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, July 20, 2007

Gettysburg Address

An instructor in school once asked me to read the the Gettysburg Address to the rest of the class and I, groaning, went to the front accompanied by the hoots and snickers of the rest of the group. To drown out the remarks I focused totally on the words that we'd all heard many times; little understood and by now rote. I found myself going "into" them; hearing them truly for the first time in my life and suddenly the class grew still and quiet and we were all hearing them. Then my voice broke and it all went to Hell; but for just that long we were all touched more deeply than we expected to be--it took us all by surprise. Maybe THAT was truly when I found I wanted to be an actor.

So I decided to revisit the document, since I'd not read it since that time. It's good, check it out. Read it slowly, hear the words.

The Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Wow. It still gets me.

They All Want To Play Hamlet

This is from the pen of Carl Sandburg; I hope I'm not breaking any copyright rules by posting this, but I'm sure the estate of Mr. Sandburg understands that this poem is possibly one of the most succinct arrangement of words regarding acting to date. And anyway I got it from another website. So there.

Truly Martha, Josh, Hilda, and AnonySmiths it does call to us--a sirens song to be sure--and we come back to it over and over drawn by those "wise, keen, beautiful words". They are the essence of our craft, the bricks from which we build our stories
, the essence of the song itself. Remember the first time you truly "heard", the words someone had written and had them touch you on some deep level without your quite knowing why?

The lure of the big roles and the big words, the frustration of not being able to get them quite right, the possibility of never getting anything right or never even understanding, perhaps, the authors words and intent. And also the joy of the work itself, and knowledge of our own foolishness and fixation. These are the echoes that Mr. Sandburg's poem make resonate within me.

Hey, will you keep me posted if I'm using too many Italics? Thanks.

I talk of being frustrated at times, and I think most actors do get frustrated sometime during every production, and yes I suppose that feeling can build up, but I've gotta say Martha, that just one good experience, just one really fine show with a good cast, director, concept and staging will have us coming back to drink from the well for the next 10 years. Addict or Artist -- you make the call.


They all want to play Hamlet.
They have not exactly seen their fathers killed
Nor their mothers in a frame-up to kill,
Nor an Ophelia dying with a dust gagging the heart,
Not exactly the spinning circles of singing golden spiders,
Not exactly this have they got at nor the meaning of flowers - Oh flowers,
flowers slung by a dancing girl - in the saddest play the
inkfish Shakespeare, ever wrote;
Yet they all want to play Hamlet because it is sad like all actors are sad
and to stand by an open grave with a joker's skull in the hand and
then to say over slow and say over slow wise, keen, beautiful words
masking a heart that's breaking, breaking,
This is something that calls and calls to their blood,
They are acting when they talk about and they know it is acting to be
particular about it and yet; They all want to play Hamlet.

Carl Sandburg