifestations of our thoughts and emotions. Tears flow or we lash out because of strong emotions. We move to fulfill a want or need in response to thoughts. But on the other hand, many of our thoughts and emotions are triggered by feedback or physical responses in our bodies.
Building the illusion of great sorrow or anger or completely un-self-conscious enthusiasm on stage is a subtle blend of the physical and mental/emotional. We spend a good deal of time discovering and refining that blend in rehearsal by experimenting with the emotions, our own memories & experiences, and creating the situation physically.

2) Is there anything about Shakespeare’s language you find especially helpful in preparing for a role? Anything that is always challenging?

I find the verse meter to be the single most helpful thing – not only for memorization (the words sort of fit together only one way…) but sometimes the meter actually helps you find the right emphasis for certain words. One of the things that’s always challenging is sorting out exactly what’s happening in a scene… Some scenes of course are much written & talked about and what’s happening is well known. In some other scenes of course what’s happening is clear enough, but there are many scenes that are much less clear-cut and finding the action or energy that brings the words to life is always tough for me.

3) How do you prepare differently for an ensemble directed production versus a production with a director?

I’m a bit of a history buff so in an ensemble-directed atmosphere I might do a little bit of extra research into other people’s characters (depending on the piece – history plays offer loads of opportunity for that kind of thing… You still have to be tactful – not everyone appreciates that kind of “help.”) or I’ll look into other sources for ideas I can bring to rehearsal that we can try out and possibly integrate into our show. With a director you rely a lot more on the fact that the research and the decisions about how the show will look and feel have been thought out before hand. Otherwise the preparation is very much the same – reading the play, looking into dictionaries, resource texts, and (at least for me) maybe seeing a performance or two of the play, if possible, to get an idea of what other people have been doing with the material.

4) What is your favorite “Original Practice” (audience contact, cross-gendered casting, live music and sound, etc.) and what exactly do you love about it?

I would probably have to say that cross-gender casting, live music & etc., and direct audience contact get equal share here. Direct audience contact was quite difficult for me to get used to when I first tried it. I feared that looking into someone’s eyes would distract me from my lines and I’d screw up. But it quickly became clear that, while some will look down or away when you meet their eyes, most audience members seem to be even further drawn into the performance. As it was pointed out to me during rehearsals recently, “Instead of seeing you experience it, they experience it with you.”

Naturally, I really enjoy performing the music in our shows. It’s almost as much fun as the play itself.
Cross-gender casting is something that I’ve tried for myself only very recently. My experience with it has mostly been with women cast as men – and we have a ton of women in the company who are really good at it – but men playing women is a little rare. My personal experience with it was really challenging and fun – so much so that it catapulted cross-gender casting into this list and I look forward to more such opportunities.

5) What is your dream Shakespearean role?

It would be hard to limit myself to one dream role…
I’d always wanted to play Falstaff and Sir Toby Belch…; Bottom; King Claudius. All of which I’ve had the privilege to play with PCSC.
I’d really like to play Macbeth one day, and King Richard III, and Iago, and Shylock…
When I’m older I hope to have an opportunity to play Titus, and Prospero, and Lear…
Then there are the roles that I’d really love to do but don’t expect to ever be cast in them : Petruchio, Benedick, Berowne, Mercutio, King Henry V, Hamlet…
They’re all dream roles.
But probably the role that stands out as the one I most hope to one day have a shot at is Falstaff in the Henry IV plays.

Steven Schwall (Duncan, Porter, Murderer, Caithness) is not only an actor in Macbeth, he’s also the Fight Director. Here are his thoughts on choreography for this production.

Hi, I’m Steven Schwall and I am designing the violence for Pigeon Creek Shakespeare’s Macbeth. This production has a number of parameters which take me outside the “traditional” methods of fight choreography. I’m here to share my experiences with you.

To start with, Pigeon Creek is an original practices company. This poses several conditions which force the fight choreographer to adapt. Thrust staging (or full round for that matter) always complicates things, because it is harder to stage the violence so that it looks real without being real. Universal lighting makes it even more difficult to accomplish. So there is a lot of viewing from several angles and adjusting to keep it visually true.

The short rehearsal periods mean having to force the issue of training. The easiest aid in this is applying the KISS principle – Keep It Simple, Stupid. The most fabulous choreography in the world will look stilted and fake if there isn’t sufficient time to rehearse it. Also, brilliant choreography will not necessarily make a fight. The object of the fight is to physically dramatize the conflict and if we lose sight of the conflict, we lose the story. Simplicity is key.

Cross gender casting creates another problem. Pigeon Creek not only casts men in female roles, but women in male roles. While I have nothing against female actor/combatants – I know several who can kick my butt – many female actors are not involved in martial or sporting activities as much as their male counterparts, so they might be unprepared for the movements that they are going to be asked to make. This translates into a longer learning curve, so keeping the movements simple gives them time to learn and embody this new movement method

And then there is the design concept. Traditionally, the fight arranger works with swords, knives and guns. The weapons are designed to balance and flow, and have smooth edges. The steampunk concept has forced me to design weapons that fit into that style. Regular weapons would not have looked “right” and taken our audience out of the world of the story. The new weapons I have created for the play function similarly to regular weapons, but not always, so adjustments are continually made to the techniques of wielding them so that they look natural.

Lastly, this production is ensemble directed. That means there is no one decision-making authority. While this is very freeing for actors, who can develop their characters as they see fit, as the fight arranger I do not necessarily know what choices they have made. So I can design a fight, but if it flies in the face of a character’s trait as the actor has developed it, the movements will not ring true. So I must be flexible in my approach, and ask questions of my actors to be sure that the fight I am giving them tells the story in the character they have developed. A couple times in the process, an actor has come to me and asked if a change can be made in order to fit with the character they are attempting to portray. If I refuse, I become a totalitarian tyrant who is placing his own work above the good of the whole project. In ensemble direction, even someone in a directoral role must also be willing to take direction. In the end, it is the actors, and not my work, that must shine. We all work toward the good of the whole.
So, keeping flexible, keeping it simple, and being a part of the solution are the keys to functioning in this slightly unusual set of parameters. And that in itself is a learning and growing experience.

Pigeon Creek Rep. Company member Sarah Stark (First Witch, Doctor, Murderer) has already answered our basic acting questions, so in this entry we’ll delve a little deeper into her process.

1) When creating a Shakespeare character, do you start from the “outside” (voice and physicality) or the “inside” (relationships and motivations)? Why?

I tend to begin from the inside. In my first few readings of the play an image, line, or idea will stand out and attract me to the character. This attraction inspires and impassions me, firing up my imagination and excitement to explore. I find creative daydreaming about the character to be one of my most effective tools in the early stages. I do so because I need the fantasy to evoke the outside form, to articulate it in my body.

2) Is there anything about Shakespeare’s language you find especially helpful in preparing for a role? Anything that is always challenging?

The language is everything to me. I feel that the character is laid out fully by their word choice and speech patterns. I commit to the belief that the character is using precisely those words for a reason. My task is to find, specify, and convey that reason. I have to continually look, listen, and speak their language until I can do so with strong clarity. I also need to grasp the language of the whole play to arrive at a fully integrated comprehension of my role.

For every character I will always have at least one phrase that is difficult to comprehend or that feels clunky to me for quite awhile. I think part of it is the distance between Shakespeare’s language and ours today. However, once I do get it, often in a moment of flash recognition, it reveals something very impactful about the character that was previously hidden to me.

3) How do you prepare differently for an ensemble directed production versus a production with a director?

The cultivation of an ensemble directed production relies more heavily upon the perspectives and insights of the group, rather then a single person. Therefore I feel a greater responsibility to cogitate on all scenes in the play. In preparation I repeatedly read the scene prior to its rehearsal for comprehension then contribute any impressions that strike me after witnessing the scene performed as an outside eye.

4) What is your favorite “Original Practice” (audience contact, cross-gendered casting, live music and sound, etc.) and what exactly do you love about it?

Audience contact. Honestly, it took me some time to warm up to it because it can be jarring when that self critical voice in your head tries to make snapshot assumptions based on what you perceive in the moment of contact. However, I love theatre because I believe it is powerful. It can be redemptive, prophetic, and pressing. Communion ignites the impact of it all. Without an audience there is no significance. The opportunity to share a story that is common and truthful to every single one of us and to communicate it directly to the audience, eye to eye – that is essential and life giving.

5) What is your dream Shakespearean role?

Cleopatra. I love the raw turgor Shakespeare expresses in this woman who is historically embedded and inflated in myth and distortion. Shakespeare is a master of characterization because he portrays the conflicting oppositions that lie in crux of his characters’ hearts and how that tension propels them to make the choices they do. Cleopatra is strongly alluring to me because her struggles are very real to me. Ultimately this powerful woman has always fascinated me, and I feel that out of the vast arrays of imaginings of her true nature, Shakespeare came the closest to the truth.

This week, Macbeth cast member Kate Tubbs (Lennox, Messenger) answers our acting questions.

1. How do you typically go about preparing a Shakespearean character?
Many people I know view the complete works of Shakespeare as the bible, and for an actor it is. Text is key and king when playing Shakespearean characters. Speaking, reading and acting Shakespeare can be difficult, because the language adds another layer that an actor must dig through when preparing a role. You simply cannot act Shakespeare if you do not understand the words. Once you understand his Early Modern English you can start to fall back on other acting methods or techniques to develop your character. After that he’s just like any other playwright, and if you find and pick up his clues into your character, you’re well on the way!

2. What do you find to be the most helpful part of PCSC’s standard rehearsal process?
This production of Macbeth is my first with PCSC, and our rehearsal process has been much different than PCSC standard. This show is ensemble directed, meaning there is no director. Each cast member is also asked to help direct the show; any decisions or problems must be dealt with by the cast as a whole. I love collaborating with others on almost everything I do; and working so closely with other castmates allows an actor to really fine tune her work. When you receive feedback from a few different people it can seem daunting, but overall it makes for a much more flushed out performance. I’ve really enjoyed our rehearsals so far and it’s been very welcoming to join a cast that wants your feedback and your thoughts on all creative decisions.

3. What do you like to do for fun outside of theatre?
I like to meddle in lots of different art forms, including painting, photography, illustration and book making. I love film, literature, music (listening and singing)…anything that is a creative outlet. I also do yoga and love the great outdoors. Camping, hiking, swimming….I’m just kind of a hippie…

4. What is your day job? What do you want to be your day job?
In February I started a new job in Brand Communication at Steelcase. I assist the PR team and 360 team (which publishes the quarterly magazine 360) with a little bit of everything, but mostly administrative & support tasks. My dream day job wouldn’t really be a job. I’d love to be able to honestly introduce myself as an artist, someone who survives by creating. My office would be my studio, or wherever I am inspired. My boss would be me and my only deadlines would be the bottom of the page.

5. What theatre plans do you have in the next couple months?
Don’t know yet! Anybody know of upcoming auditions?!

Pigeon Creek board member and repertory company actor Kate Bode (Second Witch, Lady Macduff, Gentlewoman, Seward) discusses the physical side of playing non-human characters.

I was very excited to begin exploring the witch characters of Macbeth. After all, they are some of the most famous of Shakespeare’s characters.

As I started my process of trying to create a character, however, it dawned on me that they are some of the most famous of Shakespeare’s characters. This suddenly became a very intimidating thought. Everyone knows about the witches. Everyone has some preconceived notion of what they should be. How can an actor live up to that? But then I thought: I don’t.

It is my job to create this character anew, and share it with the audience.

For me, the biggest struggle is the physical creation of a character: how they walk, how they move, their mannerisms, their habits, etc. My friends all know how much of a klutz I am, and my movement is sometimes hindered by chronic knee pain. So, for me, movement becomes an even bigger challenge when working with a non-human character.

But I found that I can use these weaknesses to my advantage. Because the witches are non-human, my awkward movements and lack of grace can actually help me to distinguish my character’s movement qualities from those of the other (human) characters in the play. Strange, angular movements that look so clumsy and so pitiful in the real world, seem fantastical, “weird,” and completely appropriate in the world of Macbeth.

I also found myself defaulting to the movement qualities I worked so hard on for the character of Ariel in The Tempest – the non-human spirit that is a servant to Prospero. At one point, one of my fellow actors pointed this out to me, and I realized that, while that movement quality worked for Ariel, it does not work for the witches. I had to deconstruct that movement and use bits and pieces of it to build a new, and more appropriate, character for an altogether different kind of world, and discard the things that didn’t work.

In the end, I hope that the movement and character that I have created for my witch will be both new and familiar, and that the audience will enjoy the hard work and effort of my clumsy, awkward self.

Pigeon Creek newcomer Dynasty (Third Witch, Donalbain, Menteith, Second Murderer) talks about her experience rehearsing Macbeth.

1. How do you typically go about preparing a Shakespearean character?
When first starting to prepare for a Shakespearean character I make sure I have a full and clear understanding of the play itself. By understanding the play’s intent I am then able to understand the intent of both my character and other characters as well. I find that this helps to create a smooth and clear message to both the other actors in the scene and audience members, painting a better picture of what’s going on scene by scene. After getting the broader picture I try to fine tune it buy assessing each one of my character’s lines as well as going over scansion and pronunciation. Another thing I like to do with pieces by Shakespeare is to go over each word breaking down consonant and vowel make sure that they are highlighted throughout my speech so that audience members can clearly hear each word that is spoken.

What I find to be the most influential in character development, whether it be a Shakespearean character or any other, is to really do my best to embody the character I am playing; meaning behave, move, and have the energy level and needs that particular character would have.

2. What do you find to be the most helpful part of PCSC’s standard rehearsal process?
This is actually my first time working with Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company and I find that most helpful throughout the rehearsal process is the feedback that you get from all of the other actors. we are all directors as well as actors within the production. I find it helpful that the same person I’m out there acting with is also collaborating on the direction of the scene. I feel like this method helps to bring all the actors on to the same page at a quicker pace.
 We also collaborate on talking about the scenes together and discussing the intent as a whole and that really helps to know that everyone is understanding the material as a whole 

3. What do you like to do for fun outside of theatre?
This question has always been a struggle for me to answer. I feel like there’s not enough time in a lifetime to do all of the things I like to do. With that being said, I probably like to do to many things so I guess I will just list a couple of my favorite things. I love to travel places I’ve never been, hike, camp, fish, dance, play the guitar, sing, shop, have game nights, and be lazy.

4. What is your day job? What do you want to be your day job?
Well I don’t have a day job per se I have a night job. I work at an adult foster home for developmentally and mentally disabled women. it is quite challenging and often fun but ultimately I want to be a psychiatrist working with the mentally ill.

5. What theatre plans do you have in the next couple months?
Acting wise I’m always an open book and ready for anything that comes up. Sometimes I have to work on pacing myself and not doing too many things at one time. As of now I have a couple film projects in my future. And nothing planned so far within the theatre but I am excited for what may come. I have been away from the acting world for a while and I am more than ready to dive right in!