How to rehearse for a Shakespeare audition
- 1). Read about the play. ...No, not read the play, not yet, unless you are very comfortable with Elizabethan English. First, read about the play and its characters in contemporary English. Read reviews, study guides, commentaries, interviews with actors who have been in it, even Cliff Notes. Develop a strong understanding of the play's story, characters, themes and what it has meant to those who've seen and performed it in the past. This will put the play, formerly full of strange language and odd conventions, in context for you.
- 2). Read the play. Read it again. When you get confused, or intrigued, read those passages out loud.
- 3). Perform your part, moving and out loud. Director John Barton of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, in his award-winning book-and-video series on "Playing Shakespeare," advocates breathing wherever a line break occurs on the page. In Shakespeare's day, he believes, these line breaks told the actors where to breathe or briefly pause, and will tell you something about the character's mental and emotional state while speaking. Here's the challenging part: don't breathe anywhere else.
- 4). Substitute words. Your monologue will need to be as familiar to you as your ABCs before you face the challenge of performing it in public. To make the unfamiliar Elizabethan language your own, you will need to not only understand every word, but express it in an individual way. This can be difficult with elevated language or poetry, so take out your thesaurus and find the most emotionally-charged replacement for every word in your monologue. Make sure you know the definition of every word before you substitute something strong and accurate for it. Shakespeare made up language, so you have a choice with some of it. Now read your revised monologue aloud. If it doesn't cause a physical reaction in you, go back and replace the words until it does.
- 5). Put Shakespeare's language back in, but keep your physical and emotional connection to the words alive by going back to your "word substitution version" whenever you feel you might lose it. Learn Shakespeare's/your lines, now infused with personal meaning.
- 6). Learn your lines again. Now learn them again. There's no improvising your way out if you forget Elizabethan English. When your breath falls in line with the line breaks of the speech, you will have begun mastery of the speech. According to John Barton, vowels carry emotion and consonants carry intellectual meaning, so experiment by exaggerating each in different readings, to see what information this may yield about your character. Remember that if you can remember the monologue while moving, you will probably be able to do it while remaining mostly still, but the reverse is not usually true. Use your whole body. Actors in the Barton tape call doing Shakespeare "the Olympics of theatre;" this is why.
- 7). Learn your lines again. Always move while speaking. This time, put the acting in. Use the same techniques you would for mastering a contemporary character, but remember that you must exert control over breath and language in a way you might for singing, but not usually for contemporary theater. Sacrifice some spontaneity if you have to at first in order to maintain that control.