by Edward Daranyi, Resident Teaching Artist
At the end of March I spent eight glorious days doing professional-development work in England with Tim Carroll and his Factory Theatre and at the Mid-Wales Shakespeare Centre.
One purpose of my trip was to recharge my batteries as a teacher and director before the Festival season gets into full swing. I also wanted to acquire more specific skills in the area of theatrical creation and learn how to use those skills to develop learning strategies that teachers and teaching artists can use in the classroom or during Prologues here at the Festival.
I arrived on a spectacular morning in Oxford (they were enjoying the same beautiful weather we had here in Ontario) and jumped into rehearsals with the Factory company. They were rehearsing a new project, The Odyssey. At the same time, half of the company was also performing Hamlet at the historic Blackwell’s Bookshop. I saw the final four performances of Hamlet; The Odyssey opened the following week.
Hamlet was a completely new experience every night, not only because the audience got to determine the casting two minutes before the show began, but also because the audience provided the company with all of the props they would use during the play. Each performance was electrifying, every seat filled with patrons from eight to eighty, some of whom had been to see the company in other places and some who were making their second and third trips to see this show, each time bringing different friends with them.
One night I was invited to play Fortinbras. It was both terrifying and exhilarating and I knew I was in good hands with the Factory company, which made it all go smoothly. But what I most enjoyed about the Factory experience was watching the audience. Not one person sat back with folded arms or, as occasionally happens in Stratford after a big lunch, nodded off. They sat on the edges of their seats, throwing their energy at the stage and being active in the story we were sharing. I learned a great deal about my own journey as an artist and as a teacher through the clarity, honesty and immediacy that the Factory company bring to their work. They truly are in service to the story in word, thought and deed.
After rehearsals for The Odyssey during the day and watching Hamlet in the evening, I was whisked off to Wales to plot and scheme with my dear friends Phil Bowen and Sue Best at the Mid-Wales Shakespeare Centre. The Centre is located in one of the most magical places on earth, and although it was a quick visit to talk about educational strategies I did manage to see some old friends and partake in something I won’t soon forget: lambing! The Centre is located on a working organic farm and, as luck would have it, my visit happened during lambing season. One evening I not only witnessed but also participated in the process. I won’t subject you to all the gory details, but let’s just say there was a rubber glove, a pair of runners that were promptly thrown in the trash, a new lamb named Eddie and something I never thought I would put on my “BTDT list.”