Jim's Richard III Blog

What had started as a blog of Richard III rehearsal process at Cal Shakes has now evolved or devolved into a small novella. The author is petrified to change the name for fear it'll disappear, and wouldn't know what to call it anyway. Many stories are included and questions are even answered sometimes!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Week 2 In a Nutshell, or Blah, blah, blah, blah

Wednesday no call, Thursday no call, Friday called at 3:00--they didn't get to me and sent me home. Saturday--yes! I'm plugged into the "strawberry scene". Went home after. Sunday was called for act 2 sc. 1 to be Kingly, rant, croak, and go home. I think they're all beginning to pity me. They watch me come in with an eager, feverish look to me, clasping to my bosom all who come close and asking how long we'll be working on the scene, then witness me leave an hour later, done for the day. Poor sad bastard.

My scene as the King is gradually getting there for me but it's trickier than I realized at first. Here's the backstory; we have an old dying Monarch who is desperately trying to keep the peace between the factions at court, end the infighting and die with his debts to God settled--think Dallas with crowns and diadems and you've got the situation; a group of powerful, wealthy, motivated individuals all jockeying for the best positions and for the most power. All fairly unscrupulous and constantly maneuvering and conniving to come out on top. AND--all related.

Now add to this rich dysfunctional stew the juicy little tidbit that the King has married below his position and given titles and estates to his new wifes relatives and you've a Royal Court filled with dissatisfied Nobles, and one fit to be served to Richard if he throws scruples to the wind and acts rapidly; and of course he does, and commits another murder, in a sense, by bearing the news to the King that Clarence, brother to them both, has been killed before the Kings Pardon could reach his executioners--and this pardon given by the same King who demanded his death; himself. At which point Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby rushes in, and begs the Kings Pardon for a servant of his who's killed a man.

Now, this is truly hideous timing on the Earls part. But the King forgets him momentarily and goes into a seeming reverie or series of memories about his brother Clarence--his loyalty, his defense of King Edward in battle and of his saving his life. A welter of memories strike this man--and I get an almost physical sense of him struggling against a Tsunami of associations, and of his sudden awareness of the irony of being asked to pardon a murderer when his brother, who'd killed no man, done no wrong has been killed. A huge load of guilt lands on this man but out of it comes something else--a stripping away of his hopes for Heaven, a keen, keen sense of his own mortality and a cold new view of the world he lives in and is soon to pass from.

We tried it standing and moving--finding these specific memories physically, and it worked but felt contrived; the thankfully few times I've experienced a major tragedy or when disastrous news has been imparted to me I haven't jumped to my feet but have felt that news in my body--like an invisible blow to the heart, gut and knees. I sat down. I asked to stay seated and the adjustment served to allow me to "see" each of those memories more specifically, and to focus the speech in such a way that when the King brings those memories back to the members of court and asks "Who sued to me for him?" (his brother Clarence) he's transitioned from blaming not only himself but all the other Lords of court for not reminding him in his anger of his love for his brother. I get this incredible sense from the text that the mans perspective suddenly skews around 180 degrees and he ceases to see them as human, but more a pack of hyenas fighting over a bone-- ravenous creatures all. "You all have been beholden to him in his life, yet none of you would once plead for his life." is his final realization. This is the knife to the heart and he's shortly lead off to die.

It's hard to find that specific moment truthfully--it's one of those times when as you run through life God suddenly nails one of your feet to the linoleum and after you've spun about several times-----suddenly you're somewhere else.

Now I try to fine tune it.


Blogger Pamplemousse said...

Thank you thank you for this blog! It will make seeing the play so much richer.

May 22, 2007 at 2:36 PM  
Blogger James Carpenter said...

Why, you're welcome!

May 25, 2007 at 11:47 AM  
Blogger Meg said...

Hi Jim,

Meg Patterson here... I know this is a silly way to contact you, but I just got one of those "buy your tickets now" e-mails from CalShakes and in it there was a link to your blog -- I couldn't resist. How great to see those atrocious photos of you and Andrew! Please say hello to him for me and anyone else I know there this season. And yes, stay away from the weapons table.

I need to put out a casting call, so please forward the following info to anyone you can think of. I'm about to take over directing TWELFTH NIGHT for someone due to a medical emergency. It's in Astoria, Oregon - a great little city on the NW coast - for the Columbia River Repertory Theatre www.TheRiverTheatre.org. Rehearsal starts (yikes!) June 18th, and we are seeking a Toby Belch, Malvolio, and Orsino. There's not much more than travel money and housing provided, and it's non-AEA. (I think they would consider AEA if some kind of waiver were possible, but it's a small low-budget theatre.)

OK, well, feel free to contact me. I can be reached now at the River Theatre (503) 325-7487 or megpatterson@earthlink.net

Love to all,

May 31, 2007 at 9:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say I just stumbled across your blog, and while I was extremely disappointed in this overall production of Richard III (even though I usually love Cal Shakes and usually quite enjoy most of the actors who were in it), your Edward was just breathtakingly brilliant, and perhaps the only thing I really liked (loved!) about it. For that monologue, I found myself leaning forward, holding my breath, remembering why I love Shakespeare. So thank you - thank you - for your talent and care and the gift you are to the theatre and for the care you take in inhabiting the Bard's text, and letting it inhabit you. I'm a fan.

April 29, 2008 at 11:34 AM  

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