Monthly Archives: September 2013

Grant Turner on Memorizing All Those Lines

A photographic memory, a photographic memory! My kingdom for a photographic memory! 

Everyone always asks “how do you remember all of those lines?” Now there are many different answers to that question and I suppose an actor may use a variety of different methods throughout his/her career.
Tom Walton, who plays Clarence in the play, has an interesting method. He writes down the first letter of each word on to a sheet of paper and then carries this considerably smaller and more manageable “mini-script” with him wherever he goes. It’s a two-fold process. First, the meticulous act of going through and writing each letter helps to solidify it in the head, and second, the letter is a great  mnemonic device (very helpful when memorizing Shakespearean verse).
Grant Byington, who plays Stanley in the play (to avoid confusion our director,Barry Kyle,  refers to him as Stanley Grant, and I’m Richard Grant) has an application on his I-pad called Line Learner. He record his speeches with his cues and then can listen to it over and over again, starting and stopping as needed to work a particular line or passage.
As I start my journey into middle age, my current method is to panic,  perseverate, and to run my lines ad nauseum. Maybe not the best method but I’m sticking with what I know.
The problem is that there are just so many.  I tried last night, to run everything I had thus far (I still don’t have act five down) and it took me 55 min! It’s hard to find 55 free minutes for anyone in this day and age, but trying to run a small theatre company while chasing two small children around all day makes for a unique challenge.
 I try to spend an hour in the morning learning new lines. I then through out the day check in with the lines I have down, solidifying and committing them to a longer term memory, then I  re-visit the new lines for an hour or so after rehearsal. Usually it’s a jumbled mess, and I get very depressed, but I’ve found if I give them one last look just before bed, sleep on it, then run them again first thing in the morning, they’re usually still there.
Interestingly enough, considering I’m still not completely off book, I’m not too worried. With these well known roles, so many of these lines are familiar that you kind of know the part already. I have “a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse” memorized and I haven’t even got there yet. Plus he says it twice so there’s two more lines down!
PS- the great irony of it all is that we work so hard to get these lines down and then after a show they all go away. Part of the ephemeral beauty of theatre. It only lives in its brief time, and then it’s gone…

Heidi Hunter on foregoing table work (gasp!)

One of the most surprisingly satisfying personal tools I’ve found during these rehearsals has been in the absence of traditional table work. Typically, the first few days of rehearsal for any production (especially Shakespeare) are spent sitting with the cast, reading and talking through the play, discussing language, motives, context, tactics, blocking, technical cues, etc. This is intended to give the cast an overall vision of the production, as well as to develop a complete arc for the narrative as a whole. Because of the accelerated rehearsal schedule for this production, traditional table work has been put aside in favor of a more visceral approach. We’ve done “walking read-throughs” of the vast majority of the script (minus a few major and complicated scenes), intended to get us on our feet, exploring impulses which thus far have lead to some very bold blocking choices, grounded in our physical bodies and instincts rather than born out of intellectual analysis.
As an actor who occasionally over-intellectualizes her roles and choices, I’ve found this to be extremely useful and refreshing. I’ve had to engage with the body first, the mind second. Often, ideas that sound great during table work don’t “feel right” in the body once you’ve begun blocking. An intellectual decision which doesn’t provide a strong enough impulse to support the blocking can be difficult to revise, for myself. This process has forced me to orient my characters in terms of relationships with others, rather than my relationship with the character I’m playing. During these rehearsals, if I don’t feel the impulse to cross stage left, I don’t. If I want to be closer to Gloucester (as is often the case), though, then I cross left with clear intent. It’s challenging, but extremely liberating.


Heidi Hunter (Ratcliffe, 2nd Murderer, Duke of York)

Brenan Dwyer on Working with Trust

One of the elements of rehearsal that has struck me so far is the feeling of trust and respect that is inherent in our process. Richard III is different from the sort of general “trust” that many casts have – which resembles something more like charging ahead blindly despite fear of judgment than it does true support. Much of group came into rehearsals straight from working together on our Bend Shakespeare in the Park show, Much Ado About Nothing. While a rather loosey-goosey rehearsal process, Much Ado was a great bonding experience for the company because we have a lot of fun, and because we are very much left to our own devices to ensure that our text, voice and movement work was where it needed to be (due to time constraints in rehearsals). We had to trust and embrace that what others were bringing to the table was their best work. While others in the cast of Richard III did not participate in Much Ado, many of them have worked previously with Northwest Classical, and have good friendships and working relationships established.  For the few newcomers, we hope they’re feeling welcomed too.

The other major component that makes Richard III such a trust-filled environment is our director, Barry Kyle. He treats the acting company with more respect than any other director I have ever worked with. After a scene is over, Barry says, “Thank you,” with such sincere gratitude for the work and risks that have just been performed, that it makes you immediately want to do it again, and better. Barry was with us in Bend, and witnessed how strong a company bond we have. He has commented on this frequently, and has used our work as an ensemble to drive our way of approaching the play, developing work with masks and choral movement that will help us portray battles and large crowds in the limited space of the Shoebox. Essentially, our ensemble work enables us to strongly delve into the use of metaphor because our personal relationships are strong enough to touch something deeper than a working relationship.

Barry asks our opinions and welcomes our frank answers. I was recently describing to someone outside the theater how our production is taking shape, and describing the mix of modern and classical costumes, props, and styles. We were specifically talking about if we should use crowns in a modern production, set in contemporary America. My conversation partner seemed appalled that these things hadn’t been sorted out by the director ahead of time. But I wasn’t scared at all. I was honored that Barry had waited to work with us to draw conclusions about what elements were appropriate to our production. In other words, because he trusted us to bring something to the table, we in turn, trust his thoughtfulness, and must honor his final decisions after considering all the options.

This amount of mutual respect has built space for the performers to take risks on stage; to become emotional, to turn their bodies into ferocious animals; to learn to become killers or to face death. I hope the results will be a play filled with true reactions and experiences, since the performers feel safe to “go there.” Barry is certainly challenging me to let loose, to let my emotional and mental state derail to a point that I am scared to go. I have faith that with his support and that of my ensemble, that I’ll be there by opening night.

-Brenan Dwyer (Lady Anne)

Grant Turner on family drama and black comedy

Tonight’s rehearsal (9/4)

Tonight we worked on the political heart of the first half of our play (Shakespeare’s act 2). The scenes involving the rivalry of the house of York and the Woodville’s.  These scenes are interesting to me. I always see them played as a continuation of Richard’s Machiavellian design. That by planting these seeds of discontent, fanning the flames of the rivalry for his own ends, he  is actually setting everyone up to mow them down. But in practice, that’s very hard to play. Or rather not very interesting to play. Upon re-examination  it seems a fascinating divergence from the main story rather than a continuation of Richard ‘s game.

And it seems Barry agrees. Rather than playing the scenes with a touch of feigned civility, and veiled suggestion of mistrust, he really encouraged me (and all of us for that matter) to wear our hatred for each other on our sleeves. In one scene he has us all together and we can barely look at each other we hate one another so much.  It made for a much more palpable reading, and, surprisingly, a much funnier reading.

Barry is mining all of the black comedy from this play that he can, and this sequence of scenes produced many laughs.

From Melissa’s crying, hysterical Elizabeth, Jason’s spiritually awakened King Edward, Paige’s crazy bag lady Margaret, or my own snorting hog of a Richard. There’s a lot to laugh at. But it’s nervous laughter, and we can and do go back and forth between comedy and horror at the drop of a hat.

So expect to laugh when you see the show. Just don’t get too comfortable…

A quick note on playing Richard. I don’t seem him as a psychopath really. I think he’s totally aware of what he’s doing and that he’s absolutely emotionally affected by his decisions. In fact, I think that makes him scarier in a way. He knows the emotional ramifications of his actions and he’s willing to go through with it all the same.  Certainly more interesting for me to play anyway…

Richard III

Richard III

The first production of our 16th season, Richard III by William Shakespeare, directed by Barry Kyle, and starring Artistic Director Grant Turner in the title role.

Grant Turner on rehearsing Richard and Lady Anne

September 2, 2013

A great rehearsal today – working on the Lady Anne wooing scene.  First off, it’s Lady Anne ‘s ( actually Brenan Dwyer’s) birthday today. I told her, for her present, I’d let her spit in my face all day!

It’s nice to kind of start the real meat of our rehearsal with this scene. To begin with, we were both for all intents and purposes off book which allowed us to push each other further than if we’d had scripts in hand. And then, the scene it self is so great to play, and gives us so much information about our respective characters that its the ideal leaping off point for the work to come .
Also, as an actor it was a fun challenge to find the physicality of the scene. Anyone who knows me knows I have some intimacy issues. It’s nice sometimes for me to play a character that does things and reacts to things in ways that are foreign to me.  I think I surprised Brenan (and myself too a little bit) when I wrapped my arms around her!
And, Richard ‘s deformity is beginning to take shape. I’m excited to continue to explore what that does to and for me in the coming scenes.
A discovery or point of interest today…
The idea that they’re different sides of the same coin. She is “Gentle Lady Anne” and yet she has access to a tigress in her. He has his “Angry Moods” (like in Tewksbury for example) and yet had access to the heartfelt in her.  As Barry said, it’s as if this Juliet like character has a lady Macbeth side of her and that Richard has a Romeo streak in him.
-Grant Turner