Shakespeare used poetry to write drama, not the other way around. Since the formal, rhythmic constraints of blank verse shape the thoughts and expressions of his characters, the actor must understand and respect the rules of the verse. But neither the actor nor the director should ever be concerned primarily with the beauty of the language. Shakespeare has already created the language; your job is to make sure it is heard clearly. The creative team must be concerned with action, character, and drama. The reason Shakespeare’s plays are still performed is not because of their gorgeous language, but because of their theatrical economy, wit and intelligence. You are never reciting. You are always playing. The character is never engaged in wordplay for it’s own sake, but only to complete or initiate an action. One must accept that the characters speak in this fashion, understand the rules and governing principles of the style and then banish the idea of “poetry” and all of the word’s passive associations in order to chase and follow the actions and thoughts of the character and the play.
My professional life has been pretty much spent in and around theatres big and small, indoors and out. When I am away from home I tend to gravitate towards theatre venues either to see a show or just lollygag at the architecture, design, the posters – in general soak in the atmosphere and ponder on the potential. I try to catch some of this attraction in a collection of images that I’m adding to all the time. These are housed in a Theatre set on Flickr.
I’m currently in Singapore to visit friends, sample the endlessly fascinating cuisine, and to take in a new production by my friend Jian Hong Kuo, the Artistic Director of The Theatre Practice, the professional arm of the PPAS (Practice Performing Arts School) established by her father, the late and yes, great Kuo Pao Kun. Jian is currently in production week and at the final tech stages of the Mandarin language musical ‘If There’re Seasons.’ More on the show in another post.
Anyhow, all this by way of saying that Jian’s husband took me on a walking tour via the incredibly efficient SMRT (Singapore transit system) to some of the theatre venues in town – all new to me. From the stark modernity of the huge Esplanade Arts Centre, the rehearsal rooms at The Theatre Practice, to the Drama Centre auditorium in the National Library building where the show will play, it all felt very, very comfortable. Does a pilot feel this way entering a cockpit, a cook a kitchen … I wonder.
I sat in another big dark room yesterday for a while during the tech watching Jian at work. The people in the space had that old familiar energy … heck some of them even looked familiar, even though I’d never seen them before in my life. I speak about a dozen words of Mandarin but I think I even knew what they were talking about. A tech is a tech is a tech, right?
I’ve been mulling over this feeling since yesterday. Fact is I feel at home in the theatre … any theatre. Yes it’s my workspace and it isn’t always comfortable, but it’s a thrilling, challenging zone to inhabit. I wonder how others feel about this? Is just being in the space – any theatre space – one of its attractions?
You might be interested in the media page from Pilot Theatre York in the UK. They’ve taken to social media in a big way. Classy site that ‘tells their story’ through slick design too.
I took part in an online discussion a month or so ago with some international theatre colleagues on how business … specifically the theatre … is or is not using digital social media to market their ‘product.’ It’s a conversation that is ongoing, and a process that continues to unfold.
We’re all used to being stymied from time to time by technology. We have the imagination, we have the tools, we see the potential … but stuff goes wrong, people resist … sometimes it can all get too hard. Why bother?
With that in mind, I’ve posted an audio file of part of that conversation I had back in January 2009. I talked about using digital social media to engage with audiences, and I mentioned the challenges we face in Australia with regard to access by customers and the experience of those who are marketing what we do.
This podcast is 6 minutes long.
Smart Marketing and the Digital Divide
Groundlings love being in crowds and in-crowds. It’s part of the buzz at the theatre for a start. Now the social-networking addicts’ favourite application, Twitter has a brand-new (about an hour old as I peck away here) International Theatre Group. How about that!
And what’s the point, apart from indulging your addiction? Joining this group, as with any other dedicated Twitter group aka a dedicated-directory means that you can stay in touch with like-mindeds, extend your reach, get more hits on your blog … and hopefully get other theatre folk to leave comment and come back for more.
Welcome to you if you are on the Twitter group. Please leave a hello below. If you’re not, why not join us?
I couldn’t resist posting this, if only to prove how a great play can get sandbagged by good intentions. Here’s Harold Pinter‘s The Dumb Waiter, a brilliant, dark little piece for two actors. It’s been animated and condensed and posted up to YouTube.
The point, I hear you ask? Well maybe it will hook someone to read/see live the whole play, perhaps it’s enhancing the Pinter profile … mmm, maybe not.
I trawled back through the posts to one I wrote at this time last year. This is what I said then:
… Another class of actors enters the industry at their showcase performance and end of three years of intensive training. Their lovely talent shone through despite the grunginess of the venue. As always, I felt as though a bunch of fledglings was leaving the nest, and needed protection. No, let them go and hopefully fly. Along with many other actor-trainers, I hate showcases. They are artificial exercises designed to market a human product; they always make me feel incredibly sad and proud in equal measure.
I wanted it to go so well for them all, dressed up, hopefully clutching their business cards, learning how to pick their way through the minefield of industry schmoozing that’s required to get agents, casting calls, auditions, jobs. It’s a tough business. Many will walk away finding it too hard, too compromising, too … .
Break a leg and never give up!
Last night’s venue, the fabulous Brisbane Powerhouse on the river was far from grungy, and the reception (hosted by the Vice-Chancellor Prof Bill Lovegrove) and given to guests, alumni, staff and graduating students of University of Southern Queensland‘s School of Creative Arts was worthy of most opening night bashes in town. In a step up from former Theatre showcases, the newly-styled ‘Trade Show’ was launched bringing together a new kind of showcase, one to introduce the work of the School, located in the Faculty of Arts on the Toowoomba and Springfield campuses. And so for the first time at a showcase, music, art, media and theatre were all on display. Good luck to them.
Get along if you can tonight and see for yourself, the final day. That beautiful talent is now about to enter the next phase of its development, outside the protected walls of the training institution. Now they simply need to ‘just do it.’
PS. Why do howler-monkey members of the audience insist on drawing attention to themselves during a show. Tsk, tsk chaps. Theatre Etiquette 101.