Glynn MacDonald and The Gilded Stage
We shall not cease from exploration,
and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.
This has been an incredibly transformative experience so far, but it felt particularly so on Thursday. The morning began with our first movement session with the incomparable Glynn MacDonald, who is the absolute truth. She is at once elegant and stately; bawdy and blunt. In short, just about what I’d like to be when I grow up. The room is dim and eerily quiet when we walk in and see Gwynn for the first time: She is a mature woman who wears her years like a vintage couture gown. Our nervous laughter dissipates; she seems to have an uncanny ability to size people up and proceeds to do just that, starting with our clothing.
First, we’re instructed to remove the “dingle-dangles” a/k/a the ID badges that read “This card is to be carried at all times.” We hop to it post-haste, and I take the initiative of also removing the shocking pink scarf I’ve draped around my neck. When it’s time for my inspection, Gwynn gives me kudos for both the “gorgeous” scarf and for taking it off. She then makes me promise that my earrings won’t kill anyone before moving on to the next victim.
It’s hard to ignore the sense of nervous anxiety that creeps into the room when Glynn announces that she’s going to play some music to see how we move to it, but this is neither Soul Train nor So You Think You Can Dance. We’re directed to walk– in and out of a circle, around the room, knees straight (bent knees suggest a comic stance), heel first then ball of foot. From there we graduate to “tits and pecs” and the all important “ass work”, all of which is meant to introduce four Shakespearean archetypes ( sovereign, magician, warrior, lover) and heighten awareness of each persona as we attempt to embody different characters.
This first session with Glynn and the voice session that follows make me more aware of my physical presence and the sheer mechanics of being than I think I have ever been. Among the many “Glynnisms” I remember her sharing: “The humble man doesn’t think less of himself, he thinks of himself less.” and “Trying to find in ones own physicality is the embodiment of grace.” The movement and voice lessons transcend both education and theatre; I find myself invigoratingly exhausted by them both.
After a hasty lunch, we head to the Globe stage for a matinée performance of Richard II. The set design people here are quick-change artists, and the stage has been transformed into burnished gold, with the addition of a long catwalk, perhaps as a cheeky nod to Richard’s love of fashion and flattery. This time, a few TSTP buddies and I scope out space at the rear of the yard, right in front of the bays containing the seats. The production begins with Richard’s coronation, lots of unusual London heat and sunshine, and an abundance of gold confetti; it soon becomes clear that I’m standing in confetti central. By the end of the first scene, I manage to dust some of it out of my ‘fro thinking I probably still look like a disco ball, then I realize I don’t care. There’s something about this whole experience that makes running around with a halo seem perfectly appropriate.