Fear and Magic in the rehearsal room

I’ve run rehearsals in the past for very small projects; I’ve been an Assistant Director sitting in on rehearsals and taking notes, giving feedback and providing all manner of support. But nothing is as terrifying as directing your first proper play with a group of experienced actors, in a professional setting, to be showcased as your directorial debut to your peers, colleagues, mentors, industry and the public. And that’s exactly what I felt, terrified, as I headed towards my rehearsal venue, (the fabulous Theatre Delicatessen!), for the first day of rehearsals one Monday morning.

Jude Evans in a StoneCrabs Young Directors workshop led by Kwong Loke, Joint Artistic Director, StoneCrabs Theatre Company

Jude Evans in a StoneCrabs Young Directors workshop led by Kwong Loke, Joint Artistic Director, StoneCrabs Theatre Company

The reality is quite different. Actors and Directors are both human beings, and together, through trust and support; fears and anxieties are allayed. Once in the rehearsal room, I found myself much more relaxed and all set to go; if you’ve done your research, know your text and have planned your rehearsals then the door is truly open for collaboration, teamwork and the generation of ideas. There is a common goal shared by everyone in rehearsal room: to create a piece of theatre.

As a Director, the key is to be prepared, to have faith in your ideas and trust in your approach. If you have nothing, or very little to go on, how are your actors meant to put their trust in you? If you have no idea how your day will go, what units of text to work on and what point you want to be at by the end of the day, how will you get there?

Jude Evans leading a StoneCrabs Young Directors workshop on Laban Viewpoints

Jude Evans leading a StoneCrabs Young Directors workshop on Laban Viewpoints

My own rehearsals involved a few hours preparation during the weekend before, allocating a rough amount of time to chunks of the text – it allowed us to focus on everything from language and subtext, to character development, to movement around the space. But what that planning also gave us was the freedom to break from it, to ask questions and to explore uncharted territories. With preparation comes freedom and openness.

Openness also relates to your approach in the rehearsal room throughout the whole process. It’s unlikely that any production will benefit from a solely Stanislavsky-based approach, but nor will it flourish with a wholly physical, movement-based approach. Being open to bringing a variety of techniques and exercises to the process is beneficial to all involved, and it will only help with keeping things fresh and moving the production onwards.

Jude Evans rehearsing with her actors for 'Thirst' by Eugene O'Neil

Jude Evans in rehearsal with the actors cast in ‘Thirst’ by Eugene O’Neil, which was staged at The Albany Theatre in February 2014

With a text like Thirst by Eugene O’Neill, it was absolutely necessary to have a balanced approach, very much text and movement, and I found myself discovering new ideas and techniques as I went along; including *Chekhov’s ‘Psychological Gesture’, peacocks, *Agwe (used to develop the character of the Sailor) and *Edgar Degas’s dancers (used to develop the character of the Dancer). Otherwise, we might all have drowned in weighty, dense language…

With all this coming into play, the process constantly moves forward, with discoveries and excitement pulsating through. Our final rehearsal, a day of Points of Concentration to keep things alive and fresh whilst consolidating and building on all the work we had done, was a fantastic and inspiring day as we could see all our hard work coming to fruition.

From the initial, pre-rehearsal thoughts to the final day, through trust, sharing, collaboration, preparation and openness, what once seemed terrifying becomes pure, indescribable magic.

 

Jude Evans

2014  StoneCrabs Young Director Graduate

Director of Thirst by Eugene O’Neil

StoneCrabs Theatre Company

 

*Chekov’s Psychological Gesture is a movement that expresses the psychology of the character. Chekhov defines the psychology to consist of the thoughts, feelings and will of a human being. Hence, the Psychological Gesture is a physical expression of the thoughts, feelings and desires of the character, incorporated into one movement. Chekov defines gesture as a movement that has intention.

*Agwe was a sea god in West Indian mythology.

*Edgar Degas was a 19th century French artist. He painted and sketched several dancers whilst they were preparing and/or rehearsing for a performance. For more information on Edgar Degas, please click here.

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Young Directors take on Canada Water Culture Space

After last week’s mind blowing Young Directors Festival ‘Play.ground’, two plays were selected to be developed further and taken to CWCS (Canada Water Culture Space) in a couple of weeks as a double bill entitled ‘Play.ground 2’!

After all the excitement, we took some time to have a chat with the two young directors  selected, Hattie Coupe and Eleanor Chadwick, to see how they were feeling about this exciting transfer!

Stephanie: So how are you two feeling about your show going to CWCS?

Hattie: Excited, nervous and very, very grateful. It’s a fantastic opportunity to be able to give this beautiful short play a bigger audience and stage space to really let it breathe and come alive.

Eleanor: I am really excited about taking ‘The Man Who’ to CWCS. It is a fantastic chance to develop the piece further with a new space ( a larger venue) and audience in mind. It’ll be interesting to find something new in the piece in such a short space of time – a challenge which myself and the cast are looking forward to embracing.

'Luna Park' directed by Hattie Coupe at The Albany

‘Luna Park’ directed by Hattie Coupe at The Albany

Stephanie:  What was going though your mind when the plays that you directed were on stage last week at The Albany?

Hattie: My head was roaring with adrenaline throughout the whole show – and for about 12 hours afterwards! I felt proud of my actors who have taken direction so well and worked so hard with me to put this show together in just 5 days of rehearsal time. It was amazing to have a generous crowd come down to Deptford to support the Young Directors, so I was also very conscious of the audience and their response to my play. Being only 22 years old and having my “debut” put on stage, I felt very exposed and nervous at the time; the support and love for this play has since given me a sense of validity and confidence in my directing ambition, which is invaluable at such an early stage in my career.”

Eleanor: I was hooked by what the actors were doing and the spectator responses. Productions always take on new levels when they are put in front of an audience for the first time, and it was fascinating for me to watch our storytelling unfold and see what worked well, what was gained and what was lost. There were more laughs and audible reactions (even gasps and sighs of sympathy) than I wasn’t expecting, which was great! I hope that in the larger venue we can still create this feeling of intimate engagement with the characters.

Stephanie: Are there any aspects of the show you would like to change and/or develop for CWCS?

'The Man Who' directed by Eleanor Chadwick at The Albany

‘The Man Who’ directed by Eleanor Chadwick at The Albany

Eleanor: We will be welcoming a couple of new cast members for the transfer which will undoubtedly bring different nuances to the performance and the characters. I am excited to explore the piece with them and see what new facets arise. I am also keen to
experiment further with technical aspects such as lighting, as we will be given more freedom and a longer technical rehearsal than for the initial Scratch performance, which is a great opportunity. I would like to keep pushing the physical and stylistic elements of the piece, continuing to mature the characters in this way and seeing how we can translate and develop the physical elements for a different, larger space.

Hattie: I am keen to explore the social, political and economic framing of the play as I feel the Great Depression has many echoes within today’s society and families recovering after a devastating recession. I am going to be brave and use this valuable time to push the performance to its next level – you will have to come and see the show to see what that is! Overall, I aim to use the next  5 days of rehearsal time to give the play even more depth, fluidity and confidence as a performance.

Stephanie: Sounds like there will be some exciting changes to both of your pieces now that you have a much bigger space and more time for rehearsals. I can’t wait to see it!

For more information and/or to book tickets for ‘Play.ground 2’ at Canada Water Culture Space on the 20th and 21st March, click here

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