Monday, January 23, 2006

Dress Rehearsal

A quick note here, although a lot happened this evening. We got onto the set (which is completed and looks fantastic), and we got to see the costumes--mostly complete, and looking splendid as well. Nice to see the ranks and relationships come through clearly thanks to Melissa's careful strategizing. Of course, as with any dress rehearsal, things went wrong--props were forgotten, actors tripped and stumbled, bits of the set got kicked around. But that's what this is for--and by the time audiences see the show (one week and counting!), most of those growing pains will have passed.

After the run, Dale confided his dissatisfaction to me. Nothing feels right, he said. I'm just standing and shouting lines, he said. My first suggestion involved our discussion about "confusion" as the thing which Lear most fears. I said that, usually, when people are confused, the first thing they try to do is convince others that they're not confused. So maybe lines like "This is a dull sight" need to come out with some measure of confidence...

But as I was saying it, I realized that here I was, just slapping more layers onto a characterization that was already bursting at the seams. I'd already coached Dale into playing "rage" and "fear" simultaneously; now he was supposed to add "confusion" and "certainty"? Who the hell can play all that?

So I suggested something else--an out-of-left-field tactic that has occasionally worked in the past. Two years ago, Dale played Harold Ryan in Walterdale's production of Kurt Vonnegut's Happy Birthday, Wanda June. It was one of the first plays I saw him act in, and one of the roles that convinced me that he had the chops for Lear. Ryan is a misogynist, you see; a brash, boastful, egomaniacal, unapologetic asshole to everyone around him, including his wife. He never doubted that he was right, and he didn't care that everyone except himself disagreed with him. He was, in short, a totally unlikable character--which is why audiences liked him.

So I told Dale to go back to Ryan. Put the rage and fear and doubt and madness off to the side for now, I said; you can always recover it later, if this tactic doesn't work. But for now, I told him to approach Lear's authority from a vantage that he already knows he can portray successfully. If it works, it will give us a whole new Lear--which is a big risk, in a lot of ways, but one I think the cast is ready to take.


Anonymous blindly said...

So I would like to blame Andrew for my having missed a big cue; he is after all, young. Alas, he was the one backstage furiously whispering to me that we are supposed to be on. Moi, I said "No way; it's much later." The big wet noodle for me.

As for Dale, I think he has developed some lovely nuances for Lear. God it's a tough role!

11:47 a.m.  
Blogger Scott Sharplin said...

One of the privilges of senior citizenship: blaming the young for absolutely everything.

2:47 p.m.  
Anonymous Liz J said...

Sometimes we need to remember where we started. This show is part of a season of "family" plays. From my perspective the parts that are working the best, and are most engaging for the audience, are where the actors are focused on each other and there are clear relationships.

This is a transitional time where the actors are trying to get out of their heads and their analysis of their roles so they can step into the characters and bring them to life. It's all about being in the present moment.

I have full confidence in this cast that they can get this play where it needs to be by opening night.

2:58 p.m.  
Blogger Scott Sharplin said...

I couldn't have put it better myself, Liz. The journey from "inside your head" to "in your body" and "in the space" is one small step for an actor, one giant leap for cast-kind.

11:17 a.m.  

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