Rehearsals: Day 1
18th March 2019
The ‘cloud’ plan of the evening was made in my Amadeus book: the aims and objectives for the evening set out to keep the session on track.
We met at the Parish hall at 7.30. The Design team arrived first and early. So we lay out Julia’s ‘mood boards’ –– about ten of them –– on the wooden floor, dealing with: set, colour, texture, birds, fashion, androgeny.
People arriving could walk around to view them in the centre of the room, and one by one, we gathered, creating a ring. There were eight attendees who would act later on and ten people who had come to help out with the design, some coming to see if they could help in some way but unsure what that might be.
Eventually, we brought chairs in a circle, around the mood boards, with the plain kitchen chair that Julia had brought to decorate, positioned in the centre with a piece of luscious pink fabric draped on the back.
There was a brief introduction outlining the overall plan to produce Amadeus for performances in October, with the mood boards to give us a sense of what we were trying to achieve … our initial ideas for the concept of the presentation.
I was keen to do some drama work that would include everybody from the outset –– establishing a group connection from the beginning, before we split into our particular areas of interest. The collective connection I encourage includes all those who are part of the process and, although I wouldn’t anticipate that the design team would be in the rehearsal space for every rehearsal session, being part of the process on occasion can be revealing and enlightening for everybody.
Games: Tell a story
So, each person spoke to the person beside them, telling why they came to this rehearsal, what their interest was in the project, what were they doing here! Each duo shared the time to exchange their stories. The atmosphere immediately shifted … enlivened … people seemed to really enjoy the mixing, talking and engaging with one another.
Then one person of the two moved to a new position and to a new person. The new duo then told the story that they had just heard, but as if it was their own, and in their own words. Finally, the participants moved to speak and engage with a third person, again using the new story that had been told to them in part 2, as if it was their story.
We huddled into a group. As there were a variety of people, with differing mobilities, we made a tight circle of chairs by the side of the wall, at the benches. We then sent the noisy energy around the circle from person to person; turning it back in the group; throwing it across the circle.
The actors begin
The designers then observed while I began with those who wished to do an exercise.
It could be problematic to ask performers to work while others observe, but it felt important that everybody was included in this initial process and the designers, unused to my style of working, could see the demands on the actors and feel the emotion that this group: Actors, Producers, Designers and Director, create together.
We began walking loosely in the space –– freely, easily, with soft focus in the eyes, eyes elevated to the horizon, moving without observing others too closely or engaging with them … simply passing by.
Then I asked the performers to pause, close their eyes and, as an act of imagination, to become aware of a ball of energy, in a centre in their head at first, then moving to the chest and then to the tummy. Then it moved from place to place.
Then, with that ball of energy in a centre of their choosing, I asked them, when they were ready, when the momentum was right, to walk around the room from that centre. Then they moved the centre around their body and to move from there, noticing the difference that shifting the centres brought –– also exploring moving from slow to quick and back to slow and stop.
I had also spoken about radiating out the energy from their bodies in the movement.
Already I could feel an atmosphere of focus and attention from these actors.
A set and sculptures
We created an improvised set with a number of chairs and the main chair as described above, cast around the rehearsal area in the body of the hall. Then I invited each performer to take up a place in this ‘set’ which displayed a sense of power for them.
Each actor joined, one after another, but after observing what position the previous actor had taken up. As each actor joins the focus of power shifts and the actor adapts to this changed scene.
Once each actor was within the set, the picture of the whole was frozen, briefly. Then, they relaxed and came off the set.
Th next theme was ‘vulnerability’. Again, each actor, having observed the person before, entered the set and added to the collective picture.
There is something incredibly moving about these sculptures –– seeing the actors work together in one piece, unaware of the impact of the whole effect; their individual focus and contribution creating an image that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Separating the groups
The designers went off to the side room, with kitchen chair, fabric, scissors, glue gun, card and other paraphernalia, to create a splendid chair that we would use later. There were eight actors remaining.
Two lines of actors faced each other, four opposite four, just a short distance apart. They began the exercise of moving their bodies –– one leading, the other following –– with a mirror always between them; no words, no touching. Moving in a manner that enabled the follower to achieve the same moves –– not testing or teasing them.
Once this is established, the follower then becomes the initiator and the leader the follower. Then, the movement becomes ‘lead’ and ‘followed’ by both parties in a fluid way, neither having a defined role; bringing sensitivity and awareness to their participation.
After a time, without interfering with the mood of the exercise now achieved, I invited the pair to step away from each other and continue the work, being aware of the difference that this made to their communication.
We try flocking and I explain what I am looking for, a group movement, where the group continuously moves and flows around the room, the person in front taking the lead. The pace is slow to allow the awareness of the group to build.
I repeat the concepts of readiness and radiation, to be considered within this process also.
Perhaps flocking is one of ‘my darlings’! as my writer friends would describe it –– an idea that one is overly attached to. And consequently, for a better artistic outcome, it may need to be dispensed with!!
I love the idea of a group of actors having the intensity and awareness to flock effectively, similar to musicians who are utterly familiar with each other.
There has been a performance art project in my head involving this kind of movement for a long time. Every time that I have had a group together in recent years I ask them to try it and it’s been really impressive in a small way, never quite working out, but I can see potential … I think!
It is ok, but not brilliant. It’s tricky for people to understand what I’m talking about. We’ll see how it works next time.
So, I return to walking, moving in the space with awareness, walking freely, equidistant, then like magnets: attracted to each other sometimes, then repelled; seeking subtly and delicacy; then ‘one stop/all stop –– ‘one moves/all move’.
After this exercise, the group tried the flocking group movement again –– moving as one, with gentleness, awareness, slowness. This second time was fantastic.
There is always some part of a text that appeals to me as a beginning point for a play. The idea of a ‘society’, a community of characters within any play, mirrored by this present community of actors and artists, coming together from this community in 2019 for this project. It is a recurring theme within the plays I have directed with SDG. Society/Community is where we start this time also.
In the play, the two Venticelli are described by Salieri as his ‘little winds’. They are his source of gossip and information. They bring energy and connection to Salieri, who often is alone, lonely and isolated within the play.
Two actors read a part of the early ‘Venticelli’ text, where they are first introduced to the audience; they are spreading gossip about Salieri and the allegation that he poisoned Mozart.
Then we took eight lines of text at the end of the Scene. The group of actors divided into two groups, one linked to Venticello 1 and the other to Venticello 2. When the actors had learned the lines relevant to them, they then found a space within the ‘set’ for their group, where they repeated the lines –– initially saying them to each other, within their own group; then saying to the other group, across the space; finally crossing the space to mix with the other group, whispering the news.
The designers return
Three chairs had been adapted for us. They were placed near the ‘set’ we had created already, bringing color and flash to our performance area. They were grandiose: one made from card, another with luscious fabric. The final one even contained a concealed person, holding a heavy anchor, which was draped across the floor, ready to receive a body and to envelop them if they had sat on it.
The actors repeated the work they had done earlier, now within the new set, with the design team looking on.
I then played Mozart’s Kyrie from the Mass in C Minor, which is mentioned in the Amadeus text. And we read the Salieri monologue were he is realizing that he will destroy the pact he made with God to serve him because it is the music of Mozart that is so pure and beautiful. And he, Salierei, is the only one to recognize this.
Two different actors read, one sitting on the paper chair, the other standing, the readings full of passion and despair.
Note to self:
Make the actors aware of my belief and intention that if the person is developed as an actor then everything else follows for the performance.
intent –– focused / readiness
being free –– energy / lively
playful –– fluid / changing
trust –– safe