January 17th, 2011


Hamlet auditions

I eventually decided to talk myself into auditioning for Hartwell's upcoming season of Hamlet. Though I personally tend focus more on dialogue than on movement, I did quite enjoy this audition and the refreshingly different approach taken by the director, Phoebe Taylor.

The focus was on working as an ensemble. If you let each activity run long enough (it was certainly not rushed), you start to see people's strengths and weaknesses emerge. It was a level playing field with everyone seemingly equal, but an observer would notice that some have the confidence to scream a phrase or encroach on another's space, or the creativity to discover an unusual interpretation. Likewise, things like frustration or repetition would start to show through when someone's struggling.

I'm mainly writing about the activities so that I can look back in future and remember what they were. Aside from auditions, they would make good activities for things like theatre warm-ups, school camps or even corporate training sessions.

Juggling balls

- Standing in a circle, throw a juggling ball from person to person and try to keep it moving fluidly. If you drop it, just grab it and return it to play using the same fluid motion and rhythm. Choose randomly who to throw too, but work together and keep an eye out for who's ready. Then introduce a second ball to add to the challenge.

- As above (starting with one ball), but clap before you catch. Clap, catch, throw. Then add the second ball.

- As above, but turn around after you throw. Clap, catch, throw, turn.

- Go back to the start (one ball, just catching), then add a second, and a third. Conclude in reverse, removing balls to go back from three to two to one to zero.

"Pulse" game

- Let your subconscious take over and do whatever you feel, so long as it's one of four things: walking, running, standing or sitting.

- As above, but imagine that when you're running you're shattering the space, when you're walking you're extending the space, and when you're sitting or standing you're suspending the space.

- As above, but gain awareness of other members of the ensemble. You might turn your head and make (or avoid) eye contact, approach, flee, etc. You might assign meaning to your actions and others' reactions. Are you sitting with someone to be close to them? Or are you alone together?

- As above, but introduce dialogue. You are constrained to three phrases: "What?", "No, my lord", and "I knew him".

- Don't suddenly stop the activity. As an ensemble, bring it to a natural conclusion.

- Start again, this time closely seated next to each other. The phrases are the same. Your movement options are to cross or uncross your legs, turn your head, and raise or lower one or both of your arms in whatever way suits your action. Eventually, bring this round to a natural conclusion.

- Working as a group, decide how to present a passage of text. (In this case one of Hamlet's soliloquies, but the story or meaning is irrelevant.) Each group is likely to come up with its own way to present. Does one person speak, with others adding action or interjecting from the sidelines? Do you chop it up and focus on a particular theme or thought? In our case, we resumed roaming around the room in free form, delivering lines in sequence, but stopping at each break in the punctuation, at which point anyone else could jump in with the next fragment.

- Phoebe then asked us to try a different approach, in which Kym read from start to finish, with the rest of us surrounding her and variously saying in advance, or echoing, mirroring or repeating selected parts of the speech, as if we were fragmented voices and thoughts that formed part of her mind.

And that was it! No preparing a monologue, no reciting dialogue and repeating with direction. It was all movement, flow, awareness and working together within a supportive framework.

Thanks for a fascinating audition, Phoebe! It's certainly going to be an interesting production. :-)