Today’s Date: Monday, July 1.
Show Title: Measure for Measure
Director: Emily MacLeod
Assistant Directors: Taylor Lamb, Molly Harper
Production Interns: Maddie Miller (SM), Grace Wallis (Dramaturg)
Rehearsal Room: Hunt West, Blackfriars Theatre
What we did:
Our early morning rehearsal was spent reworking the choreography and music for our first and last numbers. In considering our options for both, we talked about the story we all wanted to collectively tell with this text as well as our limitations in trying to tie up a “neat” knot at the end of this problem play. The cast was allowed to brainstorm, through movement and song, different versions of the closing number for about fifteen minutes, and the results were bone-chillingly brilliant – another reminder that our campers are open-minded, highly collaborative storytellers. In the middle of rehearsal, we split into several groups, some working one-on-one in text sessions with the ADs and Dramaturg, and the clowns working on physical embodiment of the text with Emily. In the evening, we returned again to the Blackfriars for our late-night rehearsal slot, working our new and improved numbers in the space and continuing to push through the show.
Quotes & Moments:
From the play:
“I am sorry, one so learned and so wise
As you, Lord Angelo, have still appear’d,
Should slip so grossly, both in the heat of blood.
And lack of temper’d judgment afterward.”
– Escalus (Sophie), Act 5, Scene 1.
From the director:
“She is choosing a life without human connection. She’s choosing a life in which God is her only connection.”
– Emily regarding Isabella’s (Olivia’s) final blocking in Act 5, Scene 1.
From the cast:
Mariana (Dagny) patting Angelo (Topher) in character to stop him from breaking in our last run of the night of Act 5, Scene 1.
One of my favorite teachers once told me that Shakespeare is like a jazz musician. Just as the jazz musician improvises from the standard and measure, Shakespeare creates a regular rhythm (dee-dum-dee-dum-dee-dum-dee-dum-dee-dum) in order to break it. Much of the story is told in the crevices of the verse, where the rhythm is broken. A lot of what I do in the rehearsal room as dramaturg is stare at my computer screen or notebook as I scribble dribbles of notes, questions, or research. And, as a largely physical person, I would be sad about this except for the fact that this also means that I spend most of rehearsal listening. As we love to point out here at the ASC, Hamlet says that they will “hear” a play and not, as we would say, “see” a play. Additionally, the Latin root of the word “audience” is audire, to hear. Many historians agree that theatres were themselves thought of in terms of their acoustical capacities. One historian and advisor to the architect of Sam Wanamaker’s recreation of the Globe Theatre in Southwark, John Orrell, called the Globe “an acoustical auditorium, intended to serve the word and the ear more fully than the image and the eye.” Time and time again in rehearsal, my eyes are instinctively pulled from computer screen to stage because my ears catch the rhythm of the words so clearly. It is impossible, sometimes, NOT to react physically. Having played with Shakespeare for a few years now, I understand why my grandpa loved his Shakespeare LPs so much. My mom told me that, when she was a kid, he studied in night school to finish his English degree and often stayed up late, after the kids had gone to bed, listening to those LPs in the dark with a glass of scotch. When the verse is spoken well, the moments when it breaks from form elicit visceral responses. As a human biology major, it’s fascinating to bear witness to the ways in which Shakespeare’s text so successfully interacts with us physiologically. We use and hold and direct our bodies so differently today than did the people of early modern Europe – because of clothing, status, gender norms, and other countless intricacies of etiquette and laws of social conformity. In so many ways, their bodies were central to their understanding of how their world worked. The codpiece is a good example of a piece of early modern garb that accentuated one aspect of the body, as is the “mark” of witchcraft, purportedly found on the “privatest parts of woman.” The body was a mystery and a fantasy and an incredibly powerful storytelling instrument four hundred years ago, especially without the benefit of modern lighting and sound technology. In other words, the human body was, for centuries, the primary instrument. And for those reasons, people scrupulously listened to the human body, incorporated it into metaphors of power, and created social and political strata with it. Shakespeare knew the body so well that he was able to write plays that audiences not only listened to but also responded to. His understanding of speech and rhetoric – common skills taught in early modern academies but which he essentially mastered – allowed him to physiologically and psychologically activate the bodies of his actors AND his listeners. From my very undynamic perch in rehearsal, it is a privilege to be daily grabbed by the ears and taken back into my body for a couple moments, moments that make me crave, more than anything, the pile of my grandpa’s LPs on my dresser back in California, a glass of scotch, and a starry night.