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.

Rehearsing in the Kitchen

Posted in Midsummer, Theatre of the Mommies on July 25th, 2011 by kellinewby

“Mommy?  Can you watch me?”

“Not right now.  I’m rehearsing.”

A few seconds pass.  Lex goes back into discussing Helena.  She’s half a sentence in.

“Are you still rehearsing?”

Theatre for us has always been a delicate balance of real life and art, but now, in the absence of a space, we have retreated to our living rooms and backyards to rehearse.  It is comfortable in these spaces, so doing table work around a dining room set has a certain level of ease we never got from a makeshift surface at 57 Main.  Hypothetically, we can store the kiddos in the next room with all their toys and be in rehearsal while watching them but–

“Mooooommy.  Are you done?”

Lex takes a deep breath, pulls at her hair, and looks at her darling four year old.  “Go play.  Please.”

The backyard is a wonderland of things most four year olds would love–we can see the tops of colorful inflated toys through the window, but this one is not interested.  He turns his giant eyes on us, hoping one of us will jump up and volunteer to play with him.

“In a minute,” we all say in our own way.

The theatre had always been a retreat from the domestic.  It was a place where we were not afraid to shout or go big.  In someone’s kitchen, it seems odd to be yelling lines or throwing oneself on the floor in front of the baby who watches from his high chair, chewing away on a melted Baby Mum-Mum.

“To the Nth degree!  Louder!”  Lex and Wendy call through the threshold.  They’re watching us from the dining room as we flop around in the kitchen.

So we take it up another notch, start using the walls, throw ourselves against a refrigerator and slide down, trying not to worry about knocking magnets off it.  The fact that we’re in Lex’s kitchen gradually melts away as much as it can.   Wendy grumbles about needing that rehearsal space sooner rather than later.  Between the heat and, today, the rain, venturing out into the backyard has proved tricky so far.

“Mom-meeeeeeeeeeeee.”

“We’re done. Okay?”

He seems pleased.  As I pack up my things and head out to the door, the four year old approaches me.

“Why were you being so mean to Mollie?”

He has been overhearing us rehearse the Lovers’ fight scene and I have been calling Mollie a “canker blossom” and a “thief of love” and then loudly threatening to claw her eyes out.

“Well, in the play, Mollie stole my boyfriend.”  Trying to explain that it was really fairies and a love flower and mistaken identity seems too complicated somehow.  “Anyhow, we’re all friends by the end of the play.  There’s just a misunderstanding in the scene we were reading.”

He asks a few more questions and really listens to my answers.  The kid understands what rehearsals are, what plays are, and that sometimes grownups are acting crazy because a play tells them to.  We all say we don’t want our children to be actors, that we want them to run far, far away from the theatre, but there they are on the edges absorbing.  And now we are in their houses, rehearsing around their toys, in their spaces.  Well, there are worse things that getting an early start on your Shakespeare.

He accepts my explanation and asks me if I’ll play Lego Star Wars with him.

Maybe he won’t be an actor; maybe he’ll be a Jedi instead.

Going Rogue

Posted in Midsummer, Running the theatre on June 23rd, 2011 by kellinewby

There are two stories to write at the moment.  First, the tale of saying goodbye to the hold space.   Second, the story of where we go from here.  Ever the optimist, I begin with the future.

“Let’s go rogue!  Theatre without walls!  Our children will be running around at our feet as we perform.  We’ll be like hippies!”

It’s been my refrain for months.  I’m sure my friends are fairly sick of this line of thinking.  It continues.

“Instead of jumping up and down trying to get people into our theatre, let’s go to where the people are!  They can eat sandwiches and lounge around and we’ll do a show for them!”

It’s an old idea: a traveling troupe of players goes out and about, sets up shop, does the show, and moves on to the next.

But we need a show.  And the show will be A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

When I said we were “going rogue,” my gentle readers probably didn’t think of a fairly overproduced play that’s been around since the late 1500’s.

Wendy and Lex will be directing a small cast in fun, traveling production of a show that is both fun to see and fun to be in.  A show that will change with every audience and every new setting.

Where will it show up?  Now that’s half the fun, isn’t it?

For the next few weeks, we will be chronicling how the show comes together.  Stay tuned.