Monday, June 20, 2011

Ira's Background with Shakespeare work


Ira has a unique and extensive background with Shakespeare and clown.
  • His first act as a clown was a Shakespeare act performed in pubs. 
  • Ira helped to establish Australia's national Bell Shakespeare Company 
  • Hamlet BSC in repertory with 3 plays to capital cities with 16 actors. Schools show with 5 actors.
  • Richard III BSC
  • The Merchant of Venice BSC
  • Following the year establishing BSC, Ira opened an acting studio in Sydney with its first workshop production of the entire, uncut, Henry the Fifth with 12 women.
  • The Merchant of Venice - Auckland Festival - Auckland Town Hall
  • King Lear with 15 clowns - text unedited, performance freeform, Denmark
  • The Tempest (Stormen) in Swedish
  • Macbeth - Norbotten State Theatre, Sweden
  • Pericles - Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream - USA
  • Macbeth - Suzuki/Frank based version, Switzerland
  • Voodoo Macbeth - Suzuki/Frank version, Brisbane
  • Hamlet Stooged - Suzuki/Frank based version, London, Wales, Chicago, Brisbane
  • Tadashi Suzuki saw Hamlet Stooged 2007 and gave Ira his highest personal accolades for performance and for training in Suzuki's own method SATM.
  • A Night With Hamlet - devised by Profs Tom Bishop, Murray Edmond University of Auckland, Directed by Ira and assisted by Dr. Rina Kim
  • A Girl's Guide to Hamlet - written and directed by Ira
  • Extensive experience teaching "Shakespeare as a Tool for Theatre" 
  • Following Ira's studio production of Henry the Fifth, six productions and numerous courses later, Ira was asked to teach Shakespeare in Scandinavia. This led to six years work teaching, directing, writing plays and establishing a set of universal principles of theatre called "Quantum Theatre: Slapstick to Shakespeare". During his time with BSC amongst many accomplishments Ira notably rectified at least two known "problem scenes" in Shakespeare. These happened to be clown scenes and Ira's breakthrough was noted by numerous directors, former RSC members, and Shakespeare scholars. As John Bell stated on first seeing Ira's version of one scene in rehearsal "That is the first time in 30 years that I have ever seen that scene work". Beyond those specific scenes, Ira is presenting universal information that can lead to greater practical understanding and performance of any Shakespeare role, play or production. Further Ira illuminates that what one can then understand from Shakespeare can be applied to any play or any devised production.


This workshop is beyond the scope of most approaches to Shakespeare clowning. One also needs to recognize that historically certain roles of several main clowns were written for the specific skills and even physical attributes of specific clowns such as Will Kemp(e), RobertArmin, Richard Tarleton. Additionally the endless work of a vast array of Shakespeare scholars continues to bring light unto the texts and even the manner of playing and production in Shakespeare's time.

Background with Shakespeare
Ira was hired in 1991 to establish Australia's national touring Bell Shakespeare Company. BSC was launched by John Bell and his benefactor in 1990 following John's lifetime encounter with Shakespeare including 5 years with the RSC. John is rightfully considered "Australia's Olivier". Ira may be the only person to act with and to direct John in the same production.

Our first conversation regarding BSC was in early 1991 when John asked me to choreograph the battle scene in Richard III. I had seen the BSC's Merchant in early 1991. A production from an excellent director Carol Woodrow. The production had numerous weaknesses and having known Carol's superb work elsewhere, one could easily surmise the issues she was facing. John then reconsidered the proposed two-weeks choreographic offer and said he would actually like me to work with the company for 3 months that would include the 9 weeks rehearsal and the launch of his real dream i.e. as possibly the world's last actor-manager of a touring Shakespeare repertory ensemble. To accomplish that, he needed an assistant such as myself. He then asked if I would come see his touring schools show that involved him and a few other actors. John and his wife, actress/director Anna Volska asked me after if I thought I could do anything with the actors bodies, implying clearly that neither John nor Anna, were satisfied with their actors movement. I replied that their bodies were fine, but their voices were more the issue. Anna asked "Well do you think you can do anything with those?". My reply "I can try". Soon John asked me if I would mind auditioning for him as an actor thus if I acted in the repertory he could keep me longer. My audition for John and Carol Woodrow was about one hour of me doing a single speech many ways as John requested on the spot. Then he asked if I had any of my own material which I then presented.  He offered me a one-year contract on-the-spot! Carol ran down with tears in her eyes and gave me a hug and congratulations. John too gave me a hug and thank you and had to dash to a production appointment.

Like any actor I had done bits before coming to assist John to establish BSC. He knew my reputation as a thorough and intuitive teacher with a wide range of acting and movement skills.

To pay my way through acting school (The Dell'arte School in USA) I created a Shakespeare clown act that I performed each weekend in several pubs. I would perform during the band's break. Usually there was no announcement and I would simply start to 'take the stage' (mostly the floor) as the band started to put down their instruments. I had a formidable skill in voice, movement, and improvisation to pull the focus and entertain the pub audience. With no use of microphone. After about 20 minutes of speech and action I would bow, pass the hat and earn plenty to live for the next week.

more anon...