Michael Empson as Posthumus
If you are reading this then you are probably already a little familiar with the practices of The Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company. If you are reading for the first time, welcome and let me fill you in very briefly. The PCSC is an “Original Practices” Shakespeare company. This means we work under similar conditions as those in the Bard’s own lifetime. These include universal lighting, audience contact and sometimes ensemble directing. Allow me to expound on my experience with that last one for a moment.
The last show I acted in with a director was in 2007, and even then the director did not have a strong vision and as such did not really steer the ship. This summer’s ALL MALE production of Cymbeline marks the first time I have worked with a director in almost 4 years. As a result of this, and some missteps that I made preparing my last role, I feel a little pressure to really “up my game” for this show.
I don’t mind telling you that I tend to have a really slap-dash approach to the acting process. I usually begin, as all the actors with Pigeon Creek do, by working through the text. From there it has been a series of trial and error without a method or outline to it. For Posthumus, I plan to take a more ordered approach. I will be starting by spending more time and effort on the text work. With Shakespeare, you really can glean all you need to know about a character from the words on the page. In the case of Posthumus, Billy even gives us a fairly thorough explanation of his backstory. The work has already been done for me. Now I just have to gather that information and figure out how it informs the character that I will be building.
After I have a solid start on the text work, I plan to move on to the physical movement and style of the character. There are many actors, particularly in the US, that believe you really have to get inside the character’s head to pull off a “true and honest” performance. I say that’s a load of bollocks. Between the words that Shakespeare has given us and the physical embodiment of those words and feelings you have, in my opinion, all the tools you need. If you don’t believe me, try going around for an entire day speaking nothing but rhyme or all negative language or all singing. Then tell me you don’t “feel” different. Or try walking around all day with a limp or a hunch back or a pompous swagger and tell me you don’t “feel” different. It is the same for me as an actor. When I speak those lines and when I move a certain way it makes me “feel” a certain way.
I am excited to dive head first into this production and make some fabulous discoveries. I am also thrilled that we have the fabulous Bob Jones in to help us navigate the waters. I encourage you to come check us out at one of our great West Michigan venues. Don’t forget to check back each week as another actor writes to you about his experiences.