Last week I announced that over the summer I would be doing a series on Embodying Character, calling in the talents of two actors, Ellen Denny and Patrick Cook, and a writer/actor, Sandra Nickel to talk about embodying character. I’ve been so excited about this series because it merges many of my passions, including, writing, theatre, and L.M. Montgomery.
As I pondered how I was going to introduce the series, I came up with a number of themes and stories.
I thought about my own relationship to theatre which involved high school drama classes, giggling through an audition where I did get a role involving me composing a song, and once performing at a synogogue’s production of “Exodus” because I was looking for a way to “gain experience” and where we sang “Lean on Me.” (I know.)
I pondered talking about how I decided somewhere along the way that I would be a better director or teacher than performer (probably after the giggling during my audition episode) and so it would be part of my teaching. I would be like my very cool Drama teachers, one I’m still close friends with today.
I could tell you of the six summers at Camp Robin Hood where I worked on the Music and Drama department, directing 10 to 14 year-olds in my adaptations of Mary Poppins and The Wizard of Oz and took part in the daily flagpole, singing and doing all sorts of strange and fun things. (Apparently I can be quite the ham…)
I could tell you how it all sort of fizzled out after my first year at York after not getting into the theatre program where you would also learn to teach (I cannot recall how it was all supposed to work) and then a truly bizarre sort of Drama class by a professor who believed we all knew nothing, and did a series of skits involving people who had no name. (I think he wrote these skits himself.)
There is the other story of how my parents love theatre. They’re always going. Growing up we always went to Stratford or Shaw. We saw a very bad production of Jane Eyre one year and all of the kiddie ones you were supposed to: The Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, etc. How from the time I was sixteen, my great-aunt, my mom and I would go to Stratford or Shaw every summer for the day to celebrate my birthday.
The third story involves my supremely talented (younger) brother, Joel Fishbane, who just seemed to have that thing, confidence maybe? The ability to not giggle during auditions? That certain something people recognize. Talent probably. He just decided to do theatre. Went to theatre school. Sort of just did it and knew. I shall allow him to tell you his story sometime, but suffice to say, this actor, playwright and now soon-to-be-published-author made sure that at least one of us played in the theatre world. Truly an inspiration to me.
Then there is this new story. The one where my desire to understand character and interest in process merge with my love of theatre and–well let’s face it–the characters Gilbert Blythe and Anne Shirley and the current incarnation at The Guild in Charlottetown, PEI.
I’ve been focusing on how to get inside my characters’ skin, to truly figure out how she might hold a pen in her hand or how he might ride a horse. How to fully submerge myself in their skin.
Somehow almost a month ago, while watching the Anne and Gilbert: The Musical, all of these elements converged and I remembered two lectures I saw at VCFA: Sandra Nickel’s “Creating the Authentic Gesture: Bringing Acting Techniques to Writing,” and Alan Cumyn’s “Inhabiting Your Character.” In different ways, both of these lectures discuss the concept of observing yourself and stepping into character. Actually, Sandra had given us all a mirror encouraging us to keep this concept in mind and I keep it among my various creative inspirational tools. I also recently picked up this Anne statue in PEI. I liked it because there is a butterfly on her hand and I had been seeing a lot of them.
So I invite you to come back to the blog next week as we dive into the creation of popular characters and how actors and writers approach embodying character.