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RSC Workshop: Voice and Text

Introduction:

This workshop was given at the RSC Big Amateur Weekend in The Other Place (the RSC rehearsal spaces)  on the 14th& 15th October. You can get an overview of the week-end’s activity at: RSC Big Amateur Weekend.

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The workshop leader was Michael Corbidge, a senior RSC associate practitioner. Michael  is a freelance, and so can undertake workshops with interested groups. I can personally recommend Michael, as I had attended earlier versions of this workshop twice before: first as part of the RSC Open Stages workshops in Glasgow, and secondly, again as part of RSC Open Stages, Michael came to a Shakespeare Festival we ran at Traquair House, where he gave a similar workshop to some of the cast of our production of Twelfth Night, and other people. To ask Michael  if he can run a workshop for you,  Click on this link, , fill in the form, and press Submit.

 

The workshop explores how to speak Shakespearean text well.  The warm-ups are of particular importance for getting the workshop attendees into the right state of  mind for approaching the text, and Michael’s good humour, enthusiasm,  and wit are important for keeping the attendees engaged throughout the workshop. For the RSC Big Amateur Week-end Voice and Text workshop, Michael used the relatively obscure extract from A3S1 of The Winter’s Tale that you will find below. Of course, you can use Michael’s approach with any scene, and it might be particularly appropriate to try out this with any of our “Let’s Play” items (explore the “Let’s Play” menu).

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Workshop Overview:

I will  summarise Michael’s approach as exploring a Shakespeare text through the body. In this version of the workshop , we explored a short scene from The Winter’s Tale (A3S1),  where Cleomenes and Dion describe their visit to the oracle at Delphi. It’s a short scene – it fits on one sheet of paper.

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Warm-up:

The group wasn’t told anything about the scene. Indeed we didn’t even get to see the words for the first 30 – 45 minutes. That was taken up with a warm-up aimed at getting us out of our habits and into a state where we were approaching the world freshly, a similar place to that Aileen, the director who ran the Directing Masterclass, tries to get her actors to. The time is spent removing physical habits. Do you always have your hand on your hip? Well stop it! Do you always have your mouth closed? Then open it, ready to receive the world. All this is done with good humour and wit from Michael to keep us engaged in a process of waking up and becoming aware.

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Finally, we were each given the speech on a sheet of A4, but we are not allowed to read it. Instead we spend more time learning how to hold it. Hold it high (maybe chest height) in our left hand, so your head is up, your chest is open, and you can make eye-contact with other actors.

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Finally, we were allowed to speak… but only one word. The group is in a circle. One person starts to speak by turning to their neighbour; making physical contact with them – usually a grasp of the shoulder – and eye contact, and then says one word of the speech.

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The recipient then turns to their other neighbour, makes physical and eye contact with them, and says the next word – and so on round the circle. Sometimes we do it clockwise; sometimes we do it anti-clockwise; we start with different people – everything to keep it fresh.

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To begin with it was clumsy, you could drive a horse and cart through the pause between words; people can’t find their word on the page. But slowly it improved, until the group makes sense from the words.

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The Workshop Exercise:

When we reach Michael’s exacting standard of freshness, we are allowed to move onto the next stage. Instead of one word, we read a whole line. Of course a line may still not be a sentence and therefore may not make sense, but at least we’ve got more than one word to say.

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When we’ve mastered that, we move on to each person speaking a phrase. Still we’re receiving (open-mouthed, and open-eyed) the previous phrase from our neighbour, with physical and eye contact, and then turning to our other neighbour  to deliver our line. And now the meaning of the speeches is beginning to appear from the efforts of the group. We don’t know the play; we don’t know the context; the speeches aren’t particularly easy; but meaning is beginning to emerge. And the speech and the meaning has a freshness because thought has not been allowed in.

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Finally, members of the group are allowed to read whole speeches, and then all the speeches of a character, and then we can play it as a scene. We can even start to think about the scene, to analyse it, and see how the language of the characters differs. The point is not to get rid of thought, but to allow a more bodily- felt experience of the words to take its rightful place, before we start thinking about the scene..

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The group  recognised that the speeches have a freshness and that  meaning has emerged from the workshop, without intellectual thought being involved  The work of the group, directed and encouraged by Michael, has allowed the meaning to appear.

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To get a pdf of the wrokshop documentation, together with  the script we used, as a pdf,  click on this link, , fill in the form, and press Submit.

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To ask Michael if he can run a workshop for you or your group,  Click on this link, , fill in the form, and press Submit.

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The text of the scene we explored The Winter’s Tale, Act 3 Scene 1) s given below in standard format (black text on a white background). If you’re playing one of these parts, you may find it fun to play your part in Parts and Cues form, or Highlight Text. (If you don’t know about Parts and Cues or Highlight Text, you can explore them using Hamlet, with the following post Let’s Explore Hamlet with Parts and Cues and Highlight Text .  To use Parts and Cues, or Highlight Text  for this scene from The Winter’s Tale, click on the appropriate link below (the script will open on a new tab on your browser):

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Cleomenes:                                Parts and Cues                                      Highlight Text
Dion:                                           Parts and Cues                                      Highlight Text

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Of course, you can use this exercise with any of our “Let’s Play” scenes. Choose a scene from our “Let’s Play” Menu  that has the right number of players for your group. Of coourse, you’ll also need to have someone playing Michael’s role of workshop leader.

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Note that the Shakespeare text below, may not appear on certain broswers. If it doesn’t appear on your browser, then click on this link, fill in the first two sections of the form, and press submit at the bottom of the form, and you’ll be emailed a copy of the pdf.

Now here’s the standard text (wee hope):

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Let’s Play!

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Richard Forsyth
‘The Director’
Players-Shakespeare.com

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If you are using, or thinking of using, Players-Shakespeare.com’s edition of Shakespeare’s plays for production rehearsals or play-reading, why don’t you ask to become a member of our Support for Playreading & Productions Closed FB group?

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If you want to know how our Shakespeare edition is developing,  ‘like’ our Facebook page, and you’ll get more detailed updates on Facebook on what’s happening.

 

 

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