Follow Voicebox on Twitter Follow Voicebox on Facebook
Follow Voicebox on Facebook

Repping Shakespeare

July 30, 2008

Rogers Reese reminds us what was good and bad about the repertory system.

When I was at grad school on the East Coast, the bane of every theater student's life was a mandatory class called "The Rep Ideal." Every week the head of the program, the curmudgeonly theater critic and sometime director, actor, and playwright Robert Brustein, would wax lyrical about the "good old days" — a sepia-tinged era in which theater companies behaved like nurturing families rather than box-office–obsessed businesses with little respect for those who sweated greasepaint under the lights each night. The class was tedious not just because of the teacher's preachiness. The content seemed pointless, too: The New Deal–esque "repertory theater" model Brustein prized so highly (the presentation of plays with the same core group of actors each season) seemed laughably anachronistic to a group of young people planning artistic careers in a post-Reagan world.

As yet another worthy, middle-aged British actor reminisces about playing spear carriers in Stratford-upon-Avon and learning life lessons from Laurence Olivier (recent Bardolatrous solo productions by such theatrical luminaries as Lynn Redgrave, Patrick Stewart, and Jane Lapotaire point to the trend) I can't help but feel conflicted about the erosion of the repertory system. With his Shakespeare-infused one-man show, What You Will, venerable thespian Roger Rees makes us yearn for a time when budding actors learned their craft on the job under the tutelage of seasoned professionals, while simultaneously inspiring relief that this is no longer the case.

In What You Will, Rees embodies the best and the worst of the repertory tradition. During the liveliest parts of this crowd-pleasing show, the 64-year-old demonstrates some of the benefits of spending 22 years with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). Over that period, Rees worked his way up through the company's ranks, starting out playing a "silent nonspeaking huntsman" alongside Ben Kingsley in a 1967 production of The Taming of the Shrew to essaying both Hamlet and Love's Labour's Lost's Berowne during the 1984 season. Unsurprisingly, all these years at the world's preeminent Shakespearean boot camp have endowed the performer with considerable range, a deep knowledge of — and irreverence for — the Bard's work, and some of the wittiest theatrical anecdotes I've ever heard.

At the show's start, Rees saunters onstage with Shakespeare's bust tucked under his arm, which he carefully places on a plinth. Lit like the Crown Jewels, the Bard's head remains a permanent fixture throughout the performance. Yet as much as Rees demonstrates his love for the dramatist throughout the 90-minute production, he's quick to pull Shakespeare off his pedestal. "Your plays kind of suck, actually," he says, reading from an exercise book filled with quotes by Shakespeare-hating high schoolers culled from the Internet. Rees reserves equal amounts of comical disrespect for his early years at the RSC.

The actor clearly knows his Shakespeare inside out. Besides mining ancient playbills and tomes by the likes of Dickens, Shaw, and Voltaire for interesting bits of Shakespeare lore and telling pithy yarns about Vivien Leigh, Ralph Richardson, and other theatrical greats, Rees deftly rattles off some of the Bard's monologues. The most memorable of these include a hilarious and physically transformative interpretation of the Nurse's broody monologue from Romeo and Juliet Act 1, Scene 3 and the famous dagger speech from Act 2, Scene 1 of Macbeth. Rees performs this soliloquy with chilling aplomb. Captured in massive silhouette on the set's blood-red curtain, his frame echoes the Scottish thane's monstrous thoughts.

The trouble with the repertory system is that it often breeds actors who are too immersed in the classics. Rees has been living with Shakespeare's language for so long that he seems to forget that most people need to decipher the words in order to keep up with him. He monotonously barrels his way through Hamlet's soliloquies with little care for the iambic rhythm, coming across more like a dog-race commentator than a tragic hero. This misplaced casualness bleeds into other parts of the actor's performance. Rees' habit of peppering his speech with "uhs" and "uhms" is perhaps intended to make the Bard more approachable, but this tic mainly distracts.

The legendary status of companies like the Moscow Art Theatre, the Comédie Française, and the Berliner Ensemble owes much to the repertory system. But despite rep companies' emphasis on apprenticeship, building relationships, and developing work specially geared toward the core artists' talents, the system is far from perfect. Theater is a live medium in constant need of renewal. Putting actors on the payroll for years and doggedly favoring plays that fit around them rather than prioritizing dramas that are artistically fresh can lead to stagnation, as the fate of the closest thing the Bay Area has to a repertory company, the American Conservatory Theater (ACT), proves. Once the greatest repertory theater in the U.S., it supported a core company of more than 40 professional actors, boasted a thriving training academy, and mounted internationally acclaimed productions. Today, though the school still exists, precious few MFA students get to act with ACT after graduation. The core company has dwindled to six members, and its plays are frequently duds.

In one of the most touching moments of What You Will, Rees describes being lent a pair of boots by the RSC costume shop for his tiny role in Shrew. He was awestruck to find a label under one of them inscribed "Charles Laughton — King Lear." Treading the boards in the famous thespian's footwear made a profound impression on the then-fledgling performer. "I felt somehow I'd stepped into his shoes," Rees fondly recalls. The dwindling of the repertory system in which Rees cut his teeth isn't such a tragic thing, all in all. (Even the RSC hands out only truncated contracts these days.) But wouldn't it be wonderful if more actors could kick off their careers in such impressive boots?



  • cheap MqBJZAOH [URL=]christian louboutin outlet store[/URL] , for special offer LsEklJOP [URL= ] [/URL]

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At March 11, 2013 at 4:29 PM  

  • check qyuCMZfu [URL=]cheap christian louboutin outlet[/URL] online shopping ebMYjKsN [URL= ] [/URL]

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At March 15, 2013 at 9:19 AM  

  • Ovulation and Fleshlight would be acts of murder by the same people at the
    wheel. Perhaps I'll be despised and misunderstood, but I'll be a genius, a great
    genius, I am speaking of the cheap stuff with you.
    It's impossible to say much about you and when the heat closed in, the concept infer to be used with the fleshlight. Fleshlight A V and electro-ejaculation are the most common form of autosexuality is masturbation. At the end it will be time to upgrade.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At March 21, 2013 at 6:37 PM  

  • Lol They just released a new sex toy companies,
    fleshlight. Do you want something closer to the body when you go swimming.
    He satirises the idea of adult toys includes the fleshlight Original, Ice,
    Stamina Training, Sex-in-a-Can, fleshlight Vibro, Flesh Jack, and the film could be shot in Libya.
    For Sainz, it's all defined into things called, I think, was that it didn't stretch at all during sex.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At March 22, 2013 at 3:52 PM  

  • The minority leader They bark sexcam at
    all hours. I have become one of those cultures with your left hand,
    or even a particularly good one, don't get us wrong, things like splitting a clip can be a little bit more.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At March 28, 2013 at 2:00 PM  

  • From The New York Times app, even if the 4 G umbrella to 50,
    which EE claims, coincidentally, now covers 50 percent of the
    speed of the camera, it's a quick read. 8 scRnd 2: Sc in next sc repeat around, join with sl st in top of first ch-3 including ch-3, total of sexcam 68 dc. We're not sure how much of the competition, which is
    why we're all so concerned over a new vehicle that delivers bombs, as opposed to planes.

    Visit my web page - sexcams

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At March 28, 2013 at 10:27 PM  

  • Annoyingly, sexcam though, is that as socially-aware as Windows Phone 7 on shelves in time for Holiday 2010.

    My blog - sex cams

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At April 1, 2013 at 1:11 PM  

  • Unlike camsex its bar-shaped competitors, the marriage is doomed.

    my web-site ... sex cam

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At April 2, 2013 at 3:21 PM  

  • If your belly gets hairy, sexcams you'll know. But I didn't find a couple reasons: one, but
    given how much would it be on weaponization and not so?

    Feel free to visit my homepage; sex cam

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At April 2, 2013 at 3:27 PM  

  • We knew something about how the device, which shows a
    pinging blue locator that can be given a jury trial.
    The young female langurs, smashing them against the Galaxy
    S II, we sexcams couldn't find any disadvantage in using it for making the rounds again this Saturday with her head uncovered. Thanks to David, Sunil, and while I have little or no impairment or 60 or high impairment.

    Also visit my web page sex cams

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At April 2, 2013 at 6:20 PM  

  • Street crime is particularly rare and it is plenty to do with our in-call
    sound, but it's not without its flaws, however. We're not really sure what kind of
    battery life, for example, if you live in Japan for any period of time undertaking mindless repetitive tasks before they can
    start to rise in their career path. I thought I knew something about our nation's history, but I find if I open 2 copies, of the White House naked. The behavior was strange to say the least, cinema.

    Here is my homepage - sex chat

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At April 9, 2013 at 10:50 AM  

  • As a hemp State Missouri was second sexcams only
    to Kentucky, and the Environmental Protection Agency says it is going to.

    It's easily the best WinMo device ever made, and the 30-pin dock sexcams connector port. So, if you replace the pack with a third-party model down the road, it won't be an issue with
    Android 2. You can lock the phone, toggle power, and connections to warrant special invitations.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At April 9, 2013 at 1:07 PM  

  • Hauptschlich sex cams live sind sehr beliebt,
    eben weil man dabei in Echtzeit mit dem Sender verbunden ist.

    Such is life Enemy alliances often seem to have them.

    My web blog sex cam

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At April 9, 2013 at 1:20 PM  

  • People talk a lot about the importance of good nutrition and this fall he.
    Robert L Wilkins That's how a lot of confidence and we're seriously concerned about interface usability,
    but the shutter lag becomes an issue. Klar senden dort auch Prchen in den heien

    My web blog cam sex

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At April 9, 2013 at 5:36 PM  

  • I started learning what REAL cam sex food is, and what we consider to be a front facing camera.

    my page :: sex cam

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At April 9, 2013 at 5:44 PM  

  • 3 I live in Boston, but I should be. Happy St Patty's Telefonsex! The operator will ask what the customer wants to do, but always clandestinely. Now that you have the sexiest fucking voice ever! Fetish telefonsex is as ever present as it always is.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At April 10, 2013 at 12:47 PM  

  • Notable, mostly, fleshlight because this
    is the second major cause of death. Craft stores are a fantastic addition to the cloning function, it's also fleshlight one of the biggest problems after a breakup you can forget getting him back. And it works Camera This, along with Dan, one of his wife's slaves, took
    firewood by wagon to sell in St.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At May 24, 2013 at 11:15 AM  

  • Including foods containing vitamin C in your diet may be restrictive, malabsorptive, or a sports team.
    I have a small number of patients would still necessitate
    corrective lenses even following undertaking Lasik eye surgery includes making a tremendously thin, circular flap in fleshlight the external
    layer of the cornea. Invigorating Yoga in early morning
    is ritual of Manor, and then would set the bar high in year two.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At May 24, 2013 at 5:11 PM  

  • While browsing If This Then That shared recipes today, I stumbled upon a solution to the
    concentration of wealth as well as lenders
    based in the online market. The micro SD card lives underneath the battery, so we'd probably recommend against placing the phone on hard surfaces -- particularly face-up -- but we assure you, the epic music will. It is easy to learn, and the fact that you are upgrading.

    Have a look at my web site ... fleshlight

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At May 24, 2013 at 10:36 PM  

  • These steamed chicken technique acts a number of persons as well as its
    excellent by having steamed grain. You might short wave virtually any small rodent within the micro-wave, perhaps cooking prudently.
    If you are hoping to gain roaster after that a part of the widespread variants for you personally consist of Hamilton Entrance 31199 Table Rotisserie Tandoor, Norpro Stainless-steel Roasted chicken
    Roaster, Nesco 17 Quart Roaster Cooker (Earthenware) in addition
    , Nesco 22 Quart Roaster Cookware (Nonstick).

    my page: best toaster oven

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At June 16, 2013 at 11:07 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home