As one might imagine, if one has been following us on our journey to bring this play to fruition, there are many idiosyncrasies to this process we’ve undertaken. So it seems a bit redundant to say something like “this is unlike any other production I’ve been a part of.” Not only redundant, it can’t begin to capture the excitement, fatigue, magic, fear, anxiety and joy that has infected all of us inside the rehearsal hall (and out). We are now entering our fourth week of rehearsals having staged more than 300 pages of play in roughly 9 days. We have been working 6 days a week from 1pm – 10:30pm. All of us, as members of the company, share our responsibilities in the rehearsal hall with our other selves (professor, graduate student, PRC staff), and the horizon has no relief in sight. And while the grueling schedule can take its toll, there is something incredible going on within the walls of the Center for Dramatic Art.
Each day when rehearsals begin, one of our awesome stage managers (Chuck and Sarah) announces the start of rehearsal with, “Good afternoon ladies and gentleman, it is one o’clock.” This is met with – and I kid you not – a rallying cry of 25 actors sounding like something more akin to a football team’s pre-game war cry before charging onto the field. And, while I won’t bore you with a tired sports analogy here, the parallels are many.
Joe and Tom have often called this production “an exercise in company” – taking on the thing that an organization isn’t sure it can handle, but challenging itself to take it on nonetheless. We are rehearsing in a way that is unconventional. We have two directors. Two rehearsal halls. We have been staging roughly 40 pages a day. We are in constant motion from room to room and scene to scene. We move at a lightening pace, and we don’t have time to spend rehearsing in the traditional, methodical fashion of a conventional process. This means that every moment that we’re not “on stage” we’re grabbing our scene partners to work notes given to us from one or both of the directors, and continuing that work on our own when we get home at night. This requires an incredible amount of focus, but more importantly it requires trust. The feeling in the room is not only enthusiastic but incredibly supportive. We rely on each other to make sure that everyone is on the same page (quite literally), and that we are approaching the work with the moment to moment presence that is required for work of this kind. We drop in and out of characters constantly, we switch in and out of dialects, we marvel in the work of our colleagues, and we celebrate the creativity of all involved.
One little anecdote – this past week we were doing our evening run of everything we had staged earlier in the day (we were, by this point, well into Part 2 of the play). The story is spending much of its time following Nicholas as his stories come to resolution. We were heading toward the final scene in Dotheboys Hall in Yorkshire where the once enslaved boys have started taking over the school in something reminiscent of The Lord of the Flies. At the start of the scene the stage manager called out, “Thank you ladies and gentlemen – it’s 10:30,” announcing the end of our rehearsal day. And a collective groan of disappointment was shared by the entire company ‑ “Awwwwwwwwww!” – like children being told to turn off the TV and head to bed. Now that’s something you don’t find too often. I say again, something special is happening within these walls. And everyone is excited to share it with our community.
–Jeffrey Meanza, Cast Member