Rehearsal Report, Days 5-8

Friday, May 13, 2011 Leave a Comment

(Learn more about Ajax in Iraq)
By August Schulenburg

(Photo by Tiffany Clementi)
The Sunday stumble-through, as might be expected, was both invigorating and exasporating. Invigorating, because the actors did a remarkable job of making it through this complex staging while still staying engaged with each other and present in the scenes. This is not only testament to their work ethics individually, but to the strong bond they already seem to be developing, which - for a play about soldiers - is essential.

Exasporating, becase we simply don't have rehearsal spaces that aproximate anywhere near the size of CSV-Flamboyan, our performance space. Judson thankfully comes close, but as this was our first day in such a space, there was a lot of confusion of exact placement. For some plays, this isn't a huge problem, but for a play with this many simultaneously moving parts, it may be our greatest challenge.

The run-through did reveal the two scenes I'm having the most trouble with: the Debbie/Athena and Larry/Judy/Fletcher scenes. Four of these five characters we've never met before and won't ever meet again, and we're intoduced to them at the moment of the narrative's maximum tension, where AJ's and Ajax's fate hangs in the balance. Why do we stop that action to hear from these characters at this exact moment?

On an intellectual level, I understand the meaning of the scenes - Debbie reinforces the centrality of the soliders' bond, and L/J/F expand the frame to take in the homecoming soliders recieve. Still, I didn't know why - or didn't know how to feel why - those scenes appear where they do. Without that vicseral understanding, I was unable to find a staging that felt right.

After the run, however, I recieved some good notes from our dramaturg, Heidi Nelson; and had a great conversation with Heather Cohn about those troublesome scenes. Sometimes, the best way into understanding a scene is not what it means, but how it moves and what it looks like; and trying various stagings can unlock the inevitability of a scene in a way intellectual discussion simply can't.

I'd wanted to make these two scenes feel surprising but inevitable - to emerge from the fabric of the play as a stretch, but not a tear - and to return to the central action of the narrative feeling like we hadn't lost momentum or changed direction, but simply expanded the frame hurtling towards collision or transformation.

The key was the cots. Throughout the play we visit the women's barracks, but peripherally - they are on the outskirts of our attention as some other action plays out. They are critical set pieces, but had never taken center stage. To that end, Heather suggested that the action of the play proper might continue, with soldiers/Chorus using the cots to build some fortification, when the power of the cots strcuk me as the answer.

The L/J/F scene takes us to Boston, in or around the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans. I'd been thinking that the three monlogues of Larry, Judy, and Fletcher were seperate (as indeed they are), and therefore staged them each taking a different third of the audience, almost off the stage; as distant from the stage as the scene felt distant from the action of the play.

But what if we brought the cots on stage and transformed it into the Homeless Shelter? This not only solved a hundred smaller challenges, both in this scene and the play at large, but opened up a lot of new possibilities. I can't share them all - after all, I want you to see the play and not just read about it - but this was one of those marvelous cases where a simple rearrangement of the physical space completely solved problems that felt distinct from the set, and seemed beyond my reach.

Theatre lives in four dimenions, so that is where the solutions can be found.

Or maybe not - because we'll work this scene for the first time tonight. Cross your fingers!

And while they're crossed - why not get your tickets? We only have 10 of the discounted rate left...


  • Anonymous said:  

    I think the changes you made to this scene will really make a difference of them feeling more alive. Great work!