Tuesday, September 9, 2008

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


I love this part of rehearsal so much – the initial blocking, the conversations about the scenes, the intentions. The actors and I jointly discovering who these people are and how they interact and what drives them, and what makes them stop dead. It’s a bit like a really well defined buffet, where everyone in the room brings something to the table and we work through and decide what we want on the plate of the play. (Wow – what a long and circuitous metaphor.) It’s the place where I get most to practice the art of being strong and solid inside with why we’re telling the story, but allowing myself to be surprised by how we get there – with the actors all bringing in their own insights and instincts.

The other day, working with Paul (playing Peter) and Ariel (playing Ellen) in this climactic scene in part two – as we worked and talked, the final paragraph took three distinctly different shapes until we all finally found the one that fits best for the moment. It was a shift in Ellen’s motivation, and a shift with how Peter was approaching his mother and then suddenly, the final paragraph took on a completely new and beautiful meaning. But it took all of us working openly and without ego to discover it. Ideas, as they say, are cheap – and a new one will invariably appear to fill the gap of the one that was discarded – and each new idea will lead you somewhere else – either to the answer for the moment, or a clear sense of what NOT to do – which can be even more helpful than finding the answer….

Its also one of the most frustrating times, for both the actors and I. They want desperately to get the scripts out of their hands – at first the scripts led us, and now instinct does, but the words aren’t quite there yet – so the script becomes a hindrance. Meanwhile, I’ve seen such lovely work in rehearsing the scene, and much of it will be buried during the run throughs, under struggling with lines, or struggling with dialect or struggling to remember the blocking… For me, my job becomes knowing where to look for the potential and being patient, knowing that – like any good cup of tea, the ideas have to seep for a bit before they are ready. (Another metaphor – but shorter this time…)

So the work continues. We started the second act last night. We will have worked through the whole show by Sunday and we’ll put all the pieces together. I am consistently amazed at the brave and honest work that the actors are bringing and I’ll remind myself to be patient and let the work catch up with the potential.

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