by Michael Monicatti (BA student)
They say, showing up is half the battle.
From the time I was a boy, I have considered myself an actor. It began in my backyard with bins of costumes, playing dress up in what I am now confortable admitting were my grandmother’s old shawls and has since taken me to the UW School of Drama and, this last summer, to London.
In the winter quarter of my sophomore year, I took a course affectionately called “Shakespeare” with the great (and I really mean it when I say great) Amy Thone. In the only Shakespeare acting course offered to undergraduate actors, Thone introduced us to Shakespeare’s sonnets, his plays, and his characters. We learned how to speak in rhythm using tennis rackets; we learned how important it was to emphasize double entendre; we learned how to shape the words into images; we learned how to make the text come alive. And we learned and we learned and we learned.
But those ten weeks go by too quickly. On top of that, I was spending four hours a night rehearsing for a show outside of class, so I felt like I didn’t even have the time I would have liked to fully invest. Procrastinating on writing a paper late one night, I stumbled upon an application to the Fulbright Summer Institute Scholarship at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. I applied, not for a second expecting to hear anything back. But then I did.
A teleconference interview and some months later, I found myself boarding my first international flight. Within two days of completing final exams at UW in June, I was on the ground in London, acquainting myself with my Kensington Flat and preparing for a three-week journey with students from all across the United States.
I made fast friends through my program and before any one of us knew it, we had formed an ensemble. A group of collaborative, brave, and supportive individuals from all different backgrounds who really showed up for each other in every sense of the phrase.
Our days were packed to the brim and I forced myself to spend as little time as possible at home. Training began at 9 am sharp and often lasted late into the evening with a lunch break in between. We took workshops in dance and song. We worked our voice with Sarah Case, who helped us to physicalize the text in the most exaggerated and seemingly foolish ways we could. This provided us a window for exploration that so often times we miss out on for our fears and our self-editing habits or criticisms. We had movement with Simone Coxall, who led our company through a series of exercises and experiments with movement and emotion, teaching us how to exude energy performing in the Globe (which is essentially a theater in the round), and how to access emotional states through our bodies. We rehearsed scenes and soliloquies with the hilarious Colin Hurley, who reminded us to play—with each other, with the space, with the words. To get out of our god damned American heads, as I recall him saying. He was right. They all were.
I made fast friends through my program and before any one of us knew it, we had formed an ensemble. A group of collaborative, brave, and supportive individuals from all different backgrounds who really showed up for each other in every sense of the phrase. We saw so many shows in the West End and on the Embankment. It was my first time seeing theatre outside of Seattle and OSF and it was just as much an education as any course I was enrolled in while abroad.
I don’t want to ramble on about London productions being better than anything here because that’s not true. Good theatre is good theatre and good theatre exists outside of London and New York. The concentration of well-trained artists in those cities contributes to the quality and scale of their productions but my take away from seeing shows on the London stage last summer was this. Clarity.
Clarity is that thing that makes or breaks the choice, the design, the performance, the production. I remember watching King John at the Globe, having never read or really heard of it, thinking “My god…how is it that I understand everything that’s going on?” They made Shakespeare feel not only contemporary but hilarious and riveting! I forgot how old the text was for those two and a half hours. And I think that is a reflection of the values and discipline British artists have to their craft. They are so grounded in the voice and the body and spend less time in their heads. Amy Thone walked into our class the morning following our 2015 Super Bowl loss and said, that game is what theatre should be like. People should be active, sometimes screaming on the edges of their seats until the last play. In London, I began understanding what she meant by that.
They made Shakespeare feel not only contemporary but hilarious and riveting! I forgot how old the text was for those two and a half hours. And I think that is a reflection of the values and discipline British artists have to their craft.
Then once again, time flew by with classes and cultural experiences, tours of London, Oxford, Stratford Upon Avon, and way too many fish and chips and pub stops along the way. Before I knew it, I was packing my bags for home and saying my final goodbyes at the beautiful Churchill Pub. We had our final legal drinks, and reflected on our time together. Moving forward I promised to dedicate more of my time to honing my body and voice. To get out of my head all of the time for after all, “all you need is in the words”.
If you had asked me a year ago what I would be doing in the summer, I would have said something like catering and sleeping and catching up on seasons of shows with my mom. They say showing up is half the battle. They’re right. Send in that application, take that wild, crazy, never-in-a-million-years-could-it-happen-to-me dream of yours and run with it.