"Speak what we feel" King Lear Workshop at the Adobe Globe Theatre

I think most theater artists would tell you that some of the best theater comes out of adverse circumstances. 

Philip Henslowe:
Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.

Hugh Fennyman:
So what do we do?

Philip Henslowe:
Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.

Hugh Fennyman:

Philip Henslowe:
I don't know. It's a mystery.

When we loaded our props and costumes in to the Adobe Rose two days before opening, it became apparent that reconfiguring the seating to suit our blocking was not going to happen. We had rehearsed a thrust stage performance with four entrances/exits. We were facing a kind of curved proscenium. With no functional upstage in or out.

In such situations, the mind leaps to problem solving mode: We could.... no, that won't work. We might.... yes, yes, wait, that won't work. And so on. Until a solution is finally hit on.

In this case the solution made a virtue of necessity. There would be no entrances and exits. The cast would sit in lines against the back diagonal curtains and make their appearances and changes in full view.

We would have worked it all out in dress rehearsal. But we lost time when it happened that we lost our lighting technician. For a show that depended on lighting to indicate place and blocking (we were going very bare-bones on the set - we had a throne, a chair to blind Gloucester in, and a small table) not having our light cues as we charged up the learning curve of a re-blocked show seemed disastrous.

How will it turn out well? 

I don't know, it's a mystery!

I ran the lights that night myself (not my area of expertise) and so had to schedule another time to come in and finish the dress/tech. This time we had a lighting technician but not all the actors. We refocused lights and tweaked cues as best we could then went home and communicated as much as possible to the cast via email.

Maybe it's having a nearly full house and knowing you're up against terrible odds that sharpens the senses, quickens the mind and spirit, and makes you work at peak capacity. Whatever it was, everyone rose to the occasion. 

On the first night, there were some logistical hiccups, but performances were alive and vibrant. Unbelievably, by the second night the actors had relaxed into the environment and new parameters and were delivering those incandescent moments of wide awake theater that come from a deep familiarity and engagement with what you're doing.

I sat up in the tech booth running sound and watching in awe.

Well done, Crows!

Fully conscious Shakespeare at the Shakespeare Gym!

The informal performance for friends and family of the Shakespeare Gym took place last night. The audience was small (to the relief of participants, who were nervous enough as it was) but appreciative. By the end of the performance, I was sorry that we hadn't had a packed house.

With only three actors (and a participating director) it was necessary to divide the first act into 3-4 person chunks, with the actors changing character on stage. Sound cues and lighting, run by Upstart Crows Joy Farkas and Zoe Marriner, helped smooth the transitions.

The three participants had spent close to 12 hours going deeply into the text of King Lear, Act 1, Scene 1. They knew where every irregularity in iambic pentameter occurred, they had uncovered all the implicit stage directions that the meter and rhetoric provided, they'd experimented with different ways to physically interpret those cues, and they'd developed some highly informed ideas about what is going on in that amazing first scene of Lear.

All of that was on display Sunday night as each gesture and vocal inflection expressed what was found in those hours of discovery. The performances were a revelation for actor and audience alike. The post-show party turned into a kind of talk-back with the actors/seminar on the scene and the play. A very good time was had by all!