Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Down to the Wire: A Sneak Peek into the Company's rehearsal process

It is both thrilling and daunting to think that after just nine short rehearsals the Grassroots Shakespeare Company will be premiering our first production this Friday.
The past week has been one of the most enjoyable and demanding of my life, and I can't wait to see what new discoveries our last three rehearsals will bring--The process has been richly rewarding.
Here's a sneak peek, in a nutshell, of what we have attempted so far:

1-Last Monday, we assembled our cast for a read-through to determine our estimated runtime and check the continuity of the cue scripts. Mark did a beautiful job assembling them and they read with barely a hitch. Our time came in at about one hour twenty minutes. Perfect.

2-On Tuesday we blocked the first third of the play.

3-Wednesday produced the middle third.

4-On Thursday we built a few set pieces. We replaced a cast member. We also got nearly through to the end of the play.

5-On Friday we trained a replacement, filled Wes in on the things he had missed on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and finished blocking the play.

6-Saturday was a long haul. We papier mached each other's faces to make masks for the doubled roles, had our first full run, enjoyed a barbeque dinner, began exploring orchestration, and cleaned the first third of the show.

7-Monday we were rained out and had to move from the park to the gym at Meridian School (many thanks to Cherish for procuring the space) where we cleaned the rest of Wes's scenes--we will lose him again until Thursday.

We are hoping to be totally ready before Thursday night. We have invited Chris Clark, John Graham, Kate McPherson, and Rosanna Ungerman--all local Directors, Professors, and Shakepearean Scholars to give us some feedback before we open on Friday.

I am amazed at how well our troupe has bonded and also at the level of trust and co-ordination this has produced. I had serious concerns going into this experiment about what sort of hang-ups could result from having anywhere between zero and eleven directors at any given moment--but the results have been marvelous and I think you'll see that our work will speak for itself. Our process has been similar for both blocking and cleaning scenes and has played out as follows:
--We run the scene once for sense, to get an idea of what we're looking at and what needs to happen. The actors follow impulses, explore, feel it out.
--Those who are offstage give feedback on what they saw, what they liked, and what could be toyed with. The scene is then run again from moment to moment until all of the pieces come together and everyone is satisfied with the agreed upon directions.
--The scene is then run a final time to "lock it in" and help the actors remember what was agreed upon.
There is surprisingly little disagreement in all of this. Everyone is respectful and patient. Ideas are freely shared and explored. The actors are trusting and open to direction. It's nothing short of magical, and so much more than gratifying.
When it comes down to it, I may miss this cast and our rehearsal process more than anything else. Our performances will just be icing on the cake.

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