The Path to Granny’s House
[I called my late grandmother, Jill Cragg, Granny, never Grandma. She was a wonderful person in every way. ]
This week, I’ve been working in my voice class on Shakespeare Sonnets. We’re nearing the end of dune unit, and so I am doing a lot of coaching on the pieces, one-on-one with the students. Coaching in this manner is one of my favorite things to do, it is literally a thrill, one of the best parts of the day.
I frequently use metaphors when coaching text, the more idiosyncratic the better. Quirky, and unapologetically so. Here’s the story of one of them.
A student is working on the text, speaking clearly, working to understand each word. But the sentence doesn’t feel right. They’re not actually engaged in the process of talking to someone, really. Perhaps, because the sentence is convoluted, confusing, and the words are unfamiliar (even though they have done their research can tell me what they mean), they’re focused more on sharing that meaning than they are on communicating. And that’s a problem. Because of the way they memorized the text, as they begin their first thought, they are thinking merely about the first words, and not about where they are heading. Their journey with the text is a hopscotch of one small text chunk at a time, not a race to the finish line.
I argue that they need to be looking to the horizon. The words at the start of the sentence are only a means to get to the heart of their sentence, which in Shakespeare often lies at the end of the sentence. They need a mental map of where they are heading.
Of course they need to know all their actor homework, their objective, who they are talking to, what they want them to do, what obstacles lie before them, etc. Of course. Those are a given. But the words have to spring from a sense of a destination, or a very least a waypoint along the route to that destination.
And so the image of Little Red Riding Hood pops into my head, heading to Granny’s cottage in the woods. There is a lot to pass on the way, but Li’l Red has the image of where she is headed clearly anchored in her mind. It needs to be there before she leaves ( it needed to be there when she packed her basket, didn’t it?). So too does the actor need this destination anchored in their mind. They need to memorize it, too, so that when they go to start they have that in mind, and not just the first words.
So Granny has become a regular metaphor in my class, beginning with the end in mind. It’s not fancy, it’s not complicated, but it gets the job done.