For this production I am trying out a method my friend Adam Armstrong uses for directing Shakespeare. He asks that from the time actors find out about auditions they do not read the script or watch any film or theatrical versions of the play.
I think that this is a wonderful idea. It frees actors from preconceptions about how a line should be said or how a role should be played.
Adam also doesn't have a rehearsal until his actors are memorized. Also, his actors don't have the full script, they just have their lines and their cue lines, just as Shakespeare's actors would have had. Then at the first rehearsal they run through the entire play once, everyone listening very carefully to make sure they come in on their cue!
This is just about the best thing for an actor. This is why improv shows are so great. Because everyone is paying attention.
Usually in a show actors have the lines of people they share scenes with memorized before the have their own.
In a show I directed recently at one performance there was a scene where only two actors were on stage together bantering back and forth. Actor 1 accidentally gave actor 2 the wrong cue line, but actor 2 didn't notice and responded with the response that they would have give had actor 1's line been correct, only this time it made no sense. Actor 1 realizing the mistake kept trying to fix it by rearranging the order of their lines and actor 2 continued to not notice and kept responding with the replies in their usual order but always the wrong reply to what actor 1 had said.
This couldn't happen with Adam's method. No actor knows what the other actors are going to say or do so they have to always pay attention. This makes for better acting because actors aren't on auto-pilot or stuck in their head thinking about something else. It makes it more like real life and it keeps the actors focused and in the moment.
Adam lent me the book by Patrick Tucker that helped him develop this method, it is Secrets of Acting Shakespeare: The Original Approach.
Mr. Tucker's method is different from Adam's in that he advocates absolutely no rehearsal (except for fighting and dance choreography) before the performance. While the no rehearsal method sounds very exciting and I will have to try it someday, I do think that at least a few rehearsals can be useful to fine tune a performance.
So, my auditions will consist of cold readings from cue scripts from other Shakespeare plays and if actors should desire to impress me further they may perform a monologue from a play other than Much Ado About Nothing.
Stay tuned for more updates!