Notes from the Forest: tension, a thrust stage and trash bag puppets

Every week, A.B.L.E. teaching artist Emma MacLean takes you behind the scenes for our teen ensembles’ spring production, As You Like It. Click here to catch up on our past installments, and read on to find out about Week 2 of rehearsals.


Act 1 of As You Like It has a lot of family drama. The DeBoys brothers, in the very first scene of the show, start the play by fighting.

OLIVER

Wilt thou lay hands on me, villain?


ORLANDO

I am no villain;

Wert thou not my brother,

I would not take this hand from thy throat

till this other had pulled out thy tongue for saying so.


In check-in this week, we took a lighter tone and talked about who in our families we are the closest with. We heard from actors who were closest to their parents, siblings and even some uncles, aunts, and lots of cousins. Natalia’s cousin is so cool, Lucas chose him as his favorite family member too!

Keeping in the spirit of the tension in Act 1, this week we played leading sticks. In this exercise, a pair of people has to keep a long stick balanced between their palms. Each person has to apply just the right amount of pressure to keep the stick in the air. Then each actor takes turn leading the other around the room, merely by changing the pressure and location of the sticks. This week we played this game in costume establishing connections between characters.

The stage this year is a bit different than the typical A.B.L.E set up. This year we will be on a thrust stage. The stage goes out into the audience with people sitting on three of the four sides of the stage. We are excited to explore acting in this new set up! We set up our in-class audience the same way to practice playing to multiple people at once.

Most of A.B.L.E.’s performances have been on a  proscenium  stage, but for  As You Like It , we’ll be performing on a  thrust  stage. We’ve done this once before for 2016’s  Twelfth Night !

Most of A.B.L.E.’s performances have been on a proscenium stage, but for As You Like It, we’ll be performing on a thrust stage. We’ve done this once before for 2016’s Twelfth Night!

Then we jumped into our play plot for Act 1. For a play plot, actors are cast in a specific roles.  A narrator reads the plot outloud, and actors listen carefully to hear when they enter, and the action of the scene. Facilitators drop in lines to start introducing text from the show. Over the next few weeks, we’ll tell the whole story this way, with actors playing different characters each week. You can see how it works in this video from Friday’s rehearsal featuring Jack as Rosalind and Maria as Celia.

To end the class, we got to play with puppets! As You Like It is going to have quite a few puppets (a first for A.B.L.E.!) but before we can jump in with those, we need to learn some puppetry basics. This week focused on breath using found object puppets. It might seem weird, but trash bags make great puppets! We breathed deeply while holding our puppets, seeing how our breath moved the puppet. The puppets moved differently when we breathed happily or like we were nervous, surprised, or scared. We are never really “still” because we’re always breathing.

Next week we work more with our puppets on focus, and how our puppets connect with the world around them. We’ll also keep digging into As You Like It with Act 2...where things get really crazy! Stay tuned!