Thursday, April 27, 2017

How Shakespeare and Improv Led to a Career of Letting Loose!

I've always loved Shakespeare, and it has often been said of me....

Surprisingly, I've never played Hermia, whom this quote belongs to (or about, rather) though my husband often teases me about being "low and little." He gets no end of delight out of that. And we actually did a scene as Hermia and Lysander for an audition, but I think we scared the other actors, who were watching, because we went for a comic boob-grab, and they all gasped!

I wanted to say, "It's Shakespeare! It's SEXY!"

Thus, it's no surprise that one of my first professional full-time acting gigs was in the Shakespearean Troupe for the PA Renaissance Faire. I was also hired to be a singer in the Madrigal group and the Bawdy Balladeers (below).

Coming from the desert of California to lush world of Penn's Woods was quite a shock, but it was a delicious way to dive into my craft! We rehearsed 6 days a week, learning not only Shakespeare, but improv (Shakespearean Improv!), history, customs and manners. For example, a lady never walked to the left of her escort, because "a lady on the left was no lady at all." It was also because the gentleman had a sword on his left hip, and thus needed to draw it without fear of wounding his lady-friend.

I performed at the Faire for 4 years, including their Fall and Winter shows, Poe Evermore and A Dickensian Christmas. Each production required being "on" and in character for 8 hours a day, three-four days a week (more for Christmas and Halloween), running from show to show, stage to stage.

For the Faire, we'd do half-hour segments of Shakespeare, as well as shows on court (or a peasant's) life. I played the town rogue (below right), the court slut (above, and historically Penelope Devereaux had poems written about her, so she was classy and passionate in my opinion), a grave-digger who could talk to fairies, MacB's Third Witch, The Wall in Pyraums and Thisbe (below top right), and a Spanish innkeeper, Frida (below left).

It was A BLAST! I made some amazing life-long friends, and I met my husband, Rob (below with the Herb Sisters).

Plus it set me up for future work, because I still use improv for stage and screen projects today. For nearly every film I've done, I've been asked to improvise, and I love that, because it feels like letting the character loose!

Truly, it's a trend I've noticed in all my characters. One director encouraged me to keep my foot on the gas, to go from 0 to 100, because I could. I tend to get cast as characters that burst into a scene. For Johnny On a Spot Off Broadway, I literally burst through the doors, and it felt like blasting off!

As my director for Steel Magnolias said, "You change the energy of the room just by walking into it!"

I'm so thankful for my humble beginnings. Starting my career off with Master Shakespeare was a great start, and I look forward to the next adventure!

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