How do we hear the whole story and not just the pieces? How do we integrate the word with the action? The impulse with the blocking? The objective with the light cue? One acting course with another?
Integration and the “whole story” are often on my mind, especially when teaching and mentoring actors and directors. It is also on my mind now because I have been asked to write about some administrative help I provided PAC in the summer of 2011. I am helping to develop and edit course descriptions, learning outcomes, and the mission statement. (This essay was Philip Cuomo’s idea, by the way.)
So . . . how will I integrate my passion for the spoken word with written academic documentation? Well, I am going to try. Because couldn’t I find some way of integrating what I am learning from hearing the “whole story” of the PACtwo-year program with what I have heard from my own mentors? And couldn’t we all listen more specifically and thoroughly to the whole story—the whole play?
Mentors often seem to help us see the whole picture, and Andrew certainly did that for our company, and for me. He is perhaps best known for his consulting work on the film Shakespeare in Love. In our first phone conversation, he asked this general question about language in theatre: “What does ‘word’ mean to us now? We always have to start with that when approaching any text, classical or modern.” That is a question I think we should all be asking ourselves continually—how do we live through those words now? Whether they are a Jane Austen adaptation, dear reader, or the latest Durang. Since Andrew’s residencies (he returned to work on our Hamlet in 2007), I often ask students, “What is your relationship to language?” This is important to consider because it often determines how we respond to the play we are rehearsing. It can, I believe, open up the entire play instead of reducing acting work to an isolated character.
Cis and Andrew are Voice Directors—rather like fight choreographers, in a way, but experts on words instead of swords. They like to work with the ensemble, opening up the text of a play together. They don’t just sharpen verbal dexterity, they engage the imagination. Group work on text helps cast and director listen and enter deeply into that specific world which each play’s language creates. In revising and formulating documents related to the disparate courses in the PAC program, I realize how each course is like a scene linked to another course or scene. Movement and Voice play off each other; units of action in Acting One must be sketched out using Text Analysis but must also come from the character’s Viewpoint. If my mentors were working at PAC, how would they support and help integrate students’ work? As Voice and Speech teacher, how can I help students integrate these ‘scenes’ into a whole curriculum?
In other words, how many strained metaphors can I integrate into one essay?
|Ralph Fiennes, one time Isbsen-ite|
So as I ponder my own mentorship role in the PAC two-year program, as I continue editing academic documents which deepen and broaden my understanding of all the courses the students take, I encourage you, dear reader, to ponder this: how are you using language to create character, wherever you are in your career? How can you use the text to integrate your work into the larger world of the play? Are you stuck in your approach? Are you content with a Physical approach? Psychological? Personality-based?** Are you utilizing tools you learned in Voice and Speech class? All the tools you learned from all your mentors? Or are you only hearing your own voice, alone?
**Paraphrased from Harriet Walter’s acting book, Other People’s Shoes. A great read for young actors!