Thursday, May 29, 2008

Adjustments and New Experiences ... (or, "Do What?")

Now that the rehearsal process for both productions is fully under way, the two casts are settling into their new routines. Participation in the festival, even in the first week, has for many members come with its share of adjustments to make. A common concern for those journeying from Lynchburg to the Sweet Briar campus has been the cost of fuel, so an interesting almost-daily coordination of schedules has been taking place (in person and by e-mail) to accommodate carpools. Even the theatre is not immune from the effects of rising gas prices!

Ken Parks, Shelbie Filson, and I carpool to rehearsal!

This week has, of course, primarily seen both shows in their "table work" phases, which involves a different set of adjustments altogether.

For Romeo and Juliet, analyzing every line and finding the appropriate meaning for our production results in new discoveries and sometimes changes of an individual's own preconceived notions about a scene, character, or bit of dialogue. A plethora of editions of the text, in addition to a number of other resources, can be found on-hand (thanks to the director) to aid in this discovery process.

A sampling of the many tools kept within reach.

"Here, you take that one, I'll take this. Let's see what everyone has to say about that point."

For The Bluest Water, these adjustments include not only the same character discoveries and variations in interpretation but literal adjustments to the script itself. As an original, premiering work, it is updated almost nightly (even if those updates are minor), with "new pages" provided to the actors and production team after every day's edit. Throughout a given rehearsal, the author will often re-work lines on the fly (allowing them to be immediately tested out).

Playwright Jason Chimonides keeps a soft-copy of the script at his fingertips for editing.

This revision process is but one example of the new experiences provided to many of those involved. Watching a play take shape throughout the run is something to which many of us are unaccustomed. It has been an enjoyable, interactive process, with the cast actively involved in dialogue changes (particularly fun when it adds additional local flavor ... such as a recent inclusion of the interestingly-southern response, "Do what?!"). As Ken Parks (who plays the character of Jared in The Bluest Water) stated with a smile, "I'm used to having a set script in front of me and simply having to make it work. Now, I keep thinking, 'You mean I get to have a say in what actually winds up on the page for good?' "

Another cast member of The Bluest Water, Casey Carden (who plays the character of Emory), says this is "the realest thing [he's] ever done." As a Central Virginia native, Casey turned 18 a matter of days after the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Camille, and members of his family were involved in the rescue and cleanup efforts. "So it's definitely close to home for me."

There seems to be something new for almost everyone. For many of the members of Romeo and Juliet, this will be their first experience with outdoor theatre. Other festival participants are taking their first stab at Shakespeare, performing at Sweet Briar College for the first time, or are new to Virginia itself. For a handful of actors involved with the festival, myself included, this provides the first opportunity to be in two productions running concurrently in repertory.

Ken Parks leaves rehearsal as The Bluest Water's Jared to join rehearsal upstairs as Romeo and Juliet's Friar Lawrence.

Shifting gears nightly (or, for some, often between different rehearsals in the same evening) will take some getting used to, but those who've accepted this challenge (to essentially form two or more separate and distinct personas) welcome it whole-heartedly. Derek Arey (Neddy in The Bluest Water / Balthasar in Romeo and Juliet) says he thinks the difference in staging for the two shows will help a lot. "I look forward to being able to leave Balthasar outside while coming into a completely different space for Neddy."

The six actors performing 'double duty'.

It's an exciting challenge indeed. Already, even in its first week, the festival has been a learning experience. Things are quickly shaping up to be quite a ride, for us and our audiences alike.

Jared M Anderson
Endstation Blogger

1 comment:

Will Shakespeare said...

I wish I could have been there to do revisions, too. I played Montague in the first production and I wrote several really good scenes that I think I would have shined in if that bastard Burbage hadn't made me cut them out (but naturally wanted me to pad the part of Romeo). Trust me, I was more sinned against than sinning. I was younng in 1597, didn't think about the money to be made in publication and ancillary rights. I am fortune's fool.