Saturday, August 23, 2008

Notes from the Director - On the Shore of the Wide World

Beginning this week you'll start to see a series of posts from the director of On the Shore of the Wide World, Jonathan Berry as he works through the up coming rehearsals leading up to the plays' opening. Check out his first post today.


It's the week before We have some conversations with actors on relationships this week, and then kick off fully August 25^th – a read through with full cast, and full design presentations, and the start of full time rehearsals.
There is always that moment, before starting, of trepidation. Do I know enough about the play? Have I done the right kind of prep work? Will the actors respond to my thoughts and will I grow with theirs? Will we be able to find 35 wooden chairs?
When we were looking for plays, I was knee deep in rehearsals for BE MORE CHILL and I frankly didn't have a lot of time. I knew it was going to be a big year, and so I was looking for something small – one room, 3 – 4 people – relationship driven. Bill found this play. He read it and he called me and suggested I read it. I asked him if it was small, and he said "well, no – but read it anyway. I think it feels like a 'you' play."
I knew I was in trouble the second scene. Sometimes you DO just know. Kind of like meeting someone – sometimes you have to learn to like them and sometimes something just clicks. This was a click. More like a slap, or a shake, or a grab you and pick you up and throw you down. I had to stop three times, in the first read, from tears. I felt for this family. I knew this family. I knew, by the second section, that I would direct it, and I plunged on breathlessly to get to the end and find out what happens.
This is interesting because this is not a large, flashy play. Its really pretty simple in what actually occurs – no rivers to ford, or computers to come alive – just a family dealing with all of the challenges inherent in a group of people tied together for life – and all the wonderful/terrible complications that surround those relationships. I find it heartbreaking. And beautiful. And true.

There is a lot of imagery dealing with stars – looking up – the multitude of stars that populate the earth – the wonder of that, and the terror. To know, at once, that you are part of something so enormous - that you can be so inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, and yet, you are there – with hopes and dreams too big for this world to contain. How do you rectify that? Being simultaneously miniscule and bursting. What does it mean when others are tied in with that? How do you rectify what you have with what you want? What does it actually MEAN to be a family?
Playwright Simon Stephens asks all of these questions – and like any good playwright, he leaves room for everyone who is touched by the play to ask them and answer them for themselves. There is no big simple answer, or any kind of "moral" on how to live – no. He understands that life is too beautifully complicated for simple platitudes. He presents life, as he has experienced it, and he asks us to draw our own conclusions. I'm looking forward to getting in that room and asking some questions. I can't wait to start.


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