Zoë Waterman teaches Introduction to Shakespeare at The Actors Centre, which provides a practical grounding for those not sure where to start with Shakespeare's language. Here, Zoë writes ahead of her workshop on 11 October to tell us more about how she came to unlock Shakespeare's language and what members can expect from her workshop.
I am starting this article with a confession of sorts — when I left my undergraduate degree, I was terrified of Shakespeare. Somehow here I was, out in the world, clutching a BA in Theatre and Performance Studies and I hadn’t actually studied his plays in any depth. I felt like there was a particular mystery, a different skill set, a secret code to knowing how to approach his plays that others had access to and I didn’t. I embarked on an MFA in Theatre Directing and beyond that a career as a director with this dirty secret tucked up inside me — I didn’t know how to work on Shakespeare’s plays.
Fifteen years later and I am in a position to be offering a workshop on how to approach his work — so what changed?
Firstly, and mainly, with the help of a bit of time and some friendly encouragement, I went to see more productions and also read more of the plays. I discovered that there is not some special, magical key to them that is different from other scripts, they are — first and foremost — wonderful stories. The starting points to unlock them — like with most plays — are understanding the language, finding a clarity of storytelling and clear characterisation.
A stint as an assistant director with several brilliant directors, and then the opportunity to direct some of the plays myself, and to work with some fantastic voice and text experts, gave me tools and exercises that can help demystify the text and allow actors and directors alike to approach them with confidence and skill — and really make use of the wonderful language that Shakespeare has left us.
This workshop will be about taking the fear out of Shakespeare. Working on sections from several of his plays, playing around with the language, having a go at embodying some of his characters and exploring some key themes. We will look at both verse and prose and you will leave feeling confident in using iambic pentameter, making full use of the imagery within the text and (hopefully) a little bit more in love with these wonderful plays.
There isn’t a secret code, or a deep mystery as to how to approach Shakespeare’s work — but this workshop will furnish you with practical skills, exercises and approaches that will give you confidence in approaching any of his plays with joy and expertise.
Zoë was Associate Director of the New Vic Theatre, 2018-2019. Theatre includes: The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, Shining City, The Bogus Woman (Theatre by the Lake); Intemperance, Table, Playhouse Creatures, The Kitchen Sink (New Vic Theatre); Dick Whittington, Sleeping Beauty (Theatr Clwyd); The Rubenstein Kiss, Amy’s View (Nottingham Playhouse).
Introduction to Shakespeare is open to Actor and Industry members and runs on Friday 11 October from 10.30 - 17.30. Click here to find out more about the workshop as well as booking details.
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