The SQM Process
Actors who played women had to learn how to move in their feminine costumes. (click for enlarged version).
1. Renaissance Boot Camp
The original Queen's Men approached a new play with a shared cultural heritage and a familiarity with their own working practices. We know that members of the original company were also musicians, singers, dancers and (in some cases) expert fencers. We tried to rectify our actors' obvious knowledge and skill gap by beginning our process with what became known as a Renaissance Boot Camp. The actors were taught songs to sing, learned traditional dances, practiced sword fighting, and were given instruction in the physical comportment befitting the nobility of the day. Those playing women were taught how to stand, sit and hold themselves like a lady and tried on petticoats and corsets to give them a sense of how such clothes constrained movement. Actors were also given a player's handbook, which introduced them to the social and political contexts of plays and players and encouraged them to apply this knowledge to the development of their performances. After an initial three days of intensive boot camp we started working on King Leir but each day would begin with singing, dancing and sword-fighting.
|Video: The actors talk as a group about "Boot Camp"|
2. Playwright’s Reading
For the first two plays, in the absence of the playwrights, our director/facilitator read the plays to the company. For the third play, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, the company read through the play together.
3. Simultaneous Rehearsal
Unlike the original company, our actors assembled each day for rehearsal in a shared rehearsal space. Because it was not necessary for the director/facilitator to be present at every rehearsal, we were able to schedule rehearsals simultaneously, which enabled a speedier preparation of the play. Each scene rehearsal was led by a master actor and the director/facilitator moved from group to group giving advice on the cultural context and Elizabethan theatrical practice where necessary.
4. Working with ‘Parts’
In keeping with our understanding of original practice, we divided the plays into 'parts' for each actor. The actors were also given a copy of the complete play for reference at home to compensate for the fact that they were not familiar with this working practice.
5. Rehearsal Period
For each play, we had only between 7 and 9 days rehearsal. By modern standards, this is an incredibly short time. The actors had to work extremely hard, learning lines as they tackled the complex text and figured out possible blocking for their scenes, in addition to their continuing work on the songs, fights and dances.
6. The “First” Full Cast Rehearsal
We had four hours for final preparations in the afternoon before each play's first public performance. Although all the scenes had been rehearsed individually, we had never run them together. We used this group rehearsal time to work on the larger scenes involving furniture and props, and on fight scenes. Where possible we practiced any quick costume changes we had anticipated. Once that was done we ran as much of the play as we could in sequence before time ran out.
7. The Trial Performance
For Famous Victories, we were able to get through a run of the entire play before the evening performance, but this was not the case for the other two plays, and the trial performance really was the first time the company performed those plays from beginning to end.