IAM Shakespeare Day – Student “AHA”

Shyla – The difference between verse and prose was something that I learned today – while I had recognized that sometimes Shakespeare starts all lines with a capital, and sometimes does not, I did not realize the significance of it and the difference when reading verse and prose. My favourite learning moment was when IAM started to explain iambic pentameter, and, with the heart beat reference, said that Shakespeare’s works are the most human and natural things to read and experience (as opposed to those who say that reading the language is “unnatural”) simply because of the use of iambic pentameter. The rhythm of the words, the “heart beat” is, as she said, with us from our first breath to our last.

Tarannum – My “aha” moment happened when Iam explained how it is without the comfort of “knowing” the text that one can create an interesting interpretation of a speech or character. The idea of making a speech seem as if the thought had just come to mind seemed silly to me at first – because why would you listen to someone who doesn’t know what they want to say before they say it? – but as she explained how performing that way helps one connect to the audience, I realized that a lot of the performances I’ve liked or disliked can be differentiated by this characteristic. This idea – that speaking from the mind rather than delivering lines can make the actor take the audience with them on a journey and causes them to become invested in the thoughts being articulated – really stood out to me.

Hijab – Ah, good ol’ Shakespeare. To be honest, Shakespeare tends to be hated with a passion because of his supposed inability to just be straightforward AND GET TO THE POINT. I’ll admit, there have been times I have wanted nothing more than to go back in time and throw a copy of Romeo and Juliet at the Bard of Avon. I was super nervous for today, seeing as I’m most definitely not an actress, and Iam is literally the epitome of all things Shakespearean and theatrical – messing up in front of her would be disastrous. I realize now how silly it was to be afraid; instead, I’m absolutely mesmerized. Iam was so incredibly gracious and kind towards us, and in the span of 90 minutes, I learnt so much from her about expressing gratitude and nothing but love for yourself and those around you. Her excitement and awe made me excited and inspired, and she has allowed me to fall in love with Shakespeare once more. When I read the text now, I find an old friend, bittersweet, soulful laughter in the back of my mind. Perhaps the only reason these words are now foreign on our lips is because we have forgotten to listen to the voices of the heart. Her words have reminded me how grateful I am to all of you – for being supportive of everyone as they recited their lines and shot hoops, connecting to Shakespeare through laughter and longing. Thank you to our beautiful drama kids who were so willing to exemplify trust and passion and emotion for the rest of us.   Liza – thank you so much for being my partner (even though I was a bit of a wreck) and for encouraging me, and nudging me to do my best (saving me in more ways than one). You allowed me to trust you so wholeheartedly, so earnestly and eagerly, that for the first time on stage I felt a freedom I didn’t know I was capable of expressing. I’m so, so honored that I was able to witness your incredible acting firsthand – thank you for helping me feel at home in a strange world. Another tidbit with which Iam blessed us with – something to the likes of, “a good actor can show emotion, but a great actor shows emotion and makes the audience feel.” Through this, I was finally able to understand why it was the Tragedians – explicit misfits that they are – that cut me so deep when they expressed their grief at being deprived of an audience. Building a connection, a bond unlike any other, with those that do you the honour of watching you perform is an integral part of the artistry that is acting. To pour your soul into something – invest in the visceral humanity that binds us all – and have your efforts, your love, mocked… There are few things as utterly gut-wrenching as a heart that reaches out and finds itself so devastatingly alone. Finally, Ms. Hunnisett – I’ll probably never be able to thank you enough for taking in the lot of us beautifully strange, bright young things and recognizing potential where we had never even dreamed to look. Thank you for wreaking purposeful havoc on us so that we may grow. These students of yours that learn to illuminate the world they live in are able to do so because of the precious, invaluable being that you are. Thank you.

  • An Iam edit – a good actor can show emotion, but a truly great actor can have the emotion but expresses the THOUGHT so that the audience is INCLUDED and can truly understand and then THEY can experience the emotion for themselves. Our job as actors is to ensure that the audience is understanding and feeling – not to prove that WE are.

Liza – This seminar was honestly so incredible and enlightening. Iam is such a magical woman and I learnt so much about structure and the way it impacts the way one acts. As an aspiring actor, my AH-HA moment occurred when Iam mentioned “incorporating the critic”. I always thought that little voice in my head was just me not being fully in character; however, when applying her note – I realize that the voice is a part of the character’s conscious that will provide hesitation and motivation to follow instinct. Also, when Iam talked about how natural Shakespeare is in comparison to our bodies: my mind was blown. I also loved when she talked about vowels and consonants. Thank you for doing this for us, Hunni-bunni. Luv u and everyone ^-^

Claire – The major “aha” I had was the use of “ohs” in Shakespeare. I had always found them so awkward and cumbersome in comparison to modern English. Exclamations even modern scripts are difficult for me. For example, “Oh God” can have so many different meanings and subtext, and finding one that sounds natural in both my voice and the characters is a challenge. Iam’s description of how to take the “ohs” and use them as the guttural emotion of the line. A line pertaining to despair gets a wail out of the “oh”. A line of excitement receives an “oh” of joy. The way she thought us to just lean in to the base emotion with the vowel was brilliant. I remember her saying, “vowels are for emotion, constants for forming the thought.” I found the way she broke down the physiology of the language incredibly helpful, as it takes the fear away. Shakespeare is the same stories and emotions that we know today, just with the shade of the past attached to it. I am so grateful we could receive professional help with difficult texts. In performing it, it got into our bones, allowing us to understand it better.

Hefseeba – I am in no way, shape, or form an actress, but I have always been in awe of the talent and beauty of acting. Yesterday, as Iam lead us through a snippet of the acting world, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized with her knowledge and brilliance that she shared with us. Among everything which was said, my AHA moment was when she introduced the idea of speaking each word at a time and coming to the full realization of what is to be said. My initial thoughts of acting was the typical definition – you memorize lines, encapsulate your characters behaviours and attributes, then perform on stage (something I CANNOT do :). However, after yesterday’s brief lesson I came to understand that every good performance comes from those who are able present their lines in such a way that they themselves are discovering and experiencing it for the first time – this is what creates connection and interest within the audience. Quite interestingly, I believe that this skill applies not just to actors but also non actors like myself! Even when reading Shakespeare’s plays, it is important to read it word by word, meaning by meaning, rather than going through it as a script. As someone who is still working towards attaining a better understanding of Shakespeare’s play, I thank Iam for her brilliant tips and tricks that will make this learning journey a whole lot easier!

Ibukun – Hello! My greatest realizations during our time with Ms. IAM are two-fold: the distinction between verse and prose in Shakespeare’s work and her reference to iambic pentameter as the most natural way to speak as it emulates our first and last rhythm*. Her reference to the script as verse allowed the poeticism of his work to become all the more evident. It seems silly because Shakey’s works are very obviously not prose (structurally) but I just needed to hear it. Also, seeing as I am far more comfortable with poems, this made Shakey a little less daunting. Further, she imparted even more wisdom by saying realizations – the character’s ahas, if you will – are related in the script through line breaks (verse) and disruption of the iambic pentameter. I never realized that. Regarding iambic pentameter, I’ve never had the confidence to even ~attempt~ to read Shakespeare with proper pacing/ infliction (never thought I could do it, I guess**) but hearing iambic pentameter referred to as our most natural rhythm was certainly encouraging. Ms. IAM, thank you for your time and wisdom. It was a great pleasure working with you. *I was blown away when she said this, dang! ** I don’t want to think about Hamlet last year, thank you.

Preet – As foolish as this sounds, I have always tried my best to remember the pattern of iambic pentameter by referencing the “Iambic Pentameter” song from the SMS Romeo and Harriet play (♫ “…feel the rhythm of the Shakespeare beat” ♫); however, after getting the opportunity to experience the private workshop we got with Iam, I have found this new clarity in understanding the pattern and ways of emphasis in Shakespeare’s work. The part where she described how certain lines follow the heartbeat rhythm and others follow a breath provided a new tool to help me with script analysis, as the usage of such understanding allows for the distinction of emphasis and purpose in the majority of Shakespeare’s work. Usually, when working on Shakespearean reading comprehension and passage analysis, I tend to get knotted in clarifying the emphasized point by confusing the irrelevant lines to highlight the meaning rather than actual comments that stress the argument of the character. By following the script with the concept of “heartbeat” in the back of my mind, I can highlight the dominant words to answer questions that address the intention of characters. Further on, when she discussed the use of metaphors and personification in lines as a style of stage direction by acting out the “thou cat, thou burr!” part from Lysander, I realized that it becomes much easier to imply the emotions and physical actions of characters by visualizing them literally as what they are compared to, as this provides greater meaning and clarity to the purpose of specific diction in certain parts of plays. By understanding meaning and getting a personalized gist of the personalities of characters, their future actions can be determined as can be the actions of those conflicting characters around them. Overall, I greatly appreciate the time Iam spent with us, as I was able to learn numerous reading analysis tips while getting the chance to physically act out certain scenes with my classmates. Thank you!

Kelley – As someone who has ZERO acting experience, all the advice that Ms. Iam explained were new to me. However, it was an insightful experience in which I was forced to go out of my comfort zone and I was able to take a small peek into what people would do in a drama class. My “aha” moment was when she explained the significance of who the actor is speaking too. I found it very intriguing to note that “you” referred to the other actor (in this case Helena speaking to Hermia) and that “they” referred to the audience. Initially, I assumed that “they” referred to the other actors on the stage, but she was able to clearly explain the importance of engaging the audience to someone who, at first, did not realize that the ways in which addressing others functions to impact an audience. I also found that it was eye-opening when Ms. Iam compared the actions of what an actor would do versus what a “great” actor would do – in that an actor would memorize their lines and perform, pausing when the line ends, while a “great” actor would really understand the usage of iambic pentameter and be able to transmit their lines to the audience. All in all, I was glad I was able to participate in the class and experience what it was like in a drama student’s shoes.

Abhay – First let me start off by saying that Iam taught me so much about drama and acting which I had never known before. Even the way that she seemed so passionate about Shakespeare gave me the energy to do so as well. A belief of mine prior to this class was that I always assumed that the actor knew exactly what he/she was going to say and how its going to look like. Although this is true in many instances, Iam brought something up that I absolutely loved in which the actors on stage realize who they are in that moment. I always thought that uncertainty is the last thing that an actor wants; however, now I can see that uncertainty is what allows for an actor to create a connection to the character that they are representing. This sudden realization of who they are and what they are saying is also what allows them to be more authentic with their acting; it gives actors the ability to no longer “act” but rather be the character – structuring who they are as they go along. I find that when an actor does this they are mixing in their own interpretation of who the character is which is what keeps the audience engaged. It was great to be given this opportunity to really understand that acting still requires quite a bit of authenticity.

Nimrat – This experience with Iam was truly amazing. Plays, especially those of Shakespeare, can be read and understood but to actually watch them, or in our case, act them allows us to gain this even greater appreciation for his words. What I found most meaningful from this class was being able to actually delve into the actor’s mind and be the person who was making the creative choice most of us just see on stage. This, alongside a deeper understanding of iambic pentameter, made me think more critically and see how it easy it can be to breathe life and flow into a character; by doing so these odd words can become second nature and it feels odd to experience life without them – well we could use them but other people may have a much different views aboout us after. And the beauty of Shakespeare is that because each actor and director has a different understanding and connection with each character, no two plays can be 100% the same with their acting or the response. And that is what allows Shakespeare to retain his top spot in the literary world because he, alongside those who make his words come alive, refuses to let us get bored.

Judy – As a person who’s never immersed myself within the world of acting, or even tried to explore it, I can say that I’ve always had a profound respect for actors/actresses. I remember Ms. Hunnisett saying during class that real-time acting, compared to movies, contain so much more raw emotion. To be able to feel the emotions radiating off actors/actresses is something I’ve always found deeply inspiring – to feel a persons soul pouring out in front of you – WOW! To that, during Iam’s vist, I had found myself starstruck and incredibly intrigued when she was informing us of how the language and speech of Shakepear comes from the heart: down to the very rythm of the ”da dum”. She had expressed it with such passion that something stirred in myself (not to sound cheesy). As someone who has never been much involved with acting, this piece of information -how Shakespear is in tune with our hearts – was truly a magical and transfomative experience. WOWZA!!

Elissa – This year I have found a stronger respect for Shakespeare than I have had previously, and having Iam come to teach us about his work helped me to realize what I love about his plays and language. Her passion for Shakespeare was certainly infectious, and I walked out of the drama room with the urge to find my own passion for it as well. An aha moment I had on Friday was when Iam was teaching us about the beat of Shakespeare’s writing and how easy it is, contrary to belief. What continued to stick in my head was how she said iambic pentameter is built into our bodies with the beat of our hearts. I came to the realization that Shakespeare doesn’t have to be difficult if we don’t let it. I am so thankful we had this opportunity to learn from her!

Jieo – While I wasn’t blessed with having had the opportunity to participate in the theatre workshop this year, I am glad to hear that you guys did and that you had some life-changing experiences regarding our very good friend Shakespeare! I can only hope I was there too! However, I did receive some valuable insight upon reading the document that Ms. Hunnisett posted and the “aha” moment that struck out to me the post was the idea that when speaking Shakespeare, one should “push the verbs” in order to move the action of the play forward, as well as make the nouns “sound what they mean” so that an image in one’s mind can precede the language itself. As the document states, nobody thinks word by word but rather depends on description in order to paint a picture in the mind – by emphasizing verbs and nouns, we can actually increase intelligibility and tell the story more effectively! I thought that this was very interesting and having meddled in (and struggled with!) several languages, the document highlighted the importance of focusing on verbs (which are often the hardest part of a language due to conjugation, etc.), as they are what pushes the conversation forward! Knowing this then, I can apply it to my own interests and become even more efficient in looking for ways to acquire a foreign language!
Additionally, I also particularly liked two theatre sayings that, being a former drama student myself, I found interesting to think about:
“While American children are taught to read Shakespeare, English children are taught to speak it.”
“If you can act Shakespeare, you can act anything.”

Muhammad – The time Iam spent with us enlightened me on multiple aspects, and I am very humbled to have been able to act under her teachings. It became much more clear to me, as an actor, to act for the audience while also acting for myself. Changing the very sound of each word had such a great impact, and the ways that she had us experiment with the wording while moving on in the plot is definitely a technique I plan to use.

Although I’ve felt rather decent at reading and understanding Shakespeare prior to this (though my comprehension grade may implicate otherwise) I felt nothing but awe and honor as Iam broke down each page, and each line at the more crucial moments, attempting to explain to us what we need to watch out for as actors, but also what the audience will be expecting. From Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, I remember a quote that goes as follows: “An audience knows what to expect and is only prepared to believe in such.” Iam, evidently, knows her audiences very well – to the point where she is able to break down and explain the perspective of the audience to an actor, who may or may not understand it on their own.

Overall I am left with nothing but respect for Iam and very grateful for the opportunity Ms. Hunnisett provided for us to have her in. I’m sure it’ll help my comprehension grade!

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One thought on “IAM Shakespeare Day – Student “AHA”

  1. I was so incredibly delighted to spend time with this amazing group of students and your devoted teachers. It was an honour to step into your world and share my passion for performing Shakespeare. You are an incredibly bright and remarkable group of young people. The observations you have articulated with such clarity and passion have absolutely lit up my heart! I have been back to visit and reread this page a number of time because it gives me such joy to hear about your discoveries. You are beautiful, bright, and so full of light. Appreciatively yours, Iam Coulter PS My ‘teaching toque’ is as warm as wonderful as I imagined it would be. I will treasure it through the wintery wonderlands to come!

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