Amazing Kids! Magazine

Being the Thing I Am: A Reflection in the Theatre

By Caroline Cronin

 

“…Since my conversion so sweetly tastes,” I recited mournfully. But it was not right; it did not fit with the way I delivered the rest of my lines. I felt that this was a crucial point in Oliver’s story and wanted to get it right. So I did it over and over again on my own, but was never satisfied.

When my theatre group began our off-book rehearsals, I was a little worried that it would not fit together smoothly. When our first run through turned out choppy and messy, I was actually relieved. We had gotten the first one out of the way and seen what it was that we needed practice and perfect. I felt it was worse when I was unsure where to start and had nothing, or too much, to work with. As we began to focus on the scene as a whole and forgot about the minute details, I delivered my lines quite naturally and did not realize until later that I was happy with the way they sounded. When we finished our performance, it surprised me how well I knew the lines. I “knew” them in the sense that I understood where the feeling was coming from and had the entire background of my character worked out in my head.

In retrospect, I can now analyze that transformation. It seems to me that I struggled with the decision to pick a version of Oliver to portray. I saw that there were a multitude of emotions to depict and all the implications that created for each individual line. In my own reading of the play, Oliver had never struck me as remorseful to the point of desperation. He was still the same nasty, arrogant man selfishly exploiting his younger brother in the first scene of As You Like It. I felt that that should still be a piece of him. Somewhere along the way, I stopped acting and started doing what came naturally with my understanding and opinions of Oliver.

There is much character work that goes on within each of the actors that allows the scene to come together as a cohesive whole in the end. We put a lot of work into the play. However, I do not believe that the audience could have gathered this from just reading the play on his/her own. This is true for not only the work and success of the actual scene but the story and messages it portrays. I am of the opinion that great stories speak for themselves and need simply to be read in order to fully appreciate them. However, plays are written with the purpose of being recited aloud and acted out. So, readers may not always grasp the details or depths of characters’ relationships, or at least, I did not. Bringing those to life in our own rendition of the critical scene in As You Like It, helped me not only to understand the complexity of the scene on its own, but how it fit in with the rest of the story and other characters.

Shakespeare’s work covers a wide range of genres. So far, I have only been a part of his comedies and feel comfortable performing them. It is easy to become absorbed in the goofiness of the lines and laugh along with (or at) the characters. Therefore, I worry about our next performance, Hamlet. It is a tragedy and requires a different approach. I don’t know if I will be able to show darker emotions and reveal deeper meanings within the context of the Hamlet storyline. However, I will simply give it my all with the new knowledge that I must stop analyzing all angles and instead work with what comes naturally and be the thing I am.