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Saturday, September 20, 2008

In case you cared.....

In a lively on line debate with a guy who wants to sound way smarter than he is, I was discussing my reasons for liking to see Shakespeare's work taken out of it's original setting, if the Director has a REASON. He goes on, by the way, to claim that Shakespeare was his own best director, citing Hamlet's "Speak the speech, I pray you...." I quote my response:


As far as Shakespeare being the best Director, I highly disagree. The Director as we know him did not really even appear until much later. The primary reason Shakespeare writes such brilliant and specific language in his plays is to tell the actors where they are, what they should be doing, etc. since they were rarely if ever give time to stage anything, and certainly not by a Director with a vision for anything other than getting the play up and seen.

There are two ways of looking at Shakespeare in a creative theatrical way: presenting the story as it is told in the text, and digging into thematic elements that may help to highlight or illuminate the text. As an avid film- and theater-goer, I don’t want to watch RICHARD III done exactly the same way every time. I’d be bored stiff. But when I can watch Pacino do it, then see Ian McKellen’s Third Reich interpretation, then watch Geilgud......... now I’m getting takes on theme, and that interests me.

Henry VI has several parts that cover the entire Wars of the Roses and set in it’s given time period and performed straight as written would take 12 or more hours. Brilliant though it may be, I don’t have that kind of time anymore. But ROSE RAGE takes that story, keeps the language and time period, but dissects it into two three-hour parts and places it all inside a butchery. Why? Because thematically that’s what the Wars of the Roses were: a series of butcheries of two rival English families. The action, costuming and music were all period, but the butcher shop (with it’s hanging chains and two white-clad, masked butchers) stood off to the side and appeared during the torture and murder scenes, of which there are many. It was a brilliant and poignant staging. Not to mention the very end, where Edward is crowned King and they carry him around on a throne singing only to stop like a freeze-frame as Glouster steps forward and looks at the audience to say: "Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer....." He winks and the stage blacks out. End of play.

Theatre, film, TV, arguably all forms of art exist for one basic reason: to "hold the mirror up to nature" or, more importantly, to make us FEEL. Even if we are angered or upset, it has done it’s job. And when you’ve seen the same story a million times, you don’t feel it as much anymore, hence my interest in new interpretations of the work.


Opinions?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The whole point of my last post

Oh, right. ; )

So, even though we only have a few people in the class, it's been going really well! And I'm hoping to have a short evening of "monologues" for the rest of the company.

Plus, there was talk yesterday of taking it into a more virtual realm. Since each sonnet is a monologue where you need to answer the basic acting questions (who am I, where am I, what do I want, etc.), every sonnet is personalized. It has a beginning, middle and an end and they all deal with universal subjects that we can all relate to: love, jealousy, etc. So put yourself in a situation where you would be saying or thinking these things. Once you've got that down and YOU believe it and know what you're saying, everybody listening will understand what you're saying. Trust me.

Then the next thing is to take it out of theatre and into life. Did you put yourself at a bar talking to a bartender about your lovelife and you go 180 on your couplet because your lover walks in? Go to a bar and shoot the scene. Are you confronting your lover about an affair? Where? Take modern places and instances and put the sonnets in them - the words may seem out of place for the location, but the meanings will be the same and maybe even more emotional than simply, "I love you but I'm angry and sad." (If I EVER use that line in a screenplay, please kill me.)

Anybody wanna come to class?

The post where I teach you how to do sonnets. Briefly.

So, I just taught class #3 with the TIGERS management company. We're working on some sonnets, as I like to do to start everybody off. Here's how this works, kids:

First: what is iambic pentameter? It's a verse form containing five lines of iambs. An iamb is two beats with the second beat stressed. (Perhaps it's got family issues. But no matter....) Five of those are a pentameter line. At it's simplest:

Da DUH da DUH da DUH da DUH da DUH.

"But SOFT what LIGHT through YONder WINdow BREAKS?"

If you don't really punch the stressed syllable, it sounds pretty much the way we normally speak. We have a very up-and-down cadence in English, so this style works really well. The reason it's good to know IP is that if you get confused about what you're saying, go back and beat it out with the stressed and unstressed and whatever words you stress are probably the most important. That should give you a clue what you're saying.

Once you know that, grab a sonnet. Let's focus on the most famous: Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And Summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And oft' is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd:
But thy eternal Summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.


Now, why are the last two lines indented? This is a couplet, kiddies. The first 12 lines of the sonnet are ABAB, but the last two rhyme. Usually (and always when you're performing them), these two lines should express the "opposite" of the rest of the sonnet. Shakespeare, as my co-moderator Beki is so rightly fond of repeating, love opposites. He uses them constantly - it's like poetic algebra - almost everything evens out. So when acting, whatever you choose to be your intention for the sonnet has to go 180 by the end.

Sounds weird for this one? Think about it: "Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day?" What's the answer? "No, I won't do that. You're more beautiful than that." Then the whole sonnet discusses how Summer fades, makes way for other seasons, and disappears.

It moves on to "Every fair FROM fair sometime declines." So: "Everything beautiful at some time or another stops being beautiful." Much as Summer fades and makes way for Winter, we lose our youth and move on to old age and death. Not so Summery or romantic anymore, is it? And still, he's saying he WON'T compare her. He starts to free up (which means you need a new intention and tactic) by the last four lines with "But THY eternal Summer shall not fade....... when in eternal lines to time thou growest." Or: "The real Summer fades, so I won't compare you to Summer. But YOUR brightness and warmth will never disappear because I'm going to write about them and my words will last forever, long after you are dead. You will survive and be beautiful forever since I will immortalize you in my poem." Little more romantic?

Now the couplet. "So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, so long lives this, and this gives life to thee." - "This poem will last forever as long as people are alive to read it. And as long as this poem lives, so will you, in the minds of the readers." That's a far cry from "I'm not going to compare you to something beautiful." So if you know that the end is going to be hopelessly romantic, you can't play that at the top.

The beginning could be played very much as a prototypical guy who doesn't do sissy things like say poems and romantic stuff. And then he backs up his reasoning, because it's stupid to do that poetry stuff about "you're as beautiful as a sunny day" since at it's core, that's a cop out and really means that you're only great to be around until nighttime or the Fall. Then swing your way around so that by the end you're the most romantic person in the world, since you look far beyond the crap one-liners that guys give girls about beauty and you're looking at who she really IS. And since you love who she IS and not just infatuated with her body and pretty face, you will immortalize her, immortalize her beauty, and immortalize your love for her.

Hell, do that and I'D go to bed with you. Which, as you must remember, is the whole point to poetry. ; )

 

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