We decided to dive in tonight and begin “stumbling through” the entire show. This is often done in rehearsal processes and is a great way to identify a show’s strengths and weaknesses while solidifying transitions and firming up lines. Although this was challenging, we had a lot of fun with it – those of us who were working without scripts felt very supported by the rest of the ensemble, taking the pressure off and allowing us to relax about not being perfect. We also made some interesting discoveries this way.
We got more than halfway through the play. Some members of the ensemble feel better about this than others; those of us who have been through this process before reassured the newer members that stumble-throughs often take much longer than the play does in the end, and that they’re supposed to be messy.
Our plan moving forward is to finish staging scenes that have recently been recast and then focus on running the entire play as many times as we can so that everyone has an equal opportunity to work lines on their feet. This isn’t always the best approach in a traditional rehearsal process, but our program isn’t traditional in that sense. It’s most important that all members feel as supported and confident as possible, and this particular ensemble is pretty unanimous that what they need to get there is to just keep running the show once we’ve got the kinks worked out.
We began today by working the brief scene between Grumio and Curtis prior to Petruchio and Kate arriving at his house. The woman who was playing Curtis and the Pedant recently got into a program that is taking up a lot of her time, so she gave the role of Curtis to a newer member of the group. That meant that the scene needed to be revisited to catch her up. This went smoothly, and she and I had a lot of fun playing off of each other. I’m excited to see where these characters’ relationship goes!
We then settled in to work lines with one ensemble member who is having a hard time finding time to work on them outside of the group. We made sure she knew that we were there for her, gave her some ideas of how to approach people she lives with to help her, and then worked through a scene that was giving her some trouble. Within a short amount of time, with our encouragement, she had nearly a page memorized. She teared up, saying, “I’m going to cry. You guys are just helping me so much.” She knows now that she is able to memorize; and on top of that, she knows we’re here to do whatever we can to support her.
Although it has been frustrating in some ways that our attendance on Thursday afternoons has been light, it has also allowed for moments like this that have been helpful for the people are have been there. Any opportunity we have to work together on something, we take it. This is a very tenacious ensemble.
We recently asked if the facility could provide us with additional rehearsal time, and we were thrilled that we were given permission to rehearse the final four Fridays leading up to our first performance. This extra time is not being taken lightly: all but one member of our group were present tonight, ready to work and driven to make the most of the rehearsal.
We addressed the scenes that were shaky or unworked, which happened to be all in a row. We began with Act IV Scene I, after the part of it that was worked on Thursday, and set the stage combat and more refined blocking that we wanted. The women who were not in the scene paid close attention and helped us figure it out. Although I only become a member of the cast to fill gaps left by people who leave the group, in a way it’s a good thing when I’m taken out of the mix as one of the “directors” – with me on stage, asking the ensemble to take the lead on direction, they proved to be extremely insightful, encouraging, and even nit-picky about details they deemed important.
Our Petruchio had some growth tonight, as we servants asked her to give us a reason to be afraid of her! As I wrote earlier in the blog, she approaches Petruchio with a lot of warmth – she comes from the heart – but in this scene, it’s important that she put some of that aside and play his game. She proved willing to do so, and the scene took off. It was very exciting.
We then moved on to the next scene. In this, Lucentio and Bianca had been dancing during some dialogue between Tranio and Hortensio. This, however, proved too distracting, as they were swing dancing and the music would be necessarily loud and fast-paced. We couldn’t focus on the dialogue, which is important. We asked them to adjust their dance to something more “lyrical” and goofy, and we think that that will work.
This added rehearsal was a very productive one. Having this much extra time together is already proving to be a boon to us.