Friday, March 22, 2013

A Fly On The Wall, March 22, 2013

Cast of Characters
by Jim Murchison 

I’ve always preferred ensemble theatre, where there is a true sharing of the workload and every one relies on each other. At our workshops for Taming of The Shrew, there was a lot of discussion about various forms of theatre, with the big focus on commedia d’ell arte. Although exaggeration is a key component of the form it won’t work unless you tap into something that is also truthful and real that an audience can relate to.  

For myself, playing four characters, the need to draw on a distinct reference for each one is important. I want the audience to understand immediately who I am. The most elderly character is Gremio and Shakespeare has helped us there. He refers to him as the old grey beard and the old pantalone. The last time I grew a beard it was predominantly brown with hints of red. It is now mainly grey and white, so that part is easy. Now all I have to worry about is playing him.

Still there is a large list of mannerisms and postures representing women in theatre. 

One of my other characters is Nathaniel who is a servant to Petruchio, being played by an Ottawa favorite, Scott Florence. In my mind Nathaniel is one of the lesser known characters, Tartaglia, who is a shyer buffoon than Arlechinno and less prone to pulling pranks. 

My third character is Vincenzio, who is pure Capitano: a warrior and a braggart. Capitano was always my strongest character when I was a student. Having more age now allows me to play Vincenzio as a vain warrior not willing to give up his youth.

My final character is the widow woman. I never played women when I studied commedia and that is likely because Italians actually had women performing in their plays, even in the 16th century. Still there is a large list of mannerisms and postures representing women in theatre. 

So there you have it. The fly has left the wall and landed right in the middle of the meat and potatoes. I hope I haven't spoiled your appetite.

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