August has been a fun and varied part of our year long adventure. Re-rehearsing Romeo and Juliet was such a beautiful experience. Seeing The Fools (George, Adele, Teresa and Nathaniel) again and being around their wonderful focus and passion and good-humour. I felt inspired by their work ethic, and their ability to make the work so much fun. Our director Damien Ryan is such an incredible font of knowledge about Shakespeare it’s insane to be in the room with him. He gives so much to his actors and his direction is incredibly specific, and he is hilarious! I just loved laughing so much….!!
I felt very lucky to have the chance to come back to playing the Nurse and Lady Montague. Adele as Juliet and Nathaniel as Romeo are just so easy to adore, I loved playing their “Mums”. It was wonderful seeing everyone revisit their roles, and to work as a cast of eight again.
Since our Romeo and Juliet season finished in Melbourne us Pooks have travelled to Hobart, which is such an incredibly beautiful place. Exploring the city with fellow Pook Paul has been a joy. Last week we went to Port Arthur – that insanely well preserved historical site where so much suffering has occurred, both recent and not so recent. For a place with such an horrific history, it feels extremely peaceful to be there. Standing on the green fields now you can sense the things that have happened there, and when you consider what people are capable of making other people do – work in chain gangs felling trees whilst knee deep in mud, lashing people with whips until they’re unconscious, sleeping 1000 men in buildings suitable for 60, condemning men to sensory deprivation resulting in madness for many – and the list goes on…. it’s overwhelming. Yet another example of our capacity as a species for “mountanish inhumanity” (Shakespeare’s Sir Thomas More). Our guide in Port Arthur finished our tour by telling us that if we learn about history we learn about ourselves. We learnt a lot that day about what human beings are capable of doing, and the strength of the human spirit. Tasmania is a truly beautiful and fascinating place.
This week we’ve been in Dubbo, Molong and Orange in regional NSW. More on that soon!
So last week we performed at Wagga Wagga Christian College and the players had the most amazing time. The year 4 class were inspirational and followed along with the story of A Midsummer Nights Dream so well, they should be very proud. Adele and Nathaniel said their workshop on As You Like It was probably one of their favorite experiences all year and could sense there was a lot of budding talent. On top of all this here is a photo of the amazing morning tea we received!! It was homemade by their very famous chef at the canteen.
Thanks for making our day!!!!
- Teresa (and The Fools)
Hobart, I have already decided after being here for four days, is the most beautiful city I’ve been to in this country! What a treat to wake up to a beautiful harbour, Georgian architecture and amazing hospitality! The seafood is amazing, Port Arthur terrifying and the coffee as good as any I’d get back in Melbourne or Sydney! After our two-week break from the Actors at Work tour, it’s nice to be welcomed back to our Macbeth Intensive and Midsummer Madness shows with the appreciation and hospitality of these fine Tasmanian folk! Our students have across the board been incredibly responsive to our work and as always, it’s a joy to perform Shakespeare to enthusiastic learners; teenagers open to the possibility of live storytelling.
Today, whilst visiting the Clarence High School in Bellerive, I had a few minutes to browse some framed photos hanging along the hallway of the school. Various alumni were proudly staring at me and I couldn’t help but smile when I came across a picture of one of Australia’s most celebrated stage and screen actresses, Essie Davis. Here she was, in all her glory, with an inscription that told me she had attended the Clarence High School from 1982-1985. I had to take a photo of it! Tasmania, it seems, boasts some of the greatest talent. I first saw Essie Davis perform in 1993, when she played the title role in Bell Shakespeare’s first production of Romeo and Juliet. Since then I have seen her in a handful of films, several more times on stage, once, most notably in Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Our theatre talent comes from such a wonderful variety of places across this country. So, Essie Davis began her career and perhaps love for Drama in a humble public school down here in Tasmania. It’s nice to be reminded that even though we often see Melbourne and Sydney as the hubs of Australia’s theatre world, our creatives, our actors, our performers come from all over the place. Talent is not confined or limited to the bigger cities! It made me wonder how many current students are out there, beginning their passion for theatre in high school, private or public, in Drama Classes and extra-curricular performance experiences. Chances are, so many of Australia’s future actors and theatre practitioners we have already met, at one school or another as we travel the country taking Shakespeare to the new generation. If those students are out there reading this, you better believe it. The theatre world has room for you and it doesn’t matter whether you hail from a state capital or small regional town, island, coastal village or outer suburb. Essie Davis would surely agree!
Well, our Melbourne season of Romeo And Juliet has come and gone in the blink of an eye!!! It was an absolute joy to re-mount this production for a new space and new audiences. The National Theatre in St Kilda has been our home for the last week, while we performed two shows a day, and what a glorious old theatre she is (if a little creaky on those original audience seats).
It had been about five months since we performed Romeo And Juliet in Sydney, but all the lines and blocking came back to me, as if Id been performing the show this whole time. It’s strange how memory prioritises things, after 5 months I could bust out all Juliet’s lines without a hiccup, and yet when checking into a hotel, I need a moment to remember my own address!
Revisiting a role like Juliet was a true gift; it was like all this time between productions the character never actually left, but had a little room of her own in some part of my consciousness, where she settled in and became embedded in my everyday life. Opening that door and letting her out in Melbourne, seemed the most natural and effortless of things…except for the dancing in the sand, that did actually require A LOT of effort, my calves are still recovering …and bits of red sand are still turning up, no matter how many times I shower!!!! It’s like they have a mind of their own.
So it’s goodbye to Melbourne and Romeo And Juliet and hello Albury and Midsummer Madness.
While you are all on school holidays, The Players are busy at Bell HQ in Sydney this week, working with our Artistic Director John Bell and Associate Artistic Director Peter Evans, in the rehearsal room on some exciting (but secret!) projects.
On Monday we presented The Hamlet Seminar for HSC students at The Seymour Centre’s York Theatre. Our Resident Artist in Education James Evans presented the seminar while The Players acted out key scenes in various ways to show how different interpretations can be, how a director and actors can completely change intentions behind Shakespeare’s words to create new meaning.
On Saturday we’ll head to Melbourne to present The Hamlet Seminar for VCE students at The National Theatre in St Kilda. It’s the first year we’ve presented the seminar in Melbourne and we can’t wait.
Next up in August we’ll be bringing our production of Romeo And Juliet to The National Theatre along with our six tonnes of sand that line the stage. Where has it been hiding since we last performed the show in March? Hmmm… it’s a mystery.
But it’s not all for students. Your teachers can also take part in some of our special events. We’ll be holding a special launch to celebrate our Melbourne season of Romeo And Juliet at the beautiful Sofitel Melbourne on Collins on Wednesday 20 July from 5pm. To book your place email us today at email@example.com
Finally, teachers who want to skill up or learn some new tools for the classroom can come along to our Melbourne Teacher Forum: Shakespeare in the National Curriculum on Saturday 30 July, 10am – 4pm.
So Melbourne students and teachers – we’re on our way! We can’t wait to meet you all and work with you at these special events. Remember, if you want to know more, check out our website, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 1300 305 730.
Love the Bell Shakespeare Learning team!
Hi everyone! We’ve been so busy touring regional South Australia and New South Wales, and loving every minute. Here are some recent highlights from me!
The players spent a day at Gosford High recently and ran a workshop with the Year 12 students on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night! Their creativity and performances blew us away! They related the text to all the modern issues of gender in our society today. My favourite moments were possibly the love scene they chose to perform on top of the grand piano and their tableaux representation of the play’s ‘love triangle’ as a human pyramid!! I was of course requested to be on top!!
We just performed and worked with the students at Marree in central South Australia. As none of us are from Sydney originally we all love our AFL and so Miss Jakovich couldn’t leave town without performing a drop-kick at the local footy ground ‘ the MCG’! Thanks Marree, we had an amazing day!!
We performed Shakespeare amongst the rocket ships in Woomera today, the famous town in S.A. Not only were the students really fun and brave playing fairies, Dukes and donkeys but tourists who use to live in the area 40yrs ago wandered in to watch us perform. Keep up the good work Woomera, you have a town to he proud of.
The Pooks (Belinda, Ivan, Kat and Paul) are in South Australia where Paul is from. It’s incredible to be travelling through this beautiful terrain and seeing how proud Paul is of his home state. We were in gorgeous Port Augusta today, then we travelled to Whyalla were Paul spent his 11th birthday at the navy ship exhibited on the highway.
After a brilliant time doing Macbeth Intensive for lovely students in Port Augusta, the next best part of our day was trampolining at the cabin park in Whyalla! I laughed until my stomach ached, and the sunset over the sea was stunning. The red light mixed in with rainbows was breathtaking. SA is amazing!!
At the end of our first month on the road, the 4 of us from team “Pooks,” find ourselves back at home-base in Sydney. Time to relax back in more familiar surroundings and reflect on what has been a very successful month of touring Actors at Work for Bell Shakespeare.
In the space of 4 weeks we have performed in schools and conducted masterclasses in Sydney, Brisbane, Hervey Bay, the Gold Coast, Lismore, Casino, Bendigo, Ballarat, Wedderburn and Melbourne. Team “Fools” have been in Sydney, Coffs Harbour, Armidale, Tamworth, Newcastle and the Hunter region, the Central Coast. We’ve travelled in our company car through regional New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland and have had the opportunity to sample the fine dining, hospitality, and beautiful landscape of such places as the Rainbow Region and Victoria’s stunning Daylesford. We’ve enjoyed dinner with John Bell in Brisbane and Bell Shakespeare’s Artistic Associate, Peter Evans in wintry Melbourne and chanced an afternoon at the rehearsal rooms for Peter’s up coming production of Julius Caesar in which we got to see the cast rehearse under his direction. We may have been away from home for a month, but not once have we felt out of touch with Bell Shakespeare who have been constantly supporting us in all our daily adventures and pursuits. Already we have performed to approximately 12,000 students in total and worked with about 2,500 students in masterclasses! Not a bad effort within only the first month of our six month trek around the country!
We now find ourselves in the enjoyable position of having our two shows, Midsummer Madness and Macbeth Intensive, running like well-oiled machines. They grow each day as we’ve become more comfortable with them and I enjoy the experience of seeing just how much actors can find in the words of Shakespeare and his characters when given the opportunity to live with them for extended periods of time. Then to add to that is the reaction of students who continually remind us that Shakespeare teaches us the art of story telling, the craft of theatre and the value of entertainment and that even after 400 years, Shakespeare’s work is as powerful and effective today as it ever was!
The other day I was reminded of just how pervasive and influential Shakespeare’s work has become. I was teaching a masterclass on the Mornington Peninsula, south of Melbourne. I was working with a few lines of text in order to introduce 40 6th Graders to Shakespeare’s rhythm and meter. I began with the line “To be…” and smiled when half the students in chorus finished it for me with a very confident “…or not to be, that is the question.”
None of them had heard of Hamlet, but all identified the quote and recognized the image of a young man holding a skull! Shakespeare may be long gone, but his work has travelled a long way from Elizabethan England and apparently, even on a small scale, into the minds of 11 year olds in regional Australia.
So while I’m happy to be home for a quick breather, these are the experiences I love to have on the Actors at Work tour and there will be many more to come as we soon set sail, as traveling Players, for South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia in the months ahead.
- Paul (of the Pooks!)
We have been getting a lot of questions about the ‘Macbeth curse’ which we reference in our Macbeth Intensive show, so I’ve done a little research (a.k.a Google) and found out some very interesting things about how the curse came about and what things have gone wrong. Now, I can’t verify any of this, but it’s still pretty cool…
Apparently the whole thing began because Shakespeare actually used ‘authentic’ witches chants in his play; as punishment real witches put a curse on the show, condemning it for all time. There are many reported accidents said to have been the result of the Macbeth curse, I have noted a few of the ones that I found most fascinating…
The curse took effect immediately, in the first production of Macbeth, on August 7, 1606, Hal Berridge, the boy playing Lady Macbeth, became feverish and died backstage. William Shakespeare himself is said to have stepped in to take over the role.
In 1672, in a production taking place in Amsterdam, the actor playing Macbeth substituted his blunt stage dagger for a real one and actually killed his co-actor playing King Duncan in front of a live audience. (…that is seriously messed up!)
In 1934, Malcolm Keen was in the middle of playing Macbeth, when he inexplicably turned mute on stage! Then his understudy developed a high fever and had to be hospitalized.
Sir Laurence Olivier was lucky enough to escape a 25 pound stage weight when it came loose and crashed down with in an inch of where he was standing, but then in a subsequent performance, his sword broke and went flying into the audience wounding one man. In the same production both the director and the actress playing Lady Macduff were involved in a car accident on the way to the theatre AND the proprietor of the theatre had a heart attack and died during their dress rehearsal (…that production seemed particularly cursed!)
In a 1942 staging, with John Gielgud as Macbeth, three actors – two witches and Duncan – died, and the set designer committed suicide (…at this point I’m starting to get a little freaked out myself !!)
In 1948 an actress playing Lady M., Diana Wynyard, sleepwalked off the set and fell 15 feet (…luckily for me, I don’t have to perform that scene, Teresa does!!!)
And these ‘incidents’ were only the tip of the iceberg!
Now, if you are superstitious, don’t worry, there is a remedy if someone is foolish enough to tempt fate and utter the ‘M’ word in a theatre. What you have to do is send the culprit out of the space and close the door behind them; then they have to spin round three times, say a dirty word (can be substituted with a good spit), then they knock on the door and have to ask to be let in. Now, if you don’t have the time to go through that ritual there is a loop hole, you can counteract the curse if you quote the line from Hamlet Act1 Scene4 “Angels and ministers of grace defend us!”
I’m not big believer in the supernatural or hocus pocus and maybe the higher amount of recorded accidents that seem to take place around productions of Macbeth is really only in proportion to that fact that it’s one of Shakespeare’s most performed plays, so of course there are going to be more opportunities for things to go wrong….but my question is, is it worth the risk?
Would you ever look into a mirror and say ‘Candy man’ 5 times? Or actively go looking for ladders to walk under????
We recently performed Midsummer Madness at Monte Sant’ Angelo Mercy College in North Sydney and received some feedback in – wait for it – iambic pentameter! Thanks girls.
Here’s a small selection of some favourites…
Thank you Bell Shakespeare we enjoyed so much
With Puck and Titania and Bottom and Snug. Love-torn
Teenagers with love in idleness in their eyes
Pyramus and Thisbe played by amateurs
Great actors are thee, for you have taught us so much
We will never forget your performance for us.
- Katrina and Lena
You were so fun to watch. Your performance
Made it easy for us to understand.
The laughter that you left us with. Got us
Right through the villainous, hard NAPLAN quiz.
We really admire your skills because
Your acting was exceptionally good.
Your wonderful performance was so cool.
Thank you for coming to our school.
- Skye and Naomi
Bell Shakespeare performers your play was oh so swell,
We really enjoyed the play you did so well.
A highlight was when the mechanicals performed their play,
And when all of the four, young lovers ran far away.
Your acting skills are fantastic, superb and great,
There were all kinds of emotions; jealousy, love and hate.
So thank you for acting out A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
- Maris and Bridget
Yesterday we enjoyed thy Shakespeare play
We loved the characters and all they say.
Thy fairies truly were a sight to see
And all the teenagers were liked by me,
We learned so much and all about your work
The mechanicals sure made us wear a smirk.
You made a midsummer night just come alive
We’ll definitely take Shakespeare for good test drive.
- Emma and India