The sporadic ramblings of Emily C. A. Snyder - devoted to God, theatre, writing, and much randominity.

My Photo
Location: New York, New York, United States

Artistic Director and Co-Founder of TURN TO FLESH PRODUCTIONS. | Author of "Nachtstürm Castle," "Niamh and the Hermit." | Playwright: "Cupid and Psyche," "Math for Actors." | Classical director and educator.

Friday, May 06, 2011

As You Like It: RSC Performance Tips

Again, when I was in England, I got to perform as Rosalind in 3.2 - her first scene as the boy Ganymede having a very strange conversation with Orlando. I'd like to share some of the notes my teachers, Vivien Heilbron and Bernard Lloyd gave to me.

  • Rosalind is an enchantress. She controls a situation and takes over it. She gives commands. There's something to her saying she had an uncle who was a magician - and she refers to it several times. This is not to say there's REALLY a Hogwartsian motif here, but that she has Morganian presence.

  • The more Rosalind plays Ganymede, the more she becomes Ganymede. So at first she's stumbling, trying out different things, and then settling on the complete opposite of herself. Rosalind is a romantic; Ganymede not only holds women in low account, but he actively works against love. As the show goes on, Rosalind is therefore in danger of losing herself to her Ganymede persona.

  • They mentioned that it was important to keep an eye on what Celia did during the wooing scenes. She's silent - and most directors simply sideline her. This is a choice, and not a bad one, because it's a trick and a half to include Celia in as a silent partner to a two-person wooing scene! However, both my directors said that the best productions of AYLI they'd seen were those where Celia was not sidelined but equally integral to the wooing scenes. Unfortunately, our Celia was sidelined...but that's OK. Challenge accepted!

  • They were also really good at helping me (Rosalind) find moments when she breaks character and then fights to find Ganymede again. They also suggested emphasizing the word "Rosalind" whenever she says it - sort of breathless at first when she gets down to brass tacks and makes sure Orlando really likes her and then rather cynically when she suggest that he woo her in the name of "Rosalind." The lifting of that one word makes a world of difference.

  • They often mentioned just how SMART Rosalind is and equated her intelligence, wit, and humour with Hamlet - saying that basically playing Rosalind is to play the female Hamlet. I quite agree. Hence they advocated being a quick thinker - as she says, "As soon as I think I must speak." The process from her mind to her mouth is almost instantaneous, and it's always clever.

  • However, they were also adamant that Orlando was completely oblivious (a la Orsino in Twelfth Night). While this is one - and the most frequent (come to think of it, I haven't seen an Orlando who figures it out...although one MUST exist) ways to play Orlando, I think it both works against the text and undermines Rosalind's kickassness. Let me 'splain.

    1) If Rosalind is the female Hamlet for all intents and purposes, then the fellow she falls in love with had damn well BETTER be just as fabulous and intelligent as herself. (I know. I know. Ophelia on the page is as much of a wet blanket as Orlando, and the two of them probably would have lived happily ever after, while Rosalind would have smacked Hamlet around and gotten him out of that court and they'd make some hyper-intelligent kids who would take back over their respective countries and make Europe and consequently America and Australia really fabulous nations...but Shakespeare can't give us everything. Anyway.) Basically, if Rosalind falls in love with a fellow who's so dumb as to believe that a doublet makes a man, then Rosalind's own mental acuity is likewise diminished.

    2) Orlando being smarter than he appears is shown by several things: he's street smart and tends to see things for what they are (see Act I), he's able to keep up with Rosalind's opening sally which is basically a stand-up comedian routine after which he says, "Where dwell you, pretty youth," and then most everything else he says is lovey-dovey. In the second wooing scene he starts by trying to kiss her, and in the four lovers scene Rosalind calls him out for saying to her, "If this be true why blame you me to love you?" To which she replies, "To whom do you speak, "If this be true...." And he answers, "To her that is not here...nor doth not hear." I think Orlando isn't fully convinced of who or what his Ganymede/Rosalind is, but I think that he's testing her, enjoying her liberty in men's clothes and wondering what's going to happen next. But at a certain point - at the fake marriage when he becomes sure it's really her, he actually grows frustrated because he wants to marry ROSALIND, not Ganymede. I think Orlando is terribly swell and ought to be played that way!

    Some things they left out, but I've since discovered:

  • Rosalind needs to be sexy. She's really enjoying the freedom of behaving any way she likes because she's dressed as a guy. Hence she's SO much bolder than she would have been when she meets Orlando.

  • When I directed Jill in Rosalind's ending 3.2 speech "Yes, one and in this manner" we actually had Rosalind rather aggressively attacking Orlando by "clean as a sound sheep's heart." I like sexually aggressive Rosalind/Ganymede...who then pulls back and goes all, "Um, I mean, I hate all love! Yeah...." The bipolarity that's required of Rosalind is SO much fun!

  • Working the 3.5 Rosalind speech with Marla, we found some fun spots where she becomes aware that her inherent masculinity which is taking over her (e.g., by accident grabbing her bosom), she's getting herself into a pickle. Her speech is as full of back and forth, Rosalind/Ganymede...but we can already see Rosalind disappearing in the speech. Almost, Ganymede could be saying with Rosalind, "I am falser than vows made in wine." I wonder if there's a bit of rising terror at who she's becoming (as well as Phebe pursuing her) there.

  • Most recently when I gave my line-endings lesson, the final group that performed the four lovers scene had a cute moment when Rosalind on one of her "And I for no woman" lines grabbed Orlando and used him as a meat shield...AND tried to make it a "hey, I like you!" moment. Something to recapture.


    Post a Comment

    << Home