Spencer Beckwith

Midsummer - Opening Weekend

Published February 12th, 2024

Well, the show's open! I'm playing Egeus and Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night's Dream at Southwest Shakespeare now, and even though I'm pretty physically exhausted from this show, I want to write down some of my thoughts about the rehearsal process.

The very first thing that surprised me - coming into this experience directly from community theatre - is that this is of a higher caliber. I mean, first off we're paid, which is awesome. But the actors and tech team for this are on average much older than those working for Mesa Encore. The air feels more mature and professional. I was particularly impressed how several people came into rehearsal already completely off-book, which just astounded me. I mean, this show isn't exactly uncommon and most of the others have done it or seen it multiple times already, meanwhile this is my first time. But still, it woke me up early in the process, that I ought to get myself in gear. I realized I didn't do the adequate preparation that I needed to, and I felt rusty since I haven't worked at this pace in theatre for quite some time. It's great to be back, though. I see now in retrospect that had I also had my lines even partially memorized when we started, I would've got off book much sooner and got into doing good character work earlier on.

"The best performance of the show is the day after closing." Yeah, that's what I'm thinking about now. It doesn't need to be that way though, if the time in rehearsal is maximally productive and we aren't inhibited by lines, nerves, or anything else. That's easy to say but harder to do in practice.

The fun thing about my track is that these two parts are so drastically different. Egeus is an angry old man, and Quince is an aspiring director. I'm carrying a different physicality for each: Egeus is stiff, upright and arrogant whlie Quince is more free and loose, though worried about his play of course. This, combined with the vastly different costumes, makes for a great contrast. Other than one lightning quick change, this is a pretty easy track with a good amount of breaks. I go at 150% for ten minutes straight then relax for twenty, then go back in for 150% again... it comes and goes, but overall it's a ton of fun. Pete, playing Nick Bottom, is really pleasant to act with. He's got an incredible comedic sense, but also an air of honesty. He knows who he is and what he's doing and it shows, and I want to be like that.

Another thing I've been thinking about now that we're open, is how the audience feeds into the performance and vice versa. I've definitely been on shows where we use "the audience isn't feeling it" as an excuse. Or where we have a house of ten scowling people, which is discouraging to see as an actor. But to be fair, sometimes the audience's lack of engagement can really hurt a show. But it shouldn't. We have to do our best to bring the energy and the vibes every night. Part of the fun of doing it live is that you never know how the audience will react. What I'm trying really hard to do for these shows is to be consistent as much as possible. I'm journalling every show and doing a lot of reflection and meditation, and I'm learning a lot just from observing our other cast members. I have no excuse to not bring in maximum focus and energy, and I've been doing well so far.

I had a moment during yesterday's show, where I just realized - I told myself to relax. I have to relax and be myself. It's the difference between Acting, with a capital A, and acting - just being. It felt like a lens was lifted from my eyes, and I was teleported months and years back to NAU when I was getting my sea legs. And I realized just how out of practice I've been, and now the last few years of my life haven't been in pursuit of this or in pursuit of the craft, but of something else undefined and unknown. It's like I was blind or something. It doesn't help that I had a super stressful job in the tech industry for most of that time. But now I feel more in touch and more myself, creatively, and I'm super excited to see where this impetus takes me.

We've got fifteen something more shows through this month, and I'm super excited even though it's going to be intense. That's what I'm here for and I'd never have it any other way.