August 17, 2009
Tempest #44—Notes to Cast


Hi, all—

Schedule for next week:

Monday, 17 – 7-10 JB/BS, Scenes E & H (1st & 2nd Miranda/Ferdinand scenes). If we have time, we’ll look also at the Masque scene (4:1) and the chess-playing. First priority, though, is lines for the first two scenes. We’ll do some line-running, but the objective is to be off book for these by the end of rehearsal.


Tuesday, 18 – 7-10 BS/JF-Misc. Let me know if there are specific sequences you’d like to work. I’d like to work Benjamin into the Bosun in 1:1, then focus mainly on Stephano/Trinculo. Here again, we’ll do as much in-rehearsal line work as needed, but do a lot of reviewing in the meantime.

Wednesday, 19 – 7-10:30 All-N/O/P. I’d like to go till 10;30 tonight, as we have publicity photos and this is one of our rare full-cast times.
This is the very complex latter-part of Act 5. Vital that everyone is pretty tight on lines. We’ll do as much prompting as necessary, but for this rehearsal you can’t carry book or be watching it, as the crucial task is the physical action.

Thursday, 20 – Cancelled: NO REHEARSAL


Saturday, 22 – 1:00-4:30. Called are AA/BS/JF for Scenes G/I/L: Trinculo, Caliban, and Stephano. If we have time, we’ll also review their appearance in Act 5.

Sunday, 23 – 10-1 and 2-5 – ALL – Morning, we’ll string together all of Act 1 plus Act 2:1. Main focus is to discover problems with fast changes, needed extra hands, cross-overs, etc. Afternoon, slight change from schedule: we’ll string together Scenes G thru J (2:1 Trinc/Steph/Caliban thru 3:3). Same objective.
Jessica proposed that we do a potluck right after 5 pm. We’d love to do that. Could either do it here or at her place. Even if not everyone can make it (and totally understood if you can’t), let’s do it. Let us know if you can or can’t.


Current status: I’m very pleased how the puppet manipulation is evolving. Still a long ways to go. Everyone has very good moments, interspersed by dead heads or very generalized gesture. I’ll try to give a clearer sense of where the movement needs to be realistic and where it can afford to go broader, but as a general rule for everyone, even the realistic needs to be broader and more specific.

Likewise the speech. As you study lines, continue to look at the line structure for clues about phrasing. This play has an extraordinary number of divided (“enjambed”) lines, and lots of lines with weak endings, or ending on a preposition or word that wouldn’t normally be emphasized. You have to get the sense of the thru-line meaning of the line, but the more you can sense the function of the line divisions, the stronger the expression.


Continue to study, too, the structure even of short speeches. Why does he say it in three lines when you could condense it into one? Why does he say it this way rather than by ten different paraphrases you could make? Where, within the speech, is there a new reaction, a change of tone, a shift in direction or intention? What’s he consciously or unconsciously wanting to accomplish with these words? What’s the function of elaboration? Where does he set one word or phrase in contrast to another word or phrase? In these late plays, Shakespeare NEVER has you utter words solely for the poetry of it: the character has to coin those electric phrases because something that intense or sweet or punchy is needed at that moment. We don’t have time to do extensive textual analysis in rehearsal: you need to explore, very literally, with the above questions, so that you can bring the questions & problems into rehearsal. Otherwise, we fall into the trap—even of very professional productions—of just adopting an appropriate “tone” or blanket emotion for the speeches, with never a sense of anything happening RIGHT NOW, of the characters saying this stuff for the first time, coining these phrases.

Jeanine (Ms. Stage Manager), you’re a treasure. Thank you.


I’ve nearly finished with lighting cues and with painting the set. Costumes will be coming in gradually but are well under way, and I think they’re quite good. We have nearly all the props finished. The Rep has finished a layout of the postcard, which I think is quite compelling. Music and video will be coming in steadily over the next three weeks.

The only down-side of this way-in-advance tech stuff is that our control software is rather clunky when we do starts & stops & back-to-Cue-5’s. Which means that the dead moments where you’re just standing & waiting will pervade the entire next 5 weeks, not just “tech week.” I’ll try to alert you when you’re likely to be marking time, & urging that you use this time to run lines with one another, work out blocking problems, etc., & do anything else you can on your own or with each other to use this time.


Now that we have more rehearsals with larger numbers of cast, we’ll be doing some warmups that involve group movement and really sensitizing to one another’s physical rhythms. Right now, when we get more than two people onstage, it’s like a crowded elevator, with everyone jostling for elbow room. The great challenge of this style—apart from everything else you’re doing—is to move as a unit, to breathe as a unit, like a quartet of dancers or contact-improvisers. I don’t know how much of that we can achieve in this short time, but when we groove into it, you’ll feel everything suddenly becomes so much easier & more relaxed.

It means, though, that there’s a very high premium not only on getting your lines down tight, but getting them so instinctive that you don’t have to think about them—they come like the music to a musician, and you can shape them very spontaneously. Otherwise, the lines will be causing your movement to stutter, taking you back into yourself and breaking contact with your partners. So, we’ll work on this.

Enough. This is a big week coming. Let’s take deep breath and enjoy it hugely.



Design stuff:
Finished painting the set last night. The traveling curtain covering the projection screen replicates embroidered symbols on the back of Prospero’s magical robe. Everything is painted with dye, can be easily darkened but not lightened. We’ll see how it works with the lights, but overall it feels rich and strange.

Big task I’ve procrastinated on, then woke up suddenly this morning knowing how to do it. We need racks that hold costumes and heads when they’re not in use. But the head and neck construction makes it a challenge. Worked out a way to hang them and have heads on easily-accessible stands. Now to build it.

You’re welcome, starting this week, to wear the Spirit masks at any time, but I won’t require it till the following week.

First draft of the lighting cues is finished: I’m a rewrite artist, needing to stage or establish a first-draft design ASAP and then do it all over again. Fortunately, there’s time. Next step is rehanging some instruments, refocusing others, and adding five new ones—Elizabeth is manufacturing clamps for these, going back and forth between her music on the synthesizer and metal work on the drill press—as conventional C-clamps don’t work well on the square aluminum tubing.


Staging stuff:
I’m just starting this week to take small bites out of the workday to rehearse solo with Prospero. The challenge is that the whole play must emanate from his being—it’s “expressionistic” in that sense. So in one sense it’s useful that the director/designer is playing the central role (as happened in the work of Tadeusz Kantor so powerfully): the Visioner controlling “Spirits, which I have from their confines called to enact my present fancies.”

Yet, practically speaking, the directing process requires that I constantly break out of my actor-self to look directorially at the whole picture—not only an interruption of consciousness but a shift into an entirely different “mind.” At a later point, I can use video (and Elizabeth) be my “outside eye,” and review the scene outside rehearsal. But right now, apart from the staging rehearsals, I need this solo work to bring me back to a “centeredness” in the character.


The danger, of course, is in creating your character outside the responsiveness to your scenic partners, though I remind myself that great actors worked this way for centuries. And it does produce a bit of a sense of insanity: the image of the guy raving to imaginary people on the street corner. But it feels appropriate to the peculiar mind-set of Prospero, who I believe struggles against his own revenge-fury as wrenchingly as Hamlet struggles to control his own pretended madness from becoming real madness.

Enough for now. Went to the ocean this weekend & took many deep breaths.



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