Stage lighting? Nope.
Multi-week rehearsal process? Nope.
Table work? Nope.
Huge casts? Nope.
Actors get the whole script? Nope.
So that leaves... What? A close company of actors and their manager using cue scripts to bring the play to life in one crazy week of anything-goes ideas and no time for second guessing. Each actor has the opportunity (or more accurately, the duty), to invent her performance on her own -- there's no time for her to wait until rehearsals to start discovery. But even while she's preparing on her own, acting as designer and director for her part (no matter how large or small), she also has to leave space for the contributions of her castmates. "No director" means that the acting company has to work together, taking initiative and giving in to each others' ideas by turns in order to bring the production to life. So let's take a look at what "company-directed Shakespeare" means, and where the idea comes from.
The early modern scholar Tiffany Stern has written several valuable books about what the theatre world was like in early modern England. The book that most concerns us right now is Rehearsal from Shakespeare to Sheridan, in which Stern distills epic amounts of research into an accessible guide to the rehearsal processes of Shakespeare and his successors. In this book, Stern points out that many of the trappings of the modern rehearsal process simply didn't exist in Shakespeare's day. There wasn't a clear division between actor, producer, director, and designer. Actors didn't audition for a specific role, or even for a specific play -- they joined the company and performed in all of the productions, usually keeping dozens in repertory at a time. Instead of getting the whole script and doing weeks of read-throughs, table work and blocking rehearsals, actors would receive only their own lines and the one-to-three word cue immediately preceding their lines. They would then take these "cue scripts" or "parts" and work on them individually or with one other actor (especially in the case of apprentices). When the actors did come together to rehearse the play, they would often have as few as three days to form the production. This rehearsal structure meant that actors had to arrive memorized. If this description sounds terrifying to the modern actor, Shakespeare's company has good news: there is also a "prompter" just offstage who has the whole script. The prompter's job is to keep the actors on track, so that the lack of rehearsal doesn't mean that the production dissolves into chaos.
If you're interested in taking part in such a production, we're holding auditions for our reverse-gender Macbeth at Katie Jackson Park in Dallas on Saturday, 9/19 and 9/26. Email email@example.com for an audition appointment.