Michael Nehring’s Thoughts About the Theatre

June 30, 2011

Hmmmmm….. having just finished teaching a weekend intensive for the Portland Shakespeare Project I find myself needing to add to this blog. The intensive combined Meisner acting techniques with Shakepeare. It was a revelation to me. The Meisner “mechanical reading” exercise (reading the script with a measured tempo and no inflection) allowed the actors to simply say those glorious words to each other without the usual actor desire to “rise to the Shakespearean occasion” and DO something with the language. Michael Mendelson visited class a few times and we both kept looking at each other and shaking our heads due to the power and clarity of the language and to the obvious joy displayed by the actors. I write this because the weekend, full of theatrical integrity, was profound. We DO need more vision, and we need lively, theatrical environments for artists to bravely meet the language without pre-conception and baggage. The participants in the workshop were moved by the work as we rehearsed the scenes one final time. They weren’t doing Shakespeare, he was doing them. As Meisner suggests, we cannot make the audience believe we are those characters up there- the audience is not insane, they know we are performing- but we can invite the audience to share our experience as we act truthfully under those startling imaginary circumstances provided by Mr. Shakespeare. With all due respect to the NEA this county needs MORE opportunities that allow Americans to experience profound moments in community. That is how culture is shaped, through shared experience. I can tell you that the culture formed this past weekend at the Portland Shakespeare Project sponsored class reeked of inquiry, joy, celebration, tears, and deep self discovery. Film can do alot of that, but only in the theatre can we EXPERIENCE each other living larger in the shared moment. Theatre is a church and a hospital, and this weekend it inspired and healed. Thank you Mr. Meisner, Mr. Shakespeare, and The Portland Shakespeare Project for providing. And thank you NEA for provoking. Theatre people tend to do well when provoked, gets us out of our heads and into ACTION.

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