The value of creating connections: performing the roles of Sister and Madam in the play Roberto Zucco by Bernard-Marie Koltès translated from French by Martin Crimp

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The value of creating connections: performing the roles of Sister and Madam in the play Roberto Zucco by Bernard-Marie Koltès translated from French by Martin Crimp
Harris, Amelia ( Dissertant )
Bukovec, Yanci ( Thesis advisor )
Mitchell, Charlie ( Reviewer )
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla
College of Fine Arts, University of Florida
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
Project in lieu of thesis


Subjects / Keywords:
Acting ( jstor )
Alexander technique ( jstor )
Arts ( jstor )
Birds ( jstor )
Monologues ( jstor )
Playwriting ( jstor )
Rehearsal ( jstor )
Sun ( jstor )
Theater ( jstor )
Theater rehearsal ( jstor )


Roberto Zucco by Bernard-Marie Koltès was written in 1988 and translated into English by Martin Crimp. In my final performance at the University of Florida, I created the roles of Sister and Madam in Roberto Zucco, directed by Dr. Ralf Remshardt. This paper is a documentation of my creative process from casting through the final performance. In the first portion of my paper, I discuss my research about the play and the playwright. My research chapter is followed by a chapter outlining my rehearsal process and the many acting methods I worked with throughout that time. In the last part of my paper, I elaborate on how the obstacles and breakthroughs I encountered during this process manifested themselves during the performance run.
General Note:
Theatre terminal project
General Note:
April 2012

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University of Florida Institutional Repository
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University of Florida
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All rights reserved by the submitter.
Resource Identifier:
889339431 ( OCLC )


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2 2012 Amelia Harris


3 Words without thoughts never to heaven go. William Shakespeare




5 Abstract of 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 THE VALUE OF CREATING CONNECTIONS: PERFORMING THE ROLES OF SISTER AND MADAM IN THE PLAY ROBERTO ZUCCO BY BERNARD TRANSLATED FROM FRENCH BY MARTIN CRIMP By Amelia Harris April 2012 Chair: Yanci Bukovec Major: Acting Roberto Zucco by Bernard Marie Kolts was written in 1988 and translated into English by Martin Crimp. In my final performance at the University of Florida, I created the role s of Sister and Madam in Roberto Zucco directed by Dr. Ralf Remshardt This paper is a document ation of my creative process from casting through the final performance In the first portion of my paper I discuss my research ab out the play and the playwright. My research chapter is followed by a chapter outlining my rehearsal process and the many acting methods I worked with t hroughout that time In the last part of my paper I elaborate on how the obstacles and breakthroughs I encountered during this process manifested themselves during the performance run


6 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION After studying acting at the University of Florida for nearly three years, I have gleaned a new respect for the craft of acting. Over this time, I have come to appreciate the voice, the body, and the mind of the actor more than ever before. It was precisely this reverence that drove me to perform better than I ever had before in my final main stage role at UF. I set out to incorporate as much of my education as I could I researched, experimented, and deepened my choices more than I ever had before. I set out to perform both of my roles in Roberto Zucco with a passion both unmatched by my peers and worthy of respect from my superiors. Instead, I became frustrated that none of my hard work was paying off. Disconnected from the play and the joy of acting, my parts as Madam and Sister quickly became the s ource of the majority of my notes. It was not until the final hours of the rehearsal process that I began to feel connected to the words I was saying on stage. Thanks to the vocal and Alexander Technique training I put into practice at thi s late stage, I found my voice as an actor again. This process reminded me th at acting is not simply the sum of the tools an actor has at his disposal acting is an art like any other n by the playwright. I rediscovered my passion for storytelling as I told the story of Roberto Zucco through my roles as Sister and Madam


7 CHAPTER 2 RESEARCH CRITICISM Bernard Marie Kolts may have been 40, but he was approaching the end of his life as he wrote Roberto Zucco Inspired to write the play in 1988, he finished it just months before AIDS took his life April 15, 1989 one week after his 41 st birthday. With the end of his life in sight, Kolts offer ed a spiritually challenging play to anyone willing to take it on However, without the opportunity to hear his play before his death, Kolts may not have had the opportunity to fine tune this demanding work Roberto Zucco is the only chara cter in the play given a name Kolts names for characters proves a tricky obstacle for actors playing those parts. The namelessness of the remaining characters draws them as archetypes that, separately, help represent the many lenses Zucco is viewed through, and together, represent society as a whole. As my research has shown, because of little character d evelopment by Kolts actors who are unable to grasp their purpose in the story have struggle d to connect to Kolts blown caricatures that left critics unaffected and confuse d. Though the supporting roles often bear heavy loads of poetic language, rich with thematic elements, actors in these roles often give underdeveloped deliveries. Productions of Roberto Zucco all over the world (having been produced in at least 18 countries) fall short when it comes to these nameless roles, calling both actors and directors into question In reviews of a 1997 London production critics found fault with the writing of the characters as it pertain ed to the interpretations of those characters :


8 Without psychological profiles, these characters [are] accessible to lots of different interpretations, and extremely difficult to play (Christopher) The violent domestic scenes are undercut with caricature like acting. There is no real (Naughty 48) Similarly, a 1999 production in Adelaide, Australia was criticized for its over the top amateurish acting : Many of the actors present their roles with what can often be described as staccato aggression, selecting a manic emotional pitch even where the text would bear a more modulated delivery (Ward 11) The flaw lies in some of the performances, which range from excellence to the worst sort of declamatory posturing (Tracy) that they lose the nuance of the lines. Roberto Zucco is an expressionistic play which contains the sort of complex and sometimes abstract dialogue which screams for the calm ease of the seasoned professional. Tim Maddock allowed [his] actors to indulge in emphatics (Harris)


9 Reviews of a 2004 production of Roberto Zucco in Glasgow also cri ticize interpretations : Loftier aspirations and brooding menace are undermined by an over reliance on one dimensional cartoon archetypes and slapstick buffoonery that seem to work against the text (Cooper 15) Frustratingly, no performer seems to share a common performance style (Roberto 12) THE PLAYWRIGHT AND THE PLAY Attending Catholic school with his two brothers (in an Arab ghetto of Metz, France), Kolts The playwright studied j ournalism at Strasbourg and had plans to become a professional organist. Film always interested Kolts and his tastes were for things accessible and popular. I have always rather dete sted theatre because theatre is the opposite of life; but I always come back to it and I love it because it is the one place where you say: this is not life (Bradby xv) Despite his conflicting feelings, Kolts made his living writing for the theatre and became regarded as one of the strongest dramatic voices of the 1980s. Claiming little interest in dramatic theory and avoiding politics, Kolts valued the craft of writing over ideology in his plays. Unsentimental about human behavior, deals and transactions interested Kolts more than relationships: believe in the love relation


10 a sublime mean s (Bradby xvi) Although his plays focus on family violence, betrayals, mutilations, oppression, and murder, Kolts wished his plays to be performed for their comic effect In an explanation of how to approach the lines, Kolts Afte r translating in 1987, Kolts credited Shakespeare with teaching him a greater freedom in the dramatic form. His plays from 1988 do show a change in writing style Roberto Zucco is often noted for being his most dialogue driven work : If Roberto Zucco plays, it is also because of a new note of intimacy in the interpersonal relationships it depicts. Without sacrificing his emphasis on the deal and on the commercial trade offs that domin ate so much of our lives, the author seems to have overcome some of the distaste he had previously felt for the depiction of a relationship of love or affection. This is particularly clear in the The play opens with a scene between two guards on lookout who wonder if they are seeing an apparition and contains a scene entitled Ophelia of hysteria Hamlet Oddly, however, Kolts omitted the line from a voice recording of the actual Roberto Succo ( from whom he took lines that he put into Roberto Zucco ): (Froment 58) Kolts also refers frequently to Africa in his plays, Roberto Zucco being no exception. Though he lived in Paris for much of his life, Kolts traveled often and for long periods of time,


11 and was particularly fond of New York and Africa, where he discovered his love for such black musicians as Billie Holiday, Otis Redding, and Bob Marley: He never felt the need to identify with a particular comm unity, valuing the freedom to travel above everything. He wrote that he comfort and security normally associated with home when he listened to Bob Marley. One of his favourite Marley songs, up. In the last year of his life his freedom of movement was severely curtailed by his physical condition. He compensated for this by writing R oberto Zucco (Bradby xxv) Inspiration to write Roberto Zucco came to Kolts in early 1988 through a wanted poster for the Italian serial killer, Roberto Succo. Succo had murdered his own mother and father and recently escaped from prison. The poster showed four photos of Succo and to Kolts each one looked like a completely d Kolts Roberto Zucco was cons tructed to show a different Zucco in every scene, depending on who was viewing him photos appeared like four different people. Raping a young girl, killing his mother and father a policeman and a child, Zucco is seen as a symbol for the destruction of innocence, origins, law, and the future. Kolts does not attempt to help the audience understand Zucco in any Freudian way, however, even poking fun at Freud with a passage about penises in the opening scene. Instead, Kolts While writing, Kolts met with Pascale Froment, author of a book about the killer, to discuss Succo: Kolts had completely absorbed his ch aracter. What was uncanny was that he had arrived at an extraordinary intuitive understanding of Succo, and had drawn psychological conclusions which were


12 pretty close to the truth to him that he was a killer. He was fascinated to the point of identification (57) Kolts believed Succo was not that different from himself or anyone else Coming from this uncommon point of view Kolts was prepared for people to read his play a s a celebration of a serial killer pr that he is an exemplary killer, in the sense that I think he is like everyone (xxxviii) was broadcast on the news. Succo had climbed to the roof of the mental ward that had held him prisoner and Kolts was struck by the theatricality of the scene N ews r eporters questioned and photographed him s tripped of his uniform Succo threw roof tiles at the m, hung from wires, and finally f ell to the ground only to be re institutionalized before killing himself. Under interrogation Fascinated by the way the media portrayed Succo, Kolts saw the way an audience creates a relationship to what it sees. In s cene 10, a woman is held at gunpoint by Zucco in a park as visitors look on. Similar to the news teams reporting bystander has a different explanation of what is going on... they simply tell us about their own visitors argue over what is happ Kolts works with the idea that certain


13 situations cannot be explained through our own limited vocabularies, especially when trying to Cru elty: [Artaud] was convinced that the chaotic contents of the unconscious could not be represented by the conventional literary theatre with its emphasis on the logical structure of human language. If it was to fulfill its task of confronting modern man with his spiritual crisis, the theatre had to present the inner reality of dreams, hallucinatory and visions of fear instead of occupying itself with the imitation of the world of outward appearances (Ahrends) In the final scene of the play, Kolts creates a dialogue between Zucco and a string of questions and accusations as he climbs higher and higher towards the sun. Like much of the play, this scene has mythol ogical undertones h ere the story of Icarus. Just before falling to his death, Zucco begins reciting descriptions of the sun taken from the Mithras Liturgy. The following story from Carl Jung (about his own encounters with these descriptions) appears in the Endnotes of Roberto Zucco and might expla in what Kolts was driving at: We had a schizophrenic, and he was in the ward twenty or so years. He took me by the lapel of my coat, and led me to the it. Look up at th e sun and see how it moves. See, you must move your head, too, like this, and then you will see the phallus of the I thought oh, paper written by the German historian, Dietrich, who had dealt with the so called Mithras Liturgy, a part of the Great Parisian Magic Papyrus. I will see how the disc of the sun unfolds, and you will see hanging down from it a tube, the origin of the wind, and when you move your face to the regions of the east it will move there, and if you m instantly I knew t his is the vision of my patient! It was only


14 published four years later, after I had o bserved it with my patient (Freeman 61) Jung observed and Kolts suspend judgment of anyone society has already labeled. Kolts wrote Zucco as an anti hero yearning for invisibility, freedom, and namelessness. He identified with Succo, bridging a gap he saw others create between good and evil. Kolts understood labels can limit us. Zucco becomes trapped in a labyrinth as those around him try to pin him down. Kolts and Artaud understood that words can limit us and, like Jung, knew there was more to the human experience hidden in what we cannot see or name. Kolts felt a connection between himself and a serial killer and Jung w itnessed a connection between a schizophrenic and magic scrolls. Kolts wrote Roberto Zucco about a man running from the world that was always labeling him, a man who wanted to forget his own name and become invisible. By the end of my research process, I felt connected to the play and the playwright in ways I had not felt on first reading Roberto Zucco Martin Crimp, whose translation of Roberto Zucco to English is described as deft, iconic, and wonderful create it because le to let go of the names of my characters and trust that the language would lead me to insights that labels might keep me from. This research did not happen early on, however, but came about as a response to my rehearsal process most of wh ich I spent feeling like an ill suited actor for both of my roles as Sister and Madam


15 CHAPTER 3 THE REHEARSAL PROCESS CASTING THROUGH FIRST REHEARSAL to envision my final performance and the paper that would examine it. I imagined all the knowledge I would gain as a Master of Fine Arts Candidate concentrated and reflected through this grand opportunity. W hen the ca st list for Roberto Zucco finally went up in my third year, I found myself cast not only in one but two expecting, but it was also beyond what I could have hoped for: I looked forward to demonstrating versatility that would assure the faculty of my readiness for professional work and my After two years of studying, two summers of teaching, and nine plays in which I practiced my acting since coming to UF, I felt prepared to showcase my capability. W ere I not asked for a paper outlining my process I would have approached my roles differently performing, and I chalked up my methods as unsubstantial. In our Creative Process class, I had struggled to eloquently express my approach to perfo rmance in a paper My own process seemed a mystery, even t o me. With a 20 page paper down the line I chose to focus on methods I could easily articulate and unfailingly reference in my paper. I was eager to apply all the acting tools I gleaned from graduate school and keep a record of the process. By keeping documentation, I imagined working more efficiently toward diss at isfied with past performances, and I imagined this appro ach would help me to identify imperfections and address them expeditiousl y.


16 The first few rehearsals were filled with presentations and exercises to acquaint us with the style in which we would present Roberto Zucco The set would change shape, the lighting would be reminiscent of a film noir, and we would perform in a Brechtian style alienating our audience through use of out of place music, addressing the transitions as part of the play, and incorporat ing gestus (a pose momentarily held by actors in a performance to highlight a social condition or character flaw.) In the first week exercises from Peter Brook, and talked about B than ready for us to get on our feet when, the night before we did so, my partner of a year and I ended our relationship. As ready as I was to get started, I brought a fog with me in to the rehearsal room. It took about a week before my head cleared, but it took the entire process for me to recover from starting off on the wrong foot. FIRST WEEKS I began my work immediately after receiving the cast list via email, with a message from the d ack. Never having played two parts in one show, I focused on differentiating my two characters. I started by listing the differences between Sister and Madam Madam I pict ured as loose fluid, smooth, humorous, fearless, easy, open, grounded, curvy, street smart, abandoned, free, and smooth talking. Sister, on the other hand I saw as a tight, wringing, chaste, frightened, uneasy, thin, closed off, bottled up, and off balance home body without the vocabulary for what she wants to say. Drawing from my first acting class at UF, I elaborated into descriptions of each charac appearance, age, voice, and way of moving view.


17 In the first weeks of rehearsal I worked on incorporating as many of these choices as possible adjusting my way of walking or the sound of my voice until I felt it matched the characterization I constructed in my imagination. This led me to frustration when, here and there, night after night, the choices I made seemed to conflict with my lines. I would be in the middle of a monologue when all of a s udden I was thrown off my course by how unnatural I felt saying a certain line in the particular way of speaking I had pre determined in my characterization. By writing about my characters before saying the lines in rehearsal, I was making choices that did not consider what is learned from saying the words out loud. I was simply pushing my own ideas into the play, whether they supported the text or not. I t was not long before I caught myself falling into the trap of an ego driven actor who values her o wn ideas over the ideas already found in the play I can recall the exact re hearsal when it occurred to me. After a week of my director telling me to make my characters more distinct, I was stuck on figuring out what animals were most related to Sister a nd to Madam in order to distinguish them from each other further. As I moved around the room alternating between moving like a prairie dog and moving focu Focusing on so many external elements was not helping me tell Kolts As I received the same notes night after night, my confidence began to fade Little can be accomplished by an actor on stage without confidence he spends his time confusing the audience by making choices he cannot fully commit to. I abandoned my characterizations of Sister and Madam after that day, stopped worrying about how to m ake my two parts look and sound different, and turned my attention back to the text with fresh eyes In the next few weeks,


18 I focused my energy on what my characters were doing as opposed to what they looked like doing it. ONE MONTH IN With careful atte ntion, I covered my script in objectives, tactics, beat shifts and obstacles Unfortunately, around this same time, we stopped ex ploring scene work in rehearsal and began blocking the show. On my script, I had marked exactly what I was going to do and at what point I was going to do it, but the day I brought my marked up script to rehearsal, we focused instead on precisely where we were to move and at what point we would move there. I struggled to marry these conflicting processes. Furthermore, the director incorporated movements he hoped would appear slightly strange to the audience as one element of his Brechtian approach to the play For example, while giving a heart felt talk, I was directed to walk away from my scene partner and handle an awkw ard prop. In another case, while trying to keep my sister from running away and avoid being noticed by my father, I was directed to pick up a chair and use it to emulate a bull fight er and his red cape, rounding my sister up as my father looked around for beer in the same room. In yet another instance, while listening to a story, I was directed to stand facing away from the people talking to me. Although I was excited to perform in this style, I frustrated myself trying to bring honesty to my lines and r kilter blocking. I became overwhelmed with the feeling that I was falling far behind. Due to have our lines memorized soon, I felt an urgency to memorize my lines, my choices, and my blocking all at once As I continued to get notes about making my characters more contrasting, I felt myself drowning in inadequacy. M emorization was all I could do to keep myself on track for a performance worthy


19 home, got off book, and came in the following day with my lines memorized. Rather than memorize the lines by memorizing the thoughts that drove them, which takes much more time and careful thought, I concerned myself with gettin g rid of my script and memo rizing my lines as fast as possible. I wanted to show my director and cast mates that I was trying to do a good job despite making little progress in the rehearsal room. Unfortunately, this rushed memorization method would only create another obstacle in my process: by memorizing the words without memorizing what I was doing with the words I ended up work ing twice as hard for the rest of the process, constantly working to override my memorization in order to provide a more thoughtful and deliberate delivery of the lines. I gave up my detailed script markings when I gave up my script, so I moved on to an approach I learned in my contemporary acting class. T h rough this approach, I could analyze large sections of the script for action as opposed to marking objectives, tactics, beats and obstacles line by line In this process, the actor deduces the literal action taking place in a given section, reduces that to its essential action, and connects that essential action to a personalized as if The actor then performs that essential action as an as if scenario. As ifs are something ve worked with many times It helps me ifs, I am able to draw on personal relationships, life experience, and my active imagination to scoured my i magination for as ifs that would connect me to those actions, I began to feel a sense of ownership of my roles. Unfortunately, I was not able to get very far with my truthful offerings, and for the first time in the process, I did not have myself to blame. I had come up against yet another wall in the labyrinth of Roberto Zucco and this time it was my scene partner


20 TWO MONTHS IN My characters had scenes with a character called Girl for the vast majority of my stage time The actor who played Girl delivered a performance that I believed was unsupported by the script, perhaps using the name Girl as justification for turning her role into a caricature of a young girl. In the story of the play, Girl is repeatedly referred to as type s of bird s by both Sister and Madam flighted birds by her sister birds by Madam after running away to Little Chicago, where she becomes a prostitute in M adam to these name s the character never spreads her wings. However the actress playing Girl shouted the majority of her lines to Sister with great angst ; defiantly insisting that she wanted to run off to Little Chicago, only to arrive there and adopt a baby voice in scenes with Madam As a result, t he bird references offered little more than irony as she spent the majority of her stage time in tears, crying before her first line in the play and continuing to cry after her last line. After finally finding Zucco, Girl tells him that, in the course of looking for o a tiny island in the middle of a sea of tears, Kolts 49). However, Kolts says the following concerning acting out his words: says, but on the co ntrary, make the character speak his/her lines as a function of what you deduce them to be from their actions. Love, passion, tenderness or whatever should be left to go their own sweet way. To give them too much attention always means diminishing them a nd making them look ridiculous Kolts Unable to spend any energy listening to me, my scene partner exhausted herself yelling, talking in a baby voice, or crying through most of her lines. She kept the play at such a distance from reality that she did not even pull on a bag we fought over on s tage. Instead, she would


21 position her body in a way to make it appear as if she were pulling on the bag, forcing me to either play along or heave her across the stage. A similar problem resulted in other scenes and I could either go along with her over acted choices by listening and responding to her or I could go my own way in t he scene and bring truth through my lines I could barely contain my frustration over her glassy eyed interpretation of Kolts fellow actor notes, I could only hope the director would say something. As time went on and the director did not give her adjustments, I took it upon myself to bring her into the scene with me: I tried adjustment the next time, and she remained about the same. I tried undercutting her, but her pre occupation with crying and yelling kept her from responding to any new stimuli. I requested that we run lines back stage while holding hands, looking her in the eyes with love and forgiveness, but nothing seemed to penetrate the wall I was hitting with her. My con cern with my scene partner took my energy and my patience every night at rehearsal. In the process of suppressing a scream of frustration those four hours every night I was forgetting lines, blocking, and I failed to find any enjoyment in being on stage. I was nothing short of miserable, and my pages of notes from the director observed exactly that. I watched as my cast mates got one or two notes each night while I seemed to have a note session completely dedicated to me. I had no problem understanding why the director wanted to see something different from me, but putting these notes into action was an ongoing struggle. FINAL WEEK S As I approached the final weeks I had failed to apply the tools from my education effectively I had also failed to tak mentally criticizing my


22 enough to take ownership of my lines from the thing I love d the most? Have I grown too tired to care about pleasing a director? Do I even care about storytelling I was disenchanted with acting and discouraged about my future. Describing the aesthetic for the set, lighting, and costumes on the first day of rehearsal, Molly Ilten eerily forecast my experience rehearsing Roberto Zucco like just In execution, keeping constant documentation was over co mplicated and uninspiring I got caught up in the academic side of the thesis project, stunting myself to levels of frustration I had never felt during plays I performed in before Roberto Zucco I was rehearsing my roles without finding the fun, mystery or risk. In the process of worrying about so many outside factors, I forgot that everything I need as an actor comes from simply saying the words The simplicity of using the text as a guid e ( and nothing else ) is not only how I had approached all of my performances up to this point, but it also went against the over complicated approaches to acting often taught in school. Everything I was doing for my roles as Sister and Madam I was doing to prove myself worthy of approval by a committee of my teachers. I can recall leaving rehearsal with another laundry list of notes, walking to the nearest of the nearly three month rehearsal process that I let myself cry. I cried because I knew I had to give up the need to deliver a pitch I had to let go of everything I thought I thwhile. Only then did I start to act from my heart rather than my mind, and only then did Kolts colossal power to me.


23 In the final days before opening I deepened my research of Kolts and Roberto Zucco In my research I learned that Kolts was interested in deeper levels of human thought than those that can be easily expressed and I learned that doing too much was the trap of this play (see Chapter 2.) With these understandings, I felt strong in choosing to venture out of rehearsal to s aying the words plainly. I hoped they might guide me to a truer interpretation than the one I had created through my sampling of acting approaches. I turned to the use of the Alexander Technique and my vocal training, and met with mentors outside of rehearsal. The use of these tools focuses the actor on allowing the lines to come out whatever way they want to, and asks the actor to do little else The freedom of these techniques liberates the actor from the obligation ather than the actor controlling the words, the words control the actor. I had two experiences in particular where the simple recitation of my lines connected me to Kolts ideas. In the first case, I brought in a monologue to my Alexander Technique teacher and explained to her the issues I was having with it. Part of the problem, I told her, was that just before this monologue I had a quick costume change, and was surround ed by costumers spraying me with water and pulling at my clothes. I was supposed to already be in a state of hysteria by the time I entered, and my director wanted me to perform an invocation by the end. I told her that the costume situation was a huge d istraction and I never felt able to start the monologue with enough strength bench, I explained, I I intensity necessary for an invocation After expressing these thoughts to my Alexander Technique teacher, she reminded me that my beliefs were limiting me. She asked me to let go of everything I thought about the monologue and my ability to do what my director wanted and only then shoul d I begin speaking the words. After a few moments, taking her direction, I began


24 my monologue. Through the course of speaking the words, what Kolts had written passed through me like an epiphany. I began sobbing and saying the words with an unfamiliar passion and strength of conviction. The monologue revealed itself to me in such a divine way that I I he I reminded myself every night (as I was being dressed and sprayed with water by costumers) to let go of any beliefs that might limit me and go on stage open to divine intervention. Of course, t his was easier said than done. I also met with my voice teacher to help bring my attention back to the words. My breakthrough in this case was also about letting go of habits that had been limiting my performance. I had been playing my opening monologue in a hoarse whisper because the text stated that reminded me that the play is an illusion and as such, I could be as l oud as I needed to be without losing the audience they would buy into the reality regardless If I lost the whisper, the oom upstairs, or farther away. T rapping my voice in a whisper was inadvertently trapping the voice of the playwright As I released my full voice, the full meaning behind the words came with it. Much like my exploration using the Alexander Technique, my exploration with my voice came o ut of relaxing into the words. Finding my voice in this first monologue changed my approach to the rest of the scene and the play. In another section of the play where I was struggling my voice teacher encouraged me to focus my vocal energy on the verbs in my lines I n this exploration, the verbs painted a very The verbs evoked a feeling in me that fueled the monologue seamlessly. I found that, in an


25 expressionistic play like Ro berto Zucco, simply attending to the wo rds themselves gave me what three years of marking objectives and tactics could not. I did not need to create a long back story, I did not need to decide exactly how my characters moved or sounded in every moment I needed to relish the words and the way they drove my acting instrument On e of the most difficult tasks for an actor is to go on stag e, do what is necessary, and nothing more. In rehearsal I had been doing much more than I needed and I had missed out on many subtleties of both Sister and Madam as a result. After finding these levels through voice and Alexander Technique work, I made it my goal to bring my breakthroughs into my scene work I had to fight habits I had engrained ov er months of rehearsals and we were already in technical run throughs by this point. With my hopes high, I set forth releasing my voice and attending to the words as often as possible. I fell into old habits often, but I noticed a change in my voice as both characters. Before meeting with my voice teacher one on one, I was putting on voices to differentiate my characters. During my character research, I chose a voice I heard in the film Working Girls for Madam and I United States of Tara for Sister. Now that I was simply saying the words, I noticed my voice adopting qualities of the voices I chose early on this time organically All of my work to choose ways of talking, ways of walking, objectives, obstacles, tactics, back stories, and so on felt like foolishness as I saw the words make my choices for me. Trusting the language was my problem from the beginning : I was afraid I would not be able to write 20 pages about trusting the so I chose another way. I paid the price in frustration, tears, and the formulation of bad habits Despite many obstacles I can say there were a few nights during the run of the show that I got to feel my last minute adjustments pa y off


26 CHAPTER 4 THE PRODUCTION OBSTACLES Playing two parts in this production proved more difficult than I had anticipated. I had five costume changes, two of which were quick changes, and one of those was less than 30 seconds. Without a full dress rehearsal until the night before opening, thes e changes were in large part a mystery to me and the co stume crew. By a few nights in the changes ran smoothly, but they still interrupted my focus as the costumers would try to engage me in conversation or would talk with another in front of me In some cases, I had to go on stage with tears in my eyes immediately after these conversations. To combat th ese distraction s I would listen to music and get away from them as soon as I was changed. Some nights, however, I had no choice but to (similar to the way I let go of limiting beliefs while doing my Alexander Technique work) and reinvested myself in the story we were telling on stage. Another difficulty I encountered during the run of the show was my scene partner. No matter how I said my lines or what I did with myself as I said them, my scene partner heard them the same way every night. She delivered her lines with the same readings every night and would cry at times that seemed to make no sense in the context of the scene and the play. S he played her part the same way every night emphasizing the same syllables and sh edding tears at the same moments. I could not help but feel irritated A good actor takes into account what he is being given by his scene partner For fear of being hypocritical, I made sure to take into account what I was being given by her. Often, t aking her choices into account contradicted my own


27 lines, but if I ignored it, it would look like we were in two different plays (something every actor wants to avoid ) Listening to my scene partner often re directed my lines, and my breakthroughs from ou tside of rehearsal went out the window. For example, in my opening monologue as Sister, I barrage Girl with questions that she never answers For three pages she does not speak. The actress playing Girl, however, chose to start speaking several times throughout the piece forcing me to cut her off. If my objective is to get her to speak, it makes no sense for me to cut her off if she is starting to tell me something. On the nights when I would not talk over her (in an attempt to hear her out in line with my objective) my director would tell me to speed up my lines. ave lines to say. When a representative for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival came to see the show, he noticed that my scene partner was uncomfortable doing very little on stage. He pointed out to her that, in the scene I described above, Not speaking is still a choice I struggled with bringing an open mind to the stage each night because of my scene partner, but on a few occasions I did feel a connection to her. These connections were in the rare moments that I was able to stop judging her acting, and realize that I w as standing in my own way W hen I let my thoughts wander to what my scene partner is doing rather than what I am doing I am not giving enough attention to my own actions These m oment s of connection were a highlight in and luckily they were not the only one s HIGHLIGHTS As I gave over to the imagery and verbs used by Kolts in my lines as Sister and Madam my point s of view as these characters strengthened. On closing night hed with discovering the layers, but I had certainly connected to Sister and Madam personally. One night


28 while I was giving Madam making fake breasts out of cardboard, I suddenly felt a connection to her desire to be desirable to the opp osite sex. I suddenly felt as if I was telling my own story, and Madam monologue she had covered it all back up again but I caught a glimpse of it and it made Madam a much deeper character than I had created up to that point. Another instance in which I felt as if my own words were coming out of me instead of from a character was in S cene 13 when Sister talks about how men are disgusting One night out of nowhere, as I was saying the words, I remembered that a cheerleader from my squad in high school was murdered and buried while still breathing by her boyfriend. that for years and years character points of view. These moments were few and far between, but they always happened when I was able to stop trying to do something to the words and instead simply said the words with the intention of letting go.


29 CHAPTER 5 CONCLUSION Looking back on the process, I see how unrestrictive it was from the start. Our director offered up ideas that came to him in his dreams, pointed us towards films whose characters could was a particularly memorable phrase. It occurred to me toward the end that my director probably knew from the start that the play does not work when approached at a cerebral level, hence his approach. So, while I was busy offering up answers, I missed out on the fact that neither my teachers, Kolts nor my director was ever asking for them. The only person who was concerned with I led myself in circles as I tried to turn my acting into an academic process. Acting is not an academic process to me it is a spiritual one. Throug h giving oneself to the words of the playwright, an actor gives up his ego. Roberto Zucco as Madam and Sister reminded me that every choice I make as an actor mu st come from the words. If the choices I make have their basis in the text I have severed my connection to the script somewhere, and its subtleties may not reveal themselves to me. If I value the way I want to say the words over how the words want to be said, I value my voice over understand the words that have already been written to the point that they come out of him as though they were his ow n. This process reminde d me of my job as an actor. I am grateful that I had the opportunity and tools to rediscover the calling behind this craft.








33 APPENDIX C PRODUCTION PHOTOS III Sous la table / Under the table "Tell me no one has used force." Sister gives Girl a piece of her mind for staying out past curfew. "And you can't put back the pieces."


34 I V Madam finds ...and wonders how it will affect business. "Too much tinkering with pimps and dead bodies, inspector." Gun control.


35 your big sister." Mother pretends to parent.


36 Madam oversees the transformation of Girl into a source of income. Pimp and Brother close the deal.


37 XIII Ophlie / Ophelia "Let the rain fall and let it keep on falling, let it fall on that heap of filth and softly wash my little "What have they done with my dove? What filth have they dragged her through?"


38 APPENDIX D CRITICISM Dear Amelia Here are a few of my thoughts on your performance in Roberto Zucco. I think you came into the program with strong sensibilities about who you are and what the best way is to showcase yourself. I remember back when you did the Stoppard play, what a welcom e surprise you were. I feel you have learned a lot here. The Zucco women were user specific, scary, not too ticky, but funny, and I saw a through line. Playing two parts is always difficult and I thought your use of the costume accessories helped make a strong difference between the two women not to mention your very different physical aspects and body work. I was proud of you. Regards, David Young Amelia, It was a delight to see your recent performances in Roberto Zucco as Sister & as Madam. Your vocal, physical, and character training through your MFA trainin g had a thorough work out in the juxtaposition of these two roles. The physicality of the Sister was closed and cloying in relationship to your little sister. The voice of the Sister had more of an airy, urgent tone whereas the Madam was often lower, more unemotional, and controlling. The Madam's relationship to the Girl was predatory and business like. You are to be congratulated in creating two vastly different characters with seeming ease and precision. Best, Dr. Judith Williams Amelia, I love when people can see, understand, and utilize what classical training can do for them. The Sister character, in particular, used punctuation to sustain those long passages. It was awesome. It literally got to a point, at least for me, where I co You had me in the grips, the charge of how she was moving along. When you do things like that, the intention is so powerful and so clear. The emotions were riding along with all of that. I just thought, this is a brillia nt example of the craft and technique. Not everybody can do that. This awesomeness that you were able to bring to the Sister was then balanced, almost heightened by the totally different kind of approach you were able to give to the Madam (who held her own in a different way than the Sister.) I thought it was just stunning. Congratulations, Dr. Mikell Pinkney Madam reads Madam


39 WORKS CITED Archdall, Susan. "Enigma of a Killer." Rev. of Roberto Zucco at the Balcony Theatre in Adelaide The Advertiser [Adelaide] 17 Apr. 1999: Print. Bradby, David. "Introduction." Introduction. Bernard Marie Kolts Plays: 1 Great Britain: Methuen, 1997. xv xlii. Print. Roberto Zucco at The Other Place in Stratford upon Avon. The Times [London] 25 Nov. 1997: Print. Roberto Zucco at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Dance in Glasgow. The Herald [Glasgow] 18 May 2004: 15. Print. C The Scotsman 25 Jul. 1995: 16. Print. Faucit, Helen Saville. "Ophelia." On Some of Shakespeare's Female Characters. Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1904. 3 21. Print. Freeman, John and Carl Jung. Endnotes Roberto Zucco London: Methuen, 1997. 61 62. Print. Froment, Pascale. Endnotes Roberto Zucco London: Methuen, 1997. 57 58. Print. Gardner, Lyn. "Theatre review: Roberto Zucco." Rev. of Roberto Zucco at the Pit in London The Guardian [London] 12 Apr. 1999: 10. Print. Harris, Samela. "Flawed work of art." Rev. of Roberto Zucco at the Balcony Theatre in Adelaide The Advertiser [Adelaide] 19 Apr. 1999: Prin t. Kolts, Bernard Marie. Roberto Zucco Endnotes Roberto Zucco London: Methuen, 1997. 59 60. Print. Litson, Jo. "Pardon His French." The Weekend Australian 22 Apr. 2000: R19. Print. Roberto Zucco at The Other Place in Stratford upon Avon. Daily Mail [London] 5 Dec. 2007: 48. Print. "Roberto Zucco." Rev. of Roberto Zucco at the Project in Dublin The Irish Times [Dublin] 30 Aug. 2007: 12. Print. "The Nature and Function of Cruelty in the Theatre of Artaud and Foreman." Chapters from the History of Stage Cruelty Ed. Gunter Ahrends. Tubingen: Narr, 1994. Print. Tracy, Jackie. "Dark adventure." Rev. of Roberto Zucco at the Balcony Theatre in Adelaide Sunday Mail [Queensland] 25 Apr. 1999: Print. The Australian 23 Apr. 1999: 11. Print. Weinert, Laura. "Roberto Zucco." Rev. of Roberto Zucco at Open Fist Theatre in Hollywood Adweek [Hollywood] 10 Jun. 2004: Print.


40 WORKS CONSULTED Bradby, David. Chronology. Bernard Marie Kolts Plays: 1 Great Britain: Methuen, 1997. vii xiii. Print.

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