Sunday, January 22, 2006

Tragic Topography

Yesterday I was at the playhouse early, helping Joanne to set light levels on the newly painted set. As she often pointed out, the two of us were frighteningly sympatico, and usually, when I made a lighting suggestion, she'd already made a note to that same effect. We got everything done before noon, apart from some bits of the storm and the last two scenes of the play. She finished the latter bit up during our run-through, and everything looks great. The storm will, unsurprisingly, be the last component to come together.

Because of the lighting work, the actors still had to do their run-through up in the rehearsal hall (it's never a good thing when you get an unexpected blackout in the middle of a swordfight). This was the last out-of-venue run; on Monday, we storm the set (yeah, pun intended). I think we're in excellent shape. Everyone seems very comfortable with their lines and blocking, and that's essential for the transition we're about to make. If you don't know your blocking very well before you move into the space, then it usually mutates beyond recognition by opening night.

My general note for this run was "Go big or go home." Most of the cast took me at my word (and went big, I mean. I wouldn't have let them go home, despite the implied choice). They put a lot of energy and relish into their lines, and I think they were a bit dismayed when, afterwards, I told them, "Very good. Now let's double that level again."

It's not about doing every single line at the top of your lungs, or even at the height of intensity. A good production needs a lot of peaks and valleys, and a harrowing play like this definitely needs moments when the audience can recover their breath. But when we do hit those peaks, then by the gods, they need to soar. This is not a Glastonbury Tor play--this is a Mont Blanc, a Kilimanjaro, an Everest. What I'm trying to do now is set the actors' sights on that sort of elevation; and then, if each one of them can get there once or twice in the course of a performance, they'll create the necessary topography to make the play succeed.

But, having said that...I invited a director friend whose opinion I greatly value to see the run-through, and she told me afterwards that I had everything I needed to make the play fly: a clear story filled with interesting, robust characters and many precious moments. And, of course, she saw the play without set, lights, sound, or costumes. So it's nice to think that, no matter what occurs during the final week of rehearsals, we definitely have a show on our hands.


Anonymous blindly said...

I felt a lot of zip among the cast. The Pinter pauses are diminishing. I also relish the positive vibes I am feeling from everyone. The show will march bravely and fiercely on. Thank you for your talent and devotion.

7:27 p.m.  

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