Welcome to Hell

Tech week seems to have one of two effects on me:

The desire to run aimlessly around the house waving my arms over my head in sheer terror because everything is wrong and nothing will ever be right again and good god why do I do this to myself?

Or the desire to drop everything and do nothing but be at the theatre all day because things are going so well and the show is going to be so awesome and I can’t wait for it to go up so I can show people how awesome it is.

Sometimes these things interchange and I bounce from one extreme to the other.

Either way, tech week is not good for my work habits, it’s not good for my diet, it’s not good for my gym habits, and on the whole it’s not really healthy for me as a human being.

Luckily, the process of making theatre is healthy for human beings.  And specifically the

Unrelated: found this at the library today.  Proof that even I can make it in academia.

Unrelated: found this at the library today. Proof that even I can make it in academia.

process of making Shakespeare really helps to feed what I do when I’m not physically in the theatre.  As I’ve mentioned, this process has been bumpy; but we’re making something new.  Forging a new model is always more complicated than falling into the ruts of an old one.  The growing pains of what we’re doing can be forgiven because I really do think that the end product is going to be worth it.

Twelfth Night is different from anything else I’ve worked on.  I’ve talked about the community-oriented formation of this project, but it’s also not an ends to itself.  It’s a process.  In building the only true repertory company in New England, we’re hoping to keep our shows in rep for many years to come.  This performance isn’t a once and done kind of thing; it’s a springboard.  It’s the start of something that we’re making together and, as such, it’s much less stressful than a typical show in some ways.  I don’t feel the pressure to get it right once and for all because I know I’m going to be living with the show for a while.  On the flip side, I don’t feel like the problems that this show has are things that we can just gloss over.  If there’s an issue, we really need to solve it because it’s just going to hang Damocles-style over our heads ad infinitum.

We don’t have much to “tech” in the show because we have no scenery, no lighting cues, and no sound cues.  The things we do need to run are the insane number of quick-changes (I pretty much spend the entire play getting into or out of some outfit or another), the shuttling of props/costumes from an exit to an entrance on time, the manipulation of bodies in the space backstage, and general timing/human things.  Again, in one sense it’s a lot easier.  It’s all us.  If there’s a problem, it’s on us to solve and not a light board or a switch.  In another sense, it’s harder to solve these kinds of issues.  There’s only so fast anyone can move; quick-changes have an upper limit of time compression.

I suppose the ultimate conclusion is that nothing is perfect, the grass is always always greener, and hell week is hell (despite being fun when things are going well).

…it should be noted that the bizarre array of props that I need to pile and bring to rehearsal for this show is interesting enough to list: 1 ukulele, 2 fencing foils, 2 long red ribbons, double stick tape, 1 pair yellow stockings, 1 hair clip (easily put on/taken off), pouches and pouches of fake money, 1 black beret (I play one character that kind of looks like Che Guevara), 1 pair mary-jane chunky heels, nylons, a ring, several jewels given as gifts, maracas, a tambourine, spoons, 1 black Spanish fan, sewing kit, breathe mints (just general good courtesy when you’re up in each others’ faces), letters, sealing wax… there are a lot of hand props in this show.  Lots of gifts.  May be the subject for a paper at some point when it’s not hell week.

Welcome to hell.  Come see my show on Friday.


For reasons that may or may not have anything to do with a certain production of Twelfth Night which I’m currently working on (you should come see it, by the way), I’ve been putting a lot of thought into the re-ordering of scenes in contemporary performance of Shakespeare’s work.

Specifically in the performance of Twelfth Night, the first and second scenes of the first act are often inverted in performance.  For whatever reason (and these reasons differ with theatre companies/directors), theatre-makers feel that it’s sometimes appropriate to re-organize these two scenes.

The opening scene of Twelfth Night as it appears in modern editions depicts the Count

Rehearsal: a still life

Rehearsal: a still life

Orsino at his court in Illyria lounging melancholic across the stage as he orders music played for him and pines for the love of the Countess Olivia (the first lines of this scene is the resounding “If music be the food of love, play on…”).  The second scene shows us Viola crawling onto shore after her shipwreck and asking “What country, friends, is this?”.

The opening lines of Shakespeare plays always tell you something about the play.  In the case of Twelfth Night, the show is steeped in music.  Twelfth Night is a show which examines the effects of music on human beings and Orsino’s court is a place where music is constantly straining in and out in the background, filling the edges of the senses.  Orsino calls music “the food of love” and does, in fact, seem to feed off of it for the entirety of the show.  When the music stops, Orsino is awakened to the harsh realities of life outside his court.  His veil of melancholy and self-delusion is lifted, and he finally sees things for what they are.

Orsino speaks the opening and closing lines of the show (…with the exception of Feste’s song which I would argue does not fall into the category of “speech” so we cannot classify it as the “last lines”).  It’s not often that Shakespeare bookends his shows this way and thus we should take special note of the move in Twelfth Night.  Orsino at the beginning is very different from Orsino at the end; everything and nothing has changed.  This is highlighted by his words and the impetus to speak them and through this the audience is forcibly confronted by the journey which Orsino has taken through the course of the show.

By having the first scene occur in a world and a story already in progress, Shakespeare establishes and highlights that world.  We are shown Illyria and how wacky it can be before the play’s outsider (Viola) enters that world.  It establishes something before fully explaining it; allows the audience to encounter an oddity before the oddity is laid before them in its full detail and glory.  In a way, it shocks an audience into paying attention.  It’s a lot easier for a modern audience to glaze over the lengthy descriptions which populate I.ii than it is for them to ignore the pining Count in I.i.

More rehearsing

More rehearsing

Perhaps most importantly, bending a script to one’s will is the cheater’s way out of solving an acting problem.  If you, as a director/company don’t think that you can deal with the script Shakespeare wrote, then don’t perform Shakespeare.  When an actor encounters a problem, he doesn’t simply change the line to fix that problem; he gets creative.  Shakespeare’s text should be treated with the same integrity.  Now granted, I do think that there is a certain amount of cutting that goes into any healthy modern production of Shakespeare’s text.  I’m also not completely averse to changing small words for the sake of clarity (just make sure you check it with your dramaturg first).  I have even enjoyed productions that played fast a loose with the text; but this sort of thing takes a great deal of care and experience.  As a general rule, don’t re-arrange Shakespeare.  Just don’t do it.  It’s sloppy, tasteless, and gives purists like me a headache.

In the interest of full disclosure, the group decided to swap I.i and I.ii in our production (on a day when I wasn’t there to dissent).  I have made the full extent of my discontent with the decision known and have no plans to censor my opinion about this issue.  Despite this lapse in judgment, the production is a solid one with a lot of fun and energy and I highly recommend you come see it (if for no other reason than now you can snob out the egregious violation of textual integrity innate in the aesthetic choice of scene-swapping).


At the moment, my life is pretty much the picture of what I would generally describe as being “my ideal life”.

I’m involved in two productions: Twelfth Night (my group’s pilot experiment in communal theatre) is in rehearsal and I’m getting to do some awesome, wacky, fun things with some really neat, smart, talented individuals while simultaneously dreaming about a bright future on the Boston theatre scene; and Measure for Measure (my debut as a dramaturge which, for those who are keeping track, I’ve been working on actively since last June) is in its last week of rehearsal before it opens next Thursday.  I’m TAing one class

Rehearsal the other day; we have a show! From a script that I made! From Shakespeare!

Rehearsal the other day; we have a show! From a script that I made! From Shakespeare!

(Modern and Postmodern theatre) with a professor from whom I’m endlessly learning things and with whom it’s a pleasure to work.  I’m in a class that’s got me constantly thinking, constantly on my toes, and constantly studying for comps.  I’m keeping up on my awesome side-projects (Offensive Shadows has just started recording our episodes on Love’s Labour’s Lost which is a joy to discuss as it’s one of my favorite plays).  I’m living, eating, breathing, bleeding, and sweating theatre.

I guess call me a classic case of “grass is always greener” syndrome, but I’m so tired right now that I’m having trouble enjoying any of it.  I haven’t had a decent break in who knows how long and every time I do manage to eke out a few hours away from my desk that time seems to fill with unexpected trips to the theatre (which, don’t get me wrong, I love but aren’t much of a break for me).  What’s really got me shaken is the fact that’s is very early in the semester to be feeling this way; all of my big projects are on the distant horizon (with the exception of one lecture that I’m working on prepping; the first of two for my TAship this semester).  If I’m working like this before my projects hit the hot zone, where am I going to find time for my projects when I actually need to work on them?

I’m not the only one feeling like this either.  From speaking with some of my cohort, it seems that a general malaise has overcome Dance and Drama at Tufts.  I guess I could blame it on February; the long (but surprisingly so-far easy) Boston winter; or maybe the Genocide course that most of my colleagues are taking (nothing will make you feel awful about life quite like being bombarded with consistent reading about genocide).

out my window.  Nemo does not look awful.  Yet.

out my window. Nemo does not look awful. Yet.

To hammer home the point that all I do is work and there is life outside my apartment, I am currently hunkered down in my office while outside begins the great blizzard Nemo which some stations are predicting will be one of the worst in Boston’s history.  Most normal people I know have been given today off or have a half-day and this extends into tomorrow thus effectively creating a three-day-weekend for the gainfully employed.  I, however, took this opportunity to stock up on library books and non-technology research (in case we lose power) and plan to spend the next few days holed up on my sofa working.  With any luck, I may be able to plow through a bunch of my to-dos while the rest of the Northeast goes sledding.

…The one concession I will make to snow is the potential creation of a snow-tomaton in my near future.  Because making a snowman out of the accumulation from my driveway is way easier and more enjoyable than shoveling it out.

Here’s hoping accomplishment can bust through my malaise.  If not, I at least hope you have a good weekend.  Stay warm and dry!

Plague Monkey

It’s Sunday night.

Boston is currently a plague zone with three quarters of the population infected with a mystery flu.

I never get a flu shot.

My partner in crime was lain out for four days with said flu.

We spent this morning podcasting.

Then I went to rehearsal.

I’ve been under pre-semester stress/pressure lately and this overwhelming fatigue is, I’m beginning to worry, perhaps something more than just overwhelming fatigue.

Halfway through rehearsal I realized I was having trouble reading my script.  Not because my printer is faulty or my eyes are bleary, just because I was having trouble reading.

I may be contaged.

…classes start Wednesday.  I don’t have time for this.

Which means I’m definitely contaged.


Measure still for Measure

Yesterday, I got to listen to the first full read-through of our cast do our cut of Measure for Measure.

This was a new and different experience in several ways.

Firstly, this is my first time dramaturging a production. While this isn’t the first time I’ve been on the “other side” of the table (i.e. not acting), I definitely have much more experience as an actor than I do as a member of the production team. As such, to be sitting behind that big folding table listening intently rather than partaking in the reading felt like wearing someone else’s shoes. While they were the correct size for me, they weren’t quite worn in for my feet and the shape was unfamiliar (though, really, it’s a shoe, so how unfamiliar can it be?). At the end of the day, theatre is theatre and Shakespeare is Shakespeare and, while both can supply endless permutations of difference, they are both places I know well. So, while it felt new to be sitting in the Big Comfy Dramaturge chair with all the responsibilities and privileges allotted to that, it still felt like home.

Secondly, this is the first time that I’ve ever participated in editing an edition of Shakespeare. To know that the story being told was one that I helped to shape (and one that I have some amount of control over) was absolutely thrilling.

Third, my job in this production is to be an expert. I am sitting in that room because I have a degree of knowledge about an aspect of the show that nobody else in the room has. As such, some things are my job to comment on, correct, observe, and shape. While this is, in the end, a show that belongs to the actors and the director, it is my job to make them look good and ensure that they aren’t missing something big, historical, textual, Shakespearean, etc. In other words: I am the champion of Shakespeare in that room. I am

my job, ladies and gentlemen

his sword and shield, his chosen paladin (… oh what I would give to put that on a job description or in my CV). This is an immense privilege, but also a huge responsibility. If I miss something, it’s missed. If I fail to explain something properly, it is also lost to the ether. I must be ever-vigilant, ever-watchful, and ever-articulate.

It is still very early in the process and, as such, we have more of an amorphous blob of a show than a cohesive unit. There is a great deal of work to be done on all fronts; a first read functions only to get the words in the air and to give some sense of direction for the actors and designers. As such, there are problems that can be spotted at this juncture and corrected early (and problems that must be spotted and corrected early), and things that can only be warning signs.

Examples of things that I found yesterday which were important to note at this stage (pun intended):

*Minor across-the-board pronunciation issues. If ever you do Shakespeare, read Shakespeare, or see Shakespeare that you want to comment upon; note this: the word “doth” is pronounced “d-uh-th” not “d-aw-th”. This one drives me crazy and you hear it far too often. “Troth” is another commonly mispronounced Shakespearism (pronounced “Tr-oh-th” not “tr-aw-th”), though I didn’t hear this one yesterday so they must be doing well with it. I would say that most of my job revolves around ensuring correct pronunciation and clarity of meaning by providing definitions to obscure words (or things that have fallen out of the common usage). If you wind up working on a show without a dramaturge, just make sure you’re pronouncing things properly. The easiest way to make yourself look like a know-nothing onstage is to go up there without knowing how to say your lines.

*A few textual notes which are specific to Measure and, unless you’ve spent a great deal of time with the show, you may not notice on your own. For example: the word “whore” pops up again and again in this show and, often times, it’s internally nested. Isabella says “abhor” a whole lotta times (which is funny because she’s a nun and is constantly preaching chastity and virtue). There’s even a character named “Abhorson”. Actors need to be aware of these things and sensitive to them, but they are easy to gloss over if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Shakespeare police to the rescue!

*Some juicy ways to use the language that, again, unless you’re specially trained would be easy to miss. Shakespeare is a master of words and, as such, a master of providing words which can help you act. When you are speaking them, you need to use them. Devices such as onomatopoeia, alliteration, and repetition of sounds/full words can provide acting clues and, if you ignore them, you wind up delivering a flat reading of a full text. Alerting the actors to these clues is the first step towards colorful Shakespeare.

 Like I said, this show has a long way to go before it is ready to open, but luckily we have a lot of time to make that happen. I’m really looking forward to seeing this show grow and supporting it along the way. The actors are starting with a good, solid foundation; if they can build at a steady rate, the final production is really going to be something worth seeing.

The Rosalind Diaries: Entry Seven; Putting it Together

Last night, for the first time, we ran the entire show.  We stopped for a five-minute intermission, but other than that we just kept going.

And last night, for the first time, it really felt like it worked.

We didn’t have the full set, we didn’t have lights, and most people didn’t use their

Touchstone finds Rosalind reading Orlando’s poems in the forest

costumes (I did to try and make sure my changes work – they should; though my quick-change at the end is going to be a bit of a bitch).  But we did it.

Coming off the heels of a rehearsal in which I felt like nothing worked, it was pretty spectacular to leave last night feeling like something fell into place.  I wasn’t word perfect, and I know that the other actors weren’t either.  There were some few calm calls for line, but I know I could have fought through them if I had wanted to.  The pace still needs to be picked up before performance.  But those things aside, we did it.  We stumbled through.

And let me tell you, it can only go up from here, and it’s really going to be good.

Orlando and I have been in deep conversation about how to make 3.2 work.  We’ve been trying to feed things in; ideas, notions, impulses, anything to get a different reading than just something flat.  Last night, for the first time, we had a spark of something.  We were engaged with each other, we listened, and something worked.

I also owe a debt of gratitude to my dear friend Angelo who took time out of his busy schedule to run lines with me and coach me through this scene particularly when we realized how much it wasn’t working.  With his help, and with the support of my fellow cast-mates, something happened.

So; what worked?

I kept coming back to the idea that this was Rosalind’s first time really speaking with Orlando at any length.  Her disguise, the mask she wears in the forest, really frees her to say whatever she wants without consequence.  Her honor is only at stake if he discovers that she’s a woman, so so long as she can continue the charade of being Ganymede everything else will sort itself.  This scene is a desperate attempt to engage Orlando, an attempt to find a way to spend time with him in a situation that’s mediated and in which she makes the rules.  If she is teaching him courtship, then she has all the power (a situation which never would have been allowed at court).  Rosalind is a woman completely abandoned and betrayed by all the men in her life; her father was exiled, her uncle then exiles her; it makes sense that she would be wary around the guy she wishes would become her husband.  By making the rules herself, she takes a hand in her own fate and so setting up the Ganymede/Rosalind role-play concession is a vital step in ensuring a strong future for herself.

So what does a girl who likes a guy but is dressed like a guy say to that guy when she knows he kinda likes her back but she can’t reveal that she’s the one he’s in love with?

The answer is: she has a really hard time coming up with things to say.

Rosalind is a master of wit and she’s extremely good at entertaining people with it.  But when she sees Orlando in the forest and decides to speak with him, the best thing she can come up with to say is “What time is it?”

….stupid, stupid, stupid.

Once I was able to feed that nervous energy into the scene, it gave us somewhere to

Rosalind and Celia come upon Orlando carving Rosalind’s name into the poor trees of Arden

bounce from.  Orlando had to figure out why I could sometimes engage with him and sometimes not, which meant he was interested in what I was saying.  But I can’t let him get too physically close to me because, if I do, he may recognize me.  But at the same time, his eyes are really pretty and I really want to touch him, but it’s probably a bad idea.

The rubber-band action gives us something to play with, and makes sure that we keep moving (a MUST on a proscenium stage).

Another thing which really helped was a suggestion by our director to “earn the touch”.  There’s no way that Rosalind would touch Orlando casually (even if casual touching is something that I do rather frequently).  Every touch should be important, magical, and something we work up to.  Once we were able to emphasize the importance of the touch, we were able to really plug into the “I want to, but I can’t”, which in turn fed that nervous energy which the entire scene hinges upon.

So we did some solid work last night.  It’s only going to get better as we build, grow, and prepare because we open in a scant nine days (and it’s only eight days before our invited dress with talk-back).

Curious about seeing us in our full glory?  Tickets available here!

The Rosalind Diaries: Entry Six; Climbing Uphill

Yesterday, our director busted out the words that strike terror into the casts of shows the world over; “We open two weeks from tomorrow”.

Ensue panic.  I’m not ready.  I’m barely off book, definitely not word perfect, some scenes are working but some scenes definitely aren’t, we don’t have a set yet, we don’t have all our costumes yet, I’ve not rehearsed with some of my more important props, I’m not really feeling it yet, nothing’s sliding into place, oh my god why is this happening and why don’t we have more rehearsal time this show is going to suck why did I encourage my friends to come see it?!

….whoa.  Slow down there, cowgirl.

First things first: up until this week, things were going peachy keen and dandy.  You were happy with the progress.  You were excited about the potential.  There’s a reason you told your friends to come see the show.  You believe in the talent around you.  You believe that this is worth seeing.

Next:  I know it’s been a long time since you’ve been in a show, self, but remember: this is natural.  Panic time always happens last minute.  Always.  There’s never enough rehearsal time.  There’s always something to work on.  You are making art and art is a process, not a product.  No matter how much time you have, there will always be something more you want to do or add to make a show better.  This stage of the game is developmentally appropriate.

Next: Yes, I know you’re coming down to the wire, but you still have some time.  A lot can

Cast lounging on our skeletal set during a line-through the other day

happen in two weeks.  You don’t want the show to peak before its prime and if things were going perfectly right now, chances are some monkey wrench would have completely thrown it off in two weeks for your opening.  Take a breath and analyze what you need to do to make what’s not working work.

Next: This, remember, is why you aren’t a full-time professional actor.  This part of the process.  The sheer terror being blocked up emotionally.  The idea that an entire production rests on your shoulders and, should you give a less-than-stellar performance, you would be letting everyone down and all this hard work would have been for nothing.  Doing things that scare you build character and there’s a reason you came out of retirement to perform this part.  Despite your insecurities, you know you can do this.  You’ve been waiting a long time to do this.  You’ve been storing up those life experiences so that you have the emotional dexterity to do this.  So buck up, face down your demons, and prove to yourself that you’re capable of what you know you can do.  Nobody said it was going to be easy, but the ability to overcome those obstacles which seem largest and darkest is what makes you a better human being in the end.  And, by the way, a better actor.

Next: While Rosalind is one of the folks who has the most lines in the show (and, by the way, one of the most blathering characters in the canon – she’s the largest of Shakespeare’s female roles with a total of 685 lines, also putting her at the seventeenth largest role in the canon, but it’s hard to compete with Hamlet who has 1506 lines.  Statistically, Rosalind speaks 23.7% of the play as the show consists of some 2,884 lines while Hamlet speaks 37% of the play since Hamlet is a massive 4,070 lines) that doesn’t mean that I’m alone onstage.  I have a wonderful cast of actors to help me along – my Celia, Touchstone, and Orlando are solid (and, as I’ve found out, there’s not a single scene where I’m onstage without one of these three people).  They are there to play with me, to help me, and to carry the show with me.  Yes, I talk a lot, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a one-woman show.  Trust your fellow actors and let them help you because they are good at what they do.

Rosalind from the waist down. Those pants are the most comfortable thing I’ve ever worn and I love them. They’re so giant!

Also, you have one of the greatest coaches you can think of helping you out.  Aforementioned gay best friend has really busted butt to make sure I’m good to go, and has generously offered to continue helping me work through these last minute difficulties.  He’s awesome and I can’t imagine going through this process without him.

Next: You’re doing this because you love telling a story, you love Shakespeare’s words, and you love theatre.  Remember what you love about these things, take a deep breath, and go have fun.  It’s called a “play” for a reason.

Suffice to say, I’m going to be working my fingers to the bone getting ready for this show.  I think it’ll pay off in the end, and I really hope that you’ll be able to come see it.

Despite my massive issues with stage fright which compound themselves when there are people I know in the audience.

Come see it anyway.  It’ll at least be worth a good hard laugh at my expense.

Tickets here!

The Rosalind Diaries; Entry Five: Suit the Action to the Word

Ah yes, now we’re into the thick of it.

At this point in the rehearsal process, we are, mostly, off book.  Which means that it’s time to start doing some real acting.  Which also means that it’s time to draw forth from those deep emotional wells, make choices, enact them, and shape our performance into something that looks a lot more like a finished product.

Basically, this is the hard part.

As a young actor, this is what I had the most trouble with (and still, by the by, plagues me

Me in “The Laramie Project” circa 2003

to this day).  I think a lot.  In fact, it’s my job to think.  As a result, when I’m acting, I tend to be “in my head” (which is a fancy way of saying that I’m trying too hard and not doing enough).  Having been through the extensive training that I have been through, I’ve picked up tricks along to way.  I’ve uncovered ways to express through the text things which don’t require actual emotion but can trick a casual viewer into thinking I’m feeling something.  It’s a good way to color the text, and a good adjunct strategy, but can’t bear the full weight of a performance.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t amount to anything genuine.  And I’m a firm believer that, if theatre is to be effective, it has to have a kernel of truth.

The problem with feeling emotion is that it’s messy.  Acting is a hideous, horrible profession that will destroy you emotionally and physically if you let it.  An actor is paid to get up onstage eight times a week and reveal the deepest, darkest, scariest parts of himself to an audience of strangers who will then pass judgment on the depths of that actor’s soul.

In my opinion, nobody gets paid enough to do that.

So why do we do it?

Because it feels good.  Because being connected to one’s own humanity in that way, and by extension the humanity of one’s audience, makes one feel whole.  Like a cog in the universal machine.  It makes one feel potent; like one can actually effect (and, by the by, affect) something.  Like a catalyst.  Like one has a true meaning and purpose in the giant planet earth that we live in and, larger than that, the human experience.

“Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone: 2.3” engraving by Henry William Bunbury; 1792

But it’s hard, and it takes it’s toll.  As You Like it is a comedy and still there are days when I find myself feeling raw after rehearsal.  Particularly tough for me is 1.3.  At the top of the scene, Rosalind is giddy in love having just met and exchanged words with Orlando for the first time.  It’s a high; a rush; and if I hit it right I wind up giggley and soaring.  Halfway through the scene, Duke Frederick enters to banish Rosalind from the court.  He tears away everything she has ever known and says that she must leave, on pain of death.  If we hit that right, the bottom drops out of my stomach and the gravity of the situation weighs heavily on my shoulders.  My heart grays and it’s almost as though a cloud has come to darken my little section of the world.  Even if Rosalind fights back (which, by the by, she does as much as she can), I’m still left feeling bitter and angry.  Then, after Frederick’s exit, Celia devises the plan to go to the woods and dress as beggars.  Rosalind and Celia expound upon this plan and Rosalind bounces back up from the devastation of her banishment into the possibility of their retreat to Arden.  Arden; where her father is, where she can dress as a man and have the freedom not allotted her in the court, where a whole new life awaits her and her best friend.  It’s not the same unerring giddiness that the top of the scene brings, but it’s definitely a step up from the scene’s middle.

It’s an emotional roller coaster, and one that I have to ride in the span of a few minutes.  In performance it’s devastating enough, but consider that in rehearsal we hash and re-hash these scenes over and over again.  In a single night I could do this three or four times; bouncing wildly from top to bottom and all across the spectrum of emotions.

It’s no wonder rehearsals make me tired and hungry.

Last night, we did some work on 4.3 and 3.4; both scenes that begin with Rosalind waiting for Orlando who is late to meet Rosalind (dressed as Ganymede).  3.4 especially requires an emotional investment in the roller coaster that inevitably comes with “he likes me, he likes me not” since it opens with Rosalind bouncing around the stage wondering what it means that Orlando didn’t come when he said he would and Celia making sly commentary on her state.  If I don’t put in the emotional investment, then Celia is stuck being snarky for no reason.  Up, down, up, down, it’s enough to make a girl dizzy.  4.3 also requires some of that kind of work, but the majority of the scene is taken up by Oliver’s description of his encounter with Orlando in the woods and the battle with the lion, so much of my acting is nonverbal (easier, by the by, since I don’t have to then worry about the impulse to speak and what’s coming out of my mouth).  Still, there has to be enough of an investment from me that my faint at the scene’s end is justified, comical, and makes sense.

So I’ve been coming home tired a lot, and I’ve had to do a great deal of emotional housekeeping.  This has mostly involved the copious watching of Disney films and My Little Ponies because, really, who can be distraught while belting “I use antlers in all of my decorating!”?

Next week we’re into runs (first act runs, then full-show runs).  This should prove slightly less taxing since I get to take a much larger chunk of the journey far fewer times in a night; but we’ll see.  I’ll still have the emergency princess stash queued and ready to go.

Hey, Hey and Away we Go

Well, that was a long day.  Thursdays, it turns out, are going to be doozies for a while.

I begin with Directing (the class I TA).  After an hour and a half, I have approximately an hour to myself.  An hour, by the by, turns out to be just enough time that it makes you feel like you should be doing something, but not long enough to truly accomplish anything.  In other words, just long enough to make you anxious without the substance to do anything about this anxiety.  Today, my netbook proved angry at me for failing to turn it on more than once this summer.  It is a small bit of technology with a small brain and, for a cheap computer, rather advanced in years, so I can’t say that I blame it for wanting more attention; it figures that it would be today of all days that the darn thing decided to act up.

After this time, I whisk my way down to my own class (Theory).  Today was particularly

yup. My job.

exciting because it was the first class of my semester that I am actually taking.  This also meant that I got to meet the new crop of first years.

We had a veritable deluge of first years this year.  There are a lot of new faces, new voices, and new people about the department.  Since the department is very small, this means a lot of new things to get used to.  What it also means is that class sizes are larger.  This year, our classes cap out at seventeen.  Last year, my largest class had ten.  These seemingly similar numbers are in actuality vastly different in the context of discussion-based courses (especially those held in small seminar rooms).  It feels different; rather than a round-table, we feel like a motley hoard.  I’m going to be interested to see what this hoard shapes up to in terms of actual class discussion.

Unfortunately, my experience with larger classes is that the strong voices remain strong and the weak fade into the background.  Those who are aggressive fight, those who are more inclined to sit back and let thing wash over them have the security to do so.  This makes the conversation imbalanced and, often, repetitive.  I look forward to seeing how the professors (whom I have the utmost respect for) solve this particular teaching dilemma and help to retain order within the seminar room.

One of the most exciting things about meeting the first years is understanding the new classroom dynamic.  Who is going to speak with a loud voice?  What will be the timbre of that voice?  What opinions do these people have, how hard are they willing to fight, and how are they going to bring their vast array of different knowledges/experiences to the table?

One of my favorite parts about academia is the argument.  One of my colleagues made the apt observation just the other day that “it’s always a fight with you”.  Preparing for class, for me, is donning armor and honing my blade.  Having a roomful of new opponents is the most tantalizing thing I could be presented with.  I was hard pressed not to lick my lips with a knowing grin as we went around introducing ourselves; lots of new and different specialties.  Plenty of fodder.  Let the bloodbath begin.

I rounded out my day at rehearsal.  We’re really getting into the thick of things now and

I also nearly finished the sock I was working on while at rehearsal today!

we’re at that point where most folks are mostly off book.  I myself am off book (though, again, I do need to call “LINE!” particularly when I get caught up in something).  This is a weird place to be.  While the words are in your head, you haven’t quite gotten them in your body yet.  You reach and strive for them and, though some layering comes naturally, often the most intense moments are still evasive.  For me, today, tackling 3.2 proved extremely frustrating.  This is the first scene in which Rosalind speaks with Orlando at any length, and she does so under the guise of Ganymede.  It’s almost specifically in prose (a challenge in itself) and I spend the scene giving speeches which mostly consist of lists.  As if that weren’t enough, capturing some sense of genuine emotion is a roller coaster.  The scene begins, for me, giddy in love and playing around with Celia and Touchstone about Orlando’s bad poetry.  After being ribbed good and hard, I have a few moments with Celia before I have to don the guise of Ganymede and play real, serious, and convincing.

The rhetoric bounces wildly, the mood changes drastically, and I’m still trying to remember all the gosh darn lists that Rosalind uses.

Suffice to say I didn’t quite hit the emotion that we need to drive this scene tonight.  But I have hope.  My scene partners, luckily, are fantastic.  With some more work, I have confidence that we can get there.

…and now, officially, to tackle my real job: reading.  I think I was sorely mistaken when I held the belief that second year would be easier than first year.

Ah, well, back into the fray.

The Rosalind Diaries; Entry Three; Meeting Orlando

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

Katherine Hepburn as Rosalind and William Prince as Orlando in a 1950 New York Theatre Guild production at the Cort Theatre

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.

The Mock Marriage of Orlando and Rosalind, Walter Deverell, 1853

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!