Rebecca Carey blog posts


Last month I was in New York City for ten days working on the Broadway production of All the Way by Robert Schenkkan starring Bryan Cranston.  The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where I work for much of the year, premiered the play in 2012, and it was a huge hit.  It tells the story of the first year of Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency, focusing on the passing of the Civil Rights Bill and the 1964 election.  It’s an epic piece – in the current incarnation 20 actors play over 45 speaking roles who have over 20 accents between them.  The American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts produced it last fall with the same director and most of the members of the original production team, and it’s that production, with a few additions and replacements, that is transferring to New York.

It’s been a great experience to revisit a production this way.  Both the original Oregon production and the Cambridge incarnation were terrific, but it …

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Get Interested

I’ve been teaching one day a week on an M.A. course at RADA this term, focusing on voice into text. Something that is emerging as a major theme in the class is the importance of interest. In the first instance, I’m noticing how important it is to become interested in the language. I can teach students about units of sense and imagery and sound patterning and rhythm and antitheses and builds all day, and chances are it will help them improve their performances of the text they are working on, to a greater or lesser degree. What makes it a greater degree rather than a lesser one, I’m coming to believe, is primarily how successful I am at getting an individual student to become curious about the piece she is working on. If the first thing that I can bring into focus for her – be it a string of alliteration, or a tension between the sense line and the verse line, or the rhythm of sequence of punchy, short phrases – gets her excited about the fact that there is more …

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Learning, Not Just Memorizing Lines

“How do you remember all those lines?” is the questions actors hear most often, and the truth is that they work really hard at it. And it is, perhaps, the most tedious and seemingly least creative task an actor has. It's also one of the very most important.

I've been impressed over and over again by the fact that the more experienced and accomplished the actor, the more time and energy she will put into the mechanical process of learning her lines and learning them perfectly. Actors with less experience sometimes fall into the trap of thinking they've finished learning before they really have. It's not enough to be able to sit in a chair and run through a scene or speech without a script in your hand. Really, an actor should be able to make dinner or ride a bike through traffic or play a game of frisbee and recite her lines at the same time. You need to have at least that much of your attention available to focus on something besides your …

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Accents: rigour and fun

A couple of weeks ago, a great man of the American theater, Dudley Knight, passed away. Dudley was my voice and speech teacher when I was an M.F.A. acting student at the University of California at Irvine, and the influence he had on my life was profound. I could write volumes about his intelligence, his expertise, his generosity, his tireless commitment to his work and his impeccable sense of humour. Recently, though, I've been doing a lot of work on accents and have found myself thinking about Dudley's love of all the sounds of human speech and his gift of making the most rigourous speech and accent work creative and fun.

Accent work does require rigour. Dudley was an exacting teacher and a great believer in the usefulness of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), a system of symbols representing speech sounds. I know the IPA is the bane of many a drama student's existence, and I have to confess that to this day I'm not nearly as proficient in it as I …

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Rhyme in A Midsummer Night's Dream

I've recently been working on a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It's been a joy – great director, great cast and, of course, one of the greatest texts in the canon. I've performed in the Dream myself, a long, long time ago, but one of my favourite things about Shakespeare is that there's always more to learn.

This time through, I've been thinking a lot about the rhyme. Rhyme in dramatic text can be tricky. A strong rhyme scheme can make the language sound mechanical and preplanned. Shakespeare, in fact, has fun with this in the play with-in the play. Thisbe's exclamation on finding her beloved, Pyramus, on the ground is wonderfully funny: 'Asleep, my love? / What dead, my dove?' There's great humour in the suddenness of her discovery, the punchiness of the rhythm, and the inevitability of the rhyme. Shakespeare is drawing attention to the fact that, in this clunky production, this moment is anything but …

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