Shakespeare's Globe

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It takes less than two months from the time the actors first meet together with the director to read through the script, until the opening performance.

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It takes less than two months from the time the actors first meet together with the director to read through the script, until the opening performance. After six weeks of rehearsing in a rehearsal room, Mark and his company members moved to the Globe stage for a week of technical rehearsals. During the tech rehearsals at the Globe, the actors rehearse their blocking, or set movements, making changes if necessary to adjust to the Globe Stage. They also wear their costumes for the first time, practice any quick changes and use performance rather than rehearsal props. The actors may also assist with scenery changes, although most Globe productions use minimal scenery. This is a time for the director and the cast to work out all the technical aspects of the show so that it will run smoothly in performance.

The transition from the rehearsal room to the Globe Stage presents many new challenges for the actors. Once they begin rehearsing on the stage, the actors may have to readjust their blocking and the way they interact with one another. An actor might discover that a scene, which felt very intimate and truthful in a small rehearsal room, feels completely different once the actors are on stage.

Because of the way the Globe stage is designed, there are particular aspects of working in the space that Mark must also be mindful of e.g. the area between the pillars is a ‘dead’ area, but the corners of the stage are positions of strength. Mark has also been told that the ‘live’ areas of the stage are the long diagonals, which cross from one corner of the stage to the other.

Probably the most significant aspect of moving to the Globe stage for Mark is having an audience surrounding him on three levels during the "Friends, Romans, countrymen" speech in Act 3 Scene 2. For the first time he can address the audience in the Globe as the crowd in Rome whereas in the rehearsal room he had to ‘imagine their responses’. In this speech Mark finds that there is a fine line between ‘not letting the audience get ahead of him’, and yet not ‘plowing though it’ so quickly that the audience ‘feels excluded’. He is impressed by how intelligent the Globe audiences are and how they ‘pick up’ on the many ironies in the play. After the first performance of Mark and his fellow cast members realised that they were actually moving too slowly for the audience. Since that performance, Julius Caesar's running time has decreased by almost half an hour.

Another major challenge for the actors when they move to the stage is to integrate all the technical elements of the production into their acting.

During earlier rehearsals, Mark was able to immerse himself in exploring Mark Antony's needs and actions, but during the production week he has to be think about ‘business’ like: adjusting his blocking and voice, timing entrances and exits, and completing various costume changes (often quickly). When Mark moved to the stage he had to concentrate on projecting loudly enough for every member of the audience to hear him clearly, while still maintaining a ‘realistic’ vocal quality.

During the run of the play all the actors continue to take voice classes at the Globe and participate in a group physical and vocal warm-up before each performance. An actor warms up his/her voice much the same way an athlete will stretch his/her muscles before a game to get them ready to work and to prevent injury. Mark must take care of his voice especially because of the demands of an outdoor performance space like the Globe. If an actor does not properly warm-up he/she risks loosing his/her voice temporarily and doing permanent damage over time.

There are two fight scenes in Julius Caesar and Mark and his fellow actors rehearse the fights before each performance. The reason for this is so that they know their choreography ‘backwards and forwards’ and so no one gets hurt. Mark believes that the final performance is the ‘marriage’ of all the work an actor does on character and relationship in rehearsals, coupled with these technical aspects of acting on the stage.

Following the tech rehearsals are the dress rehearsals, during which the actors run the play in full costume, exactly as they would during a performance. Integrating the costumes in Julius Caesar was a significant stage in the rehearsal process. In this play, and in Antony and Cleopatra, Mark and his fellow actors wear traditional Elizabethan costumes. These costumes, especially the armour, can greatly affect the way the actors move. It takes the actors at least 25 minutes to get dressed before the show and often they need professional dressers to help them with quick changes and/or difficult costume pieces. Mark says that wearing the costume helps him get into his character and the world of the play. He believes that the costumes for this play subconsciously helped him to create a distinct way of moving and walking for Mark Antony. Mark considers beginning to rehearse in costume to be one of the later stages in his character development.

Before the play opens officially there are several preview performances. No reporters from the press are allowed to attend the preview performances. During the previews, the director still takes notes and makes sure the play works with the audience. The director may also return periodically throughout the performance to monitor the production, giving notes to the actors when necessary.

At this stage Mark feels he has a much better sense of the arch of his character, or the way his character changes during the journey of the play. He notes that Mark Antony begins the play living a rowdy and carefree lifestyle. Mark believes that the gravity of Caesar's death forces Mark Antony to ‘come into his own powers as a leader’ and mature into a true statesman. At the end of the play, Mark finds that Mark Antony's humanitarian side is brought out in the way he talks about Brutus after his death. In Act 5 Scene 5, Mark Antony says of Brutus:

This was the noblest Roman of them all . . .
His life was gentle, and the elements
So mixed up in him that nature might stand up
And say to all the world, ‘This was a man!’

Now that he is in performance, Mark is trying to continually make his characters actions, and ‘shifts in action’ as clear and precise as possible. However, Mark also leaves room for new ideas to arise in performance and tries to keep his acting fresh by ‘responding to his instincts’ in performance. For example, Mark might change the way he says a line or punctuates a movement from show-to-show, though the essential framework of his performance remains intact. The aspect of Mark Antony's personality that Mark has concentrated on in the last stage of rehearsal and the beginning stages of performance, is that of the ‘grieving friend’. Mark has come to realise that ‘Mark Antony's love of Caesar is the baseline that everything stems from’.

These comments are the actor’s thoughts and 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.

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