Our first month on the road…Posted: Wednesday 15 June 2011
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!)