Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer Tour 2014 - Alexandra Russell: "the difference between 2014 and 1614 is not as large as you’d expect."

By Summer Tour cast member Alexandra Russell:

I’m the person most people hate. I’ve been studying Shakespeare for 20+ years. I’ve been trained by some of the most amazing and talented people both in the US and UK.  I can casually work a Shakespeare quote into conversation while watching the World Cup.  I have multiple copies of his plays and different folios sitting on my bookshelf.  And as long as Shakespeare is around, I’m happy.  Yes, I’m that person.

But none of that matters.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a scholar of Shakespeare or never seen a play of his in your life.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a full time student or hold a full time job.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an actor or just someone who wants to give it a go.

The Grassroots Shakespeare Company is for E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E.

What sets this company apart from so many is the use of Original Practices.  We strive to do our very best to get as close as possible to the way it is believed that Shakespeare’s actors would have worked and performed.  We have shortened rehearsal time, we design and acquire all that is needed for our costumes, and rather than having one director we have multiple!  Every actor puts their input into the show and helps create a show that they can be proud of.

Now for many, this seems like an out of the box experience.  And it is!  But that’s what makes performing and watching a Grassroots show so exciting.  It stretches the imagination of EVERYONE involved.  It may sound like we are taking on an insurmountable task (and some days it certainly feels like that too) but we tackle everything as a team.  We are not at the mercy of one higher power.  We can connect with the text and the characters in ways that bring things down to a personal level.  That is not to say there are not some brilliant productions with one person’s vision ranging from period pieces to contemporary war torn apocalyptic ones.  But for us we can take all of our ideas and mold them together into a product that we feel showcases the text to the best of our abilities.

Having been written 400 or so years ago, it would seem likely that Shakespeare’s words are a thing of the past.  But I’m here to tell you that it’s just not true!  We are trying to make language accessible and contemporary and relatable because IT IS!  But don’t worry because we’ve done all the hard work for you.  We’ve studied and digested and worked hard to learn the language and have found a way (we hope) to open it up to people and show we are still the same.  The emotions are the same.  Human nature is still the same.  Much like Rosalind, we fall in love.  Much like Duke Senior, there are times when we have indeed seen better days.  And even much like Henry, we go to war to fight for a cause we believe in. When we see the characters off the page and on the stage, we realize that the difference between 2014 and 1614 is not as large as you’d expect.

It’s understandable when people say they just don’t understand Shakespeare. There is a tendency to leave Shakespeare behind when one leaves school.  But I can promise you that seeing a play is much MUCH different than reading it.  And what’s even better is when the actor’s know the text then they can lead the audience through the maze that is Shakespeare’s works.  For his words do indeed create a giant maze of sorts.  At first it can be scary and daunting and it seems there is no way to get through it.  But as the actors, we have worked and pondered and spent night and day with the texts and the characters (in some cases they have entered even into our dreams) and it is our job, nay our pleasure to take the audience with us from start to finish so that the maze can indeed be completed. And what’s more we hope that the journey was not only manageable but enjoyable and fun as well.

Like Caius Martius says in Coriolanus:  Would you have me false to my nature? Rather say I play the man I am.  We play the parts to the best of our abilities in the hopes that the audience can enjoy the shows as much as the cast has enjoyed putting it together.  We don’t assume that Shakespeare will suddenly become your favorite playwright but we do hope that we can give you a new outlook on his works.  And what we can promise you is an enjoyable evening of entertainment, which is something you will always have with the Grassroots Shakespeare Company.

About Alexandra Russell:

Alexandra is delighted to be making her debut with the Grassroots Shakespeare Company.  Favorite credits include Clara from Hay Fever and Nickel in the world premiere of War Daddy with San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre.  She has a degree in Theatre Arts from Santa Clara University and has also trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, UK.

***Video featuring Alexandra Russell coming soon. Check our facebook page later this week for the video, then come and see our shows! Details at www.grassrootsshakespeare.com and our Facebook Event. *** 

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