March 16, 2014
“While watching a rehearsal a few weeks back, I found, in a far-back memory of a book I partially read in college more than 10 years ago, a paragraph I remember about watching play rehearsals. It began with, “Watching rehearsals is a particular kind of prying, almost like voyeurism. It might even be considered taboo. In the theater, actors and directors most often like to work in a private environment of mutual trust and collective resistance to ‘outside’ ears and eyes.” The paragraph goes on to state that this taboo “sits in particular inverse relation to the etymological and phenomenological bases of theater itself, which exists, after all, for the benefit of spectators” (from “The Text in Play: Representations of Rehearsal in Modern Drama,” by Robert Baker-White).
How wonderful, then, that Geva has allowed we Cohorts and other members of the public to break this taboo entirely, and to subscribe instead to the “etymological and phenomenological bases of theater,” in which we can be spectators throughout.
The first tech rehearsal on Friday felt, even more than previous rehearsals, like peering behind the (magic green) curtain… The Wizard (i.e., all the amazing artists of Geva) is hiding there, but he’s NOT yelling “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”
It was a stop-and-start kind of day, as the Barclays have already noted, with the words “hold it there” being thrown around as often as the light boxes changed colors. I enjoyed watching the action shift, if only temporarily, to the “behind the scenes” nitty-gritty of the show, with the emphasis on lighting and sound, and the verbal cues from the actors that will usher in those lighting & sound changes. For example, getting the timing down for lighting up two boxes on stage each time the actors simultaneously raise their hands to make air quotes three times around the word “race.” Meanwhile, Playwright Deb Laufer went over the script to find the exact words on which Act I will end, signaling a newly added intermission, and Act II will begin.
As the Barclays have also written, it was interesting to watch the actors acclimate to the space, it being their first time rehearsing on this stage with the set, and to watch Sean Daniels pacing, getting a view of the action from different vantage points around the room. He gave multiple directions for slight changes in angle to the actors, making sure the audience in each part of the space would be included in the action on stage.
And, of course, it was wonderful to see the set for the first time. The porous cardboard carved out to create rock formations juxtaposed with thoroughly man-mad looking light boxes seem to mimic the struggles inherent to the play itself… Natural vs manufactured. Nature vs science. Stories vs DNA. The history of The Canyon vs the history of the blood.
On that note, myself and other Cohorts got a chance to chat with Geva’s Charge Scenic Artist, Apollo Weaver, who sat in the audience with us for part of the rehearsal. Apollo described the process and thinking that went into the creation of the set, particularly the carving out of the rock formations – broken band-saw blades galore, apparently, while trying to cut that cardboard! We also talked about the challenges of creating realistic looking set pieces that will look realistic from afar. While a wood floor or a tiled bathroom might look great with actual wood and tiles from up close, an exaggerated, larger grain or pattern may be required to make it look realistic from the back rows of the balcony. To that end, most set pieces are hand painted, as opposed to using, for instance, actual wood paneling or colorful tiles. Apollo also talked about the different challenges that the set designers face from the main stage to Next Stage, from dimensions to what the audience sees as they file in to take their seats… All things I never really thought about until now.
The whole tech rehearsal was a nice reminder that, as Cohorts, we have access to more than just watching the actors rehearse (as if that weren’t enough!), but also to all the other artists that contribute to the show, including set designers and lighting and sound engineers. Feeling lucky to be included in this “particular kind of prying, almost like voyeurism!” – Tate DeCaro