Let The Welkin Roar!

So, there I was on top of a table, brandishing a sword and screeching like a Howler monkey…again.

 Let me backtrack.

 We’ve started work on blocking the infamous Act II, scene 4.  This is the scene I referred to earlier that takes place in the Boar’s Head Tavern with Falstaff and his coterie of Eastcheap denizens.  There’s a great deal that happens in this one scene, which can almost be broken down into three smaller scenes, so we’ve already and will continue to put in a great deal of work on this chunk of the play.*  The day before we lay down some basic blocking so that we could add the fight choreography with the help of our Fight Director Jamie Cheatham. 

Let me give you a preview.  The scene opens with some servants gossiping about a clever plot that Prince Hal has laid for pranking Falstaff.  In bustles Mistress Quickly and Doll Tearsheet, a resident of the Boar’s Head and Falstaff’s favorite “companion” for the evening.  Falstaff and his cronies arrive and the beer and witty banter are flowing when news comes  from below that there’s an Ancient* Pistol at the door.  Doll and Quickly promptly begin to plead with Falstaff not to allow him in as he is a swaggering rascal, and they can abide no swaggerers.  Falstaff knows Pistol is good for a laugh so they invite him in and within a few minutes Pistol is out of the gate.  Doll tears into him and sets off a maelstrom of malapropisms.  Knives are drawn, swords are brandished, insults are hurled, and tankards are overturned.  It’s what Shakespeare would call hurly burly.

We started to flesh out the scene and continued to solidify the blocking.  Jamie guided us through some good, old-fashioned tavern brawling which helped immensely to further inform my choices about Pistol’s demeanor.  In the midst of the rehearsal I remembered that I can’t walk and talk at the same time.  Prior to rehearsal I’d worked and worked on this scene to get the lines in my head so that when we started working I wouldn’t be burdened with my script.  I ran the lines with my friend and scene partner Marcy Kearns before the rehearsal and I was pretty solid.  But once we got into the scene and started moving around the words just wouldn’t come.  To my credit I was trying to deliver a line while climbing onto a table in such a way that I wouldn’t either break my neck or impale my scene partners with my sword.  I managed to accomplish those things without mishap but I began to get frustrated with myself for constantly calling for a line***.

 We got through the rehearsal and ultimately got a lot of really good work done.  Needless to say I have a lot more personal work to do before we revisit the scene tomorrow.  The big thing I need to work on is making the thoughts that are the lines motivate the action and the movement.  That shouldn’t be too hard, right?  Oy!

*SideBard:  Ancient in this case means ensign, a military term for the guy who carries the flag.  Pistol is Falstaff’s ancient though we’ll be pronouncing it enschion to more closely sound like ensign, a term with which most audience members will be more familiar.

**SideBard:  Those who saw 1 Henry IV will remember that there was a big scene in the Boar’s Head in that play.  It was also a tremendous scene and I often think we put as much work in that scene as we did in the rest of the play combined, but the payoff for the audience was huge.

***SideBard:  Rehearsal protocol is to call “line” when you’re in the middle of the scene and your next line won’t come.  There’s always a stage manager following along with the script to assist.  In an ideal situation a word or two from the stage manager will put the actor back on the proper train of thought without coming too much out of the moment****.

****SideBard:  To be “in the moment” is how we actors refer to being present and aware on stage, focused on what’s happening and thinking only about what’s taking place right now.


1 Response to “Let The Welkin Roar!”

  1. 1 poetr
    August 23, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    I did Man of La Mancha and had to climb on a table and act, so I know that’s a challenge. It can throw you for a minute. But you’ll get it. Cheers, and hi to Susan Hart, a great teacher of The Technique.

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