I have enjoyed your blog ddowns. maybe you'll topic the mechanicals in a future post?!
The writer will soon direct young people in a production of A Midsummer-NIght's Dream.
I thought I'd let Alvina Krause respond to this question in two postings.
This first post is notes she wrote to us when we were working on the mechanicals for class, which she conducted in her home in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.
The subsequent post will be notes to a production of MND performed at her summer theatre in Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania.
I italicize words she underlined in her handwritten notes.
Always start your initial work with questions. Ask the right questions and the creative mind will take off in the right direction. You tend to start off with generalizations about characters you are playing. The result may be an interesting characterization--which will take the play nowhere, or take it in the wrong direction. Always begin your questions with the play itself. The title is a good beginning.
Why is it called "A Midsummer-Night's Dream"?
Why are the "mechanicals" in "A Midsummer-Night's Dream"?
Each scene in a play is a movement in the direction of the end. Where does the mechanicals scene take the play?
What has this scene to do with Puck's "What fools these mortals be"?
What characteristics must each person have to take the scene and the play to its inevitable conclusion?
Such questions should direct you as you formulate and determine characterizations. Unless you are guided by such questions, the Bottom-Titania scene will come off as utterly ridiculous, ludicrous without being true comedy.
Why does Bottom not realize he wears an ass's head?
Why does he succumb to Titania?
The logic of fantasy.
Shakespeare is having a glorious time with "Love is blind"--How do the "mechanicals" lead to this scene? Why is it inevitable? You all over-looked the fact that Shakespeare's common people are exactly that--"common"--totally unimaginative, totally literal in every sense. He gives them no flights of fancy. A lion is "roar" not a noble beast. Pyramus: a sword--
Do not let your imaginations take off and endow them with gentleness and romantic, humanistic qualities. 2 X 2 = four, not a magical number that sets the imagination going--simply "four"
Fit the characters to their names--Peter Quince is a quince--bitter, biting--quince. No apple qualities, no peach qualities, etc.--just quince--No human thoughtfulness, consideration, etc.--just quince--Name names, give directions and that's that. Add no motivations other than: Perform Pyramus, Thisbe--meet at such and such a place.
The drama itself is your master plan. Make all the pieces fit into the whole. Ask the questions that will lead you to the inevitable final curtain.
What is comedy?
Clarify your ideas.
A little man, a frail woman, slips on a banana peel. You don't laugh. A fat man slips on a banana peel, you roar with laughter. Why? Both are real falls--Why--
Bottom, Titania--a ridiculous scene, silly Shakespeare--What makes it glorious comedy?
Why is Bottom unaware of the ass's head?
He isn't drunk. He is not goofing off. Then why?
Try the creative "if". "If" I had a huge hole in my pants, "if" I did not know it----?
Arrive at the reality of fantasy. If the audience cannot identify with this scene, these characters, they will not laugh at the tricks you may pull.
Titania is under a spell, true, but people in love are under a spell.
"If" you couldn't see the hole in the trousers when everyone else did, "If" you could not perceive the fool under the good looks--etc.--
Begin with realism.
What you learn here about comedy will carry over to all comedy if you learn it. I can only open your eyes: you must do the rest.
Cut out extraneous business. Achieve focus through pointed, timed business.
Go straight to the end of the lines with a punch at the end. Do not tack on business at the end. Arrest then move.
Why is the presentation of the play for the Prince comic rather than ludicrous? Because they give the play exactly as they would patch a roof--
Learn to ask the right questions.