Friday, July 27, 2012

New King and New Rooks

This week has felt a bit off in regards to rehearsal. For after last week's rehearsal every day, There have only been two rehearsals this week, hence why I have not blogged until now.

To begin with, some props I ordered came in the mail yesterday.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I felt that Buckingham, introverted intellectual that he is in my interpretation, should carry with him some sort of touchstone. Something to fiddle with while engaged in thought, or just while waiting for the next aspect of things to unfold. I considered several ideas, but went with a chess piece. A rook, specifically, because symbolically it seemed to make the most sense.

I didn't want them to look cheap. Buckingham would probably own very nice chess sets. These pieces are solid plastic, but do appear ivory or perhaps marble from stage distance, even in our tiny venue. Not the fanciest design ever, but for 75 cents a piece, you can't really beat it. I didn't want to risk damaging or losing one from a complete set, so I ordered individual rooks. (Which was more difficult than one might have expected.) Two of course, in case one does in fact become a casualty. I don't expect that to happen, however. It will be on the prop shelf, and if everyone behaves themselves and doesn't play with props, I will have it in my hand as soon as I enter the stage area, and likely not relinquish it until the end of each evening.

They may be slightly large, but they probably need to be in order for the audience to understand what it is. I have been getting used to moving one around in my hand and playing with it. I think it will do just fine, and the director approved it last night.

In addition to new rooks, we also have a new king. Of the living, breathing kind. The newest member of our cast was on hand last night to rehearse Edward IV single scene. I worked with this gentleman years ago in "The Crucible", which he did recall when I brought it up to him.

The scene went well, given that we have not rehearsed it much. In it, the sickly Edward makes "peace" between the bickering factions within his court. Then the death of Clarence is revealed, and the king gives an excellent monologue, shaming all of those present for not standing up against him for Clarence. If I had only been able to have a small part in this play, I may have requested this one because of this speech.

Also significant in this scene as we are playing it, the first stirrings of alliance between Richard and Buckingham. Previous to this they know each other and may have some degree of respect for one another, but have not yet plotted together. Yet with Richard's final line in this scene directed at Buckingham, who is the only one left on stage at that time, we see the partnership forming. The next time we see these two men they have already devised "complots" off stage.

We also rehearsed the dumb show that opens the play, wherein Richard and Clarence crown Edward, as the rest of the cast silently makes its way onto the stage before the opening speech. (A creation of the director.) I believe last night marked the highest percentage of the cast present at one time thus far. (One actress was missing, and the role of Rivers has yet to be cast, but otherwise everyone was there, I think.)

I left early, because then it was time for some combat rehearsal, and I have no combat in this play. I stuck around to watch how a few of the murders would be staged, and then headed out.

Unfortunately, I will be unable to attend tonight's rehearsal of Act V, due to a long standing previous commitment, and nor will I be able to attend on Monday. I feel bad for this, especially since my favorite speech is in Act V. They good news, however, as that after Monday, all of my predicted conflicts will be over, and I will not have to miss any further rehearsals. I feel a little better about it given that the last two Mondays, both of which were originally conflicts, we able to be shuffled about to allow me to rehearse. 

Plus, I am officially off book. I will have to call for line in a few places, but it's all in my head somewhere now. The true fun and excitement begins once the books are out of hands, and I look forward to jumping into that aspect of rehearsal head first come Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Monologue Day

Yesterday was scheduled to be a day to go over specific monologues our characters have. Specifically by way of analyzing the scansion of the verse. I was again able to change my Monday plans, and attend. Unfortunately, not many other were there. Only four members of the cast in fact. I got the impression attendance was expected to be higher.

However, for those of us that were there, the director gave a refresher course on scansion and verse, which I  probably needed. I was aware of most of what she covered, but it had been quite a while since I applied it directly to anything. It came back to me in short order.

I will confess that I don't usually do a lot of work with scansion of Shakespeare directly. I am aware of meter, and do in fact make use of it as a guide. But when meter strictly followed makes the line awkward or nonsensical, I tend to rely on contest and vocabulary when delivering the line or speech. I have found in fact that doing so will more often than lot lead to an acceptable approximation of the technical scansion anyway.

Unconventional? Probably. Yet I fear that what inspiration or edge I have once I "crack the code" of a Shakespeare character I am playing can be muddled if I wade too long in the science of iambics and trochaics and such.

It is worth noting, however, that Buckingham has what we call a "feminine ending", (that is to say in this case, an 11 beat line ending with an unaccented syllable) in almost every speech of any size he gives. The feminine ending can indicate any number of things, according to those who study such things. I myself am not yet wholly convinced that the motivation of every line in Shakespeare can be deduced simply by counting its syllables, but a feminine 11 beat occurring with such frequency may indeed have some meaning behind it.

As does the fact that when Buckingham comes back as a ghost, he has no feminine endings. In fact, as far as I have been able to tell, it is one of the few times he speaks in near perfect iambic pentameter. Could it mean something? Again, perhaps. He is the only ghost to do so in that scene.

Buckingham also has what the director believes off hand is the only 13 beat line in the play. (Even she was unaware of it until I pointed it out.)

Thou art sworn as deeply to affect what we intend...

This is part of a line I deliver to the character of Catesby. I've determined that if there is a reason, (and in this case the line is so unusually long that even I concede there probably is), it would be because Buckingham is anxious or excited to get Catesby's view on the issue. He speaks fast and in a long rolling sentence as a result. I am going to try that the next time I run that scene. (Though that little speech has given me some trouble.)

So I have a like/hate relationship with detailed study of scansion. I realize its scholarly importance, and it can be quite interesting to a point. Yet I have found that beyond that point, delving into it too much has the potential to blunt my performance. So I try to maintain that perfect balance of using it when I need help, but not leading it bludgeon me.

We did more than scansion, though. After a while the small gathering transformed into a general discussion of some odds and ends aspects of the show that we otherwise don't often have a chance to discuss. I for example learned that unlike most of the Dukes, who will be in military garb, Buckingham will be wearing a suit. I also asked permission to follow through on an idea I had. For a while I have wanted to see how it would feel for Buckingham to have a talisman, or touchstone in his hand sometimes. I find many contemplative people, myself included, tend to play with such items when idle, or when thinking. I don't have a consistent item that I use for such purposes, but I felt that Buckingham would. I envisioned his being the white rook of a chess board.

In my mind, Buckingham probably plays a lot of chess. Literally when he can, symbolically when needed, such as his plans to help Richard ascend to the throne. Having a chess piece would not only remind the homesick (as I am playing him) Buckingham of more comfortable times, it could also serve as a symbolic conduit for his "stratagems" as he calls them in Act 3. At sometimes a worry bead sort of function as well.

The director consented, liking the idea. I asked if she would prefer it black or white, and she agreed white was the way to go. There was brief discussion as to what piece, but I have as I said before always thought rook, both practically and symbolically. The former, because for whatever reason I see Buckingham's style of chess play making use of rooks until the very end. There is a certain flare to rooks, and there ability to shut down a whole row or column at once that makes winning a game with them memorable. The latter, symbolic reason being that having a king chess piece is too obvious, and that a knight is too militant. He is more than a mere pawn, and he is certainly no bishop. The queen would just be weird to carry around, I think. So the rook it is. Now I must secure said rook from a chess set that is large enough to make it clear what I am holding, but small enough to fit easily into pockets.

Finally, there was a brief discussion about Buckingham's apparent esteem for Catesby. he always refers to the character as "Gentle," or "good". He seeks out his opinion on matters. It could be coincidence, just as the scansion could be, but I'm choosing to conclude that there is some indication of esteem in the way Buckingham addresses Catesby in the few times he does so.

In our version of the play, Catesby plays a somewhat larger role, what with the need for double casting and such. Some smaller roles were consolidated. The nature of the character is also somewhat different in this production, but I won't get into that now. Suffice to say, he has a different dynamic than he would in most productions I dare say, and this too can be tapped into for the brief but meaningful Buckingham/Catesby dynamic. It will be interesting to see how it unfolds.

There is no rehearsal again until Thursday.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Back to "Feeling"

So the week of doing a single act per night came to an end earlier today, with our work on Act V of Richard III.

In the hours leading up to rehearsal, I had been, (and remain somewhat even now) preoccupied by the Colorado cinema massacre. It suddenly seemed a bit unnerving to work on a play with so much gallows humor. I even sent a brief email to my cast mates earlier in the day telling them to not take it personally if I didn't engage in such humor today.

It turns out there wasn't much of that today anyway. I doubt it had much to do with my message, though. It was just more of a subdued start to the evening at the theatre. Our director did mention the shootings, drawing a paralell to Richard, in that we can never be sure whaqt makes someone a monster.

Our director also mentioned to us at the start of rehearsal that perhaps in the last few rehearsals we as a group may have been overthinking the play. Thinking and analysis are great, she told us, but emphasized that perhaps we have done enough thinking for a while, and encouraged us tonight to get back into feeling our characters instead. She even requested us to take a few minutes in silene to reconnect with who our characters were before starting the official rehearsal.

I was happy for the chance to do so. I do a lot of that anyway, but having a specific time set aside just before I went on (I open Act V) was quite helpful. As we get later into rehearsals I will be doing more of that sort of centering to start off.

The speech, (Buckingham's monologue just before being led off to execution) did indeed feel better today that it has so far. "Beautiful", in the director's gracious words. I don't know if I achieved that in my own mind just yet, but I have no problem conceding that it felt better today than ever before.

It felt less rushed. A little looser, yet also deeper. Natural. I hit some tone changes that i'd been missing during some earlier runs of this speech. For the first time I started to feel as though I were conveying Buckingham's sense of both discovery and quiet, dignified resignation to his lot. I think sometimes of Hamlet's "certain providence in the fall of a sparrow" line. Not an exact match, but a certain similarity in theme which gives an added weight to this speech.

We ran Act V three times today, skipping the combat scenes which have not been choreogrpahed yet. Each of the three times the speech felt quite good. It would appear the director agreed  that is was good in the subsequent runnings as well.

Also run through in Act V was the scene wherein I play the ghost of Buckingham. It was difficult to truly rehearse that scene, however, as three of the "ghosts" were not present this evening. But we made do, and I am off book for it, though I have not played around with ghostliness much yet. I want to do so in the coming days, and maybe talk to the director about just how other-worldly I am allowed to appear in that scene.

So, in all, a productive, and enjoyable rehearsal. Afterwrds we had some time left, so the director staged a few moments from the play so she could take some photographs for a website. I haven't seen them, but when they are up, I will link to it here.

And now a few days off. And the next time I go to the theatre, it will be the deadline for ebing off book...I will have to work extra hard to get Act III down by then, but given that we can call for line for a while after that, I think I will be all right. It may be rough for a few days, but I will get it.

Back to "Famine"

Last night we worked Act IV. I have one important scene in this rather long act, which we ran once, and didn't repeat. There was much work done on seveal of the other scene in the act, which are much longer and deeper than mine. Had it not been for the fact that severe thunderstorms were pelting the area, (as they have done all month it seems), I would have gone home early. As it was however, I stayed at the theatre, and caught up on some reading. There are worse places to be trapped in bad weather than in a theatre with other actors.

I was mostly off book for the one scene. (When Richard betrays Buckingham.) I need to work on showing my character's shock at this reversal, without losing my sense of who he is. That isn't coming through right now as well as I would like it to. But once the book is totally out of my hands, and we run the scenes leading into it sometime late next week or so, I hope to have improved it.

The key is to inwardly feel that shock and dissapointment, but to allow only just enough that the audience knows what Buckingham is feeling, until the end of the scene. Quite a tone shift for the character, feeling victorious, disgusted, deafted and then abandoned all in the course of a few minutes. I have a sense of what i want to do with this scene in the future. I just need more time to develop same.

One unfortunate note; another actor left the show. Who knows why? He had only smaller roles, thankfully, but that makes three departures thus far. Hopefully that will be the last of those.

Progress is being made, however. The so called "three queens" scene in Act IV, which I watched a few times between readings in my magazine, already has an excellent foundation with some fine acting, particularly from "Lady Anne".

The fight choreographer was supposed to come in last night as well, but had to cancel. I have no combat scenes, so his comings and going would affect me only insofar as the director will be spending most of her time with him and the "combatants" on such days. I don't know when he is expected to return.

Perhaps tonight, for tonight we do run Act V, wherein most of the combat takes place. I have three appearences in Act V. The first, which opens the act, is just before Buckingham is led off to execution. I have talked about that speech several times already here on the blog, and with reason. It will be a significant moment for my character. I still don't feel I have it where I want it to be. Granted, it is early and we have only rehearsed it a handful of times. Still though, something has felt missing when I have done it, and I hope to begin correcting that tonight. I know the director is unlikley to want to spend too much time on it, as it is brief, opens the act, and the lighting speed action of the act that leads to the conclusion of the play will be foremost on her mind. Yet I think perhaps we will have time to run the Act more than once, if fighting choreography is not tonight.

My second and third appearences in the fina; act are as a ghost. The first of these is of course during the Richard torment scene. The second is once concieved by the director for this particular production, occurring at the end of the play. (I don't say anything then.) So my guess is that I will be somewhat more active tonight than last night.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Famine to Feast

In bold contrast to Tuesday night's brief and almost effortless rehearsal of the diminutive Act II, last night we climbed the mountain that is Act III. Well, moist of it anyway, we were still missing several actors, as usual.

Yet before I get into the actual rehearsal, I want to speak on the subject of missing actors. Last night they were missing because they were absent. Yet due to an influx of interest in the play, (the result of recruiting from an unlikely source), we now have enough actors to fill all of the roles that had heretofore been uncast or otherwise left open by departures in the show. It goes without saying that this is good news.

Now for rehearsal itself.

If Act I is the introduction of the world of the play and its inhabitants, and Act II is the pipe-laying exposition of facts and plans, Act III is the lighting of the powder keg. It's an action packed group of scenes that moves a long with barely a pause, (ideally) for I am guessing between 20 and 25 minutes. Not to mention, it is the act in which I have the most to do. I am in four of the scenes in Act III. The biggest of course being the much blogged about crowd scene. More on that in a bit.

I was able to perform about 85% of the act without my book last night. I could have done more perhaps, but for one scene I am off book at the beginning, but still struggle with the end. It would have been odd to leave the script behind and then retrieve it mid scene. So I had it for the whole scene, though referred to it little until the end.

First up, the greeting of the Prince upon his arrival from school. A bit mechanical in nature, but nonetheless quite revealing of several things, namely the first obvious example of the conspiracy between Buckingham and Richard. They are obviously allies before this, but at the end of this scene they are clearly partners. I am not playing it as though they are friends, but certainly a mutual admiration society has been formed, let's say.

My next scene in the third act involved the nobility sitting about a table discusses the upcoming coronation. Not many lines for me in this scene, but several chance to reveal, through body language and facial expressions what each character may think of the other at the table. I, for instance, have Buckingham viewing Hastings as a pompous horse's ass, and some eye rolling ensues to this end. Then we have the puzzling absence of Richard and Buckingham for no more than 90 seconds. "Richard" and I have discussed what exactly is happening in this moment, and the best we have come up with so far is that Buckingham has led Richard away to come up with an off the cuff plan to trap Hastings. (Which is what happens upon their return to the room.) Not much time for such a plan, but this one may have to be chalked up to a theatrical conceit.

Either way, the scene went well.

Next is a scene that was truncated for our production to save on time, as several of them were. Nonethless, I enjoy this scene quite a bit. It's one of, if not the only time I am showing a degree of playfulness in Buckingham. I let him move about, make some fun faces, and overall be almost clownish for about a minute. I see that moment as a time when he is quite near his goal of enthroning Richard, but of course not there yet. It isn't over, but he can see the endzone, and he thinks he need only rush a few yards to get there. (Little does he know.) I was off bookfor this scene as well.

Then comes the big one. The crowd scene...

Not at all off book for this one. I need to be getting on with it, I realize. Though I would say I am close to a third off book for it. There are about five medium length speeches in it, and I am off book nearly for three of them. Plus several little one liners sprinkled in.

I was familiar enogh with them to look up from the script most of the time though. And last night was the first time we ran it with the crowd cheering and hollering and clapping when moved to do so. This unpredictability of the actors in the crowd, combined with my need at times to shout over them made for quite a visceral scene. Buckingham may only be pretending to persuade Richard, but he is legitimately trying to stir up the people and create this scene. So while the official outcome may be in doubt, his effort must be real. he must lead a crowd, and I as the actor must portray this. (Oddly, I have played the crowd rousing guy before in different plays.)

The pacing of this scene felt good. It was potent. Fast but clear. Exciting. The director agreed, saying that this scene, and indeed much of Act III was almost at performance levels already, despite most people still having books intheir hands. Which is good news for the show. If it looks this good to the director this early, I assume that bodes well for the production itself when the time comes.

Plus, if any act in the play needs this sort of energy and drive this early, it is Act III. All sections need energy of course, but III is the swign for the fence, as it were. If we flop in this section, the play in all likely cannot recover. So we are in good shape in that context.

I must get off book for that big scene as quickly as I can so i can sustain this momentum.

Tonight, Act IV. Fewer lines for me, but a deeply significant scene-the reluctance of Buckingham to assent to the murder of the princes. This too is a vital scene for which I am nearly off book. I think I can be totally so by tonight if I work at it today. Tune in later, loyal blog readers, to see how that one turns out.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Shortest Act Ever.

I suppose I can't back that up totally. Yet after last night's full run through of Act II, it became clear that for our production the second act will take just over ten minutes. That's ten minutes for all of Act II. (Of five.)

We ran it three times, the first with discussion and blocking, (as we had never run the first scene of the act before) and the second two times straight through with just some minor tweaking. It was shorter than many of the individual scenes from other acts. We were released an hour early, that is how quickly it went. The director didn't think it would go that fast. But she was satisfied with the progress of the Act enough to end rehearsal when she did, let we over-rehearse the scenes.

I am happy to report that I am off book for Act II, and didn't need my script last night. Not that i have much to say in Act II, but off book is off book. It's not an interesting act, though. I have I think two moments, unique to this production, that I enjoy from Act II, but otherwise it is almost all pipe-laying. (exposition.) Required, of course, but not exciting for either actors, nor I would assume, audiences.

The three scenes include the one and only appearance of King Edward IV. (Who I must say does have an excellent monologue in this act. Probably the only interesting speech in Act II.) He had yet to be cast, but it is looking like someone is interested in the role.

Most of that scene is Edward requesting the various bickering factions to make peace with one another. Whether they mean it or not, (and they probably don't), they promise to no more be at odds in this scene. Also the death of Clarence is revealed, much to everyone's surprise. At the very end, Gloucester addresses Buckingham for the first time with any significance. I am treating that moment as the start of their partnership. Or at least the off-stage moments right after said conversation.

The next scene is mostly a lamentation scene for the dead King Edward IV. I do come on at one point, and in a way eulogize the dead King, and encourage the court to send for the young Prince of Wales to be crowned. At the very end of the scene Buckingham conspires with Richard to begin what they "late talked of", in regards to driving a wedge between the young prince and his mother's family.

I don't appear in the third and final scene of the Act, which consists of the younger prince, the Duke of York, talking with his mother and grandmother, and a messenger revealing that Rivers and Grey have been arrested. Queen and prince rush off to claim sanctuary, and that is the end of Act II.

I'd get into more detail about the rehearsal, but again, so little of interest happens from an actor's standpoint that there is little more to say. These three scenes must be clear to the audience as much information is revealed. One could indeed call it an information dump. Yet exciting? Artistic? Neither, really. I have as I said two moments of inner monologue which I can hold onto to get me through this short ride, and King Edward has an excellent speech. But Act II simply isn't a deep not complicated section of the play.

Rehearsing it was a bit odd, actually. I'd be sitting there listening to notes for a moment, then get up to go back stage to start Act II. Within five or six minutes I'd be sitting down again. I have had bathroom breaks last longer. One almost forgets one just rehearsed two scenes.

A stark contrast to tonight's run through of Act III, which should be quite the experience. It is my busiest act by far, and I am not off book for this one. I am for some of the scenes, I believe, but for my biggest scene, I am at best half way off book. I will be working on that each day between now and off book day.

I also might want to remember Red Bull and vitamins for the future when I run this scene.

In brief other news, the director told us that our final dress rehearsal will be open to the public as a "pay what you can" preview performance. I am not sure what I think of that. On one hand it gives us an audience earlier than normal. On the other hand it gives us an audience earlier than normal. I sort of like the last rehearsal to be an isolated, inside baseball type of affair. Yet I can't be too disappointed. Given that we are only running a single weekend, the preview show will probably make all of the effort a bit more rewarding.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Extra Monday

As I mentioned at the end of my last entry, I thought perhaps I'd be able to attend last night's rehearsal, despite being unavailable most Mondays. My other engagement did end up not happening, and I had time to shift everything else in order to get to rehearsal last night during that black of time.

And what happened on this, my extra day?

To begin with, the director announced that two actors will be no longer be in the show. To compensate for this, several changes have taken place. Two of the small characters will be eliminated, and consolidated with another. In another case, some of the lines will be reassigned to other characters. Finally, one of the actors heretofore playing only a small part in one scene will now be playing larger roles in several scenes. So, quite a bit more work is required for some, and it may take a bit longer to get things on track with the changes.

Truth be told, I don't anticipate these changes affecting what I do very much. The biggest change to one of my scenes would be my biggest scene, where all of the lines for Lord Mayor have been assigned to various citizens in the crowd. Some of those lines may have to be altered a bit. Other than that, it is the same scene. Beyond that, everything else that I have been doing should remain unchanged, as I never addressed the other excised character at any point.

Much of the set painting and dressing is completed. Perhaps I will try to get a shot of that to post here, though I always say that and usually forget to do so.

We worked all of Act I last night. No easy task because again we where several actors short. I am happy to report, however, that I was off book for what little I do in Act I. Actually, it is no little thing that I do in the one scene in this act in which I appear. Given how I have interpreted the role, Buckingham must enter already weary of too many people in too short a time. Then his anxiety must build slowly but visibly as Gloucester enters and begins needling the Woodvilles. Finally, as Queen Margaret enters and begins cursing people, this tension and anxiety (no doubt a mix of awkwardness as well as some degree of fear for this crazy woman) Buckingham finally tries to silence her, and perhaps by implication, all of them.

I have not yet been able to run that part with the actress playing Margaret. Yet I know her well and have worked with her many times, so I anticipate no problems getting to where we need to be with that. The point being there is a build that I felt with the scene even in her absence. Almost nerve wracking, which it should be. That is what I want to convey to the audience.

We ran the act twice last night. Again, most of the action for that act doesn't include me, but I was happy to show up to get in as much rehearsal as possible. I don't yet know about next Monday.

Tonight we run Act II. I have a bit more to do in that Act, but not much. I am, however, off book for Act II, to the best of my memory. It feels good to just be delivering the lines with no book, even if these are still early, choppy rehearsals.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Act Five

On Friday we ran most of Act V. Though because there were more people present for this rehearsal than any we have had yet, (though still not everyone), we went back and ran my big scene from Act III once. The one wherein the crowd comes to see Richard to "convince" him to be king. We went over that just once, so the notion of the crowd was clear, before we moved on to Act V.

I open Act V as Buckingham, who is about to be executed. This short but significant scene contains my favorite monologue among Buckingham's lines. (I have spoken of it here many times.) It will mark a moment of slowly down, temporarily, amid action that like a falling roller coaster has increased in speed in an almost constant manner since returning from our intermission. I still have work to do on this speech, as I think I am delivering it too casually still. I don't want to weigh down the proceedings, and I don't want it to be too sentimental, yet I do want Buckingham a moment of realization that I am yet sure I am revealing in the speech.

We then worked the ghost scene, wherein Richard's dead victims come back to haunt him on the night before the big battle. I wasn't quite off book for that at the time, but I am now. It should be a memorable scene. We are not overdoing it with ghost make up. In fact the make up the director plans for the ghosts is minimal. Just enough to make it clear the characters are now dead. The blocking of the scene, however, could be powerful, with various characters grabbing at the sleeping Richard. Except for myself. Buckingham's ghost will address Richard from the same spot in the theatre that I stand when Buckingham is pleading with Richard to take the crown. A nice way to hearken back to that moment, I suppose.

The director also has plans for the ghosts to return at the very end of the play, which they do not in Shakespeare. We ran that briefly, as there is nothing complicated about it. Hopefully, however, it will leave a lasting impact on the audience.

At this point I estimate that I am about 70% off book for this play. I am off for almost all of my smaller scenes, with the exception of a few tricky spots in one of them. The huge scene I keep talking about is the one that I will have to work on the most between now and next week. (The deadline to be off book.) Given that we will be allowed to call for lines for some days afterward I have no reason at this time to worry. As with most plays I need to just start delivering the lines without the script even if I need to call for them for a while, just to get used to it. Yet I cannot call for them if I don't have them somewhat memorized and as I said, I have work to do on about 30% of the script in order to get to that ball park.

Today is Monday, and my schedule normally does not allow me to attend rehearsal on Mondays. However I am thinking about making an attempt to rearrange my evening to see if I can attend tonight's rehearsal after all. I'm not sure if I will be able to, but given that we are running all of Act I, I would like to at least try.

Friday, July 13, 2012

"All" In

Last night's rehearsal was productive in some ways, though not without some unfortunate bumps.

The "All" on the schedule which the director intended to mean all cast members was misunderstood, and quite a fewer than everybody showed up. Later this led to a bit of unpleasantness between the director and one of the actors. That is their business, but I mention it here in brief simply because it was a significant moment during rehearsal.

But far more moments were spent working on the play. The biggest thing we worked on was, as I mentioned it would be in my last entry, Act III Scene 7. In that scene Buckingham brings the crowd to Richard,  and the two play-act this entreaty for Richard to take the crown. (More for the sake of the crowd than for anything else.) It is my single largest scene, by both lines and stage time, so it's important I get it down well, and soon.

The good news is that I am close to off book for about the first third of it. Though I carried my book with me for the whole scene when we ran it last night, I could have done several of the speeches without it if I had needed to. But in order for the evening to go more efficiently, I didn't try to go without it. I plan to work on this scene more than most in the next two weeks or so before off book day. The repetition will of course help get me home with this one, as with all of them.

Ideally, had the entire cast been present, we were going to make them all part of this aforementioned crowd of commoners come to see Richard. There were not enough people to do this effectively last night, so there was talk of staging it tonight instead.

What we did of the scene worked, I suppose. The director wanted it more frenzied than it had been previously. As though Buckingham is rushing on just ahead of this crowd, probably having formulated a plan during his run. Initially I had been playing it that Buckingham was coming up with a solution as he spoke, but I think this new way works better. It certainly keeps the action moving along at a good clip, which is the director's goal for that scene and a few before it. I have no doubt that by the time this big scene is over I will be ready to take a seat with a bottle of water for quite a while. Luckily I will have about a ten minute break in which to do so before I appear on stage next.

There are two small scenes before this big one. Right before it is a single monologue by a scrivener. Before the scrivener is a short scene between Buckingham and Richard. A scene which I am off book for, though once again I kept my book with me to keep things running smooth. I enjoy this small scene. I have a short speech during which Buckingham expresses the slightest bit of humor and playfulness. Certainly more so than he does anywhere else in the entire play. ("Tut, I can counterfeit the deep tragedian..."). So I look forward to playing around with that scene as well.

Later in the evening, after more people showed up, we choreographed a dumb show which will open the production. It shows, briefly, the events just before the start of this play. It also gives the characters a few moments to reveal who they are to the audience before their first official entrance. My sense is that it will be an intriguing visual for our audiences.

I also stayed a little bit after rehearsal to watch some small combat stunts a few actors were working on. No reason other than I was interested in seeing that.

Tonight we run all of Act V.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Rehearsin' and Observin'

Last night's rehearsal consisted of two scenes I am in, and one I am not. My two scenes were the first and last ones we went over, so I had about an hour layover between scenes. More on that in a moment.

The first scene we went through had not yet been blocked. It's the scene when the young princes arrive from whatever boarding school they had been attending. After the death of Edward IV, they come to prepare for the older prince's coronation as king.

I don't say much in this scene, but I like some of the things I say. Mainly when Buckingham convinces the reluctant bishop to seize and bring forth the younger Prince, the Duke of York, who at the time has gone into "sanctuary" with his mother. The lines I use to change the bishop's mind are not poetic or memorable per se. Perhaps it is the particular meter of them that appeals to me, or the fact that they are designed to change someone's mind. But in either case I enjoy delivering them. As I do the line before when, being informed of this taking of sanctuary, Buckingham expresses his infrequent outward irritation of circumstances. I have gathered he already doesn't care much for Queen Elizabeth anyway, and by that point he perhaps has had enough of her. I have to think about it more.

Unfortunately, once I deliver the lines mentioned above, I have little to do for the next several pages. Which means, in rehearsal-world that I had a lot of standing around on stage to do. Especially as the "stunt" if you will of getting the young actor playing the Duke of York onto the shoulder of the actor playing Richard was plotted out and rehearsed.

As I said the second hour was dedicated to a scene in which I do not appear. Yet unlike many such blocks of time, it was productive. Two of the other actors were running one of their important scenes in the lobby, and they asked me to observe them and share my impressions. I want to emphasize I was not directing them, as I don't do that when I am not the director. I did, however, offer them some thoughts about how I, as merely a guy in an audience of one, reacted to the scene as it was being played. I won't get into the details of what I said, because that is outside of my own work. Suffice to say, however, that based on what they said afterward, I seem to have helped them out somewhat, and I am gratified to have done so.

Those collaborative moments are one of the things I enjoy most about amateur theatre productions. Obviously such a conversation could not have taken place in a professional, Equity theatre. Yet here, actors can help each other out, explore ideas, bounce suggestions off of one another, and rely on the previous experience of those around them to help shape their current performance. That sort of team work, when it truly takes root, can lead to some of the best productions one is likely to see, professional or no.

When that surprisingly fruitful hour was concluded, we ran a scene that had been blocked on a previous evening. A significant scene plot wise, but, at least for now, a scene that is not particularly interesting for me as an actor. Richard and I have a momentary exit we are still trying to motivate near the end of the scene, and beforehand Buckingham is really only making either innocuous comments, or otherwise expressing veiled irritation at the Lord Hastings. (Whom one could very easily see as a pompous horse's ass, and I think perhaps I will try that approach for Buckingham for a while.)

The scene, which requires a table and many papers will probably be a bit more interesting to perform when we actually have such objects. For now, we do not.

Tonight is a big night for me. We run my biggest scene. I am not anywhere near off book for it yet. It may be the last scene I get off book for this time, as there are so many lines. I have not calculated it, but I would guess a third of everything I say in this play takes place in this scene. (Where Buckingham pretends to convince Richard to take the crown.) In the very least, I doubt I will be standing around much tonight.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Crown and the Fury

Last night we blocked the scene for Richard's coronation. This is a brief scene added by the director. I think it will add depth to the production. A good way to welcome the audience back from intermission.

Once completed, the scene will move right into the section where Buckingham fails Richard's little test about putting the Princes to death, and we ran that several times as well. I have a lot of work to do in that scene to get to where I want to be. I did, however, make some progress last night. Much of it had to do with the director's suggesting to speed up the entire scene. With less time to think about things now, Buckingham can be shocked and stymied. At a loss for words, even, which the director pointed out is not often the case for Buckingham. She is correct. Normally he is quite eloquent.

Another first for my version of Buckingham during this scene is at the end of it. Richard has just refused to give Buckingham the promised Dukedom of Hereford and has walked off. This leaves Buckingham alone to consider this betrayal/abandonment. All of his hopes for retiring in peace back to his home are over now. I allow him to express pure anger for the one and only time in the play. (I wanted to bang my fist into a nearby wall, but it seems that shook the wall too much for the director's liking.) Yet I have kept the yelling as a nice contrast to what we normally see from Buckingham in this production.

Hopefully it will be a stand out moment, because of its rarity. He isn't even yelling right before he is put to death. I have discussed this on the blog before. He is instead calm, and somewhat resigned to it. I presume all anger and despair that may have come with the destruction of his army has happened off stage. So he is somewhat calm, still disgusted, and in general, as I said, resigned. He comes to some realizations about karma during his speech, after embracing the irony of his dying on All Souls Day. Then with head held high, he marches off to his execution. Again, I have covered this in previous entries. Last night, however, during bonus time, I got to play with it a little more.

The actor playing "Ratcliff", (the character responsible for Buckingham's execution), was present. The director wanted to take some extra time to teach him the blocking for the brief scene that we had decided upon last week. So we ran that two or three times. I don't remember how many exactly. I'd still like to slow the speech down somewhat. I hope to allow Buckingham's realization to arrive and sink in as the audience watches. Again, he is perhaps resigned to his death already, but only at this time begins to see the potential justice in the universe. I want to convey this dawning on him, as well as his satisfaction with same. I am not there yet, though there is much time to work on it. I was able to perform the speech off book last night, however. My first bit of rehearsing without the script. I figured the sooner I could do that, the better the end product will be.

Which is true for all sections, of course. I'd estimate that I am just under 50% off book now, with just under two weeks to get totally off book. It is mostly my shorter scenes for which I am off book right now. I must soon tackle my largest scene of the play; it is the scene when Buckingham is pretending to convince Richard to accept the crown. I say a lot in that scene, and haven't yet begun to work it. I think I will begin this very day, or otherwise tomorrow. I usually like to be off book for an entire scene before moving to another, though this has not quite been the case this time. I'm a little nervous for this one, but then again I often am around this time. I will get it, even if I have to call for lines more often than I prefer to.

Rehearsal tonight at 6:00PM-a most distressing time to rehearse given my commute and the traffic. Actually the traffic problem I have all but solved but conceiving a back way to the theatre. It requires 45 minutes, however, so my evening is considerably longer than it otherwise would be. Yet if more work is getting done on the production as a whole, it is worth it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Poetic "Ending"

For one reason or the other I didn't get around to blogging about what happened at my last rehearsal, which was on Friday. I didn't want to double up tonight, so here is an overview.

I got to go in late for this one. In fact, I will not have the option of going in that late for any remaining rehearsals. But it was only a short scene in which to go over. The scene wherein Buckingham gives his final speech before being led off to execution.

I have been working on this speech for a while, and was already off book for it when we ran through the scene. (Though I kept my book just in case.) The director, by her own admission unused to being so satisfied with a scene upon seeing it acted for the first time, only had me run it a few times.

The interpretation that came out for the scene is pretty close to what I have seen in my head. The question remains; if the director was that happy with it that early, is there any room for change or polishing? I would think there is. She is an open minded director.

I think I delivered the speech a bit too fast. It was slower than the preceding scene, and the director did say my pace would make a nice change of pace from all of the loud, hurried chaos that comes before and after my scene. "A break" for the audience in a way. Still, if permitted, I'd like to deliver the speech at an even slower pace as time goes on. To allow for even more deliberation on the part of Buckingham. I want it to be resigned, but not too casual.

In several ways the director is already treating the death of Buckingham differently than she has treated any of the other deaths that take place at Richard's command. I'm not sure I can reveal all of the ways in which this is true without giving away elements of the production design. But I can say, as I have before, that he will not be "dying" on stage, as many of the other doomed in this play will be doing. This death will also be afforded more "dignity" as it were, some of the frills that accompany the other deaths being left out for that of Buckingham. Having not been directly cursed by Queen Margaret in Act I, the sense the director, and to an extend I want to convey is that there is something different about Buckingham, despite his sins.

The poetic nature of his final speech in Act V would seem to support this, when compared to the more rushed and angry speeches of the other characters as they face death.

This concept will also apply to the character after death, it seems. Though not much was discussed in detail yet, the character is to appeal as "a different kind of ghost". Perhaps he has more free will to come and go as he pleases than do the other ghosts? Perhaps his reasons for coming back to torture Richard are just that much different from the others that his presence is different for some reason. (He is given a rhyming couplet at the end of the ghost barrage, indicative of the end of a sequence but also affording me a convenient out for playing his ghostly presence in a different manner than the others.)

But, as Richard says in this play, "I run before my horse to market." We have yet to run the ghost scene. But I mention it here today as an elaboration on the "there's something about Buckingham" motif that is materializing in my performance in this production.

Tonight we run a coronation scene added by the director.

Friday, July 06, 2012


That was the gist of what happened at rehearsal last night. I had my measurements taken. I never remember those numbers. Hat size, shoulders, neck, inseam and such. They just go right out of my mind as soon as a costume designer takes the measurements. I hear them, and then think nothing more about them. I remember my shoe size, and that is about it. I don't know why. Probably because I have never owned a suit.

I am uncertain what sort of costume I will be wearing. I speculate that I will not have any costume changes for most of the play. At one point Buckingham is under arrest, so I imagine his outfit might be different, or at least soiled somehow, but I don't know. I would certainly assume that when the character comes back as a ghost, the costume will be altered in some fashion.

On the subject of ghosts I did get the blocking for the very last few seconds of the play last night, wherein I and the other ghosts walk back out on stage after the Battle of Bosworth Field. Those two things were the extent of my rehearsal last night.

However at the start of rehearsal the director did have some words for all of us. At least all of us that were able to come.

1) She needs at least a 24 hour notice if we are going to is a rehearsal. That's fair enough, as far as I am concerned.

2) She issued a stern warning that nobody is to play with the swords and daggers. Which of course is crucial. Wisely she will be locking those up in the office after every rehearsal, as not only are they dangerous despite being blunted (real metal), but also because most of them belong to other theatres. To the best of my knowledge I won't be handling any of them in this production.

Tonight should be quite interesting. We will be working on my character's "death speech". In this case, the speech he delivers before being executed. I am already off book for this short but significant scene. I worked on this speech early so I could start rehearsing it right away without the script in my hand. The significance of the moment for this character I feel demanded I do so. It is not a very long speech, and certainly not famous by Shakespeare standards. Nor is it complex. It is however poetic, and I want it to be a pure, human moment for Buckingham.

His execution is one of the few the director has chosen not to show on stage, and I think that has a bearing on how I will present the speech. I've been practicing it at home, and look forward to seeing how it feels on stage. Check back tonight to find out.