Welcome to America | Bubbles, Bowling, and Buñuel

The Lab Theatre in the University of Notre Dame’s Washington Hall

So. Two weeks done in the US of A. We spent most of week one on the second floor of a campus building, a ‘theater lab’ that acts as our rehearsal space. Occasionally we would wander out to ‘The Huddle,’ a building opposite that houses various eateries and drinkeries that cater for our lunchtime needs. And in the evening, we would wander out to a local bar and chew the cud. But truthfully, we were in a kind of bubble, an other-world consisting of five British actors, a suitcase of props and costumes, and lots of bottles of water. And yet we are still not immune to the spiraling tornado that is emanating from the White House. The TV is awash with experts and questions and rants and fears. And honestly, I’m scared of where this all may lead. Arrests made at JFK Airport, protests, executive orders, closing borders. Strange times.

One of the classes I was asked to teach on was on the subject of rhetoric and great speeches, so I thought I’d work with them on the Mark Antony “Friends, Romans, countrymen” speech. Reading over it, this section hit me between the eyes:

“O judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason.”

Even in our iambic bubble, you can never hide away too far…

Ground transportation is Will Donaldson approved.

In fact, to highlight the surreal in all this we were greeted at Chicago airport, when we landed, with a stretch limousine. “Why?” my daughter demanded jealously when I told her. Well, apparently it was the cheaper option. All I know is that, since Chicago is an hour behind South Bend, Indiana, there was a time when I, sitting at the front and Jack, sitting right at the back, were in different time zones.

Indiana is southeast from Chicago and Lake Michigan. South Bend, the local town, is a low sprawl of highways and chain stores, much like many an American town – with so much space to play with, the architecture is generally low and wide. It’s also pretty featureless.

The University of Notre Dame, meanwhile, is a mix of impressive buildings that seem to be, in a uniformly sand-blasted way, gothic-influenced and money-influenced. For the 8,500 students here, the facilities are palatial. Apparently, many students get scholarships, which is a good job as the annual fee is apparently $61,000. The mind boggles. (You sure you want to take away the cap on the £9,000 annual fee in the UK?) The university has its own fire station, its own police force, its own zip code, and even its own power plant.

We also boggle at adverts and billboards that are so wonderfully unenglish. So far we’ve been enticed by various stores and messages: “Let’s Spoon,” “Femme Fatale” (a gun store), “Don’t Get Caught Dirty,” and a TV advert that promises to “lubricate itself right in the package.” As you can imagine, we play up the stereotype and react in a suitably Downton Abbey manner.

One big highlight this week has been to watch a live ice hockey match – a first for me. At the beginning, Will, Sarah, and I stared incomprehensibly at the high-speed mayhem but, with the help of some hockey moms cheering on their high school kids, by the end of it we were cheering and nodding knowingly at the two-minute penalties and the nuances of stick and puck. Great fun. For the record, Newtrier beat St.Joseph’s 8-2.

The boys have also ventured out to the local bowling alley. It seemed such an unprepossessing place as we drove up to Chippewa Bowl. But inside, an astonishing tardis of striking and unsparing proportions (see what I did there?). Seventy lanes. SEVENTY lanes. I ask you. Probably a good thing, as it meant no-one noticed the spirited but average fare from lane 52…

It’s surprisingly mild for the time of year but finally, in the last few days, the snow has come in. Not a staggering amount, but enough to impress five Brits and give us an excuse to finally unpack those extra Michelin-sponsored layers. Jas’ roller blades will have to wait though. In the meantime, we get our exercise in the hotel gym. I think we all know it won’t last, but we’re pretty keen cyclists, runners, and cross-trainers for this week at least.

Looking out from the stage of Washington Hall.

In the meantime, we rehearsed. Getting into the theatre was a good shock to the system; the space is a lovely two-tiered and quite intimate space (about 500 seats), but it requires a fair amount of work vocally – especially on the consonants – and is quite wide too and a challenge to play to all areas. For English readers, it’s rather like the Rose Theatre, Kingston, or Chichester (before the make-over).

Over the last few weeks, I’ve learnt two things about how to work with a company of five and no director. The first is that you have to try everything. Not only that, but you have to have time to work through each idea. It’s quite time-consuming, but even bad ideas are useful to explore, not only to be sure they don’t work, but also because they often lead to good ideas you wouldn’t otherwise have thought of. And the second thing is that you need to be as sensitive as the most sensitive person in the room. Which is not always the same person. Again, this demands a patience and awareness, but that is a useful mindset to get into for an eight-week tour. And it’s turned us into a close-knit group.

The Romeo and Juliet cast (pictured L-R): Jasmeen James, Jack Whitam, Scott Jackson (Shakespeare at Notre Dame Executive Director), Sarah Finigan, Roger May, and William Donaldson.

And so to the show. Finally playing to an audience was just what we needed, and the reception was lovely. There really is a lot of humour in the first half, despite the family feud, and the audience was quick to pick up on that. The biggest challenge is to keep the freshness of a story that everyone knows and the ending that the prologue has forewarned you of (spoiler alert). Over the coming weeks that, I suspect, will be our biggest test.

Apart from taking a class on the acting styles used in the Buñuel film Los Olvidados, possibly. That was a challenge I wasn’t expecting on this tour. In the event, we had great fun with it, storyboarding the opening of Romeo and Juliet in the style of a Buñuel film. It’s important to understand that the students we teach are often not drama students (in this case they were studying Spanish), but their willingness to dive in and participate is both surprising and wonderful. Other classes covered in this first week of teaching have included Henry VIII, the speeches of Lady Macbeth, gang violence and poetry reading.

In my warm-up for a class on rhetoric the other day, I asked the students to face a wall and give only the volume needed for that distance, and then got them to increase tat distance bit by bit. “Do any speech you like”, I said, “or, if you don’t know one, then a poem or lyrics or anything you can repeat a few times”. “Anything?”, one student asked. “Yes, anything”, I confirmed. I think it was a great compliment to the establishment that, on walking round the classroom, I heard three “Hail Marys” and four or five “Lord’s Prayers”…

After the final sold-out show tonight, we head off to Chicago for the weekend, before our next stop at Berea College in Kentucky. I have to say that the hospitality and the generosity we’ve encountered has been terrific. Long may that last on this journey.

— Roger May (2/3/17)

 

[Disclaimer: The views expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect Shakespeare at Notre Dame or the University of Notre Dame.]

‘Trevor Nunn’ is a Verb | Romeo and Juliet in Rehearsal

Whatever your political take, it feels like a strangely apt time to be doing a tour of Romeo and Juliet, a play about divisiveness and intolerance.

With that said, it’s time to pack. We line up our props of flowers and sticks and torches and bowls and curtains and sheets and, looking over them, we can see a representation of the collective maelstrom of our ideas that have bounced off these rehearsal room walls over the last few weeks. To be honest, this way of working (without a director) is an exhausting but invigorating process – if those are not too contradictory words.

William Donaldson (dead) and Jack Whitam fail to ‘Trevor Nunn’ while rehearsing Romeo and Juliet.

We have built up a strange company linguistic shorthand over the last few weeks. For some reason we ‘concur’ a lot, rather than agreeing (think Catch Me If You Can), and ‘Trevor Nunn’ (the name of a prominent theatre director in the UK) seems to be another form of agreement we use – not sure of the derivation of that! But it’s a relief that we ‘concur’ and ‘Trevor Nunn’ pretty frequently through our working day.

We still have some more rehearsal time in Indiana, but yesterday we showed our work (in the form of a run of the whole play) to some of the Associate Directors of the Company. Their feedback was very positive and also gave us some pointers to work on next week.

It’s only by doing a run of the play that you start to get an idea of each actor’s ‘track’ through the play. I think of the term ‘track’ as being from the musicals world, really, (I guess stemming from the fact that, in that world, you often have to understudy a number of other parts to cover for sickness etc, and so you need to learn the track of each one – in other words, the various entrances and exits, as well as your offstage journey to each one, and where you might be in a dancing formation etc. Anyway, it seems an apt word for us here, where we are playing many parts and needing to find out when we enter where, with what prop and as which character. As you can imagine, it’s a confusing route for all of us. This is made harder by the fact that no actor ever exits the stage; if you do leave the scene, you sit on the chairs upstage, as you may (and often will) be needed to contribute sounds or voices to scenes you are not otherwise involved in.

The five member Romeo and Juliet cast walks their tracks.

At the moment, this all seems insurmountable – so far I have 36 different items on my track list – but I’m sure that running the play a few times will make things clearer. So, it’s time to print up travel details, weigh bags, and hopefully all meet on Sunday at Heathrow airport. The journey begins.

Roger May (January 20, 2017 | Brixton)

[Update: our Actors From The London Stage are safe and sound at their American home, Shakespeare at Notre Dame. Their first public performances will be February 1-3. Click HERE for tickets.]

Back at the Mothership | Richard III returns to Notre Dame

Well, here we are, back at the Mothership after leaving the heat of San Antonio and the crisp walks round the lake at Wellesley. It’s wonderful to be back to the beauty of leaves falling, to be welcomed by our friends, and to feel familiar with the layout of a university campus, our American home, Shakespeare at Notre Dame.
ndautumn
I did a class yesterday on “Media Stardom and Celebrity Culture” with the lovely Christine Becker, and we all discussed the difference between film performances: locked eternally on celluloid, and theatre: mutable, shifting night to night with that glorious chemical reaction between audiences and cast, cast and cast, and cast and venues. Our Richard III has certainly been changing, and we’re a pretty playful bunch of actors who trust each other deeply and want to explore and mine our text to the limit. For example, in the coronation scene in Act 3 where Richard, newly crowned, tests the princely Buckingham’s loyalty by revealing deep insecurity in his position and the nuisance of having the illegitimate young princes around, I say:

Cousin, thou wert not won’t to be so dull;
Shall I be plain? I wish the bastards dead;
And I would have it suddenly performed.
What sayest thou? Speak suddenly; be brief.

Alice, who’s playing a mutely obedient Lady Anne, by my side, has started physically empathizing with Evvy’s noble and wavering Buckingham and silently pleading her horror at this thought. It gives greater emphasis to everyone else’s abhorrence of this thought and to my desire, a few moments later, to get shot of [get rid of] her and say to Catesby:

Rumour it abroad
That Anne, my wife, is very grievous sick.

Hannah who, apart from being a brilliant actor and the choreographer for various moments, had some ideas to improve the ghosts by giving them horrible unearthly gasps before each of them, all Richard’s victims, speak. It works beautifully. And Paul’s Queen Elizabeth is now so heartbreaking and vehemently reasoned in her defense of Richard marrying her daughter, that I’m having to adjust accordingly and find other tacks to succeed.

That’s the glory of Shakespeare: the endless possibilities and interpretations and the pleasure of exploring them. The reactions vary too. At Wellesley College, the audible disgust at Richard kissing Elizabeth on the mouth after persuading her to give him her daughter as a new Queen, was amazing.

shakespeare_houseAlso at Wellesley, there is a Shakespeare Society (founded in 1887) that always holds a party for the actors on their first night there. The Shakespeare House (pictured on right) is INCREDIBLE: a Tudor exterior, with its own stage and a basement heaving with endless, ancient copies of Shakespeare: some with prints that I have never seen. There is a costume department worthy of a local regional theatre in Britain. One entire rail just held CLOAKS. And in November they will perform their all-female Henry V for which they have promised a video. I can’t wait.

50wellesley

Wellesley is Hillary Clinton’s alma mater. I wonder if she ever ran naked across Severance green as is suggested on the 50 things to do before you graduate from Wellesley…I hope so.

Here at Notre Dame, we had a lovely response last night and have all had challenging and interesting classes. I worked with Peter Holland’s students on Tuesday exploring the first soliloquy and the insults to Richard. At the end Professor Holland reminded the class that, if in London, they should visit Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare, where I am a volunteer (docent in your parlance) and Trustee.

David Garrick and his Wife by his Temple to Shakespeare at Hampton, Johan Zoffany, c. 1762

David Garrick and his Wife by his Temple to Shakespeare at Hampton,
Johan Zoffany, c. 1762

In the eighteenth century, David Garrick made his name, as a 23 year old, playing Richard III. We have a copy of Hogarth’s famous painting of him in the nightmare scene before the battle of Bosworth, as well as Garrick’s commissioned statue of Shakespeare. I was on duty there the week before we started rehearsals on Richard III and had one visitor that day who was intriguing and singular and asked the most informed questions. When I asked him if he was a historian, he said, “No, I work at Kensington Palace; I’m house manager for Richard, Duke of Gloucester.” At this point all the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I told him I was about to play one of his boss’s antecedents and he said that the current Duke had been at the real King Richard III’s interment at Leicester Cathedral. Gosh.

Evelyn Miller puts Commedia dell'arte on its feet during a visit to John Welle's "On Humor: Understanding Italy" class during the Notre Dame residency.

Evelyn Miller puts Commedia dell’arte on its feet during a visit to John Welle’s “On Humor: Understanding Italy” class during the Notre Dame residency.

I told some of the Foundations of Theology students in Anthony Pagliarini’s class on Friday about the excellent laws that the real King Richard had passed which I learned of in Leicester Cathedral on a research visit. He ensured new laws were written in English to be understood by all. He helped confirm the place of the jury system, bail for the accused, as well as laws for land ownership and trade protection. We were discussing whether Richard’s path was chosen or determined by fate; I put forward my view that he is validating his invalidity. As Ian McKellen says in the brochure accompanying his and Richard Longcrane’s excellent Richard III film made in 1995 and set in the 1930s: “Richard’s wickedness is an outcome of other people’s disaffection with his physique.” I think that being crowned King is proof to him that he is a whole human being.

pep-rallyAfter finishing that class, I had the thrill of seeing and hearing the “pep rally”…a phrase I’d never heard before. Basically, it was all the accumulated bands of Notre Dame marching to the ground for a home game and rallying their supporters. I love a brass band. I love great big drums thumping out. And when there are over five hundred musicians playing all together, it is truly rousing.

[Learn more about the world-famous Notre Dame Victory March.]

–Liz Crowther

Meet the Cast of the Winter’s Tale: Grant Goodman

Grant Goodman (Leontes)

Grant Goodman (Leontes)

Grant Goodman (Leontes, the King of Sicilia) is thrilled to be “back home again in Indiana” to perform at The Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival. Off-Broadway credits include: Antony & Cleopatra, The Merchant of Venice (Theatre for a New Audience), King Lear, The Iliad (Lincoln Center), Richard II (New York City Center/Pearl Theatre) and Pericles (Red Bull) among others.  Regional credits include extensive work with: Yale Repertory Theatre, Hartford Stage, Shakespeare Theatre Company (Washington, D.C.), The Old Globe, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Court Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Arizona Theatre Company, PlayMaker’s Repertory Company, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Syracuse Stage, the Illinois, Kentucky, and Utah Shakespeare Festivals, and The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey among many others. Television credits include: As the World Turns and Sex and the City. Training: Graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Grant was recently selected to represent the U.S. in the International Actors’ Fellowship at The Globe Theatre in London this coming fall.


For tickets visit DeBartolo Performing Arts Center Box Office

For information visit Shakespeare at Notre Dame

Meet the Cast of The Winter’s Tale: Joneal Joplin

Joneal Joplin (Camillo)

Joneal Joplin (Camillo)

Joneal “Jop” Joplin (Camillo) is pleased to be making his debut at NDSF with The Winter’s Tale. He has appeared in over 300 productions throughout the U.S. and Canada. Recent roles have included Tony Reilly in Outside Mullingar, The Old Actor in The Fantastiks!, Monseigneur Ryan in Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, Uncle Ben in Death of a Salesman, Selsdon Mowbray in Noises Off, Northumberland in Henry IV, Archbishop and King Louis in Henry V, Candy in Of Mice and Men, John of Gaunt in Richard II and Captain Smith in Titanic. He has performed at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Missouri Rep, South Coast Rep, The Muny Opera, Dallas Theatre Center, Atlanta Theatre Under The Stars, Kansas City Starlight, The Hangar Theatre, Country Dinner Playhouse, Indianapolis Starlight, Theatre on the Square, Ensemble Theatre, Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis, The Human Race Theatre, Actor’s Studio, and Cincinnati Shakespeare Company to name a few. He is a proud member of Actors’ Equity, the proud father of two splendid actors, Jen and Jared, and the proud husband for 53 years of his lovely bride, Janie.


For tickets visit DeBartolo Performing Arts Center Box Office

For information visit Shakespeare at Notre Dame

Meet the Cast of The Winter’s Tale: Shanara Gabrielle

Shanara Gabrielle (Hermione)

Shanara Gabrielle (Hermione)

Shanara Gabrielle (Queen Hermione) is happy to be joining the Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival for this production of The Winter’s Tale! Regional highlights include: A Christmas Carol (Actor’s Theatre of Louisville), Blithe Spirit (Great Lakes Theatre/Idaho Shakespeare), Clybourne Park, The Comedy of Errors, Macbeth (St. Louis Repertory Theatre), Ilona in She Loves Me (Guthrie Theater), Black Pearl Sings!(The Black Rep), The Love List (American Heartland Theatre), Othello, Love’s Labor’s Lost, Twelfth Night (Great River Shakespeare Festival), Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Cooking With Elisa (Upstream Theatre), Guys and Dolls, Lend Me a Tenor (Northern Stage). NYC highlights include: The Wild Party, The Truth, Meet Me In St. Louis, The American Girls Revue, In The Mood. Film/TV highlights include: Chicago Fire, Conviction, Guiding Light, numerous commercials and independent films. BFA – Webster Conservatory, Princess Grace Foundation Award, AEA, SAG-AFTRA. For more information visit shanaragabrielle.com.


For tickets visit DeBartolo Performing Arts Center Box Office

For information visit Shakespeare at Notre Dame

Meet the Cast of The Winter’s Tale: L. Peter Callender

L. Peter Callender (Antigonus/Old Shepherd)

L. Peter Callender (Antigonus/Old Shepherd)

L. Peter Callender (Antigonus/Old Shepherd) is Artistic Director of African-American Shakespeare Company in San Francisco, California, and a proud member of Actors Equity Association. As an Associate Artist at California Shakespeare Theater, Mr Callender has appeared in over 50 plays over the years. Favorites include: Leontes (Winter’s Tale), Laertes (Hamlet), Orsino (Twelfth Night), Oberon (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Capulet (Romeo and Juliet), Antony (Julius Caesar), Leonato (Much Ado About Nothing), Roebuck Ramsden (Man and Superman), Colonel Pickering (Pygmalion) and Bolingbrook (Richard II). He has appeared on Broadway in Prelude to a Kiss and on several noted Bay Area stages: Berkeley Rep (SPUNK), A.C.T (The Tempest), San Jose Stage (RACE), Aurora Theater (Breakfast with Mugabe, Permanent Collection). Mr Callender is the recipient of several acting awards and is also a Visiting Professor at Stanford University teaching Acting Shakespeare.


For tickets visit DeBartolo Performing Arts Center Box Office

For information visit Shakespeare at Notre Dame

Meet the Cast of The Winter’s Tale: Jens Rasmussen

Jens Rasmussen (Polixenes)

Jens Rasmussen (Polixenes)

Jens Rasmussen (Polixenes, the King of Bohemia) has performed Off-Broadway in I Came to Look for You on Tuesday, La Ma Ma ETC; Stories from the 99%, Working Theatre; The Strangest, HERE; Carry the Tiger to the Mountain, Pan Asian Rep, The Fundamentalist, Scandinavian American Theatre Co. His regional credits include Skin Tight, Studio Theatre; Conference of the Birds, Folger; Merchant of Venice, Milwaukee Rep; 20th Century Way, Know Theatre of Cincinnati. FILM: The Rebuild, Attack of the Morningside Monster, Survivor Type. Find more information at jensrasmussen.info.


For tickets visit DeBartolo Performing Arts Center Box Office

For information visit Shakespeare at Notre Dame

Meet the Winter’s Tale Cast: Wendy Robie

Wendy Robie (Paulina)

Wendy Robie (Paulina)

Wendy Robie (Paulina) has recent credits in Chicago including The Game’s Afoot with Drury Lane Theatre, Southbridge with Chicago Dramatists, Cyrano de Bergerac, Private Lives, Richard III, Hamlet, and Hecuba with Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Sense and Sensibility with Northlight Theatre, Float with About Face, Mother Courage and her Children with Steppenwolf, Trojan Women  with The Goodman Theatre (Jeff nom. for best supporting actress), and A Delicate Balance with Remy Bumppo. Outside the U.S., Robie appeared as “Regan” in Brian Bedford’s King Lear at the 2007 Stratford Festival of Canada, and as “Bishop” in Joan Dark with the Linz, Austria 09 Kulturhouptstadt. Regional credits include the Illinois Shakespeare Festival 2013 Season; The Actors’ Theatre of Louisville; Kansas City Repertory; Arizona Theatre Company; Broadway in Texas, Austin; Portland Repertory Theatre, and South Coast Repertory Theatre (Dramalogue Award, lead actress). Film credits include Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs, and the recently released Were the World Mine. T.V. credits include Star Trek, DS9, and two seasons as “Nadine” in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Robie received the Chicago After Dark Award for Outstanding Season for 2005.


For tickets visit DeBartolo Performing Arts Center Box Office

For information visit Shakespeare at Notre Dame

Meet the Cast of The Winter’s Tale: Giles Davies

Over the coming weeks, we’ll introduce the principal actors of our Professional Company productions: The Winter’s Tale and William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged).  Starting with the character whose profession is self-described as “a snatcher-up of unconsidered trifles,” Autolycus is part thief, part con-man, wordsmith, and ballad-singer, and one of Shakespeare’s greatest comedic creations. Playing the role is Giles Davies.   -NDSF Staff

Giles Davis (Autolycus)

Giles Davies (Autolycus)


Giles Davies (Autolycus) was born in Hong Kong and is of British descent.  He grew up watching his parents on stage and acted from the age of five.  He received his undergraduate degree from Ball State University, and then traveled the globe, performing his solo work wherever possible. After graduating from The Ohio State University’s graduate program (with a specialty in creating solo work), he immediately joined the ensemble with Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.  Currently living in Tampa, he is in Cincinnati over the next year as a visiting professor at The University of Cincinnati, College Conservatory of Music & Drama. He loves teaching, directing, and the tropics.  Favorite past roles include Coriolanus, Macbeth, Richard III, Dracula, Frankenstein (solo), Caliban in The Tempest, and Vladimir in Waiting for Godot.


For tickets visit DeBartolo Performing Arts Center Box Office

For information visit Shakespeare at Notre Dame