The Fair Maid's fair maid blogposted by Vonessa at 3:03 PM
I think the title of this show is misleading. And I’m curious as to what Thomas Heywood meant by it. Was it a draw for audiences in 1600 to know that there would be an attractive (or blond depending on your definition) woman leading the play? Wasn’t it a man playing a woman-who ultimately in the course of events plays a man—so a male actor playing an attractive woman pretending to be a man? Nonetheless it is 2005 and I am a woman, playing the Fair Maid of the West, who sometimes pretends to be a man, in a show that should be titled The Brave English or some other brilliant manifestation since it really is about Spencer, Goodlack, Roughman, Clem and about 10 other characters and not just the Fair Maid.
I am all for equality of women when it suits me. Like when it involves something fun (and not when it involves what I deem ‘male activities’ like taking the trash out). So when I found out that the Fair Maid gets to sword fight, I was beside myself with excitement. The first day of training they actually handed us real swords. I remember thinking, “I know we’re adults and all but can this be safe?” Days later with the fighting geniuses at SWORDPLAY, Tim Weske starts choreographing the 10 fights (or is it 11, I lose count). I distinctly remember him picking up this thick rope and doing a series of tricky fight moves with it. I am awed and look at Eric (who plays Roughman) to see if he is intimidated by having to do what Tim just showed us. Then Tim says, “Did you get all that, Vonessa?”
Sword fighting, by the way, began in July, long before actual rehearsal started. Now it is September and the rope is my favorite prop. If we can pull this off…and I do mean ‘WE’. Fights are just as much about the person receiving the blow or pretending to receive the blow, as the blow giver. Please note the excellent deaths and “ouch, that hurts” by the ensemble. Worth the price of admission.
At the same time we were sword fighting, we were battling with words. I have always been a big fan of the Queen’s English. Raised on Jane Austen and James Ivory I have been (pronounced ‘bean’ if you please) fascinated with the seemingly intellectualized nature of their discourse. And then thanks to my fine college education have studied Shakespeare (otherwise known as the 17th Earl of Oxford—-to honor Mr. Manke). But I have never lived and breathed 17th century iambic pentameter until now. In July the great Art Manke dazzled us all with textual analysis classes. Ignore the commas. A semi-colon is just a little breathe. You CANnot reversely stress in the fifth foot of the meter. And a word does not necessarily mean the same thing today as it did four hundred years ago. And above all, breathe. And breathe correctly.
Then rehearsal begins. All we have learned layered with more and more. Dialect notes, character notes, verse notes, blocking notes, fighting notes. My script was nice and neat, now it looks like a different language is written all over it. Thankfully Dámaso (the director) and most of the cast have worked together so many times before that the one thing that is second nature is our communication with each other.
I have been at every moment stimulated and inspired. For all its Princess Bride like fantasy I am enamored with the basic belief of the play. Anything and everything is to be done for someone you love.