First posted April 22, 2014.
April 23 is when we will celebrate William Shakespeare’s birthday. Elizabeth and I want to take this opportunity to thank him for what he has brought into our lives.
Back in the Spring of 2002, my junior year in college, I took the long road trip from Baltimore to Natick, MA to audition at the New England Theatre Conference cattle-call. At NETC a number of theatres come together to watch hundreds of actors, mostly college students and non-union performers, do 2 monologues or a monologue and a song in a hotel conference room. I was armed with a Lanford Wilson monologue from a role I never would have been cast as, and one of Benedick’s from Much Ado About Nothing. At this point, I had only done a high school production of Macbeth and not-so-great college productions of Hamlet and The Winter’s Tale. My only call back was for the New England Shakespeare Festival, doing a cold reading of Silvius from As You Like It for their Artistic Director Demitra Papadinis. After getting the call that I got the internship, and driving to Demi’s house in New Hampshire for a weekend workshop during finals week, I headed up to New England to live on the farm for a month, drive vans, sell t-shirts and rubber duckies, do show laundry, mow the lawn, and of course perform with a cue script. This was the first time that I had ever heard of performing ‘unrehearsed’ and while like most people, I was skeptical at first, I’ve been performing like this ever since. -Andy Kirtland
In Summer of 2005, I auditioned for the New England Shakespeare Festival and fell in love with the unrehearsed cue script technique. I had a B.A. in acting with an emphasis on classical theatre, and had just left a national Shakespeare tour. One of the wonderful benefits of this technique is that you can continue to use it for Shakespeare’s plays even without the cue scripts. The main point that I learned is the vital importance that every actor listen to each other and remain observant. The Bard’s plays were written centuries before Stanislavsky, so he did not consider “subtext” or “magic if” in his works. The characters never hide their true intentions from the audience and we see and hear their stories, which sometimes includes beautiful poetry and other times raunchy jokes. I continue to teach and direct using this technique because it brings me closer to Shakespeare’s words and, possibly, his original intentions. Plus, I am always making new discoveries from researching his text!
Our paths crossed for the first time in 2008, during Much Ado About Nothing. Among other things, Elizabeth played Beatrice and I played Dogberry. Our passion for this method of performing and for Shakespeare and theatre in general brought us together, and we’ve been together and working in this style ever since: performing, directing and teaching.
Shakespeare brought us together and will always be something that we hold in common. Because of the Bard, we’ve found each other and something to share for the rest of our lives together.
Thank you Will, and Happy Birthday!
-Andy Kirtland & Elizabeth Ruelas
The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project