Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Weekend of Shakespeare

Me at the competition years ago. Being dramatic as usual.
This past weekend I attended the Shakespeare Competition at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. This is an acting competition on the secondary education level, and it is a HUGE deal. Even though it's held in southern Utah, acting troupes from California, Arizona, and even as far as Milwaukee, attend and compete. I traveled down with my husband and his advanced acting students and helped coach them on their ensemble scene, monologues, and duo scenes. It was so much fun!! It brought back memories of when I was a senior in high school and won first place in monologues at this competition. It felt like an Oscar. :-)

This year, we also saw the festival repertory company's production of Hamlet, which was beyond amazing! I haven't seen theatre of that caliber since I saw a play at the National Theatre in London over fourteen years ago. They brought so much humor into the production, which made the contrast to the really dramatic moments spectacular.

All of this acting and directing and fabulous Shakespeare once again reaffirmed to me all the qualities good storytelling has in common. Here are some that stand out to me...

  • Conflict and tension. There always has to be a problem, even in the lightest of scenes. And each character should want something and go about getting it in several different ways. The characters should always be getting in the way of each other. And characters should be trying to reach their objective through the other character(s) in their scene. That communication separates a mediocre scene from an excellent one.
  • Clear transitions. Shifts in emotion and why characters choose to change tactics should be apparent and believable.
  • Frame of reference. Plots aren't unique, but characters and settings are. (Shakespeare borrowed all of his plot ideas.) I've seen Richard the Third, and then at this competition, I saw Richard the Third set during the Holocaust with Richard portrayed as Hitler. Same plot, entirely different effect on the audience. Fresh characters and settings make all the difference. This also goes hand in hand with caring about the character and being grounded in the setting before the conflict of the story kicks into high gear. We added a quick and silent addition to the beginning of our ensemble scene from A Comedy of Errors to establish to the audience that there are two sets of twins before we launched into a scene with one of those sets. Then the audience would be in on the joke and possibilities for mayhem from the beginning.
  • Static scenes are boring. It's a snooze to watch a scene where the actors aren't creatively blocked (the "action" in the scene, the way the actors move), just like "talking heads" are not dynamic in a novel. I watched a scene where two actors were having a cell phone conversation with each other, so neither was in the same room as each other in the scene. It was a horrible choice because the actors could never interact with each other (though they could've pulled it off if the actors were creatively blocked to stand near each other or do similar things, even though they weren't in the same "space" in their respective worlds).

The husband, me, and Shakespeare
All in all, it was a fabulous weekend. I saw Shakespeare celebrated through many art forms--acting, music, visual arts, dance. And I felt like I was in a little corner of England with SUU's Globe Theatre replica and everyone walking around in Shakespearean garb. Oh, and my husband's acting troupe won first place with one of their duo scenes and placed fourth as a school in their division. Pretty impressive!

Do you enjoy other art forms, and what connections have you found between them and writing?

19 comments:

  1. You never cease to amaze me, Katie. And it's always neat to see how so many concepts between various art forms are so universal. Congrats to Jason and his students. Glad you had a great time!

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  2. Fun! I think your take on conflict has changed how I write. My new WIP is packed with conflict. Thanks so much, Katie.

    BTW, your pic of you and your hubs is adorable. It's great you got to do this together. :)

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  3. Congrats Jason's class! And I always enjoy seeing pictures of you back in your college acting days:)

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  4. I LOVE Shakespeare! Although I'm not a scholar like you. I also love your analysis!!! Awesome stuff here. And you have to love Cedar City in the fall :)

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  5. Oh, sweet! Is this the one they have in Cedar City? I've been meaning to go there for some time now. Maybe next year. :)

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  6. Oh I'm so jealous! I've never actually been to the Shakespearean festival. But I've wanted to go for a long time. It sounds and looks like so much fun. I saw Hamlet in Hawaii once and I loved it.

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  7. Ilima- Thank you. You are quite the multi-artist (is that a term?) yourself!

    Emily- Wow, thanks! I'm so excited to read your shark adventure MG.

    Robin- *smiles* I was such a drama nerd.

    Angela- Thanks! And, yes, Cedar City is gorgeous this time of year. I already want to go back.

    David- You must definitely go. You'd love it! And definitely see a Shakespeare play (they have other offerings too), but it's such a treat to see Shakespeare so well done.

    Erin- You must go too! Okay, time to arrange a writer group exodus.

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  8. You know, I just realized I haven't seen Jason once since we started hanging in January ... we need to get our families together! I love Shakespeare, as you very well know. It's definitely alive and kicking in our little sphere! Really good points you've made about storytelling!

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  9. You'll be receiving The Liebster Blog Award from me tomorrow!!! :)

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  10. What an amazing post. I'm going to copy and paste those bullet points to remind myself of how to be a better writer.

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  11. Michelle- I know, it's crazy that we all haven't gotten together. We must resolve this. Tell Adam to hurry up 'n' finish his play!

    Livia- *blushes* Thank you! I really appreciate that.

    Elana- You just made my day. :-)

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  12. Excellent points and I love the pictures. The frame of reference is one I need to really key in on.

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    1. Thanks! Yes, that frame of reference one really makes a difference!

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  13. Sounds like you had a fabulous time. Great writing tips too. And the name of your blog is awesome.

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    1. :-) Thanks, Jessica. And thanks for following!

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  14. I was also a theater gal back in the day. I loved visiting Southern Utah for the Shakespeare in high school. I loved it so much, it became my undergraduate degree. I spent two summers in London and saw nearly 30 plays. It was the time of my life. I like to think it has set me up to be a better writer. Though I couldn't articulate why just this minute, I like your deductions!

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    1. Cool, Jessie! A gal after my own heart. I wonder if we were ever down at the Shakespeare competition at the same time.

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