Shakespeare Actors Share Inside Scoop with Pirates Jan. 7Thursday, January 13, 2011 By Larry Breen
Are you ready for some insults, Shakespeare style? How about “Thou art a hugger mugger” or “churlish dog-hearted flax-wench”? Can you top them with a contemporary “Yo’ mama joke”? You’d think so, but in his day, William Shakespeare’s insults brought the house down just like top comedians today such as Eddie Murphy and Adam Sandler. As a special treat, on Jan. 7, the entire school was treated to a special visit by Shakespeare Dallas actors Julie Osborne and Calvin Roberts, who performed twice, one for the juniors and freshmen from 9:15-10:15 and for the seniors-sophomores from 10:20-11:15. After a brief introduction by assistant principal Chuck Long, Osborne quoted William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 and joined Roberts to give the author’s birth, education, marriage-children, career dates, retirement, and death, noting that the bard has no surviving relatives. After listing his best plays and explaining some of the archaic language of the day (like “thee/thou” for “you” and “dost” for “do”), they invited students to join them on stage for a rousing round of Shakespearean insults, such as those listed above, with Delakia Wagoner and John Wilkerson doing the honors off a three-column list, “Thou art a ___.” Unable to bring their own scenery, the two still did an exquisite balcony scene from the author’s most popular play, "Romeo and Juliet" to much approval on the final kiss. Next on the educational tour was the background of Shakespeare’s purpose and language, focusing on iambic pentameter (10 syllables of 5 feet with pairs of unstressed/stressed syllables) with a parallel to a heartbeat. After a reading of Sonnet 29, volunteer Kristen Cleere, quoted the iambic pentameter line “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!” from the battle scene in "Richard III" as the student body added battle noise. Osborne and Roberts then acted a scene from "Macbeth" when he and his wife, Lady Macbeth, plot about his being prophesied thane (baron) of Cawdor and king of Scotland (by killing Duncan), again, more catcalls at the kisses at the end, and an explanation afterward of a “first folio,” the author’s instructions and script lines for actors, emphasizing capitalization and periods between complete thoughts, not commas within them—students may even research the originals on-line for free. After Roberts read an example of a first folio from "Macbeth" about King Duncan’s death knell, he and Osborne quoted the funeral speeches scene from "Julius Caesar," with her noting that Brutus emphasized “I”, while Antony’s only has “I” at the end. The students were asked to applaud for which was the better leader, and Antony won easily. Last on the agenda was the background of hand-to-hand fighting in plays, practiced in real life by walking through the motions. Volunteers Stephen Cottrell and Chelsea Marquez showed how it was done by acting out the same "The Taming of the Shrew" scene that the two professional actors did between the “shrew” Kate (whose father wants her to marry against her wishes) and Petruchio (who only wants the money). The physical part includes four steps—eye contact, safety distance, cue, and trick), including some fake (but realistic) foot stomping, punching, wrestling, pushing, and even a pat on Kate’s rear (her “tail”). The “safety distance” is how close or far the actors must be for effective performance and still be safe. In closing, Roberts noted, “When reading Shakespeare, don’t say lines quietly for yourself; read them aloud.” There was no question and answer after the first show, and volunteers for the second presentation included Bryce McKinney and Marcus Evans insulting, Taylor Spaulding as King Richard, and Warren Willis-Diamond Winburne fighting. The final questions were “Are you paid?” (Yes), “When did you start acting?” (Osborne at age 5, Roberts his freshman year). “What actors inspired you?” (Osborne--Kevin Spacey, whom she met once, and Roberts Audra McDonald from “Private Practice,” “Are you two dating?” (No), “Is acting competitive?” (Very, but talented and hard working ones can make it, while 99.9% don’t.), “Are you planning on auditioning for TV?” (Osborne yes with an agent; Roberts has already auditioned), “How much are you paid?” (undisclosed), and “What are you working on now?” ("Cyrano de Bergerac" and "As You Like It" this summer and "Hamlet" this fall). Overall, the student body did fairly well in the behavior department, although a few unfortunately distracted the actors and the rest of the audience talking or playing on cell phones. For those who enjoyed having more than an hour off from finals review, if you want something like a free Shakespeare program to return to the school, help out with some positive peer pressure for those who don’t.