Rehearsing Shakespeare: Actors
"good and truthful acting makes an audience glad to be alive"
Actors are at the centre, the heart, the soul of theatre. Everything a director does should be about them. They are not marionettes to be fitted into a director’s "concept". Every other aspect of a theatre production - design, sound, lights or music should serve them, support them and put the focus on their creativity, their art. Shakespeare knew this, he was himself an actor and every play he wrote was written specifically for players whose personalities and skills, strengths and weaknesses he understood as well as his own.
Acting is an utterly unique and uniquely brave form of creativity in that it calls on a human being to give themselves completely and honestly to a room full of strangers while producing the alchemical transformation of becoming someone else. Hamlet is the actor and the actor is Hamlet. The director's job is, through rehearsals, to protect, guide, challenge and encourage the fullest possible realisation of this transformation, which is not easy but, if successful, brings into being a miraculous encounter unparalleled in any other type of art. Good and truthful acting makes an audience glad to be alive, more sure of who they are and deeply grateful for the gift of live theatre. Any director who seeks to divert the praise due to actors onto themselves is betraying the nature, meaning and purpose of the body of work Shakespeare left to history and society.
The Lord Chamberlains Men (Shakespeare's company) had to close their theatre and cease performing many times due to the plague. If that should happen permanently in our own time, then part of what it means to be human will be lost too.