Date of Award

5-2018

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Departmental Honors

Department

Theatre Arts

First Advisor

Adrianne Moore

Second Advisor

Phebe Jensen

Abstract

To be an actor, one must have an understanding not only of theatrical craft, but also of the world that surrounds and informs theatre. During my undergraduate training, I have pursued a variety of diverse academic skills and extracurricular talents, all of which I have been able to relate back to my primary field--the performing arts. I am particularly interested in the intersection between studies in Theatre Arts and studies in English, as those are my two majors. Literary analysis, research, and reflective writing can unlock an actor's interpretation of a role. The actor who combines these two fields is the actor who is able to touch the most lives through performance, which is ultimately theatre's noblest goal.

The plays of William Shakespeare serve as a bridge between Theatre and English departments. Not only are they immensely popular with audiences of all ages, they also offer unique challenges to actors and are goldmines for literary research and analysis. One of Shakespeare's most popular comedies is Much Ado About Nothing, an early example of the romantic comedy or "rom-com" genre. That is not to say that the play does not present any challenges; in particular, the actor portraying Beatrice must be both sharp-tongued and vulnerable, quick-witted and unsuspecting, independent and insecure. In order to inhabit all her contradictions, the actor must use every available tool to unpack the character and give a successful performance. The scholar must also bridge a four hundred year gap to correctly interpret the play; the English language has evolved, social and political climates have shifted, and the world itself has shrunk.

The goal of this project was to explore the ways I could bridge my education and demonstrate that this can result in a rich and well-informed theatrical representation of one of Shakespeare's most beloved heroines. I aim to give the reader a comprehensive understanding of an actor's process from the moment they are cast to the final fall of the curtain on closing night. On a more personal level, I sought to understand how I can use all the tools at my disposal-both literary and theatrical-to deepen my understanding and execution of a role. From research to preparatory work to rehearsal to performance, how can one combine every tool and resource into a cohesive, authentic experience on stage? I found that every single step in the actor's process is crucial, even though it can feel, at times, like the amount of work that goes into each role is excessive. Even though every single fact or tool may not be used specifically, having that arsenal to draw upon during performance is invaluable. Though it may seem counterintuitive, it allows the actor to relax into the role and be truly alive and present in the moment as their character in the world of the play on stage.

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