As I said before, As you Like it is a play which hinges on a few key relationships: that between Rosalind and Celia, that between the Dukes, that between Touchstone and Celia, that between Silvius and Phebe, that between Oliver and Orlando, that between Celia and Oliver, and that between Rosalind and Orlando. Hit one of these wrong and the play falls flat.
Up until Sunday, I hadn’t met my Orlando. He is a very busy guy (currently working on Fall Festival of Shakespeare with Shakespeare and Company – a company which, as you may recall, I have done a great deal of work with in the past). Because our directors are brilliant and forward thinking, the first scene they set us to rehearse together was I.ii; the wrestling scene; the scene where the lovers first lay eyes on each other. Because they also began rehearsal with that scene, I didn’t even get to introduce myself to Conor, we just dove right in.
Which was, perhaps, one of the most interesting moments of my acting career. When I saw him for the first time, I actually saw him for the first time. There was little acting involved in the surprise and inquisition in my voice; and that is something that I can definitely use as we progress into rehearsal.
Rosalind and Orlando have an odd relationship. They meet once in the court. Rosalind knows that her banished father loved Orlando’s dead father. She also knows that both fathers have fallen into disregard with the current Duke. Orlando doesn’t know much about Rosalind other than hey, girl who gave me a chain and who has really pretty eyes!
There’s two parts to their scene in the court – before the wrestling, and after. Before the
wrestling, Orlando speaks fairly fluently and is able to explain his motives in big, long, speeches to Rosalind and Celia. After the wrestling, Orlando finds himself tongue-tied and unable to speak to Rosalind (though able to express these thoughts to the audience in an eloquent soliloquy).
So what explains that discrepancy? What happens to make Orlando unable to talk to this girl he just met and was able to converse with a few moments ago? Is it because he can’t really see her whole face? Is it because he’s in “the zone” for the wrestling? Is it because they haven’t actually locked eyes yet?
An interesting acting problem, and one that we’re exploring in rehearsal. To see our solution; stay tuned (and, of course, come see the show)!
Another innate complication in the relationship between Orly and Ros is that, after this one meeting, they both fall head over heels in love. Orlando is so in love that he decides to paper the forest of Arden with his (bad) poetry in honor of Rosalind. Rosalind is so in love that she decides to trick Orlando into wooing her, while she is disguised as a boy, to “cure” his lovesick. Rosalind, disguised as Ganymede, believes that Orlando has bought the disguise. Never once does Orlando make direct reference to the fact that he may have caught Rosalind in her ruse.
But unless you play Orlando completely stupid (and some people do), you have to concede that he would recognize at least a touch of the woman he loves in the shepherd boy whom he meets in the woods. Especially because the shepherd boy is role-playing with him as Rosalind.
So where is that moment? When does Orlando begin to recognize Rosalind in Ganymede? How certain is he of his discovery? And why does he continue to play along?
More matter for a May morning.
Line-learning continues to progress apace, though prose is proving to be my worst enemy. Rosalind’s rhetoric bounces widely as she speaks. She’s extremely witty and always in control of a conversation. Because of this, her lines seem to come from out of the blue and she frequently has to go back to explain what she meant. In addition, she has a particular propensity for lists. Lists are perhaps one of the most difficult things to memorize in the canon as they may or may not link together in any logical order.
Rosalind uses lists a lot. So far, I’ve learned four long lists and at least two shorter ones… and I’m only about 2/3 done with my learning process. I hope to be off book in the next two weeks (at least, preliminarily off book).
I’ve also come across one of the most difficult speeches that I’ve ever had to learn. In V.ii as Rosalind attempts to explain to Orlando how she (Ganymede) may produce herself (Rosalind) for him to marry the next day, she begins with a ridiculously convoluted set of prose. Check this out:
I will weary you then no longer with idle talking.
Know of me then, for now I speak to some purpose,
that I know you are a gentleman of good conceit: I
speak not this that you should bear a good opinion
of my knowledge, insomuch I say I know you are;
neither do I labour for a greater esteem than may in
some little measure draw a belief from you, to do
yourself good and not to grace me. Believe then, if
you please, that I can do strange things: I have,
since I was three year old, conversed with a
magician, most profound in his art and yet not
damnable. If you do love Rosalind so near the heart
as your gesture cries it out, when your brother
marries Aliena, shall you marry her: I know into
what straits of fortune she is driven; and it is
not impossible to me, if it appear not inconvenient
to you, to set her before your eyes tomorrow human
as she is and without any danger.
Pretty thick, right? As I was learning it, I kept tripping myself up at the beginning. I still have trouble remembering it up until “Believe of me, then…” because that’s where the speech truly gets rolling. What this says to me is that Rosalind is trying to buy time. She’s not speaking pointedly, in fact she’s meandering. She repeats herself several times over, she uses needlessly thick language to say what she’s trying to say, and she has to preamble the real meat of what comes out of her mouth. She’s thinking. But since this is Shakespeare, she has to keep talking while doing it.
I’m off to rehearsal again tonight. We will be working more on the relationship between Rosalind and Orlando and giving the final scene our first shot. It will also be my first time onstage with Silvius and Phebe, and I can’t be more excited to forge forth.
To liberty, not to banishment!