[another in my growing series of discussions of Shakespeare in my long-term substitute teaching classroom… if you’re looking for The Tempest, sorry… give me a couple more weeks… sorry]
So another week, another #getthemoutoftheirdesks activity. This time, we’re going to a funeral!
There’s a great exercise from Creative Shakespeare: The Globe Education Guide to Practical Shakespeare, from the folks over at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, that I can’t wait to try out.
Back in Shakespeare’s day, actors were not given full scripts. They did not know and could not read their scene-partners’ scripts and lines. Parchment and paper was at such a premium that all the actors had were cue scripts, which would include their speeches, and the three-to four words that led up to them. So the rehearsal process was first a listening one…and since acting (at least modern, if not Elizabethan) is about reaction as much as it is about action, this is a great lesson for the students to learn as they try to break down the scene.
So exercise focuses on the middle section of the funeral oration: it begins with Antony’s introduction of Caesar’s will, his second prop for his funeral oration; it ends with him beginning to reveal and talk in detail about the first prop (Caesar’s corpse, of course). There are parts for Antony, four separate citizens, and “all” citizens.
I’ll hand out the parts with only Antony as a volunteer, the rest random. Before we head out to our playroom (thank goodness for the empty classroom across campus), we’ll do a first, rough read-through just to get a feel for it (and for “everyone” to realize they need to pay attention, too).
When we get to the room, we’ll run through the scene a couple of times. I’ll urge the “all” students not to even attempt to say their parts in unison. As part of a mob, verbal chaos is a good thing.
As we get further into the one-hour rehearsal “process,” we’ll talk more about and implement stage movement based on the clues we get from the stage directions. And in the final rehearsals, I’ll give them an idea of stage and audience awareness.
What I’m hoping they get out of the lesson is three-fold: a rough idea of the Elizabethan rehearsal process; a sense of stage and audience awareness; and a feel for how chaotic the scene would have felt. As a follow-up, we’ll discuss Antony’s masterful use of language to manipulate this unruly mob: he never controls them completely, but he is able to turn their destructive power toward the conspirators.
I can’t wait to do this.
But first, we need to kill Caesar. We’ll act that out tomorrow. And for that, I’m going to try something. Each character will be played by two students: one to read the part, the other to physicalize it. I have no idea if this will work or not… It may work just fine, or it may totally crash and burn. I’ll let you know.