Last night the entire cast of Murder on the Nile were together at last! We have been slowly piecing together the show in segments and out of order for the last 3 weeks. It feels a lot like working on a film. It feels good to finally have everyone in the same room at the same time.
Last night we began blocking "the closet scene"/my favorite scene in Hamlet. After spending a minimal amount of time walking through it, I came home slightly disappointed and confused. Mostly, I felt dissatisfied with the mundaneness that overwhelmed me after working on what should be one of the most exciting scenes in the play. Perhaps I was just having an off-night, but I can't stop thinking about it. It is clear to me that I still have a plethora of unanswered questions in my head.
When I read Hamlet, I often ask myself ‘Why?’. There is the big why: Why does Hamlet remain in inaction for so long? And the whys that defy reason: Why does Hamlet hesitate to kill Claudius? Why does Hamlet so easily slay Polonius? Why is Hamlet so cruel to Ophelia? Etc.
This time, as I read the play, I have a whole new collection of whys: Why does Gertrude marry Claudius, and why so soon after the death of King Hamlet? Why does Gertrude reject her motherly identity? Why does Gertrude agree to banish her own son? In short, why is Gertrude so confusing?
In The Spiritual Shakespeare, “Spectres of Hamlet,” Richard Kearney describes Hamlet as “a story about the simultaneous necessity and impossibility of stories. Ophelia cannot tell her story until she goes mad (when she tells everything but is no longer herself: ‘Here’s rosemary for remembrance’); Claudius cannot tell his story, even in the confessional, until it is forced from him by the play within the play; Gertrude cannot tell her story because she is ignorant of it (she does not know that Claudius killed the King); Polonius and his fellow courtiers, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and Osric, cannot tell their stories since they say only what pleases or deceives. Even Prince Hamlet cannot tell his story for as long as conscience makes a coward of him: not until, dying of a fatal wound, he begs his friend Horatio: ‘absent thee from felicity awhile to tell my story’.Which means that this is a play where no one actually tells their story, no one truly remembers, until Prince Fortinbras arrives too late on the scene, and announces: ‘I have some rights of memoryin this kingdom / Which now to claim my vantage doth invite me’” (Kearney 159-60).
Now, as an actor, the most important question I ask myself is ‘How do I tell the story?’ – A question negated by the inability of Gertrude to remember the past and plan for the future. Perhaps this explains my frustrations from last night.
If I consider the closet scene, Act III, scene iv, I am filled with more and more uncertainty. This pivotal scene presents a great deal of action and insight into the characters of Hamlet and Gertrude, but it also begs the answers to additional questions: Does Gertrude know of Claudius’ involvement in King Hamlet’s murder? Is Gertrude guilty of infidelity prior to the death of Hamlet, Sr.? Does Hamlet truly win Gertrude over to his side? These are questions that must be answered by me, the actor – It is clear I have a lot of work to do…
Last night we had our first read through for As You Like It. We have a large energetic cast, ripe with talent. I find the play very challenging both in language and intent. Rosalind is such a multifaceted character that I can scarcely keep up with her. It was a pleasure to sit around last night and have a good laugh with everyone - something that Institute Players have not done up to this point, with so many tragedies in the season thus far. I am looking forward to blocking rehearsals next week.
I just returned from my first rehearsal of Chili Con Carnage at Write Act Repertory. I was very pleased to see Michael Eiden, my director. He brings such a wonderful energy to the space and I feel completely safe in his hands.
We were also very fortunate to have the playwright at the rehearsal, Ann Gibbs, who is an experienced television writer. Ann was eager to answer our questions and give us some valuable insights. She also presented us with 10 pages of rewrites which dramatically change my character’s development and the feel of the piece.
I am looking forward to receiving the final script this week, which I hope with remain at least somewhat intact since we have very few rehearsals left. I am continuing to work on my dialect and character development, but have postponed any further memorization until I receive the next set of rewrites.
I find myself on the cusp of opening Killjoy at the Newport Theatre Arts Center.
When I began this project I looked at "Vicki" as a modest and simple role. Playing the level-headed daughter in a modern romantic comedy/murder mystery with 52 lines cues and 5 entrances seemed mildly simple compared to my former projects this year – playing 4 separate characters in Almost, Maine and tackling Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II.
Yet, somewhere along the way I lost touch with my initial impressions of this play, and allowed the text to overwhelm me. There was a period in rehearsal when – much to my director’s dismay, I am sure – I could not find the truth in the lines.
My character became flat and hypocritical in my mind—I wondered what motivated her. I questioned her choice of diction, her actions, her relationships with her family. I could not connect the action. What was the moment before? I could not imagine what she was doing offstage, what she did when she was alone, what her relationship was like with her finance (who never appears in the show, but is frequently spoken about).
Worst of all, I could not figure out her function in the play. Here is a young woman who is about to enter into marriage with Lester – a man that “worships” her, despite the fact that he never appears in the play to support her. She is responsible, business savvy and intelligent, yet she shows her immaturity by calling her father “Daddy”. Her immediate family is completely dysfunctional, only coming together to plan her wedding—a wedding that is only important to the play due to a plot convention used to serve a piece of poisoned wedding cake to her despicable father.
Last weekend I finally had an epiphany – What if I approached this play as a film script?
In college I remember sitting in film class, with the camera over my right shoulder as my scene partner recited a rather lengthy monologue (as far as films go) from Sex, Lies and Video Tape. I remember my scene partner struggling, asking questions – Do I know about the affair at this point in the script? Have I made the decision to ask for a divorce? Etc. I remember my professor passing down these words of knowledge: Keep it simple. Play the moment.
What he meant when he said these words to here is something that he emphasized many times in class. When you make a film you will most likely be filming scenes out of order –so to think in terms of a timeline is often counterproductive. The successful film actor asks themselves these two things: What do I want in this scene? How am I going to get it? The rest is just listening and reacting.
So I thought to myself, what if I just play the moment? I brought myself back to the basics. I found myself in the moment, discovered goals and new tactics for my character. I listened to my mother, I listened to my brother and I listened to my father. And somehow through it all I think I got back to the roots of my character.
With only three rehearsals left, I am ready to put on my costumes for the first time tonight and hopefully discover the inner Vicki. Let’s get this show on a roll!
Rehearsals for Edward II are coming along slowly but surely. We began blocking Margaret's wedding night. There is so much emotional turmoil in this particular scene, I felt a little overwhelmed holding my book and frantically accessing the physical movement of the scene in an unfamilar rehearsal space. We have a break in our rehearsal schedule, to which I will devote the majority of my time refocusing my character and memorizing my dialog. My text analysis work had prompted new discoveries about my character. I realized early on that Margaret must be a genuinely caring individual. She rarely talks about herself, except on her wedding night, when she is faced with a life-altering, tragic situation. When others speak of her they refer to her as sweet: "Sweet Margaret," "Sweet Niece," "Sweet Wife," and "Sweet Lady." She regards the Queen as her friend and confidant, and thinks of her before all things, until the doom of her wedding night approaches. She makes the majority of her entrances "quickly" or "rushing," "looks pale" adn through Gaveston has no intimate or logistical desire to be her husband, he believes she "she deserve(s) affection and regard". I am currently investigatng points of attack, I am very interested to know what will drive my Margaret through the course of her journey.
Yesterday I beat the urge to sleep in on a Sunday morning, "sprang foward," and drug myself out of bed to do what I love best. Our first read-through for edward II enthused my desire to get this show on its feet. Unfortunately I will have to guide my way through the next week of table work in order to get to that point. I think the table work will be exciting in itself though, as I will be able to have an hour one-on-one with our director to discuss character.
The script diverges from Marlowe's version in a very sincere and exciting way. Darcy has added language, re-assigned dialog and added characters to create a much improved emotional journey which electridies the characters of the show. I am ready to make strong choices and collaborate on this unique look into one of Marlowe's greatest.
Rehearsals for Almost, Maine are becomign more and more exciting. There is something very enchanting and compelling about this show. It is like the tiny piece of polished sea glass that I have been missing in my theatrical mosaic. I feel so privileged to be involved in this exploration through the depths of love. I am constantly being challenged by my director and my talented cast members. Every rehearsal is an adventure and I know the final product is going to be a special jewel for all to enjoy.
After four weeks of rehearsal for The Lutz Radio Hour, we are ready to open! We have our final invited dress rehearsal tonight at 8:00 PM. At this point in the process I am eager to have an audience to test laughs and fill our empty house with bright buzzing energy. I am very proud of this show and the humor I know it will bring to our audiences.
Enter Laughing closed with a bang! It has been a blustery ride and I am glad to finally close this moonstruck chapter in my theatrical pop-up book. Although I always lament the closing of a show, I was also relieved in many ways. I am ready to devote my entire being to Peggy and move forward with The Lutz Radio Hour.
Rehearsals for The Lutz Radio Hour are begining to come together. I have created the characer of Peggy Beaudette for the project. "Peggy" is my favorite role form The Women, and "Beaudette" is my grandmother's maiden name. Peggy will be grounded in the reality of the play as an actress performing several rolse in the radio performance: Tammy Tap-Shoes, Cousin Effie, Peeler the Elf, Bobbysoxer, etc. I am still developing Peggy as a character, but thus far I find her to be a beautiful perfectionist trying to cope with the pressure of impressing the unknown producers in the audience. She doesn't maintain any relationships outside the walls of the studio, and knows that losing her place in the radio show will leave her lonely and longing for the companionship of her fellow radio performers. I find Peggy constantly evolving as I negociate her through the framework of the play. This is a very exciting time in the process and I look forward to continuing rehearsals this week with our director, the talented Andrew Vonderschmitt, leading the way!