Tulsa City-County Library has announced a series of hands-on Shakespearean workshops for both actors and theatergoers alike.
Weekly sessions, conducted by local acting coach and director Justin McKean, will begin September 18 and will culminate in November with a live, public performance starring workshop attendees.
"Poetry is participatory," McKean said of Shakespeare. "You create meaning in tandem with the speaker."
People who sign up for these workshops will have the opportunity to recreate Shakespeare's poetry with each other by speaking and listening to it. They will also learn some basic rehearsal skills Shakespearean actors employ.
McKean will also aim to teach participants that rehearsal is neither a chore nor an obstacle. It's a creative and explorative opportunity for actors.
"They call it a play for a reason," he said. "One of the best things about playing with Shakespeare is that the text gives us so much room to be creative. We're going to play, but secretly we'll be expanding our ability to express ourselves."
Though at first blush the bard's plays may overwhelm one with words, the truth is that each word is a clue, leading the actor deeper into the character's psyche. The actor must decide why her character has chosen to speak one word over another, why he uses his particular range of metaphors and images, why she swears so much or so little, and so on.
All these clues indicate behavior patterns, which suggest physical choices to the actor. In this way, Shakespearean actors "suit the action to the word."
An actor who has sufficiently processed the character's physical and verbal lives will elucidate the text for the audience.
If the actor has failed to do so, the text will seem muddy and dense.
"[Shakespeare] is not as hard as people think it is," McKean said. "If you have ever been at a Shakespeare play and didn't get it, it's the artist's fault. Period."
That's a lot of pressure for the actors and directors seeking to produce Shakespeare. Luckily, McKean has designed his workshops to be friendly for beginners.
Like the more interactive Web sites ushered in by what has commonly been referred to as Web 2.0, "It's user-driven. I'm there to coach and guide," said McKean.
"I look for texts that are fairly straightforward in terms of plot and character relationship.
That way we can focus more on communicating the language. I'll pull from the sonnets as well as Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing and As You Like It to start with, then we'll go from there and see what everyone is prepared to do," he said. "I find most often that, once a person has read the text out loud, they usually can explain clearly what's going on. They get it. Sometimes we have to go to a dictionary for a moment, but the meaning becomes clear quickly."
McKean has conducted similar workshops before, with different age levels ranging from third graders to retired seniors. He has been performing and producing theater for 20 years. He received his B.A. in Theater from Abilene Christian University, where he performed in his first Shakespearean play.
"My first Shakespeare role was Toby Belch in Twelfth Night, way back in the early nineties while I was a freshman," he said.
Musing on Shakespeare's staying power, McKean said, "Normal, mundane life is riddled with the mediocre and boring."
Shakespeare, on the other hand, always finds a way to remake and reinvent, and "engages the imagination with a sense of wonder and passion."
For suggested reading, McKean recommends the plays themselves, of course, as well as a plethora of educational texts by modern authors.
"For actors, I'd recommend Playing Shakespeare, put out by the Royal Shakespeare Company some time ago. The Shakespeare Lexicon and Quotation Dictionary, two volumes, from Dover Press, are great for definitions of long-lost words. Also Voice and the Actor by Cecily Berry, an excellent vocal coaching text. The book A Practical Handbook for the Actor is the best text on how to do acting out there, so regardless of the playwright it's valuable," he said.
He added, "For non-actors, I'd recommend... various good commentaries, from Harold Bloom's Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, to Mark Twain's vehement Bacon Was Shakespeare! diatribe."
Readers will be able to find these books at Tulsa City-County Library. If any desired text is absent from the collection, library patrons can request an Inter-Library Loan. A separate library account must be created for these special loans, which extend beyond TCCL's own collection into other systems. The library charges $1 per item to defray shipping costs. For ILL assistance, contact a TCCL librarian at any of the system's 25 locations.
The workshop begins on September 18 at 7pm Each workshop runs approximately an hour and a half. Following dates are September 25; October 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30; and November 6 and 13. The series culminates on November 13 with a public performance by its participants.
Patrons must pre-register at that number to attend.
To register for the workshop itself, or for any inquiries regarding the workshop and similar programming, call TCCL's AskUs Hotline at 596-7977.
If you're feeling like something more modern, you can check out The Cemetery Club presented by the Owasso Community Theatre Company. Performances take place at Owasso's Barnes Elementary School on September 18, 19 and 20 at 8pm, with a matinee on September 21. Call 237-1656 or visit octok.org for more info.
Clark Theatre seeks a director for its production of Barbara Robinson's The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. This is a paid position which requires a background check and previous experience directing children's theater. Applicants and interested parties should contact Julie Tattershall by calling 669-6455 or visiting clarktheatre.com.
Share this article: