In her fourth blog post Ann discusses developments in the Wedding scene [IV. 1], two rehearsal exercises with chairs and practicing on the stage.
Transcript of Podcast
We’ve done some more work on the wedding scene over the last week. We rehearsed it with everyone else – including Hero's waiting women – and that changed things because suddenly I had to take new people and their points of view into consideration. When we first ran it like this, I was quite disturbed by the presence of the women, because I felt that they were suggesting that Hero was innocent and they seemed to be protecting her physically. That made me think that I had to prove that she wasn’t innocent – trying to prove that to people who actually believed in her innocence gave the scene a different dynamic.
I rely on Hero most of all to get through that scene. The way we’d been playing it, I looked up to Don Pedro a lot and there were points in the scene when I relied on him and on his brother. In terms of how we’re playing it now, however, a lot of what I receive comes from Hero as opposed to everyone else. I think Claudio relies on Hero quite a lot in terms of how he feels, and what he does. I rely on what I know and what I’ve seen, with prompting and stability from Don Pedro. I also have to rely on Don John a bit more because it's his words that convince us, after all.
Sometimes Claudio gets criticised for believing Don John's story so readily. I think from the audience's point of view, there's a whole scene that we don’t see. I don’t actually believe Don John easily in Act three, scene three. I say what I’ll do if Hero has cheated on me, if Hero is a strumpet, but I’m not convinced that she is disloyal at that point. Don Pedro describes what happened to convince us later on [IV.185-92] and that's so important because it shows the audience what we actually saw. Don John doesn’t just come in and say ‘Hero is unfaithful’ and we don’t just agree, ‘Yeah, she is.’ We have to be convinced that she is and that's the scene the audience don’t actually see, except for the description. I think my reaction to Don John's initial allegation is quite fast. I’m quick to say I would shame her, but that's an instinct: because I feel so strongly for her, it's as though at that moment I’m thinking ‘I love you so much I hate you!’
Yesterday we worked on Act five, scene one. Don Pedro and I find out that Hero's dead and then learn she's innocent in an emotional scene that's mixed with high comedy, and I think that mix of tones is deliberate. It's a device. I think the comedy and the tragedy should be equally strong, and they should stand up next to each other so that the audience could see both. It would be awful to come down heavily on either side; they should stand side by side because the contrast wouldn’t be there unless it was useful. I’m hoping that the way we play the scene won’t favour one thing over the other. It's a bit like this exercise with two people and two chairs; one chair is empty and one person sits down, really happy. Another person comes in really sad and sits down, and then they look at each other. The person who was happy takes on the sadness and the person who was sad takes on the happiness, and it's hilarious but tragic at the same time. It's so funny, but it's so sad to see the person who is now sad. I think the scene is similar. It shows two opposites: you see how funny it is and you see how sad it is at the same time. Like when people sometimes laugh at funerals: they laugh, they stop, then they start again.
Another useful exercise
We did a different chair exercise involving rhythm that was good. I had to stand on a chair on the second beat of each line and on the final beat of each line. It was quite focusing; it helped give direction to what I said and it also helped to place things. There were lots of chairs set out and certain chairs meant certain things. One chair meant love and one meant war, so when I talked about either love or war, I went for the corresponding chair. The chairs took on associations with different feelings, as everything does – for instance, I think of my University and I have different feelings than when I think of my Drama school. So that exercise was quite helpful. We’ve also been working on verse with Giles [Block, Master of the Words], looking at thought-patterns and how long they are, as well as the way the lines end. You can find out a lot about what's going on with a person just by highlighting the word that they finish on.
We’ve been onstage again for a voice session with Stewart [Pearce, Master of Voice]. This time we tried out different volumes, scaled from one to ten. Speaking on stage, ten is the ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen’ sort of level that you need to do that kind of oratory. Level one is much softer. Some of us went out into the different galleries to hear the others whilst they tried out different volumes. The idea is that you can still be heard when you speak at level one, but you communicate something different with that volume than you do with volume ten. We weren’t necessarily appealing to ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen’… it's more intimate speech, though everyone in the galleries can still hear you.
These comments are the actor's thoughts or ideas about the part as s/he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his/her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsal process progresses.