To continue on …
Whitney Egbert here again live blogging the final keynote session of the Blackfriars conference which will run from 10:30am to 11:15am this morning. Abigail Rokison of The Shakespeare Institute will be giving a presentation entitled Shakespeare Verse Speaking: The Actor and the Text. Rokison will be assisted by actors Daniel Kennedy, Mark Tucker, Miriam Donald Burrows, and Daniel Burrows.
Paul Menzer introduces Abigail Rokison as a new friend whom he discovered through her work on Shakespeare’s verse and working with actors on and in the verse (as an actor, teacher, and scholar herself).
Rokison starts by siting Peter Hall – “Shakespeare tells the actor when to go fast and when to go slow …” and how, when a director gave her similar advice while playing Isabella in Measure for Measure, she felt like she (Rokison) had struck gold. She started to investigate other actors work on the role of Isabella and found that their rehearsal room was not the only one digging into the verse for clues.
Rokison then started to move into researching the use of verse, verse structure, and the “rules” of meter as an academic – she points out that she wanted to take it out of the rehearsal room so that the “rules” wouldn’t limit the choices that she believes the rehearsal room should maintain. Rokison focuses, for a moment, on broken and shared lines – the speed at which they might be delivered, that an actor should count the missing beats in their head to maintain the speed, etc.
Rokison wants to focus on how actors might look at text and the verse work that then ensues – she specifically is looking at the difference between quarto printings and the folio printings – were the folio line divisions that differ from the quarto division on purpose or simply because the columns in which the folio were printed were narrower? She uses a series of examples where which script a production is using allows for different choices to be made as the director and actor interpret the line divisions. Rokison continues by talking about more modern editors versions of the scripts: starting the use of the indentation to indicate a continuation of the same line, and how shared lines are indicated, either by leaving it as all at the same indentation (or lack thereof) and therefore giving the actors the choice of what is shared or by indenting it for them to show what is shared.
Rokison points out that renaissance actors would not have been able to know about shared lines – when given just the cue of the actor before you, you would not know how many beats their lines were and therefore if you were sharing or starting a new verse line. BUT OF COURSE! Why had I never thought of that before? I’m not sure it will change my work but will definitely give me a freer sense, I think, when looking at shared lines.
Rokison brings up three of our actors to read a piece from Richard II, the first time counting the extra beats many current practitioners use and as Patsy Rodenburg teaches. The second time the actors read through the scene, they just keep things going, without the extra beats but with quick pickups. Her second scene example is from Winter’s Tale, running through the same exercise with the extra beats after different lines based on different editing. The execution of these exercises is a wonderful illumination of Rokinson’s points about director and actor choices based on the editor choices. She concludes with a call, as many speakers over the week have, to have more dialogue between practioners and editors so that we can each better understand the choices made and the consequences of such choices. It is a beautiful, unexpected theme for our week in my opinion.