“Yesterday we saw a complete run thru, actors fully in their characters, using the tape on the floor to pretend they are on the set, changing costumes and props to change characters. Artistic Director Mark Cuddy came in to watch as well. I believe it was his first viewing of the play. He laughed, he cried (or at least he seemed as emotionally moved as we were). I did not hear him say “Pity we haven’t got a bit of rope” … so … looks good!
Our reaction to the run thru— Wow! This is more moving and more engaging every time we visit rehearsal. Playwright Deb Laufer and Director Sean Daniels (with collaborative input from the cast) have made so many changes and it gets better and better. It was fun for us to recognize how some of the “problems” we witnessed them working on during staging had been worked out. One was during the kid’s princess party scene where Larissa Fasthorse, playing one of the moms, changes character to become Natalie and says “hi mommy” and then changes back to one of the moms. This is a very important line in the script because Gillian’s (Jessie Wortham) difficulty connecting with her daughter is very important to the story. The character changes were complicated; they took too long and it did not flow smoothly (although Larissa was so cute as Natalie!!). Now the mom’s (Larissa’s) cell phone rings and she steps away from the group of moms conversing with Gillian and with her back to the audience pretending to be talking on the phone you hear Natalie’s “hi mommy”. The line still had as much power and importance as when Larissa was in character as Natalie but without the time consuming character changes. What a creative solution!
In another change, where the script originally called for the”sound of a kid’s movie is heard from the bedroom” we now see Tina Fabrique (remember her from Ella here at Geva?) singing the theme from Reading Rainbow. Tina sang the original theme song for that show in 1983! Did I say I think this team is SO CREATIVE? I am reminded of jazz musicians quoting from other artists by a lot of the interesting coincidences in this show.
Watching the entire run thru we got to see Tina and Gilbert Cruz come alive in their many characters. During the other rehearsals that we watched the focus was on the main story of Gillian and Graham (Fajer Al-Kaisi) and their daughter Natalie. Gilbert and Tina didn’t seem like they would have a lot to do or that their characters would be very interesting. I was wrong. They have developed some fascinating characters and very strong performances. Also, where I had initially seen the group of storytellers as background to the main story of the genetic anthropologist Gillian (emphasizing the importance of stories) I now see that they are the main characters of the play. The five characters (ONE, TWO, …,FIVE) are a troupe of storytellers who compete in the first scene to see whose story they will tell today and they pick Gillian’s. Then the troupe supports the telling of the story by playing all of the characters in the story (hence Tina and Gilbert and Larissa playing many “minor” characters) as well as playing storytellers who are offering encouragement and assistance to One (Jessie) and TWO (Fajer) who they have selected to tell the story of Gillian and Graham. Sound complicated? It was to me when I read the script but after seeing the full run thru this team has done a marvelous job of making it clear and simple to the audience. I believe everyone will get it and leave the theater thinking about the issues that Deb is trying to convey.
I guess what I am learning is that the playwright writes words and lines for the characters she has named (but incompletely defined) so that through them she might convey her ideas. Then it is up to the TEAM to work out exactly how the play is acted so that the audience leaves the theatre having understood the messages from the playwright. I have always respected the skills I see on stage but now I am beginning to understand the incredible talent and creativity and hard work it takes to get to that stage. A play is so much more than just a script being acted out.
After the run through Sean gathered the cast around with their scripts and pencils (like school kids) and reviewed the run through. There are only a few more rehearsals and in giving them his goals for the next run thru (get the lines down, maintain the energy from the first scene, etc) he made it apparent that very soon the actors would own this. Until now, he has been leading. Soon, his work is done and the cast, supported by the crew and managed by the stage manager will own this production. Technical rehearsals begin Friday and opening night is a deadline that can not slip. ” – David and Anna Marie Barclay