How I Spent My Summer by Jeremy Rabb
By A Noise Within
July 7, 2016
ANW Resident Artist Jeremy Rabb is busy teaching Summer with Shakespeare for the third year in a row and gearing up for our inaugural reading festival, The American Dream. This month, he takes a (brief) breather to talk about his summer at the theatre.
Which aspect of your craft are you most excited to convey to the young artists at Summer with Shakespeare?
Mostly, I hope to convey how essential both specificity and balance are in bringing Shakespeare’s plays to life. The actors’ challenge is juggling our understanding of what he says with how he says it. It can be tempting to get lost in the music of Shakespeare’s poetry and skate over the meaning of his carefully crafted words. The sing-song result can lull an audience to sleep. On the other hand, focusing strictly on meaning rather than the meter can be just as detrimental. The key is balancing the two – using the rhythm to bring out and enrich the characters’ objectives. Helping students develop this ability to create a more effective performance is gratifying.
Can you share a surprising/touching/enlightening moment you’ve experienced as a teaching artist?
As someone who straddles being an introvert and extrovert, I’m sensitive to students who clearly enjoy theater, but who may not feel comfortable expressing themselves around bigger personalities. During my in-class residency at Monrovia High School, we were discussing the tension between Hermia and Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and how vicious those two characters can be. I was hoping that by engaging in the moment and simply performing the lines, students wouldn’t have time to doubt themselves. I took on the role of Helena and, trying my best to express her desperation, bleated out to a particularly shy student: “Fie, Fie! You counterfeit, you puppet, you!” The student was caught off-guard, but hardly missing a beat, fired back with fury: “Puppet?!…” She then continued to unleash Hermia’s tirade, going so far as to brandish her nails at me while threatening, “…I am not yet so low/But that my nails can reach unto thine eyes!” After she finished, the class went dead silent until another student on the other side of the room muttered, “Damn!” The class exploded. The student had surprised both the class and herself which was a pleasure to witness.
Can you briefly speak about how excited you are to interact with our patrons in a different way at our Reading Festival?
I’m looking forward to this truly communal event filled with wall-to-wall performances and wall-to-wall theater lovers. Having so many readings going on in such a short time (some of them simultaneously!) will bring a unique energy to the theater. I always enjoy our post-show discussions with audiences, but the festival gives us the opportunity to interact with patrons much more closely between shows, over meals, and even as fellow audience members. An added bonus to the weekend is that the proceeds will go towards the Artist Freedom Fund, a new resource that gives resident artists the freedom to explore our art in ways not previously available to us. We’ll now have the leeway to add more production values to our readings, bring in guest artists for master classes, research, adapt and translate plays…I’m excited about the possibilities.
Play I’m looking forward to at The American Dream:
Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass. The story involves many tricky themes including the nature of identity, the roots of illness, the effects of anti-Semitism and the consequences of assimilation. The play’s packed with the usual, unflinching punch that defines Miller’s work as he pushes us to question our very understanding of empathy. At the same time, just as we discovered in our recent production of All My Sons, he manages to blend his societal commentary with a tender portrait of regular people struggling to connect with one another. It looks to be quite a powerful and memorable theatrical experience.
Play I’m acting in:
In addition to appearing in Broken Glass and Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All for You, I’ll be the frazzled actor in The Actor’s Nightmare, a comedy I’ve loved since first seeing it as a teenager. The play certainly lives up to its title. We’ve all had dreams that play on our fears, but for actors, performance anxiety can bring about a particularly hilarious flavor of terror. In the span of only one act, Durang brilliantly captures the dread that can haunt an actor: losing it on stage, portraying the wrong character, forgetting what show we’re in, trying to follow nonsensical direction…and all in front of a live audience! Come see how nutty the inner life of an actor can be.