December 7, 2009

End of Mini-Week 1

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 1:34 am


After three days, our first half-week of rehearsal is done.

I told you about Day 1. Day 2 and 3 featured a continuation of table work. Basically after the initial read-through and some general discussion of the play and production as a whole, we began back at the top, working slowly through each scene, discussing plot points, character development, and any other insights people have. It’s also the time for actors to ask questions about meaning or pronunciation, which sometimes has no right answer, but we can decide to standardize — for instance today featured a debate on whether we should use the written “corse” or the more contemporary “corpse” to make it clearer for our audiences.

The thing about Shakespeare is that there isn’t just one script. Often there are multiple versions of the dialogue based on various texts from the period, so companies are free to mix and match text that makes the most sense to them. Also, due to time constraints, most productions cut quite a bit of text. We are using a version of the script prepared specifically for this production by Dakin Matthews, in collaboration with our director. This is the text that the cast began rehearsal with. Over the course of our table work, as we pass through each scene, the actors, director, staff director, and vocal/text coaches are free to call attention to cuts or alternate text that they would like to consider including in the show. Many of our actors are familiar with other versions either because they have done the show before, or from their own research prior to rehearsal. There are also a number of different reference books on the table with notes on the various known versions of R&J for the group to use to clarify questions. After discussing the matter, we then decide whether to change the text. We have made a lot of small alterations of words here and there, put a few lines back in, taken a few lines out, or traded one couplet for another. As the changes get made, I have been marking them and flagging pages in my script while Nick is making changes in our Word document. We will then cross-check them to make sure we got everything, and send out the revised script to the team. In one case we reprinted a page for an actor who had a pretty sizable chunk of text changed.

After we finished working through the show we took our meal break and cleared the tables. When we reconvened, I led the cast on a two-dimensional tour through our set taped out on the floor (with the detachable staircase from the model in my hand, because the pillars are kind of hard to explain in two dimensions). The speed with which that was able to be accomplished was a good sign. I was surprised when I quickly ran out of things to say — I guess the set is simpler than most I’ve worked on, though that’s not to say it isn’t big. Just not a lot of doors, tricks, or nooks and crannies.

The purpose of all this was to prepare the cast for our next exercise. They were immediately turned lose on another read-through, with instructions to get on their feet and use the space however they saw fit — not to worry about what proper blocking would be for the stage, just to focus on relating to the other characters.

It was a lot of fun. Our cast continues to impress me with their talent, inventiveness and sense of humor. Sonny and Laura gave a great early view of Romeo and Juliet’s romantic scenes. I can only imagine what an audience of a thousand 9th graders is going to think about all the smooching! Well you can’t say it’s not accessible! In all seriousness, this cast is already developing a sense as an ensemble of the line where heightened language meets the relaxed way that people speak in real life, while at the same time coming off as honest, rather than intentionally “modern”. I think it will be a real eye-opener for the kids (and adults!) who have never seen Shakespeare acted well, to realize that the words in those dusty old books actually do say the same things that we would say today, they just use slightly different words or syntax.

Tomorrow is our first day off, concluding our short week. On Tuesday we will have our official meet & greet, which would normally be held on the first day, but was pushed back to allow the artistic directors of The Acting Company and the Guthrie — Margot Harley and Joe Dowling — to lead the festivities. That will kick off the day, and once the invited guests have departed, it will be back to work for us!