Friday, October 3, 2014

"Shakespeare at the speed of thought" - Guest Post by Tonya Lynn

For this week's post, we've asked one of our talented troupe members to write about her experience with the Unrehearsed Cue Script Technique.  Here are her thoughts:

“Seat-of-your-pants Shakespeare.”

“Shakespeare at the speed of thought.”

“The actor’s nightmare…gone right.”

These are some of the ways I’ve caught myself describing the unrehearsed Shakespeare technique to my theatre friends and colleagues in the past few months since having my first performance experience with it this past summer as a cast member in The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project’s production of Comedie of Errors.
First of all, the production was extremely physical, and one of the most high-energy productions of Shakespeare I’ve ever been involved in.  As a physical actor myself, this is right up my alley (I’ve been training in stage combat with the Society of American Fight Directors for over a decade, have trained in film stunts with the United Stuntmens’ Association, and am also currently studying movement theater and mime).  With all actors in the production actively attempting to “suit the action to the word,” every physical moment and action can have clarity of intention that I crave as a physical actor.  As a safety-conscious fight choreographer and stage combatant, I was quite relieved to learn that choreography is the exception to the “unrehearsed” rule—all the configurations of possible combatants learned the show’s choreography prior to the performance, and we had fight calls before every performance.  Safety first!
Also, by necessity, all actors are actively listening to every word spoken on stage – this enforced “active listening” creates an ensemble atmosphere where every person/character on stage has a personal investment in the scene as it unfolds.  Regardless of the quantity of text an actor may or may not be speaking, everyone on stage is listening equally – and that creates a depth of commitment to the scene across the board that is hard to find.  There is also an urgency to the performances fueled by adrenaline and a bit by pride – pace is important to the unrehearsed technique, and no one wants to be called out by the prompter for slowing down the performance.
I’m no stranger to Shakespeare.  I have a MA in Theatre History, and as an actor and fight choreographer I have more Shakespeare on my resume than more contemporary work.  I’ll admit that familiarity and facility with speaking Shakespeare’s poetry and prose is a bit of an advantage when working in this style – especially at the workshop level, where the actors are performing “scenes-from-a-hat” style.  A full  unrehearsed production levels the playing field– the opportunity to do text analysis with the director on every word assigned to a given actor, ensures that everyone can have a full understanding of their text  (and the cues and clues within it) prior to the performance.  I’m still thankful to the teachers who had me start reading Shakespeare aloud in high school, regardless, because it’s exhilarating to face the challenge of applying the unrehearsed technique on the fly!
In the interest of full disclosure, my first experience with the unrehearsed technique was actually as an audience member a couple of years ago—several friends and colleagues were involved in an unrehearsed production, and I went to see what the buzz was all about.  Through the haze of memory, I remember most the energy of the production, the chemistry of the ensemble, and how positively green with envy I was that my friends were having so much fun on stage.  Fast forward a few years later, and now that I’ve had the opportunity myself, I can confirm my experience has indeed been exhilarating, challenging, a little bit terrifying, and also…fun.  I highly recommend giving it a try, from both the actor and audience perspective!
- Tonya Lynn
The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project

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