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

All’s Well in Wellesley

Aerial photo of Wellesley College
“Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world.” – Hillary Clinton

There is no fear that the women of Wellesley College (Hillary Clinton’s alma mater) will fail to make their mark in the world. Nora HusseyWellesley College Theatre Director, invited us to Wellesley and she runs a wonderful department with the help of the exquisite Charlotte Peed, a flame haired, feisty southerner with alabaster skin, looking after us. Aside from the incredible women in the department we also met so many students who are most certainly going to be the future leaders of this country. The students are all women of course, as this a single-sex college, but please let us not forget the wonderful men that have also helped us hugely. David TowlunTheatre Production Manager, has been wonderful on the technical side. Given this was our first week performing in a theatre, that help was invaluable. Besides the great company, we also had beautiful surroundings. Lake Waban at Wellesley CollegeWellesley must be one of the most beautiful settings for an educational institution. Lake Waban is surrounded by the Wellesley campus and is spectacular in the autumn with the changing leaves and chipmunks running around.

This week we settled into what will be the normal stride of the tour. It felt like we were a big family this week as we were staying in a big house near the Campus rather than a hotel. We made friends with our neighbor, Sherry, who also happens to be a golf professor and she very kindly gave us all a golf lesson. Patrick seems to be a natural golfer while Sam struggles not to turn the golf club into a baseball bat. Fun was had by all, and we now know much more about golf.

This week saw us doing individual workshops with the incredibly bright students at Wellesley. Our job in the workshops is to offer an alternative approach to learning rather than simply the cerebral academic approach. The workshops on the whole focus on an actor’s approach to Shakespeare, and in particular A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but we do get invited to some more unusual workshops too. Claire took a workshop with a group of students doing scenic design, while I joined class entitled ‘Spirit of Spain in the middle ages’ – this is a class in Spanish, which I do not speak. When I first read Shakespeare it may as well have been another language but working on text practically can really enhance the understanding of it.

Ruth Nagel Jones Theatre at Wellesley College

Ruth Nagel Jones Theatre at Wellesley College

We had three performances in a row, which was great as we haven’t had many bashes at the show as yet. The audiences were fabulous! There was a particularly lively crowd there on Friday night and we were extremely heartened by their vocal response.

Our hosts spoilt us rotten and we had invitations to dinners and drinks most nights after the show. One night we were invited to Shakespeare House which the Shakespeare Society use for plays. They are about to put on Twelfth Night, so, if you are in the area, do try and check it out.

Sam in BostonWe did have some spare time too. Sam and I went to Boston, just 40 minutes east of Wellesley, MA.

Onwards to Texas…our next two residencies will be back-to-back weeks at The University of Texas at Austin and The University of Texas at San Antonio.

Othello Tour Update

ALamo More Jack Jacks Birthday Wellesley-2

Wellesley

Wellesley

Well we had a fantastic week in San Antonio, I had some great classes, including one on Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls – after some speedy research, it ended up being great fun, the whole class were up on their feet playing various, debating birds! I have to say their squawking was more coherent than some Parliaments I can think of!!
We also had a cast birthday – Jack celebrated his 24th, 32nd or maybe it was his 50th I’m not quite sure, so many numbers were thrown around! We planned and executed a surprise party which was a surprise,  he didn’t realise anything was going on until he knocked on Richard’s door for ‘the academic meeting’ and had to wait ages to be let in, as we all ran round trying to light candles, put on party hats and generally whisper a little bit too loudly for the game not to be up! We partied hard that night but did manage to have our academic meeting too!
We also managed to sell out on Saturday night for the 1st time in 5 years, a little amble along the river walk and a trip to the Alamo on Sunday finishing the week with some sight seeing – who could ask for more!
Up early on Monday morning for flights to Boston and then here we are in Wellesley – the most beautiful campus I have ever seen.