Saturday, December 31, 2016

Learning to Love Bill

When I was first exposed to Shakespeare, I was not a fan. To me it felt too far beyond me to grasp or fully appreciate and I was instantly bored. Perhaps I was young and dumb but something about reading through “Midsummer” in high school left me confused and uninterested. As someone who had aspirations to be an actor, this was unsettling. Weren't all decent actors supposed to inherently understand and love the Bard?

It wasn't until I had the chance to get up on my feet and perform it out loud that I started to love it. Suddenly the whole thing began to make sense to me and it was fun. Something about seeing real, live people embodying these words and working through the story made something click. Shakespeare became a vastly important tool for me to understand both the mechanics of a play and also what my role as an actor was at any time on stage. I started to see how the author had crafted this work to have clues for performers within the text explaining how to play a character, how to be positioned onstage, and even how to set a pace and mood.

In college I had many opportunities to stretch my muscles and explore my relationship with these works. One defining moment was participating in a workshop held by the Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project on Cue Script Technique. We learned about rules within the technique to establish character, motivation, stage movement, among other things. This was a big eye opener to me as to what was actually possible within the performance of Shakespearean texts. I feel personally that artists can be most creative when they have a set of parameters that they have to work within. It forces us to think outside the box and work harder, which I feel always yields the best results.

After school, I moved to Pittsburgh and began to dip my toes into the theatre scene. Before long I was fortunate to be cast in a production of Much Ado About Nothing and the following year in A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet. These summer productions are very grueling and difficult but always extremely rewarding both for us and our audiences. Working with the Unrehearsed Cue Script Technique is very demanding, I like to think about it as exercising for the acting muscle. It requires constant focus, quick thinking and a ton of energy. They also give performers more freedom with the loose style and ability to play different roles for each show. However the hard work pays off time and time again when each audience receives an entirely unique and direct experience allowing them to feel included. I feel the real power behind this technique is that it shakes up people's expectations of Shakespeare and allows them to hear these historical works with fresh ears.

When the performers are so in the moment it allows the audience to be more present and work with the actors to find the meaning of what is going on. The audience becomes another character, participating and living the story, and in doing so allows them to feel more connected, both to the story and the entire production, which should be the goal regardless. Theatre is about community and sometimes in our present culture, that idea can be lost amongst the glitz and glamour.

I am more than excited to be starting a new chapter with this great company. While working with this company, I have learned so much and made many good friends. I now want to use what I have learned to grow in my personal discovery of what my role in this business is and also to see what I can do going forward. I'm also very eager to inspire the love of Shakespeare and theatre in others just as I was inspired.

-Nick Benninger, Resident Ensemble Member of The New Renaissance Theatre Company


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Mac and Me

In its 4th summer tour, The New Renaissance Theatre Company’s Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project will offer me the opportunity to direct my favorite play by William Shakespeare and one with which I have a great affinity: The Tragedie of Macbeth.

The first experience that I had with Shakespeare was in 5th grade when my teacher introduced us to the witches’ scene: ‘Double, double, toil and trouble.’ It was Halloween and my teacher thought is was appropriate. For some reason the very politically incorrect lines ‘nose of Turk and Tartar’s lips’ always struck me. These are the first lines of Shakespeare that I ever memorized.

In high school, my first Shakespearean role of was Banquo. We wore the girls’ field hockey uniforms in lieu of kilts. I’m pretty sure that Macbeth and Macduff were cast because they had red hair. Should I never have a career in the theatre, I know why.

Professionally, I have performed in 2 productions of the play. During the first one, we had consistent difficulties with the lighting system and during one show it failed completely and we performed with the house lights on (in my opinion, the best show of the run). It was during the second production when I was first recognized in the subway in New York City. That’s something one does not forget.

Not only do I think this script offers some of the best drama, language, imagery and moments in theatre, but I am excited at applying the unrehearsed cue script technique to this play. Whenever we use scenes from Macbeth in workshops the results are examples of just how well the technique works in creating stage pictures and characters. There are some wonderful demonstrations which prove that just by following the rules of the technique actors can deliver exciting and unique interpretations of well known scenes that are familiar to spectators with even a passing knowledge of the works of Shakespeare. I think our audience will receive some pleasant surprises.

Every time I read the script I am struck by something new: a new image, a new thought about costumes, lighting or staging; a new take on a moment or character. My ego tells me that sometime in the future I will have a career defining production of this play. Peter Brook had his ‘Dream,’ I will have my Macbeth.

This will also be the first play that USP will bring to the stage that has major parts written by a writer other than Shakespeare. Large swathes of the script are attributed to Thomas Middleton. Gary Taylor, the distinguished scholar and professor at Florida State University has even included Macbeth in his anthology, Thomas Middleton: The Collected Works. (The impact, if any, that this may have on the effectiveness of the technique will be discussed in another blog post.)

USP’s production will offer everyone involved, myself included, an entertaining and fresh look at this play (I obviously have some baggage connected to Macbeth). Letting go and letting the technique do the work will be a refreshing way to experience a play with which I am very familiar. Most of all, I am looking forward to strengthening my relationship with this play I’ve known for almost 30 years.

- Andy Kirtland, Co-Founding Managing Director of The New Renaissance Theatre Company (which also produces The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Father Figures in Romeo and Juliet, Part 3: Frier (or Father?) Lawrence

Here is the third installment of my look at fathers in The Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet, and this time we will visit Frier [sic] Lawrence, the ghostly father. He is a surrogate for the seldom-seen Lord Montague as well as the spiritual father of both feuding families. In many ways, he has a greater effect upon the children of the play more than the heads of the families.

Upon his first entrance Frier Lawrence immediately holds forth about the properties of herbs and teaching the audience from his vast experience with nature.

O mickle is the powerfull grace that lies
In Plants, Hearbs, stones, and their true qualities:
For nought so vile, that on earth doth live,
But to the earth some speciall good doth give.
Nor ought so good, but strain'd from that faire use,
Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse.
Vertue it selfe turnes vice being misapplied,
And vice sometime by action dignified.
Within the infant rind of this weake flower,
Poyson hath residence, and medicine power:
For this being smelt, with that part cheares each part,
Being tasted stayes all sences with the heart.

This lesson about Mother Nature is a metaphor about Human Nature and the responsibility of each person to use their virtues to enrich the world, or else these virtues will turn to vice and destroy each one of us. Montague, Capulet nor the Prince make such an attempt of fatherly caution on their children, subjects or the audience. Capulet barks orders to his family and the Prince makes demands. Frier Lawrence also seems to have offered Romeo advice on women, and bemoans the fact that he was ignored.

Holy S. Francis, what a change is heere?
Is Rosaline that thou didst Love so deare
So soone forsaken? young mens Love then lies
Not truely in their hearts, but in their eyes.
Jesu Maria, what a deale of brine
Hath washt thy sallow cheekes for Rosaline?
How much salt water throwne away in wast,
To season Love that of it doth not tast.
The Sun not yet thy sighes, from heaven cleares,
Thy old grones yet ringing in my auncient eares:
Lo here upon thy cheeke the staine doth sit,
Of an old teare that is not washt off yet.
If ere thou wast thy selfe, and these woes thine,
Thou and these woes, were all for Rosaline.
And art thou chang'd? pronounce this sentence then,
Women may fall, when there's no strength in men.

…………………………………………………………………for loving Rosaline.
For doting, not for loving pupill mine.

…………………………………………………………………me bury Love.
Not in a grave,
To lay one in, another out to have.

…………………………………………………………………did not so.
O she knew well,
Thy Love did read by rote, that could not spell:

He assumes the role of tutor to the young Montague, showing him how to be a good man, a good lover. These are conversations that should take place between father and son, but Montague, through his lack of attention (created through a lack of stage time) never gets to have these moments of instruction with Romeo. Perhaps this is an illustration of a situation in which the son cannot talk to his father about these things, through embarrassment or lack of communication, but this would just be conjecture.

Lawrence’s lessons seem to have worked because the next time he returns to the stage, he is ready to marry Romeo and his new love. Again, the first thing that he offers is a word of caution.

These violent delights have violent endes,
And in their triumph: die like fire and powder;
Which as they kisse consume. The sweetest honey
Is loathsome in his owne deliciousnesse,
And in the taste confoundes the appetite.
Therefore Love moderately, long Love doth so,
Too swift arrives as tardie as too slow.
Here comes the Lady. Oh so light a foot
Will nere weare out the everlasting flint,
A Lover may bestride the Gossamours,
That ydles in the wanton Summer ayre,
And yet not fall, so light is vanitie.

At this moment, he becomes a father to both Romeo and Juliet in a more concrete way. Through this marriage, he seeks to mend the feud between the Capulets and Montagues, a feat the heads of those families have been unwilling or unable to do. This is the most civic-minded action of the play. The secret wedding, overseen by Lawrence, is the only attempt to quell the strife that has been tearing Verona apart. Capulet says that he does not believe it should not be a difficult task, but aside from stopping Tybalt brawling with Romeo at the family festival, neither Capulet nor Montague do anything concrete to achieve this objective. Capulet’s proposed marriage between Juliet and Paris are more to secure his daughter’s position and that of the family – but would it have benefited Verona?

This man of the church could hope for no other gain than the well being of the polis, the community that he served, his flock, his children. This is the role of a Father, and a role that only he assays to fulfill.

When Romeo is in trouble, he runs to Lawrence for protection, not to his family. Here, Frier Lawrence has the chance to expresses tough love in his efforts to reconcile his son’s secret marriage with his public murder.

Art thou a man? thy forme cries out thou art:
Thy teares are womanish, thy wild acts denote
The unreasonable Furie of a beast.
Unseemely woman, in a seeming man,
And ill beseeming beast in seeming both,
Thou hast amaz'd me. By my holy order,
I thought thy disposition better temper'd.
Hast thou slaine Tybalt? wilt thou slay thy selfe?
And slay thy Lady, that in thy life lies,
By doing damned hate upon thy selfe?
Why rayl'st thou on thy birth? the heaven and earth?
Since birth, and heaven and earth, all three do meete
In thee at once, which thou at once would'st loose.
Fie, fie, thou sham'st thy shape, thy love, thy wit,
Which like a Usurer abound'st in all:
And usest none in that true use indeed,
Which should bedecke thy shape, thy love, thy wit:
Thy Noble shape, is but a forme of waxe,
Digressing from the Valour of a man,
Thy deare Love sworne but hollow perjurie,
Killing that Love which thou hast vow'd to cherish.
What, rowse thee man, thy Juliet is alive,
For whose deare sake thou wast but lately dead.
There art thou happy. Tybalt would kill thee,
But thou slew'st Tybalt, there art thou happie.
The law that threatned death became thy Friend.
And turn'd it to exile, there art thou happy.
A packe or blessing light upon thy backe,
Happinesse Courts thee in her best array,
But like a mishaped and sullen wench,
Thou puttest up thy Fortune and thy Love:
Take heed, take heed, for such die miserable.

Again, it is Lawrence who thinks clear enough to come up with a solution that, in his estimation, will keep Romeo safe, rejoin Romeo with his wife and reconcile the feuding families. His plans are sweeping and forward thinking, unlike those of Capulet.

Still as these plans unravel, he plots for reconciliation. Upon finding Romeo dead, his next idea is to keep Juliet safe but ushering her into a convent. Capulet, on the contrary, threatens his daughter as opposed to securing her. Once this course of action is thwarted by Juliet’s suicide, Frier Lawrence, sacrifices himself and tells all:

I am the greatest, able to doe least,
Yet most suspected as the time and place
Doth make against me of this direfull murther:
And heere I stand both to impeach and purge
My selfe condemned, and my selfe excus'd.

Of all the men in The Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet, Frier Lawrence exhibits the most characteristics of a parent, of a father figure. His concern is for those in his care, not for himself, and he treats them as such. At no point does he look exclusively for his own safety, but his attempts are to enrich others. He teaches. He offers succor. Maybe Shakespeare is trying to make a comment that the church is the real father of a community. In any event, the one character in the play who has dedicated his life to not having his own children is the only character in the play that makes a concerted effort to look out for them.
-          Andy Kirtland, Co-Founding Managing Director of The New Renaissance Theatre Company (which also produces The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project)

Thursday, August 4, 2016

7 Life Lessons I Learned from Unrehearsed Shakespeare - Guest Post by Katie Trupiano

One of our awesome actresses from our 2016 Tour wrote a wonderful blog post on her site ( and we loved it so much that we asked to share it on our Blog!

I’ve been trying to work out exactly what I've been doing for the past three weeks as I've worked on the Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project with the New Renaissance Theatre CompanyIt's hard to put into words because quite frankly, most of the performances are fuzzy messes in my brain.  But I knew I wanted to blog about my experience so this is the most coherent I can be about it for now (a week after we've closed the show).  

 1. Sex jokes are always funny.  

And Shakespeare is the king of sex jokes.  

 2. You will mess up.  Do so loudly and proudly.

This was/is the most difficult for this type-A actor to swallow.  I like to be super prepared when I walk onstage and I try to be the best scene partner I can be for my colleagues.  USP encourages you to be prepared and be a good scene partner, but when your Shakespeare script is only seven pages long for a two hour show, you're limited in what you actually have control over.  And in fact, messing up is part of the technique, because it happens all. the. time.  And the audience loves it!  And as a teaching artist, I encourage my students to fail on an almost daily basis.  So this experience was a healthy dose of my own medicine.  And it was fun.  In case you didn't know, failure IRL is not always fun and you won't always be cheered when you cry out for help, but exercising your failure muscles certainly do ease the sting. 

3. Don't just sit behind the scenes.  Go out and see what's happening around you.

USP encourages the actors to go out in the audience and watch the show when they have a moment.  Ten minutes between your scenes?  Go watch the show for a while!  I think that the theater world can be intense because we all get caught up in this idea that we have to be busy all the time establishing our careers.  "What are you working on now?  What's next?"  I DON'T KNOW I JUST WANT TO STAY AT HOME WITH MY WINE BOTTLE AND HUSBAND OKAY?  We have to remember it's okay to step back and be a human and be in the actual world instead of just the world of your play (which is glorious and wonderful, but so is the actual world!).  Go see your friend's play.  Go see the new art exhibit.  Travel.  Meet someone new.  These experiences will only enhance your performance the next time you make an entrance.
4. Sometimes you just need to have a dance break. 

5. If you want someone to do something, say so.

If you know me personally, you know I can be "bossy."  If you don't know me personally, I can be "bossy."  Part of this stems from my only-child-syndrome and the other part of this comes from my love of reading feminist articles that tell me to speak up for myself.  The awesome thing?  Shakespeare's characters are bossy, too, and they get it done.  #work.  Oberon wants his changeling boy?  Boom.  Tells Puck what to do.  Quince is directing a play?  Boom.  Tells the mechanicals where and when to rehearse and how to do it.  It's okay to speak up for yourself and it's okay to ask someone to help you.  We should, in fact, be doing more of this.

6. And listen when someone tells you to do something.

When those directions get thrown at you, you do it.  You support your friends and help them out, or else you make them look like a fool (which is, sometimes, a choice).  We all have those moments when we're not fully listening.  I probably say to someone once a week, "I heard you, but I wasn't listening to you."  (Hey, at least I'm honest!).  During USP, I was the best listener ever!  I was waiting for those hints, waiting to be told how to help my scene partner.  Fun fact: People are dropping these hints all the time about how we can help them and if we listen carefully enough, we can support them.

7. Suit the action to the word.  

AKA: practice what you post/preach, walk the talk, do as you say, etc, etc, etc.  This idea has never been more important to our current world, and resounds loudly in my head allllll the time.

Thank you so so so so so much to everyone who came out to support this production.  You all are wonderful.  If you missed it, there's going to be an abbreviated performance at Britsburgh on September 10.  In the meantime, go see some awesome theater that is happening in Pittsburgh this summer!!!   

- Katie Trupiano

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project - Guest Post by Marceau Deschamps-Ségura

Here is Marceau Deschamps-Ségura's follow up blog post to his earlier 'A Most Expected Journey (to Shakespeare!)' about his time visiting Pittsburgh (from Paris) and working with Elizabeth Ruelas & Andy Kirtland of The New Renaissance Theatre Company's Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project.  Marceau took part in our Unrehearsed Cue Script Technique two-day workshop with the rest of our cast and had text sessions with each of the directors - all as part of his PhD Studies at Université de Poitiers. 

           This time with Elizabeth Ruelas and Andy Kirtland was a great pleasure, and I think I learned a lot working with them. The first thing that struck me was the way they manage to build a team within the very short time of the workshop (only two days!). Almost all of us were meeting for the first time, and they now are going to perform the two plays this month, with no more rehearsals together than fight rehearsal. That capacity of team-building is very precious for that kind of form which aims to go very deep very fast: deep into Shakespeare’s words, deep into theatre, and deep into each of the actors. I am more used to long rehearsal periods or of group work, and that kind of hurry was very refreshing and life-affirming! Yes, we can do great things in just a short time! And Shakespeare might be a great example to have in mind for that!

            The way Elizabeth Ruelas and Andy Kirtland directed us was very interesting for me, too. We had both a lot of work and a lot of fun. They managed all the time to be friendly and firm. They made it very precise what we were working on, and how much time we would have for that, but they would smoothly change their plan if they saw that any of us would need it, so I had the feeling we were taking our time despite the swiftness. They were really driving us to the places they wanted to, but in the same time paid a lot attention to each of us during the process. I hope I will take the benefits of that experience, as a director.

            Concerning the Cue Script Technique itself, the experience overcame the theory of it. The feeling, as an actor, to be on stage, looking for my cue, and paying attention in the same time to the movements, the stage directions given by the text, is an essential part of acting, for me. It increases the attention the actor pays to both the text – its details, how it works, and how to make it obvious and thrilling for the audience – and the stage, that is to say the space, one’s own place, and the relationship to the other actors and the audience. Most of the qualities necessary to improvise are there and make the play very vivid, build the actors’ and the audience’s pleasure; those qualities meet the qualities of text-theatre, with the secure presence of a great author’s words and story to help them to elaborate a great moment. Indeed, the Cue Script Technique makes it understandable how Shakespeare’s plays came to be so efficient, in spite of their complexity, and with such a little time of common rehearsal – if any – they had. It is now obvious for me that I couldn’t set, nor read, an Elizabethan play without paying a great attention to those points we worked on: each actor’s having only his own part; the cues, and the author would use false or repeated cues to trick the actors, and make them feel as the characters do; suiting the Action to the Word and the Word to the Action; the way the verse is used to understand the emotional state of the character, thanks to irregularities in the number of beats; how the actors crossing the stage and addressing directly to the audience makes the action lively and clear; the information the First Folios might give about the pronunciation and action. During the text sessions, all of those points were made very clear, as well as the plenty of puns and references Shakespeare would spread in his plays, and that Elizabeth Ruelas and Andy Kirtland were qualified to explain. Moreover, these two directors would give us the tools and methods to plainly understand our roles, in order to perform it with pleasure and matter; each of them having his and her own personal approach of Shakespeare through these common rules. Eventually, the main thing I will retain from that experience, is that to enable the audience to get the complexity of Shakespeare’s texts, their subtle or trivial puns and simple or tangled story-lines, the first thing to do is to make those plays as entertaining as they used to be. And that can be an efficient way to do it thanks to all of those rules and codes that would be used at the moment they were written, just as Elizabeth Ruelas and Andy Kirtland do with the New Renaissance Theatre Company and the Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project – bringing in their own point of view, humour and fantasy.

- Compte-rendu de Marceau Deschamps-Ségura

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Part Two of The Teaching, the Directing, the Passion

Here is the continuation of my first blog post ‘The Teaching, the Directing, the Passion' about my recent studies at Shakespeare’s Globe Directing Masterclasses.  I took pages of notes, but wanted to distil them all into a one paragraph summary for each of the two days of classes.  Although this post is brief, I hope it will inspire you to keep learning about whatever subject thrills you.  As Albert Einstein said: ‘Once you stop learning, you start dying.’
Day 2, Sunday:
Today mostly took place in Sackler Studios (as did some of Day 1) as well as in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.  Our first class of the day was with Sarah Case for ‘Voice.’  This lovely woman led us through some vocal exercises and helped to integrate the importance of breath and voice.  One of my favorite quotes from Ms. Case was ‘Breath is everything - it drives the voice.  Without breath you have no voice.’  This is so important in Shakespeare.  There are many long thoughts and some difficult passages, so if your diaphragm isn’t properly supported – you won’t be able to give them justice.  We also got to ‘Breath the Space’ in the playhouse, which was making sounds and saying lines from various places around the space.  This is a very good exercise for getting actors to work together as a company, which is precisely what we want to achieve with our ensemble at The New Renaissance Theatre Company.  Too soon, it was time for lunch, and I wish this session could have gone on for a bit longer, of course.  After lunch, we met with Simone Coxall for ‘Movement in Theatre’, which was amazing!  For the classes this weekend, we focused on The Tempest Act 1 Scene II.  Ms. Coxall helped us to get grounded to the floor and used the brilliant analogy of imagining ‘roots growing from our feet into the floor.’  We did a lot of exercises to help us delve into the three main characters of the scene: Prospero, Caliban and Ariel.  Eventually, we used all of our work from the beginning of the class to bring the text to life.  I have such a problem getting out of my head, but Ms. Coxall inspired me to have fun and to ‘not be afraid to fail.’  This class split its time between the studios and the playhouse like the Voice class, as well.  In the playhouse, we really got to explore movement as the three characters on the stage – using every bit.  She also taught us to ‘not play the obstacle, but do what you need to do to overcome it.’  Towards the end of our session, I even got to portray Prospero in a bit of movement work with a fellow classmate as Caliban.  It was so much fun to play! 

Finally, class was over (sadly) and we all met with Rob Swain for ‘Plenary’ and to tell him what a wonderful experience this was for us.  I really hope I get the opportunity to work with them all again.  The Higher Education Team were so kind and helpful.  After some hugs and goodbyes, I zipped over to the line for Groundlings with my ticket for A Midsummer Night’s Dream in my hand.  This was Emma Rice’s first production as The Shakespeare’s Globe new Artistic Director.  I wasn’t going to miss that!

-Elizabeth Ruelas, Artistic Director of The New Renaissance Theatre Company (which produces The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project)
Pictured below: My traveling companion Balzac near the entrance to The Globe Theatre & Sackler Studios

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Teaching, the Directing, the Passion

I recently had the extremely good fortune to be ‘hand-picked’ to take Directing Masterclasses at Shakespeare’s Globe in London.  I met such brilliant, warm, wonderful people in my instructors and my fellow classmates.  It’s reignited my passion for directing and teaching so much that I want more!  So, here is just a very tiny bit of how my too brief weekend of Globe classes went:

Day 1, Saturday:
Introductions with Rob Swain brought us into the beautiful Sam Wanamaker Playhouse where I pulled out my notebook to begin taking notes.  The lovely actor Dickon Tyrrell was our instructor for ‘An Actor’s Perspective’ where he told us what it was like playing in this beautiful space as well as in the Globe theatre.  He said the mistake an actor could make in the indoor playhouse was ‘going too intimate’ and that actors should ‘play it like you’re in the Globe’.  Then we were given an extensive tour of the playhouse from Hell to the Heavens!  I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Tyrrell’s advice about how ‘Shakespeare is the director’ and that there is ‘no generalized emotion in Shakespeare’.  As a Historically Informed Practice director myself, these are the same things I tell my actors, as well as my students in the workshops that I teach.  Then we met with director Jacqui Somerville for ‘A Director Prepares,’ who taught us about how important a support system is.  I couldn’t agree more.  We also learned Ms. Somerville’s process for her preparation and research and how she works with directors.  One of my favorite things that she said was: ‘Don’t spoon-feed actors. Empower them.’  So inspirational!
After lunch, we met with Simon Dormandy for our ‘Text and Language’ course.  Such a fun discussion with my fellow Shakespeareans!  One of my favorite quotes from Mr. Dormandy was ‘If it’s difficult to say, don’t make it easy.’  Going back to what Mr. Tyrrell said earlier in the day about how ‘Shakespeare is the director’:  Shakespeare puts the character in the language.  If your character is given a difficult line to say – there’s a reason for it.  Perhaps your character is confused, conflicted or not sure about what he/she is saying.  Don’t try to ‘fix’ the line.  Just say it and see what happens.  Then we got into text and pauses and got to get on our feet to work on lines.  I was fortunate to read a bit of Olivia from Twelfth Night aloud using what we had learned. 

Before we knew it, class was over.  But all of us directing students wanted more. Shakespeare and directing is our passion!  Being able to learn from some of the best practitioners around was such a blessing and I wish (as did we all) it could have been longer.  Luckily, there was one more day of learning, which I’ll write about in my next blog post: ‘The Teaching, the Directing, the Passion Part II.’
Stay tuned!

-Elizabeth Ruelas, Artistic Director of The New Renaissance Theatre Company

PS: Attached are a couple of photos of my trip with my travelling companion Balzac (who you may remember from Andy Kirtland’s blog post last year: ‘A Labour of Love, or There and Back Again’) with more photos & my tweets during the weekend via #EtoGlobe.

Friday, April 22, 2016

A most expected journey (to Shakespeare!) - Guest Post by Marceau Deschamps-Ségura

This month's post is by Marceau Deschamps-Ségura, who is visiting us from Paris, France to attend our upcoming Unrehearsed Cue Script Technique with our tour cast as part of his PhD studies at Université de Poitiers:

I first met Andy Kirtland and his work with Elizabeth Ruelas on Shakespeare during a lecture day about Love's Labour's Lost at the École Normale Supérieure in Lyon. He presented the Unrehearsed Cue Script technique, and what it revealed about the play.
The interest of their work immediately struck me: using what we know about Shakespeare and its original practices seem to me a great way to find out some secrets of his texts, in order to make them efficient and powerful onstage. Andy's exposé clearly showed how the actor was informed by the stage situation and action, and how Shakespeare used the codes and practices of his own time to increase his actors' presence.
As an actor, I am very curious to experience that way to perform the text, to play with it, and to find out the clues Shakespeare left in the actors' parts to trick or help them. I am curious of the awareness, the calm and the truth it seems to demand to the actors, and that I am trying to develop each day.
As a young director, in our artistic and economical context, I really look forward exploring a different way to think about the theatrical process. Indeed, putting the focus on the stage situations, the relationship between the actors and with the audience, keeping very attentive to the here and now so as to play with it, all of these things appear to me as main qualities for an actor to have, which make the great quality of a play, and the pleasure of its audience. Moreover, I like the efficiency it implies about theatrical process: the actors are always playing, creating, exploring, from the first time they meet until the end of the tour. It's not about preparing something to give to the audience, but properly creating something singular and unique, directly under their eyes and thanks to their reactions. The whole path of creation is worth being shared, and it is interesting sharing it from its first days. I love the dream-come-true aspect of directly performing a play, in a brand new place, with brand new actors and brand new audience, without the usual inertia we often think necessary.
As a dramaturge and a PhD student, I am impatient to witness and experience on my own a historically informed technique which, I don't doubt it, will help me understand Shakespeare's plays patterns, mechanisms, atmosphere and spirit, and to make it echo with my own research about its original practices and contemporary adaptations. It is such a pleasure to me when the works of the scholars escape from their books to rush on the stage, and when the experiments of artists contribute to the reflection about what has been done and what can be done!

At last, I am really impatient to meet a couple of passionate, demanding and popular artists and their team, trying to bring to everybody a "new" way to hear those plays, as lively and frolic as they might have been, four centuries ago.

-Marceau Deschamps-Ségura

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Father Figures in Romeo and Juliet - Lord Capulet

What follows is a second part of a larger piece that I am working on regarding the roles of the parents in The Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet. Earlier I looked at the role of Prince Eskales as a possibly fatherless father figure. Here we will take a look at the strongest of the patriarchs depicted in the play, and see how his role effects the tragedy of the young star-crossed lovers.


The Capulets are probably the best-illustrated family unit in the entirety of Shakespeare’s theatrical canon. We have scenes between the parents and child. We see intercessions by the household servants who are like family. There is a variety to this family that makes them human, if not entirely likable. How then does this environment contribute to the tragedy of the play?

Lord Capulet speaks the first line almost every time that he enters the scene. He comes on speaking which puts the attention on him. When the Prince speaks privately to the fathers after the opening brawl, he takes Capulet away with him first. Paris, the Prince’s kinsman is wooing Capulet’s daughter. Capulet holds a feast. Capulet’s family has a large crypt. In the context of the play the Capulet family is given importance over the Montagues. The first words in the play are given to the Capulets. Lord Capulet is the strong, authoritative father figure in this tragedy.

The character is not drawn as a bad father. He protects his family. When the audience discovers that the Countie Paris wishes to marry Juliet, we first see Lord Capulet putting him off, telling him to wait because she is too young. At his great feast, he speaks well of the party-crashing Romeo, the son of his great rival and is able to keep the peace when Tibalt demands satisfaction for this insult. It is only when Tibalt is murdered that Capulet begins to force the marriage on his only living child in order to ensure her safety and the family’s prosperity, making him appear a monster in the eyes of his daughter, and a villain in the hearts of the audience.

‘Mountague is bound as well as I, / In penalty alike, and 'tis not hard I thinke, / For men so old as wee, to keepe the peace,’ he states. There is an acknowledgment of his role as a leader, due to his age and authority. However, he quickly tempers this authority with a father’s care for his daughter: ‘But wooe her gentle Paris, get her heart, / My will to her consent, is but a part, / And shee agree, within her scope of choise, / Lyes my consent, and faire according voice.’ He does not treat Juliet as chattel, and shows true care and tenderness in these lines regarding the dispensation of his daughter.

The first time we are given any exchange between Lord and Lady Capulet is after Tibalt’s death when Lord Capulet does an about-face and agrees to quickly marry Juliet off to Paris. He sends his wife to their daughter to make the case. Herein we have a glimpse as to why this concerned father is made out as the baddie in this youthful love story. This is the first time we see Juliet and her father interacting, and he cannot understand why his daughter is not agreeable to his plans. Of course, she is unaware of how he has been protecting her up to this point.

How, will she none? doth she not give us thanks?

Is she not proud? doth she not count her blest,

Unworthy as she is, that we have wrought

So worthy a Gentleman, to be her Bridegroome

…………………………………………………………………is meant Love.

How now?

How now? Chopt Logicke? what is this?


Gods bread, it makes me mad:

Day, night, houre, ride, time, worke, play,

Alone in companie, still my care hath bin

To have her matcht, and having now provided

A Gentleman of Noble Parentage,

Of faire Demeanes, Youthfull, and Nobly Allied,

Stuft as they say with Honourable parts,

Proportion'd as ones thought would wish a man,

And then to have a wretched puling foole,

A whining mammet, in her Fortunes tender,

To answer, Ile not wed, I cannot Love:

I am too young, I pray you pardon me.


Here is much abuse thrown at Juliet by her father. He calls her ‘green sickness,’ ‘carrion,’ ‘baggage,’ ‘tallow face,’ ‘disobedient wretch,’ ‘wretched puling foole’ and ‘whining mammet.’ He threatens her: ‘I will drag thee, on a Hurdle thither,’ ‘My fingers itch,’ ‘you shall not house with me,’ ‘Ile nere acknowledge thee.’ His authority is lost with these insults and threats, showing instead a father whose work for his child is unappreciated. In his eyes, Juliet has no idea what machinations he has been dealing with on her behalf. Perhaps it is the very fact that he has been working without her knowledge that has put this rift between them. In Capulet’s next scene, this rift seems to be closed.

How now my headstrong,

Where have you bin gadding?

…………………………………………………………………rul'd by you.

Send for the Countie, goe tell him of this,

Ile have this knot knit up to morrow morning.

…………………………………………………………………bounds of modestie.

Why I am glad on't, this is well, stand up,

This is as't should be, let me see the County:

I marrie go I say, and fetch him hither.

Now afore God, this reveren'd holy Frier,

All our whole Cittie is much bound to him.

…………………………………………………………………there's time inough.

Go Nurse, go with her,

Weele to Church to morrow.

…………………………………………………………………now neere night.

Tush, I will stirre about,

And all things shall be well, I warrant thee wife:

Go thou to Juliet, helpe to decke up her,

Ile not to bed to night, let me alone:

Ile play the huswife for this once. What ho?

They are all forth, well I will walke my selfe

To Countie Paris, to prepare him up

Against to morrow, my heart is wondrous light,

Since this same way-ward Gyrle is so reclaim'd.

The cues here, ‘rul’d by you’ and ‘bounds of modestie,’ combined with Capulet’s responses show that Juliet has come to her senses and that as far as he is concerned, ‘This is as't should be.’ He is so happy that he offers to stay up worrying: ‘Ile not to bed to night, let me alone: / Ile play the huswife for this once.’ Having completed his duties has a father, he will now take on the role of the mother.

However, this joy is short-lived. After a few small exchanges, Capulet’s cue lines tell him all he needs to know:

…………………………………………………………………helpe, call helpe.

…………………………………………………………………shee's dead.

…………………………………………………………………O wofull time.

The death of his daughter throws him into despair, and he grieves, for his child.

Death that hath tane her hence to make me waile,

Ties up my tongue, and will not let me speake.


O Child, O Child; my soule, and not my Child,

Dead art thou, alacke my Child is dead,

And with my Child, my joyes are buried.

In his grief he does not look for solace with his wife. His lines are given to unspecified persons, or directed to his thwarted son-in-law, Paris. At this most painful time for him, the death of his daughter (of course, we in the audience have satisfaction that Juliet is not dead, and at the same time, the knowledge that she does not see this honest tenderness that her father expresses for her: another instance of the tragedy of miscommunication between father and daughter), he is alone in his suffering.

In the play’s final scene, Capulet makes several references to family. He refers to his own family by their relationship to himself, again calling Lady Capulet ‘wife’ and referring to ‘our Daughter’ and ‘my Daughter[ ]’ rather than using their names. Then surprisingly he refers to ‘Brother Montague.’ Now, with the death of both of their children, they can be brothers. They are of one generation and can understand each other.

By eventually forcing the issue of Juliet’s marriage to Paris, Lord Capulet pushes the tragedy along its path. Had he continued with the compassionate care of his daughter, letting her choose whom she liked, he still may not have allowed the marriage of Romeo and Juliet to continue, but we can only speculate on alternate endings. What is clear through the text is that there is very little meaningful communication between father and daughter in the Capulet household, a strengthening of which may have avoided quite a bit of bloodshed.


As work continues on the prompt book and through text sessions with the cast of The Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet for NRTC’s upcoming production as part of our Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project’s 2016 tour, more will be unearthed regarding the parents and parental figures in the play and how the generation gap effects the course of the play.

-Andy Kirtland, Managing Director of The New Renaissance Theatre Company (which produces The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project)