The View from Here #153: TN, FL, TX, VA, FL, IL, TX, FL
“The Big Book of Moliere Monologues!”
And it is exactly as described: 8 ½ by 11 inches, over 150 pages with over 160 Moliere Monologues drawn from 17 plays! With plot info, character analysis, biographical background, and some of the funniest stuff I’ve ever written (and, hopefully, that you’ve ever read). The preface is by author William Luce (“The Belle of Amherst,” “Barrymore,” and “Baptiste”), who gave me the best cover blurb ever: “A masterwork… The best compilation I’ve ever seen.”
|New Lot o' Shakespeare Photos by Tisse Mallon|
The University of Central Oklahma was looking at doing something for their “Passport to England” semester next fall, which got me thinking: Most of Shakespeare’s popular plays actually take place outside of England. Shakespeare’s tetralogy of four histories: Richard II, Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2 and Henry V are rarely performed outside of Shakespeare festivals (where the Shakespeare-going crowd, presumably, has an understanding of the context into which each of these four plays fits). These are almost never done at universities, for instance. It would be like seeing “Empire Strikes Back” without ever catching the original “Star Wars” or “Jedi”. Unless we see how Henry IV stole the crown from Richard II, we don’t quite get the whole redemption journey that Henry V has taken. But what if all four plays could be produced as part of a single epic event?
Among the many singular and intrepid theatre artists at work in the United States today, none is quite like Tim Mooney. A skilled actor and teacher, Mooney has barnstormed the country for years performing his solo show, Molière Than Thou, bringing to life with hilarity and precision the greatest of Molière’s characters for thousands of high school, university, and general audiences. Mooney’s virtuosity as a performer, and the workshops he offers in tandem with his performances, are enhanced by his vast store of knowledge of the classics and the art of acting, which has resulted in seventeen of his own adaptations of Molière’s plays and the creation of additional solo shows, including Lot O’ Shakespeare, doing for the Bard what he has done for Poquelin.
Mooney’s much sought-after workshops have now inspired a unique “how to” book offering a refreshing and highly practical approach to what many contemporary actors, at various stages of development, find most daunting: approaching theatrical style and acting in classical plays. As evidenced by his performances and workshops for actors, Mooney has a decided gift for demystifying the classics. He provides actors with tools for approaching verse, for many American actors the most daunting hurdle in developing their craft, and moves them beyond the realistic conventions that are the foundation of contemporary acting training, but most often the essential problem in facing stylized plays. With clarity and specificity, and no small steps to approach the demands of stylized acting that will be of essential value to both beginning and veteran actors. Directors and teachers of acting will also find Mooney’s book an essential resource, supplying specific exercises and illustrating problems and challenges for the actor.
Covering issues such as memorization, the pursuit of objectives, how to assert a ‘presence’ on stage, and the skills toward mastering rhetoric and verse, Mooney returns to basics, but teaches them through the most challenging of plays, from Greek tragedy and Shakespeare to Molière and commedia dell’arte. The book is divided into six parts, “Being Seen,” “Being Heard,” “Playing Fully,” “Playing with Discipline,” “Outwitting Yourself,” and “Putting It Together,” titles that in themselves suggest something of the unpretentious method of his teaching and the practical nature of his approach to stylized acting, and each part is further divided into multiple, comparatively short subsets in which Mooney illustrates everything from “Articulation, Volume and Projection” to “Iambic Pentameter, Rhyming and Reality...And Why We Go to the Theatre,” illustrated with short specific examples of texts.
“We can own who we are in the presence of other people,” Mooney assures his reader, and “Everything on stage is a bluff. And very much of life is a bluff” (p. 233). Such wisdom is accompanied by amusing overstatements, as in a section on critics: “Yes, all reviewers are idiots” (p. 230), but I will not take that comment personally and will, instead, recommend this exceedingly valuable book which, to be sure, will inspire actors to approach stylized theatre with the spirit of fun and style.
|Did I mention the haircut?|
Or the... the thing?
“I found this set of works to be beguiling, challenging and addictive. I must say you truly have made a Moliere fan out of me… The logical order and openness of the flow lent itself to reader ease and appreciation of Moliere. Instead of being an anthology of monologues, this compilation let the reader experience the characters at their own pace and presented them with almost a story to follow.”
“Although it would be hard to choose favorites among such great work, I have fallen in love with a few… [and then, half-a-page later…] So, although I named nearly half the plays included in this collection, I cannot wait to delve into more and discover more Moliere. I find a different level of connection with the audience in his writings, as well as a different level of blatant honesty, satire and criticism present. And yet, it’s entirely refreshing…“
I generally just work under the assumption that I’m creating stuff for my own entertainment… or that I’m sending stuff into the void, and that things that are meaningful, or hilarious, or powerful, or significant to me, are being read by the person at the other end “through a glass, darkly,” as if they had been written in another language, another language that is only actually understood or appreciated by me.
And, after a brief stop in Galveston, TX for a cold day at the beach, I headed up to Panola College, in Carthage, TX, for a workshop and a performance of "Lot o' Shakespeare"! Which really rocked. Teachers were effusive in their gratitude: "This is just what these kids need...!"
Next to Tim, I feel lazy. His book of monologues is a masterwork. It represents years of creativity, resolve and follow-through. I’ve never seen a better compilation, and even counting my years in theater, I know I still have a blessed lot I can learn from his ideas, ideals and experience.