My Life as a Geva Cohort
February 21 and 22, 2014
Friday, February 21 My week off from work (as an adult educator) is quickly drawing to a close while things are moving at a rapid pace in the development of the production of Informed Consent. The playwright, Deborah Zoe Laufer, is still here in Rochester involved in the process, and I am told this is a rare thing.
I know her full name now and that this World Premiere is a co-production between Geva and the Cleveland Playhouse because Jenni Werner, the Literary Director/Dramaturg, has sent us all an 85 page document of research materials, which I have not yet begun to read.
Today, I drop by the theater at 3:00 PM. The cast has been rehearsing since 10:00 AM and are beginning to look tired. Not everyone is there as some are getting their “fittings”. Frank, the stage manager, reads the parts of the missing actors.
Maeve is the only other cohort present. She is a “return cohort”. She participated as a cohort for the Book Club Play at Geva last February and provides an element of continuity since she has been through this once. And she lives in my neighborhood, the famous 19th Ward. We know each other by name, have met 20 years ago when our children were small, so she is my lighthouse, the one I go to with my questions about how this all works.
The table work is finished, and the actors are standing up now. On the floor is a taped outline representing the stage. There are 5 scattered coffee tables and three speakers pushed together to represent the platforms the actors will stand on. Behind the tables are taped rectangles, which Maeve tells me will be recessed pits to hold props. (Do they actually cut holes in the floor of the stage, I wonder?). The tables are off to the side. Maeve points out the unopened boxes of “My Little Pony” toys, the first props that have been assembled. She also tells me that each actor will be lit when he or she is speaking.
The actors still hold their scripts but have started to memorize their lines. Everyone is reading “full out”, and now some are being asked to acquire accents or “attitudes” or even, occasionally to speak in another language. Movement on stage begins to be determined. In this play, the actors often speak to the audience. When do they look at us, when at each other, when are they alone, walking, touching, in a clump—all must be determined.
As the actors speak, there is occasional laughter on the sidelines from the stage manager, the director, the playwright and others. Maeve tells me that they intentionally laugh at places they hope the audience will laugh.
The play continues to be edited. Lines are taken out to make space for the cards that will come from the audience. (“The first time I saw him” is cut). It is difficult to lose some lines, and all the actors have to be focused at all times to be able to make the quick changes to their scripts.
There is now a drum, (a djembe drum, I think), Evidently Tina beats her drum in between every major thematic shift in the play. Sean, the director says, “Tina Beats has become a huge part of the show. We didn’t even know she existed yesterday, and now she’s navigating the show.”
While I expect to stay at least until 5:00 today (the actors are scheduled to be here until 6:00), everyone is dismissed at 4:15. One fourth of the play is now “done”—“staged”, “blocked”, figured out, edited. “We accomplished 10’s of pages in the first hour. Now we’re slowing down to a couple of lines, “ says Sean.
Tomorrow, the group will begin their day at the Victor Municipal Park (about 40 minutes away) to watch the Native American Winter Games & Sports presented by Gonandagan, a nearby Native American historic site and cultural center. The cohorts are invited the join the group, and the out of town actors are given driving directions to make it there on their own. This is not an escorted tour but a part of the job, a chance to become further immersed in the themes of the play.
But wait, the actors can go home; however, the Stage Manager’s work is not yet done. He has to communicate with the electricians, the costume folks, the set builders, the prop finders—all the rest of the village of elves that make this play happen.
Frank’s note goes like this (and we are all copied in)
- Do you have thoughts/picks for Arella’s signature item? Same question for Great Great Grandmother on p. 44.
- We (in rehearsal) talked about maybe a tweedy jacket for FOUR, as Ken. Does that fit with you?
- Please add a blanket for Graham to ‘tuck in’ Natalie on p. 28. We probably want to cheat on the small side.
- Please add a stylus for Jillian to use with her smart phone.
- Please add a large (ala Masterpiece Theatre) book for Four to read from (p.40).
- Dressing in Jillian’s briefcase should include “literature” she shows to Arella on p. 47.
- Can we get a dofer briefcase for Jillian?
- The childrens’ book (Lily…) gets inscribed on p. 25. (I think you’ve already noted this)
- We are often sitting on the DS edge of the +48” platform UC, with our feet dangling. Could be a consideration for whatever the facing is there if it’s cardboard?
- Love the platform. Thanks.
Saturday, February 22
Unlike the actors, I don’t have to be at the Native American Winter Games by 10:00 AM. For me, it is more important to get off a box of treats to my Uncle Seymour for his 96th birthday. I really want to go to those games, given this incentive, so I decide to mail my box from the Victor post office.
I have been to Gonondagan many times to hike, to take part in cultural festivals, but I have never been to the Winter Games nor to Victor Municipal Park. It is a bit tricky to find. By the time I arrive at 11:30, the Geva group has already left to go back to rehearse. It is 44 degrees out, bright and sunny, but the ground is still covered with snow, so the dog sled races and snake games can take place as planned.
Inside there is a table displaying Roasted White Corn Flour from the Iroquois Corn Project. I have bought their products several times before, so I gather some new recipes and strike up a conversation with the young woman attending the display.
In a very short time, I learn that she is a graduate student in Art Therapy and that she is a Geva Cohort! Glad to meet you Lauren J.! And she tells me that there are two more young Native Americans connected to Gonondagan, who are also cohorts, Kyle and Bethany. Lauren has yet to fit in time to come to a rehearsal, so I fill her in. Now I know Maeve AND Lauren. I’m beginning to hobknob!