Returning the Favor and other Slices of Life

Returning the Favor
Returning the Favor
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Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday means...

Only two more days in the work week. Kinda sick, but true. I don't really get weekends off, with the writing stuff that I'm doing and the theatre thing kicking into high gear right about now, but I'm really looking forward to rolling up through Kentucky into Indiana in a couple weeks to attend Suzy's 20th high school reunion.

Along those lines, I just bought this on
Did I mention I kinda hate exercise? Let's face it, if I didn't really like to eat and wasn't a lazy bastard, I wouldn't have ended up fat in the first place. The NordicTrack AudioRider gives me a place to jack in my iPod while I suffer, and it was on sale.

Last run-through before tech rehearsals was last night, kinda hard to believe we open that pig in less than a week. The cast has worked hard, as befits a difficult show. Some of these folks are doing the best work I've ever seen, and I'm very proud of them. The concept is a little risky, and I'm not sure how it's going to be received. We're shooting for a very minimalist, rehearsal-clothes type production, except for the play-within-the-play, which is done in full kabuki makeup, costumes and movement.

That's a little but of a leap to ask an audience to take with you, and I know this. My whole point is that this play celebrates two things - the truth in the language, and the spectacle that is theatre. By stripping away a lot of the typical "Shakespeare" trappings, the hose, the doublets, all the period costumes, we're able to focus on the words, and the truth they contain. Even today we're still dealing with the same issues, young people with parents that die, divorce and remarry people we don't like, people that get in the way of our ambition, depression, suicide, disapproving parents and friends who aren't what they seem.

But at the same time, Shakespeare has crafted a love letter to theatre, particularly with the players. While there was a lot of political commentary built into the original text about professional acting troupes that were forced out of their comfortable city theatres and had to take to the road acting for pennies when favor turned to child star troupes, I cut that stuff and focused instead on the love of theatre inherent in those characters.

Stop and read this out loud if you're somewhere that it won't get you fired.

let your own discretion be your tutor:

suit the action to the word,

the word to the action; with this special o'erstep not

the modesty of nature: for any thing so overdone is

from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the

first and now, was and is, to hold, as 'twere, the

mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature,

scorn her own image, and the very age and body of

the time his form and pressure.

That's the stuff I tell actors even today, when I'm giving notes. One of my favorite things to tell actors is "speak the fucking speech," which is a mangling of the beginning of Hamlet's instructions to the players. Actors that have worked with me a few times understand exactly what I mean, and they put their silly actor tricks back in the bag and reach for truth instead.

And as I go through this process, my first directing gig in several years, I realize why not every actor wants to work with me time and time again. I'm a hardass, and sometimes I'm not very nice. And not everyone understands that when I give notes for 30+ minutes after a 3-hour rehearsal, it doesn't mean the show's shit, it means the show is coming together and I can see potential that needs to be brought out. And not all actors get that.

But for the actors who will come along for the ride, I make good product, and I can help them be better actors than they were when we started the process. I'll never ask an actor to do something onstage that I'm not willing to do myself, a lesson I learned from my first directing teacher. I think I'm pretty good at this, but really the proof is in what we put on stage, so I'll know in a week.

Wow - that got deeper than I expected. Oh well, more insight into my twisted little brain than most of you ever wanted, but if anyone in my cast reads this, feel free to pass the link along to the rest of the actoids.

1 comment:

doubleas said...

Labor day sucks for me, but I'll let you know when I know more about my schedule.