In April, I wrapped up a thrilling Actors' Renaissance Season at the American Shakespeare Center (my third). It was a remarkable set of plays with some incredibly generous, tenacious artists.
Of our production of Hamlet, Eric Minton (Shakespeareances.com) writes this:
"You wonder if theater—any theater—can get better than this. Pause. Breathe. Reiterate....I'm not only still pondering this production's place in all my life's Shakespeareances, I'm still feeling the vibrations in my cheeks, the tingles in my gut, the intensified thumping in my heart, and my stinging palms." (Read the whole review here.)
After that, I've had some time to unwind, visit friends, see the Badlands and the Black Hills in western South Dakota.
I'm also deep in an exciting play adaptation project. Perhaps I'll share more later. I've been toying with the idea ever since I've heard about the work of Kate Hamill and other actor/playwright. In the past years, I've been reading/watching interviews and adaptations. I've collected something of a file, and now it's time to do something about it.
Soon, I'll be packing again and taking root in Kilgore, TX for my debut at Texas Shakespeare Festival. There, I'll be playing Boyet in Love's Labour's Lost, Cleante in Tartuffe, and King John in King John!
A week or two ago, some of us had a photo shoot with Michael Bailey for marketing with the upcoming 2018 Actors' Renaissance Season. I felt a little bit like a guest host for SNL--it was a lot of fun. I can't wait for you to see the others popping up around Staunton and online.
The Actors' Renaissance Season is a troupe of 12 actors putting together five plays in rotating repertory. We don't have formal directors (though there are instances where a couple actors play a kind of Peter Quince/actor-manager role). We get to costume the plays ourselves! Sometimes all we receive are cue-scripts (instead of having the whole play in our hands, all I have are my lines and the few words that cue those lines).
This will be my third time performing in the Ren Season, and I'm thrilled.
Here's the list of plays and my roles:
Hamlet - Polonius and Fortinbras
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead - Polonius and Fortinbras
The Way of the World - Mirabell
Richard II - Northumberland
Antonio's Revenge - Alberto
Stay tuned for more updates.
In the meantime, here's a peek at my cue script for Hamlet. It's just the lines I speak with the few words that precede each line.
We opened Love's Labour's Lost last week.
Here's an interview with Matt Davies, the director for that play.
"Romantic comedies work best when the audience is playing catch-up, just one step behind the love trysts and the comic shenanigans, and panting in excitement to keep up. Put on your running shoes, and tune your ears: you’re in for a frantic feast of wit, wisdom, and waggery."
And here's an interview with Jenny Bennett, who directed Much Ado about Nothing.
"Another thing that I love about this play is the notion that since we’re all invented out of nothing, we can reinvent ourselves out of nothing, too. Several people in this play are confronted with a rebuke of who they are, or how they’ve been behaving – they overhear people talking about them or are directly told they’ve made a terrible error. The real mettle of a person is revealed by what they choose to do with that information. Grace is available to those who take action to repair what’s broken, to be available to Love, to be ‘good men, and true.’ Along these lines, I’m quite fond of our 5.3 Tomb scene. Chris Johnston, Music Director, wrote the most beautiful song. I won’t spoil it here, but I hope you love it as much as I do."
These are two smart folks with lovely things to say about these Shakespeare comedies.
Both plays are running in rep with Peter and the Starcatcher at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA.
(Photo: the battle at Corioli in Coriolanus at the American Shakespeare Center. Photo by Lindsey Walters.)
I'm incredibly busy with the Actors' Renaissance Season at the American Shakespeare Center. We're currently performing The Merchant of Venice, Coriolanus, and The School for Scandal. We're one week into rehearsal for Emma Whipday's brand-new play: Shakespeare's Sister. And we're weeks away from beginning rehearsals for The Fair Maid of the Exchange.
You can see the latest photos here.
In the meantime, my buddy Josh and I shot a little video series for each of the titles. Here's the first one.
(I don't know how to embed Facebook videos into this thing...)
The 2017 Actors' Renaissance Season casting has been announced.
Here are the players:
Starting from top left and going clockwise: Josh Innerst; Lauren Ballard; René Thornton, Jr.; Chris Johnston; David Anthony Lewis; Ginna Hoben; John Harrell; Jessika Williams; Grant Davis; Benjamin Reed; Allison Glenzer; and yours truly.
Just finished reading Antony Sher's Year of the King--an actor's diary tracing his process of becoming Richard III at the Royal Shakespeare Company. I can't believe I hadn't read this before. I had stumbled across Sher's essays on playing Macbeth and Leontes in the Players of Shakespeare series. That is one of my favorite acting resources. The British acting greats share their respective processes and thoughts on playing a variety of Shakespeare characters. It's as if you've been given a chance to have a drink with them at your favorite bar.
Anyway, I finally dove in, bought Sher's book, and devoured it. I learned Sher regularly writes about his process (whether it's for a book or not). The offer for this one wasn't made until halfway through the process. Rehearsing at the RSC in the early eighties is ridiculously luxurious (they had like eight weeks to put up RIII). The squabbles, frustration, and insecurities run rampant. It's comforting to know how much Sher danced a fine line of terror and joy throughout.
Year of the King begins with the tiniest seed that he would maybe play Richard III in an upcoming season. The idea begins to overtake him and the dream state of creating a role begins (even before he accepts the part). A mountain in South Africa reminds him of Richard's deformity. An opera chorus sends him to Richard's coronation. A serial killer in the news gives insight to personality traits and actions.
This is one of my favorite times in the process. A professor of mine called it the incubation period. This is the time when the imagination and subconscious swirl around. Possibilities are endless. You read the play. You might try on a few of the lines. You might stumble across a painting or piece of music that reminds you of the character. The key is that there isn't any formal work being done. I don't say: “Oh, I've got three hours free, I'm going to daydream about playing the Dauphin.” The work and the role aren't at the forefront of the mind, but wisps are present.
I love it.
And now, I'm transitioning into the next phase. I don't know what you'd call it, but it's more active. It's that step between the incubation and memorization. This involves hearty effort in learning the play inside and out. Doing research. I've scanned all my lines of verse. I've completed paraphrasing for The Life of King Henry the Fifth and Julius Caesar. The thinking is heading toward setting down ideas completely. They will likely change, but it's more about committing to the idle brainstorm that was happening previously.
I hope to share more details about the scanning and paraphrase process later on.
It's been a while since I've felt so energized about working on a new set of plays. Part of it comes with comfort. I've been with the ASC for two full years. I get to work with four other actors whom I've shared a lot of time with on stage (a blessing). I'm going on tour again. I'll be with some of the same directors. There's an ease and trust that comes along with this familiarity. And, of course, I cannot wait to meet the new folks and tap into their energy. It's ideal.
The other thing: I'm playing some big roles, particularly Cassius and Jack (in The Importance of Being Earnest). These are dream parts. I feel an affinity for them. I also feel a big responsibility to them, but, right now, I'm pleased to say I'm not intimidated by that.
To say things are busy is a major understatement. In just under a month, the 2014/15 touring troupe of the American Shakespeare Center has worked up Hamlet and started rehearsals for Much Ado about Nothing. This includes a number of fights, dances, and songs.
Let's see if I can give a snapshot of the past 11 days or so:
WEDNESDAY, July 16 - Hamlet dress rehearsal #1
THURSDAY, July 17 - Hamlet dress #2
FRIDAY, July 18 - Preparation for Much Ado Renaissance Run
SATURDAY, July 19 - Day off!
SUNDAY, July 20 - Much Ado Ren Run
MONDAY - FRIDAY July 21 - 25 - Much Ado rehearsal
SATURDAY, July 26 - Day off!
SUNDAY, July 27 - Hamlet dress rehearsal #3
We've had a whole week away from Denmark. I need to review all the intricacies and the music (and make sure I get to bed at a reasonable time so I can be ready to go when fight call begins at 8:15 a.m.).
If you're curious about the shows and our tour, I'll be running the tour's tumblr blog. There's not a whole lot of content up at the moment, but things will pick up quickly. Here's the current tour schedule. Come and see a show!
Read about the production of Timon of Athens I'm in at the American Shakespeare Center and the future of this incredible company. This production marks the completion of Shakespeare's canon. As the ASC celebrates its 25th anniversary, it has made a pass through every single play by Shakespeare at least once.
There are some actors I work with who need only a couple shows and they will have completed acting in the entire canon!
As for myself, I've been in 10/38 since my first Shakespeare play (The Comedy of Errors) in 2007. I'll add two more this fall when I go on tour with Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing (and Marlowe's Doctor Faustus).
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