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  • Translating Shakespeare: A Guidebook for Young Actors

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    For actors both young and old, the prospect of preparing to perform a Shakespearean role can be intimidating...even terrifying!   Translating Shakespeare seeks to make the actor's preparatory work on the Bard's plays both stimulating and fun by de-mystifying the experience.  It offers step-by-step explanations of the fundamental processes involved in creative preparation: comparing edited texts, analyzing verse rhythms, idenifying antitheses, and most importantly, helping the actor to find his or her won personal key to unlock the plays' contexts and circumstances in an inspiring way. Offering many specific examples from the plays in each chapter to illustrate the topics covered, the book concludes with detailed approaches to six Shakespearean scenes, applying all of the work covered in earlier chapters to a practical rehearsal approach. Read More »
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Hot News

DAVID MONTEE TRANSLATES SHAKESPEARE
Kristi Kates - October 12th, 2014

Acting is challenging enough without Shakespeare in the picture. Shakespearean acting is considered some of the most challenging of the craft. From the mysteries of its language and phrasing to the complexity of character relationships and plot, more than a few talented thespians have thrown up their hands when confronted with The Bard.

Dr. David Montee, instructor of theater arts at Interlochen Arts Academy has unlocked many of the secrets to Shakespearean acting, and is sharing his findings with the actors of tomorrow via his new book “Translating Shakespeare: A Guidebook for Young Actors.”

ABOUT THE BOOK

Beginning with detailed explanations of how to break down Shakespearean text, Montee demonstrates how to analyze the patterns of Shakespeare’s writing and find the inspiration behind the words, making this an essential addition to any actor’s toolbox.

Perhaps most interesting—and atypical to many acting guidebooks—is Montee’s inclusion of six carefully selected Shakespearean scenes at the end of the book, a “practical rehearsal” that enables readers to use the information they’ve just learned right away. It’s a great method to assist actors in finding their Shakespearean voice and can be applied to all other genres of acting, as the fundamentals remain the same.

“I try to teach young actors, step by step, how to be a ‘Shakespeare detective’ and then how to practically apply the clues to their acting,” Montee explained.

Montee’s rich career makes him uniquely qualified to author this book. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting, directing and theatre education; a Master of Fine Arts in classical acting style; and a doctorate in theatre history and criticism. During his 26 years as a theatre educator, he has earned awards from every institution he’s taught. Director of Theater at Interlochen Arts Academy for 21 years, Montee voluntarily stepped down in 2011 to enjoy a teaching-only role without the administrative responsibilities.

His personal acting experience includes roles in over 150 professional stage productions throughout the United States and he has directed and performed in over half of Shakespeare’s plays.

CELEBRATING ACTING

“When I first accepted the offer to head the theater program [at Interlochen Arts Academy] in 1990, I thought it would be fun to try for a couple of years,” Montee explained. “It would give me the chance to structure the kind of pre-professional theater curriculum that I believed would be most beneficial for actors and designers. That two or three years went on for longer than I expected!” Although it was a fulfilling career, Montee explained that he was still dreaming of one day focusing again on his own acting and writing. When he stepped down as director, Interlochen graciously granted him a year’s sabbatical, which he used to pursue that dream.

“I returned to some professional acting, made some ‘busman’s holiday’ trips to New York and London and wrote the first draft of this book,” he said.

For Montee, the purpose of the book went beyond mere theatre instruction. In it, he hoped to celebrate and honor all of the students who have passed through his classes at Interlochen over the past 26 years and what he’s learned from them.

“For me, as I hope has been true for some of my students, once you’ve experienced the beauty and passion of Shakespeare’s writing on stage, it’s difficult to settle for less,” he said.

Along those lines, perhaps not coincidently, one of the scenes chosen for the workshop section at the end of “Translating Shakespeare” has special meaning for Montee.

“The final scene from “Richard III” is the scene I was working on with my wife, Robin, when we fell in love over 35 years ago,” he said with a smile.

SHAKESPEAREAN SUCCESS

The beauty of Shakespeare—and acting in general—has stuck with more of his students than he can count, as so many of them have gone on to “bigger and better things,” according to Montee. “That sounds exaggerated, but it’s not,” he insisted. “26 years of working with the amazing young actors at Interlochen have produced lots of professionals. I see them on television weekly, in major feature films and on Broadway.”

A couple students of particular note are Michigan native Nick Westrate, who’s been in the series “Blue Bloods” and is shooting a film next month in which he plays Meryl Streep’s son; as well as Manistee actress Toni Trucks, who’s snagged roles in the TV series “Veronica Mars” and “CSI.” Montee explains there are too many to list them all.

“I could absolutely see potential in these students when they were at Interlochen,” he said. “But success is so complicated; it takes not only talent, but luck, the right timing, sensitivity, toughness, and most importantly, drive and persistence.”

One final key, he said, is learning to really listen to, and love, the English language.

“We have become such a visual culture and one so dependent upon the current moment that we’re losing a broader perspective,” he said. “Actors cannot afford to let that take over their lives and stunt their creative imagination. The Elizabethans went to the playhouse to ‘hear’ a play; our word ‘rehearsal’ comes from that concept, to ‘re-hear.’ The words ‘audience’ and ‘auditorium’ stem from ‘auditory.’ We’re so enamored with images, we’re forgetting how to hear.”

“Is a picture worth a thousand words?” Montee asked rhetorically. “I think it depends on who is translating the image. And I think Shakespeare might agree.”

David Montee can be reached at monteedd@ interlochen.org. He will host an informal, free discussion about his book, with readings from Shakespeare, at Interlochen’s Harvey Theater on Saturday, October 18 at 7:30pm. “Translating Shakespeare” can be found at Horizon Books in TC, selected Barnes and Noble stores, Amazon. com and smithandkraus.com.
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Breaking from Realism: A Theatrical Aesthetic

My goal is to provide the next generation of theatre-makers - playwrights especially - with concepts, processes, and tools that will enable them to explore multiple realities on stage and thereby bring to the theatre types of stories and events that are a significant part of the human experience but are not yet a sizable part of our dramatic repertoire.

The Breaking from Realism methodology consists of 15 concepts, processes, and tools, including: Hybridization; Division and Multiplication; Distortion; Expressionism; Altered States of Mind and Being; Bricolage, or Pastiche; Extreme Symbolism; Re-contextualization; Anthropomorphism; Virtuosity; Priority Shifts; Borrowed Structures; The Mystical, Supernatural, and Paranormal; Interruption: Authenticity, Chance, Choice, and Accident; and Rebellion

New Play Workshops: Writing & Devising New Works for the 21st Century

Bring a workshop for creating new plays to your college, theatre, or playwriting community.
Workshops focusing on the Breaking from Realism methodologies are taught by Michael Bigelow Dixon.
Workshops introducing ways to devise new work are taught by Sullivan Canaday White, acting and directing professor at Transylvania University.
Half-day, full-day, two-day and week-long workshops are available.

For more information, contact:
Michael Bigelow Dixon
Theatre Program
Transylvania University
300 N. Broadway
Lexington, KY 40502
859-281-3503
mdixon@transy.edu
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