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.


  1. This is such a cool concept. When I took my one and only acting class in 5th grade, we learned about the power of real acting. We had no background, very few (if any) props, and definitely zero special effects. Our job was to act well enough that the audience would forget that there was nothing on the stage, but the actors (Of course, as a 5th grader with no experience, I'm sure my rendition of Mary from *The Secret Garden* was horrid).

    I hadn't really thought about the consciousness of the performance, though. I always thought the idea was to make the audience forget that they were watching a play or an actor, but you say its something more like acceptance. I wonder hwo that translates back into comp. theory? And now I'm just starting to babble and trip over my own thoughts.

    On a somewhat unrelated note, my alma mater, Pace University, has been in the news for not so pleasant things lately, but while Googling, I came across this:

  2. wow. I've never really thought that much about the aspect of acting before. You've definately given me something to think about. Good job -- amazing writing! --- ooooh and you're a Josh fan! :) Now you're perfect! Thanks for the comment!


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