Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tempest Tossed

While I have to resist the temptation to want to participate in EVERYTHING while I'm here at DePauw, the one temptation I've succumbed to most happily is that I'm going to be sitting in on an interdisciplinary, team-taught course on The Tempest, which will culminate in a production of the play in mid-October by the traveling Shakespearean troupe, Actors from the London Stage. The class will meet for eight Tuesdays, in the late afternoon (4:30-6:30); there are EIGHT professors co-teaching it, drawn from English, Communications and Theater, and Classics. And . . . we are going to get to ACT OUT SCENES! And the Actors from the London Stage are going to help us with our scenes! And even the one non-student auditor, ME, will get to be in one of the scenes!

Yesterday the class met for the first time. After a helpful introductory presentation on Shakespeare and Shakespearean theater, we did a warm-up exercise to get us started as budding actors. We each had one line from one speech in the play, Prospero's speech that begins:

This blue-eyed hag was hither brought with child
And here was left by the sailors. Thou, my slave,
As thou report'st thyself, wast then her servant;
And, for thou wast a spirit too delicate
To act her earthy and abhorr'd commands,
Refusing her grand hests, she did confine thee,
By help of her more potent ministers
And in her most unmitigable rage,
Into a cloven pine; within which rift
Imprison'd thou didst painfully remain
A dozen years; within which space she died
And left thee there.

My line was "And in her most unmitigable rage."

We ran through the speech together many times. First we just read it, each of us reading his or her line in turn. Then we read our line exaggerating whatever punctuation was given. We read our line adding emphasis on one particular word. We read our line while walking randomly around the room, so that we wouldn't have the clear cue from the person standing next to us. We read our line while stamping our foot on the emphasis word. We read our line in a volume exercise so that the speech would begin in a whisper and end in a shout. Most fun of all, we read our line as we thought a bad actor would, with plenty of excessive emoting and melodramatic gesticulation.

Now, when the performance of the play takes place eight weeks from now, I will be in a quiver of anticipation to see what professional actors will do with MY LINE. I can't wait to hear "And in her most unmitigable rage."

I'm always looking for lessons in everything I do that I can apply to writing and to life. Certainly yesterday I learned how much punctuation matters to the ear of the careful reader. I learned how much dynamics - modulations of volume - add to a scene. Most important, I learned how freeing it can be to be given permission to speak a line badly. Some of our bad acting was pretty good. Or at least gave us ideas for how to make our acting better.

O brave new world that has such a class in it!

1 comment:

  1. What a challenging line to recite with clarity, meaning and emotion! I'm sure you were splendid, Claudia.