April 30, 2014
Cohorting: Round Two…. or shall we say, “It’s the second inning.”
“First, let me talk baseball, because this play has got me thinking about it more than I already do (which is truly saying something!).
At the first read-through and rehearsal for Tinkers to Evers to Chance on Saturday, director Sean Daniels said, “It’s the most romantic and optimistic thing you could do, to be a sports fan.” And I absolutely agree. Of course this is true for all sports, but I don’t follow all sports. I follow baseball. And every year, and within that year every game, and within that game every at-bat or pop fly about to be caught or pitch about to be thrown, gives its followers and players another reason to hope. Baseball is an ebb & flow of emotions. Every time the batter steps into the box fans hold their breath with anticipation and hope. Always hope. The pitch, the swing, a foul ball, a breath out, a moment of disappointment followed (so immediately that it’s almost simultaneous) by another wave of new hope for the next pitch, the next swing, the next BIG MOMENT, the next WALK OFF HOME RUN… right?! Because that happens! Ever-so-romantically in movies, yes, but ALSO in real life. (I’m talking to you, The Natural. Knock the cover off the ball? Sure, Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado can do that too!)
We love sports because we love life. Because sports mirror life… The hope you hold out. The times when you’re batting O and the times when you’re batting 1,000. The ebb & flow of emotions. And you don’t need to know baseball to get that, just as you don’t need to know baseball to love this play. Because hope is universal, as is letting it go. I don’t remember now if it was Sean or playwright Mat Smart who said, “When is letting go of hope a failure and when is it the responsible thing to do?” When is hope harmful in life and when is it helpful?
I think Tinkers deals with this issue deftly. The hope of a Cubs win might mirror Nessa’s hopes to meet Johnny Evers, to pursue a romance with RJ, to go out on her own terms… Might mirror Lauren’s hopes to experience the win with her mother, to reconnect in that way… Might mirror RJ’s need to remain distant, to protect himself from harm.
The read-through was particularly fun to hear and watch because I hadn’t read the play yet (unlike with Informed Consent, where I’d had a chance to read it before attending the first rehearsal), so it was all brand new to me. The two actors seemed already at ease in their roles, and the invisible character – Nessa, the mother, the patient, the friend – already filling the room with her absence.
After the read-through a short break, the actors, director and playwright began to parse through the dialogue and create more backstory for their characters. It was interesting to watch the discussion unfold about what kind of stroke Nessa had and how it affected her physically, what a caretaker’s role might be and who he would work for, when Lauren would have purchased the Cubs tickets, and even how she might have gotten the ticket to Nessa (FedEx?). I enjoyed watching Sean ask the actors questions about their characters, not necessarily leading them in one direction or the other but allowing them to fill in the stories. I’m sure he had some preconceived notions about who these characters are and what/where they’re coming from, but in general he allowed the actors to create their own personalized version of this, rather than dictate his own creations.
Likewise Mat was generally quiet through these discussions, only chiming in when asked a question about the characters – their age, for instance, or the specifics on when Lauren would be able to buy game tickets. As has already been noted by another cohort, I’m sure Mat has ideas of his own about these characters, but I realized as I watched the importance of letting the actors create their own stories. I imagine, at least, that settling into what makes sense to the actor them makes the character more real for them, and easier to portray.
I’m curious to see how they make the transitions from one character to the next, as each actor must play a few different people, to see the set take shape, and, most of all, to continue to get to know these characters as THEY take shape.” – Tate DeCaro