Friday, July 12, 2019

Shakespeare and Other Things

I am doing Shakespeare this weekend for the first time in years. There is part of me that's excited and part of me that's nervous. I remember being half decent with the language, but the words were always what got in my way. While I loved Shakespeare I was never a Shakespearian actor if you get my drift.

I started out wanting to be a classical actor of some sort. In high school I even interned for a summer with a classical stage company downtown. When college started I was certain I wanted to be a Shakespearian actor. Sure, I did the ventriloquism, but the classics were going to be my home. I loved history and understood the text. My mother also supported these ambitions as she felt I had a gift with language and Shakespeare. We even toyed with the idea of me studying Shakespeare abroad. I was stoked and sure.

Some of my acting teachers, not so much. One in particular really harshed my mellow. She was actually a smart lady who had done every Shakespeare show there was. Although we didn't get along, I always admired her knowledge. However, she was carrying her own baggage to the teaching experience. A refugee from both a classical stage company that no longer existed and a school which she was an alumni and teacher that closed it's doors, she was bitter and burned out. While I have faith she loved and appreciated the teaching aspect, the administrative part of her job killed her soul, and she seemed miserable and trapped. Older students confirmed my suspicion. She said to me, "April, my class is for classical actors. That's not you."

The summer after I left her class, I became more immersed in comedy and ventriloquism. It seemed these things were going to be my tickets and perhaps she was right, I wasn't a classical actor. If being a classical actor meant being an unpleasant bitch I was good with it.

However, the next term I had another instructor who rocked for lack of a better word. He admittedly only taught acting for the paycheck and retired, spending all of his energy gigging with his rockband. We often joked about the amount of coke he did back in the day, and we all felt bad until he told us how much coke he did back in the day and it was a lot let me tell you. As an assignment I had to do Queen Gertrude. I did it for his class with the broken notion that Shakespeare wasn't for me. However, my teacher disagreed.

He gave me a Sense Memory exercise in which Queen Gertrude was drunk. I killed it. Not only was it a lot of fun,but he told me I had a gift with the language and I did in fact have a future with Shakespeare.

The brief reunion didn't last. While I had the opportunity to study in England, because of some schedule changes it made it difficult. Plus my mom went from being stoked about it to being frightened of terrorists and feared I would die overseas. I was discovering my real strengths were my ventriloquism, comedy, and creating my own original material anyway. Sure, I loved Shakespeare but it didn't seem to be in the cards.

This notion was echoed further after college as a lot of classical theatre requires a lot of long hours, is non-equity and offers no pay. Plus I was passionate about the ventriloquism and comedy, figuring those were my tickets. As time wore on, I wandered farther and farther away from classical let alone legit theatre. It wasn't going to be home and that was okay. I could pull it out of my hat if need be, but it wasn't what was going to bring me to the next level for the time being.

Undergrad saw me discover my ability to write for the stage. While I was discovering my wings as a playwright, jokes were more my thing and that gave way to essays and ultimately a book. I tried adapting my work to screen but was miserable at it. So I gave up, until some life events that you might know about changed everything. These saw me rededicated to craft, getting a master's, and reading all the texts I had neglected since college.

When I studied screenwriting, I wanted to give actors material they loved, as no amount of good acting can be overcome by horrendous writing. Material that could show off their strengths and do the work for them so they could SHAKESPEARE. This meant getting my ass kicked again in acting class, and signing up for a SHAKESPEARE class. Yes, I actually applied and I figured if they payment went through they wouldn't read my application. To my pleasant surprise and chagrin they read my application.


So long story short, this weekend, I am back to one of my first loves. At first it was daunting but I remembered to get out my dictionary. (Something my unpleasant teacher pounded). But I also remembered my Sense Memory. (Something from the one I adore). I forgot how much FUN this was. So yes, I am excited and a tad nervous.

"Anon, anon I pray you remember the porter!"

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