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.
Ali Smith's Autumn is the first of four seasons novels. I understand they are independent novels, but I'm sure they will talk to each other in fascinating ways. Critics have considered it the first major post-Brexit novel. While it does cover some of that territory, it's much more than that. The dread about the results of "The Vote" can be directly applied to America. It's immediate and expansive. No wonder it's shortlisted for the Booker.
This is a book that has an extremely dense thread count. It's not linear. It read like a long prose poem. I don't know that I've read too many novels that are this "experimental." But Smith is being careful as much as she's being playful. Nothing feels capricious (except when it's inentional). The quotes I've copied below are fairly bleak, but I promise you, there is a pervasive "stop and smell the roses"/"rise above the muck" element that I adored. The autumn here is often hot and humid. Leaves are falling. Winter is coming, but there are wondrous bursts of color and life. Much like the autumn I'm experiencing right now.
The primary story involves the close friendship between Elisabeth, a young art professor and her old, dying neighbor Daniel. There are imagined conversations, dreams, flashbacks, and cringe-funny passport renewal scenes at the post office. We also get to see Elisabeth working on her dissertation on Britain's pop artist Pauline Boty.
I was able to finish this in a couple days. I've never read Smith, but I'm keen to try others.
The opening sentences:
"It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times. Again. That's the thing about things. They fall apart, always have, always will, it's in their nature. So an old man washes up on the shore. He looks like a punctured football with its stitching split, the leather kind that people kicked a hundred years ago."
(Elisabeth frequently reads to Daniel. One of the books is A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens.)
And it continues with lines like these:
"Can you be hungry and dead? Course you can, all those hungry ghosts eating people's hearts and minds."
"Someone killed an MP, she tells Daniel's back as she struggles to keep up. A man shot her dead and came at her with a knife. Like shooting her wouldn't be enough. But it's old news now. Once it would have been a year's worth of news. But news right now is like a flock of speeded-up sheep running off the side of a cliff."
"Anonymous people start to add tweet-sized comments about Daniel beneath Daniel. They are commenting on his ability to change things. The comments get more and more unpleasant. They start to make a sound like a hornet mass and Elisabeth notices what looks like liquid excrement is spreading very close to her bare feet. She tries not to step in any of it."
"The pauses are a precise language, more a language than actual language is, Elisabeth thinks."
"He had a voice off old films where things happen to well-dressed warplane pilots in black and white."
A list of books read in 2017
(finished titles only--many, many more have been abandoned for a number of reasons)
An on-going list of the movies I've watched in 2017
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.
Jay McClure snapped this photo of me in our first rehearsal for Love's Labour's Lost at the American Shakespeare Center.
Whew. I've been busy. For the past six-ish weeks, the Summer/Fall troupe at the ASC has been rehearsing our repertory: three weeks of Peter and the Starcatcher, three weeks for Much Ado about Nothing, and we've just launched into rehearsals for Love's Labour's Lost.
It's hard to devote three weeks to a play and then switch over to another play.
Thankfully, we're opening Starcatcher and Much Ado this weekend. So we'll be flexing those muscles on a more regular basis.
Later, we'll roll in Love's Labour's Lost. In July, we'll start rehearsing 3 Henry VI. The four plays will keep repping together through December.
You dizzy yet?
All of this is pretty standard for a gig at the ASC. There's this period where things are a bit disorienting. I'm doing what I can to embrace the chaos.
I hope to share more fun along the way.
"Never give up the part. Never give up the play until it's played you out. Never let go. Well, let go, but don't let go, if you know what I mean. Never be satisfied. No work of art is ever done, it keeps on going long after you're dead. You personify the person and the play for a brief time, then step out of the character's shoes and the character keeps on going and you keep on going and you are ships that have passed in the night. So use all the time and breath you have to make your creation more alive, more real, more human, more interesting, more shocking, more whatever's required to wrap yourself in the blood and bones of a brief ghost who's here and gone and never was and always will be, a person more real to you than staring in the mirror, because you do more than see them, you feel them inside of you, fighting for breath and words to speak and someone to listen. You listen, until you feel their heart beating inside of you and they know they're home and you know you're home and you're breathing as one and. time. stands. still. And you look at the person across from you and you're looking and you're talking and you're listening and you're breathing together in a world all your own, that you truly believe in. And, so, the people watching you believe. And the outside world is gone and there is only this world, there is only this time, and it all stands still and it's all gone in an instant. And you breathe."
- Actor/Author Ray Chapman
From the University of Houston Professional Actor Training Program on Facebook
(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...)
Here's a list of books I read in 2016 (completed books/plays/etc. only)
A list of movies watched in 2016
News, updates, inspiration, and other miscellany can be found here.
Books Read 2017
Books Read 2016
Books Read 2015
Movies Watched 2017
Movies Watched 2016
Movies Watched 2015