Lockdown What You Will – Shakespeare Online

Still from Lockdown What You Will –Twelfth Night. Supplied.
Still from Lockdown What You Will –Twelfth Night. Supplied.

Bachelor of Fine Arts (Acting) students had already started rehearsing for their annual Shakespeare showcases when COVID-19 took us into a virtual campus. Not to be perturbed, directors Sarah Cathcart and Petra Kalive made the decision to press on with rehearsals via Zoom. Watch the way that our Acting students have innovated Shakespeare for the digital stage.

Budi Miller, Head of Acting at the VCA, describes the importance of performing Shakespeare for the second year Acting students:

"So they have spent the whole first year learning about themselves and thinking deep in their imaginations ...  and we start them off in the biggest, most bold way possible – through Shakespeare.

"Language lives through the body. The vocal requirements, vowels and consonants, in Shakespeare and how they affect the metrical meaning in the body is really important for the students' training.

"We feel that the strongest way to get them into the most emboldened, dynamic way of applying the training from first year is to put them in a Shakespeare work. After the first two weeks of rehearsal, we had to go into lockdown. And then they had to figure out ways of translating into the medium of Zoom."

Faced with a unique problem – director of Lockdown What You Will Sarah Cathcart looked to her experience for inspiration:

"I said, look, I had a two year long distance relationship on FaceTime. It is possible, I've experienced what it's like to have chemistry – to really see the other actor and to affect them and to be affected by them through the camera.

"My colleague Petra Kalive suggested a fantastic initial exercise. 'Everyone create a monologue and then upload it anywhere and apply it to an online platform.' Within a blink of an eye our VCA actors were also filmmakers, set dressers, screenwriters and producers.

Petra Kalive, Director of The Winter's Tale, describes the experience of being locked down mid project: " The pandemic hit, everything went into lockdown, and all that physical work needed to go online. So after a bit of a bumpy start the students took to it like a duck to water.

"The students decided to get really creative. Instead of doing it like a FaceTime or a conversation, they decided to create their screens like security cameras, or they were running around FaceTime in their neighborhoods, moving away from something or towards something.

"They were able to make links between the work that we were doing on the floor and how to then completely reinvent that work and make it their own for a really narrow view."

Budi Miller says that Shakespeare was a surprisingly good medium to push the boundaries of the digital stage:

"Isn't it interesting how the brain flips into theatre? When we say, 'This is the world you're going to be living in, this is the world in which we're going to tell our story', the audience believes it. It's like when Oberon from a Midsummer Night's Dream says, 'They can't see me because I'm invisible'.

"Because he says he's invisible, everyone agrees with him. That's just human nature. And I think that's one of the things that's really exciting about Shakespeare's work. He pushes the imagination into those zones as well." And so we are told to believe that the characters in The Winter's Tale interacted via SMS, and we believe it.

We continue to be amazed by the ingenuity of our students and the way that they continue to adapt to our rapidly changing world.