Reading Shakespeare can be a daunting task, but it can also be an exciting way to challenge yourself. For the past few weeks, we have been reading some of Shakespeare’s plays and every time we tackle a new play, my confidence grows. If I am in any way worried about understanding the language; I won’t be able to. It is amazing how fast normal English words can turn to gibberish. But I have realized that if I relax and let the language come through, it all makes sense. Shakespeare was a genius; everything you need is right there, I don’t need to add anything to it. When I let the language speak for itself, I can finally see the humor or the passion in his writing. All I need to do is take myself out of the equation, and let Shakespeare be the Bard!
I recently heard Wynton Marsalis speak about the importance of Improvisation.
“It teaches self-acceptance and personal pride through developing your own unique sound. It teaches you to identify and investigate your own emotional identity through truthful self-analysis, contemplation, introspection, joy, love, sorrow, weakness, and pain. All through searching for something meaningful to play in our own language.”
He was speaking in the context of music – but this lens gives me a fresh look at how to to approach Improv in the theater sense. Maybe part of fleshing-out my character, is finding (and accepting) my own language and identity.
There are so many things I love about acting- becoming a character, relating to other people through that character, and giving everything to a story that isn’t my own. But, once I give myself fully to the character, I realize the hard part is getting out of it.
At the end of last month, our group (the Elements Apprentices), put on a showcase of the play Proof by David Auburn. I had the pleasure of playing Catherine, the brilliant daughter of a mathematician, who believes she is going crazy. At the beginning of the rehearsal process I felt like “Catherine” wasn’t coming across, but towards the end I felt much more connected to her. When we finally did our two performances, I felt like Catherine and I were the same person. I felt schizophrenic and literally crazy. I felt like I had really become the character. So, when it was all over it was very hard to transition out of being Catherine, and go back to being me. What was the character and what was me? For days afterward, people would ask me if I was still being Catherine, and I realized I was acting a lot like her. Was I still being her, or had I moved on, back to normal life? I think the only conclusion I can make is, I connected with the character and the borders between her personality and mine were blurred. Now, I need to say goodbye to Catherine, and move forward, as myself.