A Video Postcard from Bootcamp

Posted in Midsummer on August 13th, 2011 by kellinewby

Here’s a video account of our extremely athletic rehearsals.


Vocal Boot Camp

Posted in Midsummer on August 8th, 2011 by kellinewby

At 57 Main Street, audience members could put their feet up on the stage if they were sitting in the front row.  There were only a few rows after that, and acting in that space was much more like film acting.  We didn’t have to think too much about volume and the nearness of the audience encouraged subtlety.

On the giant lawn in front of the imposing stairs on the West side of Conte Middle School, all of that needs to be forgotten.  Lex and Wendy sit on a blanket and say “Louder!  Can’t hear you!” They look like dolls or puppets way out there.

I’m in close quarters with Jack; he’s Lysander and I’m Hermia and we are supposed to be in love.  The scene is his attempt to seduce me and my hesitant rejection of his advances.  He slides over next to me and I yell in his face.  He yells back.  Or, at least, it feels that way.

We started rehearsal with vocal warm-ups, making all sorts of crazy noises, buzzing our lips, shaking our bodies until we could let them go rubbery and let weird noises spill out of us.  I’m not usually shy about these things any more, but even Wendy mentioned she was happy when the teenagers who had been sitting on the stair moved on so we could warm up without embarrassment.

Then Lex started the boot camp.  Sprint to the other side of the lawn, give us a line at top volume and sprint back.  Jack and I raced back and forth, stopping only to project Shakespeare across the space, over the sound of cars passing by on Church Street and then sprinted back.

In outdoor theatre, volume is what matters.  For centuries, actors were prized were their voices because in large, outdoor theatres, that’s what mattered.  Read account after account of the finest actors, and what you read about are their voices.  Some people in our cast have it naturally.  Some people in the cast have vocal training and know how to do the work, as foreign as it feels after years and years on our intimate stage. Some people are starting at zero.  And voices are delicate things.  You have to project correctly or you’ll lose your voice.  The moment I start to feel a little hoarse or a little scratchy, I have a moment of panic.  One afternoon can do a lot of damage.

I have to dig back into years ago and find my voice again.  But then, there it is, resonating at just the right place in my chest, coming up through my throat with no restrictions.  My body remembers how to breathe.  It’s called muscle memory.  I do remember how, it’s just been so long.

I turn to Jack, look deep into his eyes, and shout at him about how much I love him as I touch his face.  No one says they can’t hear me.  I take a deep breath out of relief, and ready myself for the next line.