Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Elizabethans love their Words

In a presentation at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) a few years ago, famed RSC speech and dialect coach Cicely Berry (Voice and the Actor) made the assembled participants laugh when she said that if one sits close to the stage and cannot see the spit fly, the actors are not working hard enough. What she meant was that language is meant to be enunciated clearly, and English requires that all parts of the mouth and throat (and core, etc.) be engaged in that effort.  In order for the words to find their way to the audience's ears, they must be pushed and vibrated through the air, and the actor must do the work to make them find their mark.

Words are the essence of any Shakespeare play.  As John Barton, venerable acting teacher, director and coach, reminds us, the Elizabethans were much more sensitive to words.  They spoke and heard words at a far faster pace, and a play was performed at a speed most modern ears would be incapable of following.

When you go to hear Macbeth, try to imagine the dialogue/monologues coming at you at twice the speed. . . .

                 Roger Rees demonstrates a game of words. . . .

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