Part 2: We Are Not Amused OR Shakespeare is Hard
Before I tell you how little I was impressed by some of them (I’m a Shakespeare snob, get used to it) I want to stress how EDUCATIONAL going to the theatre, and going often, is. No matter what you do in the theatre world, the more theatre you see, the better off you are. There are a lot of great lessons to be learned from those who succeed, and better lessons to be learned from those who fail.
I highly recommend seeing as much theatre as you can. The great thing about Summer Shakespeare is that a lot of it is free/cheap/pay-what-you-can.
In reference to the above snobbishness: no, it didn’t all suck. There were many notable performances. They will be discussed in a later post.
Why do people do Shakespeare? Because he’s the greatest playwright of all time? The poetry? The stories? Maybe. One thing that helps with the popularity of old Will’s plays is the cost. Royalty free! That means Shakespeare is accessible to anyone to perform.
The problem is that Shakespeare ain’t easy. People take for granted the differences between a naturalistic text and the heightened, structured rhetoric that Shakespeare’s plays contain. I saw many actors this summer who just didn’t know how to make their words come alive — even some at the La Jolla Playhouse, of all places. But I won’t rant.
If an actor can’t sing, would you cast them in a musical? If an actor can’t speak verse, would you cast them in a classical play?
In the case of a musical, it’s easy for anyone to identify the person who can’t hold a tune. Verse-speaking ability is much less tangible. But I promise you that if you see an actor who REALLY knows how to speak Shakespeare, you’ll know. Dakin Matthews as Lear at Antaeus was one of those.
Actors: if you’re interested in being in classical plays, seek out the training. Heck, I’ll give you feedback on your audition monologues if you ask. You will stand out in auditions. Actors in LA are a dime a dozen, but a classically trained one is harder to find.
I challenge producers and directors of professional companies to refrain from settling for less. I know the classically trained actors are out there; cast those who will serve the play. I don’t care if they have broadway credits…
Sure, the smaller theaters often have more of a limited casting pool but I’m not gonna cut you too much slack either. Don’t just do the play, do the play well.
A less rant-y part 3 coming soon!