Sunday– a day of rest, right? Not at Geva for the rehearsal of Informed Consent. Our play is coming along nicely and today we witnessed how much hard work it is (as if we are doing any of the work or as if it is “our” play – although as members of the Cohort we find ourselves with a curious sense of ownership)
Rehearsal has now entered the Staging phase. The rehearsal room is like my grammar school cafeteria; there are high ceilings, linoleum floor, fluorescent lighting, and poor acoustics. The set plan is mapped out full size on the floor with tape and the 5 light boxes that actors will sit on (see the pic of the set model on this page somewhere) are represented by a collection of old coffee tables and benches that are just the right size, some with 2X4s screwed on to lift them to the right height.
The actors and director Sean Daniels are now working through each line of the play, still reading directly from the ever changing script but now they are doing it in 2 dimensions (3 dimensions will be when they can climb on the actual set). They are working out where they will stand and how they will move using the map on the floor. They are still reading directly from the script so imagine how funny it looks for them to be rehearsing an embrace while holding the script in one hand and trying to read it and flip the pages at the same time. They often laugh at themselves through this.
I always thought, when seeing actors on stage, they simply had to memorize their lines and then pretend to be their character. Not true. They have a lot of hard work to do to plan out and practice making each movement and gesture and interaction look natural and add to the theatrical or unspoken messages the playwright is trying to convey. We watched as Jillian (played by Jessie Wortham) and Graham (Fajer Al – Kaisi) stage a scene in which they are having a tense discussion about their daughter, bordering on an argument, and then she says something about her own health and he becomes sympathetic and they become close again. We have all been in a situation like this and I am sure that when we see the play we will all relate instantly and that Jessie and Fajer will effortlessly communicate it for us. But … all the script tells them for this scene is “he holds her for a moment” and “they kiss”. The actors, aided by the director, have to make it look like their characters have resolved a tense discussion and moved to a couch and are now lovingly embracing. All they have is their voices, their gestures and a hard box to sit on!!
Sean tells them what line to start from and they start acting and move to the bench and sit side by side and finish the scene (the kiss). It is terribly awkward. Sean suggests Fajer swing his leg around Jessie. It takes three tries before he can figure out how to do that in one smooth motion. Then Jessie has to find a way to “curl up” with him while not putting her back to the audience and not looking awkward all while entangled on a 1 ½ by 3 foot hard bench and delivering her lines. On the last try she swings both legs over one of his and it works!! Note, every time they try this they are getting up, moving back across the stage and starting the argument over (each time with the same emotional intensity – this is work!!). Then Sean asks if Graham and Jillian (talking to the characters now) have some special thing they do in this situation, like touch noses or run fingers through her hair (habits like all couples might have). They do the scene three more times and it is greatly improved. We, watching this, can now “see” the nonexistent couch and feel Jillian and Graham’s closeness, but I am sure it still has a long way to go to become something they will do exactly the same way night after night.