Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Final Blocking

Though I am sure there will be changes, and I confess to some gaps in my recall in regards to some of it that we have not run in a while, the blocking stage of Romeo and Juliet was completed today. At least as best as it could be given some disadvantages.

One such is that one of the characters who was to do some tumbling for some of the scenes strained his back, and no will be unable to work any of the sort of things that had been worked out. They will have to be revamped in some way.

Also on this particular day, I had to stand in for someone. "Juliet" specifically. But wrap you mind around this...I stood in for the actress playing Juliet, in a scene in which she is not actually playing Juliet. The actress will in fact be playing some random Montague in a street brawl.

If the logistics of all of that are making you dizzy, relax. It's got more layers than an onion. And since I only had to do it for today, it hardly matters in the slightest, outside of being an intriguing mind bender. I was being me, playing a small part that will normally be played by another actress, that normally plays another part. Whoa.

The scene for all of this warped metaphysics was the first scene of the play. As I said, a brawl in the street between servants of the two houses. "Do you bite you thumb at me, sir", and all that.

(To add an even weirder element, I also appeared in this scene years ago, in the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged. Flashbacks were inevitable, and in fact, have come up in various other moments of this production as well.)

As fun as that was, my actual character is not in the scene. So I admit I was just sort of sheep-ing my way through that part of rehearsal.

Later, we reviewed and expanded upon the blocking of the Capulet Party scene. In this version, the Friar is in fact present. I have received not particular instruction as to where to go in this scene, except when the whole party moves. So I have, so far, kept mostly in the back, observing everyone else, letting those who wish to approach the good Friar do so. My version of the Friar is more laid back than would be most interpretations of him, but I still somehow doubt he would be whooping it up, as it were, at the block party. Though I should come up with a bit more to do, and have a bit more motivation. I have a lot to think about in that regard for all of my scenes in the second half, save one. (The last.)

It is to be on Thursday, (our next official rehearsal) that we start running the show from the top, and going through as much of act one as possible. Friday then is act 2. Tech week, (though we have no real tech as it were) will start on Sunday. Each day of next week, except one, we will be running the whole show, in theory. This is both scary and a relief. Relief in that I will finally get a chance to work on my dynamic with Romeo a bit, and to deliver the lines to a living actor as opposed to a tape recorder, as has been my practice when getting off book.

Scary, in that even the director told us that though she had faith in us all, we are a bit behind in where she wanted us to be. Costumes and props are not yet secured. Books are still in hands. (I am not innocent of this...for though I know, I would say, 90% of all my lines, I do not yet have them all. But you can bet I will be working quite hard on that in the coming days.)

Not that I won't have to call for lines a few times in the coming days. But as I have said here on the blog before, the memorization process is not fully complete until I am actually working the lines in the scene with the other actors. (This is not film, after all, where rehearsal is not always even on the menu.) Granted I will have far less time to do so for this show than I am used to. But I am determined to make it happen.

Nothing tomorrow for me. It is stage combat day for those who need to fight. The Holy Man fights not.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

One-on-One Friar

I am seeing a pattern in the lines of Friar Laurence. He has some great lines that I love delivering. I cannot wait for the chance to deliver them to the other actors, (mostly Romeo) when we have the books out of our hands. Such lines sunk into my head very quickly, and I owned them in no time.

Then he has some of the most circular, flowery, inflated, borderline insufferable monologues, even by Shakespeare's standards. Speeches I am still struggling to commit to memory even this late in the game. These speeches are not poetic, or insightful in any way, for the most part. They are bloated and obvious, with slippery diction and are otherwise tedious to deliver. I would imagine in most cases, not much fun to listen to either.

Such a dichotomy is there between these two types of lines delivered by the Friar that I am tempted to believe Shakespeare did this on purpose.

Yet why? I am not a proponent of the idea that every single little oddity or inconsistency within the Shakespeare canon was in fact intentional in order to illuminate some deeply hidden allegory. While I think this does happen of course, there is not something profound lurking behind every hitch in the writings of the Bard. Sometimes it is just a quirky thing that slipped in.

Yet, when considering the totality of a character within a piece, or at least within a scene, I think it is very possible that difference in language and tone among the various appearances of a character, no matter how small, can in fact signify something. Is it so with Friar Laurence, or do I, as an actor, just happen to love certain lines, and not others? There are a number of ways of looking at this conundrum.

To begin with, the exciting, visceral lines that the Friar delivers come almost exclusively when he is speaking to one person, sometimes two. (There are some notable exceptions.) Most of his great lines come when he is speaking to Romeo, in fact. The speeches that I mentioned tend to come usually when he is addresses a larger group. It is almost as if he is more prone to wind-baggery (to coin a phrase) in front of larger groups. Could this be Shakespeare's way of making him appear more clerical when speaking to a crowd, as would become his official duties, leaving his more relaxed, informal yet potent lines for his more personal encounters? Possibly.

Yet the longest speech I have in the play comes when he is addressing only Juliet...as he explains the plan involving the sleeping potion, and how that will save the day. He is not addressing a crowd there, yet he has a very bloated speech of exposition.

Which led me to my second consideration...he is more of a bore when making speeches that explain things that are about to happen, or have already happened, than he is when he is speaking in the present, reacting to the moment. This would explain the sleeping potion speech, as well as the recounting speech at the end of the play, (mercifully shortened by the director.) It also would lend some explanation to the shorter but equally uninspired speech he gives to the Capulets when they think Juliet is dead, as she sleeps.

If this be the case, though, why does he become more of a bore, simply because he is explaining something? I toyed with the idea of assuming he is thinking out loud in those passages. These are times when he most be more precise, more political. That may dull what he says somewhat. Slowing it down, and making it more fanciful.

I also considered perhaps he is one way in the first half of the play, and another at the end, though I could not furnish any real reason why that should be the case.

I don't think i can come to a specific conclusion as to why there is such a large difference, and in fact there may not be one, as I said. Or it could be something as simple as Friar Laurence being the most convenient "pipe-laying" character for Shakespeare to use, and hence he was given several speeches that did little more than more the plot forward, or at least explain where it was going next. I am willing to accept that as a scholar, but not as an actor.

Fortunately as an actor, I can go in certain directions that the specific production allow. I can work within the frame work of a particular director's vision, as well as my own interpretation of the character. This is both a blessing, but also a difficulty, as I have to make a decision on my own as to why this difference in lines exist.

And it does exist. Indeed other people in the play have mention how awful some of the speeches are, while enjoying other parts. Yet it does not truly matter. If the dichotomy exists for nobody else that reads the play, it does exist for me, and because of that it exists. And because it exists, I must make a decision about why there is such a difference in the Friar from time to time. I can't say I have come to that decision yet, but I have laid out here in this entry the components from which I will likely build my approach to this difference. If it is possible. If I must simply ignore it, I will, but I am not willing to do so just yet.

It will become easier to contemplate once we start rehearsing whole scenes, without books, and start concentrating on things other than blocking. That is what this week is supposed to bring. We will see. Another reason I am looking forward to this next phase of the rehearsal.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Bit of a Mess

Not all rehearsals can go well. That is just a fact of theatrical life. Last night was one of those times.

It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that not much would go well, when we were locked out of the theatre itself, unable to reach anybody who had a key. Annoying that we could not get in, but there was little that could be done. The idea of cancelling rehearsal was tossed out, but was unanimously rejected. (Out of those who showed up, which at best was two thirds of the cast.) Everyone wanted to at least get something done.

So after some kibitizing as to wear we could go, a local park was chosen. We walked about a mile in the humdity to get there. And the bigs were clearly fellow guests at this place.

Let me say here and now that I know I had a terrible rehearsal. I have been in town (with no public restroom to use) for over 2 and a half hours by this point. I have to get there that early in order to beat the horrendous highway traffic, but I thought someone would be in the theatre. Add to this the mile walk to the place, and a 90 minute or so reharsal, and you have the makings of a not very pleasent evening.

Not to mention the fact that I absolutley detest rehearsing theatre outside. It was nobody's fault, and bad rehearsal is better than no rehearsal, but I have always hated rehearsing outside. Theatre for me simply is not an outside activity. Too many uncontrollable variables.

People in my college days often insisted on going outside during nice weather to run the scene. I never knew why. There is plenty of time to enjoy the nice weather, but right now there is work to do, you know?

And that is one reason why I hate it. Too many distractions, and let us just say not everyone was particularly focused last night on the task at hand. (Blocking the end of the play.)

I had been off book for most of that final scene, but when it come to trying to deliver the lines I just did not have them. I am upset about this, because I am normally good at such things. But with all the negatives I couldn't make it happen.

And we only ran the scene once, and therefore I still have not had the chance to run hardly any of the Friar's scenes with people. Even the stuff I am off book for in theory cannot be fused into my mind until I can run such scenes with other people. That is the final step I need to cement a script into my mind.

But no use dwelling on the unfortunate. Monday is another day, plus there are I am sure going to be more informal sessions.

Friday, June 26, 2009

"Part, sirs!"

That was an ad-libbed line I came up with in a crowd scene we ran today. This was, sadly, really the only thing I did during tonight's rehearsal, because all of the major players with whom I have a seen were absent from rehearsal tonight.

The scene in question is after the deaths of Tybalt and Mercutio, after Romeo has fled. The prince, followed by various others, (The Friar included, in our version) enter, and observe the aftermath of the killings. The prince passing judgment on Romeo, and, momentarily, and outbreak of pandemonium among those assembled.

As a matter of background story I am, up until that point, nervous about Romeo's fate, as well as angered, saddened, and disappointed that such a thing has occurred, and that Romeo has done it. Not to mention to monkey wrench thrown into an already difficult set if circumstances through which the Friar must navigate.

Near the end of the scene, the director had everyone shout...something. As I said, she wanted pandemonium. This actually took more than one would think, because everyone was initially too timid to just start yelling. (Go figure.) Eventually it improved, and two actors near me decided to ad-lib a small fracas between the two of them. As the Friar, I opted to step in between them to prevent further bloodshed, as it were.

It felt natural enough. Good choice by them. Gave me something to do, other than pray, during the scene. The next time we ran it, I added, "Part, sirs", in order to add to the cacophony. (Which still could use some boosting, but is getting better.)

I am mostly off book for most of my scenes, but still working on a few. Even being off book, it is a whole other thing when I try to perform without the script for the first time, and the few times I have tried it I have stumbled a bit. Still, I am sure I will be mostly ready tomorrow or Monday at the latest.

I am happy to report that after two solid nights of working on just the one long, boring, exposition speech I am, for all intents and purposes, off book for that nightmare. I try to run it in my head several times a day, however, just to keep it there. But boy, what a speech.

Rehearsal again tonight at 7. To beat traffic, I will come early, as I hear some people will be there early.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I love this character, and I love Shakespeare. Most of the time. But I have been spending much of my script studying time the last two evening working on the dullest, longest exposition speech in the entire play. I am still only about 2 thirds of the way through memorizing it. And even what I have memorized does not exactly flow off the tongue easily. Too much alliteration and weird syntax, even by the Bard's standards. Plus there is no poetry to it, and no power. It's just the Friar explaining to Juliet what the planned outcome is.

He mentioned how Juliet will sleep in "borrowed likeness of shrunk death" for "2 and 40 hours."

He might as well be describing the impact this speech will have on the audience.

Yet it is vital to know what is going on...(for those who do not already know.)

Thankfully our director has added something to it that will hopefully make it more appealing to sit through. (Though NOT more appealing to memorize or deliver.) That idea is to have the added characters of Fate and her various Minions pantomime the scene, in beautiful dance like movements, on the the other side of the stage while I deliver the speech. That is what we ran for the first time today.

I'd like to report on how it looks, but I never saw it, except out of the corner of my eye here and there. I am too busy delivering this lumbering oaf of a monologue. Plus, I do not have it memorized yet.

I have other scenes I must work on tomorrow in addition to this monster, though. Off book day is Friday. Plus I have one or two other long speeches. (Though one may be shortened.) I can do it by then, but I must really bare down.

We will be able to call for lines for a few days. (Or in this case, we have been instructed to call "prithee" when we need a line fed to us.) I imagine I will be doing quite a bit of "pritheeing" when I first try to do this long speech.

I suppose, however, it is a fair price to pay for all of the other intriguing things I will get to do in this character.

On that note the director asked me if I preferred a more traditional priest (not Friar) outfit, or a modernized jeans and t-shirt approach, with proper vestments added. I think both would work, but I opted for the traditional for now. I think it suits him, and I think I will look good in black. I won't mind if we change it though.

Possible informal rehearsal/meeting thing tomorrow. I very much desire to go, but know not if I can.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Floating About

That is what I did for most of the rehearsals the last two days.

Thursday was the first night where most of the cast showed up. And let me tell you, in the small theatre, (only half of which we are allowed to use for practice space), the cast is large. To save time, the director split the group into four different groups, each working on or discussing a relevant part of the play in which they were involved.

I was assigned the task of going around to the various groups, filling in for missing actors, letting people bounce ideas off of me, or in some cases, suggesting blocking. Just a freelance temporary assistant director of sorts. Not making any decisions of course, but doing what I could to facilitate what the different groups were trying to do. I like to think I managed to be of use to someone. If so, than I do not mind that none of the Friar Laurence scenes were run. Contributing to the show is contributing to the show, after all.

We also roughly staged the Capulet party scene, wherein everyone in the cast appears. I must think of good motivations, or as the director says, a personal story as to why the Friar might be there. I have some ideas. Bottom line is, he seeks to serve, as is befitting a true friar.

Today, (Friday) I did a little bit of the same thing, but spend more of my time going over some of my own stuff. I went over a very short scene I appear in, (skipping, for everyone else's sake, the longest, most boring monologue that I have. Something I have not even begun to memorize.) Then once or twice I went over, for the sake of someone else, a scene wherein I have about two lines.

Then I was called out to the stage with Romeo and the Nurse, to run through what is probably my favorite scene in the play. At least so far, (though the ending, depending on how we stage it may prove to be an even more rewarding challenge.)

The scene the director had me run tonight, with the other two performers, was the scene after which Romeo has killed Tybalt, Juliet's cousin. He whines and cries a bit about being banished, and the Friar chides him. The nurse arrives later on. The whole scene culminates in what is almost certainly my favorite speech of mine in this play. The Friar basically shames Romeo for being so emo (a term the director used for his mood, and an apt word I think). This after he wrestles a knife from Romeo's hands with which he would surely kill himself. The friar has had enough at that point and shows, for what is basically the only time in the play, total anger.

I am off book for that scene, though I did carry my script for the first part of it. I had to micro-check a few things. But not that wonderful monologue. I have been working on that in it;s own right probably more than the rest of the scene.

"Hold they desperate hand!
Art thou a man? Thy form cries out thou art..."

Those familiar with the play know which speech it is.

I nailed it without forgetting anything. It felt very invigorating to give the speech. I find giving Shakespearean speeched with that much forcefulness almost has an affect on the body and mind akin to singing rock music to me. not the content or cadence of course, but the mental/physiological effects on the mind and body are at least kissing cousins to those of rock and roll.

The speech could still use some work, but I am very pleased with how it is coming. Plus the build up that is naturally embedded by Shakespeare into that scene gives it even more potency. Plus Romeo (the actor) is doing good things in the scene as well. When he and I are both off book, it should be quite the scene. Particularly intense in such a small theatre. I cannot wait to run the scene again. And again and again.

There may or may not be an informal rehearsal tomorrow evening. But even if it does happen, I sadly think I shall not be able to attend. We shall see. But the next official rehearsal is on Monday, at 7.

Brief talk of costumes. Looks like no robe or hood for me, but an all black suit, with a vestment or something of some kind, marked with the colors of both Houses, (silver and gold) to indicate my overall neutrality.

The Friar is taking great shape now. It is becoming a more exciting role with each passing day for me. I am very pleased to have it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Big Things From Small Moments

Another "informal" rehearsal/review session for Romeo and Juliet at the theater today. I am really grateful for these chances to just drop in and work on little pieces and casually discuss specific aspects of the play, without being under the gun of a timed formal rehearsal. Especially since today we were able to use the actual stage area, which previously was not avialble.

I have only been to two such informal sessions, yet already so much has been learned. Not just by me, but by others. And the entire production has benefited from it in a very specific way today.

It all started during a break we were all taking. (About five cast members were available today.) In the director's vision of the play, Fate (actually personified by an actress, along with several of her minions) move about, unseen, and cause very specific things to happen, to forward the plot, and bring the players in this drama to their respective destinies.

It occurred to me that in order for me to really delve into the highly spiritual character of the Friar, I wanted to know if, within the universe of the play, God, as an entity, existed, or if in fact, contrary to religion, Fate and her minions were in fact at the top of the pyramid of existence. I wondered because I wanted to know if where the Friar, and others like him, were trying to go was attainable, or if the entire focal point of what he seeks from his spiritual journey is a fake.

Though I did not expect it to, this led to a very interesting and probing 30 minute or so discussion. The topic, in addition to my specific question about my role, was essentially about the role of Fate vs. that of God. (However He be named.) I obviously cannot reproduce in detail the nature of such a conversation here, but I will state that what emerged was a notion of comparing what happens when people put their belief in a fickle Fate, and what happens when people put their Faith in an Almighty of some sort. It became clear that the play, particularly it;s ending, could be used as an allegory for this metaphysical competition, as it were. Between Fate and her minions in their efforts to control the world, and the greater truth of a more power Universal, represented in the person of Friar Laurence.

This decision, which evolved over the conversation, with the input of everyone present, became the genesis of a new tableau of sorts for the last scene. A scene which has the famous final line of the play, (For never was there a story of more woe, than this of Juliet, and her Romeo), now being uttered by yours truly. As it stands now anyway.

The potential symbolism and impact excited everyone present.

I assure you I did not lobby for any particular chance, and I certainly did not attempt to obtain the final line of the piece. It all came about quite organically. And that is why I am so amazed at what can sometimes evolve when people are free to explore the nature of a production in a casual yet productive manner.

On a less profound note, I rehearsed the one and only scene I have with Parris, since he was present this afternoon. A stand-in Juliet and I then ran the scene wherein the Friar delivers a very long speech, which essentially lays out the entire plan, with the potion, the crypt, and all of that. (A speech I am not looking forward to tackling, since it is both boring, and also lacking in anything poetic of any kind.) Fortunately, other things have been added to the scene to make it less interminable...both for me and for future audiences.

It is starting to be quite exciting. I hope that we have full houses for our two night only engagement. (Please, if you would like to see this show, contact me through this blog, and I will give you more information.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Informal Gathering

Technically, though for all intents and purposes it was a rehearsal. (At the theatre itself, not at the director's house, as originally planned.)

Today I joined quite a fair number of cast members for an unofficial rehearsal time. But much was accomplished.

Mainly, I got to talk to "Romeo", and get to know him a bit better. We ran our scene once for the director, and talked about a few things, before she sent us off on our own to delve more into the scene. Amidst the surprisingly loud traffic of small Shepherdstown, Romeo and I discussed the nature of the relationship between our respective characters.

I pointed out to him my Episode One Obi-Wan analogy, as previously mentioned here on the blog. He could see that as working quite well. He, as I did, saw the relationship as a mentor/younger person sort of situation, but one that is almost a matter of two peers. As in the Friar is probably wiser, more well read, and overall more experienced in life than is Romeo, but is still someone to whom Romeo can relate without a lot of fanfare. Romeo being a near-equal. I can see this.

We also discussed how Romeo is instantly honest with the Friar. Uncharacteristically direct with him, whereas when talking to others, even Juliet, Romeo has a tendency to beat around the bush, as it were. An astute observation from my scene partner.

We then ran the scene a few times informally. (Exercising our projection skills as traffic roared nearby.) I went off book for the scene with him...just to make sure I could do it. I have it down well now.

The two of us went back in, and shared with the director some of the ideas we had. (She approved of the Obi-Wan approach. More so than I expected, as she doesn't necessary think he has to be totally Christian, though I think I will play him as such...but certainly a Christian Mystic.)

It was then that the director introduced a quite fun concept to the scene between Romeo and the Friar which I dare not describe here, in fear if spoiling it for those who may come to see it. I will eventually, but for now, I will say it has the potential to be quite fun.

We ran the scene, (I being off book..almost) much to the enjoyment of the director, and the other cast members present. It is always refreshing to feel life being breathed into a scene after looking at it just one paper by ones self for so long. I added a small head-slap to Romeo at the end of the scene...something I had seen in my mind's eye ever since I first started reading the scene, and which, I am happy to say, the director liked. It stays.

Another aspect of this production that differs from the original is that I, as the Friar, will be present in the scene wherein Romeo meet Juliet for the first time. (A party at the Capulet's, for those of you rusty on your Shakespeare.) I won't say anything, but all the characters will be on stage at one time for that scene, and the director wants each of us to be playing out our own inner stories. (Something I have always been a huge fan of in such scenes.) It is early yet, but when asked, I mentioned that the Friar, being spiritual, tends to more easily find God in the faces of His people, and hence is absorbing both the joy of the event as it connects to the joy of Heaven, but also feeling the presence of God among people in general. (A friar being a servant of the community.)

So again, much was accomplished despite not everyone being there. (However, I think more were there than were present yesterday.) There is to be another such meeting tomorrow I believe, and I hope to attend that one as well, as I think Romeo shall be there. As he himself said, the more chemistry he and I develop, the better off we will be.

Didn't start reading the next scene yet tonight, as per my pattern...but I made up for it be attending the extra rehearsal.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Thou Readest Well, the First Time Out

Or, today was the first read through for Romeo and Juliet.

Many people could not make it to the first read through, so it was not a totally accurate impression of what the final cast will be like. However, there were several people there, and there is a good amount of talent in this group.

Most of the people that were actually there I did not know. Had not even met before. (It just so happened that most of the people I knew were also people that could not make it.) So there was much doubling up of parts this evening, and a lot of omitting of certain scenes, to save time, given the missing actors.

In this regard, I suppose the first gathering of the whole cast will be on Thursday, if I understood the direction correctly. (Unless the whole cast randomly shows up at one of the director's open houses at the exact same time. How wild would that be...unless of course it's your house full of people, in which case, it would not really be that fun. But I digress.)

Before even setting foot in the theatre today, I declared myself "almost off book" for my first three scenes. Pretty much a sure thing for the first two (albeit very short) scenes. As for the third, I have almost everything except for one of my longest speeches near the end of said scene. (A speech I very much look forward to sinking my teeth into, however. I was going over it just before I wrote this entry.) Yet I still read from the script today. I didn't want to seem like a show off, true, but more so because I probably would not have remembered under all that pressure even the stuff I have memorized. Had a lot to do with going along with what everyone else is doing. Besides, calling for a line on the first read through just wastes everybody else's time, and is in fact, pretentious.

On the subject of the long speeches, my final long speech of the play will be considerably shorter. The director will be re-assigning most of that monologue to a character she created for this production; the character of Fate. It is a very intriguing idea on which I will not expound here. Suffice to say not only does it add another dimension to the play, but also lightens my load a bit. Not that I could not do the whole of my assigned lines, but the watering down of that particular speech will make my job easier, and allow me to spend the limited time we all have delving deeper into the character and the other speeches.

I hope to spend the most extra time, (if there be any) working with "Romeo", as he is the character with whom Friar Laurence interacts the most. We do not have a particular schedule yet, but as we were told today, the director will often have different sets of characters working scenes in other parts of the theater while she spearheads the "main attraction" of the day. So I am assuming at some point I will in fact be doing something with Romeo. If not at the theatre, again, perhaps at one of the open houses.

One of the people that I know, but could not make it today, has in fact asked me to join him at the director's house tomorrow. (Tuesday.) As of yet, i do not know if my schedule will allow it, but I am working on the problem. The more times I can make it, the better.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Finding a Turn

It came to me last night as I was in deep contemplation, that there is a key moment during which Friar Laurence, for whatever good he may think he has, crosses a line into something that is different from where he started.

In other words, I figured that I should find a moment or a scene wherein he goes someplace that he perhaps should not have gone, regardless of his fine intentions. Having this scene or moment would make him more human, and tie him in to the whole theme of the piece, I believe.

It seems to me that that moment is when he lies to the Capulet's about Juliet being dead. True, the plan had greater goals in his mind, and he thought he would be able to bring her back, and (I have always supposed) eventually tell the tale of her escape with Romeo to Mantua. Yet he does not simply avoid the issue, or stay silent in that crucial scene. Instead, he proceeds to deliver a long and rather poetic speech about the nature of Juliet's supposed death, even going so far as to contemplate how the heavens were louring upon the house for some reason.

In other words, he does not simply allow something to slip by undetected in order to achieve a greater good. It seems to me right now he went out of his way to exert a great deal of power and effort, in his position as a holy man and priest, to manipulate the Capulet family into very specific actions in the immediate wake of Juliet's percieved death.

I wonder why he was motivated to be so flowery and emphatic in his deception here? (Other than the fact that Shakespeare was a poet who wrote excellent lines.) I also think it rather more than simply "what had to be done to forward the plot", as some critics argue. It does that of course, but I think I can and should find more of a reason why. I have some ideas, none of which are simply, "he had to get Juliet to the tomb so his plan would work." Again, that is true, but I look for more depth from him.

I won't share exactly how I might achieve this motivation just yet, until it is a bit more developed. But it has something to do with the Friar, at one key moment or two, falling victim to the very things everyone else in the pay seems to.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

We Have Lift Off...

Or at least we are at top runway speed.

I have been reviewing some of the Friars lines the last hour or so. (The time settings are correct, I am in fact doing so at 2:00 AM.) I would say I am 90% off book for my first two short scenes, though that is not the lift off I am referring to.

Rather, I think I have found the first stages of the characters presence. I was going to say "voice" but I didn't want that to be confused with the actual audible voice one uses. No, I mean his delivery and his style. The aura about him, for lack of a better term. Now there is still a long way to go in perfecting such things, (and anything else in the play for that matter, I've only had the part for 5 days.) Yet, though I had been reviewing lines for each of those five days, I only arrived at that first initial "click" about 45 minutes or so ago. That first barrier that must be crossed with any character I play...a crossing of a threshold, if you will, that is the first step in bring the character off of the page, and into my consciousness.

Practically this means that I have in fact begun to find a comfortable way of delivering the lines...at least the ones I have been reviewing. From an artistic and spiritual perspective, however, it means more. It means I have connected. "Ty-Ness" has made it's first initial fusion with "Friar-ness".

Why did it happen when it did, you may ask. It is at a different stage in every rehearsal process. (Hopefully always early on. VERY early on, but not always.) Truth be told I cannot give a precise reason why it began at the moment it did this evening. (Morning.) A lot of that is mystical to me, and as I said, varies from role to role. But setting aside the mystical element of it, I would contribute a lot of this initial contact with Friar Laurence to a discussion I had with myself about some of the personal stresses I have been going through in recent months.

This blog is not the venue to get into such issues, as this is a strictly theatrical/acting oriented endeavor. Yet such an attitude, when applied directly to my reading process opened the door for what happened tonight. I announced an intention within myself to begin committing to this process...allowing it to be at the forefront of my consciousness for most of the time. The last few plays I have been in, I have not always allowed to seep into parts of my mind. Or at least not as quickly and completely as I should have. But almost as soon as I said, "enough worries about other things. Time to start perfecting this role...this is Shakespeare, dammit", the door, previously rusty, swung open with a surprising and invigorating ease.

Refreshing. And I make it my goal to keep it like that for the remainder of this shortened rehearsal period. I cannot wait, in fact, to commingle what is emerging with what the other actors are doing, and to share it with the director. (First read-through is Monday at 5PM. I also plan to take part in as many of the open-houses the director is having, as possible. I will nail this role, as per the vision of the entire production, and as per my own standard of excellence.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I have been reading the script for Romeo and Juliet each day. Yesterday I went through the first scene in which my character appears 10 times in a row, and I plan to do so again today. I am thinking of doing rapid fire reviews of each scene, such as I just described. Then eventually all of my scenes at one sitting. I do not know how it will work, bit a few things are going to have to go a little differently given the limited rehearsal time. So my theory is to pound each scene into my head one at a time. I may or may not get off book for each scene before moving onto the next "pounding", but it will certainly have made mental grooves in my brain by then...making memorization an overall easier task. That is the theory anyway.

I also spend about an hour last night just pondering the character and how I want to play him. A somewhat more daunting task for me than usual, given the fact that the language is an extra effort, the fact that this is an unconventional representation of what is often written off as a minor character, and, once again, the limited time for this production. But an idea is forming, based on what I see, and what the director's overall vision is. I have not yet spoken to her directly about it, but I am sure I will soon. However, these are just the broad strokes.

In the most general of terms, I am starting to see the good Friar as, first and foremost, the "good" Friar. There are some interpretation I have read, not without solid arguments, that present the character as ambiguous, and in some cases, evil. I am not going with either option. I decided right away that the Friar is to be a good man, despite some unwise decisions.

I have also decided, based on comments from more than one source, that though a Christian, he is probably more esoteric and mystical than most of his fellow Christians at that time. Hence the study of potions. (A discipline which, strictly speaking, a Friar probably would have no business pursuing. This doesn't make him a nut, or a wizard per se. But it does make his thoughts and perceptions perhaps a bit more metaphysical and deep than other such friars of his order.

So, after much thinking and comparing, I sort of came up with a rough amalagam of other characters that my version of the Frair may be. I see him as part Obi-Wan Kenobi (without the mind tricks and flying stuff), and part Father Mulchahy from M*A*S*H, along with a few other things. But younger, less seasoned than either of those characters. (Well, maybe Obi-Wan in Part I...if you follow that sort of thing.)

Anyway, I feel that in the play he has a spiritual depth to him for sure...but one that he perhaps has not allowed to develop as much as should be when he plots and plans the sleeping potion/escape to Mantua thing. One day, I imagine, he will be much wiser overall, but today, in the realm of the play, he is wise, but not yet as patient as he should be perhaps. Thus leading him to be too zealous in his plan, and perhaps not as flexible as he ought to be. Which leads him to some of the less than workable choices he makes.

Again, broad strokes. But something on which to start building.

The director has mentioned that some cast mates have been meeting with her periodically, in private, to discuss a few things. It may behoove me to do so as well at some point...or in the very least go over a few scenes with some of the other characters with which I appear during the course of the play. I am not certain when/if that will be happening, but I am looking into it. Any extra work helps.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Holy Orders...

I am back, and with news...

I have been cast as Friar Laurence in the upcoming production of Romeo and Juliet!

I have spoken of this show here and there over the weeks. On Saturday morning, I went and auditioned.

First allow me to say my audition monologue went exactly as I wanted it to. I had been going over it over the last few days, trying different ways of doing it. I finally went with the "matter of fact" delivery. I was not nervous per se, but I was a bit more...something because I usually do not have to audition with a Shakespeare piece. In fact, most auditions locally do not require a prepared piece. So I knew I had the piece memorized and absorbed, but just the infrequency of reciting Shakespeare in such a venue made it just the tiniest bit more worrisome.

Then the cold readings.

If it is fair to call them cold readings. I HAVE read Romeo and Juliet before, so it would not technically be a "cold" read. However, it has been many years since I have read it, so it was at least, to coin a phrase, a "cool read" for me. I read for just about every male character at some point, with various different other hopefuls here and there. Those readings also went well, and I am particularly proud of my delivery in those readings. True, Romeo and Juliet is one of the Bard's most straight forward pieces, as opposed to say, Richard II thick and symbolic language. Nonetheless it is not a cadence that most of us are used to. And though I read Shakespeare regularly, I have not performed him in several years. It is gratifying to know I am still sharp, or very near sharp, in that regard.

One other factoid of note...depending on how one defines it, this is the second time I have portrayed Friar Laurence on stage. The first time, in my college days, was in the interactive comedy, "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged." In that piece, (wherein ALL of Shakespeare's works are represented in 2 hours) the Friar is, quite literally, a walk on role. I delivered about two lines and a small gag, and left. If it had been any quicker, I would not have even stopped to deliver the lines. I would have just kept walking.

But, it was Friar Laurence, and one of the lines was in fact an authentic line from Romeo and Juliet. So, in that regard, being the good Friar in this production would mark the very first time I have ever played a role twice. (It's all relative, as I said.)

This play has a mere four weeks to rehearse before performing it's single weekend. The script is shortened, but nonetheless it shall be quite an intense month. But the kind of theatrically intense month I very much look forward to experiencing.

And of course, you can follow the adventure right here on the blog. Keep checking back...the updates will start to come very soon.