When someone asks me what I do for a living and I say “I perform abridged Shakespeare plays in rural high school gymnasiums across the state of Idaho at 8 o’clock in the morning in the middle of winter.” It sounds less glamorous than it feels. It feels… important, and I truly believe it is. I know that an old school wooden gym in Hanson and the pulpit of a converted church in Sandpoint might not be the stage of the RSC… but I treat it as if it were. I think everyone in our cast and crew shares the same belief or feeling, which is one of the reasons we all work together so well and why I love this job so much.
Enjoy an incredible glimpse into the making of our tours- Shakespearience and Idaho Theater for Youth. It takes a village and they are talented!
Thanks to all involved- especially Lori Regan, Jessamine Jones and Kiely Prouty.
Rules of the Road: We’ve just finished the second full official day of touring, and I thought I’d take a moment to give you a glimpse of what being on the road means. These are our “rules” by that, I mean, these are things that make all of our lives a lot easier on the road, both as an acting company and as friends traveling together. So, in no particular order, other than the first rule is the most important and most often used rule:
Shakespearience cast of Macbeth shares their thoughts on week 2 of rehearsal.
We are now, officially in full swing of rehearsals for Shakespearience’s Macbeth. “Why, Whatever is this Shakespearience of which you speak?” one may ask, if they spoke in a very formal manner. Well, I could tell you, but it’s a rather lengthy explanation, and it turns out someone has already done all of that for me. Basically, it’s a bunch of really cool organizations (click here to check out the list of awesome supporters) stepping in to make sure everyone who would usually never get to see Shakespeare, gets to see some Shakespeare! Shakespearience is wonderful for a multitude of reasons, but mostly, right now… Guess who’s got two thumbs and isn’t waiting tables? This girl! That’s right friends, I’m making money doing what I love more than anything in the world, and things are starting to look up.
I thought I’d devote a little time to break down exactly what being in rehearsals means. It’s only recently become apparent to me exactly how foreign the theater world is to those of you who have “real people jobs” (meaning that you either have an office/cubicle, you spend a large portion of the day looking at the computer or you work from 9a-5p (or more, in some cases, days a week). Similarly, how foreign having a real person job would be to me.
In case you didn’t follow the link above, this particular production is a condensed version of Macbeth which is focused on making the play accessible for high school audiences (more on that later). The day-in-the-life picture of the rehearsal process looks something like this:
Get up early. Warm up my body. Coffee. Not too much. I’m thankful every day for the espresso machine my sister and brother-in-law gave me for my graduation. It’s saved me a lot of money on early tour mornings, and likely a few heart palpitations. Go to rehearsal around 8:10. We’re very lucky, it’s about a seven minute walk to the space, and taken briskly is an excellent warm up. Set up. Set up involves putting coffee on in the office (where the admins have real people jobs and work in a theater! Amazing!) Getting out weapons and putting the set together… er… what we have of the set so far. This year it’s two ladders, a ten foot tall rolling staircase, and three large flats to hide us when we’re not onstage. Then; rehearsing.
Right. What does that mean? Our main job as actors (not to mentions the director, set designers, sound designers, costume designers, etc.) is to tell a story. To tell a story that’s over four hundred years old in a way that’s very clear to understand to you, the audience. As actors, we know our lines and mostly know what they mean (certainly will by the time we open) So the main job of rehearsal is to make things clear. We run scenes, work scenes to figure out how a certain moment can be more clear, or more specific, figure out how to indicate the passage of time from one scene to the next without saying, “Meanwhile, back at the Macduff’s house…”. Our job is to let you know what’s going on so you can sit back and enjoy the story, because that’s really what this is all about; the story.
So. We rehearse for six hours, with two ten minute breaks and one twenty minute break. We work on the timing of our entrances. Dissecting exactly what we’re saying, working different moves with umbrellas (lots of umbrellas in this world of Macbeth), tracking where props go, figuring out who will be backstage to hit a sound cue, etc.
We go on like this for three weeks, which never feels like enough time, but we always pull through. This year, however, we missed the first three days because designers were brought in from out of town, our fight choreographer couldn’t make it yet, etc.
So. That’s pretty much rehearsal life. It goes by pretty quick, and we’ll be on the road performing in one week from today, which is an entirely different job and thereby, will have an entirely different blog post.
And I suppose I owe you an explanation for the not-so-positive-sounding-post-title.
Blood: Rehearsal does not come without muscle soreness or bruising. My legs are coated in bruises from different fights (let it be noted that I may be the only one, as I bruise much like a well ripened peach). I did also gash my thumb open on a particularly ornery umbrella.
Sweat: Aside from the menial “work-out” I’ve been doing in the morning, Shakespearience shows are marathon acting. If you have anytime backstage, you are not resting, you are doing a quick change, running a sound cue and helping someone else with a quick change. Usually all within fifteen seconds.
Fears: Actors are sensitive. It really is true. We put ourselves into a job that opens us up for criticism and rejection from every angle, Also, considering we’ll be performing for a high school audience, usually around 8am, it sometimes can seem like an uphill battle. Seriously, do you remember being ready to be thoroughly entertained by an assembly at 8am when you were in high school? It’s nerve wracking and sometimes devastating, but it is so entirely and absolutely rewarding.
The first week of rehearsals have come to a close and things have started to take shape. This is a part of the process where the production is full of possibility and mystery and potential. It’s a little crazy to think we only have two more full weeks of rehearsing left before out first preview performance, but our fights are choreographed, and the first quarter of the show is roughly blocked out and in all of our little actor bodies and minds. I think most of us wish we could go back to rehearsal tomorrow instead of having a day off, but breaks are good for you, even if you don’t want to take one, right?
As we leave our first week of rehearsal on simmer, we’ll leave you with a few more photos and a little end of the week video.
Download the podcast from the live broadcast show from January 6th by clicking here.
January 6, 2012 featuring Charles Fee, Producing Artistic Director, Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival.
Charles Fee, of the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival, discusses the rewards and challenges of simultaneously serving as Producing Artistic Director for three professional theater companies in three different states.
This time of year is probably the most exciting for those of us headed out on the Shakespearience 2012 tour. True, winter is starting to get even colder, the sun doesn’t seem to stay up nearly long enough, and all of the really exciting winter holidays have passed–but for us, today marked the very first day of rehearsal! A day most of us have been looking forward to with eager anticipation since at least December, when we were officially cast (If not since last year’s tour ended and we went through some major Shakespearience withdrawals.) And so, without further ado, allow me to introduce the cast of Shakespearience 2012’s Macbeth:
Early this afternoon we set out to meet with our really super fantastic fight choreographer, Michael Mueller, who brought a variety of (very real, but very much dulled) weapons. We spent two hours wielding everything from daggers to fancy looking foils to machetes to bowie knives. Now, I hate to be that person, but I now feel obligated to put this* here (see bottom for details).
Our fights are far from done, but we learned a great deal about what it takes to properly and safely stage a pretty awesome looking fight today. After fights, there was a photo shoot for our promotional pictures (coming to your school or city soon!).
You won’t be seeing this shot, of course, this is a “fun one” I snapped of Luke and Veronica while the photographer was changing his batteries or something.
Tomorrow, we look forward to our first “official”, and full day of rehearsal, which means we get there at 10AM, we’ll meet with designers and they’ll show us what sort of world they’ve created with our director for these characters to inhabit (what they’ll wear, where they’ll be, what sounds will surround them), then we’ll start the rehearsing. We’ll break for the day at 4p, head home and individually go over our lines and what we did in rehearsal that day, making sure it sticks for the next day. Rest assured, many of our homes look something like this right now:
We’re all in heavy study mode, memorizing, interpreting, brainstorming and mostly, being really excited about what will come from all of this. Shakespearience for us not only means that we get to explore a new (or in Dakotah’s case, re-visit a new) Shakespeare play, but it also means that the five of us are going to spend the next thirteen weeks traveling together, sharing living quarters with each other, eating together, relying on each other and mostly, working together to uphold the integrity of this performance, whatever it ends up being.
So, a little different from prior years, this year the cast is planning on documenting a lot more. Well, a lot more publicly. In the next few weeks keep your eyes open for some videos, plenty more photos, fun on the Idaho Shakespeare Festival Facebook fan page (click here for ISF Fan Page), food reviews from the casts very own chicken fried steak connoisseur, and hopefully a lot more! For now, I leave you with other “fun ones” I snapped today while the photographer was taking actual photos.
*Do not attempt to do any kind of fight choreography without a trained professional. Michael has degrees is this stuff (yup! You can get a degree in stage combat!) Any weapon, dull or not, is still just that: a weapon.
That’s it for today. More photos and other fun things to come!
September 7, 2011
A slapstick take on Hitchcock’s international espionage adventure
by Deanna Darr
Take one Alfred Hitchcock thriller inspired by a classic 1930s espionage mystery, turn it on its head and fill it with equal parts smart and silly humor, and you get The 39 Steps, Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s closing show of the 2011 season.
The result is a fun, light and humorous production that fully embraces slapstick comedy. With a cast of ISF veterans–including David Anthony Smith, Joe Conley Golden, Richard Klautsch and Kathryn Cherasaro–the minimalist staging and production is the perfect nightcap to another theater season, leaving audiences with warm and fuzzy memories that will linger as they look back.
The 39 Steps is the tale of an idle Englishman who is pulled into an international espionage adventure after a chance run-in with a mysterious woman who is murdered in his flat. He is pegged for the crime and heads off across the countryside to try and uncover the truth. That’s where the comparison to the well-loved Hitchcock thriller ends.
The four actors portray more than 100 over-the-top characters to create a tale that is far more farce than mystery. The chemistry and talent of the cast are essential to the production, and the actors’ easy rapport with the audience creates a communal atmosphere that gives the distinct feel that they’re sharing an exciting story around a campfire.
With quick, witty dialogue that is in line with the exaggerated nature of film noir, the actors have their hands full, but it’s all the more fun for the audience.
Anyone who saw ISF’s 2010 season closer, The Woman in Black, will likely feel a sense of deja vu when they see The 39 Steps’ minimalist set, which uses structural metal elements to outline the world of the play. While the simplest props form a door frame, a set of wooden boxes, ladders and window molding are catalysts for the audience’s imagination, letting each person fill in the blanks with guidance from the cast. It’s a wonderful example of how a strong script and good actors can be enough to weave a well-told tale.
But if there were an award given for the best use of box fans and a fog machine, this production would be the hands-down winner. A full wall of fans forms the back of the set and not only helps move the comically copious amounts of fog around, but is easily transformed into a plethora of objects thanks to some creative and effective lighting design.
The 39 Steps is a laugh-out-loud production and it seems clear that this play is as much fun for the cast and crew as it is for the audience