22 February 2014
Informed Consent rehearsal day 3
Thursday we attended the last “table work” session during which we got to see wonderful collaboration between the actors, the playwright, and the director.
First some background. This play is a moving story with 8 or so characters performed by 5 actors. There are a genetic anthropologist, her husband and daughter, a Havasupai tribe member, and several more. It is the type of story you could imagine in a linear TV drama or staged as narrative in the theatre. Instead of this “simple” approach the playwright, Deb Laufer, adds a chorus of sorts, “the group” as she calls it, five nameless storytellers (well named ONE, TWO … FIVE) who from time to time step out of their characters from the main story line and simultaneously tell short bits of stories that relate to the subject being portrayed at that point. For example, when the genetic anthropologist and her husband are telling how they fell in love the chorus suddenly starts each giving a few lines about how each of them found love. Similarly, when the theme is one of a lost loved one the chorus starts to reminisce about their experiences of losing a loved one.
Use of the stories, in my opinion, is a very creative approach on its own but Thursday we got to watch Deb add a whole new dimension to this device in her script and it was fascinating. She is SO creative! The table work was focused on a section where “the group” was to tell their stories of loss of a loved one. They read through these pages as written. Then director Sean Daniels asked everyone to share some personal stories of loss. It was just a group of people sitting around a table telling stories like you or I might do around the lunch table at work. Suddenly, Deb notes that these are some very moving stories and that since all of the chorus’ stories in the script are her idea of universal stories or even her own stories (“my whole life is in this script”) maybe she could change the script to reflect their stories; to make it so that each actor, when speaking as ONE or TWO or FOUR, would be actually telling a story that is personal to her or him.
It was such a great experience to watch this happen. I could not tell if Sean had planned for this to happen when he asked everyone to start sharing their own stories. I got the impression that he just wanted to take a break from the literal reading and get everyone chatting on loss of a loved one to facilitate the actors being able to better feel their parts and motivations and suddenly Sean and Deb were inspired by a new idea. Regardless, inspiration ensued. This, apparently, is how great theatre is made at Geva.
Sean Daniels’ directing style is very collaborative and he seems unafraid to just intuitively try something new and see what happens (like forming these Cohorts); throw some stuff at the wall and see what sticks, as they say. Sean is very skilled at taking what sticks and creating a new concept or new direction. If you enjoy watching any creative process, an artist creating their work, this is something you just have to see!!
I can not finish my comments for today without noting the amazing actors in this cast. We arrived as they were returning from lunch. They chatted briefly about what they had done on their lunch hours. Sean then said “let’s start reading on page 95” and thirty seconds later we are watching an extremely emotional reading of the lines on that page (including genuine tears!). How do they do that? Amazing actors!
David and Anna Marie Barclay