Laura Wayth confesses that she’s never read any of Shakespeare’s plays. But she’s listened to the plays performed over and over, and it’s her keen ear that informs her advice to actors in this episode of Shakespeare Unlimited.
Wayth is Assistant Professor of Theatre at San Francisco State University and the author of a “how-to” book called The Shakespeare Audition: How to Get Over Your Fear, Find the Right Piece, and Have a Great Audition.
In this episode, she exhorts actors to learn how to read Shakespeare’s verse so that they understand the rhythm of each line, the importance of punctuation, and the way that one piece of text should vocally build upon another.
Even if you’re not an actor, it’s a fascinating look at the work that goes into the production that you eventually see onstage. And if you’ve ever come out of a Shakespeare performance feeling confused or disappointed, don’t be too quick to write off the play. It may be the actors at fault, Wayth argues. “Sometimes we blame Shakespeare for actors not having their proper skills,” she says.
With the help of three actors, Wayth uses six Shakespeare passages to demonstrate each piece of advice. If you’d like to follow along as the actors perform each passage, here is the text for each from Folger Digital Texts.
- Ophelia in Hamlet (Act 2, Scene 1)
- Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Act 1, Scene 1)
- The Bastard in King John (Act 5, Scene 2)
- Sonnet 71
- Cassius in Julius Caesar (Act 1, Scene 3)
- Rosalind (as Ganymede) in As You Like It (Act 3, Scene 5)
Her final recommendation, though, is just to let go and have fun. “The actor who plays is the successful actor,” she says.
This podcast episode is called “A Poor Player That Struts and Frets His Hour Upon the Stage.” Wayth was interviewed by Neva Grant, and she was joined by actors Stephanie Ann Foster, Mike Ryan, and Bruce Avery.