Lessons Learned On The Road
The current production of 'As You Like It' marks my tenth show with PCSC over the last 3 ½ years. Once again, I am struck by the unique challenges performing with a group that has no fixed home base.
First, the familiarity that comes with always appearing on stage in the same environment fades away. At an early stage of the rehearsal process, I become aware that I will be acting in a variety of venues, each with their own physical qualities that will affect my preparation and performance. This requires a greater concentration on both the mechanics of blocking my scenes and the interactions with my fellow actors. Working with groups that have a permanent home, I can become comfortable orienting myself to the space in which the entire run of the show will occur. With Pigeon Creek, however, I have to develop sufficient confidence in my physical movements and those of my scene partners that we can tell the story of the play regardless of where our stage is, where the audience is sitting, what light is available to us, and so on. In the course of my first shows with the company I was distressed to discover how much I relied on this familiarity to ground my performance. I have become a better listener and enhanced presence on stage because of the demands of our peripatetic nature.
Second, the variation in performance spaces also requires an ability to adjust my blocking, position on stage in particular scenes, and entrances and exits, depending on whether our stage is proscenium, thrust, or some variation on either. Since Pigeon Creek expects a certain amount of audience interaction on the part of its actors, where the audience actually is sitting will have a bearing on what I do on stage. If I do not have a solid grasp of my character and why and what I am doing in a particular scene, I risk becoming distracted by the unfamiliar setting. Again, working with this group has made me a better actor.
Lastly, when I have the opportunity to appear with Pigeon Creek, I know my responsibilities extend
beyond just acting. “Touring” means moving, which implies setting up and taking down our stage elements several times during the course of a play’s run. It requires cleaning, tending, and maintenance of costumes, props, and musical instruments. The effort required in all this can, on occasion, be draining, but when I have finished a production with Pigeon Creek, I know I have succeeded in presenting Shakespeare to a variety of audiences in diverse venues and, as my aging body usually attests, I know I’ve been in a show…