Thursday, July 31, 2008

Apprentice Company Training - Week Two

Nashville Shakespeare Festival Apprentice Company

Apprentice Company members take a break during stage combat boot camp.

The second week of Apprentice Company training led us one long van ride out of Nashville to Westmoreland, the home of Roy Cox, our fight choreographer. Imagine the biggest, baddest, most intimidating man you can think of. Now, give him a beard and a great sense of humor. That’s Uncle Roy, a Marine and ten time world jousting champion. Last Monday and Tuesday the Apprentice Company and the adult staff worked with Roy, learning hand-to-hand, staff, and club stage combat. With the combined companies moving in unison to Roy's instructions, it looked like we had a real Roman army on our hands. We even got to choreograph some one-on-one fights of our own! Uncle Roy deserves a big hand for all his hospitality and teachings over the course of our combat training.

On Wednesday, we had the privilege of working with Christopher Brown, Coriolanus himself, on sound production. We had worked previously on communicating through body movement and position using the techniques Claire Syler (Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s Education Director) and Denice Hicks (Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s Artistic Director), had taught us, but communicating through man-made percussion and vocal production was a pretty new experience. We created scenes based on death, judgment, battle, and animals. He then taught us a Stanislavsky technique of warming up the mind and body known as “The Cat”, a series of fierce body movements and sounds meant to both center and limber up the body. I've been trying to do it at least once a day, but I just can't get past the standing frog move! It was a lot of fun working with Chris. Working with and learning from seasoned actors is one of my favorite things about my Apprentice Company training.

Thursday was the Apprentice Company's dress rehearsal for the unveiling of our monologues. We practiced introducing ourselves to our audience before delivering. We then presented our monologues to the entire Apprentice Company and received praise and constructive criticism. Chris Brown was even able to come in for a bit and watch some of us. Friday was show time, the lifting of the curtain to show off our monologues to an audience of parents, Nashville Shakespeare Festival staff, board members and Apprentice Company alumni. Everybody gave a great show and gave it their all when it came time to present. A celebration was in order! The after party was a great reunion of past Apprentice Company members with current, and with sugary snacks galore. There was a powerful feeling of brotherhood and camaraderie between the Apprentices that I won't forget. We've worked, played, bared our souls, and formed great friendships together over the past two weeks. I wouldn't trade this experience for the world.

And so, our Apprentice Company training ends! We received Apprentice Company certificates and some really awesome Coriolanus t-shirts, with “Apprentice Company” written on the back to commemorate our training and special place in the show. So, 50+ hours down, 175+ hours to go. The training may be over, but the show is just beginning! We move to Centennial Park Monday to join with the adult cast and start rehearsals in earnest.

- J.R. Knowles, Rising Senior at Wilson Central High School

Thanks, Whole Foods and Vitamin Water!Special thanks to Whole Foods for a hot lunch and snacks for everyone and to Vitamin Water for keeping everyone hydrated! See the Apprentice Company students perform their monologues at WHOLE FOODS GREEN HILLS this Sunday, August 3, from 3 p.m. - 4 p.m.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

2008 Apprentice Company Training Begins

Playwright John Patrick Shanley once said that “theater is the safe place to do the unsafe thing.” As the first week of Apprentice Company (ApCo) training began, I definitely felt like I was doing the ‘unsafe thing!’ Being the oldest member of ApCo this year, my nerves were running pretty high as I stepped into my first day. I expected that I would have a hard time fitting in with the younger folks and that it would take a couple days to start feeling comfortable. I was totally wrong. As we got going with our ice-breaking games and morning yoga exercises, it felt like we were all opening up more and more to what everyone else was bringing to the table. Even by just introducing ourselves through our own personal gestures, we learned more about one another and accepted each person in the group right from the start.

From there, we’ve begun to explore our limitations as an ensemble and as individuals. This week for me has been about taking risks and knowing that this environment is a safe place to try new things with my monologues or in a group exercise without the fear of being shot down or laughed at. We get constructive and very polite criticism where we need it as well as praise for things that we hit the mark on. What’s even more exciting about all the work we’re doing is that we’re all excited for one another. You can’t help thinking “that was so awesome” each time you see others around you create and make so many different kinds of discoveries!

For week two of our training, we’ll be traveling with the professional cast to our fight director, Roy Cox’s, studio to continue our stage combat training which I’m very excited about. There is so much stuff we’ve already learned in our workshops with Roy this past week: different kinds of punches and slaps, tumbling, pushing and pulling. Trust me; it’s all a lot of fun. The physical exercises we’ve done have also helped me so much in understanding how my body works and how I can use it onstage. Yoga and Suzuki have helped the most in finding out how to focus my mind and center my energy so that I’m ready for anything and can stay in the moment at the same time.

That, in a rather lengthy nutshell, is what has affected me most from this first week in the Apprentice Company. I can’t believe that it’s only the beginning!

- Jillian Frame, Rising Senior at Trevecca Nazarene University