Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A peek inside the Grassroots audition process!

We all know what a typical audition entails; you walk onto a bare stage, introduce yourself to a vaguely discernible casting director sitting somewhere out in the fourth-wall ether, and then (if you're lucky) launch headlong into a monologue that you have spent weeks preparing.  Almost immediately, you finish, head out the door, and await the results with baited breath for days, sometimes weeks.  Grassroots auditions are... different.

From the very first moment of auditions, you are part of an ensemble.  You're encouraged to give and take feedback from your fellow auditioners.  You're urged to speak directly to them during your performance, and to notice and use the surrounding environment effectively.  In some ways it's a bit daunting, trying to stand out and be heard in the middle of a vast park, and having your audition piece openly scrutinized by strangers.  But in other ways, it can be quite satisfying to let the energy of an audience enliven your performance, and to foster a sense of community with your peers.  Auditions are never easy, but Grassroots auditions are, at the very least, unique.

The most difficult, and perhaps the most important part of the Grassroots auditions, is the voting.  After devising a few scenes in small groups, and performing them for each other, the recalled group of actors write up confidential ballots, listing the people they would most like to work with.  After that, a simple tally determines the company.  For those who, for whatever reason, don't make the final cut, it can be pretty disappointing.  But those who do make the company find an instant network of supportive, trusting, enthusiastic friends, each of whom are there because of each other's votes.

The instant bond created by this exciting, if harrowing process, allows us to jump straight into rehearsals.  And for Grassroots, that's an absolute necessity.  We only have ten days, after all.  There's no time for trust-falls or bridge-building.  The connections have to be there from day one.  If we're trying to approach Shakespeare the way his original players did, then we need an incredibly cohesive, tight-knit group, like they had.  So, although it can be dispiriting for those who feel rejected by the voting (and the difference between total validation and total rejection is often just a single vote), it is incredibly beneficial to the creation of an enthusiastic and sincerely collaborative ensemble.

If you like what we do, please help us by sharing with your friends and family!  In England, follow us at Grassroots Shakespeare · London on facebook, or @grassroots_lon on twitter.  Our upcoming production of A Midsummer Night's Dream promises to be a surprising and enchanting event!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The First Blog Post of the New Grassroots British Shakespeare Company

The First Blog Post of the New Grassroots British Shakespeare Company

It’s been an interesting road to get to this point. I’ve never gone through an audition process quite like this: so relaxed, open. From the instant we all met, the method seemed almost designed to make us into a company. Performing monologues in front of each other was an audition experience I’d had only once before, auditioning for drama school (at the end of which, I got in). It’s amazing the difference it makes to your performance to have a supportive audience. Nerves melt away with the laughter or rapt attention that accompanies the performance. By the end of the day, I felt like I knew everyone and they al l knew me. There was no worry about who would get in and who wouldn’t because we all felt we’d been given an equal opportunity. We knew that no matter what, whoever made up the company would be talented and fun to work with.

I could talk about the recall but I would basically be repeating myself: the exact same enjoyable experience except with fewer people. By the end of it, however, there was an excitement: only thirteen of us could make it and every one of us (you could tell) desperately wanted to get in. Not just to act but because it would be so much fun to act with these people.

And so it was with much joy that I discovered I was to be part of the group. Additionally, I would be fulfilling a life long dream of mine: to perform Shakespeare in London in the open as Shakespeare intended. From a very young age, I have enjoyed Shakespeare’s work and wanted to perform it in the country of its origin. That’s why I went to drama school here and it is the reason I decided to start my acting career here. A year out of drama school, doing mostly film work, I am now back doing what I love - Shakespeare’s theatre - and I cannot think of a better company with which to start.

We had our first meeting as a company last week and it felt like I was meeting old friends. We all indicated openly the roles we wanted to play and quite naturally it seemed that everybody got what they wanted.

So as I eagerly embark on our first week of rehearsals, I am full of confidence, not just in myself but in the whole group. I already feel trust in every actor and that together we will create something truly amazing.

Aaron Tavaler

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

2011 London Company Announced!

After careful deliberation (read: playing in Hyde Park) and much reflection (read: chatting at Starbucks), Grassroots Shakespeare · London is pleased to announce almost the entire cast of our upcoming production of A Midsummer Night's Dream!

Oberon/ Thesus - Noah Young
Titania/ Hyppolita - Ponder Goddard
Lysander - Eve Winters
Demetrius - Harrie Hayes
Helena - Jennifer Dawn Williams
Hermia - Sarah Jayne-Harris
Bottom - Aaron Travaler
Quince - Grace Kennedy
Snout - Liam Webster
Starveling - Siobhan Daly
Snug/ Egeus - Cornelia Baumann
Flute - Mark Oram
Puck/ Philostrate - Holly Davies

Keep reading over the coming weeks to learn more about this wonderful troupe of actors!  They are delightful, talented, and a bit mad - they're London's first Grassrooters!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

American Shakespeare Center Intern

Hi Grassrooters,

Thanks to all our fans for such an incredible season. I still think about it everyday. What a wonderful opportunity it was to be involved with such talented performers, and enthusiastic audiences.

I love what we do so much, I just had to get out to some of the other places that do Original Practice. The big epicenter in the States is the American Shakespeare Center where they have a recreation of Shakespeare's first indoor theater, the Blackfriar's, so named because it was built inside a monastery. I'm here this summer doing an internship on Early Modern Theater Structures. So it's my job to learn everything I can about the playhouses of the period. No small task, because Londoners loved the theater, and wanted as much of it as they could get... Well kind of. There were also those who snubbed the Playhouses and wanted to shut them down all the time. Which is where we get most of our information really; legal documents and contracts from the likes of Philip Henslowe.

I'm especially excited to do a little more research on the touring operations of playing companies of the period in lue of our touring season. Our wine barrel based stage could be among the more authentic touring stages in the world.

Thanks again for a wonderful season, and I hope to find lots of good facts for ye Shakespeare lovers.