We were delighted to welcome Mercedes Mejia from Michigan Radio to our dress rehearsal tonight! Click here to listen to her wonderful segment about SIP.
Facilitators arrived in plenty of time to start getting costumes, props, and our beautiful back drops ready to go! By 6:30pm, everyone was in place to start the run — and the atmosphere was so focused and relaxed that the usual pressure to race to the end of the play wasn’t there. We knew that that was our goal, but we also felt very confident that we could do it.
This ensemble is really, really solid. Not only do they know the play extremely well, but they’ve quickly acclimated to the costumes and props, and they’ve taken the stress of these final rehearsals in stride. They know each person’s strengths and play to them; they know each person’s weaknesses and support them. When things go a little haywire, the universal response is to smile, shake it off, and keep going. It feels good in that room.
Even when we got to Act V, which somehow we’d forgotten to discuss prior to the run (so no one was sure which cut we were using), everyone rolled with the punches, calling out new cues and ushering each other in and out of scenes. One of our cuts eliminated a scene during which Macbeth would exit, and our Macbeth didn’t realize that that’s what was happening. “Come back! Come back! They have tied me to the stake!” we shouted, and back she charged, launching right into those lines, out of breath and not sure of what was coming next, but secure enough in her knowledge of the script and her ensemble’s support to just barrel on ahead.
And, with that, we made it to the end of the play! The run lasted just three minutes longer than our goal, which is fantastic. We can take those three minutes off for sure — part of the fun of moving into performances is watching the ensemble’s collective adrenaline propel us not only to play faster, but often to skip over sections of text that it turns out we didn’t need in the first place. I am so excited about where we are in the process and can’t wait to see where we end up.
Friday, June 8
Tonight’s rehearsal was even more relaxed than Tuesday’s, which was just wonderful. We now know our costumes and props well enough that we got set up very quickly, which meant that we had time for a nice check-in before we got going with our run.
Just because we were relaxed, that didn’t mean we weren’t taking things seriously. From my vantage point on stage right, I can’t see everything that happens on stage, but I see most of what goes on in the wings. So I noticed that our Lady Macbeth and another ensemble member were whispering and having fun looking at something on one of their tablets. I wasn’t concerned, but I wondered if that was going to be an ongoing distraction.
It wasn’t. As soon as the curtain closed prior to Lady Macbeth’s first scene, she rose from her chair and stood in place, prepping. She was so focused that she didn’t notice when I waved to her — so I stopped waving and just watched her take the time she needed to focus and ground herself in her character.
Her work has been bold and strong, but, as I think I’ve noted earlier in this blog, she hasn’t been able to memorize as many of her lines as she would have liked. In general, she works very well with a script in hand, but it definitely gets in the way of her handwashing scene (as it would for just about anyone). On Tuesday, I asked her if she’d like to return to doing the scene as a “drop-in” (with someone quietly prompting her while standing just behind her). That had enabled her to do extremely powerful work in rehearsal several weeks ago.
She liked the idea, and we asked our Banquo if she’d like to be the one to drop in. She said she would, but unfortunately had left by the time we got to that scene, so another ensemble member stood in for her. Now I approached her to ask if she was still into the idea, and she said she’d rather not if that was okay. It’s a really sensitive scene, and I assured her that she absolutely didn’t have to be a part of it; instead, facilitator Matt agreed to do it, as he’s playing Duncan, and we all liked the idea of having one of the sources of Lady Macbeth’s guilt embodied on stage.
On Tuesday, I’d encouraged our Macduff to really bring it tonight — to let loose with her reaction to Duncan’s death and drive it home. She and I briefly made eye contact prior to her entrance, and I asked how she was feeling. “I’m gonna do it,” she said, smiling. “Excellent,” I replied. And, man, did she ever do it! She has a beautiful, booming voice, and she used it so well that it filled the entire room. She paced with a frantic energy, absolutely selling her character’s anxiety and grief at finding the king dead. She also went on without her script, even though she’s not 100% off book, and, as facilitator Assata prompted her on lines, Kyle cheered her on from the wings; he’s worked with her quite a bit one-on-one and knew more than anyone what a huge leap this was.
She came right to me as she exited, gesturing in a way that said, “How’d I do?” “AWESOME,” I said. “YOU DID AWESOME.” She smiled and sort of bobbed her head, clearly proud of herself but not wanting to make a big deal about it. “You feel good?” I asked. “Yeah!” she said before she walked away to prep for her next scene.
There were some misfires that were handled beautifully. A woman who was supposed to play one of the messengers was not in the room when her scene came up. I threw on one of our costume shirts, ready to fill in. But then I saw the woman who’s taken on coordinating everything back stage standing in place, in costume, ready to go. So I sat back down.
I’ve written about this woman a few times this season, but I have to do it again. I cannot tell you what a transformation has taken place in her. There are factors at play other than SIP, of course, but even her taking on these new, more-or-less administrative duties has dramatically affected the way in which she’s involved with the ensemble. Years ago, she would barely speak up and nervously giggled her way through the few lines she had, and last season was particularly rough for her. This year, she’s been incredibly upbeat, even when things have been hard, and totally willing to take on anything we threw at her. Of her own volition, she volunteered not only for a part with lines, not only for a part with a fight – but for TWO parts with lines and fights! And, though it intimidated her at first, she accepted the new role of managing the master script and back stage logistics without hesitation, and MAN is she ever good at it. We’ve been telling her over and over.
When I told her, again, how good she is at this, and how wonderful it is to know we can count on her, she replied, “I know. I feel like I’m actually part of the ensemble now.” I assured her that she’s always been part of the ensemble, reminding her of how she joined just as we needed to recast our Desdemona and let us nudge her into auditioning, even though she didn’t want to — and she was so relieved when she wasn’t cast! She’s just more active now. And when she plays her scenes, there’s no giggling. She knows her lines, she knows her objectives, she knows her blocking, and she just does it. She’s amazing. She’s absolutely amazing.
When we arrived at the banquet scene, Assata seemed not to realize that our Ross was on stage, and read her lines from the audience. Rather than interrupt things or make a big deal about it, our Ross just stayed in character and didn’t say anything. At the end of the scene, she came off stage laughing. I said, “What happened?” She shrugged and said, “I don’t know! Keep it moving! Keep it moving!” Still laughing, she walked away.
We rolled through Act V—we are now all on the same literal pages!—and again made it to the end of the play with plenty of time to spare. We are feeling really, really good. This was, hands down, the smoothest final dress rehearsal we’ve ever had. We’re rolling into performances feeling confident and enthused. Of course there are some nerves, but no one is freaking out. Awesome.