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OP Jazz in the Big Apple

OP Jazz in the Big Apple. And…all things considered we learnt loads. (sic)?
This post is a jazzed up recollection of things that happened. In the interest of closing one project before starting another. In the interest of recording the meeting between and memories created of actors that are more than just additions to social media. In the interest of brand new verbiage and methodological terminology; such as the contradictio in terminus, crescendo to the ground, or the alternative title for this post, banana contaminator.

Above all in the interest of collaboration and British American Shakespearean relations. Our partners in discovery belong to the Shakespeare Society Ambassadors. and their respective photos and blurbs can be read if you click. Naming names: Maxon Davis, R.J. Foster, Shannon Harris, Montgomery Sutton, Claire Warden, and Will O Hare. Plus Ian Petersen, and Sean Hagerty, ensemble member Adam Webb, and David Hywel Baynes, who not only performed as Richard 3rd at the Actors Church in London this last summer but also took all the photos you see below.

I arrived in NYC on a friday after giving a school workshop at the AICS in Amsterdam Zuid an hour and a half before my plane left Schiphol some 10 minutes away. Warren Rusher our company manager met me at JFK and together we cabbed it to alphabet city.

The ambassadors plus had been busy for 3 days already working their Original Practice with the Crystal ensemble core members Ben Crystal, Jenni Jackson, and Natalie Thomas. The saturday we met for a weekend of stick work in the landmark 1st presbyterian church at 12th and fifth.

before GodCopyright photo DH Baynes

You know the feeling when you walk into a room full of people you’ve never met? And those people are all actors who DO Shakespeare. Every cliche response to work-shopping an ensemble is valid. Every nauseating luvvie reaction to bardolatry, each swollen ego…was absent.

The experimentation with Original Practice took front and centre (center) stage. Each of us as core members lead our section of the workshop. Movement, sticks, voice, verse, and Original Pronunciation are the building blocks. Honest and open reaction and response required. The two days flew by, time expanded and shrank, and the collaboration grew.

No imposition, no final solution, pure experimentation on a subject we all love. Always paying attention to the smallest aberration felt or heard or experienced and questioning it until satisfaction ensued.

ClaireCopyright photo DH Baynes

Unstructured structure. Social coalescence. Banana contaminator. All new terms for us that speak volumes to them as experienced. Experiential exploration. One might add as an after-thought. De-briefing as we go folks no final message here. Only a developing methodology. What will be its limits?

Open ensemble. Middle middle. 90% OP-10% you. Can any of these have limits. How open is open before it closes? How much more middle can you be without invoking the laws of physics? Articulatory percentages? don’t make laugh!

The heart is a muscle capable of love. The proof lies in us. Truth for one isn’t truth for all. A body needing 8,000 calories a day is working hard at burning those calories. Or overloading its own system. One stop remedies are doomed to fail unless the individual system is ready to adapt the remedy to be its own cure.

Personally cynical until convinced otherwise. Trusting others motives, kah! Hurt too many, too many times. Accepting of the guilt in mine own corner, or in the ring of our interaction. Unspoken fears can wreak more havoc than spoken desires, suppressed. That would be scanned.

verse workCopyright photo DH Baynes

Is the outcome uncertain? Keep shtumm! Let it build until internal concern forces your hand. Idee fixe becomes group concern and everyone lends their balm to your cares. And time is wasted. Whether you waste time or it you, is immaterial. It’s gone and cannot be regained or refilled. Experience that this time around showed. Opening up to the primary impulse of fear lessens its growth by voicing an initial concern. Empathy and non-aloneness follows.

Stick workCopyright photo DH Baynes

Knowledge and learning. What do you know? How do you learn? How many calories is enough? The thing you need to learn, is it knowledge?

1. facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.
2. awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation.
3. sexual intercourse.

That third example is archaic and yet…

Hung up on words. Words don’t define us. It seems strange that when we acknowledge people we define them by the words they say. And not by the deeds they do. Our time in NYC was about doing and learning.

WarrenCopyright photo DH Baynes

Our American counterparts whether true blue Texan, or Southern gent, or African American brother, or sister, or displaced Brit with a local partner; each has their own story, their own education in the bard. The Shakespeare voice knows no borders. That voice we all recognise as Shakespeare done bardly. Its opposite is a true voice speaking Shakespeare as if minted new. I observed professionally delivered Othellos and Edmunds and Constances regardless of who did the talking in whatever accent. The impact of adding OP was our point of exploration. And again that is impossible until there’s an ensemble to do the exploring.

head to headCopyright photo DH Baynes

OP is a reconstruction, an approximation, a construct. So too we found are Received Pronunciation and General American versus one’s birth accent. The OP however is new old and lends Shakespearean verse an ear quite different to modern day dialects and accents with all our prejudices and preconceptions. That levelling of the Shakespeare playing field increases the likelihood it will catch on. Baltimore Shakespeare Factory is in the process of presenting a Merchant of Venice. GO hear the play if you can.

Shannon sticking itCopyright photo DH Baynes

This workshop could have been the be all and end all. But no. Ben was advertised as giving a talk at the Pearl Theatre on 42nd and 9th on the monday evening. A 300 seater filled with curious New Yorkers about to hear OP for the first time. Our thanks to the director and producers who allowed us to put on our show and tell session. An interactive combination of sonnets and set pieces and free form was the result. The question and answer session revealing the excitement that OP generates in an audience.

The reception on the upper west side was really icing on the cake. The dive bar we ended up in, poetic justice. And that was where the actors i worked with parted company. Yet for each one of those actors named, words cannot express the moments we shared. And that seems quite quite cliche ridden and wanky. All too too much. And yet as honest as any comedian’s roast. For that I thank you from the core.

The wednesday we did a masterclass at the Ripley Grier studios. Ten new people to meet and share the lessons that we are still learning. A beautiful meeting for me with two sonnet aficionados, Brian Myers Cooper the sonnet guy who has 33 sonnets memorised by heart and Devon Glover the sonnet man from Brooklyn who is on 25 plus.

That one day observed by Jennifer Geizhals. Participated in by a guy from Denver and a gal from Toronto and my sweetheart Sassy Smit from Amsterdam. That masterclass revealed jewels, which the future will display.

NYC we will be back.

Tomkin Square Park, NYC

Copyright photo Ben Crystal Tomkin Square Park, NYC

Oh yeah, banana contaminator is the new iambic pentameter. Don’t let words obfuscate your meaning.

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