Rehearsals: Day 10
3rd June, 2019
To begin …
I met with the Cook and the Valet early, before the rehearsal proper, to have a chat about their roles. Tonight, I wanted to refresh our work with Salieri and them, pick up where we had left off last week. Especially working with the Valet for the first time on this (she had missed the last rehearsal), it would be interesting to see her development as the formal, high-status servant.
And their interaction with the two Venticelli groups. The Valet and Cook are the conduits for some of the information that passes about Salieri, surely, so their relationships with their respective Venticello is crucial.
There were eleven actors tonight and two visitors from the SDG committee … one of whom was forced to join in later to make up the numbers! What flexibility is in the backroom staff!
In the hall we warmed-up to the music, using it informally to warm the body for the evening work ahead. We used the floor a lot tonight, our movement not restricted this evening; trying not to rely on symmetry or familiar patterns. One exercise asked for the participants to use the floor while allowing the minimum contact with the body and the floor.
We moved by flowing, becoming choppy, then chaotic and finally lyrical.
We greeted each other, shaking hands.
This time, I followed the precise instructions for the Energy circle. It is a different exercise entirely, with concentration, momentum and ‘holding of energy’ as the focus.
So, the group in a circle sends around a gesture and ‘ha’ sound … using the same level of energy in passing it to the next person. A rhythm builds within the group as the level of concentration deepens. Only when is is sustained (or drops entirely) do you introduce the instruction that it can be returned the way it came (twice only by any one person). Again, maintaining the same intensity becomes the issue.
The final part of the game is where this gesture/sound can be thrown across the circle, provided the energy doesn’t drop. It is great fun and develops good focus.
Walks with characters … leading to mirror with specific companion actor
We carried on with the walks; moving with the physicality of the characters in the play; developing them; trying their voices. Then enlarging the characters, taking their characteristics and making them bigger –– seeing where the embodiment of this character really is (not restricting the character at this stage of the rehearsals); playing around with the sex of the character, moving from being one type of male or female to another, as the individual actor wished.
This is internal work for an actor a lot of the time. Though, I may spot something, or try to develop it with an instruction at the time to an individual or a group. In one case, I suggested later to an Actor that he use what I saw in the walk to develop his character with his particular movement / embodiment.
The development of this exercise was in mirroring, dividing the actors into twos, paired off deliberately: Mozart with Constanza, for example.
It seems to me that having a particular partner may help in this work. Some are obvious, like the two Salieris. Others I am creating, as feels right.
The mirror exercise began as usual, working with locked eyes. At the beginning, the actors could choose where to stand, close or far away from each other. But, I did eventually play with them being far apart.
When there was a certain level of involvement in the exercise, I introduced an new element … that of the voice (but no words). This was really interesting. There were giggles and odd sounds, but there was a curious feeling about the noises coming from people and a certain understanding in it, from my perspective as an observer. And they moved position, some of them, with the sounds …
The actors in feedback afterwards concentrated more on the difficulties of this exercise. At the end, I had asked the actors to step apart from each other so the sounds were a little difficult to distinguish, apparently. I’ll have to do this again, see if it changes or whether repetition of it brings a deeper understanding.
Exercise with Chairs
Being nicely warmed up, I asked the actors to take a chair and set it up on one side of the room. Salieri entered the acting space with his chair then, one by one, with the aim of taking the power in the image, each of the actors joined in with a chair and positioned themselves in a place chosen by them to reflect their relationship with Salieri. Fabulous image. Great poses and positions taken up, sometimes engaging with the others around.
The Embassy Ball
After that exercise, I asked the actors to take up position again within the room. They were at a Ball as their character. And food (cake) was being handed around. This cake was drugged, so as they took the first three slices, they got progressively more carried away with impact of the drug.
How would they react? let themselves go? Lovely to see how this develops and the chaos that results.
With slice number four they returned to ‘normal’. Though the normal was now different for some people, judging by the looks on their faces.
We had a brief chat about the exercises. It’s hard to judge precisely when to talk about things, I find, not wanting to destroy a mood or focus. Sometimes, when you least expect it, the actors speak a lot on the impact of the exercises. Sometimes, the moment has passed in relation to a mood or impact when you decide to talk. It felt this way tonight.
We spoke briefly about how the characters were developing, whether actors see themselves as masculine or feminine; how that masculinity or femininity expresses itself. The Venticelli, it seems, are like current day influencers / gossip columnists.
I mentioned about the sense of people aligning with one another, having a specific allegiance to one other person as well as the group.
Not sure how far this pairing needs to go, not very far probably.
The Play … the text
Venticelli 1 and 2
I was planning to work with the Venticelli only briefly tonight, to warm us all up before moving to Constanza and Mozart. Sometimes I am surprised by the turn the evening takes.
Along the room, we lined up chairs in a row, facing the same direction, bar one, for Salieri, which faced the others. The Venticelli were sitting in a central position, with the others in their group sitting beside them.
We workshopped the text: the Venticelli said their lines, copied by the group together; the group then started the text, one by one like a Mexican wave, copied by the Venticelli. Then walking, the group individually approached the Venticelli who stood facing Salieri and said one line, which was then repeated by the Venticelli to Salieri. The next time, the whole group approached as a unit, walking and furnishing information on their own to start, and then grouped to give the information in the second half of the scene.
It was fabulous, and got progressively better throughout the time: the Venticelli speaking to Salieri, his responses, the responses of the other actors, the positioning –– the visual potential!
Mozart and Constanze
With the other actors still present, and the cat-walk set created by the chairs still lining up in the hall, Mozart and Constanza had their moment to read and play with their first scene.
What a first Introduction for both of these characters in this play!: both of them squirming around on the floor, in a scene of steaminess and scatology.
And hidden in a chair in the same room is the younger Salieri, horrified at this carry-on, yet not budging to reveal himself.
And shortly afterwards in the play, the glory of Mozart’s music is revealed to Salieri, and transports him to the presence of his God, who has given this gift to someone deeply unworthy, in Salieri’s eyes. We hear the sublime music of Mozart and then we see the ensuing devastation when Salieri comes to know of this brilliant sound and the resulting impact on his personality and ego.
There is a brilliant juxtaposition of tempos and energy in this one scene. We had giggling and miaowing, acting from underneath the furniture. We had discussion about what the characters were thinking; what their understanding of the situation was. Wonderful material.
Salieris plus the Valet and the Cook
Just to finish off tonight (the other actors had left at this point), I asked the Valet and the Cook to remain on to recap what we had done last week, where they worked with the Salieris. They tended to him as the younger Salieri and also as the elder –– both times bringing food, dressing him, cleaning him, helping him to his chair as the Elder.
There was lovely tenderness evident but exploration too of the withheld tensions, that come from status / power situations.
This play is such a pleasure to work on. The actors are invested in the process and up for the challenge. They will be fantastic.
Often I say that I am looking for just one or two moments in a rehearsal that I can see will bring intense beauty or intensity to a production –– where it feels right. Then I know we are on the right track.
I getting that in every rehearsal of Amadeus. Tonight, there was moment after moment after moment, from all of the actors.