the transformative power of live theater


To Speak Or Not To Speak

Shakespeare’s New Masterpiece:
       I feel as if every eye in the theatre is boring into my back as I slowly pace the stage, thankful that there are several other actors around me.  We wander the space, just being aware of the theatre and the other actors, waiting to see who will be the first to speak their sonnet.  The first group did theirs so quickly!  What is wrong with us?  I can feel my palms sweating and I just know I’m going to forget my piece…….well, I’d better just go for it.  I grab a friend by the shoulder and laugh as I picture him a shriveled old man.  “When forty winters have besieged thy brow/ And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field….”  I attempt to educate him on the virtues of children as I bend all my energy to my objective, “have kids!”  He looks at me with deep concern as I speak and nods in agreement with my points.  However, just as I feel I have made my point well and my sonnet ends, another actor breaks in contradicting my point with her own sonnet.  Full of deep pain and regret, she paints a picture through Sonnet 129 of the sorrow and loneliness following a casual fling and urges him to be careful.  One after another, the other actors share their sonnets, but it is in a new and meaningful way as we exchange thoughtful wisdom, one sonnet responding to the material spoken before.  It feels like breathing life into a brand new Shakespeare play!

You see, since this was the last week to work on our sonnets (my monologue is going very well, thank you for asking, I’m all memorized and just need to tighten up a few things before we really dive in next week) and we had implemented our critique from last week, Liz wanted us to play with the pieces differently.  She brought about half the students down to the stage and had them use their sonnets to create a scene, no rehearsal, no working out an order.  She just told us to come forward with our own sonnet when we felt motivated by another piece before us.  I could see this going very badly in one of two ways: 1) everyone would try to go at once so they could get their piece finished early, or 2) no one would go because they couldn’t find a way to make their sonnets early.  Not only did the first cast jump in with their first piece, but they blew the rest of us away with the ease with which they tied their pieces together!  Everyone was engaged in what was happening and one person responded to another, even adding blocking, while just using their sonnets!  The words didn’t feel like disembodied sonnets anymore.  Instead it seemed like there was a new play taking on a life of its own!  I was impressed, but would it work a second time?  And the answer, as I showed above, was a resounding “yes!”  I told you I worked with some amazingly talented people. ????  You should see these people!

       In addition to our sonnets we received brief notes for our monologues.  I give you guys full leave to hold me accountable for these things to make me a better actress…promise?  Ok then…first thing, I get this little “cute” and breathy voice onstage apparently.  Since I have never received this comment before in my acting career I think it is safe to assume I am nervous and need to focus on relaxing (this can easily be accomplished by holding a chair over ones head as one speaks. Great for practice…not so great in a scene. Got to fix this problem first thing).  Second, I need to have more fun and play with the other characters more.  I got better with this as I rehearsed, I tried to really enjoy making fun of the peasant girl I am talking to and playing “matchmaker” to two lower class “fools” (I am playing Rosalind in As You Like It, Act 3 Scene 5, for those of you who forgot).  I also need to work on “scoring” the piece.  This means highlighting and drawing colorful notes in colored pencil all over the monologue to draw my attention to alliterations, antithesis, onomatopoeia and all the other lovely rhetorical devices I talked about last time.  I am looking forward to it…I like colors and I like words.  Life is pretty wonderful right now.  And now I will dash off and locate my inner Rosalind! Fare you well friends!
–Hanna Mitchell

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