I'm doing the Ghost in Hamlet and First Gentleman/Elbow/Friar Peter in Measure For Measure in the 2009 Redlands Shakespeare Festival. Hamlet is a masterpiece of drama that combines a thriller plot with philosophy and poetry. Measure For Measure is a fascinating play of religion and politics that has never been an audience favorite. Me, I would much rather do it than A Midsummer-Night's Dream again.
Last night's rehearsal of Measure For Measure was good. We paraphrased what we were saying in one scene; after that our acting improved greatly. It's funny how something obvious and fundamental like understand what you're saying makes all the difference -- and yet, actors sometimes default on this basic responsibility.
I was in a show by Beaumont and Fletcher once, long ago. B&F were Shakespeare's contemporaries, and for about 100 years they reigned as the most popular playwright in the English Language. Shakespeare regained the throne in the early 18th century and holds it to this day. The B&F body of work, over 50 plays, should be attributed to Fletcher and Friends, as Beaumont was involved in less than 15 of the plays.
Anyway, after a performance of Knight of the Burning Pestle, someone asked the leading man what he was saying in a certain speech. He confessed, "I have no idea what I'm saying."
He was just standing onstage, saying the words. If you know no one in the audience will care and if you don't have much pride of craft, then it's easy to get lazy.