Tag Archives: Shakespeare

Diderot, Garrick, King Lear

ROACH: Yes, well Diderot comments on that in the Paradox of the Actor, which you alluded to a moment ago. It was a demonstration of facial physiognomy, of control over the face and its expression, that paralleled a pianist playing scales. Garrick started on one emotion, and then ran his face through nine distinct emotions, recognizable, stopped, and ran his face back down through the same sequence, but in reverse, just as you would play a scale on the piano.

BOGAEV: Wow. And these two screens are kind of like a frame, a picture frame or a door frame?

ROACH: Yeah, they’re like a proscenium to frame his face. So it was just the face coming through. And that—to your point about did he need a full-body posture or movement to work his magic—the answer is as long as it was close enough, he could do it with his face alone.

BOGAEV: So, talk about a rubber face. So Diderot, as you say, wrote these passages in the Paradox that he attributed to Garrick and Garrick’s voice. He has Garrick talking about acting and also about the type of person that an actor should envision himself portraying, and he talks about an ideal man, as opposed to playing oneself. Garrick says that if you play only yourself, you’ll be a crappy actor, a mediocre actor.

ROACH: Yes, yes. That’s exactly…  You’ll be mediocre. It is a being that you imagine, that you bring into being, by the force of your creative imagination. And when you think of it, it’s an extraordinary thing to, as it were, give birth to a human being who’s not yourself, but the distillation of all that you have observed and remembered and felt, and then can recombine to put it into the two hours’ traffic of our stage.

BOGAEV: Can you give us some examples of where you see this in action?

ROACH: Diderot…

BOGAEV: For instance, he did Lear.

ROACH: Yes, yes. So that would be a good example because it was one of his most famous and successful Shakespearean roles. And he left a note behind, it was actually to the French when he was giving his parlor exhibition of Lear, and he explained how he came to his understanding of the crushing tragedy of Lear’s loss of his daughter. Garrick had heard tell of a madman who was kept confined in a private home nearby where Garrick lived, and he got permission to study the gestures of this madman, which consisted of an impassioned reenactment of a terrible event. And again and again and again, this poor man would go over this, a traumatized memory that he kept repeating and repeating. Evidently, he’d been holding his child in his arms on an upper story window while a parade went by outside, and he lost his grip on his little girl, and she fell to her death in the street below. His tragedy was reenacting this. Garrick had the insight that this was the Lear action. Garrick would reenact this madman’s gestures and then coolly step back and say, “Thus it was I learned to imitate madness.”

Joseph Roach interviewed by Barbara Bogaev
Shakespeare Unlimited

https://www.folger.edu/shakespeare-unlimited/joseph-roach-acting

Hamlet as improv part …

Hamlet is a tragedy where there is a part left open, as a part is left open for an improvisational actor in farce. But here the part is left open for a tragedian.

He is fundamentally bored, and for that reason he acts theatrically. The play is written entirely out of spite against actors, and by its nature the role of Hamlet cannot be done by an actor. An actor can act everything except an actor. Hamlet should be played by an actor brought in off the street, and the rest of the characters should be professional actors. The point about Hamlet is that he is an actor and you can’t act yourself. You can only be yourself.

W. H. Auden, Lectures on Shakespeare

Rosalind on travel, As You Like It

ROSALIND. A traveller! By my faith, you have great reason to be sad. I fear you have sold your own lands to see other men’s; then to have seen much and to have nothing is to have rich eyes and poor hands.

ROSALIND. Farewell, Monsieur Traveller; look you lisp and wear strange suits, disable all the benefits of your own country, be out of love with your nativity, and almost chide God for making you that countenance you are; or I will scarce think you have swam in a gondola.

As You Like It, Act 4, Scene 1

Thinking Shakespeare

Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 82

How do actors breathe life into Shakespeare’s texts? How do they take language that’s centuries old and make it sound so real and immediate?
Barry Edelstein, the Erna Finci Viterbi Artistic Director at The Old Globe in San Diego, is one of the nation’s most experienced Shakespeare directors. Twice a year, The Old Globe holds an event called Thinking Shakespeare Live! – a master class where you get to watch actors act and Edelstein direct – in essence, pulling back the curtain on the rehearsal room.

 

EDELSTEIN: It depends on the guy playing Marcellus doing a take after you say, “The air bites shrewdly.” So, your listeners will have to imagine that in the beat between the two halves of the line that the other guy is looking at you with a look of perplexity on his face and then you’ll get it. Go ahead.

BOGAEV: “The air bites shrewdly.”

EDELSTEIN: Huh?

BOGAEV: “It is very cold.”

EDELSTEIN: Oh. Right, so that’s, right he doesn’t say “huh” and he doesn’t say, “oh,” but there you go, that’s the idea.

BOGAEV: [LAUGH] Well, I can see it.

EDELSTEIN: Very good, see that’s it, you’re now a Shakespearean actor because we are asking ourselves, “Why am I talking this way?” And it’s never good enough to simply say, “Well, because it’s a Shakespeare play, and that’s how Shakespeare writes.” In the rehearsal room we’re trying to create human reality.

BOGAEV: So, it is this marriage of “Why am I saying these words now?” and “How is the language built?” because this is how you organize your master class, and your teaching, and I think we just talked about heightened language. You also include in these four categories “antithesis.” Now remind us what antithesis in rhetoric is.

EDELSTEIN: Antithesis is… sure. Antithesis is the big, big, big, big thing of Shakespeare. That’s the technique that he relies on really most. And antithesis is very simply opposition.