Throwback Thursday: Actors At Work Rehearsals

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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!

Cam

— Team Ariel

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