Shakespeare Goes Rogue at Nehalem Bay State Park
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Our shows are extremely physical, totally accessible, often wild community events: more like a great championship sports game than a fusty theater production. Shakespeare’s audiences didn’t have to be English majors to have a great time at his plays. They were popular entertainments; the Globe was the multiplex of his day.
We know that, in Shakespeare’s day, plays were not performed for weeks at a time. Shakespeare’s actors performed ten to twelve different plays in any fortnight, and never performed the same play on two consecutive days. If a play was a hit it might return three times within a month; but meanwhile, to fill the theater, there had to be a different play every day. When in the world could they have rehearsed all these plays?
The answer, we think, is that they did not. They prepared their “roles” (rolled cue scripts) on their own time, met together on the morning of a show, choreographed fights and music and dance, and performed that afternoon. By all accounts, the performances were magnificent— otherwise, the plays would not have survived.
Still, you might observe, modern actors are not used to performing without rehearsals. How do we make great performances happen? The answer is twofold. First of all, we prepare. Before our season starts, our actors train in the methods Shakespeare’s actors used. Then we subject every line, nearly every word, to a rigorous process of unearthing meanings and stage directions. By the time the actor gets to the stage, s/he is able to live his or her part as convincingly, we hope, as those of Shakespeare’s own company would have.
Next, and perhaps most importantly, we trust Shakespeare’s texts to provide all the information we need to play well. We know that his actors were far more like our professional athletes than like our actors: they knew the rules and were virtuosos at PLAYING, whatever the situation. Audiences had to be lured from the bear-baiting and brothels down the street; Shakespeare wrote fun, bawdy, outrageous popular entertainments for the masses (that also happen to have astounding poetry), and the masses came to participate in every play—think Seahawks, not PCS. When we play Shakespeare, we play.