Fry and Laurie’s Masterclass in Shakespeare

As I’ve already sharedI’ve been doing a lot of research and reading of Shakespeare lately. The other day I ran across this video, which in the middle of all the seriousness(and absolute excellence) of Sir Ian McKellen, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sir Patrick Stewart and Dame Judy Dench, is the perfect reprieve! Watch and enjoy.

Fry and Laurie: Shakespeare Master Class

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Shakespeare’s Works in Progress

IMG_2653_2_Fotor_CollageIf you followed me on Instagram at all in 2014, you probably noticed that I was reading through all of Shakespeare’s Works. I am happy to say that I completed that goal in November, almost exactly a year after I started(with the exception of The Two Noble Kinsmen, which was not included in the edition I was using). As I was reading through the works, roughly in the chronological order in which they were written, I went on a fascinating journey with him. I watched as his stories and characters grew in complexity. His themes matured with his age and I was comforted by the fact that not all of his plays were genius hits! He wrote for royalty and paupers; inspired by life and (often) a paycheck. As we know, his stories and works have stood the test of time and still relate to audiences today.

Words, words, words… Well, you’ve all heard this before. What’s the point? Shakespeare inspired me as little girl. My aunt tells the story of the first time I attended a play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and I was on the edge of my seat. I was four years old. I never felt that Shakespeare was confusing or unintelligible because I was exposed to people who spoke the words as if they were their own. The first of Shakespeare’s characters that I played was the widow in The Taming of the Shrew— at the age of 9. The next year I played Phebe in As You Like It. Since then I have played Portia(Julius Caesar), Margaret(Much Ado About Nothing), a Witch(Macbeth), and performed monologues and scenes of Beatrice(Much Ado About Nothing), Joan of Arc(Henry VI, Part 1), Helena(A Midsummer Nights Dream), Malvolio(Twelfth Night), and more. As long as the company and director were quality, knowledgeable people, I would say “Yes!” to doing Shakespeare over anything else.

I started reading through Shakespeare’s Works for multiple reasons. First, I was ashamed that, as a lover of Shakespeare, there were at least a third of his plays which I had never read or seen performed. Secondly, there are so many roles that I want to play which I will (most likely) never be able to play due to my being a woman; and others I could play, but I’m tired of waiting for permission to play them. Having served the purpose of the first reason, I am now working on a remedy for the second. A few weeks ago, I started meeting with two of my childhood friends — friends that I met doing As You Like It all those years ago — to write a script inspired by all his plays. At the very least, I am having so much fun discussing and nerding out with these two. More than that though, I can’t wait to bring this idea to fruition. Stay tuned for this work in progress!

Working Hard

Maybe you’ve noticed. Maybe you haven’t. I haven’t written that many blogs this year. Last spring I was writing one every week. Then I went through a period last Fall where I felt like I didn’t have much to say. In the last few months I have had much to say, but too much going on to actually sit down and say it. I am so thankful for this busy period of work. What’s been going on?

  • Performing in Diana of Dobson’s at Taproot Theatre. Closing this Saturday, June 14th!
  • Auditioning and getting cast in The Reel Deal: A new reality TV show about Filmmaking!
  • Executive Producing, acting and directing for Light a Match Productions.
  • And a few more things that I will announce in due time…

It is quite a change from how I felt last summer. Even though I had things going on (Julius Caesar), I was very unhappy with where I was in my career and didn’t know what to do about it. Things have shifted in my life and career for sure. It would be easy to say that I am happier because I am doing more, but I feel that it’s the other way around; I’m doing more because I’m happier. (Although, to be clear, I don’t think that the former is always a direct result of the latter.) It took a change in perspective!

What changed?

  1. Being Grateful. Not Jealous.
    One of the biggest contributors to my unhappiness was jealousy. I used to be jealous ALL THE TIME. I got frustrated when I saw people getting cast more often, looking like they were more successful. It’s a pretty depressing place to be, because no matter how successful you are, you can always find someone who is more successful that you. The problem was that I didn’t know how to stop being jealous. Then I realized that the root of my jealousy was an insecurity over whether or not I was good enough to be pursuing this career of acting. I would compare myself to others to see if I measure up. If anyone else got more recognition, then I felt they were more worthy; if I got more recognition, I was more worthy. Let me tell you, that is a useless, tiring, joy-stealing game. Don’t play it! I finally had to come to the conclusion that I didn’t care whether or not other people thought I should be acting. I want to act, so I am going to act, no matter what. Then I stopped worrying about other people and just became so thankful every time I got the opportunity to do what I love. Which leads to my second point…
  2. Adjusting My Expectations
    I had this certain picture in my head of what success looked like. At the time it looked like this: working at x, y, and z theatres and getting paid to do everything I do as an actor. If I wasn’t doing either or both of those, it wasn’t good enough, therefore I wasn’t good enough, therefore I wasn’t successful. I just had to let that go! Maybe I was expecting the pay too soon in my career. Maybe I just needed to remember why I started doing this in the first place. Now I am so busy doing what I love and I’m not working at any of those theatres and I’m only sometimes getting paid. And I’m so happy! Just because I hadn’t met those goals, didn’t mean it was time to give up. It meant it was time to adjust my expectations and focus on creating my own work. Which leads me to my third point…
  3. Working Hard
    Have you heard the phrase, “Work begets work”? I feel like I hear that all the time in LA. This last year has proved that phrase to be true. As an actor, there is only so much you can do to get cast. Audition. Build Relationships. Audition. It’s more complicated than that, but there isn’t a lot of control in your own hands. I decided I was tired of waiting around and wanted to create my own work. That sparked an idea for a short film spoof that I pursued that didn’t quite make it off the ground. (Maybe I’ll come back to it. Probably not.) Then I started reading through Shakespeare, to make my own project. (Still in the works, but on hold for the moment.) Then I had the idea of making movies with my friends, which turned into Light a Match Productions! (Now THAT’S some exciting stuff! LAMP-Logo2Check out our website and new short film.) I’ve learned that what’s important isn’t necessarily completing each project, but pursuing it as far as it will go. My first spoof idea may not be the right thing for right now, but it got ideas flowing and helped me reach out and start building a network of co-creators. The Shakespeare project helped keep my mind off of whether or not I was cast after every audition because I had another place to focus my creative energy. Now, working with LAMP has turned into something beyond what I could have imagined. Work begets work. This is what’s important: Keep creating. Keep doing. Keep working… Hard.

Whether or not this streak of work continues, I know I have the tools and the mindset to keep pursuing my dreams and be happy whatever the result. Thanks for going on this journey with me! What an adventure!

Shakespeare in a Year: The Beginning

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This last year I was inspired to create my own content. Many ideas have sparked, developed, come, gone, and some lay in hibernation. That is a part of the creative process, isn’t it? Run with your ideas until you can’t run anymore. Something like that.
Anyway, over the Summer I had this idea to read all of Shakespeare’s (known) plays and make one or many performance piece(s) out of it. As a lover of Shakespeare, since before I can remember, I consider it a great tragedy that I have never read ALL of his plays. So, I have a copy of Shakespeare’s Complete Works and, starting with (what we think) was his first play, I am reading through it from beginning to end. I realize that is quite an undertaking. I usually don’t like to announce such projects before they are completed, because I’m afraid I won’t finish and then I will have let myself and everyone else down. But, in this case, I have gotten far enough that I have created and partially executed a plan and now I can’t wait to share this journey with you…. wherever it leads!

The Goal

1. Read all of Shakespeare’s Works.

2. Create and perform a piece(s) from all of Shakespeare’s Works.

The Plan IMG_0915
Starting on Monday, I start a new play reading one act a day so that by Friday I have finished it(Shakespeare’s plays have 5 acts). It is manageable, a small commitment per day, and in no time I feel accomplished! It also makes me happy to daily do this thing that is just for me. I’m not doing it because I have to, like so many other things that fill our lives; I’m doing it because I love to. (This plan fluctuates in practice, but so far I’ve been able to complete at least one play per week.)
The Progress
If you look at the list of plays in the order we think they were written, you can see that Shakespeare started with a bunch of histories. If you’ve ever frequented a Shakespeare theatre or watched any movies made of his plays, you’ll notice that the histories (especially these first three), are the least often produced. There’s good reason for that. At this point I have read King Henry VI: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, King Richard III, The Comedy of Errors, and Titus Andronicus. What a way to start?!?
The Observations
One of the things that I love about this plan is that as I’m reading, I am able to map Shakespeare’s progress and maturity in his writing. I am no scholar, and I know many reading this probably far outshine me in the research department, but there are a few things I’ve noticed.

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King Henry VI
In the King Henry VI saga, Shakespeare mainly seems to be repeating history, as best he can from his sources. Of course it isn’t completely historically accurate, but Shakespeare didn’t do much to write an interesting story. There are so many characters, sub-plots, and (unimportant)tangents, that, without an extensive knowledge of the history, it is sometimes very confusing. There are a few monologues that stand out to me, but for the most part the story and characters are fairly one-dimensional: good vs. evil; England vs. France; weak vs. strong. (P.S. Joan of Arc and Queen Margaret are probably my favorite parts of this trilogy.)
These plays were not for me. But at least now I can say I read them!
My Modern Comparison: A History Channel Three Part Documentary.

Richard III
For the first time, it seems like Shakespeare figured out having a central character works really well! Following one main story line makes a better story. Wow! Good job, Shakespeare. On the very first page, Richard tells the audience that he will do everything he can to become king and that is the story we watch unfold. The only mystery of the play is how he will do it. It follows a good, traditional structure of: beginning, middle, end; but as far as characters go, Richard is pretty one-dimensional: just plain evil. There is one monologue in the fifth act, just after the spirits of all the people he has killed haunt him in his sleep, where he wakes up and has a sort of “come to Jesus” moment, only to realize it is too late and he will reap what he as sowed. Yes, you will, Richard. The End.
I can appreciate Shakespeare’s shift in story-telling style, but Richard III seems to lack some of the multi-dimensional aspects of his later works.
My Modern Comparison: House of Cards (only House of Cards is more interesting, in my opinion).

The Comedy of Errors
Mistaken identity times two! Shakespeare copied a lot of the plot from a Roman comedy by Plautus, called Menechmi–The Menechmus Twins. Essentially, “I gave you the money two minutes ago.” “No you didn’t. I’ve never seen you before in my life.” And, “Oh, husband, I’m so angry with you.” “Who’s this woman who thinks I’m her husband?” Hilarious! *sigh*
Also, rhyme. Rhyme. And more Rhyme. That is another thing I noticed. This play seems a lot more rhyme-y than his other comedies with which I am more familiar. “Trying out the rhyme, William? Great.” He uses it (a lot!) and perhaps figures out how to use it with purpose and specificity in his later plays.
As for story-telling, the first scene starts out with Aegeon explaining to the Duke of Ephesus how he lost his wife, other twin son, and his other twin servant a long time ago and begs to be allowed to search for them now. It is a LONG winded story of exposition. It seems that later on Willy figured out how to show the exposition rather than just tell it (i.e. Twelfth Night).
I can be entertained by this play (and I have), but it isn’t one that I want to return to again and again.
My Modern Comparison: The Three Stooges. (Maybe that’s not quite accurate, but the idea is lowest physical comedy.)
 
Titus Andronicus
Blood. Blood. And more Blood. I have read Titus before, performed Lavinia for auditions, and last year saw an all female production of it which was excellent. It is still bloody and brutal. It is another revenge story. Since writing Richard III, I feel like Shakespeare develops his characters a little more in this one. There is still a clear distinction between the good and evil sides, but I see a little more character and story arc.
I appreciate the story and loved the production I saw, but this is not a story on which I’d like to dwell or tell over and over again. Perhaps, once in my life.
My Modern Comparison: Hannibal

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The journey continues. Next time I will be writing about The Taming of The Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love’s Labors Lost and more. At least those are on a slightly lighter note. Again, I don’t claim to have any training in literature analysis, I’m just sharing my opinion and observations. I’m excited about what I’ve learned so far and can’t wait to see where this project leads.shake

My biggest take away: Shakespeare wasn’t the best writer when he started off. That is comforting to me. The point is that he wrote, wrote, and wrote some more, which led to some of the greatest works of literature and performance in known history. Let us learn from his example and keep working, writing, creating, doing, so that we continue to grow, change, and improve.

Playing Portia in Julius Caesar

I am thrilled to announce that I will be playing Portia in Julius Caesar with Handwritten Productions in Seattle, WA. I can’t tell you how excited I am to share this production with an audience. We open this Friday, September 27th at 7:30 pm.

ALL PERFORMANCES ARE PAY-WHAT-YOU-CAN!

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WHAT: Handwritten Productions presents “Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare, directed by Leah Adcock-Starr.

WHEN: September 27, 28 & October 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12.

WHERE: The Ballard Underground (2220 NW Market St, Seattle, WA 98107).

TICKETS: This performance is open to the general public and is pay-what-you-will. Seat reservations can be made by visiting our website at handwrittenproductions.org

L.A. here I come!

It’s been a long time coming…

I grew up in Seattle, making yearly trips to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, attending shows at the Seattle Children’s Theatre, Taproot Theatre and the Bathhouse. I fell in love with Shakespeare at an early age and was easily grasping the language and playing characters by age 9. By Jr High, it was a given that I would be an actor, in the theatre, of course! I grew up a THEATRE snob.

Following my college graduation with my THEATRE degree, I’m visiting a college friend who moved to LA to pursue her dreams. We’re sitting in a sushi restaurant across the table from her fiancé. First thing he asks, “When are you moving to LA?”  I laugh and dismiss the question. “LA isn’t for me. I am not for it,” I declare.

Fast forward a few years.  I was invited by a fellow theatre actor to be a part of the 48 Film Project, where groups compete to make the best short film, all in 48 hours. I have never done anything like this before! We met on Friday night at 7pm, just before this crazy event began. Within the hour the writers were soon typing away. We actors were on-call, with a promise to be contacted by midnight if we were cast. Midnight came and went. I went to bed, thinking I can have a calm and relaxing Saturday, only to be woken up at 4:30 am. “You are the lead! Can you be on set at 10am? Bring x, y, and z for costume pieces.” OK! Being my first time on camera, I was thrilled and simultaneously frightened. But there’s no time to panic. There’s only time to do! I went to set. We filmed my first scene. Changed location. Filmed second scene. Changed location. Filmed last few scenes. And by 7pm I was done! The director spent the next 24 hours editing and reediting the film. Finally, with minutes to spare, we got our masterpiece, ‘The Belgian Pretzel” in on-time!

About a week later, the 48 hour Film Project hosts a screening in a real movie theater and then the awards are given out. As soon as I saw my face I wanted to point and scream, “That’s me!” while at the same time crawl into a ball, just in case someone heard me. The awards…“And Best Acting goes to… ‘The Belgian Pretzel.’” WHAT?! “And finally, the one we have all been waiting for… Best Film goes to…’The Belgian Pretzel!’” Out of 52 groups, we won 5 of the 16 awards!(See complete list here.)

What an incredible experience! I didn’t realize until later just how lucky I was to be in a group of such talented and organized artists who were just at the beginning of successful careers. As for me, I would never be the same. Once you’ve experienced the magic of excellent film-making, you can never go back!

Shortly after that, I landed an audition, which gave me the lead in a short film and a co-staring role in a web series. Since then, my appetite for camera work has only grown and LA started calling my name. About the same time I fell in love and married a wonderfully talented musician who moved to Seattle to be with me. We kept saying, “We’re moving to LA in a couple months.” A few months went by. “We’re still thinking about it.” Another couple months went by. “The time just isn’t right.” Pretty soon, a couple months turned into a couple years. I will spare you all the details, but essentially, my husband turned to me a couple months ago and said, “I don’t want us to get 10 years down the road and you never got the chance you deserve. Now is the time!” And so, I quit my job. My loving and supportive husband sold a guitar, a 1960 Fender Jazzmaster mind you, to help pay for the trip and…. I’m going!

Dear LA,

I don’t know what you have for me, but I’m giving you a shot. I’ve heard you can be cruel and ruthless, but I’m hoping you’ll be kind. I will work hard and give my all, because I know you’d expect nothing less. Here I come!

Charissa J Adams