In his second blog post Keith discusses the importance of knowing a character's intention, his thoughts on Demetrius and getting a sneak preview of audience reaction by performing to tour groups.
Transcript of Podcast
We’re now starting to tackle the play in much more detail. Mike [Alfreds, Master of Play] is pushing us to find our character’s intention, and to approach each scene wanting something. Having this intention will help us in engaging and playing with the other characters on stage. This will be especially useful for me when I first come on (Act 1 scene 1), as I only have one line, and I need to maintain a focus throughout the scene.
Using characters’ intentions will also help us with our voice work. Mike is very keen for us to speak naturally, as opposed to declaiming the lines like a bad actor, but it will take some time for us to adapt to doing this in the Globe space. The key is to use our chest voice, which resonates best and carries furthest in the space. If we shout, and use our head voice, the sound gets lost more easily.
One of the dangers you face when staging a production, especially when it’s a Shakespeare play, is that the action can become very static, with actors standing around on stage doing nothing. In contrast, we’re being encouraged to make the action flow, so what you see on stage is continuous movement. In this, the fairies are especially important. For example, in Act 2 scene 1, when Titania and Oberon meet on stage for the first time, they both come on stage with their trains of fairies. Instead of having the two teams of fairies watch their master/mistress argue, we’re moving around the stage with them, creating shapes and obstacles with our bodies, and occasionally lifting them up in the air. When it works, it’s absolutely fantastic, and beautiful to watch. It highlights an important point about the fairies; they are light, airy creatures, but they’re not "pretty" characters that just stand at the sides.
We’ve had a little time to work in the Globe itself, and tours or Globe Education groups come into the theatre whilst we’re on the stage. I really enjoy it when they’re there; whenever anyone on stage begins to speak they totally ignore their tour guide and give us their full attention! I like playing a few lines at them, to see how they react; it’s like a sneak preview of how the audiences might react this summer. For each rehearsal on the stage, different members of the crew sit in different areas around the theatre, so we can experiment with delivering our lines to different parts of the theatre. This is giving me a lot to think about, as, although we discover a lot about our characters and about the play in rehearsals, it only really comes alive when we get it into the space.
I had a solo session with Mike [Alfreds], and we decided that Demetrius’s ‘super-objective’, his overall intention, if you like, is to get his rightful way. He is a very strong character, the sort of guy who might have gone to military school, and he has a very strong set of beliefs. The difficult thing is that, although in this way he is a very constant character, during the course of the play he keeps changing his mind. Having said that, each time he does so, he means it! The other interesting thing we’ve discovered is that, of the four lovers, Demetrius seems to be the outsider. When Lysander is telling Hermia of his plan to elope in Act 1, scene 1, he reminds her of a place in the Athenian Woods:
"…a league without the town,
Where I did meet thee once with Helena,
To do observance to a morn of May…"
(i.1, ll. 165-167).
Lysander doesn’t mention Demetrius being there that morning. Perhaps Helena introduced Demetrius to Lysander and Hermia as her boyfriend at a later time? This is all purely hypothetical work, just to help us develop our characters, but the text certainly suggests that Demetrius doesn’t know Lysander and Hermia as well as Helena does. This has also helped to explain the apparent distrust between Demetrius and Lysander.
We are also exploring the physical side of Demetrius, how he moves. Mike [Alfreds] uses a lot of Laban techniques [Rudolph Laban was a Hungarian Dancer who studied how people moved in all situations, and developed his own theory of movement]. These techniques involve using a series of physical actions to explore a character’s emotional states. Demetrius is very strong and certain of both himself and what he’s doing. In many ways he’s similar to a businessman, who goes into a meeting and says "this is what I want, and this is how I want it done." I think Demetrius is like that; he says what he wants and expects to get it.
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.