The Trouble with Actors

They think that Shakespeare must be very proper.  Proper, of course, means British and soft spoken and lovely.  I can pull real acting out of the young actors when they are angry.  During our fight scenes or in moments where an actor has an angry soliloquy, I have some beautiful work done by the actors.  But all through any of the more romantic moments, I have to fight the silent R’s and soft spoken effeminate Romeo and the lofty angelic Juliet because, frankly, it’s boring.

Part of it, I’m sure, is that my young actors do not know how to speak naturally when they are trying to speak sweetly, or even calmly, and so they fall back on the only thing they have in their repertoire:  Shakespeare movies, which are invariably done in British Accents.  The problem is that I’ve begun to count down our limited number of rehearsals we have remaining and I’m afraid they are going to be stuck in saying “it was the lahk, note the nightingale”

I need to try something new.  Correcting their British misspeaks during rehearsal is  not making change.  Perhaps it is time for a rehearsal in melodrama…

I am the language lover and these are my thoughts.



  1. renaissanceguy said,

    February 17, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Perhaps you could show them some scenes from the film “Much Ado About Nothing”–especially the scenes with American actors.

  2. March 11, 2009 at 12:35 am

    Always tough! I sympathize with your struggle.
    The actors need to find the actual circumstances that they are living through and make it strong for them. Then the words make sense (Pacino’s “Merchant” does a nice job of this). Romeo and Juliet can be great in this regard – fighting! partying! sneaking around at night without your parents finding out! The “Love” elements are well-rooted in teenage passion, so it should not be outside their experience.

    Lots of good stuff, but the Shakespearean habit is really strong and tough to break. Sometimes a short improvisation can help – it forces them to deal with the moment instead of the words. Get them focused on something very specific that is happening right then and there. Something physical. Don’t forget about it! keep it the whole scene.

    Then the words follow and can emerge without the self-conscious tailoring.

    You have quite a challenge ahead. Break a leg!

  3. March 11, 2009 at 2:43 am

    Thanks, David. Your timing is perfect. Our first performance, a matinee for the school, is tomorrow. We had our final rehearsal tonight. I am feeling confident about it. I really feel like they have tapped into the “teenage passion”-as you’ve described it–and that has really elevated the level of the performances all around. I didn’t succeed in eliminating every single moment of “proper British speaking,” but I did get it cut down a lot. Maybe the excitement of an audience will take care of the other little moments that crop up now and then. I’ll know soon enough!

    (By the way, are you really who you say? That’s very cool. I’m a big fan!)

  4. March 11, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    Thank you. I look forward to hearing how it goes today! Best of luck!

  5. March 12, 2009 at 2:35 am

    I’ll post about it soon.

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