Rehearsals: Day 6

29h April, 2019

A different tack tonight –– a gathering, with tea and biscuits promised!

The Easter holidays have given us a chance to rest, reflect and do some research.

For my part, from my reading of Mozart’s early life, I returned with a better understanding of him and foibles and especially of the society into which he was born. 

Mozart's life  Blog 6.jpg
Extract from ‘Mozart’ by Eric Blom

The key words expressing our intentions for the play (see The Amadeus Project: Day 2) hold firm and true in the context of the research.

And I find I have become even more interested in working with the Troupe –– this particular group of actors, of people, as a reflection of any society and in relation to my plans concerning the focus of the play.

The Plan

As a starting point, we were linking up with the designers, continuing the collective dialogue on the play. We had made this plan before Easter. We wanted to be playful with the designers, including them in some of the workshop games but, more importantly, having them be part of the real life of the play and to see how our suits are faring in carrying out the demands of the work: creating images, being physically free.

One of the aims also was to have a discussion so I could receive feedback from the actors about the process to date –– their reaction to it and any difficulties for them. I believe in tea and biscuits. There is an ease that comes over these conversations that is different to a formal feedback session. And the participants bond over the ritual of the cuppa, again it is different to their connection from the intense and sometimes intimate work in the rehearsals.

The warm-up

It’s a really important part of the night for me, but I always struggle with it.

An Aside

The warm-up disrobes me of the outside world and brings me into this working space.

Often, if there is a chance to hand over this part of the night’s activities to somebody interested in dance, movement, yoga, I will gladly do that … I’m never satisfied with what I do, it’s not quite long / intense / focused enough for me –– I am concerned that people will get bored. And really, I have done enough warm-ups in my time to deal with this.

Perhaps it’s just the normal anxieties at the beginning of every session when faced with sixteen or so able adults that you are about to steer though the evening’s work. Sometimes it’s nice to share that.

Some of the design team joined in the circle of actors, when invited.

Tonight’s warm-up was interesting. We have come to the stage in the rehearsal process where people are aware what the aim is and they play with the warm-up for themselves. There was fun in the room, people moving to the pop music I had chosen –– something different tonight, slightly more upbeat. People stretched and bent forwards.

An Aside

It seemed that their focus was on a freedom in their bodies rather than on worrying about doing it right.

I gave few instructions: one was to move one side the body differently to the other, avoiding symmetry, and to move differently with each new movement, thereby challenging old, familiar patterns; another time I invited everyone to mov a little more, exploring above, below, around the space.

Saying ‘hello’

As well as tea and chat, I like to say hello. Each person shakes the hand of every other person in the room and greets them. This is the best way I have found to bring each person present in contact with all the others.

An Aside

Or perhaps it is I who need to make contact wth every other person in the room, as I am about to ask them to take risks, to be brave, to go out of their ‘comfort zone’ in the work.

The members of the design team who didn’t join in were included in this introductory game, which lingered on, nearly becoming a tangle.

Then, to keep up the connection with the entire room, I invited everyone to pair off and regard closely the hands of the other person. This can happen one after another or simultaneously.

Note to Self

Forgot to get specific feedback on this game tonight in the later session.

Ask about this specifically from everyone and especially the design team, for whom it would be unusual … and who must have amazing hands, being such a crafty bunch!

Back to walking

In order for the design team to see the movement, feel the energy of this group at work, I returned to our usual beginning … the walking. Of course, the Troupe are also returning to being reminded of the elements of the learning so far in this process and embodying them again, but always moving slightly forward, using the methods differently to discover a new or forgotten potential for movement in the body.

Our understanding of concepts like: being in readiness, radiation and locking eyes, mirroring changes over time. The practice deepens and evolves and this happens with repetition and practice.

So, this time, walking became not only a reminder and developing exercise but a use of the techniques with the suit jackets on. And this time, the actors were being observed by the design team.

An Aside

The jackets are mostly black at this stage and this works to neutralise all of the participants (who wear dark coloured clothes;, where we are still shaking off the outside layers of our conventional behaviour and will slowly add the colour and texture to our Amadeus world in the weeks and the rehearsals to come.

Gender fluidity

We play with movement as it relates to gender, each individual feeling and embodying what it is like to move in a subtle way that reflects their view of being masculine or feminine.

Christine and the Queens on gender and sexuality.

I was very taken with this interview, in particular in relation to the idea that existing preconceptions and definitions of femininity (or masculinity for that matter) can limit us.

From the outset, Julia and I were interested in bringing gender fluidity to Amadeus. In making the production of 2019, this could be simply a trick, a clever device that is simply picking up on a fashion. I am wary of this.

It certainly reflects the images we see in contemporary fashion and pop culture –– from the catwalks that have inspired us in mood boards to the many films and TV sets featuring androgynous and robotic characters that have such an influence on our cultural development.

Amadeus is male heavy in the major roles. In fact, Salieri is the role. Mozart’s is ok, there’s some place for development and shifting; Constanza has a few moments, but the remaining actors function to develop Salieri’s story with Mozart (I am resisting saying ‘add fluff’!!).

So, what is for all the women who are part of the drama group? Are they, like many other female actors, to wait for someone to write decent roles for them?

An Aside

Our choices are political … we are shaking it up …  the roles, the gender, the potential for sharing.

This is why ‘the Troupe’ has become so important, because of the work that they have done to date, and consequently the potential –– the possibilities –– we see in presenting Amadeus. PLUS, the work of the designers in playing with ideas and images, adding to the imagination and energy of the performers.

And then, everyone having tea and biscuits together!

Annie Leibovitz again

One last exercise for the actors to show the designers. I asked the actors to recreate the Annie Leibovitz photo as we had done in the previous workshop, this time to investigate their chosen model more closely, setting their body and facial expressions to mirror precisely what was in the photo. (Hints of exasperation and boredom in the models became clear!)

I think it’s the privilege that this image evokes that connects it to the Amadeus themes and parallels the earlier Goya paintings we were working on in rehearsals.

Annie Liebovitz: Vanity Fair cover
Cover of Vanity Fair –– photo by Annie Leibovitz

Tea, biscuits and feedback

Kimberley and Digestive Creams; Barry’s, Nescafé, Chamomile and Summer Berry were the offerings.

We created four smaller groups, sat underneath the heater and, with sheets in hand, I put three questions to the groups:

1   What about the process do you like / excites you?

2  What would you change?

3  What elements are necessary in the costumes for the demands of the role / the play?

Feedback Blog 6.png

What wouldyou change?.png

Email to Amadeus Troupe, 1st May, 2019 

Hi Amadeus Troupe and Design Team,
thank you to all who could attend on Monday evening. It was fantastic to have another night of exploration and development, fueled by your openness and bravery in trying approaches and ideas that are new to many of you.
I also loved having the opportunity to have tea and biscuits. In our very busy world, this doesn’t seem to happen too regularly.
(Please note that there are a few of us who tend to have a Ballygowan afterwards (not possible to sleep for a few hours!) … everyone is welcome to come.)
That session of feedback and reflection was important for me in order to check in with people. It was lovely to have the design team to observe what the actors have developed and, for the actors to feel part of the design of the production from here on.
There are some of the imaginative suggestions within the workshop that some actors find challenging (eg ‘radiation’, ‘ball of energy’). I believe that through practice and awareness, these may become easier and stronger. It’s my role to bring this to clarity for you (no pressure!).
The blog will set out the other feedback received on the night. I’ll share that with you when it is completed.
You might like to listen to this during the week. I find it very interesting and a ‘kick-off’ point for my thinking in planning our workshops.

Christine and the Queens on gender and sexuality.

From next Monday onwards, I will focus more on the characters for ‘casting’ purposes. Everybody who has expressed an interest in a role should have ample opportunity to read and prepare beforehand if they wish.
Being at the rehearsals is crucial, especially if you wish to have a role. I have had feedback that even missing one rehearsal has put an experienced performer at odds within the process.
See you soon,