This is Michael's first blog entry for the 2002 production of Twelfth Night in which he talks about introductory rehearsals and playing Viola.
Transcript of Podcast
This is my first theatre job since leaving Drama School, and I imagined the introductory day would be quite scary. In the end, it was much nicer than I thought because everybody was so nice and relaxed. The bit that really sticks out in my mind from that first day was walking out onto the stage for the first time. I’ve worked on some large stages before, but I had a bad case of butterflies when I walked out into the Globe. I think it was partially the fact that I knew I would be performing here in front of 1500 people in 5 weeks time, but also, the energy of the space is amazing – I think it comes from the fact that it's huge, yet at the same time very enclosed.
My first rehearsal was great fun. Fortunately, I was doing one of my smaller scenes – Act 1 scene 5, where Viola (as Cesario) is first introduced to Olivia and her household. I was working on the scene with Mark [Rylance, the Artistic Director, who is also playing Olivia], who really helped me with the verse. First, we took pieces of the text, often only a few lines, and put them into modern speech; this helps me to be clear both to an audience and to myself about what Viola is really saying and why she is saying it. Then, we moved on to the verse itself, examining the rhythm of each line in detail.
I have also been enjoying our work on individual characters, where the whole company sits down and explores each character in turn. Before we started rehearsals, we were all told to make three lists: one list of lines where our character talks about themselves, one where we talk about the other characters and one where other characters talk about me. We all sat in a circle, and I had to go to the middle and read out my first two lists. When I’d finished, the other members of the company took it in turns to read out what their characters say about me, and we took that as a starting point to discuss my character and her journey through the play, although my ideas about that journey are constantly changing at the moment!
I am consciously not worrying at the moment about the challenges in playing a woman. Instead, I am focusing on the character; what Viola wants, where she is, what obstacles she faces and how she overcomes them. I definitely think this is best done in rehearsals, as I’m not very good at discovering my character while sitting at home with the text and nothing else! Later on, I will start to think about movement and voice, although they are going to lend me a corset to wear in rehearsals so I can get used to the restrictions it imposes on the way you move.
This is all a very new experience for me. For starters, all the actors are roughly the same age as their characters, unlike in drama school where actors who are the same age in real life will play wildly different parts, even father and son. Some of the actors in the company played the same parts when this production played at Middle Temple Hall earlier this year, but all of them are fully re-discovering their characters as rehearsals go on, and it's great to be working and developing ideas with them.
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.