Sunday, October 17, 2010

Shakespeare IN THE RAW - Richard III Trailer

While I search for a way to post this in a "gadget" that will stay put, here it is at least as a post.

All the footage/audio in this trailer is taken from our April 19, 2009 production of 3 Henry VI, performed at the Philadelphia Cathedral, Philadelphia, PA. It begins with a small clip of Queen Margaret (played by Christine Demuth) right after **spoiler alert** the murder of her son, Prince Edward, by Richard III and his two brothers, Edward and Clarence. Hopefully, I can find the time to edit that scene from our video archive and post it as well. I can unequivocally say that that scene was one of the finest, most moving, and most authentic (yes, that's right, I said it!) moments I have ever experienced in the theater. Ever. (And I cannot even begin to tell you what kind of harsh critic I am.)

Ms. Demuth's performance was absolutely extraordinary. She is in her mid-twenties and does not have children, but in this production, she plays a character who would be 41 years old, witnessing the murder of her 17-year-old son. The memory of this performance still (a year and a half later) moves me to tears. What makes such a performance authentic? It is a performance, after all.

In THE RAW performance, we have no "backstage" that is hidden from the view of the audience -- there is only on- or off-stage. We usually play in the round, and actors set prop and costume pieces off-stage behind the audience. So the audience is able to see actors changing costume pieces and transforming from one character to another (as we also nearly always play more than one character), waiting just off-stage "in the wings" for their entrance. We don't actually have wings. We don't hide the actors backstage. We're very "in your face" about the constructs of the play, and we very clearly ask the audience to play and imagine the world with us. I think acknowledging this imaginative element and actively playing together (actors and audience) makes the performance stronger, more effective, and a more authentic, moving experience on both sides of the stage.

Is this why it doesn't matter what age the performer is? Because we all agree to pretend that she is 41 and a mother. We agree to pretend that Prince Edward (who, by the way, was played by a woman) is her son. We agree to pretend that he is murdered. And by agreeing to do this and then actually doing it, we somehow make this experience authentic and meaningful. What matters is the work of the audience and the actors constructing and being invested in this world of pretend. We have made it mean something. We have made it authentic.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Enjoy the (slide)show!

I've added a slideshow of some pictures from our 2010 Summer Season on the sidebar.  These are from our Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet photocalls.  Unfortunately, no pictures from As You Like It yet, but I will upload some more soon.  I'm also hoping to upload a trailer from our production of Richard III which we performed in January, 2010.

I just sat and watched these forty-some pictures scroll through randomly on the slideshow, and I was immediately taken back to this summer: all the anxiety of putting up these three productions but also the joy of working with such an amazing group of people, the immense pride in what we accomplished, the sense of camaraderie and community we were forming with our audience.  All this from a few pictures!

This semester, I'm trying to dig into some literature about "authenticity" and figure out what that means.  Can you sense authenticity in a picture?  In a video?  How does it differ from the feeling you get when you're present in the theatre?  How does it differ depending on which side of the stage you're on?  I sense genuine feeling in these pictures... is it only because I was there?  Or is there some sort of definition or criteria I can use to determine if something is authentic?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A New Semester Project!

I have completely overhauled my semester-long professional development and my key terms project from my Comp Theory class.  Previously, I was planning to create a course sequence for a Shakespeare class but I wasn't very interested in this idea.  Then I had considered a reading list doing double duty as Artistic Director list and as precursor to Comp list.

This has all gone out the window with the revision of my key terms project.  At first, I was going to tackle "rhetoric" - and specifically how Shakespeare uses rhetoric.  But this wasn't really fitting into the purpose of the project.  After class last week, I was so interested by our discussions of authenticity.  This is exactly the question I struggle with in producing THE RAW.  How do you create the most "authentic" theatrical experience possible?  Especially when theatre is inherently a fake, constructed space.  It's not real.  We know it's not real.  How, then, can you create something truthful or something authentic in this kind of space?

I must love this blog so much already, because I am thinking of creating another blog specifically exploring this question of authenticity.  Maybe it can be the same blog?  Why not?  I'm hopeful I can attract some guest authors who can post their own thoughts and experiences with this question.  I'd also like to post some video from our productions.  The plan is (at least for now) to have this blog reflect the work of the semester dealing with this question of "authenticity" and also to compile (for the key terms project) an annotated bibliography of sorts to handle the literature I am digging up on the subject.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Paper #1 ... check.

My first paper for my 19th Century class on George Eliot is complete.  I'm actually rather proud of it!  It's not only my first big paper for this class, it is my first graduate paper and my first paper that I have written in over six years.  Here is a taste of it: my introduction:
Vision, Blindness, and Moving towards Consciousness
in George Eliot’s Silas Marner
Throughout Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe, George Eliot repeatedly describes Marner’s eyes in great detail, focusing on his vision, his ability to see, and most especially on periods of unconsciousness, such as when Marner is suffering from cataleptic fits.  The novel is thus concerned not only with sight, but also with intervals of unconsciousness and blindness.  I propose that Eliot outlines Silas Marner’s journey to consciousness throughout the novel with these references to his vision.  His vision moves from hyperopic/unconscious in Lantern Yard, to myopic/unconscious in Raveloe before the arrival of Eppie, and finally to collective/conscious in Raveloe after the arrival of Eppie.  By mapping this progression of Silas’s vision, Eliot uses Silas Marner as a site on which to make an argument for a collective and sympathetic human consciousness.  Eliot also exercises a blindness in the narrative, using periods of unconsciousness for the reader, much as she uses Silas Marner’s catalepsy.  By bringing the reader to consciousness and vision along with the character of Silas, she is making a case for a sympathetic and collective awareness or consciousness for her audience.  While we are never brought to complete consciousness, perhaps the novel is suggesting an acceptance of limited sight and vision as long as we are still moving toward a collective and sympathetic consciousness.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Coming up on midterm ...

This semester is absolutely flying by, and we are approaching the halfway point.  Today I turn in my very first "official" paper of grad school!  I'm very nearly finished and I am actually pretty satisfied with it.  I'm writing about vision, blindness, and coming to consciousness in George Eliot's Silas Marner.  Though I feel like my writing is a little rusty, I'm surprised that it wasn't that hard to get back into the swing of 'academic writing.'

The amount of reading is really overwhelming and the semester long projects are giving me a lot of anxiety.  We have an additional project for Comp Theory on a "key term" and I decided to go with "rhetoric" -- it's huge, I know!  But I want to focus on how Shakespeare uses rhetoric in his plays.  Rhetoric would have been part of his education, and it shows up a lot in the plays.  I've always been interested in learning more particulars about it, because I don't know much and this seems like a good opportunity.

We're moving forward pretty quickly with The Bookend Project and auditions for the summer season.  Auditions will be November 7 and 8.  There's still a lot to do -- an audition form, an information sheet on both projects, sides to be compiled.  We also have a grant application due on Wednesday.  My scripts are due for The Bookend Project by November 22, and there's still a great deal to do with those too.

It's no wonder I feel like my bloodstream is pure coffee.
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