the transformative power of live theater


A Rose By Any Other Name…?

“Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou, Romeo?”

“The quality of mercy is not strained; It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath.”

“Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, and fill me from the crown to the toe top full of direst cruelty.”

“Think not I love him, though I ask for him; ‘Tis but a peevish boy; yet he talks well.”

“Call you me fair? That fair again unsay.”

So many options and so little time!  Oh, my goodness!  I am overwhelmed with the wealth of wondrous words open to me (you like that? That is an alliteration).  How many of these quotations from monologues do you recognize?  They are all beautiful characters whose words flow from their tongues like so many crystal water droplets, one following hard upon the next (that is a simile) and yes, I am getting carried away with this rhetorical speech.  Fun fact: In Shakespeare’s day, “rhetoric” was not a word which implied insincerity or any sort of negative connotation.  To speak “rhetorically” simply meant speaking in figures and artificial patterns which were not usually used in everyday life.  Some people say that everyone in Shakespeare’s day understood his verse because that was just how people spoke.  While the audience did understand his verse, it was not because this was how they spoke in real life; it was because they had a much more auditory culture.  Interesting, no?  We studied more of these Shakespearean forms of speech in class this week and so many of these things are coming together to make sense in my mind.

Liz asked us to read a really helpful little book called “Shakespeare Alive” by the famous director Joseph Papp which was packed full of helpful little historical tidbits for better understanding of the Bard’s work and world.  For instance, did you know that the players in Shakespearean theatre presented a different play every day and a new work somewhere around every two weeks!?  Can you imagine the work involved in doing that?  With this in mind it completely makes sense that so many works are in verse…to help the actors memorize quickly and create word pictures in the minds of the actors and audience.  Liz reminded us that before we speak any kind of imagery in the text we must first see the image in our mind’s eye.  It is these images which produce life in the imagination of the actors and enables them to convey that energy and passion to the audience.

Although we touched upon language and rhetoric again this week, Liz’s primary focus was on breath and breathing.  I have had only a little bit of vocal training in my theatre education so far and some of the vocal exercises she gave us were fairly difficult for me, requiring my full attention.  However, she gave us a mental image that really did stick in my head and helped me so much.  She told us to think of our breath as being a line which we were throwing to someone as we spoke to them.  Every single thing we said had to be thrown to the person we were speaking to and connect us to them by a line.  You try it…take a deep breath and feel your ribs swing out to let in more air, then toss a line on your breath to someone.  This vocal support really feels very enjoyable, particularly when paired with those lush, round Shakespearean words I mentioned last week.  I will hold this picture a long time.

So now, the moment of truth……….What am I going to do for my monologue?  It has to be good, something I can really enjoy as I work.  It should also be something with a lot of imagery and rhetoric which I can sink my teeth into as I play with this language.  And Liz said it should be a character we could actually play now, someone near our own age and experience.  Well……..I think I have made a decision.  “As You Like It” has always been my favorite comedy…. Can I handle it?  I’m going to go for it.  I may not have this chance again!

Ladies and gentlemen, for my first performance as the Antaeus Intern in Shakespeare, I will be presenting Rosalind (my dream role) from “As You Like It,” act III, scene v.

I thank you!

–Hanna Mitchell

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