We recently held our 2-Day workshop for our cast members of Much adoe about Nothing. We hold these intensive workshops before our productions because it refreshes our vets who may have been out of the loop for a while, it introduces our way of working to our new-comers and it is the only time until we have our technical rehearsal that everyone will be together: this is their opportunity to bond as a cast.
Eleven hours is really no time at all considering how much time is usually spent in the rehearsal hall, but it does wonders for an unrehearsed cast. Not only is this where they get their first impressions of what the performance will be like, but this also their time to see what the audience sees, and to watch how our technique works from the perspective of an audience member. This is their only time to hear each other’s voices as they give stage directions. Here is where their chemistry is discovered and nurtured. This is when they discover how to connect with their fellow actors and to keep their eyes and ears open while they are working from the text in real time. They are learning to walk, talk, act, think, read, listen and watch all at the same time.
It is always encouraging to see actors understand how well what seem to be completely arbitrary directions tell a story. Even those who come with solidly formed ideas about what should happen in a given scene or on stage in general come away with something new, even if it is a new question. The queries arising from our workshops are always interesting and compelling. Actors have great questions, and the comments and feedback created by this work give us a chance to better explain the technique and refine how we discuss what it is we do.
Great moments of creativity and immediacy grow once actors trust the rules of the technique. It is amazing how the characters and scenes become relevant and how much more the audience invests in them. This particular workshop gave us moments of people slithering across the stage like a snake, a lively debate about exactly what ‘it’ meant in a scene, a stuffed lion portraying the cutest Julius Caesar that anyone has ever seen and a demonstration of the limits of mugging.
The end of the workshop is almost like Christmas when the cast members receive their packets with their cue scripts and track information. Now they have opened their presents, and are at home playing with them before bringing their homework to their text sessions over the coming weeks. Now the hard work begins, but while everyone is going over their lines on their own, they have a much better idea about what their work will look like on stage.
As we move forward, we hope to make these intensive workshops a more frequent occurrence, open to anyone who is interested in approaching Shakespeare from a new direction. We look forward to seeing you there.
-Andy Kirtland, Managing Director of The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project