LSW Goes Manhattan
The RSC was visiting New York, or Brooklyn rather, at BAM (the Brooklyn Academy of Music) with their celebrated productions of Midsummer Night's Dream, Schiller's Don Carlos, and Eliot's The Family Reunion starring the wonderful LSW guests Lynn Farleigh and Greg Hicks. It seemed too good an opportunity not to celebrate and so, on Sunday, 14th May 2000 within the comfortable sixth floor confines of the studio theatre at the Stella Adler Conservatory, nestled firmly aside the Public Theatre at 419 Lafayette Street, (itself being a major East Side artery), a hearty of group of over thirty souls gathered to revel in the inaugural LSW NYC Workout.
The original flyer for this exciting undertaking can be found here and great thanks are due to many people including Tom Oppenheim, Joanne Edelmann and Tim Piper of the Stella Adler Conservatory for their enormous generosity; Kirk Wood-Bromley, the talented dramatic poet and powerhouse behind the Inverse Theatre Company and Ian Reed, whose productions of the Shakespearean Reveries have been hailed, for their enormous largess in getting the word out about this exciting undertaking; to Sherie Eaker of Backstage for printing an article on the event in Backstage and, as always, to the enormous goodwill of Ruth Kulerman and Jeffrey Martin in seeing, fundamentally, that the event happened at all and for generously providing accommodation to Bruce Wall, as well as to the miraculous talents which are known to all at LSW and to grateful audiences throughout the world as Greg Hicks and Lynn Farleigh, two extraordinary talents.
LSW-NYC DIARY ENTRIES
To give a clearer idea of the specifics of the inaugural LSW undertaking itself, I am delighted to be able to provide not one, but two diary entries, from professional performing participants in the undertaking itself, Matt Daniels and Ruth Kulerman.
LSW-NYC DIARY ENTRY NO. 1 - MATT DANIELS
Matt Daniels is an actor, director, and teacher. After graduating from
the Juilliard Drama Division, Matt joined the ranks of Gorilla Rep., for whom he has
played Banquo, Pistol, Malvolio, Nick Bottom(in Washington Square Park), and Wagner in
Kirk Wood-Bromleys own Faust. Matt is the
Co-founder and Artistic Director of Tyrannosaurus rep, for whom he has directed
productions of The Winters Tale and Elektra. He is also the Director/Instructor of
The Lawyers Voice, a program to teach lawyers better techniques for making
themselves heard, and of Cues and All, a program to teach actors solid techniques for
making Shakespeares verse come to life. As a member of Inverses Acting
Company, Matt appeared in The
Death of Griffin Hunter. He originally hails from the Valley in southern California.
So. Where to begin?
LSW is a revelation. In a time and place (now in NYC) rife with shoddy, lazy, not-up-to-par actors and the classes that keep them that way, LSW gives us hope that in fact, it doesn't have to stay that way. Physically, vocally, and intellectually demanding, the workout is just that, a place for actors to get together and keep (or get) in shape.
Beginning with a simple warmup, Bruce gets things cooking fast with exercises reminding us all we're not alone - onstage or off - by setting up a number of call and response situations (non-Bard-specific to start). Once the air is hot, we moved right into Shakescene, and from there, it just didn't let up.
A real test of one's complete-works-knowledge, the Shakespeare Name Game kept us on our toes and at the tips of our tongues. Let me suggest boning up on those "Dramatis Personae." Followed by a lovely foray into the land of Shakespearean insults, where colorful language gets bandied about, and everybody ironically has a huge smile on their face. And then into hard core verse work. Witslings, where we all get a chance at iambic greatness, was an amazing section of the workout. Inspired by a line, actors would write 4 to 20 of their own iambic verse, many even rhymed! And to our own mini one-man (or woman)-shows where Bruce would find ways to help us really make the verse sing. Never mind showing us how the verse really sings of its own accord: Just watch two different pieces together, line by line, and a whole new dialogue appears, to amazing effect. Always making us listen, through exercise after exercise, proving the point that the best acting is reaction based... And then to the Clumps. A free-for-all of sorts where the more Shakespeare you know, the more fun you have. Richard III meets Bottom, and both defend themselves from Lady M, all to rousing applause, derisive laughter, and Battle Noises! Anything goes in that circle, and we all learned that truly, we are such stuff as dreams are made on.
At which point Lynn Farleigh arrived for work for commentary, a sort of Master Class. And how very thankful I am to have been able to work with her. Working on the tennis ball speech, from Henry V, I had a couple of ideas, but needed guidance. Well, with Lynn (and Will S.) as my navigator(s), I took the thing from first, through second, into overdrive in a matter of minutes. Incredibly astute observations, from both Lynn and my colleagues really opened the piece up for me, and I feel I now have a formidable weapon in my audition arsenal. She was awesome. Truly. And not just with me. The other actors with whom she worked also made great strides in their pieces, and I'm quite sure we three were not the only ones who learned during the commentary.
When Special Guest 2, Greg Hicks, appeared, I knew it was going to be hard to equal Lynn. But with his everyday approach, his admission that in fact, he's just an actor like me, he immediately won me over. A totally different section thatn Lynn's, we all did very little work with Greg, but a lot of question and answer, as a guest speaker at a college might give. But again, I was honored to do a tiny bit of some of the work he espoused: letting, as an exercise, the weight of every image bounce back to you before moving on - essentially letting the verse the do the work, not me. And what an amazing feeling. We seem to be trained as actors these days to doa lot of the work. Make things happen, tear ourselves apart. And Greg talked about letting that go, and letting the play do the work, and just being open and available to that. And it was lovely, really, even to hear a fellow actor just talk about his personal process and relate it back to the work at hand, verse.
I teach Shakespeare for actors, in much a different setting. My class is structured around the encounter with the text, from first look to putting it on its feet, and giving the actor a number of tools to use along the way. As excited as my students are about the work we do, what I now know the class lacks is this workout: a way to keep in shape. LSW is by no means a formal class. Much rather a workshop situation, where we all learn from one another, constantly. Structured in such a way that people of varying levels of experience can all reap reward, LSW reminded me that my way is not the only way. I studied at Juilliard, and I often find myself in that terrible midset of "there is nothing this can offer me" - a load of *&^$%# if ever there was one. There are so many ways at this stuff, all of them have something to give us, and most importantly, the fount of knowledge will never run dry. There is always more to learn. And LSW is a fantastic place to learn it.
I came home beaming, and I hope I can get my act together and take it to London, so I can spend some more Sunday afternoons working out.
LSW-NYC DIARY ENTRY NO. 2 - RUTH KULERMAN
|'Ruth Kulerman', Michael Finegold of the Village Voice extolled, 'is droll, like a roller coaster running over a string of firecrackers'. Guaranteed to generate rave reviews, our flame-red haired Ruth's creations are crammed with the detail for which her craft is justly celebrated. Graced with dual nationality (UK/US), a PhD in English Literature and a glorious soprano, Ruth has been hailed for her performances both in New York (e.g., Lacey /Quintessential Image for John Glines; Moll/Sharon for Geraldine Fitzgerald, The Countess in All's Well & Nurse/R&J, Nat'l Shakespeare) as well as throughout the U.S. in parts ranging from Margaret in Life with Father opposite Robert Reed in Akron, Ohio to Madam Arcarti in Blithe Spirit and Mam in And a Nightingale Sang at Utah's celebrated Lyric Theatre. On film Ruth has played everything from the eccentric Betsy in Payday with Theodore Bikel and Jimmy Breslin to a role entirely in French in Blue Xmas with Joanna Going and Bob Hogan. 'Ruth Kulerman imbues her roles', the New York Times exclaimed, 'with subtle sense, honesty, confidence and good humor.'|
Six years ago today, Mother's Day--do you celebrate that in London?-- [Editors Note: We do, but it's a different, earlier date] I read for the Duchess of York in Richard III. Today at the NYC Workout I was able to work on her great cursing monologue with Lynn Farleigh. It was an honor I dreamt not of, to borrow from Juliet. Such a lovely woman, and oh so very kind. Breathing, breathing, breathing--ah me, and one "tweeked " change in syllable stress. Did you know that 'EXTREME' takes the stress on the first syllable? Now that is real training. And as Greg Hicks said (much more poetically) let's get to the language and let it flow through you. Quit niggling in self-indulgent ME ME ME. (Remember all this is sifted through my language, not theirs. They were much kinder, both Greg and Lynn.) I stood in the circles which must be so terribly familiar to you and recalled my two sessions in London, recalled the charming lilt of your language and the intelligence of your contributions and thought that with one or two exceptions we Americans are indeed mere toddlers in Shakespeare. Bruce was generous in his guidance. (Those of you who have not worked under him as a director have missed a rare experience.) He is a kind man. His American counterpart in LSW Promotions is not nearly so generous and forgiving. I loved the wee elfin of an elderly lady who seemed utterly lost but who astonished me with pleasure when she read her "insult" in Spanish. There was a dear very young man (perhaps 16) who hadn't a clue how to interrupt the person citing Quickly's death of Falstaff and yet who absolutely glowed with his pleasure in being there and being asked to participate. The witslings were mostly iambic pentameter, a nice surprise to me personally because our American ear has been tuned to four beats to a line, not five (I think we get it from the old Protestant hymns). Bruce in a Freudian gesture left all the witslings he had collected at the studio. My own is the only one I remember and it was about incest. Not a humorous contribution, though there were witslings that were clever and funny. Let me boast that yes, we Americans are quite good at clever and funny. Not John Cleese clever and funny, but Robin Williams, when he doesn't do Shakespeare. Lynn was gently persuasive in her comments about the excessive tennis ball playing in the Henry V monologue; however, we Americans know much more about shucks, golly gee, mister than we do about behaving like a king. I am really not the right one to write one (the diary, that is) because of remembering in stark outlines how brilliant you all were in the workouts I attended. But I felt a deep sense of pride at my "fellow Americans" as one of our golly gee presidents used to say. They were mostly young (mid twenties), mostly theatre students, obviously loving Shakespeare, obviously enjoying themselves, obviously hungry for experiences like the workout. They need oh so badly to be trained and probably didn't realize they weren't (trained, that is) until Lynn opened a window and showed them possibilities. Greg's Apologia seemed to strike a chord in several actors, perhaps because they had never been told (my words) that acting is not psychotherapy performed on a stage. All in all, those attending were eager, enthusiastic, energetic, and grateful. I wanted to cry. Shake-speare is indeed for everyone to watch and to read and to listen to , to revel in the luxury of his words, to delight in his complex and multilayered lines. But unless our American actors work with British coaches we best stick to American prose. It was an exhilarating, inspiring, unique experience. It was humbling, depressing, frustrating. You have no idea how fortunate you are to have a workout every week. (This red hair I tear is mine.) Greetings to old and new. And gratitude to exhausted Bruce who I hope sleeps all the way back to England. Ruth LSW-NYC EDITOR'S NOTE: BRUCE WALL
To all who participated and aided in this project, I would like to send my heartfelt thanks. It was a glorious joy to be able, in very small part, be able to bring back to the shores whence the Workout originated, a small part of the keen joy which has come to define LSW. The energy, intelligence and the enthusiasm of LSW's inaugural Manhattan undertaking shall hopefully continue to thrive in its infection. I very much hope to be able to repeat this adventure again in the not-too- distant future.
Cheers for now, Bruce.