Monday, 18 October 2010

Do you look for a whippin'?

Week two of actual rehearsals. I woke up angry, having received a barrage of text messages from cast members saying they couldn't make the read through today. Mondays and Tuesdays are rehearsal days, and they've all known this for weeks now, so my patience is running thin. I send round a text saying that the read through is cancelled this evening, making clear just how pissed off I am. I then text my Proctor, my Elizabeth and my Mary Warren and ask them if they have the afternoon free, so that we can get the first half of Act Two up and running. They all say yes, so the day isn't a total loss, but it means i have to change my rehearsal plan AGAIN.

I spend the early afternoon planning the rehearsal between Proctor and Elizabeth. Act Two is probably my favourite in the play, if only because it is the one with the least people on stage. So many of the scenes end up with about 15 people standing around, and while that is something of a spectacle it's a bitch to choreograph. I think this will be the last large cast i work with, the whole thing seems more administrative than creative.

Anyway, i plan some silent improvisations and look over the scene, and when we start our rehearsal i explain how the stage will be set up and how the scene will run. Again, I'm slightly nervous with actors i haven't worked with before, and the fact that everything seems to be going wrong with the play has put me on edge, so i don't come off quite the competent professional i would like my cast to see me, but once we start working it all runs pretty smoothly. Both actors are great, very focused, eager and easy to direct, and in two hours we come up with a workable version of the scene. I leave to go edit my page of the newspaper and eat something, and we meet back in two hours for the second half of the rehearsal.

The next part we are rehearsing comes directly after the scene we did earlier, so it's not too hard to get in to, and the actress of Mary knows both of the other actors already, so the room is pretty relaxed, but for some reason the focus has gone. Everyone is hyper and the scene quickly deteriorates into pantomime. While it is amusing, it is also tiring, and after a while i have to call the room to order. I wanted this rehearsal to be like the ones on Thursday and this afternoon, where we could run the scene a couple of different times, exploring different motivations, but the energy of the group means that I'm forced to be less experimental, more prescriptive in order to ensure we stay focused on the task at hand. I'm not sure giving specific direction this early in the process is particularly productive, but we ended up with a satisfying, if not perfect version of the scene. I sent them away telling them to learn their lines so we could come back to it next week and try and do it off book, in order to really focus on performance.

The day, although different from what i had planned, extremely tiring and more than a little frustrating, ended up being productive and relatively satisfying. I'm hoping that by working the scenes with fewer people in them first, when we come to larger cast rehearsals i can show the rest of the cast the level we have already achieved, and that will encourage them to work equally hard. I recognize that I'm avoiding working with the larger groups to a certain extent, and that there is only so long i can keep this up, but for now I think I'm building my confidence with the group, and getting a better relationship with the lead actors, which will hopefully stand me in good stead for when i have to choreograph the larger scenes.

Basically I'm a chicken and I don't like telling groups of 15 people what to do. This is a flaw I have to work on.

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