So far, my only experience with performing Shakespeare came in college. I played Longaville in a production of Love's Labor's Lost. There is a reason why this work of the Bard's is rarely performed, and I will not get into all of that here. Suffice it to say, we, as a cast, found it as thick, confusing, and outdated as anything we had ever done.
But there is an anecdote in here, so stay a while and I will be faithful.
First, the set up.
This particular production was being presented in the round. (Or in the semi-round, as there were two sides of the stage without seating.) Our director called for mostly improvised blocking during several key scenes. (I know, I know.) Several scenes had what seemed like dozens of people on stage at one time, all vying for a place to walk while delivering a line or speech.
This was initially good news for me and a fellow theatre friend of mine. Let's call her Hannah. Hannah and I had each been heavily involved in theatre projects during our years at college, and had become friends through other activities. But it occurred to us during the rehearsals of LLL that we had never shared the stage, and therefore had never exchanged dialogue. We had very much wanted to be able to do so before all was said and done for our college years, and we figured we could make it happen for this show, even though the script never called for our characters to speak to one another openly.
Our plan was to mingle about during one of the many scenes that involved a cast of thousands. When one of the other characters would be off making a tedious speech of hours in length, we would simply allow our characters to address each other in the background. Though not heard by the audience, it would be, in our minds, interacting on stage. With the improvised nature of the blocking for this show, it would be no problem, we thought.
We were both mistaken.
Throughout all of the dress rehearsals, and 4 out of 6 performances, try as we may, other actors would improvise their movements in such a way that to go through with our plan would have been obvious to the whole world. Neither of us could motivate ourselves to the opposite side of the room, pushing through the rest of the cast, just in order to be able to pull this off.
Then came the 5th performance or so. There had been a minor flub by someone, though I do not know who. It was no big deal, and it was easily corrected by other actors, but a small amount of the usual flow of the scene had been altered. In that altered space, I found myself sitting on one of the benches for about 30 seconds longer than normal; at which time Hannah very slowly made her way over to where I was, and nodded to me, whispering, "Longaville", in greeting.
I nodded back, slightly smiling, as I greeting her with a whispered "Rosaline". Moments later she had a speech, and was off. But not before we had finally attained a goal we had both set for years, and one that very nearly did not come to past.
It was just as well, for that was one of thevery few things that went according to plan during that production. But you count your blessings in live theatre, no matter how small.