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February 9, 2018 | New York City
X: Or, Betty Shabazz vs. The Nation
In this issue, we're sharing the first two in a series of conversations with members of the BADA family who are professional writers.

BADA Writers: Gerit Quealy (MIO '94)

Christopher Cook in conversation with alum and author Gerit Quealy.
Gerit Quealy is one of a handful of BADA alumi who’s a writer and scholar as well as a performer. Her book Botantical Shakespeare: An Illustrated Compendium of all the Flowers, Fruits, Herbs, Trees Seeds and Grasses cited by the World’s Greatest Playwright (Harper Collins) is just that: a survey of the one hundred and seventy plants that we meet in Shakespeare’s work, and each one is given a handsome ‘face’ by the artist Sumie Hasegawa Collins.
“So we grew together,
Like to a double cherry, seeming parted,
But yet an union in partition,
Two lovely berries moulded on one stem.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
But what happened if the images didn’t exactly match the text? Back to the drawing board says Quealy “For instance, Sumie’s cherries were beautiful, the branches, the flowers … but Shakespeare primarily talked about the cherry red and the colour of … cherry lips and Thisbe says ‘a cherry nose’ in Midsummer Night’s Dream Then Helena and Hermia have that lovely thing that their friendship [being] like two cherries on a single stem.  So I said I have to have two cherries on a single stem.”
It’s vital to pay proper attention to Shakespeare’s language Gerit Quealy says. “This is actually where BADA comes in  …Fiona Shaw,… was one of my teachers on MIO and she was once saying something to my roommate about ‘my father’s a King, my father’s a King’ and how important that was.  It wasn’t just like my father was anything, he’s the king.  This got me thinking about the importance of each word …unfortunately… many actors don’t look up individual words because there’s this assumption that we know them already.  Particularly words that we still use in everyday life.”
The hapless Medlar, we learn from Quealy’s researches, was the rude fruit of the sixteenth century. The French called it cul de chien. In England, joking about the ‘open arse’ fruit was well-known, which makes Mercutio’s remarks about Romeo in the Capulet’s Orchard startlingly suggestive."
“If love be blind, love cannot hit the mark.
Now will he sit under a medlar tree
And wish his mistress were that kind of fruit
As maids call medlars when they laugh alone”
Romeo and Juliet
“I had a friend of mine working with me on the book initially”, Gerit Quealy tells me, “ and I talked to her about the ‘medlar’ and she said ‘oh I just thought it was a meddling person.’ And I said ‘well yes and he uses that pun in several of the mentions but it’s also this very specific fruit that’s very specific to the line and if you don’t know what it looks like you’re not going to understand what you’re talking about.”
“One of the fascinating things in the book is where he uses different plants and which characters speak about them; I think there’s 47 of them that are only mentioned one time and then there’s ones that have a lot of mentions, show up in a lot of different plays or cluster all in one play.” Roses for example. And always they are earthy, earthbound and everyday images as if Shakespeare has been peering into his neighbour’s garden .
“No more be grieved at that which thou hast done:
Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud;
Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,
And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.”

Sonnet 35
“I noticed overall a kind of impetus to think about England as this garden. Certainly John of Gaunt mentions it [Richard II] and Perdita [The Winter’s Tale] too talks a lot about it. I think, there’s a very interesting point of view being asserted by Shakespeare about growth and growing things.” Moral and spiritual growth as well as natural growth perhaps, one of the great Shakespearean themes.
How Helen Mirren was coaxed into writing a foreword to Botanical Shakespeare, is another story! But she’s clearly a fan. “One of the things, that I learnt from Mirren’s Foreword … is that Shakespeare shouldn’t be taught from an academic point of view in schools, especially to young kids and that’s why BADA’s so great. You find your own way to the plays and the meanings”
“There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray,
love, remember: and there is pansies, that's for thoughts.”

And what did Gerit Quealy learn from working on this compilation? “I felt quite intimately connected to Shakespeare … also I started actually planting things which is odd for me, I’m not that much of an outdoor girl but I have become one and my friend who’s an astrologer jokes with me that ‘you don’t have any earth in your chart so this is like forcing you to be more earthy’. So getting my hands dirty has taught me to look … and see Shakespeare all around me.“

BADA Writers: Gareth Armstrong

Christopher Cook discusses solo performance with new BADA Faculty member Gareth Armstrong. 

Gareth Armstrong joined the BADA Faculty this spring. As a teenager he was a member of the National Youth Theatre before studying Drama at Hull University. On graduating he worked in a number of Britain’s most distinguished regional theatres including the Bristol Old Vic and has specialised in Shakespeare. Indeed it was when he was appearing as Shylock that he wrote his first one-man show. And it’s how to write, perform and manage a one person show that he’s teaching to the students on the Year Long London Theatre Program.
Gareth Armstrong: “I was in The Merchant of Venice, playing Shylock at Salisbury Playhouse and the director Jonathan Church… said what are you doing next? I wasn’t really sure and so I said I’d thought about doing a one-man show and he said what about and I said well I’ve just been playing Shylock, what about Shylock?  And he said, “Well I’ve got a date in the studio, September 9th… there are you you’ve got a booking.” I mean there’s no arguing with that so I had to do it.  I had to write it, I had to find a director and the process was fascinating,”
Christopher Cook: The show was a huge success and you wrote about your time doing it and then you decided that you’d share the lessons that you learnt in ‘So You Want To Do A Solo Show'
GA: “I pitched it to a publisher called Nick Hern, who does a series of books called So You Want To ….. There was nothing like it published in England, but there were several American ones which I’d got from Amazon but they were quite different, they were very much about people ‘finding themselves’ through sole performing.  They were very introspective and I was instructed that mine had to be the bones and the flesh and the skin and the blood of putting on a one man show so it had to deal with everything from the initial idea, right through to taking bookings, health and safety, the whole gamut of what you might encounter as a professional putting on a solo show.”

CC If you think of the phrase, one-man, one-person, one-woman show, it’s a relatively simple one.  But then you realise it’s an extraordinary umbrella under which all sorts of things have sheltered son what did you decide what a one-person show was?
GA: “This is an enormous umbrella as you say, so I drew on my own experience and the other one-person shows I’d seen. I looked at what had inspired them and I interviewed performers for the book. I divided it into the different types of solo pieces you can do, then analysed each of them, did a case study as it were - Miriam Margolyes doing Dicken’s Women, as an example and then someone else who did a solo show for children and a nice lady who did one about ladies knickers, all with different target audiences.  Then there was the practical side about it. Do you want to have one-man show for the rest of your life? Do you want to do it just to prove you can do it?
CC: One essential thing that emerges is that the good show has to begin with a degree of personal enthusiasm.
GA: “Passion, is what it needs, passion. I had a wonderful director when I was at Olivier’s National and he did a one-man show for twenty years about the actor Macready which you wouldn’t have thought was a very popular subject, I mean who the hell is William Charles Macready? But it was hugely successful, touring around the world several times.  When I was talking to him about it he said, well whatever subject you pick on, make sure you’re passionate about it otherwise you’re just going to get bored. 
CC:Coming back to the book, did this follow a pattern you had planned at the beginning?

GA: Well the first draft came back tarred and feathered from Nick Hern! And it was quite hurtful because he’d said. “You know, there’s a lot of actor chat here but what about the nitty gritty?”  And first of all, I thought, “Well I won’t bother, I’ll let someone else do it.” And then I thought, “No, no, you’ve got to take this on and I’m not going to give up my actor’s voice.  So, I wrote back to Nick “You know more about the theatre than me, than I’ve ever known, and you’re a wonderful publisher but you’re not an actor, you don’t know how actor’s like to be spoken to, so those things you think are irrelevant, actually are vital to an actor.  And sometimes they seem foolish or petty but to an actor, that’s an important thing to keep in mind.”  So we reached a compromise and I did my research on all the things I didn’t know about -  the venues, health and safety, all those things I’d sort of taken for granted as I’d toured but that a lot of people couldn’t take for granted.”
CC: “You clearly must have felt that actors are not taught, basically, bits of  everyday business they need to make their lives work.”

GA: “My generation of actors, rather thought that was somebody else’s business, let them get on with that, I’m just an artist, you know, but more and more you can’t do that.  You have to get down and dirty and I think actually younger actors appreciate that much more, they’re more entrepreneurial than we were.  They don’t just sit and wait for the phone to ring. they get on with it, which is what one admires about them.”
CC: “I suspect that the most difficult thing in a book like this, is finding the right voice and tone. How easy was it to find the tone that for me marks out this book “the friend at your shoulder”?

GA: “I’ve spent my entire working life with actors and as you say we don’t want to patronised, we don’t want to be bullied, we don’t want to be taken for granted so finding that was quite important for me. The actors who read the book who I know, have appreciated that you’re not teaching your granny to suck eggs.  On the other hand, why would I need to know about how to hire a van and what cubic capacity it should be and to remember to fill it up with petrol before leaving and make sure I’ve got the GPS?  Then making sure that I strike a good relationship with the stage management and the man who’s going to twiddle the knobs … It’s terribly important you don’t make enemies on the way, so you learn diplomacy. There, that’s another skill you have to learn as a solo performer.”

Farewell, John Barton

We are deeply saddened by the recent death of John Barton on January 18, 2018.

A BADA Associate Artist and long-time Masterclass instructor, John shared his love for and understanding of Shakespeare's texts, particularly the Sonnets, with our students for more than two decades.

Born in London and educated at Eton College and Kings College, Cambridge, John co-founded the Royal Shakespeare Company with Peter Hall in 1960 and would go on to direct several of their most well regarded performances.

John's work as an instructor is similarly crucial to our modern understanding of Shakespeare and his texts. His 1982 workshops, televised as Playing Shakespeare and later adapted into the book Playing Shakespeare: An Actor's Guide, featured RSC members, including Judi Dench, Jane Lapotaire, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, and David Suchet, among others, are still regarded among the essential guides for actors.

(Photo: John Barton leads a Masterclass in Sonnets at Midsummer in Oxford with Paola Dionisotti, Lynn Farleigh, Harriet Walter and Jane Lapotaire.)

Remembering BADA Governor Honorable Justice Anthony Colman

We are saddened to report the death of Sir Anthony Colman, unexpectedly on 28th July 2017, aged 79. He leaves his wife Angela and two daughters.

He was a founding Governor of BADA in 1984, and gave generous service over the years, retiring from the Board on 4th July 2016.

Anthony was born in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. He was educated at Harrogate Grammar School, and after National Service in the Army, went on to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he gained a double first in the law tripos.

He was called to the Bar in 1962, took silk in 1976 and became a High Court judge in the Commercial Court in 1992, when he was knighted.

Following retirement from the Bench in 2007, his expertise in international arbitration saw him appointed to the Dubai International Finance Courts and he subsequently headed a long running inquiry in Trinidad.

His legal expertise was invaluable in the early days of BADA, which, as with any institution, were sometimes difficult.

Anthony’s voice at BADA Board meetings was always measured, thoughtful and incisive. He could put over difficult points with great courtesy and thereby diffuse any possible tensions.

Above all he was a great supporter of BADA and will be much missed.
Simone Missick (MIO '03) starred in The Defenders, continuing her role as Misty Knight from Luke Cage Brandon Victor Dixon (MIO '98) starred in Fucking A, part of the Signature Theatre's revival Suzan-Lori Park's Red Letter Plays  ◆  Joel Perez (LTP '06) starred in the Public Theatre's Public Works production of As You Like It Brandon Micheal Hall (MIO '14) is the star of ABC's new sitcom The MayorNgozi Anyanwu's (MIO '03) new play The Homecoming Queen had its world premiere at the Atlantic Theatre Company starring alums Oberon K.A. Adjepong (MIO '99) and Zenzi Williams (MIO '13) ◆ Faculty member Madeleine Potter, Alan Cox (MIO '88), and  Kamau Mitchell (MIO '15) are all appearing in The Shakespeare Theatre Company's Hamlet ◆ Natalie Storrs (LTP '07-'08) made her off-Broadway debut in Red Roses, Green Gold Joel Johnstone (MIO '99, LTP '00) has a recurring role in Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
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