The Hope College Theatre Department was fortunate enough to have our guest director for the spring production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Johamy Morales, lead a workshop for students during the week of October 20. Johamy will be spending time in 2020 with the cast in preparation for the production, but she was able to give us a small taste of what is to come during the week-long training. She holds an MFA in Acting from Ohio State University, was previously the Education Director at Creede Repertory Theatre in Colorado, and is currently the Director of Education at Seattle Children’s Theatre. Through her broad range of experience she was able to bring a new perspective to tackling Shakespeare.
We started each session with basic vocal and physical warm-ups. There were exercises such as passing a ball around the circle while naming our favorite desserts instead of each other’s names. Tossing the ball ensured that we were communicating clearly with our body language and fully receiving the energy from the person who tossed the ball to us. We then transitioned into a follow-the-leader style exercise of movement which challenged our openness, imagination, focus, and precision. We morphed our movements to copy the leader. At times the exchange was so smooth that it was difficult to decipher who was initiating the movements. The group discussed how this taught us not to impose but rather to flow with the ensemble so that no single person dominated and we worked as a unified whole.
As the warm-ups and large group work came to an end, Johamy led us in what she called “table work.” This involved learning about scansion, rhythm, paraphrasing the text, and all the nitty-gritty aspects of working with Shakespeare. The first few days we learned singular lines at a time and moved around the space to incorporate their rhythms into our bodies. The physicality also allowed us to explore the many possibilities of the lines and find intentions, meanings, and motivations for each segment.
In small groups we dissected a brief section of text with Johamy at the ready to answer any questions. She assured us that all questions were good questions, and everyone was comfortable and ready to absorb as much of her knowledge as possible. The passages grew longer as the workshop went on and we eventually analyzed and paraphrased a short scene.
The week culminated with a chance for the participants to work on individual monologues with Johamy. One exercise she introduced to strengthen our monologues was using general, small household items and attaching a specific person, word, or action to each item while speaking. In doing so, the actor’s performance grew more specific and the monologue became a more compelling story. Johamy also pushed us to “chew our words,” meaning to enunciate words more than we often think necessary. Johamy taught us the importance of using the language that Shakespeare has already given us and to focus on acting “with it/on it” rather than“around it/on top of it.” Shakespeare’s plays demand direct and bold “on-the-line” acting.
Working with Johamy Morales for a week was a powerful and exhilarating experience. The enthusiasm she has created around Shakespeare is palpable. We cannot wait to see her work on Twelfth Night, so mark your calendars for April 17–18, 23–25 at 7:30 p.m and April 19 at 2 p.m!