Rehearsals: Day 9
27th May, 2019
I was very pleased with the planning for this evening. Following the meeting with the two Salieris on Saturday, the work that needed to be done in the rehearsal was clear to me. The plan came together easily –– I noted down what I wanted to tease out and try with the Venticelli and their groups, with the Salieris and the whole group and the Cook and Valet with their Master(s).
When I went to find some exercises and games for the group, they too came easily. The first three exercises I read about in Boal (GAMES FOR ACTORS AND NON-ACTORS) were perfect for the mood and intensity I wished to create. I sought and found three new pieces of music for the playlist to add to our existing songs. Perfect!
One of the chosen pieces –– have a listen to ‘Sister’ by Mongoose … so beautiful.
Apologies came from some actors in the afternoon. And there were some people on holidays.
The warm up
A great warm-up. The music was on and we sat on chairs, following each other or playing. People were easygoing and playful … using the body and a little voice.
Then people used the music to move around the room, flowing first of all, then moving abruptly and finally with free movement.
At the end of this, I asked the actors to move into pairs, shut their eyes and explore the face of the other, feeling gently and delicately. It was so beautiful to watch, so tender and intimate. I could only partly watch, it felt invasive to observe too closely.
We said hello to each other after that, connecting in with each person present.
Walking with the suit jacket as the character
Everybody has their character in the cast at this stage. So, I asked everyone to walk using their suit as the clothing of the character, now moving as that person rather than as themselves as we had done up to today; recalling moving from the centre, radiating, flowing. I wanted to get the exercise going with the characters, rather than talk abut the text, analyst or intellectualise at this point.
This is probably where I could have done it differently!
It seemed to be straightforward for those with the speaking, defined roles to embody them. We have read the lines of the main characters a number of times in the past weeks, so it’s easier to know them.
As the actors passed by me, I might ask them a question, or in the middle of the walking, I froze everybody to enquire how an individual in the group was developing their character –– what they were, were they going somewhere? Expanding the character references / body movement.
The other roles were coming, developing.
Before we headed into the text, I asked the actors to create a group sculpture around the Salieris. Clair was confined to her chair (minding her leg) and Victor had chosen to be standing on a chair as part of the exercise.
I was following the exercise called ‘Where is my place?’ (Boal: p.163). It asks for the actors to choose a chair around a focal point, to find the position / the place where they are comfortable.
In this case, I brought Victor closer to Clair, so that the Salieris were beside each other, creating a picture together. Then, one by one, the other actors joined, choosing which chair to be on or near according to their own status and the status of the Salieris, creating a larger picture around them.
What would I call this image? ‘Knowing your status’? ‘Power’?
It was great.
I’m not sure I knew what I was looking for in the rehearsal with text. Although, I could see a picture in my head –– the specific actors with a certain tone / mood / physicality –– on the night, I didn’t achieve this in reality.
We worked on the opening scene, playing with it, splitting it up between the various group members, trying to create a distinction between the two groups –– followers of the Valet, followers of the Cook. Creating a moment around the entrance of the actors.
I tried different instructions, different pacing but, no, it just didn’t work. Am I wrong to believe that the text will just happen in some intriguing way that will be compelling to an audience?
I admitted it to everyone at the time. We could all relax in that knowledge. Sometimes, a rehearsal just doesn’t work and I knew I would have to rethink my strategy and change tack for now.
Much later the use of text did work when everyone grouped together on the set, near the Salieris, as they will do in the final performance. (Note to self!)
Moving on to developing the Salieri text was also intriguing. We were trying to get a greater understanding of where Salieri was mentally and physically in his opening scene: his relationship with his servants, with the ‘Ghosts of the Future’ that he is addressing.
Victor jumped in with a line, taking the initiative, which shifted the words and the potential for weaving the text in and out between the actors.
What also worked with the Salieris ws bringing the Cook and someone as a stand-in for the Valet forward to take care of the Salieris –– tend to them. In role play, they served and dressed the Salieris. It allowed an understanding of the status that the Masters enjoyed by having servants and the status accruing to the servants behaving Masters with power and standing in their community.
It may be that I may have to leave this opening scene to the end, that all of the actors require a level of certainty about the play before I can do this part, before I can know and explain what I want them to do.
I know what I need to do in terms of a next step. Think a lot. Walk a lot. Continue to practice together, and spend time focusing on the individual characters and the two groups. Make the interplay between them make sense to me and to the actors.
Specific questions to be answered next:
What are the Venticelli characters like? –– the Valet and the Cook?
Who are the other characters?
What is the relationship between the two Venticelli and the Valet and the Cook?
What are the relationships between the others and the Venticelli, Valet and Cook?
What are the relationships? each actor with the others in their own group and then with the characters in the other group.
Again tonight, small things brought moments of acute interest: the look of an actor as they moved or stood; an unexpected physical stance when I invited an actor to take on a new role; an experienced actor in full concentration; the group focusing their attention on the two Salieris together; the exploration of the physicality of the other actors.
Although I found my own difficulties with enlivening the text very frustrating at the time, there were more than enough fantastic bits to lift the spirits!
I was also very aware that the Fastnet Film Festival (held last weekend in Schull) creative hangover was affecting me too … all those days of visual and emotional stimulation and intellectual analysis.
Before the main group left, I asked them to do a game together. We passed the energy ball from person to person and the exercise was fantastic. The energy was small, large, full of vigour, then controlled and playful, culminating in the entire group involved together, stretching to the limits of their fingertips!
The Salieris and I
I had arranged with the Salieris to linger after the rehearsal without the larger troupe, so we remained on in the hall.
We discussed the rehearsal from their perspectives, the unexpected revelations of workshopping with the Cook and the stand-in Valet, the clarity that came from playing with the text when the others were present … the understanding that came from that, the variety for them depending on who takes what lines.
It seems clear that sorting the text between them will work far better when done in conjunction with the other actors. The atmosphere and the emotional impact can be seized upon and flow from the words at that moment.
There was also discussion on whether Salieri is dying or not (he doesn’t succeed in killing himself at the end of the play, so strictly speaking he is not at the end of his life at this point); whether he is creating / manipulating –– perhaps it is about being in control –– all of this drama around him? Thereby implying that he is strong and more able-bodied than the text suggests (we may have to explore two options here).
The text recalls the ‘Agony in the Garden’ for me, when Jesus asks his followers to wait up with him as he suffers through the night.Therefore I think the tone of this play recalls a death-bed scene.
An AsideThe image here is one I am very familiar with from my childhood.
Discussion and rehearsal –– the learning
Discussion and analysis with the actors seems to be an essential (and highly enjoyable) part of the process of this play to come to an understanding of the play / the emotional states or life experiences of the characters –– the Salieris were the actors in this case plus one other actor who had remained on –– and then to develop the understanding further in rehearsal with the others.
And, as a further step, to reflect on all of this development alone afterwards, by writing this blog and by further discussions with the actors.
This a change from the way I’ve worked before where these processes seem to have been mixed up together. Now, they occur at separate times it seems to me.
I often aware of not wanting to talk too much in rehearsal. Analysis alone and sitting down rather than being physical stifles the text, in my view. Once I am approaching a ‘lecture mode’ I know I need to stop. So the essential discussion raised above is something that has piqued my curiosity and is something I will consider again as the rehearsals go along.
Next Monday, we will look again at Salieri in conjunction with the other actors rather than in isolation together. Then, meet again in a smaller group.
Where’s the photo??
With Julia being absent, and my head being slightly distracted, there was no photograph of the rehearsal taken tonight … oops!
Email to Amadeus Troupe: 29th May, 2019
Hi all of you in the Amadeus Troupe,