Believe it or not, even with a musical theatre degree I still enjoy performing in other genres of theatre. I’m also capable of keeping my jazz hands and bursts of musical vomit to a minimum….for the most part.
I’ve always had a deep love for the Bard and I couldn’t be more excited when I was cast in my first B&B show as Portia. I’ve done many Shakespeare shows in the past, however, ‘Julius Caesar’ would be my first outdoor production. I was a little nervous prior to rehearsals starting, not because of the hard work I knew was in store, but mostly because I didn’t know what to expect.
This next statement might make Scott re-cast me….
What I discovered is that musical theatre and outdoor Shakespeare are incredibly SIMILAR. (Aaaaaand cue Scott’s heart attack).
Think about this for a minute my theatre friends….
One of the most important things of outdoor Shakespeare is voice production. “Can we hear you? Are you breathing properly? Do you have enough breath support for long phrases? Is your voice in a healthy placement? Are you pushing vocally, and if you are, STOP.” We spend time prior to ever rehearsal breathing deeply, effectively, and finding proper vocal placement. Nothing out of the ordinary there for me. Sounds a lot like some of the private vocal coaching sessions I’ve had (only instead of “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” it was more like “Green Finch and Linnet Bird.”)
To further my point, something else we’ve spent a lot of time on are the stage combat fights. Hmm. What are fights? CHOREOGRAPHY. No, we aren’t doing pirouettes or time steps, but we definitely are dancing with each other. Remembering choreography as well as being spatially aware of our movements is incredibly important. The fights are precise, emote feelings, and have a rhythm. We have to work together to make each piece look its best and keep everyone safe. I’ve been in a lot of dance numbers like that. If your actors aren’t aware of where their arms or legs are in space, you might find yourself with a smack to the face in the middle of “Let Yourself Go” in White Christmas and you’re trying to dance with one eye tearing up. No fun.
Musical theatre and outdoor Shakespeare are both insanely hard to do. They require meticulous training in voice and body to keep the actor safe. Then while remembering your techniques, you have to act your booty off to make it believable. These genres are taxing physically, vocally, and require MASSIVE amounts of energy.
Oh, I forgot to mention one last thing. Scott is also making me sing. A lot. Wait….there’s singing too? Good on ya, dude. Didn’t know you were directing a musical, did you? Next rehearsal I’m going to incorporate a Portia solo tap number with Brutus’s dagger.
Next stop, Julius Caesar goes to BROADWAY.