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Reflections on Theater

Marcin Roncancio.

The opportunity we were given in speaking with Rodney about Shakespeare’s plays from the actor’s perspective was definitely one of the best learning experiences I’ve had in this class. I came away with such a broader view of the elements that go into theater, and all the details in the text that sometimes seem to be hidden to the casual reader of Shakespeare’s plays. I knew that cadence, meter and rhyme were always important, for example, but who would’ve guessed the spitting mad hint of tone in alliterative plosive consonants? I knew that over hundreds of years many things could be edited out of works, but I never guessed how much, what in particular, or the reasons why. The difference in values across cultures and eras is a fact, but I never considered it much in terms of comparing the plays; the difference in ages in many of the female leads and the meaning of that, or the attitudes of the protagonists and whether the reader sympathizes with them from the outset–these are things that change when values change. I loved this day because of the preconceptions it did away with, and the shifts in my perspective towards some of my favorite plays it brought about. I now look forward to rereading a few with a new experience and actively reading for at least a few of the clues revealed from the actor’s perspective.

Penelope was a brilliant play that I enjoyed mainly from an academic point of view. I think I sat there in the theater and counted as many elements and forms of symbolism as I could. I was honestly shocked at the baseness and vulgarity that absolutely permeated the play, but it interested me because I could find meaning in it. From the beginning the first thing I think everyone noticed was the appalling choice of costumes. Perhaps I don’t have an answer for that, but I do have a theory for the reason three wore robes and Quinn did not. Except for Fitz, I believe, at one point or another, the robe would come off, usually at a time when the character would be figuratively baring themselves, revealing their motives, their thoughts… Quinn, though he was an unappealing character in his unapologetic harshness, was irrefutably the loudest and the most commanding of the four men. He held no mask, no pretense, therefore it makes complete sense that he would not wear a robe for the majority of his time on stage. It is even more interesting to think that when the time for his speech came he did the opposite of what the others had done, and he did employ different personae, he did take on false roles to try and woo Penelope, and in the process, he is killed. In stark contrast, Burns sheds his costume and sheds his meek and beaten down persona for his final, powerful speech in which he reveals the core of his character. The aspect of the play I have described is one among many that I found interesting and clever, but in the interest of being brief, I will mention only the use of the two ladders, one of which rested against the platform where Penelope stood during the very last scene that was never touched or mentioned by anyone in the play, the obvious use of height as a symbol, the use of lighting and the mood projected by the actors during their soliloquies… All brilliant elements that either consciously or subconsciously made it into the minds of the audience members and added a richness of depth to the play as a whole.

On Theater (Zoe)

I would like to first start by saying that the two theater events were probably my favorite things we’ve done in this class so far. I especially enjoyed our Shakespeare workshop. I’ve been enjoying Shakespeare’s works since I started going to Shakespeare in the Park with my mom. And while I, like every other English-speaking student, have been studying Shakespeare since 8th grade, and even thought I was fairly adept at understanding the meanings of his works, I left the workshop looking at the experience of reading Shakespeare (specifically King Lear) in an entirely new way.

The workshop had a clear emphasis on the process of the actor, and how vital the playwright’s script is in aiding that process. Even the slightest change in word choice, or, to pick a specific example from our analysis of Lear, an editor’s decision to make a certain line an aside when it was not intended to be, can alter the entire meaning of a scene. And if the scene is vital to the story, seemingly harmless changes like that can alter the meaning of the play itself.

I have to say, I was especially intrigued by Mr. Cottier’s interpretation of Goneril and Regan not as “bitchy” or conniving, but rather as frustrated and confused, if exceptionally manipulative, young women. This interpretation, while it indeed felt far more genuine than the typical reading of those characters, was one I had not encountered before. I was also fascinated by how he took it a step further and began discussing what the actual ages of many of Shakespeare’s greatest female characters would have been; this changed my interpretations of many of those women (e.g. Lady Macbeth) more than I would have thought such a discussion could have.

As for Penelope, I am so pleased that we were able to see that play. It reminded me why I love straight, contemporary drama, and not just musicals, or the Elizabethan or Victorian classics. My main critique after watching the show was that I, as an audience member, had a hard time focusing during the long-winded monologues. Even with regards to that, our class discussion after the show made me realize that this could have conceivably been intentional, and that the the point of the monologues was not to keep the audience focused on the specific “point” of the speech, but rather to create broad philosophical strokes, that would create a certain mood within the audience. If that was indeed Enda Walsh’s intent, I am even more impressed with him as a playwright.

While the story itself was obviously an intriguing one, I was most captivated by the way the playwright and actors dealt with tension and suspense in the play. The sharp shifts in tone, from light, witty banter to dark philosophizing and back again were extremely well-handled by the highly capable actors. Some credit, of course, is due to the playwright in this area as well. The way Walsh would build up the tension in a scene, causing tension and anxiety amongst the audience, only to bring it crashing back down with a one liner from one of the protagonists, was incredible, in my opinion. The tense moments never went on for too long (though they naturally dominated the last half of the play), but were never cut short, either; the audience was allowed a break from the heavy thinking going on in the play, but was never permitted to forget what the characters–and we–were really there for.

First off, Penelope at St. Anne’s Warehouse: Seeing a real theater production, with real actors, a real set, and an original plot was a great experience. I’ve seen more than enough dumped down versions of high school musicals (I ushered every night in high school for 4 years) to appreciate a well put together play. I was happy to not have to hear grown men break out into song and dance, but instead an old, overweight man in a Speedo dance along to “Spanish Flea”. The acting was amazing: Quinn was as cynical and self-centered as he could have been and showed a humorous side in his courting skills; Fitz let his soul pour out in his expressive monologue and his soft voice lulled me into a dreamy state; the heftier man couldn’t have had a better redemption, reminiscing about the time he actually loved his mother and working for something other than personal desire; the quiet young man in the party hat was my favorite character, transitioning from a quiet pushover to a man who has loved and only wants to love.

Love is a very complex idea for an audience to grasp, yet I believe it was handled well through the meaningful monologues and Quinn’s more ridiculous than romantic performance. The gradual dimming of the lights also added a personal feel to the monologues, as if it were only the actor speaking directly to an audience member. Though some of these speeches could have been shortened, the interesting language and broad range of styles were fascinating to listen to. Up until the last gust of fire from the grill, I was hooked. I felt like my eyes hardly blinked as I waited for one of the actors to speak and explain whatever situation they were in. The way they took their lines and injected them with such power and fervor made this a truly great play to watch.

Rodney Guitierre’s hilarious, and informative, Shakespeare talk a few weeks back really helped me to follow the language and tones of the actors in Penelope. Even though his expertise resides in a completely different type of play, it was obvious to me that he knew a lot about acting and how it should be done. Simply in the way he got people to stand up and deliver the same lines four different ways was surprising to me. The changes in tone, volume, and emphasis on certain words really make a difference, I learned. I enjoyed Rodney’s colorful language and carefree demeanor (he walked around barefoot for hours!) because it really helped the other students and me loosen up and really immerse ourselves in Shakespeare. I’ll admit I went back to my copies of Macbeth and Hamlet afterwards and tried to look for the changes in language and meaning that the editors could have made and recited a few lines to myself in different styles.

Overall, I really enjoyed our theater experiences and because so I plan to attend more performances in the future, both off and on Broadway.

Cindy Lozito: Theatre Response

Being subjected to Rodney Guitierre’s Shakespeare talk and the Penelope play at St. Ann’s Warehouse was an interesting experience to me. I really benefitted from approaching Shakespeare’s works in a different perspective than what I’ve had before (simply reading through the plays in paperback and being tested on scenes– so boring!) and can see myself seeking out Shakespearean work on my own in the future.

While my memory of Rodney’s talk is a little vague because it happened so long ago, I remember being amazed by the extensive amount of facts he presented us with. I had no idea how much of a difference varying versions of the same play could affect its delivery, the actors’ portrayal of scenes, and the audiences’ perceptions of how the plot unfolds. It was really a privilege to hear about the secret quirks of theatre from such a knowledgable source, and I’m glad to have been involved in the talk.

So many parts of Penelope sparked my interest and made me feel involved with the work. I immediately loved the portrayals of each man and how their interjections were differing yet still related and entertaining. The usage of humor, especially in Dunn’s childhood memories and Quinn’s final crazy act, created comic relief in between heavy monologues, which I think definitely helped retain the play’s message without it feeling too weighty and depressing. I also really liked how the stage’s elevation was relatively low, making the performance feel like an intimate affair with the audience.

My favorite character of the play was definitely Burns. I felt a strong connection to his explanation of the true care he felt with Murray as someone he befriended and loved. I met my current best friend in high school, where the competition for good grades and success was constantly surrounding us, but we managed to cultivate a strong relationship separate from the hatred and fighting we experienced on a daily basis. I admired the courage he exhibited to fight for what is right and true in their swimming pool battlefield.

Hearing the monologues of Dunn, Fitz, and Burns reminded me of this idea that I always think about and revert back to when I evaluate my own life. People are constantly trying to create distractions and nonsensical situations for themselves, maybe to offset boredom or fear of living an unfulfilling life, but why does any of it even matter? Why does human compassion and respect toward one another always take the backseat in almost every aspect of society? Be it politics, school, fashion, business, and so on, people always complicate the simplicity of being human and forget how to love and feel. What Burns preached out to Penelope about trying to be a moral person was so powerful and sincere. While I disagree with the idea of killing a person who acts as a barrier to truth and reason, I felt like Burns’s killing of Quinn was the only thing he could do to salvage whatever was left of the men’s purpose in their lives and their desire for morality, perhaps as the last necessary evil he must perform before seeking out what truly matters in this world.

What I loved most about experiencing Rodney’s discussion and viewing Penelope was that they helped make Shakespeare’s works more accessible to a younger audience. Throughout most of my academic career, instructors constantly raved about how Shakespeare is such an influential figure in literature, and as much as I wanted to feel the same way, I found that approaching his plays on my own made them difficult to understand and relate to. Being involved in settings of Shakespeare that retain his original ideas in a modern way finally bridged that gap between acknowledging the Bard as a momentous figure and actually feeling a connection with his work.

By Darren Panicali

Theater has been such a huge part of my life for the past few years. Starting as a member of the stage crew for my high school’s SING and Spring Musical productions in junior year and going on to becoming the stage crew manager for Spring Musical in Senior year, I’ve experienced and come to love so much about theater and its inner workings. I have really enjoyed pretending to be a huge assortment of characters ever since I was little, and in senior year, I took a performing arts class in which we explored theater and acted out/improvised in different scenes and scenarios. And just this past year, I went to see The Phantom of the Opera, and the culmination of its beautiful acting, melodious music, and emotional meaning simply blew me away. In short, I really like theater.

When we got into a circle around Rodney, actor-extraordinaire, to talk Shakespeare, I was just having a bad day and was reluctant to participate, but thanks to being picked by none other than our class actress, Colby, I played the Duke of Burgundy, a typically drunk suitor from Shakespeare’s King Lear. My heart raced as I thought to myself, “This is my time to shine!” And so I acted as if I was bloody intoxicated. (That was for you, Rodney.) I think everyone really enjoyed it, and Rodney said I was “terrific.” Now, I’m not the biggest fan of Shakespeare’s plays, but this man really opened them up for me. Most memorably, he noted the discrepancies among scripts, the effects of subtle changes in vocal tones, how the stage was set up to maximize viewing and the panoramic feel of the play, and how the roles influenced the ways characters were to present themselves – and he delivered it all with a sort of invigorating flamboyance and charisma that kept us all interested. I suppose that one thing I wasn’t particularly fond of was how he did make it feel as though the execution of a role was difficult, since the pressure was on and many in the room didn’t seem to know much about acting or Shakespeare, but other than that, it was a very enjoyable experience and it helped to give me a different set of eyes for not only Shakespearean plays but also other plays, and now I can appreciate acting more, even if only slightly so. The point is that I took something, not nothing, away with me, and I really appreciate that.

The first thing that struck me about Penelope was the setting. It was so strange as I looked on at what looked like an empty, decaying, nasty, and utterly dead pool, with some kind of glass-laden contraption above it. To be blunt, the first thoughts in my head asked, “What the hell is this?” and I was already starting to already form negative pre-conceived judgments about the play. But I still committed myself to keeping an open mind and watched, and boy, was I ever in for a shock: First of all, the costumes were phenomenal. What else better draws your attention than a scantily clad individual in the first scene – the first damn scene – ? That was outrageous, and you could already tell it was going to be interesting. I loved the irony of the bathrobes being worn in an empty pool; there wasn’t a drop of water to be found, yet they seemed like they went for a dip somewhere. The humor of the play was always so quirky, heated, or about semantics – the kind of stuff that appeals to this cynical generation the most, it seems. And the humor, along with the tragedy of the impending doom and the unsuccessful chase after Penelope, could only be so well appreciated because of the beautiful deliverance by the phenomenal actors. Each was perfectly in character for his/her role: Penelope, quiet as can be the whole play, conveyed a sort of grace and delicateness, along with an overarching sense of intangibility. Quinn, overbearing yet full of life, shone throughout the play as the leader and the instigator. Dunne appeared flamboyant and therefore was able to deliver a spectacular over-the-top speech to Penelope. Fitz was perfect for his eccentric, old-man role, for within that aged shell emerged a small, surreal voice that seemed to pour forth wisdom and charm. And who could forget awkward but volatile Burns, whose sheepish ways made great contrast for his debut at the end as an explosive orator commenting on the progress (or lack thereof) that these men had made and on the essential meaning of love. Top it off with the setting: The empty pool seemed to symbolize rock bottom because of its shoddy quality and vacuity, yet the men had access to ladders. Did they want to escape? Was it actually a haven for them somehow? Did they enjoy waiting for death as they competed hopelessly for love? And what really was the symbolism of the grill? Was it a harbinger of doom, or a comfort and perhaps a sort of guide? The questions could provoke interesting thought for hours, as could the obtrusive costumes, the spot-on acting, and the dreary stage itself – all signs of good theater. It was just so refreshing, and I truly left St. Ann’s Warehouse feeling particularly pensive after all the considerable notions of the play were wonderfully presented. What a good play.

Impressions and Reactions -Lidiya Kurin

During our class dedicated to theater,we not only learned some Shakespeare trivial but also got to experience Mr. Rodney Gutierre, a character all on his own.  One of the first things I noticed was his lack of shoes, and thick British accent, but Mr. Gutierre continued to entertain throughout the entire class. He was neither shy with his words, nor his opinions, which added to the effectiveness of the class. Thanks to Mr. Gutierre, I learned that Shakespeare changes based on the publisher. I was impressed that he could decipher when the published copy makes sense and when it seems entirely arbitrarily written. When I first read a few lines of Shakespeare, I am happy to just keep track of the characters. It is obvious that Mr. Gutierre is very dedicated to his work and enjoys it too. He let us in on some theater history, emphasizing the importance of a stage and some evolution of the stage with the changing of eras. It was fun to listen to his comments as well as to students attempt to perform an Old-English dialogue they were reading for the first time.

The Penelope performance was one of the few, but best theater performances I have seen. La Bete was fairly entertaining, but I didn’t feel such a rush of emotions after I watched it. I also once saw God of Carnage, and every minute I was hoping that the set would change, a new set of characters would come on stage, and there would be a complete turn around of plot…that’s how exciting it was. I found Penelope to be of a sufficient length, long enough to tie everything together and short enough to keep me interested.

Aside from the plot, I also thought the director made some good choices. He chose proper moments to include the ringing of the sirens, positioned next to the camera. It was slightly startling but also a wake up call to draw us in. The fact that Penelope was absent for the first half of the performance, and silent for its entirety showed that the emphasis is on the suitors, rather than on the beauty of Penelope. The ending was also well crafted. The fire from the grill rattled the audience, who knew what would happen if the play were to continue. We know that the fire signifies the return of Odysseus. Although the play does not explicitly state it, we know Odysseus is back and we know that the suitors will soon face a most unpleasant death. We never actually see the murder nor even Odysseus, but it is all implied by the fire.

Aside from the layout of the play and the skillful acting, the plot and the dialogue also left an impression. Each character had a unique way of interpreting life and man’s (or woman’s)  purpose in it. Whose interpretation is most correct and who best understand the meaning of life is of course subjective. I personally was able to take away something from each man’s speech. I found Fitz’ dialogue to Penelope to be most captivating. The constant emphasis on the nothingness that is our world. According to Fitz, what transforms the world from the giant pool of nothing to something is emotions, and passions, such as love. I found this way of looking at life unique, but slightly inaccurate to my tastes. I feel it is true that certain components of life are a whole lot of nothing, but other aspects help us to feel the passion and so it is unfair to say that it is nothing.

The line I most enjoyed from Burn’s speech said that we all walk around with our own pedestals. We put some people on a pedestal where they may or may not belong and expect others to match this rank. This is what I took away from his speech and what made me evaluate my impressions on life.  Burn also talked about waking up and being able to take away joy from all forms of life, mundane or not. He said that this day he finally woke up and started living. I didn’t look at Burn’s speech as a whole, but rather as parts that spoke to me.

Dunn’s speech to Penelope was hard to take seriously, but his second major dialogue made me nostalgic. He spoke of his childhood and the relationship he had with his mother. Although I can’t relate to feeling that my mother is a “fat,cold b****,” I can relate to his other emotions as a child. Dunn describes childhood days as those without worries. He wasn’t upset from the events of yesterday and wasn’t worried about the upcoming events of tomorrow. I remember those days. It made me think, if most of us were able to be so carefree then, maybe we can be at least a little more carefree now.

In general, each man gave a snippet on life and left me to think. I found that each man made some valid points; even Quinn’s pessimistic view that man in innately evil has some truth. Each person walked out with different emotions, but it got us all to think.

Agnieszka’s Theater Response

People change. Societies change. Cultures change. But true art transcends time. This has become ever more apparent to me while studying theater with my MHC class. We began the unit focusing on Shakespeare, and ended it seeing Enda Walsh’s Penelope at St. Ann’s Warehouse. Seeing these two works plucked from the void of time to stand next to each other allowed me to see what has stayed in the art form of theater, and what has changed. And I’ve found that a surprising amount has stayed the same.

The first similarity has nothing to do with the content or form of the art but everything to do with the people coming to see it. During our discussion about Shakespeare and British Theater, Rodney Gutierre pointed out the significance of the seating arrangements in theater. The queen sat right next to the stage – the worst seat in the house for the view, but the best seat to be viewed from. Theater was a place to make an appearance. And today, it still is. Walking into the lobby of St. Ann’s I could immediately see this. People came here to see and be seen. This much has not changed.

Gutierre’s next point of discussion was the writing of the script itself. So much sits on the rythm and flow on the text. The writing has to construct a believable dialogue, yet one pleasing to the ear. It also has to capture the attention of the audience and keep it by holding up exchanges rather than long speeches. Furthermore, there has to be a valve for the release of tension; this is where comic relief comes in. The playwright has a lot on his plate. Shakespeare mastered all of this in his writing. This is why he is still so revered. Enda Walsh reached great heights in Penelope, although this writing had its flaws. Walsh’s prose was beautiful. Some of the lines were extremely vivid, painting a picture that tickled the imagination of the audience and using it to communicate interesting ideas. There was humor that kept the story moving despite some weighty parts. But some of the monologues were too long. I found myself tuning out on more than one occasion, only to struggle my way back into the text because I knew what was being said was beautiful and I did not want to miss it. Other than this, Walsh’s writing was brilliant, and the story construed was one that deeply affected me.

Penelope touches on universal themes of love and purpose and reaches into the audience’s hearts. These same ideas have touched audiences through the ages. And today, as it has always been, the ideas explored were grafted into my mind through excellent language and with the aid of effective visuals. The actors in this show fell into their roles beautifully. Their passion reached a zenith during their powerful monologues but could be sensed in even the smallest line. And actress Olga Wehrly was successful in portraying the deeply mysterious and sensual Penelope. She had no lines yet through pure acting was able to represent and communicate the elusive object of yearning.

Also integral to the success of the storytelling were the technical aspects of the show, which were all brilliant. Sound and lighting design were used in subtle ways that underscored changes in mood and emotion. The set was extremely innovative; I was impressed from the first moments of the show, when the stage was lit up from within the set (a brilliant idea) and life is breathed into the space before us as the actors enter. To the very end, the set was effectively used to help tell the story. For example, as Odysseus approached, the blue lights behind the panels on the upper half of the set upstage glowed, building audience anticipation and suspense. The layout of the set was pleasing and very well-executed. Additionally, the reality show-like configuration when Penelope was watching the suitors on TV was very interesting; I appreciated the three focal points of the actor, screen, and Penelope that balanced out all that was going on during those scenes. Studying the set made me nostalgic for the set work I used to do, and the set itself was inspiring. In fact, the show in its entirety motivated me to begin working in theater again!

So many different factors come into the making of a show. From the actors to the electricians, the writers to the designers, the end product is a culmination of work from a wide array of different fields. The nature of the work may have changed since Shakespeare’s time, but the spirit of theater lives on. In essence, good theater has not changed very much at all. Good theater generates attention as well as anticipation. It rests on good writing, and relies on the passion of everyone who works in theater to make the audience truly feel the show. When the show can absorb the audience into its world for an hour or two (or more!), it is successful. This is a difficult art, but an extremely rewarding one. It has already transcended time. Because of its power, I think it will remain with us for much longer.

Theatre- Ali Simon-Fox

As part of a high school tech crew, I’ve seen my fair share (or, honestly, more than my fair share) of bad plays, and I was worried that the theatre unit of our Arts seminar may duplicate some of these experiences. Never a fan of Greek mythology or Shakespeare, I was not looking forward to either our visit or the performance. However, Rodney and the people involved in Penelope took topics I had previously dismissed as arcane and made them feel relevant. These two experiences superseded my expectations and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed them.

While it happened a while ago (I got that goldfish memory), what I remember most about Rodney Gutierre, aside from his hatred of Margaret Thatcher and his lack of socks/shoes throughout the entirety of his talk, was that he made Shakespeare fun. While aware of innuendo being present in most of Shakespeare’s plays I had no idea how frequent dirty jokes were; I had always imagined the Elizabethan era as far more conservative and puritanical than present day and figured that it’s media would correlate, apparently I was wrong. I also learned that attendance of Shakespearean dramas and comedies was not the esoteric high-brow activity it is often considered today; everyone went to watch. Rodeny’s tales of audience involvement during the plays were very amusing, and I was glad he came to talk to us because he made Shakespeare a lot more palatable to me and I will now look at Shakespeare’s writings with a more approachable lens.

Penelope is anachronistic from the outset: with both the title and the concept originating from ancient Greek myth, it is presented by Irish actors with Irish brogues and placed in a modern day setting. The entirety of the play is situated in the bottom of a drained swimming pool. Penelope is not an action-oriented play, and Walsh’s characters often mosey about making no significant movements at all. This is fine, because the focus of the play is on the dialogue; Walsh shows an adeptness with language that is uncommon even amongst playwrights. Through a mixture of character interaction and individual soliloquies Walsh is able to weave ideas and construct personalities simultaneously.

Ironically, the over-arching theme of this verbose play is that talk is cheap, but then again so is everything. Existing in a land similar to any of the numerous dating competition reality TV shows currently clogging the airwaves, the character’s of Walsh’s play are selfish backstabbers. By creating this analogy, Walsh has set the stage for a biting critique of our modern world.While they all share the mutual goal of winning Penelope’s love, the operative word for them in this idea is not love, but win. Odysseus’ homecoming and the impending doom that accompanies it is the only thing that can even start to change them; a direct facing of their own mortality spurs revelations in two of the characters, making them not only men to care for (none of the characters were previously) but also setting them as juxtapositions for the greediest elements of human nature.

My favorite part of the play was Burns’ monologue. It’s occurrence right after he has stabbed Quinn is, in my opinion, excellent timing: he is almost naked, hysterical and covered in blood, making the scene seem almost like a reversion to the primitive. Clawing at each other for the duration of play, Burns has turned to clawing for a sense of authenticity, and his killing of  Quinn is not a result of unethical ambition (as previous deaths mentioned were) but of a need to destroy all the falseness Quinn represents, to tear away the artificial elements people have created to get to the heart of human feeling and emotion. His desire for the real carries such impact because it is the only thing in the play, at that point, that really connects with the idea of true love, because the concept of ‘true ‘ love, is that of an emotion not swayed by outside influences or ulterior motives but something raw and organic and integral to the good side of human nature.

I didn’t expect much out of the theater section of this seminar, and was even less excited about the Shakespeare workshop, since I usually need a translation at hand whenever I read his plays.  I certainly expected to dislike Penelope, since I didn’t know anything about it.  However, after attending both of these events I have to say that Theater is probably my favorite part of the Art Seminar so far.

Shakespeare never struck me as the master of literature he is made out to be.  But after Rodney Gutierre’s workshop, I have a new respect for Shakespeare and his work.  I learned why so many elements of his writing were so bizarre, and I gained some insight into how difficult it is to be an actor and a director. For example, I always noticed many discrepancies in his texts; many of his characters would say things contradictory to their character, and many times I would find sentences in a dialogue that didn’t correspond with the rest of the conversation.  I always thought these were mistakes on Shakespeare’s behalf, or that I couldn’t understand what the characters were trying to say.  However, at the workshop I learned that editors often omitted words or phrases from some plays because they didn’t understand it.  This would throw off the entire speech.  There are also many instances where certain words in a sentence were capitalized, italicized, or spaced out differently than other words.  I learned that these were stage directions for the actors, but they were “corrected” by editors that didn’t know what they meant.  I find this method of stage direction to be very useful and intuitive.  After acting in the workshop as Edward the Bastard, I have developed an appreciation for the stage direction that too many mistake for bad grammar. I enjoyed the several exercises Gutierre put us through, which showed me how much sexuality and humor Shakespeare had in his plays.  I enjoy sexuality and humor very much, so this made me enjoy the workshop even more.  Overall, Rodney Gutierre’s charisma, exercises, and insight made me enjoy the workshop and appreciate Shakespeare.

We also saw Penelope as a class, for which I also had low expectations.  I have had good experiences with theater before, but the shady neighborhood of the warehouse made me afraid for my life and doubtful as to the professionalism and quality of the play.  However, once the play started I was no longer entranced by Quinn’s underwear, but I found myself really interested and entertained by the philosophical conversations of the characters.  The sausage conversation particularly fascinated me because of how the cast was able to make such insightful and clever exchanges off of something as simple as a piece of meat.  I also really liked the different attempts at wooing Penelope.  First, I enjoyed the contrast between Don and Quinn’s theatrical and ridiculous attempts of seduction and the heartfelt, quiet, genuine displays of affection and emotion from Fitz and Barnes.  Each character’s monologue was fantastic; they were well delivered, each had unique points, and they all explored ideas on such a high level that it was almost overwhelming me.  Don’s monologue about his mother hit me emotionally because of my relationship with my own mother.  Fitz’s speech about the nothingness in his life filled me with pity.  Quinn’s performance was hilarious and reminiscent of my days as a quick-changer in LeBell’s Circus.

But there was one characteristic of both of these events that made them twice as enjoyable for me: I had my glasses for both of them!

Shakespeare and Penelope- Kate

I learned a lot of interesting things during the Shakespeare talk. For example, I always used to wonder why certain words in Shakespeare are capitalized even though it is not grammatically correct to capitalize them. I realized that sometimes it is okay to ignore grammar rules in order to bring emphasis to a certain word or convey a certain idea. I also realized that when people tried to correct Shakespeare’s works and make them grammatically correct, they ended up taking away from their meaning and from Shakespeare’s intended message. I also learned the importance of the director and the directions giving to the actors.  For example, at one point John asked two students to act out the same scene several times. However, every time they acted out the scene, he gave them different directions. Remarkably, the same scene with the same words, somehow became completely transformed and changed meanings. In addition, I never realized that there are a lot of different versions of Shakespeare’s plays. For example, when editors change the play, they sometimes take away characters, or give one character another character’s line, or even change the stage directions. I do not completely understand why editors do this. Even though they may be trying to make the play easier to understand and perform or make it more grammatically correct, I do not think that these changes are worth it if they result in a loss of the original intended meaning of the play.

The play Penelope left a lasting impression on me. At the beginning of the play I was confused because I was not sure where the men were located or what time period it was. However, as the play progressed these questions did not seem as important. I thought it was interesting that at the beginning of the play all of the characters looked like they were on vacation and enjoying themselves, but it was obvious that something was wrong because Burn kept starring at a wall.  Burn’s actions made me feel uneasy and made it hard for me to believe that the characters were actually enjoying themselves. As the play went on, my suspicions turned out to be true. I like that the play had simple clues like Burt’s looking at the wall, to tell the audience that not everything is really as it seems.

I liked the fact that as the play went on, it gradually became more and more truthful. The characters shed their fake enjoyment and friendliness towards each other and eventually showed the audience that they were actually in an important competition and would kill each other for the prize.  In addition, the monologues of the play became more truthful as well. For example, Dunne’s first monologue had no emotion, but his second monologue about childhood was truthful and something that the audience could easily relate to. This element of communicating the truth and common emotions that people share made the play interesting to watch. Everyone can feel emotions but it is difficult to communicate your emotions to someone else and make them feel as well. This play made me feel and as a result, I think it was very well written.

The BBQ burning at the end is an image that still stands out in mind. All of the characters talked about the burning BBQ at the beginning of the play and then this image was brought up again at the end. As a result this image was powerful because it gives the play a feeling of completeness. In addition, at the beginning of the play the characters said that when the BBQ burns this will be a sign that the characters will soon die. This idea also contributed to the feeling of completeness because while the BBQ was burning at the end, I felt like the characters were about to die and all of their efforts to avoid their death have not resulted in any gains, except maybe a cleaner conscience.

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