Beginning the Lesson: Thoughts on Instruction, Process and Relationship

lessonlogomainWalking into a rehearsal where the majority of your actors have not worked with you is an uncharacteristic experience for Iron Age theatre. We are a company that has a strong tie to people we have worked with and as such are very much like a rep company. If you have seen a slew of Iron Age shows, you probably know many of our actors.
As I walked into A Lesson before Dying, I noticed that we were in an inverse situation most of this cast has no experience with the company and many have never seen one of our shows. It forced me to be more communicative about things we do, that we take for granted.cc2There is always some resistance by new folks to the organic improvisationally oriented early sessions with the company. I know actors can feel adrift on the sea as we play with abstract and character driven improvs to seed the emotions and ideas we see in the play. I know our socratic attitude of using aporia and discovery can be disconcerting.

Our work is developmental, taking time to mature. We revel in that and new company members need to prepared for our eanswers to their questions in rehearsal: “I want to wait to talk about that issue” or “I have an idea of what I want but I am more interested in giving you the room to discover” or “We will see how that works” or “TRY SOMETHING” or finally “Try this action fully, commit, even though it may not work for the entire scene and then we will see what sticks.”

There are times when we change direction completely with a scene. cast members might mention that They were directed to do what we have shared a concern about…. and that is true but the evolution of the organism of the play forces the parts of the play to mutate. There are actors who are surprised by our ability to find the single right note in a scene and using the actor as our guide, develop the scene’s progression and tone.

This cast is embracing the work, somethings struggling to see the outcome or trust the fluidity and flux.  They are a strong bunch and I can feel the ensemble’s enegery in the rehearsal room.

We, Randy and I, on the other hand must adjust to assure these new members of the Iron Age family have their needs met. In many cases, we are giving more information or opinion than we might normally. I have found myself sharing a reason for something I am suggestion or staging much more readily. I am giving actors “verbs,” listening to their needs and finding ways to answer them, stopping and making something concrete when normally we would have let it slide slowly into solidity.

Finding the balance between our vision of the theatrical process, the needs of a particular production, and the actors needs is a challenge we are happy to encounter and use to spur our evolution as a company.

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