How does an actor prepare for his or her role? Good question! Every year at Bard our Company of actors spend three days with Director of Education & Training Mary Hartman and Vocal Coach Alison Matthews, exploring text and voice at our Actor Intensives. As Equivocation by Bill Cain opens first at the Belfry Theatre on April 22, the Studio Stage actors got a head start on the work this week. We caught up with Mary, Alison and the actors to find out more about their three day warm up.

What is the ‘Actor Intensive’?

Mary: The Pre-rehearsal Intensive provides the acting company and directing apprentices with a warm-up for the season. The participants are offered techniques and strategies to find vocal ease, support, range and resonance and to explore all of the myriad details in their text. We explore, sound, rhythm, metre, meaning, syntax, rhetoric and idiolect, all in the spirit of play and discovery. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the actors to warm up and hit the ground running for rehearsals the following week.

Alison: And the content and delivery of the intensives is far from static. Every season we re-examine our design, explore different approaches, and try new things. It’s critical that we are responding to the needs of individual actors and the varying requirements of each season’s shows.Alison & Mary get the Studio Stage actors warming up.

What are your roles?

Mary: As Director of Education and Training, I make a lot of the big, over-arching decisions, but Alison has been my key collaborator right from the very beginning. She and I have always worked together on the design of the Intensives, their content and their delivery. As a vocal coach, Alison does a bit more of the voice work than I do, and I do a bit more of the text work, but there’s always such an overlap that we each do a lot of both. And we are in the wonderful position of having very similar sensibilities and values, but very different training and experience, so we complement one another beautifully (at least I think so!) as we aim for the same result but come from different perspectives and use different techniques.

Alison: Agreed! Especially the part about our roles being complimentary – it’s a pretty great partnership!

What are the advantages of doing a warm-up for Shakespeare’s text?

Mary: Shakespeare’s text is so delightfully rich that there are myriad ways for actors to explore. There’s all kinds of information in the sounds of the words, the meaning of the words themselves, the rhythm, the metre, the syntax, the rhetorical devices, the structure of the verse, etc. Our job is to help the actors explore all of this and make the text their own. There are as many ways of speaking the lines as there are actors. We seek to support our actors as they find the most exciting, compelling and effective ways to speak their text.

Apprentice Director Katrina Darychuk, Anton Lipovetsky & Shawn MacDonald have a laugh about how they are going to stage some of the more physically challenging parts of Equivocation.

If you can’t wait to see Equivocation at Bard, or just want to see it more than once, hop over to Victoria where it will be playing at the Belfry Theatre from April 22 – May 25. The Belfry has a completely different stage layout to our Studio Stage so it will be interesting to see the design differences in the two productions. And congratulations to Scott Bellis and Persephone Theatre who are coming to the end of their own very successful production of Equivocation!