Entries tagged with “Scott Wright”.

Rep Company member Scott Wright (Duke Vincentio) drops some knowledge about music in Shakespeare’s plays and how music fits into the Original Practices style.

The question of music in modern Shakespeare performances turns out to be a somewhat contentious one.  Strong opinions are often expressed about the kind of music one “should” hear associated with the Bard’s works.  The proponents of using modern topical pop music argue that it is more accessible to a modern audience whose musical sensibilities are already attuned to it.  They regard with a certain degree of impatience those who insist that Shakespeare’s plays should be performed in renaissance costumes, accompanied by renaissance music, on renaissance instruments, especially when performed in one of the many “replica playhouse” stages around the world.  Indeed it might be said that playing renaissance music is an “original practice…”

My own opinions – and I’d expect most people’s – lie somewhere in the middle.

Modern pop songs and even those of the previous generations – “oldies” if you will – are fun to perform and seeing an audience’s eyes light up in recognition of a familiar tune, watching as they nod & tap their feet in time to the music, and as they make the connection between the topic of the song and the play – when they get the joke – is extremely gratifying to us as performers.  Songs like, “Cruel To Be Kind” in Hamlet or “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” in a performance of Macbeth can be a real relief to an audience who is concentrated intently on following an epic story in an almost foreign language.

Shakespeare’s plays to a certain degree, lend themselves to being set in almost any time or place (with a few notable exceptions…)  The music then becomes a key element in setting the scene – of indicating and coloring the culture, status and perhaps the nationalities of the characters and in telling the story of the play.

The songs that the Bard left within the plays themselves present real challenges in this regard – the song and its musical setting become as important to telling the story as the costumes or the set.  Many composers have set their hand at creating music for these songs – to varying degrees of success – and indeed, this may be one of the most “original practices” of all.  For the vast majority of these songs, the tune to which they were originally set is lost – either not written down, or simply passed out of memory.  It is thought that the musicians – or possibly one particular musician – in Shakespeare’s acting companies composed settings for these songs.  But certainly it was a very common practice to write new words – either topical or salacious, depending on your whim or the nature of the audience – to already popular songs (a practice referred to as “filking”), and it seems reasonable to think that Shakespeare’s songs might fit very easily to a melody that, in 1598 everyone knew very well, but just didn’t pass down to us.

But Renaissance music can’t quite entirely be extirp’d from Shakespeare.  In “Twelfth Night” Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Feste the Fool drunkenly sing songs that are immediately recognizable songs by Thomas Ravenscroft – “Hold Thy Peace, Thou Knave” – and Robert Jones’ “Farewell, Dear Love” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5iPpVAWhYg

– who were contemporaries of Shakespeare and writers of some of the “pop” music of the time and whose music the Bard could not but have known.

In “Much Ado About Nothing” Beatrice is urged to, “…Clap’s into ‘Light o’ Love’;”   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnTYs1jlg70

-a tune written by an anonymous author that appeared in William Ballet’s 1580 Lute Book and would qualify as a popular and familiar song to Shakespeare and his audience, but is almost certainly unknown to ours.

In fact, when I think of “pop” music of the renaissance it’s this sound of the viol, the recorder, and the lute – as in “Light o’ Love” or just the strings, as in this one -  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-I9cyit8bY that I think of.

The lute was often substituted, as it is here, by the “renaissance guitar” and the little band would have often been accompanied by a drum or other percussive noisemakers.  Shakespeare’s acting companies would have had many other instruments at hand, and would have been familiar with all kinds of music.

The vast majority of music of the renaissance that was actually written down was either for dancing or for church, or for small groups of singers and/or instrumentalists to perform for themselves around an after-dinner table.  The popular music of the time was in some cases collected into printed books like Ballet’s Lute Book (a collection, it seems of very well-known songs by largely unknown songwriters) and Ravenscroft’s three-volume collection of “Rounds, Catches, & Merrie Conceits.”  Musicians didn’t make much money publishing their music – real success for a musician was usually to be notable enough to gain employ or patronage of a wealthy nobleman or to be employed at court.  But one might imagine, in a time that lacked our modern sensibilities of intellectual property ownership, that the first time a really good song was performed publicly it might be mere hours before someone else across town was playing or singing it – possibly with new lyrics of their own devising.  One might also imagine that a touring acting company brought in to a command performance for a noble family would be flexible and prepared to please in any way possible – musically and theatrically…

For a modern Original Practices company, I think that being prepared to perform either modern or ancient music, as the occasion demands presents an intriguing challenge.  Imagine setting topical words to renaissance melodies – a very original practice.  Finding ways to arrange ancient music for a small ensemble of modern instruments presents still more challenge and possibility – just as finding ways to make modern songs sound good with a small acoustic band has.

So – I hope this has given you all food for thought, and I’d like to leave you with one more – for a performance of “Othello” the lead-in to Act1 might be something like this:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46Cfrl7hMoQ

(Though at the risk of giving it away, nowhere in the text does Desdemona appear to have a “Mama Pajama”…)

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.

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, Scott Wright

1. How do you typically go about preparing a Shakespearean character?

The first step is most often just carefully reading the play – more than once – sometimes well before the first rehearsal…! The text usually has everything you need to know about a character, and Shakespeare almost always gives you plenty of details. What a character says reveals much about him but there is much more detail available – usually in the things other characters say – or don’t say – about your character, maybe in the stage directions, or sometimes in what the character says about himself. So while you’re going through the text in those first read-thrus and early rehearsals you have to pay attention to those character details, who says them, how and why they say it.

Some roles are very well known, famous characters and much has been said and written about them. Scholarly analysis is sometimes less useful than the work of other actors and directors, but it’s always informative.

Some roles are historical characters whose lives and activities are a matter of record. A little digging can glean a great many details about who someone truly was – though Shakespeare was more often interested in drama than history…

Whether a character speaks in verse or prose is a very important clue to a character’s social status and/or emotional state. Sometimes dialects or accents are written into the script giving excellent and sometimes very funny clues to a character’s class or attitudes. But then there are characters about whom very little is said or offered by the playwright. What those characters say and the situations they are placed in is about all you get and you get to fill in lots of details yourself.

We ask ourselves questions about the character – “What is the character doing (feeling, etc.)?” and “What does the character want?” and use the other tools available to us as actors. The answers to those questions give us actions to play that will bring our characters to life.

The other players, as they work through building their characters, give you feedback and active/motive stuff that helps you discover more about your character and how much or they “want.”

Eventually though, you have to get on your feet and try some things out – try it on and see how it feels. Pigeon Creek favorite Heather Hartnett has described the process as a little like making a coat – cutting it out, sewing it, adjusting when it doesn’t fit the first time, trying it again, & etc. I think that’s a great metaphor, but even more than just trying on different hats or masks, I find that part of what we try out are the strong feelings and larger-than-life actions that are often part of our characters’ realities. Those actions & emotions aren’t always familiar or comfortable for me the actor. Once I put the script down and start putting together a sequence of the character’s thoughts and actions and feelings within the action of the play, I find I discover even more about the character and what he has to say.

2. What do you find to be the most helpful part of PCSC’s standard rehearsal process?

I really enjoy the very early rehearsals where we go through the script, consult different editions, talk about the relationships between the characters and what’s actually happening in a given scene. Going through and working out the scansion in the verse lines and those sort of Shakespeare – geek-y things.

3. What do you like to do for fun outside of theatre?

I am an avid sailor and sailboat-racing enthusiast. I race as often as I can in my Rebel – a somewhat traditional 16-foot one-design sloop which is also a great day-sailing boat. My son Soren says he prefers sailing on our Hobie 16 catamaran – I think because it’s just so much faster and more exciting – especially when it’s breezy. We do more day-sailing on the Hobie, mostly because there’s just less opportunity to race.

I am also a long-time rugby fanatic. I’m currently a referee and referee-coach/evaluator, but I’ve been involved in rugby either as player, coach, or referee for about 20 years now. I don’t play very often anymore – and when I do my body protests mightily the next day, but as we say, “It’s the pain that let’s you know that you’re alive.”

4. What is your day job? What do you want to be your day job?

I work for Distinctive Machine Corp. in Rockford, where I am the CAD/CAM/IS Manager. I’m a tool-maker by trade and qualified as a journeyman building plastic-injection molds. DMC builds metal-stamping dies, and I do CAD work and support the company’s computer systems that do computer-aided design and machining. I have often thought over the years that I would like to design and/or build boats. Especially wooden sailboats. They’re like pieces of art – beautiful and functional, and the building material lends them a sort of mysterious, magical quality – though I’d probably enjoy designing and building boats in modern materials too.

I think I’d like to be a professional actor too… not just making a little bit here and there at it and being referred to as, and being expected to behave and perform like one – but actually making a living at it. I’m not entirely sure I have the courage to be a struggling, starving artist at this stage of my life and I’ve got plenty of excuses for why I can’t – “There’s not enough opportunity in this area…”, I have a lot of other obligations, & etc. – and plenty of self-doubt… But then, “For the believer no proof is necessary – For the unbeliever, no proof is sufficient…”

5. What theatre plans do you have in the next couple months?

When Grand Valley Shakespeare Festival’s Richard III is finished I’ll get a little break and then start rehearsals for Pigeon Creek’s All’s Well That Ends Well that will hit Grand Rapids sometime in January. I hope to win a role in one of PCSC’s spring or summer tours, and of course there’ll be a few other local opportunities available too…

Scott Wright (Sly / Hortensio / Grumio / Vincentio) on the challenges of being doubled.

Try this on for disguise…

It always interests me to see how much of what we discovered, tried on, or experimented with during our initial read-through and in the early phases of rehearsal made it into the final production.

Especially with a very-small-cast where each actor, doubled into two or even more major roles, is asked to make character choices that will make it very clear to the audience who is being portrayed.

Some of the choices are easy and obvious, given to us in the text – the older men for example. The “Old Master Vincentio,” accustomed, by virtue of his age and wealth to deference and obedience, is taken by surprise when he stumbles into the topsy-turvy world of Kate & Petruchio and the goings-on in Padua.

As Kat Hermes has mentioned already, one of our tactics is to choose one character that will be simply be the most like me – that will speak in my (mostly) natural speaking voice and be mostly just me physically.

Grumio seemed the obvious one : self-aware (but not self-conscious…), smarter than average, fun-loving, attuned to what’s going on and to the people (…and their motives…) around him, and well adapted to the unique circumstances of living around Petruchio.

Well – maybe I’m not always all those things, but a little positive self-image never hurt, right…?

I’d never thought much before about Hortensio. Never had to. In my previous experiences with this play I’d seen Hortensio as someone Grumio has possibly ingratiated himself to or as one of the pawns in Tranio’s ex-machina.

But in our first read-through, under the pressure to come up with yet another character (especially one that someone else hadn’t already played with that evening…), just having a bit of fun and trying to make my cast-mates laugh, I tried on something so ridiculous, so completely improbable – something I was fairly sure at the time wouldn’t end up working…

The feedback was immediate (the expected laughter) and unequivocal as later review of what we had done and discussions about how to implement this crazy concept made it clear that it was something we would be keeping.

So then I had to start wondering – what is Hortensio’s deal…? There’s plenty in the script – Petruchio’s “best and most approved friend,” a man of higher social class – an at least moderately wealthy resident of Padua, and most notably – in love with Bianca, or at least in love with his ideal of what Bianca represents… and utterly blind to the fact that she just isn’t really interested in him.

So as I thought more about it, my very different characterization of Hortensio (…not that it’s never been done – I’ve just never seen it done…) sort of started to make sense.

It sort of fit with the way other characters treat him, and it made perfect sense that Bianca might prefer a young, good-looking (if somewhat thick-witted) gentleman to an effeminate, lisping, not-so-good-looking man who might one day be caught trying on her clothes.

You still have one chance to get out and see our zany experiment in small-cast Shakespeare at the fabulous Grant Fine Arts Center in Grant, MI next Saturday January 28th. You may never see these particular characters again… :)

Scott Wright (Hortensio / Sly / Grumio / Vincentio) on managing rehearsals for six people.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…

In the weeks leading up to the beginning of rehearsals for The Taming of the Shrew, I put my hand up for the job of Rehearsal Coordinator. I’d been allowed to “assist” the rehearsal coordinator on a past production but in truth, that was really more about officially observing the RC than what I’d been doing – which was watching & learning by experience how it all worked.

As the very small cast was set and rehearsals began, the first job was to lay out the schedule – particularly for the short-term (i.e. the next few days) – which is really a maze of conflicts, scene labels (do we work on I.iii or III.i …?), and dates. Not to mention the schedule of performances.

It’s a very eye-opening experience doing this job. I found that I made a number of miscalculations about the amount of time certain scenes would require (and possibly about how much time the characters in our cast of actors would require for debating character and scene choices…) Some scenes are significantly longer than others, and when looking at the list of scenes it was far too easy to make the amount of rehearsal time for II.i (which is ALL of Act II) the same as for IV.iv (a comparatively short scene.)

Something else that took me by surprise as a relatively new Rehearsal Coordinator was when, as we finished the time period allotted for a particular scene and the talk and debate and brainstorming (and laughter…) came to a natural ebb. Everyone turned and looked at me expectantly as if to say, “Ok, what’s next…?”

Good thing I had it all worked out…

As Many Of Your Players Do

When the small-cast concept for The Taming of the Shrew came up I couldn’t help thinking, “Six…? How is that gonna work…?” I’ve done The Taming of the Shrew twice before this, and there are a number of scenes where there are at least seven main characters on stage. This play also has a scene for Shakespeare’s typical army of servants and attendants, and in the final scene almost the entire cast of characters is supposed to be at table for dinner!

The small-cast thing is something we’ve done before too, but when we did it with The Tempest in summer 2010 there were a few differences. There’s generally a smaller cast of characters in The Tempest, and there are two fairly distinct groups of characters who don’t interact much but appear in alternating scenes, with the big exception of the final scene where, again, everyone appears on stage.

The challenges in The Taming of the Shrew for doubled actors in a very small cast are, as always, to make very distinct character choices that help the audience recognize who’s speaking at any particular moment. The addition of hats, costumes, and props help to further differentiate characters, but the demands of a small-cast production make it necessary for those costumes and things to be especially simple and specific.

This particular challenge – of making very clear character shifts, sometimes very quickly within a scene – has been, and continues to be, really tough for me personally. As our show continues to come together and prepares to open the first weekend of January, we’ll be working to make all those elements come together to make this familiar, funny, and fast-paced story come to life in the way you’ve come to expect from us.

Scott Wright on Building Character:

Well, being cast in the role of Sir John Falstaff has been at once exciting, intimidating, frightening, and exhilarating. Much has been written about the jolly knight in one form or another. Scholars, wits, and critics alike have spent words and/or wisdom in plenty writing about Jack Falstaff.

The scholars write of the way he makes a phrase of simple prose seem like the very best of a compelling poet’s quality. The wits use Falstaff’s humor for his own ends. The critics, with their own incisive wit skewers the actor who either makes the character blustery, or funny, or believably human – or not – and uses his bully pulpit to inform the world of his opinion of what makes the character lovable, and believable, and funny – or not…

One might wonder – why….?

Falstaff isn’t a noble character. Despite his knight-hood he is a thief and a rogue of the commonest sort. It seems that most of his charm, after all, lies in his earthy, unapologetic, common-ness. He is an unrepentant liar, schemer, and cheater, defrauding anyone with the means to make it worth his while. But he manages to do it in an inept and lovable style that never seems to make him truly a villain, and which always seems to make us smile, and laugh, and forgive the bombastic, vain, and likable old bastard.

So, as an actor charged with bringing such a character to life, the challenges have been daunting. Jack Falstaff is a larger-than-life personality. Scott Wright – at the risk of saying so myself – not so much…

This fantastic ensemble has produced ideas, and suggestions, and support throughout the process that has been at once encouraging and challenging, and has helped me feel like the Falstaff we’ve created is almost right. The weak link yet, it seems to me, is whether I can do it with all the enthusiasm and commitment they’ve given to me.

Scott Wright on Building Buck-Baskets:

When we first began conceiving “Merry Wives”, the pivotal element of the Buck-basket came up and I have to admit, I drew a blank. What sort of laundry basket would be big enough (and strong enough) to carry a very large man in…?

The first thing I imagined was a sort of wicker laundry basket, such as I’d know growing up. That particular basket had disintegrated in a relatively short time of moderate abuse and I wondered what a buck-basket (big enough to hold a month’s worth of dirty underclothes – not to mention a very corpulent knight…) might have looked like.

Ultimately, knowing that no modern wicker-work (even modified to safely carry an actor of “any reasonable stature”) would be available within my budget, we had to imagine something that would satisfy all the requirements

i.e. : allow two actors to safely transport a third actor (who could not in any way aid them off stage), look to a modern audience like some sort of laundry basket or hamper, evoke the Elizabethan period that the play was to be set in, be fairly easy to build, be able to broken down and packed for touring AND be INEXPENSIVE.

We found a nice big round piece for the base and some casters with a sort of old-fashioned-looking bronze swivel that looked about right. We also found some wooden closet pole, 20-odd feet of 3-strand rope, some scraps of mahogany, and a very skilled and dedicated person who could sew us a 5-sided canvas bag. We had to come up with a fixture for drilling holes on a 14 degree angle, and one to make a circular plywood reinforcing panel for the bottom (this thing has to be STRONG – a big man’s going inside it…). Making circular panels is straightforward, but drilling 1.25″ diameter holes on a 14 degree angle around a 20″ circle is a little less so, but I have to say doing it was fun and satisfying.

In the end (after some epoxy, a bit of compromise, and some dark-colored wood stain) we have what would appear to be a 16th century version of the laundry hamper I bought at Wal-mart a few years ago. So when you see old Jack Falstaff being carried away in the name of foul clothes to Datchet-Mead, as you wipe the tears of laughter from your eyes you might just notice how well constructed that buck-basket is perhaps.

“The Master, the Swabber, the Boatswain and I”

Hello again out there all you Shakespeare mavens and Pigeon Creek enthusiasts – Scott Wright here and it’s my turn again…

I never cease to be amazed at what I discover working on PCSC productions.  From the beginning rehearsals where we pore over the script and reference materials working out meanings of obscure words, debating pronunciations of particular words, and reveling in the subtleties of scansion (yes, I’m a Shakespeare nerd…), to the final stages of preparation as we work (sometimes sleep-deprived…) to get the finishing touches on the show.  The perseverance and talent of the people around me in this company inspire me to seek and strive for my very best – to dig deeper than I’ve ever had to before.

One of my big challenges working on The Tempest was in the company’s well-known practice of doubling.  I was given multiple roles in Macbeth – my very first show with PCSC – but since then I’ve pretty much never been “doubled.”  Being a rookie on Macbeth, I didn’t truly appreciate what it takes to convincingly pull off dual or even triple roles.  Using costumes is the most visually direct way for an audience to differentiate between characters but as an actor, what else can I do?  It’s still my voice and my face and my body they’re looking at…!

The two characters I play in The Tempest are Alonzo, King of Naples and Stefano, “a drunken butler.”  The distinctions between them in the script manifest in the undercurrents of their social status, but mostly in the way they talk.

Alonzo speaks in a fairly tragical/poetical mode throughout the play.  He has lost the pomp and ceremony of his majesty – sure he’s still king, but being king of a few foolish people on a desert island might be thought of as something of a step down…  The order of his world where a hoard of people saw to his every human necessity and where his son would carry on his legacy seems to have been completely shattered.  His grief over the loss of his son and the Island’s magic draw his mind toward despair and madness.

Stefano on the other hand, suddenly finds himself free of the oppression of class and service, and with all the necessities of life at hand (i.e.- a small instrument and an intact and full butt of sack…) now fancies himself his own king.  The script shows him speaking in what seems to be a coarser dialect than that of the “court” and his mood seems to be considerably more buoyant – he’s first seen singing to himself, and especially when he finds two “subjects” & drinking buddies in his old friend Trinculo and the monster Caliban.  He never strays far though from the profane and violent truth of the world of the lower class…

So finding the ways I, as an actor, can make all these distinctions clear to the audience with my voice and movements has been an adventure that’s been both fun and challenging, and the ideas and suggestions of the other company members have been invaluable.

Well, I guess that’s about as tedious-brief I as can be about that…

Come see The Tempest and let us know how successful our doubling was (-or wasn’t…!).  Hope to see you!

My Most Painted Word

Greetings to all you Pigeon Creek fans and Shakespeare aficionados out there!

I’m Scott Wright and it’s my turn this week.

“Hamlet” has been one of my favorites almost since the first time I read and saw it back in high school, and when I learned that PCSC was going to be presenting it this spring I couldn’t help feeling a little excited.

It wasn’t long before I began thinking, “I could play Claudius…”

Then they actually gave me the role.

Pleased at first of course (-and pleased still, for all that…), as I began reading and researching the script, that small voice that reminds me every so often that I’m not all that, started getting a little louder.

Here I was looking at a role in the play that some might call Shakespeare’s masterwork – one of the greatest works in the English language – a character that has been dissected and analyzed by literary types all over the world for centuries, and played by such actors as Basil Sydney, James Earl Jones, Patrick Stewart, and Derek Jacobi – to name just a few.

Feeling just a little intimidated now…

But once we got into rehearsals the general wackiness and sense of fun that infuses this group quickly winnowed away any doubts.

Everyone in the group attacked the text with a gusto and seriousness that is truly a thing to behold.

Now, I’ve been a self-described Shakespeare geek for quite a long time, but after being involved with Pigeon Creek for a few shows (“Hamlet is my fifth…) my Shakespeare-geekness-quotient has increased conspicuously.

Under the influence of the brilliant Katherine Mayberry I’ve gone from being simply an enthusiast to the point where I now find myself unconsciously working out scansion, curiously intrigued by the variations of rhythm within the rigid structure of iambic pentameter and intensely fascinated with the minutiae of punctuation…

I found and downloaded a facsimile copy of the 2nd Quarto edition (the “good” quarto) so that I could directly compare its spellings and punctuation with the modern editions, and bought the 2nd volume of the two-volume Furness edition that I’d been missing ever since I found Volume 1 in a used book store back in college, so that I could see the 1st (“bad”) quarto and look for more character clues…

It’s a frightening and wonderful thing she’s done to us…

But in rehearsals we began to look at it from an actor’s perspective – seeing the characters as real people, looking to bring life to their actions and words, discovering the relationships between them and the feelings they express (-or don’t express…) for each other, creating something more than two-dimensional literary characters.

It would be easy (and a bit lazy) to make Claudius a cardboard cut-out villain, but Shakespeare created very few of those kind of characters and Claudius is not one of them.

No one in the play ever says that Claudius is a tyrant or a bad king.  No one (except Hamlet…) seems to think that he’s done anything particularly wrong by seizing the throne and marrying his brother’s wife…  (Though it would probably have been bad form to have said so…)

In fact, whatever reasons he may have had for murdering his brother – whether for power, or for a woman, or both – he’s doing his best to appear a genuinely nice guy – at least in the beginning.

Claudius’ fratricidal act seems to have set in motion a series of events that will inevitably bring his carefully constructed world crashing down around him.  Whenever something unexpected happens he lashes out in a desperate attempt to re-establish order – which he never quite manages to do, as each attempt seems to spin things further and further out of control.  At last, he turns again to secret, cold-blooded murder as the only way to get back on top of things, but the result is that nearly everyone around him – including his queen, the promising young Laertes, and he himself suffer the same fate as his intended target.

So the challenge then will be to bring to life a man with a heart -  a heart that loves, that feels loss, and sadness, and regret, but whose envy, ambition, lust, and fear lead him to commit the primal eldest act of jealousy…