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Examining Shakespeare in a U.S. Drama School and on London's Stages

Nov 22, 2017 11:30:00 AM / by Irene Kanthan

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Thaddeus is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2017, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A BFA major at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, he is studying abroad in London this semester.

In this week's post, Thaddeus combines his theater training from the U.S. with his program in London and brings his performance to life at the Globe Theatre.

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My program at the University of Minnesota is a classical training program with a heavy focus on the works of Shakespeare, Chekhov, and Shaw.

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One of the reasons we came to London is the opportunity to work with the Globe Theatre, and further examine the practices of bringing Shakespeare's text to an understandable performance on stage. Our sophomore year focused heavily on technique with Shakespeare's text. Now in our junior year, the Globe's education program has been giving us the opportunity to bend and stretch those techniques to make the text more interpersonal and simple on stage, while still holding on to the core techniques that allow us to break down Shakespeare's logic.

Working on Shakespeare back in the day has been very much driven by rhetorical technique. For example, finding a rhyme scheme that Shakespeare might use at the end of a long soliloquy, and how to make that pop; or utilizing shared lines within his use of iambic pentameter to show conflict or harmony between two characters.

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Fall2017_From Thaddeus Kaszuba - Some text being worked on in rehearsal.jpg

At the Globe, while these tools have still been relevant, the main lesson has always been to find the simplicity of the text. If we understand the logic fully in our own minds and through our own words, it will make sense for other people. The Globe has reminded me that Shakespeare really does have a simple logic and meaning within his words, it's just his vocabulary that you have to break down and simplify to bring about an understanding to the modern ear in 2017.

While the Globe stage is an extremely large space, it is built with a certain sort of intimacy which does not allow you to get away with an untruthful performance to the audience. It's large but the actors pop out into the audience much more, which makes actors much more vulnerable since everyone can see everyone. It's a daunting feeling, but it also allows the play to include the audience, rather than create a divide between the story and the audience observing. The "fourth wall" had not been introduced to the theater as a standard of writing in this period, so the text alludes many times to the characters using the audience as their mental judgment - or third-party observers that the characters in the story are very aware of.

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I think that this creates a rather large divide between theaters that practice Shakespeare in a darkened audience and theaters that allow the audience to be part of the story. The Globe does this exceedingly well and it has been a very intense experience to rehearse on the stage, knowing what it takes to give an honest performance on it.

My acting company is working on Titus Andronicus on the stage, and merging this simple honesty to the work with the technique we have been working on back in the U.S., has proved to be a challenging task. However, it has been helpful to use this experience as an understanding of process rather than creating a final product. Furthermore, this idea has allowed me much more freedom to play and have fun with the work I do. If I am so concerned with it being good, it's not fun, and if the actor isn't having fun, I can assume that the audience is not either.

The Globe Theatre has been a very humbling experience as I further my training in Shakespeare, and I think I will take valuable lessons home with me in my work back in Minnesota.

Thanks Thaddeus!

Thaddeus's journey continues every Wednesday so stay tuned.

Learn More about the CAPA London Program

Topics: London, England, International Education