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  • Writer's pictureKaren Pauley

Time with the Bard

Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounc'd it to you, trippingly on the tongue. But if you mouth it as many of our players do, I had as lief the town crier spoke my lines. -- Hamlet III:2

I have been continuing my solo study of Shakespeare. Thankfully there are many resources to help me.

I have been watching more of the Shakespeare workshops provided by the Collective Creative Initiative. All three were given by Jake Murray, who is an award-winning theatre director and Artistic Director of his own company, Elysium TC.

It's good to hear examples of an actor reading the text in different ways so that you can hear the differences made if you change the rhythm of the text or ignore the punctuation. I find it much more enjoyable hearing the language spoken then reading about the various poetic constructs and rhythms in a text book and would recommend listening to Exploring The Language of Shakespeare With Jake Murray.

Looking At Gender In Shakespeare With Jake Murray discussed gender in the world of Shakespeare and had a number of actors reading various characters and scenes. I can get a little downhearted about this subject as not only are there many more roles for men in Shakespeare, I am considered too old to play most of the female roles. We are starting to see women play the men's roles and seeing some all female productions. I loved Phyllida Lloyd's all female production of Julius Caear which was incredibly powerful, but did leave me wondering why we can accept older women as powerful men, but can be incredibly critical of woman above 40 wanting to play the female roles. I read, Act Your Age: Reading and Performing Shakespeare’s Ageing Women, written by Claire Waters, and it gives a detailed analysis of the ageing women in his plays and how the are being performed by the most influential of our modern Shakespearean theatres.

Shakespeare wrote some amazing female roles, and he did so in a time when women could not perform on stage. Today when woman can perform we still find that there are more roles for men than there are for women. The titled roles on Broadway in the 2018-2019 season were 32% female, and only 13% of the directors were female.

I always enjoy getting to see other directors working and the workshop, Looking At Performance in Shakespeare With Jake Murray, shows Murray working with two actors on a scene from Macbeth. When I suggest to some of my actor friends that we should work on Shakespeare they can get very frightened by the language of the play and their expectations of how the language should be spoken. Watching this workshop showed that yes, the language is important, but then so is understanding of any text that you take in to rehearsal as language is constantly changing and evolving. There were discussions about murderers and killers. Discussions around the fact that Macbeth was a soldier yet he struggled with the death of Duncan and the terrible human cost of murder. Exploring the psychology of a killer helps with understanding what is happening with Macbeth and is exactly what you would do if you were tackling a modern play where someone was killed.

Closer to home, Tokyo International Players (TIP) has started a video series, Shakespeare from Home, in which TIP actors share their favourite monologues. So far there have been two episodes, the first from Nicolas Gregoriades performing Benedick's speech in Act II scene 3 of Much Ado About Nothing, and the second with Shayna Magnuson performing Mercutio’s “Queen Mab” speech from Act I scene 4 of Romeo and Juliet. Both are talented actors I have had the pleasure of working with, and hopefully will get to work with again in the future.

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