So I love spaghetti bolognese. Really, I do. For various reasons;
a.) My Mum used to make the most delicious S.B when I was younger, so it brings back the warm and fuzzy memories.
b.) I’m vegetarian, so though you might think, ‘why’s this crazy lady harping on about a dish she doesn’t even eat’, the truth is that there is this amazing fake mince meat thing called ‘Quorn’ (get onto it you veggo’s out there!) which makes the perfect substitute for mince meat, and allows me to share in the joys of this delicious delicacy.
Much to my dismay however, I’ve been reminded countless times that I can’t write a blog post on behalf of the Bell Shakespeare Players about spaghetti bolognese; shocking, I know. So I have decided to talk about something that is an equally important aspect of our actor lives – the art of auditioning – and compare it to the art of preparing this beloved dish.
If we’re being real here, the two art forms are not all that different. Think about it: everyone has their own method to preparing a spaghetti bolognese, or a ‘spag bog’ as Lucy affectionately calls it. Each individual chef and actor has their own unique combination of flavours and spices to give the dish and audition just the pizazz it needs. And like an audition, there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ spag bog (except for the one I cook, obviously.) There is no right or wrong recipe. And quite like when you serve your famous Spag Bog at a dinner party, some people will absolutely love it, and others will smile and say ‘mmm’ and rub their tummies – but really, it’s not exactly to their taste.
That’s the name of the game when it comes to auditioning: you can only do the best job you can, and try to have fun while you’re doing it. Take it as an opportunity to meet some new people who are passionate about the same thing you are, and whether or not you are right for the role or not, also known as ‘if they liked you or not’, you gotta leave with your head held high, a smile on your face and the knowledge that you just had an opportunity to do what you love for 8 minutes in that room. That’s pretty cool.
Now like an S.B.O (Spaghetti Bolognese Opportunity, for those who don’t know), the context in which you approach the audition will always vary. Sometimes you are sent a script for an upcoming audition months in advance, and sometimes the night before. Quite like how you may be in preparation for a big dinner party and you begin getting your ingredients ready early in the morning (…okay, maybe you wouldn’t start months before, but just work with me here), versus a situation where your Auntie Linda has called you at 6pm saying that she’s in town and would love to pop over for a bite of your signature dish. And you know you gotta impress Auntie L. So you scramble together whatever you’ve got last minute, and you come up with the best possible result you can. And sometimes it’s even better that way.
My point is, you’ve got to work with whatever you have. If you have months to prepare for an audition, awesome! Take the opportunity to read the play a few times; research the things you think you should know about the play or character, such as historical or political context; get to know some of the playwright’s other work, and do some detailed investigation into the character that you’ll be reading. And if you get the audition notice the night before, also awesome! You’ll be working with some of your initial instincts of the scene/monologue, so your performance is more likely to be fresh as if you’re discovering it all for the first time, not overcooked like mushy pasta.
Here are a few things that I’ve learnt in my time as an actor that have less to do with Spaghetti Bolognese (I’m all out of S.B similes for the moment, but boy will they be back) and more to do with auditioning. Learn your lines back to front and inside out. The last thing you want to be doing in an audition is trying to remember what word comes next. And like the Spag Bol chefs (the Spag is back), different people have different ways of learning lines – you’ve got to figure out the way that works best for you. Like Shiv, I tend to enjoy learning my lines whilst up on my feet doing things. I play with the language, move around and see how it feels in my body, and try to keep experimenting with the sounds and the meaning so as not to get stuck saying the lines the same way every time. So try learning lines while you’re cleaning your room, playing soccer or even… wait for it…preparing a delicious pot of S.B.
Nerves. Nerves can be a good thing! I don’t think I’ve ever met an actor who hasn’t gotten nervous for an audition at least once in his/her life; nerves too are part of the game. Nervousness is the first cousin of excitement, and why would you be doing this if you weren’t excited about the prospect of getting the role? It’s all just adrenalin, totally normal, and in the wise words of Jake, let nerves be a gentle hand on your back pushing you forward, rather than a restraining force holding you back.
Also good to remember, not only are the people on the audition panel expecting you to be nervous, but they’ve been in the same position as you! They are, believe it or not, also part of the human species, and whether it be in an audition or an interview situation, they too know what it’s like to stand in front of a bunch of strangers and put a little bit of your heart on the line, whilst trying not to reveal how much you’d really, really love the job. So take a deep breath before you go in, and remember that these fellow human beings are excited to see you do the thing you love. And if they don’t seem too excited, it’s probably because they’ve seen 40 people already today, are exhausted, and are in desperate need of a good-sized bowl of…well, you know the drill.
So I invite you to take pride in preparing for your audition/your Spaghetti Bolognese. Do it in a way that interests and excites you, and whether you get the part or not at least you can say that you’ve given the audition all you’ve got, and you’ve had fun along the way. Every audition/dinner party is an opportunity to learn and improve your craft, so be open to feedback (although when my brother tells me there’s too much basil in my sauce, he is wrong. He’s just wrong.), and allow yourself to keep evolving as an actor/chef. And if you find out that your dinner guests have started feeding their spaghetti to the dog when you’ve turned your back, I’d say it’s probably definitely time to alter your recipe.
— Team C
Team Ariel and Team Caliban are on the road for one more month before we head into rehearsals for Romeo And Juliet. So, this week I thought I’d give you a little insight into how some of us worked on the script for our Actors At Work shows before we meet each other to rehearse.
Many weeks before we step foot in the rehearsal room, we are sent the scripts that we are to spend the year performing. As you probably know, the shows we bring you are abridged versions of Shakespeare’s plays so you can get the major scenes and a sense of the whole story in under an hour. This is no easy feat for the writers! And for us actors, first we need to read Shakespeare’s original, full length play so we know the full story we’re telling.
As beautiful as Shakespeare’s writing is, it’s not always easy to understand, so it’s good to have a dictionary handy. One of the first things many actors do is say the lines in their own words – this way you can get a more personal feeling for what your character is saying.
Shakespeare often writes in a poetic rhythm called Iambic Pentameter, which can give you an idea of which words are more important, and it can help you learn your lines quicker. It’s often referred to as ‘verse’. In Shakespeare’s time actors only had a few weeks to rehearse, so they needed all t help they could get. Each line has ten syllables, with every second syllable being stressed. It sounds like a heartbeat, or a horse galloping:
Da-dum Da-dum Da-dum Da-dum Da-dum
The rhythm of a line from Macbeth would sound like this:
So foul and fair a day I have not seen
If a character is speaking in verse but the rhythm is broken or inconsistent, this can indicate that the character is feeling unsettled.
Actors are known to do some weird things in preparing for a role, and one of them is skipping. Often to learn the lines actors will skip while speaking the words out loud to get a feeling of the rhythm of the poetry. It looks silly, but it really works!
Sometimes if a character is speaking casually, or is of a lower status, they will speak without poetic rhythm, which is called ‘verse’. The Mechanicals in A Midsummer Night’s Dream are a perfect example of this.
To get to know you’re characters, its important to go through the script ask some simple questions.
- What do I say about myself?
- What do I say about other people?
- What do others say about me?
You can also look at who they are in society. Are they a King, or Queen? A servant? A warrior? A faery? Look at the images they use in their language. Macbeth is often describing dark and horrible images, while the Lovers from A Midsummer Night’s Dream talk about beauty, longing and heartache. This gives you a great idea of what their priorities are.
All of this will feed your imagination and give you an idea of where to start. And then it’s off to rehearsal to bring it all to life!
— Team Ariel