Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Final Performance: Richard III

As promised, today I cover our last performance of Richard III.

Not that there is a lot to cover, actually. I will say first and foremost that for a poorly attended matinee, (and it was) the energy was surprisingly high all around. (Especially when one considers how late some of us stayed out the previous night.) The energy didn't rival the evening performances, but I am not sure how often that ever happens anywhere for a matinee. Yet given the circumstances, I think we went out on a high note. (In front of about 15 or 20 people I'd guess.)

All of my major parts went well, though my execution speech wasn't as good as it had been. I am not ashamed of it, but I know it was somewhat weaker the final time. I would have preferred to finish strongest, but as I have said, that is rare. (I think I have been in one single show where the final performance matinee was the best run. Ever.) I may have been a victim of my own somewhat lower energies on Sunday. I didn't bomb anything, but in an attempt to be subtle, I think my voice dropped a bit too much and I had to overcompensate to get back where I wanted to be. one of those things an audience probably doesn't know, but an actor does. Oh well. I didn't miss any lines, at least.

Indeed I am happy to report that in the entire run of four performances, I bungled only one line in a noticeable fashion. (I talk about that in the post immediate previous to this one.) That doesn't mean I didn't trip up anywhere else, only that the trip up was obnoxious and noticeable just one time. Given that is it Shakespeare, I'd say I have something to be proud of.

"Shakespeare is in your blood," said an acquaintance of mine after the Sunday show. She knew, she explained, I was a fan up until then, but didn't realize how much a part of me it can be until she saw this show. I replied that I am glad it shows, given how hard I work at it.

In the end, I have to say it all comes back to that. I did put in extra work and concentration for this role. By now I hope it is clear that I work hard at all of my roles in all plays, yet sometimes even I go the extra mile. From the start I had the intention to put more thought into my Buckingham, because I feel it is a role that tends to get lost or overlooked by audiences and director's alike, despite the large amount of stage time the character has. how easy to simply write him off as a fiddle upon which Richard plays to get what he wants. I saw more to him, and thankfully so did our director, and Richard. Because of this, I was able to explore the role in ways others might not have allowed me to.

Part of that exploration was going the extra mile in ways I don't always go in a show these days. Like writing a character back story, marking up my script with notations, ideas, and questions, and keeping to myself between scenes. This last one is of particular note since I often in the last few years have opted to keep company with my fellow actors in the green room when I am in between scenes. (It becomes more necessary when one has 45 minutes between scenes as I did in my last regular play.) Yet this time I made an effort to withdraw to the dressing room between my scenes. I was uneasy about doing so at first, in fears of being seen as anti-social. And yet, given the complexity of my version of this character, my desire to make it stand out differently than do most productions, and the fact that it is Shakespeare I thought that keeping myself on an even keel, mostly alone was appropriate.

This alone time, combined with the other extra work I mentioned seem to have brought about the desired affect. A memorable performance that got people talking, added something to the show, and expanded my perceptions and abilities as an actor. Not every role in every production does this, loyal blog readers. I have to believe that a good portion of the thanks for the impact this performance had goes to the extra preparation I put into it from the very start. Preparation that I admit I have not always put into characters in the last two years.

Buckingham afforded me a chance to be different types of Shakespearean characters at different times. Stoic and distant in the background at first. Then when he starts to conspire with Richard, perhaps a bit of Iago. (not as loathsome.) For the speeches at Baynard's Castle in front of the crowd, we had a bit of Marc Antony. The off stage action wherein his armies are swept away by a sudden storm, and he wandering off to "nobody knows where", could be seen as a King Lear moment. My favorite moment, the execution scene is certainly in the vicinity of Hamlet. Finally, as a ghost, we get a smidge of Banquo thrown in for good measure. I don't mean to suggest that Buckingham taken as a whole is like any one of those characters taken as a whole. But his moments had shades of the type of moments those others experience in other stops along the canon, and I feel I touched a bit on each from time to time.

Thus far, Richard III was my third regular Shakespeare production. (Love's Labor's Lost and Romeo and Juliet being the others.) Each provided their own rewards, but so far I do not think it is a stretch to consider this turn as Buckingham to be, for all of the reasons I have mentioned here and more, my top Shakespearean experience thus far. Is it ironic that I should say that about a character that is not considered to be among Shakespeare's most memorable? i think not. For the experience was memorable and valuable because it was unique. Because it challenged me to dig deeper than one has to dig to find say Macbeth or Lear, roles that are front and center. It is at the top of the list because I feel I elevated it beyond what most people see in the role. And if I can do all of that and still maintain loyalty to The Bard, how can I doubt that this was a big step forward for the Shakespearean aspect of my acting portfolio.

In theory, Hamlet is next, as I try to build a production on my own for that play next year. It isn't looking good so far, as I have not gathered much support. But in years to come the director of this play has expressed a desire to do Hamlet...so even if I cannot, hope is not lost. I shall play Hamlet one day, regardless. But until that day, another chapter in my Shakespeare portfolio is concluded, and I thank you, as always, loyal blog readers, for following me on this journey.

Next stop, directing a play in the fall, and teaching an eight week teen workshop. Stay tuned for more on those things, but for now, the Richard III section of this blog is concluded.

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