AYL: double, double, toil, and … well, work, really

As You Like It has 27 characters. That’s way too many, at least for community theater. Logistically, it would be… well, let’s just say, difficult. Costuming. Dressing rooms. Production costs through the roof.

So, how to solve this problem?

Well, you can cut characters. But I cannot commit to that yet, as I’m not done doing the text work that I talked about yesterday. Just getting to Act Three. Hope to be done by the end of the weekend, but no guarantees. So cutting characters is off the table for the moment.

So what does that leave us?

Casting the play so that a single actor plays double or even multiple roles.

Now, luckily, the New Oxford Shakespeare as, as part of their introduction of each and every play, a “Roles Requirements” section that outlines the bare minimum number of actors needed, as well as a listing of what roles can be doubled together. And that’s cool.

New Oxford Shakespeare: Roles and Requirements
New Oxford Shakespeare: Roles and Requirements

But you know me. I like to get my hands dirty (or some might say, I like to spend valuable time doing that sort of thing instead of doing other things–like working on my thesis, or looking for a job…you know, stuff I should be doing…). The way that I do that is I break down the script, first by scene, then by page within the scene. Those entities become columns. The rows are the characters. And it looks something like this…

Now this serves two purposes:

It allows me to see who is in what scenes or what pages. This can tell me whether or not two characters can be played by the same actor. If the two characters are in the same scene, forget about it; even back-to-back scenes are iffy… Andrew J. Power in the New Oxford–via –has a “40-line” rule (which acts as a kind of addendum to principles laid out by Manley and MacLean)… if the character appearances are separated, either within the same scene or in consecutive scenes, by 40 or more lines, then you could pull it off.

It also begins to lay the groundwork for rehearsal scheduling. The grid allows me to see (literally) where the groupings of character/actors are and how I can then schedule rehearsals. There’s no reason to have every actor at every rehearsal (especially if the actor isn’t onstage much). Sure, near the end of the rehearsal process, when you’re doing run-throughs of entire sections, you want everyone there, but in the early work, just get who you need for that night. So you might have the actors playing Rosalind, Celia, and Orlando come to rehearsal on one night, just to work their scenes together. You get the idea. Of course, when you start to double up roles for actors, this process gets tricky…and the grid can help you make visual sense out of it.

Now, this work on As You Like It has given me a very tentative, very preliminary listing of castings…

But I’m not going to release it, at least not yet… not until I talk about something else.

Something I’ll talk about Monday.

How’s that for a tease?

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