Last week, I started rehearsals for Saint Joan with the Orchard Theater Collective in Minneapolis.
We've got a team of five actors playing the couple dozen roles. I'm playing Charles the Dauphin, John de Stogumber, Poulengey, some pages, and, for the briefest of moments, the Executioner.
The play has a short run (March 6 - March 21).
For tickets and more details, visit this link.
And here's a first-day-of-rehearsal shot with the cast and our director, Ben Shaw (no relation to George Bernard Shaw...I think).
Movies and TV series watched in the year.
I'm headed back to Texas Shakespeare Festival for the summer!
I'll be playing:
Come visit me in Kilgore, Texas this summer. They're also doing Into the Woods and a brand-new children's show called The Girl Who Cried Throgmonster by my friend Grace Abele.
This leaves me booked until August 1 in 2019.
I'm eager to find work after that.
Here's a running list of the books (and plays) I've read cover-to-cover:
"I'm very keen that [the actors are] always speaking to try and affect the other person...to affect, to try and change the world--either by affecting what the other person is doing or wants them to do, or by releasing something that's pent up in themselves, which needs to be expressed. But they're never saying anything in order to illuminate you about 'ooh, that's a big theme, or that's what the play's about.' It's a play. It's a play. "
Mark Rylance - Approaching the Play / The Old Vic Conversation
"Sailer’s performance is a tour de force. He presents himself as cocksure and arrogant — and a warrior, but he is also the embodiment of the expression 'uneasy lies the crown.'”
- Andy Coughlan, English with a Bit of Texas
Read the whole review, here
The question folks love to ask actors. It’s inevitable in a talkback--often the first one asked.
While you may not actively see a row of actors roll their eyes at it, we’ve been known to grumble about it in the dressing room afterwards.
I’m not trying to police audience behavior. It’s a valid question. I expect many audience members have horror stories of having to do some light memorization or public speaking from their school days.
The potential eye rolling is likely due to A) It’s asked all the time and B) our answers are usually BORING. When it comes to itemizing the unglamorous life of an actor, line memorization is at the top. I think we’d rather discuss characters, themes, and moments.
Rest assured, I don’t roll my eyes at this question. (I may at “Are you going to be on Broadway?” but that’s another post.) I wish I had a fun late-night-talk-show answer. It’s hard to answer it in a short, satisfying manner suitable for a talkback. Because the heart of the answer is closer to: “How do you act?” or “How do you prepare for a role?” Those are huge questions. I’ve been a professional actor for 10 years. I have a terminal degree in it. It’s hard to distill my process. And I suspect some actors find sharing the process not worth an audience’s time, or that it’s intensely personal and would take away the magic of the theatre. I love process. I soak it up. I’m a glutton for interviews and talkbacks and behind-the-scenes stuff.
So I offer the following as the long version of a talkback answer I wish I could share.
HOW I MEMORIZE MY LINES
I need to speak my lines and repeat them over and over again.
For the past four years or so, I’ve made flashcards of all my lines. On the front, my cue is written, and on the back, my lines are there. It’s a great way to test myself. It’s also great to have written down my lines and to learn them in my own handwriting. I’m sure there are fascinating neurological bits at play with this process. But I won’t get into those because that’s not my realm of expertise.
I also need to be on my feet. I will often walk around in neighborhoods and parks, overtly holding my notecards. One time I was memorizing lines on a nice trail system when a passerby said: “good luck on your test.” I smiled and said thank you, careful not to shatter the illusion. Thank goodness they didn’t hear me say: “There is so hot a summer in my bosom that all my bowels crumble up to dust.”
WHAT I DO BEFORE (AND DURING) MEMORIZING LINES
It doesn’t HAVE to be grunt work. And often, it isn’t.
Just look at that last line again: “There is so hot a summer in my bosom that all my bowels crumble up to dust.”
If you just read that, isn’t the line wonderful? I mean, it’s macabre, but wonderfully so!
Read it aloud a couple times.
There is so hot a summer in my bosom that all my bowels crumble up to dust.
There is so hot a summer in my bosom that all my bowels crumble up to dust.
“Crumble up to dust” is so vivid. “Bowels” is equally funny and disgusting to me. And it’s the second great “B word” in the line (“bosom” being the first).
Even if you don’t know what’s going on, why John is saying what he’s saying, I venture that this line is marvelous. Just on its own. It took me no time at all to memorize. I didn’t have to drill this line over and over.
This is one of many lines that I inherently love in King John. And this happens to us all the time! I’d venture there’s a song or two, dear reader, that you know all of the words to. Or you can quote The Lion King or Monty Python and the Holy Grail because it hooked you at a young age, and you’ve seen it many times. You don’t have to work at it. A few days after Black Panther was released in movie theaters, a video was shared of a little boy acting out some pivotal dialogue from the movie. He had only seen it twice (if I recall correctly). This boy couldn’t have been more than five. He was quoting important scenes from the movie, verbatim. It took no work at all. And it was magical. There’s a meeting of some brilliant writers meeting eager fans at work here. And, thankfully, that often works for me when I’m memorizing. But this is not 24/7 ecstasy work.
The tricky thing is I have 360 lines of Shakespeare in King John alone (1 line equals 1 line of verse: iambic pentameter). Billy Shakes wrote some great lines, but they’re not all created equal. So there are certain things I need to do before I do the grunt work of learning all of those lines by rote.
This is where the “what do you do to prepare?” question comes into play. Here are things I do before and during memorizing:
ENGAGING WITH THE TEXT
Some actors don’t like to have their lines memorized before rehearsals start. They don’t like to be set in their ways before meeting the other actors (and no one’s getting paid for working before a contract begins--which is usually day one of rehearsal). I understand that. But for me, it’s more agonizing to act with a script in my hand. That ends up being my scene partner, and it’s such a crutch. I don’t determine how I’ll exactly say a line before it’s memorized. On the other hand, I don’t learn the lines completely neutrally either. It’s nearly impossible when I do all this work. It’s about being prepped enough to bring something to the table, but available enough to be flexible. I can’t do this on my own.
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!
News, updates, quotes, and other miscellany.
Books Read 2019
Books Read 2018
Books Read 2017
Books Read 2016
Books Read 2015
Movies Watched 2019
Movies Watched 2018
Movies Watched 2017
Movies Watched 2016
Movies Watched 2015