Much Ado Actor Blog: Prison Preview

Finally, after all the negotiation, all the work and all the time, we had our first audience. A crowd of approximately forty inmates of Westville Correctional Facility. It is located some miles out of South Bend, in what feels very much like American heartland. Long flat prairie land, cornfields stretching to the horizon, the interstate carving through the countryside like a scar. As we arrived in the parking lot, the temperature dropped, a little bit of pathetic fallacy. Here we are, shivering with cold and anticipation.

AFTLS at Westville

We wore our costumes in, and brought nothing but the props we needed. No underwired bras, no money, no mobile phones. At the door there is a tight, if friendly, security post. We arrived during visiting hours, and saw many families, and too many small frightened children, waiting to be x-rayed. It started to come home to me how these kids were seeing their daddy, and maybe their first memories – their only memories – of daddy will be in that context. Some seemed afraid, or daunted. Others all too used to it. The guards that waved us through were almost overly jolly, grinning and cracking jokes. Prison is FUN. “It’s not so friendly on the inside.” someone remarked. We eventually made it into an airlock, where an unsmiling gargoyle wordlessly gestured for us to show our passes. Once through security the atmosphere changed. Electric fences and guard towers, and a large complex of low rise secure buildings. We weren’t allowed to walk anywhere unaccompanied of course, and our escort was a chirpy young (six months pregnant) volunteer. She got us onto the bus that took us the short journey to the low security block in which we would be performing.

In the block, lots of wooden panels. Prayers mounted on the walls and pictures of prison wardens through the ages. Empty corridors. Our escort led us to a flight of stairs, and up them to an unprepossessing looking door which she opened with a small key. She gestured us in. As I walked through the door it was like walking into a different world. Men all around, standing, staring. Some at nothing. Some at us. Some out of windows. Their body language was closed. Their eye contact limited and fleeting. Their movements nervous, strained, unfamiliar. Some were wiping down windows and floors, with an air of care bordering on the compulsive. Some were standing in groups, next to each other, staring. One or two attempted a wave, or a nod, of greeting. All were dressed in the prison uniform. White trainers, white T-Shirt, beige slacks. It was customisable to the extent that there was a beige collared shirt that could be worn on top of the T-shirt if cold. Those in just the T-shirt were pretty buff, and often covered in livid technicolor tattoos right up to the chin. One stern and practical looking woman served as guard in this unit. She took our names. We then rather coyly went to the room where we would be working and began to set up the stage.

As we were setting up the guys started to filter in. The front row filled first, and then row after row, with the back filling up last. We were nervous, and they were talking amongst themselves, their body language still quite closed. I was tentatively warming up, but not really wanting to make too much of a spectacle of myself. Once we filled up, the volunteer closed the door. There were still some people outside, watching through a window, curious. Extra chairs were carried in for them and once we were packed, Scott said we would start early. So we quite suddenly launched into the show. I was aware that my nerves were up. They didn’t last long.

The thing that was instantly evident in the room was the quality of attention. They were really listening, audibly listening. And they were unashamed to laugh when they thought something was even slightly funny. The next thing that became clear was the level of empathy. They were right on top of us, so it was easy to feel with them. And the changes and surprises were landing audibly, as were their opinions of the different characters. It very quickly became a revelation to us, having never done the play to an audience that doesn’t know the play and the company. The surprises, the twists and turns, the confusions, many things that we almost took for granted having known the play all our working lives, they really began to ping out for us because they pinged out for them. The show flew by. There were a couple of mistakes that were so enjoyed and supported by the crowd that they felt almost right. And we realised that we knew the show now, and began to have fun.

At the end they all stood to applaud, from the back to the front, like a wave. The questions afterwards were eager, curious, and to do with detail of character and craft and plot, rather than, as too often happens in theatre q&a, people showing off about what they know and not genuinely interested in getting an answer to anything really.

It was one of the most remarkably positive experiences of my working life. Most of them had never seen a play before, let alone a Shakespeare play. And despite the obsolescence of much of the language, the themes and motifs all landed on these initially intimidating looking people. It made me think about my prejudices, as much as it made me think of the things I take for granted. To quote the friar, “What we have we prize not to the worth whiles we enjoy it, but being lack’d and lost, why then we rack the value, then we find the virtue that possession could not show us whilst it was ours.”

As we walked back out of the prison into a warmer day, we all experienced a moment of knowledge that we were free. We could go wherever we wanted to. And the people we had shared that experience with could not. We all tasted our freedom fresh. And we all understood how truly lucky we are to be here, thousands of miles from home, travelling round this vast but welcoming country, and working with the words of a man who somehow cracked the fundamentals of the human condition, and had the eloquence to express them.

(By Al Barclay)

Much Ado Actors Blog: Settling In

Notre Dame campus is like a little village. Deb met us in the morning and took us on a working tour of the area. We started with some admin, in a building with a dome. Upstairs there were huge murals of Columbus, and vast panelled hallways, gigantic crowns in display cases, and mosaic flooring. I was curious. “How old is this place?” “Oh, it’s really old. Maybe the 1860′s.” Victoria was on the throne in England. Dickens was publishing Great Expectations. It doesn’t feel so long ago somehow if you’re in England, but here there is a short, intensive period of history and growth, and somehow it does conspire to make something from the 1800′s feel old.

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We then got tax sorted out, by Becky and Lindsay. I was smitten. Anyone that can do numbers is a source of wonder and amazement to me generally, so when they said “Hi, we do tax,” I had no choice but to say “cooooool.” For which they quite rightly laughed at me. “People usually have a very different reaction when we say that.”

Then off to get American Bank accounts opened, at a Credit Union. I’ve not done a great deal of research, but Credit Unions look like a good idea. More idealistic than building societies. And they seem to be working.

Then to rehearsing. We have a new companion in the room. Ryan. Lovely Ryan. Not used to having anyone who can help us out we are still banging our heads against prop issues. Ryan is very wry. “You know, guys, your life would be so much easier if you just let me do stuff for you.” He has a point. We let him. Now we have props.

The room is good, despite some annoying pillars in the playing space, but as far as I’m concerned it’s useful to get used to playing in all sorts of different places, and dealing with all sorts of obstructions, since we’ll be moving around a great deal over the course of this job. With the deadline approaching there is a little more tension in the room, but the work is getting done, and we end the days having moved forward, and made discoveries. Members of the faculty are able to come in and out and see what we’re up to, and their feedback is pretty much universally helpful. These guys know their Shakespeare and are happy to express what they have witnessed and what they didn’t understand, in order to help us clarify and tighten the show we are creating. Talking with them after the showing was terrifically valuable, as I certainly don’t know exactly what this tour will entail, as yet. The idea that they imparted to me was that we might be the first Shakespeare that many of the audience have witnessed, and almost certainly the first pro Shakespeare. We can’t afford to lose them, or bore them. So I certainly started thinking about cuts. We have been very complete in our approach but that’s fine because now we know what we can drop, and we know, when it’s gone, whether or not we miss it. The issue around excessive cutting is diplomacy, but I think as a company we are both close enough and robust enough to put up with it. After all, here we all are companionably squinting while sipping beer together from the same flight at The Evil Czech Brewery.
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Yep, that’s right. Evil Czech Brewery. It was Taco Tuesday. How could anyone resist? All the actors, lots of the faculty. Huge amounts of food. Beer. All of us have been up every morning to run since. Oh, the food. This is no country for celiacs. But that’s for another post.

Much Ado Actors Blog: Arrival

After an eight hour flight, we all bundled out of the plane with a massive shot of adrenaline. “Here we are! In America! Let’s GO! All we have to do is get through passport control. A formality. No more than that, surely. Oh look, a queue. We have those in England.”

Maybe they were trying to make us feel at home. Yes, of course, nothing makes an Englishman feel at home so much as a good long queue. But THREE HOURS. A THREE HOUR QUEUE?! Even the most ardent of queue fanciers would balk at such a prospect.

Being the diligent (obsessive) people we all are, we spent a large amount of our queue time discussing the play, Much Ado About Nothing, most likely to the chagrin of all the people around us, who just wanted to stand in a nice queue and not have people excitedly jabbering about Shakespeare while they did it.

Nonetheless, we finally emerged blinking and a little bit better informed into the bright early evening sunshine, all the while ignoring the frantic howling of our body clock “IT’S MIDNIGHT! HOW CAN IT BE LIGHT? THE WORLD IS ENDING!!!” And our transportation was before us. The final leg of the journey. And what a leg. It made up for all the queuing. A stretch limo! I have never been in one before. Here we all are:

Inside the limo

Paul O’Mahony closest. He’s Benedick, Dogberry and more. Then me, Al Barclay, I’m Don Pedro, Friar Francis and more. Then Georgina Strawson, she’s Beatrice, Don John and more. Then Jack Whitam, he’s Claudio, Antonio and more, and finally Claire Redcliffe, she’s Leonato, Hero and more. This was taken around the moment that Claire realised she had packed nothing but 100 cardigans.

2 hours of luxury, cheesy eighties power ballads, iced soft drinks, slightly delirious conversations about sunsets and trucks, games of guess the eighties tune and “I spy”, sporadic unexpected bursts of sleep or laughter, and general hilarity, before finally we were in Notre Dame. Debra met us all as we emerged blinking from the vast car, five mildly hysterical zombies. She welcomed us, and told us we’d do all the important talking the next morning, for which we were grateful. So, we all grabbed the nearest burger, shoved it into our mouths, and fell into deep deep luxurious sleep.

(Posted by Al Barclay)

Much Ado rehearsal blog: The London leg

Every actor loves the phrase “You got the part!” I was in a coffee shop on The Kings Road, getting ready to go to Yorkshire when my agent said that to me. But he sounded confused. Concerned, even. “They want you to go to America to play Don Pedro. And Friar Francis. And Ursula. And a watchman. And a messenger. AND there’s no director. There are only five actors. So… Well… I don’t know how that’s all going to work.” Sounds great, I replied. “You only get four weeks rehearsal.” He continued. “And they pay you direct.” Lovely, I said, entirely honestly. You’ll have to invoice for your commission, I continued through gritted teeth.

“Only” four weeks, he had said. Yeah I know they get 8 or 9 at the RSC, but I was about to go to Yorkshire for the 6th year running to rehearse multiple parts in a very involved promenade Shakespeare at Sprite Productions and we never get more than 3 weeks there. So 4 weeks, surely that’s luxury, even without a director. Or a costume designer. Or a huge team of skilled Stage Managers and ASMs. Or a dedicated Musical Director and Composer. Or an on site producer constantly troubleshooting. Hmmmm.

On second thoughts four weeks is nothing. This is a play by one of the densest theatre writers ever, written in language and social morays that were current 500 years ago. And we have four weeks to do the work of a whole team, while playing multiple parts across gender and class. And singing songs. Maybe this is going to be a heck of a challenge. Bring it!

The Karibu centre in Brixton is a delightful place to rehearse. It’s a very lively community centre with a big upstairs room. We always had a load of space and air around us as we worked, which helped consolidate an atmosphere of freedom in the company. We ended up roping out a stage area in this vast room with, at first, empty cans, then string, and finally, hessian. Karibu is right next to a lively mosque where they frequently broadcast prayer through loudspeakers enthusiastically at lunchtimes. It can get pretty noisy. The centre itself forms a big part of the local community, dealing with young offenders on their community service, holding meetings for AA etc, and managing big groups of hilarious precocious kids who get dragged off en masse to do activities in the park, and to exhaust themselves running around in circles while mum and dad are at work. And since it is rooted in the Caribbean community, they want to cook for you. “Do you want some jerk chicken with rice and peas darling?” became a frequently overheard phrase. And then they would insist on serving you so much on the plate that you feel fit for bursting, because if you don’t finish it THEY WILL MAKE YOU, before trying to peddle mangoes for dessert in such an efficient and determined fashion that you end up eating three of them and taking a melon with you “in case you need a snack for after, lovely.” Fuel though. And we needed it.

5 actors. No director. Many parts. How to begin? Consensus in the group was instant on day one. “Let’s just do the whole play, on it’s feet, now.” So that was the first thing we did. Many confused moments as people went “oh hang on wait I’m talking to myself here for ages,” but also much joy. Instantly it was clear that this was a creative bunch of people. And a diverse bunch. We very quickly improvised props or costume that would stand for characters who were in the scene but currently having to be someone else. In fact, this satsuma was Hero for the whole of the first day:Hero the satsuma

The rest of the process followed a similar vein. “If someone has an idea, say yes to it and try it out.” And we did. And we stayed ahead of it, exhausting ourselves all day speaking crunchy text before going home to work on lines, or music, or costume, or dance, or physicality. While taking a little time out to live life. A frequently expressed thought from everyone was “everyone is so good, I need to work harder.”

Patsy Rodenburg, my old voice teacher, would frequently say “You’ve got to be fit to do Shakespeare. It’s a physical, vocal and emotional workout.” This is true. Carolyn Lyle, my old English lecturer, used to say “If you look at the structure of the plays, if one of the actors has a big hard emotional scene, then Shakespeare sends in the clowns and lets the poor guy have a breather.” This doesn’t apply when five people are playing all the parts. So yeah, we thought we were fit. But every Friday evening we were knackered. But also inspired.

One of the effects of no director is that we all have to take ownership of the whole piece of work. You can’t cop off when you’re not in that scene to get a coffee, because the only person they’ve got for an outside eye is you. I have known Much Ado for years. I was in it at University, generalising and shouting my way through one of the parts (thankfully not one I’m playing now) with bleached spiked blonde hair and an achingly and effortlessly gained six pack. I’ve seen countless productions of it since, but I’ve never loved it or understood it like I love and understand it now. The thing about good writing is the deeper you go the richer it turns out to be. And Shakespeare really is one of the best.

It’s quite a short play, compared to some. At first we tried to do it complete, and uncut, and it was only after we showed it to some members of the company that we felt we had permission to make a couple of snips. We took some unnecessary entrances that would have made for more trouble than they were worth “Here comes signor Leonato, and the Sexton” Became “Here comes signor Leonato.” Because the Sexton says nothing in the scene, and is played by the same actor as Leonato. Sometimes we chose to make a virtue out of the difficulty of the changes, but in that instance it was too fussy.

The only other major cut we have made so far is all the stuff about Deformed. The cultural references are all long dead, so it just smells a bit funny, and Borachio’s long tirade about  fashion felt like it inevitably dropped the pace without dong anything for the plot. But we have kept Imogen, the ghost character, silent wife to Leonato, who is seen in the first scene, never speaks, and is forgotten shortly after. Perhaps once we get to the states, we’ll cut more, or perhaps we’ll find we miss things and put them back. But four weeks on and it still feels like a creative, living, generative group of five weird, passionate and lovely craftspersons. I suppose I should introduce us all, since I’ll be blogging for the whole time we are in America. I’ll do that in the next post. Right now I’m going to have a gin and tonic and watch some of the inflight entertainment. Ahh British airways. Luxury.

(Posted by Al Barclay)

“Twins both alike” – Zada and Zuri Eshun

2014 Young Company Members, Zuri and Zada Eshun

(L-R) Zuri Eshun and Zada Eshun

When we found out we would be acting together this summer, we were both very shocked, excited, and slightly confused.  This was not Comedy of Errors or Twelfth Night, and pondering our potential relationship in the same show was as stressful as the auditioning process. However, when we received word that we would be playing mother and daughter (Mistress Page and Anne Page), those stresses were calmed and aside from thoughts of the Film “Chinatown,” we were  content with finally being able to take the stage together.

This excitement  is rooted in the simple fact that we have never acted together. Ever. We have never even seen each other in a play. Why? We each spent our undergraduate careers on opposite sides of the country. Boston and South Bend are not exactly neighboring cities and this distance played a large role in separating us during the time we actually decided to take on acting. What’s amazing about NDSF is that they approached us when were deciding whether to spend another two to three years apart for grad school. The joy felt from being cast together somehow overflowed into that decision, and we decided to spend the next two years, together, at the East 15 Acting School of London.
If anything, we would like to thank NDSF for allowing us to learn and act together this summer. We are going from never acting together to being in two shows with each other, and we wouldn’t have been able to do that without their help and encouragement. So look out for us this summer, and if you can’t tell the difference, don’t get too upset, nobody really can!

“This gallant Hotspur, this all-praised knight”

In this summer’s Professional Company production of Henry IV, Tyler Rich will play hot-blooded Hotspur (the nemesis of Prince Henry “Hal”) and swaggering saber-rattling Pistol. Tyler will also serve as Fight Captain. Tyler has extensive experience in hand-to-hand combat, rapier & dagger, broadsword, sword & shield, knife, quarterstaff, single sword, and small sword. (So many weapons, so little time.) Tyler is also an experienced didgeridooist, although this skill will most likely not be used in Henry IV.

Tyler Rich

Tyler Rich

Tyler hails from from New Hampshire and has worked with this summer’s ProCo director, Michael Goldberg, as well as NDSF alums, Bill Brown and Kevin Asselin. Tyler studied at Plymouth State and lives in Chicago.

With acting experience at Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, American Players Theatre, First Folio Theatre, and many others, Tyler is an exciting addition to this summer’s Professional cast.

We have our king and his name is…Henry!

Henry Godinez has been cast as King Henry IV in this summer’s Professional Company production of Henry IV. Mr. Godinez is the resident artistic associate at Goodman Theatre and the curator of the Latino Theatre Festival. Here’s a video on his work at the Goodman.

Henry Godinez

Henry Godinez

Most recently at the Goodman, he directed Karen Zacarías’ The Sins of Sor Juana.  World premieres directed at Goodman include Karen Zacarías’ Mariela in the Desert, Regina Taylor’s Millennium Mambo and Luis Alfaro’s Straight as a Line.  Also at Goodman: José Rivera’s Boleros for the Disenchanted (also world premiere at Yale Repertory Theatre), The Cook by Eduardo Machado, Electricidad by Luis Alfaro, Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez, Red Cross by Sam Shepard (in Regina Taylor’s Transformations), the Goodman/Teatro Vista co-production of José Rivera’s Cloud Tectonics and the 1996–2001 productions of A Christmas Carol. Mr. Godinez’s other Chicago credits include Water By The Spoonful at Court Theatre, A Civil War Christmas at Northlight Theatre, A Year with Frog and Toad and Esperanza Rising for Chicago Children’s Theatre, Nilo Cruz’s Two Sisters and a Piano (Apple Tree Theatre/Teatro Vista co-production) and Anna in the Tropics for Victory Gardens Theater.  Mr. Godinez is the co-founder and former artistic director of Teatro Vista, where he directed Broken Eggs, El Paso Blue, Journey of the Sparrows, Santos & Santos and The Crossing. His other directing credits include work at Portland Center Stage, Signature Theatre Company in New York City, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Oak Park Festival Theatre, Colorado Shakespeare Festival and several seasons of Stories on Stage for WBEZ Chicago Public Radio. As an actor, Mr. Godinez appeared most recently in the Goodman/Teatro Buendia of Cuba 2013 world premiere of Pedro Páramo, as well Chicago Fire and several episodes of Boss. Born in Havana, Cuba, Godinez is the co-editor of The Goodman Theatre’s Festival Latino: Six Plays (NU Press), and serves on the Board of Directors of the Illinois Arts Council and Albany Park Theatre Project.  Mr. Godinez is the recipient of the 1999 TCG Alan Schneider Directing Award, the Distinguished Service Award from the Lawyers for the Creative Arts, and was honored as the 2008 Latino Professional of the Year by the Chicago Latino Network, and with the 2013 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Alumni Award.  Mr. Godinez is an associate professor in the Department of Theatre at Northwestern University.

We are excited to see Henry bring our titular king and father to life this summer.

Meet Falstaff! – Shakespeare’s Witty Rouge

Over the next few weeks we will be introducing you to the cast of our 2014 Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival. We begin with the merry knight, the bawdy bandit, the “villainous abominable misleader of youth,” Sir John Falstaff!

John Lister

John Lister

Ryan Producing Artistic Director Grant Mudge is pleased to announce that Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival veteran John Lister will play audience favorite Falstaff in this summer’s Professional Company production of Henry IV.

John returns to the Festival having previously appeared in Romeo and Juliet, Henry V and The Comedy of Errors. Chicago credits include: Show Boat (Lyric Opera of Chicago); The Crucible (Steppenwolf Theatre); Guys and Dolls (Marriott Lincolnshire); six seasons of A Christmas Carol (The Goodman Theatre); Yellow Moon, Heartbreak House, As You Like It (Writers Theatre); Lady Windermere’s Fan, Red Herring, She Stoops To Conquer, Inherit The Wind, Tom Jones (Northlight); Northanger Abbey (Remy Bumppo) and more than a dozen productions with Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Regional credits include productions with American Player’s Theatre, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Peninsula Players and The International Mystery Writer’s Festival. Film and Television credits include:  Public Enemies (Universal); Animals (Animals, LLC); Prison Break (FOX) and The Beast (A&E).

Born in Dundee Scotland, John was raised in West Lafayette Indiana. He received a Bachelors degree in Theatre Performance from Ball State University and a Masters degree in Acting from Michigan State University.

We look forward to John’s portrayal of Shakespeare’s beloved rouge, Sir John Falstaff!

As You Like It – Final Actors’ Post

Meet me in St. Louis, Louis, Meet me at the Fair.
Don’t tell me the lights are shining, anyplace but there.

For the final week of the tour, Team AYLI headed to St. Louis for the SAA Conference.  When we embarked on this tour back at the end of Jan, St Louis seemed like a distant landmark. I remember talking about going to the top of the Arch with Aaron, the Marketing Manager, back in O’Rourkes after the first show in Notre Dame; and wondering if I would be courageous enough to brave both the height and the enclosed space of the tram car.  Tuesday morning was D Day and it was a breeze…though also slightly breezy at the top and disconcerting to feel ground swaying beneath me.

The Arch in St. Louis

It was a great privilege to spend the week working alongside so many eminent scholars of the Bard. It was terrific to once again see Alan Dessen, who was so instrumental in taking care of the company back in the 90s and to meet Audrey Stanley, a wonderful actor, director and scholar who is battling to keep Santa Cruz Shakespeare alive and kicking in their beautiful venue on the West Coast.

I couldn’t help thinking how delighted Will would be to see so many folks, from so many countries, gathered together to share their responses to his work. We had slightly wondered how many of them would be interested enough in the actor’s perspective to come to the workshops and were delighted to see so many throughout the week. As ever, the order of the day was to offer the chance to practically engage with the text. We ran workshops on gender, verse and prose, multi-role playing and collaborative direction and, at each session, our aim was to offer exercises that actively explored these concepts rather than seated discussion.

One of the great joys of Shakespeare is the variety of perspectives, ideas and responses generated by his words. At every point of the Conference, there were multiple seminars happening, covering a multitude of concepts, ideas and interpretations. It is interesting though, that as soon as the words are performed, it is necessary to make a choice: to play the character and the situation as you see them. There is something magical about seeing the choices come alive as ACTION, and we saw that time and again this week. As Dan said in his session, it’s called a “play” for a reason and it was terrific to see so many great minds approach the words with a sense of play and to test ideas and choices with a sense of fun.

city-museumDowntown St Louis has its own temple to fun, play and creativity in The City Museum. A treasure trove of caves, climbing, sliding, and spectacle for kids of all ages. I conquered my cowardice for the second time in a week, to tackle the ten story slide and, after two or so hours giving free reign to my inner eight year old the world truly looked a little different.

Inevitably, with the final performances and thinking about the end of our US journey, I began thinking about the characters as they emerge from Arden at the end of the play. As much as it is a place of risk, discomfort and magic, it is also a place of fun. It’s fun and experimentation that’s at the heart of Rosalind’s game with Orlando and, with five actors inhabiting all the roles, our final Act is truly a giddy roundabout of fun with Rob’s unique celebration of Hymen as the ringleader. It seems to me that this sense of fun offers the possibility of change: both for us as actors as we play our way through the multitude of characters, but also for the characters themselves as they conclude the play. As Touchstone says in Act 5 (Alan Dessen’s favourite line in Shakespeare) “Much virtue in If…”

I have had a great three months touring the big and beautiful US of A.  Huge thanks to Scott Jackson and Deborah Gasper for their wonderful work and support at Notre Dame and of course to my fellow Arden Travellers.  See you in London for As You Like It Uk style other 22nd and 23rd April…the final performance on Shakespeare’s birthday a fitting end to our epic tour.

Proceed, proceed: we will begin these rites,
As we do trust they’ll end, in true delights.

– Duke Senior, Act 5 Sc 4.

As You Like It – Actors’ Post #10

Wyoming. Forever West!
Last week AFTLS went West to Laramie, Wyoming to find big skies, snowy mountains, more cowboys, and sell-out crowds.
The University of Wyoming students and local community filled the 375 seat Buchanan Theatre. The enthusiasm and energy pulsing through the Theatre Department at the university is immediately obvious. Leigh Selting and his team clearly do a great job at engaging both the university and the wider community with the Theatre program, and it was fantastic to see this reflected in audience numbers on both Friday and Saturday night.
I thoroughly enjoyed my double session with Leigh’s Junior and Senior Scene Study group on Tuesday and Thursday. It was great to have two sessions with the same group and to have students explore some of the findings from the first session in some speech work on Thursday.
Surveying the serene scenery...

Surveying the serene scenery…

Nature figured large this week, surrounded, as we were, by huge open vistas. I spent some of Sunday afternoon sitting in Saratoga Hot Springs talking with a couple of locals about how the crows had returned to Wyoming in the last week…thus heralding the slow start of Spring. It struck me how very (very!) far this was from my London world where Spring means a lighter coat, an umbrella, and maybe some daffodils for the dining room table. It got me thinking about how geography affects thought and character. Laramie is certainly a terrifically individual town, full of antique shops and cafes (quite frankly the best coffee of the tour was at Coal Creek!). Does the geographical space mean that there’s more mental space available for reflection and individual expression? Psychogeography or psychobabble? Discuss.

“O Rosalind! these trees shall be my books
And in their barks my thoughts I’ll character”
 – Orlando, As You Like It, Act 3 Sc 2.