Tuesday / April 2 / 2019
Written by Matt
“You have not done Shakespeare until you’ve helped a man into a dress.”
Final dress rehearsal! Nerves! Mistakes! Frantic saves! People stepping up! People falling down! A runaway band of knights who almost steal the scene from Lear and Goneril!
Today’s run was a blur as we tried to put together all of the pieces in our final run before we have an audience. As so often happens in all sorts of theatres, the final dress was a little rough. We got through the play, and we never had to call a hard stop to totally fix something, but it was close! In Act I scene iv, our knights (of which I am one and definitely guilty) got a little carried away with the “disordered rabble” that makes Goneril’s house “like a riotous inn.” A stern talking-to by Frannie and a few stink-eyes from Lear were all it took to clean up our act, but it was a miracle that Lear and Goneril were able to soldier through it.
A little later on, Kent’s stocks got mixed up in a scene change, and it took some quick thinking on the fly by an imperious Cornwall to save the day. (“Fetch forth the stocks! No! Put them there! Not there! THERE!”)
Tensions rose and fell backstage, as people rushed to cover for each other and then vented their frustrations at someone who missed a cue or a scene partner or a facilitator or anyone else who happened to be sitting around. You know--usual dress rehearsal stuff!
Amidst the chaos, there were some beautiful moments, though. The servant who fights Cornwall in Act III, scene vii made no noise after his onstage death. But just as Frannie was about the make a note to tell him to make some sort of “death sound,” a guy sitting next to her and watching began to grin and say to himself, “That’s good.” Silent it remained.
And, in a brilliant, emotional touch to the final scene, Edgar brought Gloucester’s bloody blindfold with him when he entered. After the fight, as the brothers reconcile and he is recounting their father’s death, Edgar presented Edmund with the blindfold. Both Edgar’s gesture and Edmund’s reaction were beautiful gut-punches.
The moment was a reminder that, although SIP is not about seeking artistic achievement, our ensemble members often come up with artistically beautiful ideas, the more so for their completely organic origins. Edgar needed no director to come up with that gesture as a poignant marker of loss and connection; it came from the work he has done to understand his character and the play.
As we put up the ring, the frustration seemed to dissipate a bit. The next time we gather, it will be to perform for an audience!