Shakespeare Workshop, Sunday January 20th
On Sunday the 20th before our Flux Sunday, 17 members of our community met for our first Shakespeare Workshop. This workshop's goals are to:
1.) Establish a common language for discussing Shakespeare's text moving into our production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in June.
2.) Explore the feasibility of ongoing actor training within our Flux community.
To accomplish the first, we are focusing on Kristin Linklater's Freeing Shakespeare's Voice. After graduation, I was an intellectual actor with way too many ideas in my head to ever be available with my body for the spontaneous action and reaction on stage we call "being in the moment" or some other approximation of that essential ingredient of presence necessary for good acting to happen. Linklater's book, and a series of tours that allowed me time to practice her ideas daily, allowed me to break out of that, and I've been an eager convert since.
We are also using as supplemental texts John Barton's Playing Shakespeare, a transcription of a series of astonishing workshops Barton held with some of England's greatest actors.
We began the workshop by discussing our personal relationship to Shakespeare in performance. Some of the actors in our community have years and years of experience with his text, others very little; but everyone spoke eloquently of that rare magic when an actor makes Shakespeare's words feel as if they're alive, being spoken for the first time because a character in that very moment needs to say them, and no other words will do.
But how do you get there? Linklater's work suggests a reawakening to the visceral power and pleasure of language; the emotion of the vowels, the thought of the consonants, the possibilities of single sounds and words to awaken within us a vibrant physical response, and for that response to infuse the language with a greater capacity for theatrical communication.
Our work began with rethinking our relationship to the vowel sounds. Though there is a risk of this work seeming at best silly and at worst indulgent, the group gamely joined me as we explored the physical sensation of different vowels; of what colors, textures, images, sensations and even emotions they might awake within our bodies; of allowing the possibility for the vowel sounds of words to carry their own physical sense that is linked but not wholly determined by the meaning of the word itself.
A favorite moment was when Jason Paradine described the 'ahh' as orange and in his hands, holding up his hands as if they might shoot orange out of them at any moment; another was David Douglas Smith finding new found relish in a line from Oberon; another was my own exhilaration at standing in the middle of a circle of all that sound. They were singing my body electric, and I can't wait for us to return to this work when our audition process is done.
If all continues to go well, our hope is to bring in new techniques and ideas to the community, everything from Viewpoints to improv, and to thereby gradually expand our theatrical tools and deepen the process with which we work together.