Friday, August 6, 2010

Magic is an As You Like It Ren Run

Today is my last day at ASC, and I would like to begin this post by saying what a privilege it has been to work here over the last several weeks. I have learned far more from my experiences here than I ever would have expected, and I consider myself lucky to have had this opportunity. Moving on, it’s time for some Shakespeare.

Yesterday at ASC, I went to see the Renaissance Run of the 2010/2011 Restless Ecstasy touring troupe’s production of As You Like It. The Renaissance Run, or Ren Run as it is generally referred to, is essentially the first rehearsal for a play at ASC. First, the actors come together and, having already memorized their lines, create a playable version of the show without the oversight of the director, in less than ten hours. The actors then perform their version for the director and a small audience, and this performance constitutes the Ren Run. The Ren Run has an exciting quality to it in that it is not perfectly polished theatre; the actors can, and do, call for lines with a request of “prithee,” and it seems that anything can happen. In my case, an actor gave me a line to contribute, but realized once I had spoken that it was the wrong line and quickly corrected it.

I was particularly excited to be seeing As You Like It, because the theatre department at my college produced the show this past spring, and I was eager to have a point of comparison. The ability with which the actors handled the text struck me the most; even if using an accent, every actor spoke with a confidence that indicated how well they understood their lines. By contrast, the actors in my school’s production did not always grasp the meaning of what they said, even if they said it perfectly. Since the director chose to place the Forest of Arden in a slum outside of Mexico City, some of their lines were in Spanish, which may have contributed to their confusion. The dialogue seemed so rich when performed by the trained actors at ASC.

Other aspects that intrigued me included the music and the choreography. Given the short period of time in which the actors rehearsed the play, these two elements greatly impressed me. The wrestling match between Orlando and Charles in the first few scenes of the play came off well considering that the actors had only the one rehearsal to stage it, on top of staging the rest of the play. Though the fight lacked a gripping quality at the time, it looked like a great starting point, and I’m sure that with more rehearsal and a little direction, it will have the audience on the edge of their seats.

More than the choreography, I found the music very enthralling. The amount and quality of the songs bespoke of the talent of the actors. In addition to blocking and working the entire play during their one rehearsal, the actors also compiled the music. For someone who is not musically talented, this feat seems unmanageable, but the actors pulled it off as if they had rehearsed their songs for weeks. If there were any slip-ups, I never noticed. This combined with the actors’ comfort with their blocking and the verse made for a delightful experience.

Even though the actors didn’t get every line, I found the Ren Run to be a truly enjoyable piece of theatre. The actors never allowed a dull moment; they kept the audience engaged and entertained throughout. Bearing in mind what I saw at the Ren Run, it strikes me that great theatre does not require any airs and graces, but can be created with the simplest methods. As long as the actors clearly have a good time performing, the audience will have a great time watching them. I would have paid to see yesterday’s performance; I had that great a time. How fortunate, then, that ASC offers an entire season based on the same idea as the Ren Run, where actors own the process and produce plays in a similarly short period of time. I will definitely be coming back for more.

Elizabeth Reams

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