Less is More
My Life as a Cohort
March 12, 2014
Yesterday marked the three-week anniversary of the beginning of rehearsals for Geva Theatre’s world premiere production of Deborah Laufer’s Informed Consent. One more week remains before it will open.
The actors know virtually all of their lines now, and yet lines and gestures continue to be cut or changed. The timing of the run-throughs has been trimmed from one hour and 47 minutes to one hour and 37 minutes. Ideally, an additional seven minutes will disappear to get to the 90-minute target.
Jessie and Fajer as Jillian and Graham truly seem like a couple, and adult Larissa is equally believable as their four year old daughter, Natalie, as she is at being a leader in the Havasupai community. How fortunate I am to have witnessed this transformation taking place!
One of the most rewarding interchanges to watch in the process was yesterday afternoon’s “Notes” section, where, at the end of a full day’s rehearsal and two complete run-throughs, Director Sean Daniels gave his critique to the actors. Having never really seen a director in action before, Sean, my first, will always be the quintessential director to me. He is a master at teaching, guiding, and nurturing this fine group to excellence.
Sean starts with praise, “I was really proud of what everybody did this afternoon. There was a big difference between the morning run and the afternoon run. You guys really stepped it up, and you were really on it. You’ve become an ensemble.”
After telling them how rare working collaboratively like this is in contemporary theater, Sean begins to give his suggestions, “Start thinking about your shoulders and how to stay open to the entire room.”
(As a teacher, I too have to constantly be aware of my gaze and my body encompassing the whole room—not to position myself too much to the right as many right handers do.)
A lot of what Sean has to say is about the power of “negative space” and of silence.
“I learn more from the people who are not talking than from those who are,” he says.
“Graham, in your first kid’s movement do even less—almost nothing. We get a show and a pony later.” (This is an inside joke as the My Little Pony toy figures prominently in the play.)
“Be farther apart, Graham and Jillian, so your shoulders are available—not all on top of each other.”
“Don’t push so hard in those scenes.”
“Take a pause when you say . . .you’ll get a bigger laugh.”
“Never go to sarcasm. Just walk away. That’s strong enough.”
“Turn down the comedy in the Mommy party scenes.”
And finally, Sean says, “One of my favorite moments, at the end of her speech on informed consent, Jillian just stands there, and she could stand there until the end of time.”
I am thinking of my own writing. I want to note every single detail, the obsessive documenter. Others have a greater gift for synthesis, the big picture. As I hone my writing, while the cast and crew hone their theater piece, I constantly remind myself that less is more.