Highlights from Teresa…

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!!

Gosford High School talent!

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!!

The MCG!

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.

Woomera shoots for the stars!!

– Teresa


Bouncing around Whyalla, S.A.

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!!

– Bel

Our first month on the road…

Team 'Pooks' enjoying dinner after a big day! (Bel, Kat, Paul, Ivan)

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!)

“Double, double, toil and trouble…’

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????

– Adele

Workshopping our portrayal of the witches' apparitions. Our Director, Jess Tuckwell, was working with Nathaniel inside, so myself, Teresa and George kept improvising with our witches outside. We took this photo to show Jess what we had created.

Some Midsummer feedback – in iambic pentameter!

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