A word from some experts

I’m not sure how many of you attended the amazing events that were part of the two Duke Performances theater residencies that happened over the past couple of weeks. We had the private audience (amazing!) with Maude Mitchell from Mabou Mines and some of you participated in the master classes offered by Mabou’s Lee Breur and the actors from Dublin’s Abbey Theatre. But in case you missed some things, writers for Duke Performances’ blog The Thread have captured some of the sights and sounds. Such as ….

Abbey Theatre
A review of Mark O’Rowe’s Terminus at the Carolina Theater. There is also another review of the piece by our local Classical Voice of North Carolina reviewer Kate Dobbs Arial. And a summary/description of the Abbey Theatre actors’ Master Class.

I thought it might be particularly interesting to hear their take on acting practice since Terminus is comprised of three interlocking  monologues in rhyming but non-metered verse. There are key differences between the monologues in Terminus and those in Laramie. Not just the verse but the fact that the actors rehearsed separately with only the director for three weeks to get the continuity of their own individual stories and then they worked on how the dynamic changed (or didn’t) when the stories were broken up into three different segments with the other actor’s stories providing an ever-evolving counterpoint.

I’m always struck by how and when I feel like a character’s “dialogue” (and in the common case in Laramie, dialogue means having lines broken up by other lines by other characters not necessarily talking to another character) is actually one large monologue. For example, Romaine and Jon Peacock’s lines on pages 19-20 of Act 1. And, conversely, I’m interested in when material presented as a monologue, might actually be a # of smaller thoughts merged into one speech. I think these moments might be given away by the paragraph breaks in a monologue. So Doc O’Connor’s speech on pg. 18-19 is actually three paragraphs which could mean these are three different assertions he spoke at different times to different people merged into one.

I mention these distinctions for two reasons. One, it might be helpful to know when/where you have a through-line of argument or point (across one scene or across acts), an interaction that is interrupted on-stage by the insertion of another person’s dialogue but when we pick back up with you, you are continuing a thought. Two, as a way to encourage you to consider that you might be asked more than just one question to spur your story. Jeff’s been urging you all to pick the most active, dramatically interesting question that produces your response. You might consider that you are asked more than one question during the course of a monologue. Now this wouldn’t mean you’d mime being asked and then answering, but it might help you craft shifts in tone, tempo, timbre over the course of your mono-dia-logues.

Mabou Mines
An interview with Lee Bruer (and Maude) about his approach to theater, to this current Williams’ project. I wanted to draw your attention to an assertion he made about an “acting dialectic” that I thought might resonate with what we’re doing with Laramie. He was discussing coupling Maude’s Meisner training in naturalistic, method acting with his tendency towards presentational, formalist staging, “Half-Meyerhold, half-Stanislavski,” as he puts it:

I finally found what my statement is, and I call it a kind of acting dialectic: You’re always acting two things at once. You’re acting yourself straight, and you’re acting yourself as a parody of yourself. It’s straight, but it’s a send-up—and yet it’s straight—and yet it’s a send-up.

While we’re not erring on the side of the parodic, I do think the notion of “acting two things at once” is a relevant dialectic to the layering of character (Duke student, Tectonic Company member, Laramie citizen) that you are juggling in Laramie.

A description/review, by Adam Sobsey, of Mabou Mines’ open rehearsal for their Glass Menagerie project and a review/description of the culminating reading/performances of their “de/reconstruction” of Williams.

Many thanks to the faculty and staff of the department of Theater Studies (especially Miriam Sauls), Megan Stein, Aaron Greenwald and Duke Performances for bringing these amazing artists to our campus and our classrooms!

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