Monday, April 29, 2013

Bardland

Picture uploading facility is currently unavailable because...well I don't know it just isn't working, which is a shame because I would like to show off some pictures of my beautiful Birthday present from Cristi - a dress from her and her sister's fashion line from Mexico, Reloaded.

Until I can do pix, here is something amazing that is my new favourite thing.
This website www.stateofshakespeare.com has a series of podcasts talking about, yup, Shakespeare - it's hosted by my first semester acting teacher the mighty Jim Elliott, another of my all-time heroes and a total rockstar, and another chap called Garrett Vandemeer.

I am listening right now to the Dan Daily episode because Mr Daily (he, unusually for AMDA, has his students call him Mr Daily until they reach fourth semester when they may call him Dan, however I got 'Mr Daily' drilled so firmly in that I cannot bring myself to call or even refer to him as Dan even though I have now graduated).  It is really fun to sit here and listen to Mr Daily's voice - I frickin love this man (you may have noticed I am in total awe of all four of my acting teachers.  TOTAL AWE) and he has such very clear wisdom on Shakespeare - everything he is saying in this podcast is a lovely refresher course of Mr Daily's Shakespeare for Dummies - 'figure out the ideas that are in the text, they are right there, and Shakespeare's characters say what they mean or if they don't they tell you what they really mean, stop overthinking it you pretentious wannabes'.  There is this thing where people go IT'S SHAKESPEARE WE HAVE TO MAKE IT AS COMPLICATED AS POSSIBLE.  And he's like 'nah - just read it'.
I also really like what he says in this podcast about Falstaff being all about pleasure, hedonism, chicanery - other things that get forgotten about when people think of Shakespeare in lieu of Hamlet and intellect and, well, soliloquising.  It's FUN! These people were out for fun and debauchery
And listen to that voice! And how much tiiiime he takes.  This is KEY.  The first assignment we had in third semester was to, overnight, memorise and perform Julius Caesar Act III Scene 1, Marc Antony's speech
'O pardon me thou bleeding piece of Earth
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers' et al
Funny story - so we were given this task on day 1, and day 2 11.30am class we are thrown into the fire.  I'm lucky in that I am very good at memorising things, somehow, so being word perfect was not a problem, and in fact I was the only person that was, so I should have recieved the only 'A' grade (no mistakes = A, 1 = B, more = fail) however I had inadvertently broken Mr Daily's dress code on three counts so he disqualified me - I remember the look on his face, he just had no idea what to make of me.  I think that lone incident probably sums me up just about as well as anything ever could!
(There were subsequent redemption rounds, and one final performance for the real grade.  I will break my bragging rule because this is the cool end of the story -one of my proudest moments at AMDA was when everyone had taken their turn and Mr Daily said 'Tessa's was without question the best' and that it would have been perfect if I had corrected one particular American Standard sound.  At the end of the class he turned to me with another confused look and said 'so, you can really do some stuff? See, when you get it together...' and know what? Third semester acting was probably the hardest I've ever worked on anything so, I'm going to say that I got it together!)
Anyway...wow massive detour...the reason that I nailed that performance day was because I did the speech over and over and over and over in my room - I did it lying down to allow my breath to drop low thus releasing tension and drawing in resonance.  I did it line by line, repeating and repeating.  And I did it sloo-oo-owly.  People who know me well know that I don't run slowly - my brain and speech go about a million miles an hour and it is really hard for me to slow down because it sounds and feels unnatural to me and my thoughts are still galloping ahead.  Somehow, Shakespeare makes it easy cos the words are full of these big sounds - 'bleeeeeeding piieeece of eeeeeaaarth'.  And that is the key I think because then it sounds like real thoughts are coming out of your mouth, you leave space, you actually have the thought contained in the next line and then you say it out loud.  And that is human speech, more so than a lot of contemporary writing that may be obscure and edgy and choppy with unorthodox punctuation (Neil LaBute I'm looking at you) but it's not pre-programmed to be human speech and tends to lend itself to what Mr Daily scornfully refers to as 'interesting line readings'.
Wow this is just tangent city - in short, Mr Daily is awesome and listen to how slowly he goes and how much it sounds like Falstaff is taking a break from his usual busy schedule of bawdiness and carpe diem to contemplate 'honour'.  That man got me to speak slowly. 

So I waxed lyrical about Mr Daily, since this is Jim's podcast I feel that I should cover Jim too.  As aforementioned, he is a rockstar.  If Mr Daily got me to slow down, Jim got me to STOP BITING MY NAILS and STAND STILL.  These guys should have been called when I was a child.  Also Jim told us in first semester that he teaches for sheer love of teaching - he took a teaching job and just fell in love with it.  He also loves directing and, clearly, the Bard.  In his class I very much appreciated his dry wit and no-holds-barred attitude to telling us what we should fix.  Or to be more accurate, how we could think more like an actor and figure out for ourselves what to fix.  My entrance monologue for AMDA was from Twelfth Night and it was not Viola it was Olivia.  And in one of our first classes he had us perform our entry monologues for him, just because.  I'm dead glad I did the one I did because 1) Only Shakespeare of the class.  2) Not the most common one from that play.  (I know that there are more challenging monologues for women in other Shakespeare but I'm glad that at the time I knew my own strength and could deal with the one I chose at a basic level of proficiency - some of the female monologues in Shakespeare are almost too badass).  So we had something to talk about in that class and have been best friends ever since (in my imagination).

I have used more quotation marks, parentheses and Shakespeares than anyone should acceptably (just made that up) use so I have to stop before I become nauseous.

Just...listen to the State of Shakespeare, k?

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