Two nights ago, I held the first Hamlet rehearsal with the second round of actors. It was a verse workshop, designed to get new Shakespeareans familiar with the tricks and treats of the Bard’s language. I can’t recreate the entire workshop here (I don’t want to give away all my secrets!), but here are a couple of highlights:
- Modern acting is all minds and muscles; Shakespearean acting is all breath and bones.
- The cornerstones of speaking Shakespeare clearly are keywords, rhythm, and antithesis.
- If you are speaking in smooth verse, you are probably calm, confident, and/or full of dreams.
- If you are speaking in rough verse, you are likely agitated, uncertain, and/or full of dread.
Although the newbies’ heads were clearly full to bursting with iambics, antitheses, and feminine endings by the end of the night, I think I managed to imbue them with some confidence — or at least some enthusiasm — about the work that lies ahead.
Here are a few of the new faces (chosen mostly based on whose images I could nab from the World Wide Web; more to come!):
Eric Letcher plays Laertes. I’ve worked with Eric a number of times, including the only Shakespeare I’ve directed in Cape Breton (he played Caliban in The Tempest). Recently, he played Malvolio in the Boardmore’s production of Twelfth Night, so he is well acquainted with antagonistic roles. Eric is both a highly physical performer and a studious actor who’s not afraid to challenge himself with each new role. Whenever I cast him, I have no idea what he will bring to the role, but I’m always confident it will be dynamic, dramatic, and well-thought-out.
John Lingard plays Polonius. John was also in my 2011 production of The Tempest, playing Prospero. He’s a Shakespeare veteran, and even if he wasn’t the sweetest, most generous actor in Cape Breton (he is), I’d still cast him simply because I know he’ll deliver. In this case, however, I will need him to assay a more comic role than usual. Fortunately, I know he’s up to it, having seen him spoof his own academic background in the 2015 One Act Festival, when he played a Pythonesque Narrator in The Brothers Tuireann.
Dave Petrie plays The Ghost. Dave is a self-taught actor who pops up regularly in the Cape Breton community scene, often accompanied by his wife, Donna, behind the scenes. While I am partial to theatre couples (being half of one myself), I also gravitated towards Dave because I sensed he possesses a thirst for new knowledge. A few years ago, he enrolled in a weekend workshop I was running about Shakespearean auditions, and I was impressed by how quickly he sponged up my advice. I look forward to working with him on a show for the first time.
Andrew Gouthro plays Horatio. A Cape Breton native who trained in Halifax, Andy is a fresh face to the local theatre scene, and I’m ecstatic to have snatched him up. His audition piece (Edward IV from Richard III) was a roller-coaster of tears, rage, and regret, and I’m intrigued to see how much of that he can pack into the role of Horatio, which a lot of actors seem to think should be portrayed less as a human being and more like Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation (granted, they base this interpretation on Hamlet’s description of Horatio as a rational man — but who the hell trusts Hamlet, anyway?). He also seems like a generous and thoughtful cast member, and we can always use more of that.
More casting news soon. And in a few days, I’ll be able to report on our first read-through! Stay tuned!