The entire company—workshop participants and faculty—did a three-hour exercise in furthering the actor-audience relationship. It was an exercise primarily in self observation. What do I do when I’m about to go on? When I’m on? Afterward? How do audience and actor each react to material that’s powerful? Or disappointing?
We all sat in Founders Theater in three different groupings of seats set out around the playing space. Each grouping of seats was for either those of us who were to be, for the moment, audience, or, for the moment, actors about to go on. Through the afternoon, audience and actors traded places.
This is what we did on stage. Walk on. Stand forward. Stay connected with ourselves and audience. Say, “What I want you to know about me is_________.” Stay connected. Then say, “What I don’t want you to know about me is____________.” Stay connected. Then, point to a part of our body and say, “This is my _____________.” Connect. Then, speak two lines of text from any Shakespeare we chose.
Try it at home. If you’re going to get the most out of it, you should invite 50 of your most committed and accomplished actor friends, or else you might not feel it enough. But, if you do…. And if you don’t hold back, but instead let loose with your darkest ‘secret,’ you’ll probably discover the many ways in which you try to avoid both yourself and the audience. For me, I tried to float my eyes away from the audience, or turn my gaze as inward as possible. While waiting to go on, I had the urge to get chatty with the other actors. Once, I nearly fell asleep, though I wasn’t sleepy. I just wanted to check out. I didn’t.
A coach on stage prompted us to speak as we all—and I mean all—struggled to stay connected. It was astounding to see some of these theater professionals retain full vocal power as their bodies trembled and terrible, unspeakable secrets poured out. For some of the less accomplished, it was simply the bravery and truth.
Here was my text:
“Is not this life more sweet then than of painted pomp?
Are not these woods more free from peril than the envious court?”
I am so tired I can hardly type. See you tomorrow.
p.s. This posting went up late because we lost power on campus for several hours this morning, putting the server down. We had a 'snow day' morning, I caught up on some sleep, and we'll make up the classes next week.