Today, three students and I attended the last of our Shakespeare workshops for this semester. This time, we met at the Three Stages Theater at Folsom Lake College. This is a really incredible theater. There are three stages (for varying types of performances and audience size), a recording studio, a costume workshop, and a scene workshop. Unlike Mondavi which specializes in touring performances who bring their own sets, costumes, etc., Three Stages puts together shows from scratch. Having toured Mondavi several times, it was interesting to take a backstage tour of a very different theater.
After some warming up that involved moving around and learning a few names, we split into groups of six. In turn, each group came to center stage. They were given a description that they had to create a tableaux of in 3 seconds. Working together, we created tableaux that demonstrated girlishness, war, nervousness, exhaustion. By having us react in 3 seconds, it forced us to go with our guts. By getting us up in front of each other right away, it helped any nervousness disappear.
We then turned our attention to Taming of the Shrew. We were divided into two groups: men on one side of the room and women on the other. Using lines from 2.1 of the play (where Petrichio and Kate meet), we began to play with dialogue. For example, the gentlemen amongst us as a group would say the line “Good morrow, Kate; for that’s your name, I hear.” They decided to say it in unison while walking purposefully towards the line of females playing Kate. It was up to the women to respond with “Well have you heard, but something hard of hearing: / They call me Katherine that do talk of me” in a way that showed just as much purpose.
After a brief break, we came back and worked with iambic pentameter. We were each given a balloon to blow up. After a brief review of iambic pentameter, we looked through Petruchio’s speech (just prior to meeting Kate), and selected a line to learn. First, we practiced by ourselves, saying our line aloud and hitting the balloon to keep it up in the air each time we got to a stressed syllable. Then we took this show on the road. One at a time, we were asked to do the same line, but instead of standing in place to push the balloon across the stage. What this did was forced us to emphasize the stressed syllables. It also helped us not to become quiet with the last word.
Now, an actor isn’t going to get on stage and say their lines entirely in iambic pentameter. What meter does is help you to understand what words are important and should be stressed. So in
And woo her with some spirit when she comes,
I might decide that woo, spirit, and comes are important for the meaning of the line. The line then becomes
And woo her with some spirit when she comes
when acting it out on stage. Balloons in hand, we said our lines now emphasizing the important words.