Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Week 4: Entry 3: Split focus
Last night's rehearsal was terrifying! It was 8pm. We'd just had a fairly intensive first faculty meeting of the quarter, and with scarcely a shift of gear, I was suddenly performing the show for four members of that faculty - the design team and the Artistic Director of Sideshow, Della Davidson. It was honestly like doing an MFA practical exam. I felt extremely vulnerable, and somewhat 'in my underwear'.
The props decided to play up. The costumes decided to be awkward. The puppets developed a life of their own. The 6-stringed lute suddenly felt like a 24-stringed zither. And my brain was taken up with the technical aspects of the show far more than with the actual living, breathing and listening to what I was saying as Tilly. Stanislavsky talks about 'dual consciousness': my consciousness was split in a hundred directions.
This last stage of rehearsals brings with it an inevitable, unavoidable fracturing of focus. Suddenly nothing is experimental or provisional any more: we're now in the terrain of saying to the world, 'Hey, we've made these choices. Waddya think?' No longer can you say to the visitor in rehearsals, 'Oh, we're just trying this...' You're now saying, 'This is my story. Can you follow it?' The psychological shift for the actor is huge: particularly when the play is new (as this one is), particularly when the rehearsal period has been very intimate and focused (as this one has). It's another big part of the creative process which - although the audience will never see or necessarily know about it - impacts significantly on the final steps towards offering up the creative goods to public display.
We're blessed with Tilly No-Body in that technically we're well ahead of the game. The Costume department and the Set department have been so fabulous about letting us use costumes, props and set in rehearsals, that we're actually making the kind of minute tweaks now that normally would be made in the venue during the technical rehearsals. I doubt anyone but an actor would understand how considerable the upheaval can be if suddenly the final prop you're given is a blue silk handkerchief, when all along you've been rehearsing with a white linen napkin. The door you've been used to using in rehearsal was 4 feet wide, and the one you now have in performance is 6 feet. These are huge psycho-physical changes that affect rhythm, delivery of text, physical choices for an actor. But hold on a sec, Bella...isn't acting just about learning the lines and not bumping into the furniture?? Deep breath...