Some fifteen years ago it was my great fortune to attend a weekend intensive offered by Shakespeare & Co. Based in Lenox, MA, S&Co. is the grand-daddy of them all in terms of actor-training. Their tremendous insights were for me astounding; they delve expertly and excitingly into the physical, mental and spiritual rigors of performing these remarkable roles.
Later I was also very fortunate to attend a weeklong clown intensive, working with the utterly wonderful Jane West. Her clown is something to behold: fearless, utterly profane, forever childlike even as the physical age of the actor increases. Amazing.
Their training department is headed by Dennis Krausnick, (at right) who simply put is a holy man. You know it in how he approaches actors, in their relationship to text; he exudes such a reassurance that even if you must face something terrifying, the spirit within will emerge.
The acting company is led by Tina Packer, a titan of humanity in a tiny frame. As proof of their method, here's a quick final anecdote: at a recent Shakespeare Theatre Association conference, Tina was performing excerpts from her one-woman show, to all of our delight. Asking for people to stand in for missing other characters, I stood in for her Romeo, a mere couple of decades separating us.
Outside the room was an aviary---a rare conference held in Baja, Mexico---and just as Tina spoke these words of the young lovers' first farewell, the entire aviary awoke and begin singing and twittering:
"'Tis almost morning; I would have thee
gone:And yet no further than a wanton's bird;Who lets it hop a little from her hand…And with a silk thread plucks it back again,So loving-jealous of his liberty."
The birds awoke and fluttered, twittered and sang---the entire audience was amazed.
Tina and I both turned, in unison, toward the sound, and then in a moment connected with the air, the sea, all those Shakespeare producers and something profound, turned back to each other. Somehow I remembered Romeo's reply:
"I would I were thy bird."
The smiles and gentle laughter were a delight. The performances connect us to our world, help us understand it, and shed light on what it means to be alive.
Don't miss this weekend intensive, if at all possible. You'll never forget it.