I've been trying to work out exactly what I've been doing for the past three weeks as I've worked on the Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project with the New Renaissance Theatre Company. It's hard to put into words because quite frankly, most of the performances are fuzzy messes in my brain. But I knew I wanted to blog about my experience so this is the most coherent I can be about it for now (a week after we've closed the show).
1. Sex jokes are always funny.
And Shakespeare is the king of sex jokes.
2. You will mess up. Do so loudly and proudly.
This was/is the most difficult for this type-A actor to swallow. I like to be super prepared when I walk onstage and I try to be the best scene partner I can be for my colleagues. USP encourages you to be prepared and be a good scene partner, but when your Shakespeare script is only seven pages long for a two hour show, you're limited in what you actually have control over. And in fact, messing up is part of the technique, because it happens all. the. time. And the audience loves it! And as a teaching artist, I encourage my students to fail on an almost daily basis. So this experience was a healthy dose of my own medicine. And it was fun. In case you didn't know, failure IRL is not always fun and you won't always be cheered when you cry out for help, but exercising your failure muscles certainly does ease the sting.
3. Don't just sit behind the scenes. Go out and see what's happening around you.
USP encourages the actors to go out in the audience and watch the show when they have a moment. Ten minutes between your scenes? Go watch the show for a while! I think that the theater world can be intense because we all get caught up in this idea that we have to be busy all the time establishing our careers. "What are you working on now? What's next?" I DON'T KNOW I JUST WANT TO STAY AT HOME WITH MY WINE BOTTLE AND HUSBAND OKAY? We have to remember it's okay to step back and be a human and be in the actual world instead of just the world of your play (which is glorious and wonderful, but so is the actual world!). Go see your friend's play. Go see the new art exhibit. Travel. Meet someone new. These experiences will only enhance your performance the next time you make an entrance.
4. Sometimes you just need to have a dance break.
5. If you want someone to do something, say so.
If you know me personally, you know I can be "bossy." If you don't know me personally, I can be "bossy." Part of this stems from my only-child-syndrome and the other part of this comes from my love of reading feminist articles that tell me to speak up for myself. The awesome thing? Shakespeare's characters are bossy, too, and they get it done. #work. Oberon wants his changeling boy? Boom. Tells Puck what to do. Quince is directing a play? Boom. Tells the mechanicals where and when to rehearse and how to do it. It's okay to speak up for yourself and it's okay to ask someone to help you. We should, in fact, be doing more of this.
6. And listen when someone tells you to do something.
When those directions get thrown at you, you do it. You support your friends and help them out, or else you make them look like a fool (which is, sometimes, a choice). We all have those moments when we're not fully listening. I probably say to someone once a week, "I heard you, but I wasn't listening to you." (Hey, at least I'm honest!). During USP, I was the best listener ever! I was waiting for those hints, waiting to be told how to help my scene partner. Fun fact: People are dropping these hints all the time about how we can help them and if we listen carefully enough, we can support them.
7. Suit the action to the word.
AKA: practice what you post/preach, walk the talk, do as you say, etc, etc, etc. This idea has never been more important to our current world, and resounds loudly in my head allllll the time.
Thank you so so so so so much to everyone who came out to support this production. You all are wonderful. If you missed it, there's going to be an abbreviated performance at Britsburgh on September 10. In the meantime, go see some awesome theater that is happening in Pittsburgh this summer!!!