Techniques needed to create the character Solly Two Kings in August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean

MISSING IMAGE

Material Information

Title:
Techniques needed to create the character Solly Two Kings in August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean
Physical Description:
Project in lieu of thesis
Creator:
Wilson, Reginald Lee ( Dissertant )
Bukovec, Yanci ( Thesis advisor )
Remshardt, Ralf ( Reviewer )
Publisher:
College of Fine Arts, University of Florida
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date:

Notes

Abstract:
In September of 2010 I was presented the task of performing the role of Solly Two Kings in August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean. After reading the script, I quickly discovered that this character’s age was double my age. I also discovered that we shared similar backgrounds. My task for this production was to effectively utilize the techniques that I have gained in my graduate career while allowing the ancestral energy to guide me through most of my character discoveries. Portraying this character demanded many acting techniques. To ground my approach I began with Stanislavsky. I considered his use of given circumstances to find out everything that I could find out about Solly and his relationships with the other characters of the play. After finding the given circumstances, I was able to find the voice of Solly using Arthur Lessac's method of exploring consonant, structure, and tonal energy; his movement using Alexander and Laban techniques; and his objectives using David Mamet’s approach. My mission in this production was to change the atmosphere every time Solly made an entrance. One of his final lines is “…the people gone know about Solly Two Kings.” With these techniques applied, his mission was accomplished.
General Note:
Theatre terminal project

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida Institutional Repository
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID:
AA00001590:00001


This item is only available as the following downloads:


Full Text





THE TECHNIQUES NEEDED TO CREATE THE CHARACTER SOLLY TWO
KINGS IN AUGUST WILSON'S GEM OF THE OCEAN













By
REGINALD LEE WILSON









SUPERVISORY COMMITTEE:
PROFESSOR YANCI BUKOVEC, CHAIR
DR. RALF REMSHARDT, MEMBER













A PROJECT IN LIEU OF THESIS PRESENTED TO THE COLLEGE OF FINE ARTS
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF FINE ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2011












Table of Contents

A cknow ledgem ents ............................................................ ........... 3

A b stract ......................................................................... .. . ... 4

Chapter 1 History of Gem of the Ocean............................. ............... 5

Chapter 2 Introduction to Solly .............................................. .......... 7

C chapter 3 Solly's V oice ........................................... ........... ........... 12

Chapter 4 Solly's Physical Composition .......................... ................. 17

Chapter 5 Solly's Performance ............................................................ 20

Chapter 6 Conclusion ........................................ ................. ........... 24

Photos ........................................................................... .......... 25

Bibliography .................................................. ................ .......... 26

B iography .......... ....... ................................. ......... 27









Acknowledgements


I would like to thank God for all that he has done for me at this point in life. I

would like to thank my mother for being my greatest fan and motivator in the world. I

would like to thank my wife Joni Wilson for standing beside me through thick and the

thin and raising our five beautiful children while I was in graduate school working to

provide a better life for our family. I would like to thank Mr. Luther Wells for not giving

up after 16 years. Wow! I would also like to thank Dr. Pinkney for everything he has

done and for pushing me to do my best and Yanci for helping to shape my voice. To my

family, friends, supporters, and everyone not named, this show was for you.









Summary of Performance Option in Lieu of Thesis
Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the
Degree of Master of Fine Arts in Theatre

THE TECHNIQUES NEEDED TO CREATE THE CHARACTER SOLLY TWO
KINGS IN AUGUST WILSON'S GEM OF THE OCEAN

By

Reginald Lee Wilson

May 2011
Chair: Yanci Bukovec
Major: Acting

In September of 2010 I was presented the task of performing the role of Solly

Two Kings in August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean. After reading the script, I quickly

discovered that this character's age was double my age. I also discovered that we shared

similar backgrounds. My task for this production was to effectively utilize the techniques

that I have gained in my graduate career while allowing the ancestral energy to guide me

through most of my character discoveries. Portraying this character demanded many

acting techniques. To ground my approach I began with Stanislavsky. I considered his

use of given circumstances to find out everything that I could find out about Solly and his

relationships with the other characters of the play. After finding the given circumstances,

I was able to find the voice of Solly using Arthur Lessac's method of exploring

consonant, structure, and tonal energy; his movement using Alexander and Laban

techniques; and his objectives using David Mamet's approach. My mission in this

production was to change the atmosphere every time Solly made an entrance. One of his

final lines is "...the people gone know about Solly Two Kings." With these techniques

applied, his mission was accomplished.









Chapter 1

History of Gem of the Ocean

Gem of the Ocean is chronologically the first in a ten play cycle created by

August Wilson to narrate the African American experience, although it was the

penultimate of the author's dramas. Set in 1904, it examines the transition from slavery

to life as a free man. Wilson's first play of the cycle was originally Joe Turner's Come

and Gone. In this play Harold Loomis searches for his identity and has visions of dry

bones walking on top of the water. August Wilson believed that many of his African

ancestors were at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean: "Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean lie

the bones of millions of Africans who died before reaching the New World. The flesh of

their flesh populates the Americas from Mississippi to Montevideo"(Wilson, Gem xiv).

He supported his theory with the Bible to show the connection of the African Americans

with his Old-Testament prophecy:

The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord

and set me in the middle of a valley it was full of bones. He led me back and

forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones

that were very dry... This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will

make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and

make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and

you will come to life. (Ezekiel 37. 1-3,5,6)


Loomis represented the dry bones and did not find his identity until he cut himself, which

showed his ability to bleed. In Gem of the Ocean, Solly speaks of the importance of

bleeding: "Since then I ain't never been afraid of losing some blood. I said they gonna









have to kill me. I can give up some blood all day long if it'll keep coming back. Your

blood is like a river it don't stop till you dead" (Wilson, Gem 59).

For Gem, Citizen Barlow does not cut himself to find his identity; instead he is

taken on a journey to the City of Bones. The City of Bones is the name of the location

where the bones of the slaves reside. It is not until Barlow travels to the city that he is

able to free himself of the self-instilled torment he is experiencing. He has to come clean

with himself and confess his faults. James 5:16 states that we must "confess our sins

before men." It is after Barlow's confession that he is able to enter into the City of

Bones. Christianity tells us that in order to enter into the Kingdom of God, a person has

to confess their sins. The City of Bones is the Africans' heaven and the place that they

looked forward to after they died. Solly has a plan of being a gatekeeper to the City after

he dies. Aunt Ester anticipates the reunion with her mother after she arrives.


Once someone travels to the City of Bones, they are given their freedom and

identity. August Wilson felt that he needed to write about the African experience in order

to keep the stories alive. The blues and Romare Bearden motivated him. "I saw the

blues as a cultural response of a nonliterate people whose history and culture were rooted

in the oral tradition. The response was to a world that was not of their making, in which

the idea of themselves as a people of imminent worth that belied their recent history was

continually assaulted. It was a world that did not recognize their gods, their manners,

their mores. It despised their ethos and refused to even recognize humanity" (Wilson,

Gem ix).









Chapter 2

Introduction of Solly

Gem of the Ocean, by August Wilson, is a play that contains historical

information located in the text to help actors create their characters. Wilson wrote this

play to begin his ten-play cycle after the first eight were already written and produced.

He used names, numbers, and different items to symbolize events from the past. More

importantly, Wilson wrote about the African American experience while incorporating

biblical stories and characters that he learned at an early age. For example, Aunt Ester's

house address is 1839 Wylie Avenue. Historically, in 1839, the slaves aboard the

Amistad rebelled and commandeered the ship. Also in 1839, 100 buildings were burned

in Alabama, and the event was referred to as the "Great Fire of Alabama." In the context

of the play, the slaves' rebellion and their willingness to fight, is what Aunt Ester, Eli,

and Solly Two Kings expects from the new generation. Solly Two Kings setting fire to

the mill directly symbolizes the "Great Fire of Alabama" because Alabama is Solly's

home.

Solly Two Kings was symbolic of King David and King Solomon. These were

two very distinct characters in the bible that both had very rich histories. King

Solomon's spirit was shown through Solly's wisdom and King David was recognized for

his spiritual connections as a youth and willingness to fight. I Sam. 16 tells the story of

King Saul and how a harmful spirit tormented him:

Now the spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the Lord

tormented him. And Saul's servants said to him, "Behold now, a harmful spirit

from God is tormenting you. Let our lord now command your servants who are









before you to seek out a man who is skillful in playing the lyre, and when the

harmful spirit from God is upon you, he will play it and you will be well...

Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, "Send me David your son, who

is with the sheep..." And David came to Saul and entered his service. And Saul

loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer. And Saul sent to Jesse, saying

"Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor in my sight." And

whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and

played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful

spirit departed from him. (I Sam. 16. 14-18, 19, 21-23)


It is evident from this passage that David's presence and his ability to play an instrument

was all that was needed in order to calm Saul's fear. Solly's character shares this quality

as well. The audience is first introduced to him while he is singing "IBelong to the

Band." Wilson was able to create him in such a way that every time he makes an

entrance, he changes the mood of the house. He is shown to be very high-spirited and

unafraid of anything or anyone. Citizen takes on characteristics of Saul for him in this

situation. Citizen is haunted by the death of Garry Brown because of his contribution to

the cause of Brown's death.

Solly speaks to Citizen throughout the play on the importance of being brave and

the ability to fight for what he believes in. These very intimate conversations revolve

around the strength needed to gain importance as a black man as well as remembering the

importance of religion. During one of these conversations, he tells Citizen how he

changed his name from Alfred Jackson to Solly Two Kings. As he is speaking with him,

Citizen asks him about the stick he is carrying. He replies; "Lots of people carry sticks.









Ain't you never heard that "sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never

hurt me." This a bone breaker. I tried carrying stones but they was too heavy" (Wilson,

Gem 27). This response shows the brilliance of Wilson's writing in using the Bible as a

reference. The story of David in the Bible includes a passage where he had to fight a

giant:

When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran

quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his

bag and took out a stone and slung the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank

into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground. So David prevailed over

the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed

him. (I Sam. 17. 48-50)


Solly says that he used to carry stones. I understood this to show that as Solly aged, he

matured more and more. He realizes that he does not have to fight head to head anymore.

There was always a systematic way to get what he wanted without having to kill anyone

in the process. The Biblical David eventually became King: "David was thirty years old

when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years" (II Sam. 5. 4). Solly first became free

in 1857 at the age of twenty. He remains free until his death at the age of sixty-seven.

His freedom came eight years before Abraham Lincoln emancipated the slaves in 1865.

If we use the year of 1865, this would make his reign as a free man 39 years, which was

nearly the same amount of time of King David's reign.

For his protection Solly always carries a walking stick. In addition to the stick, he

also carries a piece of iron that was once around his ankle during the time of his slavery.

He carries the iron with him everywhere he went as a reminder of his days as a slave and









his time as a free man. In II Sam. 23, David is quoted as saying, "But worthless men are

all like thorns that are thrown away, for they cannot be taken with the hand; But the man

who touches them arms himself with iron and the shaft of a spear, and they are utterly

consumed with fire" (6,7). This again shows how Wilson was using biblical research in

his development of these characters in order to remain as true to life as possible, in a fairy

tale land.

King Solomon's contribution to Wilson's character came in the form of wisdom.

King Solomon was King David's son who inherited the throne of Israel after David.

King Solomon pleased God and for this he was granted anything that he wanted:

And now, 0 LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David

my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come

in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a

great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your

servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern

between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?" It

pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, "Because

you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches of your

enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what his right,

Behold I do now do according to your word. Behold I give you a discerning

mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after

you. (I Kings 1.7-12)


Solly does not care about the riches of the world. He sells dog feces because of its purity,

but eventually quits because of the need for leaders throughout the black community. He









feels that the people were suffering because of the law. He believes that the law was

written to keep the black man suppressed and he is to have no part of it. He understands

that freedom will come at a high price and that someone has to pay it. He is not afraid of

death. He believes that after death life began again and he is on a winning side as long as

he fights for his rights.

Wilson also married black culture with the Bible by using King Solomon. King

Solomon writes in Solomon 1. 5, and 6A: "I am dark, but lovely, 0 daughters of

Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon. Do not gaze at me

because I am dark..." Like King Solomon, Solly does not believe that he should be

treated any differently because of his skin tone. He feels that his history is rich and must

not be forgotten. He feels that the fight for freedom is a continual fight resulting in a lot

of blood shed. "And the battlefield's bloody! The field of battle is always bloody. It

can't be no other way" (Wilson, Gem59). He dies on the battlefield, a death that is

honorable and remembered as a death in the fight for freedom and equality.









Chapter 3

Solly's Voice

To create a voice for Solly, I relied heavily on Arthur Lessac's Use and Training

of the Human Voice, as well as using my own vocal qualities that I gathered from

receiving from a very southern upbringing. My southern accent is strong and for this

production I made sure to utilize it. Solly is from Alabama, therefore it was beneficial for

him to have a southern inflection when he spoke.

Lessac believed that there were three types of energies needed to speak

effectively, structural, tonal, and consonant-led. Structural and tonal energy deals with

the vowels while consonant energy deals with the consonants. "The term structural

action is to be taken literally and dually: It means both the muscular actions that control

the adjustable sound box-the oral cavity, cheeks, and lips-and the kinesthetic action of

perceiving these muscular actions and controlling them through sensory recall"(Lessac

56). This required my face and the mouth to be working simultaneously in order to

produce great sounds. This also provided the means for proper articulation and ensured

that all of Solly's words would be heard, as long as I structured all of his words to reach

the audience.

The second type of energy Lessac stresses is tonal energy. "The vibrations of the

vocal sound waves transmitted through bone conduction-and it means our action of

feeling those tonal vibrations and controlling them through sensory recall. These actions

are of primary concern in the development of both the speaking and the singing voice"

(Lessac 79). Wilson uses specific words to explain to the audience how Solly feels. "And

the battlefield's bloody! The field of battle is always bloody. It can't be no other way."









(Wilson 59) The tonal options would be in the words "field', "is", "alu p"", "no", and

"way." Feeling the bone vibrations while saying these words helped me to "taste" the

words and convey the meaning with the call. Using these words helped me to attend to

the action at hand instead of falling into a fraudulent state of showing emotions in order

to cause the audience to feel an emotion.

The third type of energy Lessac stresses is the consonant energy.

Consonants are the interpreters that convey the meaning of speech-they make

the spoken word intelligible. Consonants are the instruments that provide musical

accompaniment to speech-they produce rhythmic patterns, melodies, and

sustained tonal colors. Consonants provide contrast and variations-to the single

sustained note of the vowels, they bring percussion and sound effects. (Lessac,

Practical Approach 129)


If Solly was to be heard then it was important for him to be understood. Wilson used

consonant combinations that were both percussive and sustainable to help Solly

manipulate the language. Though the line "Dark was the night and cold was the night"

(Wilson 56), has structural energy, it is not until the consonants are given their full value

that the sentence becomes alive. The words "dark", "cold", "and", and "ground," all

have double energy options that can be played. The "/" and the "d' in "cold' went from

a sustainable consonant to a percussive, the "n" in "and' and the "d" in "and' went from

a sustainable to a percussive, in addition to the "n" in "and' the "d" in "ground'. This

line is so strong in Solly's text that the director decided to add musical accompaniment to

follow the story that Solly tells in memory of his slavery days. Using Lessac's approach

made this line very effective in setting the mood for the environment that Solly









experiences as he tells the story.

Lessac believed strongly that these three types of energy are needed in order to

effectively speak and be understood. He felt that as long as you properly trained your

vocal muscles, the energies would increase.

If you use the three energies with full vibratory, kinesthetic, and orchestral

feeling, you will find that you have at your command the ability to add to your

own speech any one or all of the admirable qualities inherent in these other

languages and cultures; yet you will not, to the slightest degree, sound like an

imitator of British, French, Italian, or Russian Speech. You will sound like an

American whose speech is thoroughly indigenous while at the same time a

product, a reflection, and an intrinsic part of your individual culture and personal

pride. (Lessac, Practical Approach 23)


Whenever Solly speaks, he demands to be heard. He likes to tell stories and those

around him enjoy listening to him. My goal was to make his speech melodic and

exciting. He is introduced while singing IBelong to the Band. While telling a story of

the current events that are happening at the mill, he mentioned that the "people" had

refused to return to work. This excites him and the consonants in his text helped me to

convey his excitement: "Look like every Negro in Pittsburg down there. "Look" ends

in "k" which is a percussive that required me to stop temporarily. The "k" in "like" was

connected to "e'ley" which allowed me to play on the tonal energy in "Negro" before

sustaining the "n" in "in," as well as the "n," in "down." I was given the option to play

on the "s" in "was," however I did not feel as if it was a strong enough option. To type

the sentence for meaning would look like this: "Look. like every NegrQ inn Pittsburg









dOWnn there."

The creation of Solly's character would have been nearly impossible for me if I

had not learned the techniques of Arthur Lessac. I knew that I had the responsibility of

setting and changing the moods in each scene in which Solly appeared. While learning

the lines I would often sing my words to help me enjoy the speech. I also presented the

text as if I was a southern preacher or Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. King did a remarkable

job of leading his people through the sound of his voice. He colored his words. If he

enjoyed the taste of a word he made sure to sustain it as long as possible in order to show

his congregation that the word had meaning. Dr. King had a dream and he made sure to

make it known through his use of language. Solly Two Kings also has a dream; he wants

all black people to stand up for what they believe in. He speaks loudly and does not care

who hears him. As he and the other characters take Citizen Barlow on the journey to the

City of Bones, Wilson wrote a song for Solly to sing. Although Solly sings a song at the

beginning of the play, I felt it was not as important for Solly to sound like a professional

singer as it was for him to be understood. The task was for him to sing the song as an

underscore to what is being discussed between Aunt Esther and Citizen Barlow. The

words to the song are, "I got a home in the graveyard, remember Me, Going down to the

graveyard, Remember Me. Going down to the Graveyard, remember me. I got a home in

the graveyard, remember me." (Wilson, Gem 65) As Lessac remarks, "Singing is

sustained speaking. Anytime you voice a well-executed call and sustain it on various

pitches, you are singing-you are making beautiful, artistic tones" (Lessac Practical

Approach 128). I played my vowels both structurally and tonally. "I got a home in the

graveyard" paints a story that is capitalized by the energy given to each word. "1" is a









structural vowel #6, "got" uses the structure #4, "home" uses the structure #21, as well as

being tonal, and "graveyard' uses the +y as in "grave", which is also tonal as well as the

#51 in "yard'. Paying close attention to the energies of these words helped me to sing

them and color them all together.











Chapter 4
Solly's Physical Composition

Solly's physical appearance was of utmost importance for me. I felt that the most

effective way to bring him to life was to create specific physical ailments to help show

the effects of old age. It was also important for me to apply makeup that would be

believable. To aid with the makeup, I grew out my hair, beard and mustache. Growing

my hair helped me to age it more easily with grey hair coloring. I heightened the

intensity of my natural wrinkles to make me look older. To help with physicality I

utilized Alexander and Laban techniques as well as drawing on the mannerisms of my

grandfather.

In order to establish physicality for Solly I used constructive conscious control. I

remained aware of the Alexander Technique's injunction to take "responsibility for the

intelligent use of the self through the application of inhibition and direction." (Gelb 164)

I decided to make Solly a very active person whenever he was on his feet. In the text, he

is a very active person who roams the city finding and selling "pure." Every time I sat

down I made sure to massage my joints to show how his joints would ache from

immobility. This also helped to show the effects of numerous trips from Alabama to

Canada. Solly speaks about being bitten by dogs as well, so I also massaged the areas

where the dogs might have torn through the muscle. I would also massage my hands to

help smoothen out the aches that are associated with arthritis. Whenever I massaged my

hands and joints, I made sure to make my movements very subtle, almost unconscious.

It is clear throughout the play that there is tension between Caesar and Solly. At

the end of the play, Solly attacks Caesar and Caesar retaliates by shooting and killing









him. The use of the Alexander techniques allowed me to not end-gain but to attend to the

means-whereby. By end-gaining, "grasping for results without thoughtful attention to

process" (Gelb 164), I would rob the audience of feeling the tension build up to the point

that Solly attacks Caesar. Instead I made sure to attend to the means-whereby, "attention

to the focus on the appropriate process to achieve a goal" (Gelb 164). Each time Caesar

and Solly were on stage together, I used this as a perfect opportunity to help support the

means-whereby and build the tension. In Act I Scene 3, Caesar makes his entrance

yelling and screaming about the riot that happened at the mill. Moments before his

entrance, Solly has come in and told the story about the mill riot. Caesar's description

differs from the report of Solly. Instead of having Solly demonstrate his unhappiness

with Caesar, I had him focus on the bowl of beans, totally ignoring Caesar. This showed

a level of disrespect towards Caesar when he demanded respect more than anything else.

For my psychological gesture I used the techniques of Laban. Laban created a

method of efforts that helped me to connect with the psychology of Solly through his

actions. Solly's character is direct, strong and sustained. According to the Laban

Techniques a direct, strong, and sustained approach would be a type of "press." Every

time Solly spoke and moved it was imperative for him to remember to press his way

through. For example, Solly's line, "They tried to chain me down but I beat them on that

one" (Wilson, Gem 57) is an example of Solly's perseverance and willingness to press his

way through all situations.

During the summer of 2010, I had the opportunity to use my grandfather as a

primary source for the study of Solly. My grandfather is 88 years old and full of energy.

On one occasion, I went over to his house to cut his grass. As I was cutting his grass, he









stood in his driveway and told me exactly how he wanted it cut. He did not care how I

had planned to cut it; he wanted it to be done his way. I found this to be a direct parallel

to the elders of the house in Gem of the Ocean. The characters all feel that Black Mary is

stubborn for the simple fact that she wants to do things her way. After I cut his grass, my

grandfather asked me to go and buy him some chocolate milk. When I returned with the

milk he decided to sit me down and talk about the old days. He had great pride in

reliving the stories of the past. He would smile and visualize the story before he would

start to tell it. I used this approach every time Solly gave Citizen a life lesson. I also

noticed that when he drank his milk he would prepare his mouth for the sensation that the

milk would give him as he opened his mouth to receive its sweet taste.

Applying the techniques of Alexander and Laban as well as integrating the

mannerisms of my grandfather were the main movement skills I utilized. It was

important that I did not manufacture ailments that were not sustainable or believable.

These movements in conjunction with properly applied makeup, helped me to create

Solly's look.









Chapter 5

Solly's Performance

To perform the role of Solly, I chose to work in a manner that included many

different methods. I did not score my script. I feel as though Shakespeare's text is the

only text that makes scoring mandatory. I believe that scoring takes away from an actor's

ability to fully experience the world of the character. Konstantin Stanislavsky teaches us

that a character has objectives, obstacles and tactics. The objectives are what the

characters want most in the play, with the tactics being the actions that are performed to

achieve the objectives. I believe this wholeheartedly. However, I also believe that the

obstacles are not important and are merely factors that imprison an actor and refrain him

from having constructive use of self while on stage. David Mamet replaces the obstacle

with the "as if." I used Stanislavsky's method for the analysis of the script, Mamet's

approach for the analysis of the scene, and improvisational rules for the delivery of the

text and the actions. To analyze the script, I read it every day in hopes that discoveries

would happen.


Stanislavsky, as well as his disciples, believed that the actor's job was to slowly

transform in to the character that he is playing. Lee Strasberg expounded on

Stanislavsky's method with the belief that an actor must experience an emotional recall.

However, the idea has been misunderstood. "The basic idea of affective memory is not

emotional recall but that the actor's emotion on the stage should never be really real. It

always should be only remembered emotion. An emotion that happens right now

spontaneously is out of control... Remembered emotion is something that the actor can

create and repeat; without that the thing is hectic." (Brestoff 110) With emotional recall









the ability to improvise is hampered. Repeating emotions is synonymous with trying to

recreate a moment on stage. During the production, Dr. Pinkney repeatedly told us to not

try to recreate the previous rehearsal but to "allow the ancestors to be present and with

us." This is impossible with the use of emotional recall.


With Mamet's approach I was able to effectively attend to the duties of the

character. Method acting teaches the actor to do an extensive analysis of the character. It

is my belief that once an actor has fully analyzed the character he has done himself a

disservice. Throughout my career I have been taught to discover and create a background

for my character. This has taught me about the character; however, it also subsequently

caused me to stay in my head during the performance. With Mamet, I have learned to

release the imaginary back story of the character and utilize myself and my wants and

desires.


The first thing that was needed was for me to dissect the script in a manner that

would make the entire production about Solly Two Kings. I decided to change the title to

"The Love Story of Aunt Ester and Solly." I devised a way to make this apparent every

time I appeared on stage. Wilson also supported my theory with the line: "I would marry

her if I wasn't in love with somebody else." Whenever Solly is in the house and Aunt

Esther enters, she makes sure to speak to him. Pleasing Aunt Ester became my primary

objective. Solly wants her and she becomes the primary reason for his visits. After

establishing my relationship with Aunt Ester, I had to explore Solly's bonds with the

other cast members.


Eli is Solly's best friend. Wilson systematically detailed the nature of their









relationship. Although Solly is one of the loudest characters, Eli never delivers his most

famous line to him, "This a peaceful house." Solly and Eli are both conductors of the

Underground Railroad. They are responsible for leading many slaves to freedom. They

are two characters being played by actors half their age. It was most imperative for me to

establish traits for Solly that were distinctly different from Eli as well as incorporate

similarities that would show how the two characters matured together through life. After

finding Solly's voice, I had to find chronic ailments in his body that would show signs of

life in a different manner than Eli. The actor playing Eli decided to give his character a

walking cane. Once I saw him with the cane, I used Solly's line "I've been bit nine times

by dogs," to show the pain from the bites. I also used Eli's line about the journey being

800 miles to show the wear and tear in Solly's knees. The actor that played Eli made me

believe. His delivery was not as if he was delivering lines but as if his best friend

actually died.


Black Mary is stubborn and Solly admires this about her. On Solly's first

entrance, he comes in and has a friendly dispute with her about dog feces. Solly knew

that Black Mary does not want the "pure" to be in the house, but more importantly, he

sees this as a way to tease and play with her. Solly needs her to read and write for him

because of his lack of formal education. She also does his laundry for him. Wilson

wrote Solly in as a type of comedic relief and he uses Black Mary for the center of his

jokes. Solly sees promise in Black Mary and knows that she is in the house to carry on

the legacy of the new black woman, a woman with attitude.

As soon as Solly lays eyes on Citizen Barlow he sees promise in him. Solly loves

to teach and share his experiences. Citizen is a young version of Solly. My choice was









to make him Solly's son. Citizen is a fighter and Solly admires this about him. They

share similar backgrounds; they are both from Alabama and they are both running from

the law.

Caesar is Solly's antagonist. Solly dislikes him strongly, but he is smart about the

way he shows it. Caesar wants for everyone to fear him as well as respect him. Solly

respects him but fears no one. It was important for me to show that Solly did not fear

Caesar. The best opportunity came when Caesar tries to intimidate. When Citizen

pushes the coin back to Caesar, Solly laughs. This is normally a time to build tension on

stage between the actors; however, I felt that this was an ideal time to show Caesar that

no one feared him. Solly eventually injures Caesar, with the knowledge that Caesar will

retaliate and the wisdom of knowing that Citizen is ready to stand in his place.

Solly never has much interaction with Selig; nevertheless, it is obvious that Solly

trusts him. Selig visits the house frequently and brings things for the house members.

Selig is also willing to take Solly out of reach of Caesar. It is my belief that Selig was the

only white man that Solly had any dealings with.

Knowing Solly's relationships with each of the cast members was the most

important information that was needed in order to find out his wants needs and desires.

August Wilson wrote in all of the given circumstances that were needed for Solly and

made them very obvious by having Solly to tell his life story throughout the entire

production. When all of the text is joined with the voice, movements and research of the

character, an actor is then ready to bring Solly to life.









Chapter 6
Conclusion

In conclusion, the character of Solly required a lot of research both book

knowledge and personal experience. Wilson created a deep character with roots to

Biblical characters. In order to prepare for this role, Lessac, Alexander, Laban,

Stanislavsky, and Strasberg were all studied in order to make the best character possible.

Specific choices, such as rubbing my joints to show old age, were made to shed light on

the hard life of Solly. Wilson was able to tie historical events to the story to make it more

realistic. This concept allowed the audience to relate and evoke emotions from Solly in

every one of his scenes. The audience showed its acceptance of Solly by giving him an

ovation any time that he exited the stage. The truest form of support came when Solly

died. The energy as I lay on the table was overwhelming. I could feel the hurt that the

cast members and the audience were experiencing from the loss of a loved one. Overall,

I felt that I created a very believable character who was welcomed by everyone he

encountered.










Photos
By TF Guntrup


Top Picture: Standing-Eli (Ryan Johnson-Travis), Kneeling-Citizen Barlow (Troy
McCray) Seated-Solly Two Kings (Reginald L. Wilson)Bottom Picture: Left-Solly Two
Kings (Reginald L. Wilson) Right-Aunt Esther (Anedra Johnson)









Bibliography

BibleGateway.com: A Searchable Online Bible in over 100 Versions and 50 Languages. Web. 26

Nov. 2010. .

Brestoff, Richard. The Great Acting Teachers and Their Methods. Lyme, NH: Smith and Kraus,

1995. Print.

Bruder, Melissa. A Practical Handbook for the Actor. New York: Vintage, 1986. Print.

Caine, Michael. Acting in Film: an Actor's Take on Movie Making. New York: Applause

Theatre, 1997. Print.

Gelb, Michael. Body Learning: an Introduction to the Alexander Technique. New York: Holt,

1995. Print.

Lessac, Arthur. The Use and Training of the Human Voice: a Bio-dynamic Approach to Vocal

Life. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Pub., 1997. Print.

Lessac, Arthur, Irene Dailey, and John Wilson. The Use and Training of the Human Voice: a

Practical Approach to Speech and Voice Dynamics. New York, N. Y.: DBS Publications,

1967. Print.

Nadal, Alan. August Wilson: Completing the Tii emieih Century Cycle. Iowa City: University of

Iowa Press, 2010. Print

Wilson, August. Gem of the Ocean. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2006. Print.

Wilson, August, and Paul Carter Harrison. Three Plays. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh,

1991. Print.









Biographical Sketch


AA
- "- 0

,^U .


Reginald "Reggie Lee" Wilson is a 3rd Year MFA candidate for acting at The University

of Florida. He received his undergraduate degree from Florida A&M University

(FAMU) where he majored in Theatre Performance and minored in Spanish.


His show credits at FAMU include A Soldier's Play, Dearly Departed, Zooman and the

Sign, Lysistrata, Medea, Jitney, My Emperor 's New Clothes, and Home. His show credits

at UF include Agbedidi, George Washington's Boy, Glengarry Glen Ross, Streamers and

2 semesters with The Signs ofLife. While at UF he also directed his original play,

Scrambled Eggs, as a work in progress and starred in the independent project entitled

Chronophobia. His film credits at UF include Space Has No Idea, Crazy, and Queen of

Hearts. He is thrilled to have another opportunity to tell one of August Wilson's stories.




Full Text

PAGE 1

THE TECHNIQUES NEEDED TO CREATE THE CHARACTER SOLLY TWO KINGS IN AUGUST WILSONS GEM OF THE OCEAN By REGINALD LEE WILSON SUPERVISORY COMMITTEE: PROFESSOR YANCI BUKOVEC, CHAIR DR. RALF REMSHARDT, MEMBER A PROJECT IN LIEU OF THESIS PRESENTED TO THE COLLEGE OF FINE ARTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF FINE ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2011

PAGE 2

2 Table of Contents Acknowledgements ... 3 Abstract 4 Chapter 1 History of Gem of the Ocean 5 Chapter 2 Introduction to Solly 7 Chapter 3 Sollys Voice ... 12 Chapter 4 Sollys Physical Composition 17 Chapter 5 Sollys Performance 20 Chapter 6 Conclusion .. 24 Photos .. 25 Bibliography Biography 27

PAGE 3

3 Acknowledgements I would like to thank God for all that he has done for me at this point in life. I would like to thank my mother for being my greatest fan and motivator in the world. I would like to thank my wife Joni Wilson for standing beside me through thick an d the thin and raising our five beautiful children while I was in graduate school working to provide a better life for our family. I would like to thank Mr. Luther Wells for not giving up after 16 years. Wow! I would also like to thank Dr. Pinkney for e verything he has done and for pushing me to do my best and Yanci for helping to shape my voice. To my family, friends, supporters, and everyone not named, this show was for you.

PAGE 4

4 Summary of Performance Option in Lieu of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Fine Arts in Theatre THE TECHNIQUES NEEDED TO CREATE THE CHARACTER SOLLY TWO KINGS IN AUGUST WILSONS GEM OF THE OCEAN By Reginald Lee Wilson May 2011 Chair: Yanci Bukovec Major: Acting In September of 2010 I was presented the task of performing the role of Solly Two Kings in August Wilsons Gem of the Ocean. After reading the script, I quickly discovered that this characters age was double my age. I also discovered that we shared similar backgrounds. My task for this production was to effectively utilize the techniques that I have gained in my graduate career while allowing the ance stral energy to guide me through most of my character discoveries. Portraying this character demanded many acting techniques. To ground my approach I began with Stanislavsky. I considered his use of given circumstances to find out everything that I coul d find out about Solly and his relationships with the other characters of the play. After finding the given circumstances, I was able to find the voice of Solly using Arthur Lessac's method of exploring consonant, structure, and tonal energy; his movement using Alexander and Laban techniques; and his objectives using David Mamets approach. My mission in this production was to change the atmosphere every time Solly made an entrance. One of his final lines is the people gone know about Solly Two Kings. With these techniques applied, his mission was accomplished.

PAGE 5

5 Chapter 1 History of Gem of the Ocean Gem of the Ocean is chronologically the first in a ten play cycle created by August Wilson to narrate the African American experience, although it was the penultimate of the authors dramas. Set in 1904, it examines the transition from slavery to life as a free man. Wilsons first play of the cycle was originally Joe Turners Come and Gone. In this play Harold Loomis searches for his identity and has visio ns of dry bones walking on top of the water. August Wilson believed that many of his African ancestors were at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean: Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean lie the bones of millions of Africans who died before reaching the New World. The flesh of their flesh populates the Americas from Mississippi to Montevideo(Wilson, Gem xiv). He supported his theory with the Bible to show the connection of the African Americans with his Old-Testament prophecy: The hand of the Lord was on me, a nd he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry This is what the Sovereign Lo rd says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. (Ezekiel 37. 1 -3,5,6) Loomis repres ented the dry bones and did not find his identity until he cut himself, which showed his ability to bleed. In Gem of the Ocean, Solly speaks of the importance of bleeding: Since then I aint never been afraid of losing some blood. I said they gonna

PAGE 6

6 have to kill me. I can give up some blood all day long if itll keep coming back. Your blood is like a river it dont stop till you dead (Wilson, Gem 59). For Gem, Citizen Barlow does not cut himself to find his identity; instead he is taken on a journey to the City of Bones. The City of Bones is the name of the location where the bones of the slaves reside. It is not until Barlow travels to the city that he is able to free himself of the self-instilled torment he is experiencing. He has to come clean with himself and confess his faults. James 5:16 states that we must confess our sins before men. It is after Barlows confession that he is able to enter into the City of Bones. Christianity tells us that in order to enter into the Kingdom of God, a pe rson has to confess their sins. The City of Bones is the Africans heaven and the place that they looked forward to after they died. Solly has a plan of being a gatekeeper to the City after he dies. Aunt Ester anticipates the reunion with her mother aft er she arrives. Once someone travels to the City of Bones, they are given their freedom and identity. August Wilson felt that he needed to write about the African experience in order to keep the stories alive. The blues and Romare Bearden motivated him I saw the blues as a cultural response of a nonliterate people whose history and culture were rooted in the oral tradition. The response was to a world that was not of their making, in which the idea of themselves as a people of imminent worth that be lied their recent history was continually assaulted. It was a world that did not recognize their gods, their manners, their mores. It despised their ethos and refused to even recognize humanity (Wilson, Gem ix).

PAGE 7

7 Chapter 2 Introduction of Solly Gem of the Ocean, by August Wilson, is a play that contains historical information located in the text to help actors create their characters. Wilson wrote this play to begin his ten -play cycle after the first eight were already written and produced. He used names, numbers, and different items to symbolize events from the past. More importantly, Wilson wrote about the African American experience while incorporating biblical stories and characters that he learned at an early age. For example, Aunt Esters house address is 1839 Wylie Avenue. Historically, in 1839, the slaves aboard the Amistad rebelled and commandeered the ship. Also in 1839, 100 buildings were burned in Alabama, and the event was referred to as the Great Fire of Alabama. In the context of the play, the slaves rebellion and their willingness to fight, is what Aunt Ester, Eli, and Solly Two Kings expects from the new generation. Solly Two Kings setting fire to the mill directly symbolizes the Great Fire of Alabama because Alabama is Sollys home. Solly Two Kings was symbolic of King David and King Solomon. These were two very distinct characters in the bible that both had very rich histories. King Solomons spirit was shown through Sollys wisdom and King David was recognized for his spiritual connections as a youth and willingness to fight. I Sam. 16 tells the story of King Saul and how a harmful spirit tormented him: Now the spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the Lord tormented him. And Sauls servants said to him, Behold now, a harmful spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our lord now command your servants who are

PAGE 8

8 before you to seek out a man who is skillful in playing the lyre, and when the harmful spirit from God is upon you, he will play it and you wi ll be well Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, Send me David your son, who is with the sheep And David came to Saul and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor -bearer. And Saul sent to Jesse, saying Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor in my sight. And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him. (I Sam 16. 14-18, 19, 21-23) It is evident from this passage that Davids presence and his ability to play an instrument was all that was needed in order to calm Sauls fear. Sollys character shares this quality as well. The audience is first introduced to him while he is singing I Belong to the Band. Wilson was able to create him in such a way that every time he makes an entrance, he changes the mood of the house. He is shown to be very high -spirited and unafraid of anything or anyone. Citizen takes o n characteristics of Saul for him in this situation. Citizen is haunted by the death of Garry Brown because of his contribution to the cause of Browns death. Solly speaks to Citizen throughout the play on the importance of being brave and the ability t o fight for what he believes in. These very intimate conversations revolve around the strength needed to gain importance as a black man as well as remembering the importance of religion. During one of these conversations, he tells Citizen how he changed his name from Alfred Jackson to Solly Two Kings. As he is speaking with him, Citizen asks him about the stick he is carrying. He replies; Lots of people carry sticks.

PAGE 9

9 Aint you never heard that sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me. This a bone breaker. I tried carrying stones but they was too heavy (Wilson, Gem 27). This response shows the brilliance of Wilsons writing in using the Bible as a reference. The story of David in the Bible includes a passage where he had to fight a giant: When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung the Philistine on his forehead. The stone san k into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. (I Sam. 17. 48 -50) Solly says that he used to carry stones. I understood this to s how that as Solly aged, he matured more and more. He realizes that he does not have to fight head to head anymore. There was always a systematic way to get what he wanted without having to kill anyone in the process. The Biblical David eventually became King: David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years (II Sam. 5. 4). Solly first became free in 1857 at the age of twenty. He remains free until his death at the age of sixty -seven. His freedom came eight years before A braham Lincoln emancipated the slaves in 1865. If we use the year of 1865, this would make his reign as a free man 39 years, which was nearly the same amount of time of King Davids reign. For his protection Solly always carries a walking stick. In add ition to the stick, he also carries a piece of iron that was once around his ankle during the time of his slavery. He carries the iron with him everywhere he went as a reminder of his days as a slave and

PAGE 10

10 his time as a free man. In II Sam. 23, David is qu oted as saying, But worthless men are all like thorns that are thrown away, for they cannot be taken with the hand; But the man who touches them arms himself with iron and the shaft of a spear, and they are utterly consumed with fire (6,7). This again sh ows how Wilson was using biblical research in his development of these characters in order to remain as true to life as possible, in a fairy tale land. King Solomons contribution to Wilsons character came in the form of wisdom. King Solomon was King Davids son who inherited the throne of Israel after David. King Solomon pleased God and for this he was granted anything that he wanted: And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, tha t I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people? It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches of your enemie s, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what his right, Behold I do now do according to your word. Behold I give you a discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. (I Kings 1. 7-12) Solly does not care about the riches of the world. He sells dog feces because of its purity, but eventually quits because of the need for leaders throughout the black community. He

PAGE 11

11 feels that the people were suffering because of the law. He believes tha t the law was written to keep the black man suppressed and he is to have no part of it. He understands that freedom will come at a high price and that someone has to pay it. He is not afraid of death. He believes that after death life began again and he is on a winning side as long as he fights for his rights. Wilson also married black culture with the Bible by using King Solomon. King Solomon writes in Solomon 1. 5, and 6A: I am dark, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, lik e the curtains of Solomon. Do not gaze at me because I am dark Like King Solomon, Solly does not believe that he should be treated any differently because of his skin tone. He feels that his history is rich and must not be forgotten. He feels that th e fight for freedom is a continual fight resulting in a lot of blood shed. And the battlefields bloody! The field of battle is always bloody. It cant be no other way (Wilson, Gem59). He dies on the battlefield, a death that is honorable and remembe red as a death in the fight for freedom and equality.

PAGE 12

12 Chapter 3 Sollys Voice To create a voice for Solly, I relied heavily on Arthur Lessacs Use and Training of the Human Voice as well as using my own vocal qualities that I gathered from recei ving from a very southern upbringing. My southern accent is strong and for this production I made sure to utilize it. Solly is from Alabama, therefore it was beneficial for him to have a southern inflection when he spoke. Lessac believed that there we re three types of energies needed to speak effectively, structural, tonal, and consonant -led. Structural and tonal energy deals with the vowels while consonant energy deals with the consonants. The term structural action is to be taken literally and dua lly: It means both the muscular actions that control the adjustable sound box the oral cavity, cheeks, and lips and the kinesthetic action of perceiving these muscular actions and controlling them through sensory recall(Lessac 56). This required my face and the mouth to be working simultaneously in order to produce great sounds. This also provided the means for proper articulation and ensured that all of Sollys words would be heard, as long as I structured all of his words to reach the audience. The second type of energy Lessac stresses is tonal energy. The vibrations of the vocal sound waves transmitted through bone conduction and it means our action of feeling those tonal vibrations and controlling them through sensory recall. These actions are of primary concern in the development of both the speaking and the singing voice (Lessac 79). Wilson uses specific words to explain to the audience how Solly feels. And the battlefields bloody! The field of battle is always bloody. It cant be no oth er way.

PAGE 13

13 (Wilson 59) The tonal options would be in the words field is, always, no, and way. Feeling the bone vibrations while saying these words helped me to taste the words and convey the meaning with the call. Using these words helped me t o attend to the action at hand instead of falling into a fraudulent state of showing emotions in order to cause the audience to feel an emotion. The third type of energy Lessac stresses is the consonant energy. Consonants are the interpreters that con vey the meaning of speech they make the spoken word intelligible. Consonants are the instruments that provide musical accompaniment to speech they produce rhythmic patterns, melodies, and sustained tonal colors. Consonants provide contrast and variations to the single sustained note of the vowels, they bring percussion and sound effects. (Lessac, Practical Approach 129) If Solly was to be heard then it was important for him to be understood. Wilson used consonant combinations that were both percussive and sustainable to help Solly manipulate the language. Though the line Dark was the night and cold was the night (Wilson 56), has structural energy, it is not until the consonants are given their full value that the sentence becomes alive. The words dark, cold, and, and ground, all have double energy options that can be played. The l and the d in cold went from a sustainable consonant to a percussive, the n in and and the d in and went from a sustainable to a percussive, in addit ion to the n in and the d in ground. This line is so strong in Sollys text that the director decided to add musical accompaniment to follow the story that Solly tells in memory of his slavery days. Using Lessacs approach made this line very effective in setting the mood for the environment that Solly

PAGE 14

14 experiences as he tells the story. Lessac believed strongly that these three types of energy are needed in order to effectively speak and be understood. He felt that as long as you properly traine d your vocal muscles, the energies would increase. If you use the three energies with full vibratory, kinesthetic, and orchestral feeling, you will find that you have at your command the ability to add to your own speech any one or all of the admirable qu alities inherent in these other languages and cultures; yet you will not, to the slightest degree, sound like an imitator of British, French, Italian, or Russian Speech. You will sound like an American whose speech is thoroughly indigenous while at the sa me time a product, a reflection, and an intrinsic part of your individual culture and personal pride. (Lessac, Practical Approach 23) Whenever Solly speaks, he demands to be heard. He likes to tell stories and those around him enjoy listening to him. My goal was to make his speech melodic and exciting. He is introduced while singing I Belong to the Band While telling a story of the current events that are happening at the mill, he mentioned that the people had refused to return to work. This exci tes him and the consonants in his text helped me to convey his excitement: Look like every Negro in Pittsburg down there. Look ends in k which is a percussive that required me to stop temporarily. The k in like was connected to every which a llowed me to play on the tonal energy in Negro before sustaining the n in in, as well as the n, in down. I was given the option to play on the s in was, however I did not feel as if it was a strong enough option. To type the sentence for me aning would look like this: Look. like every Negr O inn Pittsburg

PAGE 15

15 dOWnn there. The creation of Sollys character would have been nearly impossible for me if I had not learned the techniques of Arthur Lessac. I knew that I had the responsibility of setti ng and changing the moods in each scene in which Solly appeared. While learning the lines I would often sing my words to help me enjoy the speech. I also presented the text as if I was a southern preacher or Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. King did a remark able job of leading his people through the sound of his voice. He colored his words. If he enjoyed the taste of a word he made sure to sustain it as long as possible in order to show his congregation that the word had meaning. Dr. King had a dream and h e made sure to make it known through his use of language. Solly Two Kings also has a dream; he wants all black people to stand up for what they believe in. He speaks loudly and does not care who hears him. As he and the other characters take Citizen Ba rlow on the journey to the City of Bones, Wilson wrote a song for Solly to sing. Although Solly sings a song at the beginning of the play, I felt it was not as important for Solly to sound like a professional singer as it was for him to be understood. Th e task was for him to sing the song as an underscore to what is being discussed between Aunt Esther and Citizen Barlow. The words to the song are, I got a home in the graveyard, remember Me, Going down to the graveyard, Remember Me. Going down to the Gr aveyard, remember me. I got a home in the graveyard, remember me. (Wilson, Gem 65) As Lessac remarks, Singing is sustained speaking. Anytime you voice a well -executed call and sustain it on various pitches, you are singing you are making beautiful, ar tistic tones (Lessac Practical Approach 128). I played my vowels both structurally and tonally. I got a home in the graveyard paints a story that is capitalized by the energy given to each word. I is a

PAGE 16

16 structural vowel #6, got uses the structure #4, home uses the structure #21, as well as being tonal, and graveyard uses the +y as in grave, which is also tonal as well as the #51 in yard. Paying close attention to the energies of these words helped me to sing them and color them all toget her.

PAGE 17

17 Chapter 4 Sollys Physical Composition Sollys physical appearance was of utmost importance for me. I felt that the most effective way to bring him to life was to create specific physical ailments to help show the effects of old age. It was also important for me to apply makeup that would be believable. To aid with the makeup, I grew out my hair, beard and mustache. Growing my hair helped me to age it more easily with grey hair coloring. I heighten ed the intensity of my natural wrinkles to make me look older. To help with physicality I utilized Alexander and Laban techniques as well as drawing on the mannerisms of my grandfather. In order to establish physicality for Solly I used constructive conscious control. I remained aware of the Alexander Techniques injunction to take responsibility for the intelligent use of the self through the application of inhibition and direction. (Gelb 164) I decided to make Solly a very act ive person whenever he was on his feet. In the text, he is a very active person who roams the city finding and selling pure. Every time I sat down I made sure to massage my joints to show how his joints would ache from immobility. This also helped to show the effects of numerous trips from Alabama to Canada. Solly speaks about being bitten by dogs as well, so I also massaged the areas where the dogs might have torn through the muscle. I would also massage my hands to help smoothen out the aches that are associated with arthritis. Whenever I massaged my hands and joints, I made sure to make my movements very subtle, almost unconscious. It is clear throughout the play that there is tension between Caesar and Solly. At the end of the play, Solly atta cks Caesar and Caesar retaliates by shooting and killing

PAGE 18

18 him. The use of the Alexander techniques allowed me to not end-gain but to attend to the means-whereby. By end-gaining, grasping for results without thoughtful attention to process (Gelb 164), I would rob the audience of feeling the tension build up to the point that Solly attacks Caesar. Instead I made sure to attend to the means-whereby, attention to the focus on the appropriate process to achieve a goal (Gelb 164). Each time Caesar and Solly were on stage together, I used this as a perfect opportunity to help support the means-whereby and build the tension. In Act I Scene 3, Caesar makes his entrance yelling and screaming about the riot that happened at the mill. Moments before his entranc e, Solly has come in and told the story about the mill riot. Caesars description differs from the report of Solly. Instead of having Solly demonstrate his unhappiness with Caesar, I had him focus on the bowl of beans, totally ignoring Caesar. This show ed a level of disrespect towards Caesar when he demanded respect more than anything else. For my psychological gesture I used the techniques of Laban. Laban created a method of efforts that helped me to connect with the psychology of Solly through his act ions. Sollys character is direct, strong and sustained. According to the Laban Techniques a direct, strong, and sustained approach would be a type of press. Every time Solly spoke and moved it was imperative for him to remember to press his way through. For example, Sollys line, They tried to chain me down but I beat them on that one (Wilson, Gem 57) is an example of Sollys perseverance and willingness to press his way through all situations. During the summer of 2010, I had the opportunity to u se my grandfather as a primary source for the study of Solly. My grandfather is 88 years old and full of energy. On one occasion, I went over to his house to cut his grass. As I was cutting his grass, he

PAGE 19

19 stood in his driveway and told me exactly how he wanted it cut. He did not care how I had planned to cut it; he wanted it to be done his way. I found this to be a direct parallel to the elders of the house in Gem of the Ocean. The characters all feel that Black Mary is stubborn for the simple fact tha t she wants to do things her way. After I cut his grass, my grandfather asked me to go and buy him some chocolate milk. When I returned with the milk he decided to sit me down and talk about the old days. He had great pride in reliving the stories of th e past. He would smile and visualize the story before he would start to tell it. I used this approach every time Solly gave Citizen a life lesson. I also noticed that when he drank his milk he would prepare his mouth for the sensation that the milk woul d give him as he opened his mouth to receive its sweet taste. Applying the techniques of Alexander and Laban as well as integrating the mannerisms of my grandfather were the main movement skills I utilized. It was important that I did not manufacture ail ments that were not sustainable or believable. These movements in conjunction with properly applied makeup, helped me to create Sollys look.

PAGE 20

20 Chapter 5 Sollys Performance To perform the role of Solly, I chose to work in a manner that included man y different methods. I did not score my script. I feel as though Shakespeares text is the only text that makes scoring mandatory. I believe that scoring takes away from an actors ability to fully experience the world of the character. Konstantin Stan islavsky teaches us that a character has objectives, obstacles and tactics. The objectives are what the characters want most in the play, with the tactics being the actions that are performed to achieve the objectives. I believe this wholeheartedly. How ever, I also believe that the obstacles are not important and are merely factors that imprison an actor and refrain him from having constructive use of self while on stage. David Mamet replaces the obstacle with the as if. I used Stanislavskys method for the analysis of the script, Mamets approach for the analysis of the scene, and improvisational rules for the delivery of the text and the actions. To analyze the script, I read it every day in hopes that discoveries would happen. Stanislavsky, as wel l as his disciples, believed that the actors job was to slowly transform in to the character that he is playing. Lee Strasberg expounded on Stanislavskys method with the belief that an actor must experience an emotional recall. However, the idea has be en misunderstood. The basic idea of affective memory is not emotional recall but that the actors emotion on the stage should never be really real. It always should be only remembered emotion. An emotion that happens right now spontaneously is out of control Remembered emotion is something that the actor can create and repeat; without that the thing is hectic. (Brestoff 110) With emotional recall

PAGE 21

21 the ability to improvise is hampered. Repeating emotions is synonymous with trying to recreate a moment on stage. During the production, Dr. Pinkney repeatedly told us to not try to recreate the previous rehearsal but to allow the ancestors to be present and with us. This is impossible with the use of emotional recall. With Mamets approach I was abl e to effectively attend to the duties of the character. Method acting teaches the actor to do an extensive analysis of the character. It is my belief that once an actor has fully analyzed the character he has done himself a disservice. Throughout my car eer I have been taught to discover and create a background for my character. This has taught me about the character; however, it also subsequently caused me to stay in my head during the performance. With Mamet, I have learned to release the imaginary ba ck story of the character and utilize myself and my wants and desires. The first thing that was needed was for me to dissect the script in a manner that would make the entire production about Solly Two Kings. I decided to change the title to The Love Story of Aunt Ester and Solly. I devised a way to make this apparent every time I appeared on stage. Wilson also supported my theory with the line: I would marry her if I wasnt in love with somebody else. Whenever Solly is in the house and Aunt Esther enters, she makes sure to speak to him. Pleasing Aunt Ester became my primary objective. Solly wants her and she becomes the primary reason for his visits. After establishing my relationship with Aunt Ester, I had to explore Sollys bonds with the other cast members. Eli is Sollys best friend. Wilson systematically detailed the nature of their

PAGE 22

22 relationship. Although Solly is one of the loudest characters, Eli never delivers his most famous line to him, This a peaceful house. Solly and Eli are both c onductors of the Underground Railroad. They are responsible for leading many slaves to freedom. They are two characters being played by actors half their age. It was most imperative for me to establish traits for Solly that were distinctly different fro m Eli as well as incorporate similarities that would show how the two characters matured together through life. After finding Sollys voice, I had to find chronic ailments in his body that would show signs of life in a different manner than Eli. The acto r playing Eli decided to give his character a walking cane. Once I saw him with the cane, I used Sollys line Ive been bit nine times by dogs, to show the pain from the bites. I also used Elis line about the journey being 800 miles to show the wear a nd tear in Sollys knees. The actor that played Eli made me believe. His delivery was not as if he was delivering lines but as if his best friend actually died. Black Mary is stubborn and Solly admires this about her. On Sollys first entrance, he comes in and has a friendly dispute with her about dog feces. Solly knew that Black Mary does not want the pure to be in the house, but more importantly, he sees this as a way to tease and play with her. Solly needs her to read and write for him because of his lack of formal education. She also does his laundry for him. Wilson wrote Solly in as a type of comedic relief and he uses Black Mary for the center of his jokes. Solly sees promise in Black Mary and knows that she is in the house to carry on the l egacy of the new black woman, a woman with attitude. As soon as Solly lays eyes on Citizen Barlow he sees promise in him. Solly loves to teach and share his experiences. Citizen is a young version of Solly. My choice was

PAGE 23

23 to make him Sollys son. Citize n is a fighter and Solly admires this about him. They share similar backgrounds; they are both from Alabama and they are both running from the law. Caesar is Sollys antagonist. Solly dislikes him strongly, but he is smart about the way he shows it. Caesar wants for everyone to fear him as well as respect him. Solly respects him but fears no one. It was important for me to show that Solly did not fear Caesar. The best opportunity came when Caesar tries to intimidate. When Citizen pushes the coin back to Caesar, Solly laughs. This is normally a time to build tension on stage between the actors; however, I felt that this was an ideal time to show Caesar that no one feared him. Solly eventually injures Caesar, with the knowledge that Caesar will retaliate and the wisdom of knowing that Citizen is ready to stand in his place. Solly never has much interaction with Selig; nevertheless, it is obvious that Solly trusts him. Selig visits the house frequently and brings things for the house members. Selig is also willing to take Solly out of reach of Caesar. It is my belief that Selig was the only white man that Solly had any dealings with. Knowing Sollys relationships with each of the cast members was the most important information that was needed in order to find out his wants needs and desires. August Wilson wrote in all of the given circumstances that were needed for Solly and made them very obvious by having Solly to tell his life story throughout the entire production. When all of the text is j oined with the voice, movements and research of the character, an actor is then ready to bring Solly to life.

PAGE 24

24 Chapter 6 Conclusion In conclusion, the character of Solly required a lot of research both book knowledge and personal experience. Wilson cr eated a deep character with roots to Biblical characters. In order to prepare for this role, Lessac, Alexander, Laban, Stanislavsky, and Strasberg were all studied in order to make the best character possible. Specific choices, such as rubbing my joints to show old age, were made to shed light on the hard life of Solly. Wilson was able to tie historical events to the story to make it more realistic. This concept allowed the audience to relate and evoke emotions from Solly in every one of his scenes. The audience showed its acceptance of Solly by giving him an ovation any time that he exited the stage. The truest form of support came when Solly died. The energy as I lay on the table was overwhelming. I could feel the hurt that the cast members and the audience were experiencing from the loss of a loved one. Overall, I felt that I created a very believable character who was welcomed by everyone he encountered.

PAGE 25

25 Photos By TF Guntrup Top Picture: Standing -Eli (Ryan Johnson-Travis), Kneeling -Citizen Barlow (Troy McCray) Seated -Solly Two Kings (Reginald L. Wilson)Bottom Picture: Left -Solly Two Kings (Reginald L. Wilson) Right -Aunt Esther (Anedra Johnson)

PAGE 26

26 Bibliography BibleGateway.com: A Searchable Online Bible in over 100 Versions an d 50 Languages. Web. 26 Nov. 2010. . Brestoff, Richard. The Great Acting Teachers and Their Methods Lyme, NH: Smith and Kraus, 1995. Print. Bruder, Melissa. A Practical Handbook for the Actor New York: Vintage, 1986. Print. Caine, Michael. Acting in Film: an Actor's Take on Movie Making New York: Applause Theatre, 1997. Print. Gelb, Michael. Body Learning: an Introduction to the Alexander Technique New York: Holt, 1995. Print. Lessac, Arthur. The Use and Training of the Human Voice: a Bio -dynamic Approach to Vocal Life. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Pub., 1997. Print. Lessac, Arthur, Irene Dailey, and John Wilson. The Use and Training of the Human Voice: a Practical Approach to Speech and Voice Dynamics New York, N. Y.: DBS Publications, 1967. Print. Nadal, Alan. August Wilson: Completing the Twentieth Century Cycle. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2010. Print Wilson, August. Gem of the Ocean. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2006. Print. Wilson, August, and Paul Carter Harrison. Three Plays. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh, 1991. Print.

PAGE 27

27 Biographical Sketch Reginald Reggie Lee Wilson is a 3rd Year MFA candidate for acting at The University of Florida. He received his undergraduate degree from Florida A&M University (FAMU) where he majored in Theatre Performance and minored in Spanish. His show credits at FAMU include A Soldiers Play, Dearly Departed, Zooman and the Sign, Lysistrata, Medea, Jitney My Emperors New Clothes, and Home. His show credits at UF include Agbedidi George Washingtons Boy, Glengarry Glen Ross, Streamers and 2 semesters with The Signs of Life While at UF he also directed his original play, Scrambled Eggs, as a work in progress and starred in the independent project e ntitled Chronophobia. His film credits at UF include Space Has No Idea, Crazy, and Queen of Hearts. He is thrilled to have another opportunity to tell one of August Wilsons stories.