Liam Castellan, Communicating Doors director
Rehearsals, week… 3?
I actually had to think for a second to figure out how many weeks we’ve been at this. A sure sign we’re in the middle. The big news is that on Thursday (8/21) we moved from the Farmhouse Studio to the stage. Striking the “39 Steps” set didn’t take long, and after only a few days the big pieces of my set (sorry, I meant to say OUR set) are in place. Lots of theatres rent an empty room for rehearsals, and only move into their rented theatre a few days before performances begin. Hedgerow has the luxury of owning its own real estate, so we get more time onstage, as the set slowly grows around us.
More time onstage is always super-useful. When the walls and doors are mostly in place, and the furniture is in the middle of it, you learn all sorts of things. Several moments need to be slightly shifted in location for various reasons. To be more visible. To work around a slightly different furniture configuration than we’d rehearsed with. Or simply because an actor standing next to an actual wall never looks the same as an actor standing next to a line on the floor. Before moving onstage, we also had our first attempt at the whole show since blocking. Since a first attempt usually involves stopping to fix things, sometimes forgetting where you’re supposed to be or what you’re supposed to say, and maybe a few continuity errors (caused from rehearsing scenes out of order), we don’t call it a “run-through”, but a “stumble-through”. We tried for a second stumble-through Sunday evening on the set, but came to the end of rehearsal only 2/3 through the script. But a lot of great progress.
This is also the week where the actors start putting their scripts down and testing their memorization. There are a wide variety of methods actors use to memorize, and some are more adept than others. A stage manager or assistant sits offstage with a script, feeding lines when called upon. This slows down the scenes, and the acting generally suffers for a while when actors struggle to remember, but it’s a necessary part of the process. The next stage of work only happens once the actors know the lines cold, and can refocus back on their characters, what they want from each other, and what tactics they’re using.
When a caterpillar crawls into its chrysalis to pupate, its body actually dissolves into a goo before becoming a butterfly. This week involved a fair amount of goo. Very entertaining goo to be sure, and a common and necessary stage of the work, but there is much to do before we can spread our wings.
Hedgerow School’s Ice Bucket Challenge
Penelope Reed’s Ice Bucket Challenge
On Friday, our Hedgerow School camp teaching artists, Susan Wefel, Josh Yoder, Joanna Volpe, and Leo Draper (teen assistant) accepted the ice bucket challenge and donated towards this cause, surrounded by our wonderful campers and parents.
They in turn, challenged our Executive Director, Penelope Reed, who graciously and enthusiastically completed the ice bucket challenge this Saturday morning outside the Wyncote Way Welcome Center.
Now we challenge YOU to do your part in raising awareness and funds towards research that will hopefully alleviate and cure this degenerative and deadly disease.
Liam Castellan, Communicating Doors director
A few highlights of rehearsals, week 2:
We finally have a full cast! Hedgerow’s own Zoran Kovcic was on a well-deserved vacation for the first week of rehearsals, so we skipped over his scenes last week. This isn’t common, but well worth it here, as Harold (the mildly-helpful, mildly-intelligent hotel security guard) is a great role for Zoran. We worked on his scenes early in the week, and he’s already caught up with the rest of the cast (he even brought his script on vacation and worked on his lines a bit). [Also: a hat tip to Joel, who read the role of Harold at the read-through on Day 1.]
We finished blocking. By halfway through the week, we’d finally done at least one draft of blocking for every scene. We didn’t block scenes quite in chronological order, for a few reasons. Zoran’s absence was a big one, also grouping together scenes with the same actors to be more efficient and respect everyone’s time. Some blocking will need to change, as we get better ideas or just realize certain movements no longer work as well as they first did.
We fought for over an hour! Any scene that has violence in it needs a good deal of special rehearsal time to make sure it’s safe and still tells the right story. Most directors bring in a specialist for this, and ours is Jared Reed. We had our first session with him this week. Yes, it’s not enough that Jared’s such a good director, actor, playwright, adaptor, designer, and Artistic Director, he’s also very experienced with stage combat. When I directed Corpse! last year, Jared was responsible for the thrilling climactic sword fight, and I completely trust him with my cast.
We reviewed and went deeper. As we finish blocking, it becomes more productive to review scenes a second time. We generally keep good notes about blocking, but seeing what the actors remember without checking their notes is very instructive, as the things they forget sometimes aren’t well-connected to the text or the character’s intentions, and should be replaced. We review to improve blocking, strengthen/sharpen each character’s goals/behaviors, and begin to tighten up on timing and pace.
We cracked each other up. We lost a few minutes here and there to giggling. Sometimes due to mistakes, other times due to moments that we hope will make YOU laugh!
It’s a cabaret! Brock Vickers chats with Shaun Yates on the next installment in our Hedgerow In Song series, Music Speaks!.
Shaun explains the theme of language and chats about the talented group of Hedgerow newcomers and Hedgerow faves preparing to serenade you this weekend.
Hedgerow In Song: Music Speaks! is this Saturday, August 23 and Sunday, August 24.
As the final weeks of summer camps wrap up, we look forward to the start of the new fall semester. Check out our classes online, then enroll by Tuesday, September 2 to get our special early bird discount with code: FALL14 to save up to $50 off tuition.
FALL:September 20 – November 22
Captain Louie, Ages 6 and Up
High School Musical, Ages 9 and Up
Fables and Fun Oh My!, Ages 6 – 12
An Actor’s Journey Part 1: Exploring Monologues, Ages 12 – 18
Did you know about our brand new after school program? Afternoon Arts is a creative arts program where children can learn and play in an enjoyable and comfortable environment.
Ages 6 – 12
Classes Tuesday – Friday
2:30 – 5:45 PM
Click here, for more information.
It’s Storytime! Celebrate traditional tales with a twist. You’ll meet Dorothy and the Wicked Witch of the West, dance, and sing along in this energetic and creative play. Kids can be a part of the storytelling too!
Friday August 29 at 3 pm
September 13-October 4
Saturdays at 11 a.m.
Music and Lyrics by Matthew Wilder and David Zippel and Stephen Schwartz and Jeanine Tesori and Alexa Junge. Music Adapted and Arranged and Additional Music and Lyrics by Bryan Louiselle. Book Adapted and Additional Lyrics by Patricia Cotter. Based on the 1998 Disney film Mulan and the story Fa Mulan by Robert D. San Souci.
Our night of poetry, for the Spoke Word Series this past Tuesday night, struck hearts and souls as our audience gathered in the Wyncote Way Welcome Center for Poetry: Spirit Food.
In this podcast, Brock interviews all the poets from the event to learn where they find inspiration for their work.
A special thanks to Emiliano for the opening poem and Bob Moore for the acoustic song in our podcast.
Liam Castellan, Communicating Doors director
Rehearsals have begun rather well. The first week has multiple goals on any director’s list, generally including:
~Reading the play out loud. An important first-rehearsal ritual, and the only “global” view we’ll have for two weeks. Designers and other staff attended. After months of reading the play silently, it was valuable and exciting to hear the starting points for each of the characters. I finally get to start building my show around the voices of my actors, and ignore the voices in my head (mostly).
~Blocking. If a script has a character enter from a particular door and answer the phone on a particular line, then once you know where the set designer has put that door and that phone, that moment is pretty much “blocked”. Plenty of that in a realistic play (especially a farce/thriller hybrid). But the bits in between, where nothing in particular is required by the script, are the real opportunity. What patterns of movement help tell this story? Could standing up on this line help show the character’s emotional state? Would a moment of stillness help this punchline land?
~Establishing character and relationships. Too many directors launch right away into blocking the show, and forget to check with the actors about who these people are, and what they want from each other. On some shows I let the actors move wherever they want at first, while I work through the whole show focusing on character and intention. Only then do I start blocking it from the beginning. But “Communicating Doors” has so much action dictated by the script that I’m working on character and movement concurrently. It seems to be working well enough; each process is informing the other.
~Building trust and camaraderie among the cast. This usually takes care of itself, no need to plan “icebreaker” games or anything, merely keep an eye out for the rare developing problem or disagreement (none anticipated here). Since Hedgerow places such value on the idea of “company”, there are several familiar faces in my cast. And I have either directed or acted alongside all six of my actors before.
But two are new to Hedgerow, so it’s pleasant to see them rapidly growing comfortable with the “veterans”. I’ve found that it’s rarely worth it to be a taskmaster and keep breaks to the minimum. Go ahead and let them finish sharing the weird dream they had last night, or chuckle over having the same phone and affinity for string cheese as their scene partner. It’ll pay off when I’m long gone, and these folks have to share this story (and a few small dressing rooms) for five weeks.
It can happen to the best of us. This time, it happened Brock forgot a podcast appointment with Rebecca on her role in The 39 Steps.
But he managed to remember with just enough time to conduct a short interview before he dashed back into teaching Wizards’ camp.
P.S. All is forgiven, but we have it on good authority that Rebecca gave Brock a look much similar to the one picture left.
Liam Castellan, Communicating Doors director
As I write this, rehearsals are only three days away.
The directing process starts well before the first rehearsal, but it’s rarely exciting until I’m in a room with actors. There’s a lot of time spent with my own thoughts. Reading the play, making notes, reading the play again, doing other things when I know I should be reading the play. . . it can get lonely sometimes.
There is some human interaction during pre-production, of course. Meeting and talking with designers can help to build everyone’s enthusiasm for the world of the play, the canvas the actors are going to live on. And of course there are auditions, which is almost worse than the loneliness because the end result is mostly saying “no” to perfectly nice (and often quite talented) people.
But mostly it’s just me and the play.
Oh, and a few other books. . .
I enjoy reading biographies (especially about notable theatre folk), and books about theatre, and plays. But I don’t make time for that nearly as much as I ought to (most theatre artists don’t, I’ve found). So whenever I direct, I try to make it an excuse to read all I can. I love absorbing information, whether I have an immediate use for it or not. And here, I definitely do. I overheated my library card this summer, checking out every book by and about Ayckbourn they had. They didn’t even all fit in the photo! By the time I’ve returned everything, I’ll have read:
~17 Ayckbourn plays that were new to me. Which seems like a lot, until you realize he’s written 78 full-length plays plus other scripts, so I’ve barely made a dent. (. . . I’ve actually lost count, but it’s at least 15)
~A book of interviews he gave in 1980
~A definitive biography (including a lot about the plays)
~Three books of analysis (that varied wildly in both length and quality)
~Various essays, program notes, reviews, interviews and quotes found online (including www.alanayckbourn.net which is a fantastic resource)
~”The Crafty Art of Playmaking”, Ayckbourn’s manual on both writing and directing (he usually directs his own plays so he doesn’t separate the two jobs in his mind). This one I plan on owning.
It’s seductive to focus on the surrounding research, because there’s an end point to each nugget. I read a play or book, make a few notes maybe, and then I’m done with it, I take it back to the library. There’s a disproportionate sense of accomplishment there, because there’s finality. Whereas I can always read the play again.
And I should.
Speaking of which, if you’ll excuse me. . . (“ACT 1. A view of part of a sixth-floor suite in the five-star Regal Hotel. Our view is of the sitting room and…”)
Check back next week for the another Director’s Blog post for Communicating Doors.