ACTORS’ SHAKESPEARE PROJECT
This past autumn, I was the Producing Apprentice with Actors’ Shakespeare Project, an itinerant theatre company in the Boston area. As a member of the administrative office, I swung between a multitude of tasks, from educational outreach to marketing and social media communications.
ASP opened their season with two shows in rotating repertory: Macbeth in a new translation by Migdalia Cruz, out of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Play on! Project and Equivocation by Bill Cain. In addition to understudying multiple roles in Macbeth, I also worked extensively with the production team, filling in for wardrobe and acting as a production assistant as needed.
I was also an actor in Equivocation. Bill Cain’s play tells the story of William Shakespeare writing Macbeth. Sir Robert Cecil gives Shakespeare a commission from the King: a “true history” of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot. Thrown into the midst of a political conspiracy, Shakespeare must learn to tell the truth in difficult times, all while he grapples with the death of his young son. I played Judith, Shakespeare’s daughter, who acts as a voice of reason and honesty throughout the course of the play.
My performance received positive responses from critics:
“Shrewdly observing and commenting on it all is Shag’s daughter, Judith (Kimberly Gaughan, excellent), who enjoys tweaking her father by reminding him of precisely how many people he has killed in his plays.”
- Don Aucoin, The Boston Globe
“Shagspeare’s daughter, Judith (Kimberly Gaughan), is a wonderful addition to the ensemble. We see Shagspeare struggle with being a father and we get some great dark humor and snarky jokes about Shakespeare’s works, delivered in soliloquies, asides, and mutters. Although the audience at the preview performance was small, genuine laughter frequently echoed off the rafters.”
- Alexandra Sourakov, The Tech
ACTING & MOVEMENT INSTRUCTION
Ridge View High School
Graduate Instructor of Record
University of South Carolina
University of Notre Dame
As an Adjunct Faculty member at the University of Notre Dame, I taught Acting: Process to theatre majors. The first class in the acting series, Acting: Process teaches students Stanislavski technique. Students learned how to score scripts and talk constructively about their performance work with a common vocabulary. Before beginning scene work, I spent multiple weeks doing physical exercises with the students, including explorations into Viewpoints, Task Studies and kinesthetic approaches to Meisner. During my time at Notre Dame, I also observed my mentor Siiri Scott’s Acting: Character class, where she taught Laban, Michael Chekhov’s Psychological Gesture and Meisner to advanced major students.
As a Graduate Instructor at the University of South Carolina, I taught Fundamentals of Acting to non-majors in a diverse student body. Many of my students had never even been to a play. To engage students without a performance background, I began with a physical approach. I incorporated exercises from my Suzuki training to get them into their bodies. To help with concentration, we experimented with Slow Tempo. Many came into the class with severe stage fright. To combat this, I gave them physical tasks they could execute while performing a scene. The results were extraordinary. Students who had never been permitted to be creative blossomed into courageous performers.
This past summer, I lead my first workshop in Suzuki at Ridge View High School in South Carolina. The three week course introduced high school theatre students to the Suzuki Method of Actor Training. For two hours each day, these buzzing high schoolers put their phones and ceased their giggling to move and focus. It was truly amazing to watch the energy in the room completely change. These students who lack stability and routine in their daily lives found confidence and freedom in Suzuki’s structure.
“Kim's passion for acting and for theater are apparent and contagious. She makes every class exciting and challenging. She is able and willing to adapt her methods of instruction to each student's needs and learning style. She treats every student as if he or she has the potential to be a great actor, and this confidence in each of her students is empowering and motivating.”
- University of Notre Dame Student, Acting: Process, Spring 2015
“The environment was very relaxed with helped everyone to be confident when performing. I loved how individualized our feedback was and how we were always working on something specific to us. She identifies problems we are having, gives us tools to deal with them, and gives us another chance to show our work. She genuinely cares about our progress and is very willing to meet outside of class.”
- University of Notre Dame Student, Acting: Process, Spring 2016
“During Suzuki, I was surprised at the difficulty of each exercise... The balance required to maintain the positions, the restraint needed to keep such a slow tempo, the focus necessary to not let others distract you, it was all immensely difficult. Despite this, I was surprised at how well both myself and the ensemble were able to catch on. The energy in the room was almost a physical presence, and it was an amazing experience. Suzuki taught me how to break down emotion into its simplest form, to abandon any sense of “self” while performing, and to stay in my body without worrying about how people perceive me.”
- Ridge View High School Freshman, Suzuki for Young Actors, May 2018
THEATRE NOHGAKU & THE KITA SCHOOL OF NOH
I spent the last two summers (2017, 2018) training in Noh with Theatre Nohgaku and the Kita School of Noh in Japan. Over the course of the Noh Training Project, I learned shimai (dance), utai (chant) and kotsuzumi (drum). My first summer, I performed Tamura (kuse) in our public recital. This past summer, I performed the more difficult Hashitomi (kuse) and also served as the jigashira (leader) for the women's chorus.
In addition to performance training, I participated in Theatre Nohgaku's 2018 Writers' Workshop led by artistic director, Richard Emmert. I connected with playwrights from around the world, sharing ideas and developing the beginnings of my own English language Noh.
To further my understanding, I spent a week researching Noh on Sado Island, off the west coast of Japan. Noh "founder" Zeami was exiled to the island in 1434. He left behind a large number of now historic Noh stages and the lasting tradition of takigi (bonfire) Noh.
My training and research in Noh contributed directly to my graduate thesis, which argues that Japanese formal traditions in theatre can aid and expand Western approaches to actor training.
PACIFIC PERFORMANCE PROJECT/EAST & THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Participant & Presenter
I attended the University of South Carolina to train under faculty members Steven Pearson and Robyn Hunt. Pearson and Hunt studied with renowned Japanese theatre director Tadashi Suzuki for over 12 years. They also spent time with Shogo Ohta and his Tenkei company in Kyoto, training intensively in slow tempo and silence. Pearson and Hunt combined their learning with Western acting techniques, forming the Pacific Performance Project/East, an organization that strives to integrate the mind and body in performance.
During my time at South Carolina, I trained daily in movement with Professor Hunt. Her unique combination of Suzuki, Slow Tempo and Ki Training enabled me to harness my physical energy onstage and transform the psychological into the physical. I applied this knowledge directly to performance. Over my two years as a graduate student, I acted in eight plays directed by Professor Pearson, including Shogo Ohta’s masterwork The Water Station (Mizu No Eki), a physically taxing slow tempo piece performed in silence. Under the direction of Professor Pearson, I applied my movement training to each role, creating truthful and impactful characters.
Last January, I traveled to New York to train with Pearson and Hunt at their Pacific Performance Project/East workshop at Marymount Manhattan College. During the workshop, I trained with students and professionals from around the country, collaborating on new ideas and sharing perspectives on how we approach performance. For the workshop, I gave a presentation on applying P3’s methodologies to American realism, using my experience acting in a production of Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson, directed by Professor Pearson. You can read a transcript of presentation HERE. You can find more about Silent Sky below.
The full program of The Water Station (Mizu No Eki) can be found HERE.
by Robyn Hunt
directed by Steven Pearson
Center for Performance Experiment
Flight is an original piece conceived by Steven Pearson and Robyn Hunt of the Pacific Performance Project/East. Inspired by Chekhov's The Seagull, Flight follows two Parisian actresses in the early days of aviation. When not onstage, Maddie and Sophie spend their time flying. The plays follows the two woman as they prepare for their first long distance competition- a flight from Paris to Moscow.
Over the course of the show, my character, Sophie, worked with Maddie (played by Gabriela Castillo) to build a 3/4 replica Bleriot XI. We carried large pieces of the wooden airplane. We screwed together nuts and bolts. We sang and danced. We did real work onstage while saying lines and hitting our marks.
As a group of artists, we called this theatrical experiment the "theatre of work". What happens when you must complete real tasks onstage: tasks that have clear markers of success and failure? If we did not put the airplane together properly and well, it wouldn't fly (and oh, did it fly!).
The result was a performance filled with raw truth. Real tasks create real emotion. There was no pretending. There was only doing.
YOU GO TO MY HEAD
an original solo performance
written & performed by Kimberly Gaughan
Center for Performance Experiment
You Go to My Head follows forgotten Hollywood actress Kay Francis as she comes to terms with the realization her fiance is a Nazi spy.
A lover of 1930s cinema, I was inspired by the tenacity of pre-Code actresses. I strove to write a show filled with strong, capable women; women who problem-solve when faced with conflict instead of dissolving into tears. Kay Francis was the natural choice for my main character. She's a master talent when it comes to quick-witted comedy, but was rarely utilized within the studio system due to her refusal to conform.
Over the course of the show, Kay seeks advice from Bette Davis, Hedy Lamarr and Marlene Dietrich. I play all four characters- a challenge that demands four distinct dialects (including a lisped mid-Atlantic for Kay). The piece explores the role of women in a patriarchal society, sexual fluidity, and the relationship between art and practicality.
For my work on the piece, I was featured in the Daily Gamecock, the University of South Carolina's newspaper. You can find the article HERE.
An excerpt from the show can be found below.
by Arthur Miller
directed by Robert Richmond
Theatre South Carolina
In our updated production of The Crucible, I played Mary Warren. At first daunted by the iconic role (whose stage directions demand a LOT of crying), I took a physical approach that led me to the psychology of the character. By changing the alignment of my jaw as I spoke and adjusting my gait, I opened myself into Mary. Instead of pressing myself into the many emotional circumstances of the play, I let the play work upon me. The resulting performance received positive reviews.
"I was especially impressed with the portrayal of Mary Warren by Kimberly Gaughan, who carried herself gently but spoke bluntly and in an unconventional manner that set her apart from the other women. She is perhaps the only character worth rooting for, which is a necessity in such a dense show." - Mattie Hibbs of the Daily Gamecock
"Also noteworthy is the performance of Kimberly Gaughan as simple, easily-intimidated Mary Warren... Mary's testimony is critical in determining who is telling the truth in Salem, and the moment when the formerly naive teen realizes how to play the game, and how to reach an unspoken deal with Abigail, is chilling." South Carolina theatre critic August Krickel
The full program can be found HERE.
by Lauren Gunderson
directed by Steven Pearson
Center for Performance Experiment
Silent Sky follows the forgotten female astronomers of Harvard’s Observatory around the turn of the 20th Century. I was cast as Henrietta Leavitt, the lead role. Over the course of two acts, I left the stage for half of a script page. To tackle this demanding task, I applied my physical acting training in Suzuki and Slow Tempo. I started by viewing the lines and blocking of the show as physical tasks I had to execute. By creating routine and repetition, I allowed myself to feel at home on our set and among our props. I wore an antique hearing aid throughout the rehearsal process and began to treat it not as a costume piece, but as an extension of my physical body. I physically immersed myself in this world, resulting in true familiarity.
Over the rehearsal process, my actions that started as rote became entirely natural. Little by little, I was able to free myself into the emotional journey of the character as I did not ever have to worry about where I was going or what I was doing with my hands. By starting with the physical, I allowed for the psychological. The resulting performance was a success.
by Robyn Hunt
directed by Steven Pearson
The Center for Performance Experiment
Balance is the third play in Hunt and Pearson’s trilogy inspired by Chekhov’s plays. The story reimagines the characters of Three Sisters as they start over in post World War I Paris. An non-linear piece, Balance sought to explore just that: balance, both emotional and physical. As Natasha, I spent most of the play in the air, balancing in ropes. We performed parts of the play on rola bolas and on a tightrope.
Pearson designed and built a round, balancing stage on which we all performed text heavy scenes while trying to stay level.
The resulting performance was amazingly rich and layered. As individual actors, we felt the physical toil of actual work seep into our text. There were nights when we failed and nights when we were successful at balancing. Whatever happened onstage became part of the narrative, creating living, breathing organism of a play.
THE NOTRE DAME SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL
During my undergraduate career, I spent four summers as an acting apprentice with the Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival. I performed in three mainstage performances and four outdoor touring performances.
As an apprentice, we trained everyday with theatre professionals in movement, voice and text. My first summer, I trained in Commedia dell’Arte with Gulshirin Dubash for our touring production of The Deceived, directed by Kevin Asselin. Chicago actor, Larry Yando, served as text coach on the mainstage production of Twelfth Night, giving us all a course in Folio Technique.
My second, third and fourth years, I intensively studied Laban under Cheryl Turksi and Shakespeare text under Susan Felder and Wendy Saver. Siiri Scott served as a voice coach throughout my time with the Festival, under whom I learned Linklater technique.
Through the apprentice program, I was able to apply my training during the day directly to rehearsal at night in both the outdoor touring shows (all directed by Kevin Asselin) and the mainstage Equity shows (three of which were directed by Chicago director David Bell and one by then NDSF Artistic Director Jay Paul Skelton). Due to my time with the Festival, I have extensive experience in Shakespeare that I now apply to both my teaching and professional work.