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