Tuesday, July 12, 2011



I wrote this on the chalkboard.

"Okay, for today's run-through, this is your mission...should you choose to accept it."

Honestly, I got twenty-four sets of blank stares on that one. I like to throw stuff at them that they have zero connection to because it amuses me. An ancient "Mission: Impossible" expression means nothing to them except: Ms. Ryane, you talk kinda weird.

"Here's why not everyone can be an actor. It's really difficult to take words written on a page and make them sound like you just thought them up, right now."

This is the big trick. How to act and not sound like an actor acting?

"In the theatre we call this 'owning it.' "

Ms. Ryane, do you mean like if I do something bad and then I have to say sorry and stuff and I have to own it?

"That's an appropriate kind of owning it, but not really the same thing. That's when you take responsibility for your behavior. In the acting sense, Henry, I mean when you say, 'The course of true love never did run smooth,' you are cheering up your girlfriend and coming up with that sentence right on the spot, right in the moment, and not just saying what William Shakespeare wrote because your part is Lysander."

Over some heads. Tickling the brains of others. Wonder what the snack is today?

When I was a young actress hired by the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada, I found myself onstage with actors of the highest order. One of whom, Brian Bedford, astonished me every single time he opened his mouth and iambic verse floated out as if he were forming thoughts and voicing them on the spot. Genius.

It is tricky enough to do this with modern language on, say, a television sitcom (which is why actors often insist on changing those lines), but imagine owning Elizabethan verse.

When Brian Bedford limped to center stage, gazed over two thousand audience members, squinted dark eyes, shifted his weight onto one good foot with his hunchback tilting the other way, opened his mouth and dripped the bitter juice of...

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York

...his Richard the Third was an alive and seething human being. We eagerly followed him on his vengeful ride.

Brian Bedford received a Tony nomination this year for his rendition of Lady Bracknell in the Broadway production of "The Importance of Being Earnest." Again, he owned it. Every word, every sentence, every penetrating look. Genius.

I don't think I was asking too much of these kids.

"Impress me, guys. Own it. Ready?"

Oh yeah, we're ready. They snacked on verse and forgot all about real food, for a little while.

If I were a queen I would make sure my servants feel home. I won't make them do too much work. I would do some of the cooking. I would take care of the servants as if they were my daughters and sons. I would have very few servants. If my husband doesn't agree I would divorce. My rule would be if you do what you shouldn't do. My house has to be out of candy because the kids would come by and eat candy. Once the house falls I would make another one, I also want a house out of T.V.
—Celia, 5th grade


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed Brian Bedford's performance as Lady Bracknell a few weeks ago, probably even more than usual since I am now of an age to play her myself. Once, long ago, I played Gwendolyn with Lady Bracknell and Cecily and Earnest... In fact it was Cecily who insisted we go to Broadway for the current show. Brian/Lady B. had an edge that many don't because his voice range was so great--and he used it so well. Yes, I would say he owned it. :) You are right. Owning it is the key.

  2. Unfortunately, for me he was the absolute highlight; I didn't care much for the production.


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