Last night I helped celebrate the 94th birthday of Homer “Murph” Swander. I’ve never met him, but I recorded a video thanking him. He’s an academic. More than 50 years ago he invited five Shakespearean actors he’d met in Stratford to his university to talk about process. One of them was Patrick Stewart. It began a relationship that continues to this day between process driven theatre actors living in London, and academics across the length and breadth of the USA.
I thanked him because, through his initial enterprise, I was able to visit Utah, lots of Texas, Wellesley, Boston and small town Indiana, where Stranger Things is set. Jack (Marley in Carol) and I were on the same tour. It was an eye-opener. We did a show in a prison in Indiana which I blogged. I made good friends, and learnt a lot about my process by having to run workshops with students kids and adults. My favourite teaching experience was doing voice and breath work to 50 college aged Mormons in Provo, and then going to a school to talk to delightful Mormon kids about approaching Shakespeare as performance text, before doing Much Ado to a crowd of about 300 Mormons who laughed heartily about all the marriage jokes. The teacher at the school, mister Dowdle, wearing his Shakespeare tie, socks, and cravat, said at the end of my lesson “show me some of your quality”, and pimped me into trying to remember some Merchant of Venice out loud. Miraculously I knew much of Shylock. They took my photo in front of the American flag hoo-ah. I’m still friends online with Mr D. He’s a brilliant teacher.
The company is still going great guns, and last night I got to see a load of lovely actors celebrate the end of their Measure for Measure tour. The company is called AFTLS. Actors From The London Stage. Yep. Does what it says on the tin. They get our accents, our process, our attitude and our quirkiness. We get an amazing tour and a chance to learn more about how we go about our work. There’s no director. Five actors have to make the show in a room in Brixton knowing nothing but the parts they’re playing. Damn it’s fun but it can be hard work.
The show was a joy to watch last night. You’ve got a cast of five, and the set and props have to fit in a suitcase. It’s always really clear and fun and beautiful because there’s no space for bullshit. I laughed a great deal, and as always had some big thoughts drop. Shakespeare done well is such a joy.
Now I’m off to bed. We’ve been discovering new things re Scrooge today. It’s brilliant to have the time to address those moments that have never quite worked. I am excited about tomorrow.
I had a brilliant night at the theatre last night. Good on Homer Swander for making that possible for so many people. I’m just going to post a photo of the company I saw, and then crawl to sleep. It was a delight. Happy birthday Murph. Here’s the M4M lot being modest. Legends.