Rehearsals: Day 5
15th April, 2019
Sixteen actors tonight, two new people having a go.
Warm-up was lively, we followed the energy and mimicked others, especially when we decided to introduce a vocal element with the moves. Then to moving around.
Acknowledging the bravery of the actor the week before, we began the warm-up with ‘I Will Survive’ by Gloria Gaynor (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARt9HV9T0w8); everyone singing, stretching their limbs, enjoying the music and the fun –– flowing, chopping, being free, and coming to a stop.
Walks … mirroring … flocking
Then into walks, reminding the actors of the lessons from previous rehearsals, this time concentrating on mirroring and shifting radiation … becoming familiar with withdrawing that radiation from your mirroring partner … sometimes they mirror was close by, sometimes far away …
We went into flocking immediately … the two Venticelli groups from Rehearsal 4 were the core of the group, with those who hadn’t been there joining in. I invited the groups to remember their gestures and then, flocking together, to move in those groups, using the gestures.
A discussion began before any movement started, a chat about where the actors needing a place should go, a chat about the gesture … too much talking … the energy of the focused walks was lost, so the flocking was a bit the same … lost.
Enough flocking, I say … let it be for now and return when the moment is right. My thought from today, the day after the rehearsal … not at the time, as you will see!
Though the energy was down, I asked the actors to do one more walk. In order to create a fluidity in the presentation, a neutrality of gender, I have been anticipating trying this in the walking exercise.
Julia had told me during the week that she and the design team had thought suits might be a good place to start work on costume –– a suit is a symbol of power and status, which would fit into the themes very nicely. Many of the images on the mood board that we had looked at were suit type images. A good starting point? And it was timely to have a staring point! That was the opinion of the design team.
We discussed asking everyone to bring in a suit and maybe a white shirt. I had a concern that the work might be overtaken by involvement with the suit / the costume element.
As we regularly say, any element surrounding the actors must serve them and the play, not the other way around.
Eventually I sent a message by email asking the extras to being a suit if they had one and agreed that we would use the suit. during the rehearsal, though not all the time.
In the walk, I invited the actors to close their eyes and, with an act of imagination as before in relation to their centre of energy, to imagine walking as a character more masculine than they were. If they wished to, they could use a suit. Many of the actors were dressed in black, as I had asked in other rehearsals and the suits were black, so the effect of the shoulders and the black clothing and suit jackets was very effective in neutralizing the actors.
We played with that: tried being more wrestler-like, more like Colin McGregor … what change did that bring to their bodies? After working with that, we moved slowly back to neutral.
Then the same imagination brought to a more ‘feminine’ means of movement, a ballerina?? … and back to neutral.
Really interesting to observe the actors in this … needs further thought and attention … what I am trying to achieve with this?
And, before we finished walking, a group flocking, the moment was back, all together they moved, with that focused collective energy … better.
It has featured in my imagination since the beginning. In the play Peter Shafer returns again and again to references to confectionary in particular and Salieri’s insatiable appetite for treats.
Dolci, caramelli, and most especially a miraculous crema al mascarpone.
Salieri: Act 1, Scene 5
Defined by he Oxford Dictionary as ‘the habit of eating and drinking too much’, the world of Salieri and Mozart is too much: too decadent, too luxurious, too removed from everyday struggles.
This will be our challenge in the mise en scene … to balance this excess.
Julia, Alyn and I created a set from a large table and the hall chairs. Placed on the table was a fancy cake stand and After Dinner Mints placed casually on and around the stand, with some scattered on the floor.
I was distracted …
As I was about to begin this group exercise, I was enjoying the look of the set and so asked four different actors to read Salieri lines, bringing them to life with the luxurious fabric around, with Salieri’s music on in the background.
Back to Gluttony…
Then, one by one, the still-suited actors were invited to come and taste the chocolate, with conveying gluttony as the intention.
The exercise developed organically; an improvisation that moved and changed as the actors approached the table and chose a chocolate: drank in the smell, gobbled it down, gorged, feasted, squirmed, hid the chocolate, grabbed extra, ran away with it, relished it.
By actor number three, I was feeling a little sick.
In fact, I can remember my queasiness now as I write this!
I coached only a little, inviting other actors to try, sometimes asking actors to pull back in their acting –– their intention was clear.
A magic moment that lasted and lasted as, one after another, the actors came involved with the task: sometimes alone, sometimes joining with another close by –– very little engagement between them.
Great individual work and a great image to finish.
Constanza this time, in the scene with the Venticelli –– they are trying to measure her calves to great hilarity and with a distinct frisson! It is a source of great embarrassment to Mozart who comes upon them. When a row ensues, Constanza cannot bear his shame, when she believes that he has thrown himself at every young woman he has taught.
Salierei has been in a wing chair all along, hidden from their view, until he can no longer restrain his surprise at their carry-on and reveals himself.
Another element to the play and the characters that people it –– their secrets and hidden lives.
Images and Pictures
I wanted to bring the images we were using as inspiration uptodate, to have a contemporary feel to them –– balancing out the Goya pictures we had previously copied.
One large group copied one of Annie Leibovitz’s photo of glamorous women, one used on the over of Vanity Fair in 2016. The actors were working from one small phone screen, trying to get the group into position. My instructions weren’t great. In fact, I hadn’t considered giving instructions at all in this regard.
If I had, they would’ve been –– that each actor, one at a time, should look at the image, choose a person to copy, and then proceed to take their place … to keep moving slightly until the last actor was in position and then lock down the image, on my instruction.
I intervened as one actor directed the others. It was ‘all my fault’ … definitely … and late in the exercise to be saying it. But another opportunity to learn about communication and clarity. And tiredness at the end of the night!
The image was fantastic. Each group recreated it again, more formally this time, as the other group watched on as audience. So striking and holding the lively energy until the last, then freezing in the image, has some indefinable quality about it.
The other, smaller group took a Karl Aigen image of a painting of the fish market Fischmarkt (c. 1730) and recreated that. The image they worked from was on a larger computer creen and so was easier for them.
They too recreated the image with fantastic intensity. Because of their smaller number, the individual entries and exits were more evident. Very interesting. And again, continuing the movement the actors until all are within the image before freezing is really effective.
To finish …
A coming together in a circle.
Details of the Easter break and our next workshop were mentioned, where we will hopefully come together with the design team to look at how the suits work and connect in over a cup of tea.
I put a call out for members to help with research of the various characters within the play and the Freemasons, whose practices and influence feature strongly in the play. We’ll see how that works.
A final circle of hands behind our backs, then leaning backwards to have a combined, albeit unsteady, moment of release.
And, following the call of one of the actors, a circle of hands in the centre, basketball-team-like, shoving the fun and energy to the ceiling.