SMUS Meets Shakespeare

by Eric Protzer, Grade 10

Monologues are strange but engrossing things to consider. For example, it is intriguing that a character can speak out loud to themselves – often for upwards of a minute – about their most heartfelt concerns without the audience pondering the condition of their sanity as a result. Even more interesting, however, is when a monologue is performed by three people in conjunction. Such is an example of the work that SMUS’ recent Scholar in Residence, Sara Topham, had a group of ten students perform on Tuesday night.

Over the course of two hours during the school day, these young actors approached four monologues by a certain Mr. William Shakespeare in an intuitive and entirely new process. Acting as somebody with multipersonality disorder is one thing, but acting as a personality with multiple bodies is entirely different. Directing, rather than merely acting, was a well-employed skill. When working with Shakespeare, one must always consider what the various poetic devices mean to give sustenance to your words.

Rarely seen, but as was present on that night, is the actual miming and interpretation of, for instance, hunting, medical and sleep metaphors. This gave unique insights into Shakespeare for the actors and audience alike, especially on the subject of internal conflict. Any playwright, director or even most well-versed theatre fans knows that while having a character conflict with himself is extremely effective in thickening the plot, it is one of the hardest things to stage well.

Most novels allow the reader access to a main character’s thoughts nearly all the time. However, technology does not currently provide for an audience to read an actor’s mind. As such, this must be done through (usually) subtle hints in body language and dialogue. Even a monologue requires careful analysis for the viewer to know what is really running through a character’s head. Allowing various parts of the self to interact with each other on a physical plane greatly enhances an audience’s understanding of a character, a highly artistic and creative idea of Ms. Topham’s.

Watching her presentation was also highly enjoyable for the students. Ms. Topham is an actress from the heart of Canada’s theatre, Stratford, Ontario, and as such could give exceptional opinions, stories and examples of acting. “What To Do When You Are Dead” and other humorous but helpful topics were explored in what amounted to a highly enjoyable night for those seated and those on stage.

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