Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mary had a little iamb, little iamb, little iamb...

Today I made my first foray into performing Shakespeare - reading it and loving it is one thing, but to someone used to modern english and very slight variants of that, memorizing and reciting iambic pentameter is a little like asking a baker to make you sashimi.

How if, when I am laid in the tomb,
I wake before the time that Romeo
come to redeem me? There's a fearful thought!
Shall I not, then, lay stifled in the vault,
and there die strangled ere my Romeo comes?
Or, if I live, is it not like,
the horrible conceit of death and night
together with the terror of this place,
as in a vault, an ancient receptacle,
Where bloody Tybalt, yet but green in earth,
lies festering in his shroud;
O, if I wake, shall I not be distraught,
Environed with all these hideous fears?
And madly play with my forefather's joints?
And, in this rage, with some great kinsman's bone,
as with a club, dash out my own desperate brains?
O, look! Methinks I see my cousin's ghost
seeking out Romeo that did spit his body
upon a rapier's point; stay, Tybalt, stay!
Romeo, I come! This do I drink to thee.

I typed that from memory, which is a good start, seeing as how memorizing it was like trying to swallow a brick. This is (obviously) from Romeo and Juliet, Act 4 Sc 3, and I'll be using it to audition for Othello in a week or two.

In response to my desperate plea for help in memorizing and performing Shakespeare (since I'm an inexperienced little thing), a friend of mine wrote: "I do laps around my kitchen island for hours. Don't fight the verse, it may seem alien at first, but let it come naturally and you'll get the flow of it. Shakespeare is very good to actors."

It's only fitting that I'd been unconsciously pacing around my dining room table while reading the thing for an hour or so. :P I'm not alone in strange habits. Yay.

Once I got decent chunks of it memorized this morning, I realized that there is a funky little rhythm I have to feel out, which is unusual and different for someone who's never had that kind of poetry in the words I've performed. Where I would normally pause and feel out the moment, I have to just plunge onward, keeping the rhythm steady and the pentameter happy. Michael had it right when he said "don't fight the verse," because that's what I'm instinctively doing, at the moment.

Practice should fix my resistance, and I must say when I get a segment right and I can feel it, it's really very smooth and wonderful. With a dash of luck and some serious work before the 8th or 9th, maybe I'll land myself my first Shakespearian role.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What is sadness?


You decide whether their tears are real or not - they came up with the tears upon request of the photographer, but stage tears come from somewhere. Sadness is real, whether or not the situation is.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Finite Incantatem

The sensation of utter completion doesn't really come to me after a show is over. Not immediately. The satisfaction and glow that comes from a successful run is a remnant of the energy pulsing from the stage and life of the show, which is almost like a honeymoon phase of the post-show experience.

About an hour and 15 minutes ago it felt like a slab of concrete hit me in the face when the total realization of completion hit me. It's not a totally satisfying feeling - it's a hollowness, a lack of direction. What came before this? What did I do? What was I going to do? I'm happier that it happened, but now that it's over that first shimmy into the next phase of life is always a little uncomfortable. It's like waking up, and waking up isn't always pleasant.

My face is in the process of recovering from a week of make-up abuse, and my hair won't forgive me for raping it with hairspray for quite a while, I'm sure. My back aches, my feet itch to move, and my voice feels trapped. It's an addiction, this stage thing. Cold turkey ain't good for nobody.

School's on the way, and I've got plenty to keep me busy once that starts up. It's getting there in the next few weeks that will prove to be the challenge. There should be a reset button in my head to help the breakaway process go a little faster.

There's monologues to learn, schoolbooks to break the bank, supplies to be packed, people to say goodbye to. Curtain's down for the summer, but I'm so glad that it went up in the first place. Exit stage left, here we go. Next stop, New Haven.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Recently I was talking theatre with a good friend of mine (what else is new?) and I showed him Paul Cuneo's blog, specifically his posts on how to create the illusion of pain onstage, and he was so intrigued that he went one step further and emailed the man himself. Here's the exchange as it was shown to me, and I thought it was just brilliant and needed to be shared. Thank you V, and thank you again Paul Cuneo - your work is just awesome.

A friend of mine sent me your series of blogs on the illusion of pain the body and it really interested me. I am going to be a BFA Acting student at Marymount Manhattan College this fall and have much to learn about the craft so I enjoy every chance I get.

Right now I am playing the part of Mercutio in Romeo & Juliet with the local professional Shakespeare company. We are half way through our run (two weekends), and I was wondering if you could give a few words of advice on extreme pain. I've obviously been indicating to try and create the illusion that Mercutio is going through hell just before he dies and I was wondering if the rules bend or change in this situation.

Please and Thank You -Victor


Hi Victor!

Thanks for writing and for checking out my blog. The handling of the illusion of extreme pain is no different from the handling of the illusion of any other type of pain onstage. You still have to find out what ACTIONS a person performs--in this case--when he is stabbed. You'll need to do some research into what a person goes through when he is stabbed. You will discover there are actions a stabbing victim performs (I don't know what these are, as I have not had to play this).

Suppose you learn stabbing victims tighten their stomach muscles as a reaction to the trauma. Let's say you also learn that a stabbing victim also breathes faster, in an attempt to give the body the extra oxygen it needs to deal with the trauma. Now you have two conflicting actions: tightening the stomach muscles while trying to breathe faster. Now add to this the other actions Mercutio must play (to curse Romeo and Tybalt, to regret his choices, to hang on, etc.). Now add the thoughts of a man who believes his best friend has just betrayed him. Now add the love he feels for his best friend. Put all of this together and you will not need to indicate pain. All of this will produce real frustration in you, real anxiety over trying to do (to perform, to act) what Mercutio is trying to do in the last moments of his life.

The secret to it all, Victor, is knowing what you must DO. As actors, we don't act LIKE we're doing something; we REALLY DO IT. Don't act LIKE you've been stabbed, PERFORM THE TRUE ACTIONS OF A MAN WHO HAS BEEN STABBED. YOU MUST RESEARCH THIS.

I will also add that you must not try to play the victim. When you writhe around in fake pain you give the audience a victim, when what they want is a victor. Try not to die. Don't let your enemy have the satisfaction of knowing the kind of extreme pain you're in. Fight. Try to get things done in your last breaths. Try to accomplish something, some last noble act. The audience knows you're in pain. They saw you get stabbed. Trust this and perform the actions of a dying man who has been stabbed, indeed, a man who has been stabbed by his enemy and betrayed (he believes) by his best friend.

You should watch "Delores Claiborn" starring Kathy Bates. There is a scene within the first 1/3 of the movie that is a flashback. Kathy Bates is in the kitchen, and her husband takes a thick piece of wood and beats her with it. Instead of Kathy indication pain, she tries to get things done. She avoids her back muscles. Because she doesn't have her back muscles, she leans on the table for support. Her daughter comes down, so she fights off the tears. The tears are real, Victor, but they're not the tears of back pain because Kathy Bates is not in back pain. The tears are from the extreme sadness she feels over having been treated so badly by her imagined husband. There is no indicating, Victor. Kathy Bates is brilliant in this moment, in that she does not indicate pain but finds the truth and PLAYS ACTION. THE AUDIENCE WILL FILL IN THE REST.


Paul Cuneo
The Movement for Actors Blog
Faculty, Stella Adler Studio, L. A.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Saturday, August 1, 2009


[If I knew, I wouldn't have to keep it.]

School will start back up in about a month, and I'm kind of excited, actually. I miss my friends from school a whole heck of a lot, and I'm excited to continue establishing my position in the theatre department. One show got me critical acclaim, a theatre vacation, some serious callbacks, and a boatload of respect - I can't wait to see what this year can do for me.

But before all that can happen BACK TO THE 80's is going up next weekend. I have every intention of blowing the roof off of that building, single-handedly if I must (though I would rather do it by simply blasting the audience out of their seats with the awesomeness of the whole cast), and rocking this establishment.

This summer has been a lesson in stamina, dance, and breath support. I will never listen to Walking on Sunshine the same way again. I will never half-ass any physical movement onstage ever again. I will make every second onstage as awesome as if it were my last time being onstage ever.

And Dragonheart is a totally badass movie, in case anybody was wondering.